Strasburg leads flurry of first-round deals
Crow, Purke, Washington only three unsigned by deadline
It came down to the wire for many teams, but when all was said and done, nearly every Major League team walked away from the First-Year Player Draft signing deadline with their first-round picks in tow.
The biggest of course, was No. 1 overall selection Stephen Strasburg, who agreed in the 11th hour to a Major League contract with the Washington Nationals worth a guaranteed $15.1 million.
"He is a fireballing right-handed pitcher who has a very bright future," Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He is the most coveted amateur player in the history of the Draft and a potential front-line starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals.
"We are proud to have him in the organization. We are happy to add him to a growing list of young starting pitchers. It's a big day for the Washington Nationals. It's a big day for the fans of Washington, D.C."
And it was a significant turnaround from last year, when the Nationals selected Aaron Crow with their No. 1 pick (ninth overall), but weren't able to sign the right-hander before the deadline.
Crow remains unsigned, but he was not beholden to the deadline. As a player without college eligibility who was not affiliated with a school, he lobbied for, and received, the ability to negotiate past Aug. 17. The Royals have until a week before next year's Draft to get something worked out with the former Missouri star.
The Nationals weren't the only ones to celebrate as Monday night became Tuesday morning. Right behind Washington in the top three were the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. Both came to terms with their picks, Dustin Ackley and Donavan Tate, one coming from the University of North Carolina and one signed away from ever attending the school.
Ackley starred at UNC for three years, and like Strasburg, didn't agree to a deal with the Mariners until the last minute. The deal was a Major League contract in which he could earn a maximum of $9.5 million when all is said and done. The bonus is worth $6 million and $7.5 of it is guaranteed.
To sign Tate away from playing football and baseball for the Tar Heels, the Padres handed him a $6 million bonus. All three of the top picks are represented by agent Scott Boras, who undoubtedly had a very busy day at his headquarters with six unsigned first rounders entering the final day of negotiating.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik had worked with Boras in the past, but never in a last-minute deal like this one. He ended up, in a strange way, enjoying the process, especially since the outcome worked out well for both sides.
"There are points in time you think, 'I hope we can get to a point,'" Zduriencik said. "There are times when you doubt whether this is going to happen or not. The pressure of the midnight deadline was always there. When it's all said and done, it's just the business of baseball in this day and age.
"Scott was very, very professional. I tip my hat to how he handled all of this. He was always up front. I have gained a lot of respect in terms of how he handled this whole thing. At the end of the day, it's a nice contract for this young man and I do believe he wanted to play."
Signed on the dotted line
|As the clock struck midnight and reached the First-Year Player Draft signing deadline, only three first-round picks had not signed.|
|Players in bold did not sign|
* Aaron Crow was not bound to the deadline as he no longer has college eligibility.
"We have identified a need for athleticism, particularly in the outfield, when playing at PETCO Park," said Padres executive vice president/general manager Kevin Towers, who also signed high-upside high schoolers in the second round (Everett Williams) and fourth round (Keyvius Sampson). "In signing Donavan Tate, we have acquired an excellent ballplayer and one of the premier athletes available in this year's Draft."
Boras was also able to reach a deal with the Detroit Tigers for his client, high school right-hander Jacob Turner. Like he did with Detroit and Rick Porcello in 2007, Boras was able to negotiate a Major League deal for the prepster, a deal worth a total of approximately $5.5 million. Porcello, of course, made it to the big leagues in less than two years and the Tigers are obviously hoping Turner can jump on a similar fast track. Detroit also inked above-slot deals with second-rounder Andrew Oliver (another Boras client) and sixth-rounder Daniel Fields.
Grant Green, taken by the A's with the No. 13 overall pick, is the fifth Boras client who agreed to a deal, this one not of the Major League variety and worth $2.75 million. Only LeVon Washington, taken No. 30 by the Rays, didn't come to terms among Boras's first-rounders. Tampa cut off talks earlier in the day with Washington and he will reportedly head to junior college so he can re-enter the Draft in 2010.
"We are disappointed that LeVon has chosen not to sign with the Rays," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We offered him a bonus consistent with late first-round picks. Immediately following the Draft, he seemed eager to sign, but it has not materialized. We wish LeVon great success with his baseball career."
The only other first-round pick to not sign with the deadline staring him down was Texas high school lefty Matthew Purke. It seemed certain from the get-go that the No. 14 overall pick taken by the Rangers would be a tough sign with very high bonus demands. Purke never came down far enough and the Rangers weren't willing to meet those demands for a deal to be worked out. He turned down $4 million in the waning moments and instead, will head to Texas Christian University to begin his college career. Working in his favor is the fact he'll be a draft-eligible sophomore, meaning he'll be back in the Draft in 2011, instead of 2012 as it will be for most high schoolers heading to college.
"It's disappointing," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We drafted a player we intended to sign, and for all the right reasons. We couldn't make it work."
Purke wasn't the only high school arm who negotiated until the last minute. No. 6 pick Zack Wheeler agreed to terms with the Giants just prior to the deadline on a $3.3 million bonus and Tyler Matzek, who seemed like a very tough sign who was very far apart from the Rockies when the day began, waiting until the very last minute to agree to a deal worth $3.9 million. Shelby Miller, taken No. 19 overall by the Cardinals, has the same agent as Purke, but things worked a little more quickly on that front, with the sides never being as far apart as the Rangers and Purke were. Miller signed for a reported $2.875 million on Monday afternoon.
When Mike Leake agreed to terms with the Reds as the No. 8 overall pick, most felt the ASU star's signing would mean UNC right-hander Alex White would follow suit quickly with the Indians at No. 15. That's not how it played out as White was one of the many last-second deals announced, for $2.75 million.
Kyle Gibson, taken No. 22 by the Twins was a different issue. After revealing he had a stress fracture in his throwing arm, it became about the medical reports for the right-hander out of Missouri. Once hopeful this could get done early, the Twins were prepared for it to go down to the wire, and it did. They announced they'd reached an agreement with Gibson at 12:09 a.m. ET, just minutes after the deadline passed. The deal was for $1.8 million.
"I'm excited as all get-out," Gibson said just after the deal was announced. "There was a time [when I wasn't sure it would happen]. Earlier in the day we were at a stalemate at $1.5 million. I was seeing signings going down everywhere. The Twins stepped up an made a good offer."
One other high school position player, Slade Heathcott, agreed to a deal with the Yankees at No. 29 for $2.2 million.
With all of the unsigned selections remaining on the final day, in the first round and beyond, the holdup was all about bonus amounts and, more specifically, the amounts for each slot recommended by the Commissioner's Office. For many, Strasburg being the most notable, the deals went way over that suggested slot amount. For others, it was a matter of the particular year. This year, the Commissioner's Office recommended a 10 percent cut in bonuses. Some teams were able to sign their first picks for the lower amount. But many ended up reverting back to the 2008 suggested slot bonuses to get deals done. When all was said and done, 17 of the first-round deals -- out of 29 deals announced -- were above the recommended slot figures for 2009.
Jonathan Mayo is reporter for MLB.com. Jim Street, T.R. Sullivan, Zach Schonbrun, Mark Bowman, Matthew Leach, Carrie Muskat and David Ely all contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.