2010 Amateur Draft Rumors

Odds & Ends: Dickey, China, Draft

Ten years ago today, the Mets traded 20-year-old outfield prospect Nelson Cruz to the Athletics for Jorge Velandia.  Cruz had yet to make his pro debut.  He was traded twice more before breaking out with the Rangers at age 27.  Today's links, as Cruz returns from the disabled list…

Surprise Teams Spend On Draft

It doesn’t take Andrew Tinnish long to explain why the draft matters to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Because we play in the toughest division in baseball with the two biggest spenders in baseball,” Tinnish told MLBTR. “It’s pretty simple for me.”

As the team’s amateur scouting director, he is responsible for infusing new talent into the organization. This year – the Blue Jays’ first season under Tinnish – the team spared no expense. Toronto signed its 2010 draftees for $11.6MM in bonuses, according to totals compiled by Baseball America. Joining the Blue Jays as the biggest spenders in the industry were the deep-pocketed Red Sox, the Nationals (who signed top pick Bryce Harper) and two others: the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians.

The Pirates, Indians and Blue Jays have pursued major league free agents cautiously, but each team spent big on draft bonuses this year. Each of those three clubs committed more to 2010 draftees than they did to last offseason’s crop of free agents. And before 2010, no team had ever committed as much in bonuses to one draft class as the Pirates ($11.9MM) and Blue Jays did this summer. Franchises that don’t or can’t spend their way to the top of the MLB standings are investing heavily in the draft because they expect top amateurs will lead to success at the major league level.

But as Tinnish points out, it’s one thing to spend and it’s another thing to find the right players.

“To me it’s not about spending,” Tinnish said. “Whether that’s an Aaron Sanchez, who obviously signed for a reasonable amount for where he was taken (supplemental first round, $775K bonus) or a Dickie Joe Thon, who signed for much more than the recommended amount for where he was selected (fifth round, $1.5MM bonus), it’s about acquiring talent.”

The Pirates haven’t had enough major league talent to post a winning record since 1992 and as an 18th-consecutive losing season unfolds, they are building through the draft. In the two months leading up to last week’s signing deadline, GM Neal Huntington committed more in bonuses than any team except the Nationals. The Pirates selected second overall, which meant they could choose any player not named Bryce Harper. But talented players with potentially intimidating demands fell to them well after the first round.

“We paid players fourth round money in the later rounds because we felt they were fourth round talent,” Huntington told MLBTR over e-mail. “And in effect, [we] added additional upper round talent to our system via this process.”

The Pirates also added top talent when they were expected to: in the first two rounds of the draft. Prep right-handers Jameson Taillon (first round, $6.5MM bonus) and Stetson Allie (second round, $2.25MM bonus) both signed for over-slot deals. Not every organization goes over-slot on its draftees and as Huntington points out, the Pirates rely on the flexibility to make those offers.

“Those resources have allowed us to aggressively add much-needed quality talent to the organization,” Huntington said.

Last summer, the Indians promised themselves that they would do the same.

“A year ago we sat down and decided that we wanted to be aggressive in the draft and try to add as much talent as we possibly could,” Indians amateur scouting director Brad Grant said. “Knowing that where we are right now as a major league organization, we need to infuse as much talent into our organization as possible.”

At that point, the Indians didn’t know they’d end up drafting Drew Pomeranz, their eventual first-round selection. They ranked potential picks based on talent, with players’ demands in mind – but only to an extent.

“We were ready to react,” Grant said. “We knew the players that we liked. We had a breakdown solely by ability and we tried to take the player we liked best.”

The Indians are prepared to spend on elite amateurs because they aren’t able to spend on elite pros.

“Especially with our market, we can’t afford to sign some of the higher-end major league free agents,” Grant said. “That gets out of our spectrum, so the best way to infuse talent into our organization is to acquire it, whether that be through the draft, whether that be through international signings, whether that be through trades, those are routes we have to take in order to acquire top talent.”

