Mark Appel and six other first-round picks remain unsigned as Friday’s deadline approaches

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As part of the new collective bargaining agreement MLB moved the deadline for draft picks to sign from mid-August to mid-July, so this year’s unsigned picks have until Friday at 5:00 p.m. eastern time to ink deals.

Most early selections signed within two weeks of the draft, but seven of the 31 first-round picks remain unsigned and that includes several of the draft’s biggest names.

#4 Kevin Gausman, LSU right-hander (Orioles)
#6 Albert Almora, high school outfielder (Cubs)
#8 Mark Appel, Stanford right-hander (Pirates)
#9 Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma St. left-hander (Marlins)
#16 Lucas Giolito, high school right-hander (Nationals)
#25 Richie Shaffer, Clemson third baseman (Rays)
#30 Ty Hensley, high school right-hander (Yankees)

Giolito fell to the Nationals at No. 16 in part because of his elbow injury and in part because of his presumed bonus demands, and Appel’s fall to the Pirates at No. 8 is well-documented. Almora immediately made it clear he’d be a tough sign when the Cubs took him No. 6, and not coincidentally both Appel and Almora are “advised” by agent Scott Boras.

Most draft analysts seem to think at most one or two first-round picks will go unsigned, largely because the new CBA also put in place a slot bonus system that makes holding out for more money very difficult. Of course, that doesn’t mean Appel and Boras, for instance, won’t try.

UPDATE: We can cross Almora off the list, as he’s apparently agreed to terms with the Cubs for an over-slot bonus.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.