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Draft : : Story
MLB Draft Deadline: Big Spenders
Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another signing deadline has passed, and as much as the MLB commissioner's office tries to enforce the allotted slot recommendations that each team should spend, teams continue to hand out record amounts of money to add fresh talent into their system.

That could all change next year, with an emphasis on 'could,' as Major League Baseball faces an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement this offseason with expected changes to be made to the draft. From pre-determined hard slot figures to the incorporation of a world-wide draft, there have been many changes proposed that Commissioner Bud Selig has acknowledged as being items he hopes to add to the next agreement.

However, history has proven that when it comes to getting a deal done, the draft usually is not a top priority.

Major League Baseball did make a few tweaks to the draft with the last change in the CBA, in which compensatory picks were changed for teams unable to sign their first, second and third round picks. The changes were relatively minor considering most think much more serious changes, and close to a complete overhaul, is needed to properly correct the problems with the current draft logistics.

Regardless of what happens in the future, the players, and teams, know that some kind of change is on the horizon. More and more teams are also recognizing that you have to spend a significant amount of money on the players taken in the draft if they hope to remain/become competitive in the years to come.

And when it comes to spending, keep in mind that players drafted in the early rounds typically end up signing.

This is a point I brought up with Josh Bell relative to his supposed unsignability after the draft occurred when the Pirates took him with the first pick in the second round. When all signs pointed to Bell honoring his commitment to Texas, and with many expecting him to head to college, the Pirates spent the money necessary to add him to their system.

So that really shouldn't be that much of a surprise. The Pirates would not have used a premium pick on a premium player if they didn't think they couldn't make that deal happen, especially given how much they have re-devoted their efforts in recent years to their drafting and overall player development.

Last year, only four players taken in the top three rounds did not sign (Barret Loux, Karsten Whitson, Dylan Covey and Ryne Stanek). Loux's situation was somewhat unique, as was Covey's. Whitson, in my humble opinion, proved this year for the Gators that he has no business spending the next two years in college, much less his first, given his pitching prowess.

This year there was only one unsigned first-round pick, Tyler Beede. Only one pick from the sandwich round didn't sign, Brett Austin. Sam Stafford, a second round pick, also didn't sign, while three third rounders, Kevin Cron, Connor Barron and Peter O'Brien, also decided to go to (or back to in the case of O'Brien) college.

The Blue Jays will receive the 22nd overall pick next year for not signing Beede, the Padres will get the 55th pick for Austin, the Yankees will receive the 89th pick for Stafford, while the Mariners, Marlins and Rockies will be awarded a compensatory pick in that respective order after the third round for Cron, Barron and O'Brien. That is once again assuming the draft pick compensation process doesn't change as we currently know it.

The drafting, and spending, efforts of six teams really stood out to me. All six were not only aggressive in the players they selected on draft day, but also in the amounts of money they paid to retain those players on signing day.

Arizona Diamondbacks

After finishing with the third-worst record in 2010, as well as not signing Loux, the D-Backs had the third and seventh overall picks going into the 2011 draft. Early rumors indicated that the team would not allow signability to affect their decisions leading up to the draft, and that seemed to ring true on draft day when they selected Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley.

Bauer signed a few weeks prior to the deadline, and may make the big-leagues before season's end, while Bradley inked a two-sport deal that allows the Diamondbacks to spread his $5 million dollar bonus over five years.

They also added two more premium college arms in Andrew Chafin and Anthony Meo, while also signing all of their picks in the top five rounds.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Josh Bell's situation was already mentioned above, who agreed to a $5 million dollar bonus. The Pirates also had to deal with the first overall pick, Gerrit Cole, and made that happen with a record $8 million dollar bonus. Those two picks didn't stop them from signing all 10 of their top picks, including the $1.2 million they used to ink ninth-rounder Clay Holmes.

While the Pirates' story entering the All-Star break was exciting, things haven't gone so well for them the past few weeks. They did the right thing prior to the trade deadline, not confusing current success for long-term, sustained success for a team that hasn't finished above .500 since 1992, by not trading away young talent for proven commodities. The more they stay on that track the more likely they are to not only succeed, but compete on a perennial basis, moving forward.

San Diego Padres

One of the Padres' picks, Brett Austin, as noted above, did get away and will attend NC State. That miss doesn't look as bad considering the team had five total first-round picks due to the number of free agents they lost last offseason.

And they certainly didn't take a conservative approach with those picks, going down to the wire with Joe Ross, Michael Kelly and Austin Hedges, a trio of former Aflac (now Perfect Game) All-Americans. Hedges' situation was similar to Bell's with the Pirates, as Hedges was considered one of the more unsignable players entering the spring, expressing his strong intent to attend UCLA. Also similar to the Pirates' situation with Bell, the Padres didn't take Hedges in the second round content with letting him get away, and signed him as a premium pick with a $3 million dollar bonus.

And with the exception of Austin, the Padres signed all of the players they drafted in the first 23 rounds, proving that they too are focused on the long road to lasting success.

Tampa Bay Rays

You may remember a story I wrote about the Rays and the likelihood of them signing all of their picks. While I didn't put it past them to get all of their early picks in the fold, I thought it was more likely that a couple of them would get away since the team had 10 first-round picks given the number of free agents that had signed with other teams last offseason.

It turns out they signed all 10 of those first-round picks, as well as all of their picks selected in the top four rounds and those taken in rounds six through 11. It's an understatement to say that what the Rays have built from top to bottom is impressive, as they have sustained their success at the big-league level while continuing to bolster the reinforcements from within.

Toronto Blue Jays

Immediately after the draft, it was difficult to gauge just how serious the Blue Jays were about signing the players they selected in the draft. They identified several players that were considered difficult signs, starting with Beede, their first pick, who did go unsigned despite reports of the Jays offering him $2.4 million.

And that was after they had already signed second-rounder Daniel Norris for $2 million, and Kevin Comer for $1.65.

Similar to the Padres and the Rays, the Blue Jays had several additional, early picks, and outside of Beede, they signed all of their picks in the top four rounds as well as their sixth through eighth-round selections. Seventh rounder Christian Lopes was one of the more notable of these selections, as he signed for $800,000, and the Blue Jays also wooed 13th-rounder Matt Dean away from Texas for $737,500.

Washington Nationals

As impressive as all of the hauls were as listed above, it's easy to argue that the Nationals drafted the most recognizable names to those that follow the draft with their early picks.

For the third year in the row, they selected the player nearly unanimously considered the top draft-eligible talent entering the spring scouting season in Anthony Rendon. They added Alex Meyer later in the first, Brian Goodwin with the first pick in the sandwich round, and Matt Purke in the third. The Nationals ponied up $13.75 million for those four players alone, and signed all of their picks through the top 12 rounds.



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