No. 6 pick Albert Almora and agent Scott Boras are already making life difficult for Cubs

50 Comments

MLB’s new slotting system for draft pick signing bonuses seemingly doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the negotiating shenanigans of past years, but leave it to Scott Boras to show otherwise.

Sixth overall pick Albert Amora hasn’t officially signed with an agent yet, but he’s being “advised” by Boras and predictably they’ve already made it known that he won’t sign with the Cubs for the $3.25 million slot bonus for where he was picked:

My main priority now is college. I just graduated high school and I have a full scholarship to the University of Miami, and that’s all I’m looking forward to right now.

But we’ll have to see what happens when it’s time. I’m ready to play in the major leagues. In my mind right now, I trust my opinions and I know what I can do on the field. That’s not the priority right now. The priority right now is we have to let the process play out and let the cards fall where they have to fall.

Obviously the Cubs wouldn’t have drafted Almora with the sixth overall pick if they truly felt he was headed to college, but the 18-year-old outfielder from Florida is trying to use whatever leverage he has to get a bigger chunk of the team’s overall bonus allotment of $7.9 million.

That money is supposed to cover all of the Cubs’ draft picks, not just Almora, but they could potentially give him more than the $3.25 million set aside for the No. 6 pick and then find a way to pinch pennies with other players.

One nice thing about the changes to the draft process is that the new signing deadline is mid-July, rather than mid-August, so the negotiations can only drag on for a month.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

Getty Images
7 Comments

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.