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2005 Draft Notebook: Holdout Update

Edited By Alan Simpson
September 23, 2005

See Also:
July 25 Notebook
July 14 Notebook
June 30 Notebook

Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin were identified as the top two high school prospects in the Class of 2005 a full year before they became the first prep players drafted in June. They have been linked by career accomplishments and developments.

Upton, a shortstop from Chesapeake, Va., was named Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year last spring on his way to being selected first overall by the Diamondbacks. Maybin, an outfielder from Asheville, N.C., was drafted 10th overall by the Tigers after being recognized by BA as its 2004 Youth Player of the Year.

The pair continued to follow career parallels more than three months after the draft, as neither player had signed a contract after not playing this summer and letting all deadlines to enroll in college pass—first to four-year colleges, then to junior colleges. Both continue to hold out hope they will sign lucrative deals in the near future but remained far apart in negotiations.

But Maybin finally set himself apart by signing with the Tigers for a $2.65 million bonus on Sept. 22.

Upton and Maybin were among five players chosen in the first round or supplemental first round this year who had not signed and elected not to return to school this fall to keep their negotiating windows open. The others were Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon (Royals, second overall), Wichita State righthander Mike Pelfrey (Mets, ninth) and Tennessee righthander Luke Hochevar (Dodgers, 40th).

Upton, who originally committed to North Carolina State and later Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College, was seeking a record $6.25 million bonus from the Diamondbacks while the D-backs countered with a $4.675 million offer. The record for a player signing with the team that drafted him is $5.3 million, which the White Sox gave Stanford outfielder Joe Borchard in 2000.

Maybin initially committed to Southern before changing course to Lake City (Fla.) Community College when that option closed. He soon eliminated the college option altogether. All the while, he continued to seek a bonus from the Tigers in excess of $3 million—with reports ranging anywhere from $3.2 million to $4 million. The Tigers were trying to hold the line at a revised figure ranging from $2.3 million to $2.75 million after it was reported that Tigers owner Mike Ilitch withdrew an earlier contract offer of $3 million.

It resulted in a stalemate in negotiations for the two former high school stars, until Maybin and his agent, Brian Goldberg, came to an agreement with the Tigers for the $2.65 million bonus. Upton’s situation remains unresolved, however, for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve extended the negotiating period a bit by not going to school,” said Larry Reynolds, Upton’s adviser. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m confident they’ll come off those numbers a bit.”

The Diamondbacks were hoping to get a deal in place by the start of instructional league, so Upton could get back on the field and make up for lost time. But that deadline came and went.

“There’s no timetable to get a deal done,” Reynolds said. “Instructional league is not that big a deal. He can make up those three, four weeks at any time. The only timetable we’re working with is to get a fair deal done. Right now, the next deadline we’re looking at is January.”

That’s when Upton could re-enroll at Louisburg JC and still be eligible to play college baseball in 2006. The Diamondbacks, who didn’t sign 2004 first-round pick Stephen Drew until a week before this year’s draft, would control Upton’s rights in a similar draft-and-follow scenario whether he remained unsigned or attended a junior college.

Gordon, Royals At Impasse

KANSAS CITY--Alex Gordon came, toured, talked, negotiated and left without signing.

Gordon, Baseball America's College Player of the Year, came to Kauffman Stadium over Labor Day weekend with his family and agent Casey Close.

Gordon, whom the Royals chose with the second overall pick, met Hall of Famer George Brett and manager Buddy Bell. He watched the Royals and Rangers play from owner David Glass' suite.

Then Gordon went back to Lincoln, Neb., without signing. Negotiations remained at a standstill two weeks later.

"We're still diligently working on it," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said. “But nothing has changed.”

The Royals reportedly offered Gordon a $3.8 million bonus, which is $400,000 more than Southern California catcher Jeff Clement, the third overall pick, received from the Mariners. Close, too, was Clement's advisor.

Close, however, was purportedly seeking a deal similar to the $5.5 million package the Diamondbacks gave to Drew. Drew, like Gordon, was considered the best college position player available, but fell to 15th in 2004 because of signability concerns.

If Gordon had signed soon after leading Nebraska to the College World Series with .382-18-62 numbers, Royals general manager Allard Baird said he would have started him in Double-A Wichita.

That blueprint, obviously, has been trashed, but the Royals have drawn up a new plan if they could get Gordon under contract before September ends.

"We'd like to get him to instructional league, the Arizona Fall League and maybe winter ball," Ladnier said. "Realistically, it is possible. It is just a (negotiating) process we are going through."

If Gordon signs in September and does well in the AFL and possibly winter ball, he would come to spring training as a nonroster invitee in February with a chance to make the major league team.

If Gordon does not sign in September, there will be little impetus for serious negotiations before January. At that point the effort would be to get him under contract before camp.

Gordon said he is eager to play.

"I'm a baseball player," he said. "I want to get out as soon as possible. In a perfect world, I'd want to be playing right away. It hasn't worked out that way."

Gordon said the negotiations have gone well. "We keep getting closer and closer," he said.

The Royals appear to be unyielding on giving Gordon a big league contract, but that is not the main problem. Money is, Baird said.

"We've been very aggressive," Baird said. "Ownership has been very aggressive in giving me the resources to go out and basically say, 'Here, we want you to come out and play right now.' I think the player and the agent want to play. They want the kid to come out. I think we're all on the same page there. The guy right behind us signed for $3.4 (million) and the guy before that at $2.95 (million). We came in, obviously, significantly higher than $3.4. And we expect to get it done.

"I think there's this assumption in negotiations, that the longer you wait the more money you are going to get. In this case, it is not the right way to do business with us, quite frankly, because we want the player here. He's an advanced player who could come in and make a quick impact on the major league club as we go into next season."


• El Cajon, Calif., righthander Sean O’Sullivan, who was ranked as the No. 3 high school prospect (and No. 1 pitcher) in the nation by Baseball America prior to the 2005 season, elected not to sign with the Angels after slipping to the third round. A drop in velocity during the spring caused O’Sullivan’s stock to drop. He has elected to attend Grossmont (Calif.) Junior College, rather than sign with the Angels or fulfill a college commitment to San Diego State. By attending a juco, O’Sullivan remains eligible to sign with the Angels next spring.

• With signings from the 2005 draft pretty much wrapped up, the Twins earned the distinction of signing the most consecutive early picks, inking their first 17 selections. The Twins pushed ahead of the Red Sox (16) by signing a pair of high school righthanders, 11th-rounder Brian Kirwan just before he was scheduled to enroll at UCLA and 13th-rounder Michael Allen just before classes started at Florida. The Angels, on the other hand, failed to sign six of their first 15 selections.

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