Two weeks before the signing deadline, only 12 of the 32 first-round picks from the 2009 draft has signed. 16 of the top 20 players taken remain unsigned amidst rumors that the commissioner’s office is taking its hardest stance yet on curbing bonuses to players not yet apart of the MLBPA.
Baseball America reported back in May that the commissioner’s office had dropped its all important slot recommendations by 10 percent from its 2008 figures, and it looks like the paper has been proven correct. Of the 12 picks that have signed, five have received exactly what BA estimated for slot: the Angels’ Randal Grichuk ($1.242 million), the Angels’ Mike Trout ($1.215 million), the Brewers’ Eric Arnett ($1.197), the Red Sox’s Reymond Fuentes ($1.134 million) and the Cubs’ Brett Jackson ($972,000).
Six of the remaining seven signed for less than slot, including No. 4 overall pick Tony Sanchez and 10th pick Drew Storen, both of whom had agreed to predraft deals. The only player so far to sign over slot was the Astros’ Jiovanni Mier., the 21st selection, and he exceeded the amount by a mere $26,000 ($1.358 million vs. $1.332 million).
The assumption is that some of the other players have agreed to terms, but that the commissioner’s office is holding back approval. Peter Gammons went so far as to write that the Royals have reached deals with 12th overall pick Aaron Crow and 91st pick Wil Myers, but that the commish had threatened to yank Kansas City’s upcoming All-Star Game in 2012 if they went ahead with them. Maybe Bud Selig and company can’t get away with voiding signings they don’t like, but they can at least pressure teams to wait until Aug. 17 to announce them, thereby preventing truly unsigned players from using those amounts in negotiations.
If, for instance, Reds and No. 8 pick Mike Leake had come to terms on an above-slot $2.4 million bonus, No. 7 pick Mike Minor would use that as artillery in his talks with the Braves. As is, there’s very little besides last year’s bonuses for the unsigned picks to latch on to.
Nearly everyone is going to end up getting signed. No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) and No. 11 selection Tyler Matzek (Rockies) are the most likely holdouts, with No. 3 pick Donavan Tate (Padres) and No. 14 pick Matt Purke (Rangers) also possibilities. Selig’s precious slots aren’t going to apply to those four.
Carrie Muskat of MLB.com just tweeted that the Cubs will soon announce a five-year contract extension for president Theo Epstein. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that it’s worth in excess of $50 million.
He’s earned it. When he took over the Cubs in October, 2011 the Cubs were a last place team with an aging roster and a front office that was several years behind the state of the art in every conceivable way. Last year the Cubs made the playoffs and this year they are baseball’s best team by a large margin and the franchise looks poised to continue its success for some time.
So, yeah, I’d say locking Theo up is a good idea.
The Red Sox will once again attempt to clinch the AL East after failing to do so on Tuesday night. They can seal the division with a win against the Yankees or a Blue Jays loss to the Orioles on Wednesday evening.
Clay Buchholz will take the hill for the BoSox against Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell in a 7:05 PM EDT start at Yankee Stadium. Buchholz hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable this season, holding a 5.00 ERA with an 87/53 K/BB ratio in 133 1/3 innings. However, he has been in three of four starts since returning to the rotation earlier this month. Over those four starts, he owns a 3.97 ERA and a 15/8 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, at the Rogers Centre, the Jays will send out Francisco Liriano against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman in a 7:07 PM EDT start. Liriano has been much improved since coming to the Jays from the Pirates, so the Orioles will have their hands full.
As for Wild Card action, the Royals can be eliminated if they lose to the Twins or if the Orioles beat the Jays. The Yankees can be eliminated by losing to the Red Sox and the Orioles defeating the Jays. In the National League, the Marlins can be eliminated by losing to the Mets or the Giants beating the Rockies.
The rest of Wednesday’s action…
Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell), 7:05 PM EDT
Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Francisco Liriano), 7:07 PM EDT
Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Los Angeles Angels (Alex Meyer), 10:05 PM EDT
Los Angeles Dodgers (Jose De Leon) @ San Diego Padres (Luis Perdomo), 10:10 PM EDT