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.
Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:
Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.
Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.
Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.
This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.
Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.