The Blue Jays drafted and developed Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero and Aaron Hill among others under former GM J.P. Ricciardi. The team is under a new regime now, but there’s no question that the Blue Jays continue to rely on the draft.

“The position we’re in, the division we’re in, I think this is an area where we need to be very aggressive and acquire as much talent as we possibly can,” Tinnish said. “[We] hope that that talent helps us in the big leagues or helps us to trade for big leaguers to eventually win the division.”

Before the 2010 season, Baseball America ranked Toronto’s system 28th among the 30 MLB organizations, but as soon as he took over for Ricciardi, Alex Anthopoulos vowed to invest heavily in scouting. Tinnish went into the draft with a willingness to commit to players demanding over-slot deals, but generally speaking, the Blue Jays are not going to out-spend the Yankees and Red Sox.

“We don’t have an unlimited budget, we don’t have unlimited payroll,” Tinnish said. “I think that for a team like us and the position we’re in … we need to draft well.”

The aftermath of the 2010 draft just concluded last week, but Tinnish has been scouting all summer and can already rattle off a dozen showcases and tournaments he has attended in preparation for the 2011 draft. The Blue Jays are not alone; other teams are doing the same.

“We’re well into 2011 already,” Grant said. ”It looks like it should shape up to be a very, very good draft year.”

Teams like the Indians, Blue Jays and Pirates are hoping so. For them, the draft is one area where they out-muscle their richer rivals.

Odds & Ends: Draft, Pirates, Betemit

Links for Monday, as the Yankees' Ivan Nova prepares for his first big league start in Toronto…

Odds & Ends: Torre, Royals, Colome, Hawpe

Links for Wednesday, a year to the day after the Rangers acquired Ivan Rodriguez

Draft Notes: Whitson, Indians, Harper

The smoke has cleared and all but three of the first 50 picks signed deals. Barret Loux (Diamondbacks) and Dylan Covey (Brewers) did not sign, but both pitchers had medical issues that influenced the dialogue they had with the clubs that selected them. Here are the details on the third player who did not sign, plus Baseball America's winners and losers:

  • John Manuel of BA lists the Nationals, Pirates, Anthony Ranaudo and Bud Selig as winners. The losers? The Brewers, Padres and the process itself.
  • Padres GM Jed Hoyer told XX Sports Radio in San Diego that the Padres had a verbal agreement with Karsten Whitson for $1.953MM on draft day. The club boosted its offer as high as $2.1MM, but Whitson and his representatives were holding out for more, so the sides didn't reach a deal. You can listen in on Hoyer's comments here.
  • ESPN.com's Keith Law finds it "hard to see [Whitson] beating the Padres' offer … in the 2013 draft." 
  • In the same piece, Law explains that he believes Bryce Harper and the Nationals both did well with last night's deal.
  • The Indians spent $9.3MM on the draft, Indians scouting director Brad Grant told MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince (Twitter link).
  • The Rockies are allowing first-rounder Kyle Parker to play college football, but their $1.4MM bonus is protected if he gets injured, according to Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

Analyzing The Tigers’ 2010 Draft

The Tigers didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but that didn’t stop them from spending first-round money on three players. David Chadd, the team’s vice president of amateur scouting, says it’s important to be able to spend, but insists that the Tigers' approach isn't about the money.

“I’m just trying to get the best player in the Tigers system,” Chadd said. “I don’t think spending has anything to do with [selecting the best players] at all. It comes down to the players, not the money.”

The Tigers have a reputation for spending big on players who price themsleves off of other teams’ draft boards. For example, Detroit paid up for Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner after other teams shied away from their demands. This year the Tigers spent on prep third baseman Nick Castellanos, who obtained a $3.45MM deal

Chadd says Castellanos was by far the best player available when the Tigers made their first pick (44th overall) and at the time of the draft, Baseball America agreed. It’s never fair to compare teenagers to big league All-Stars, but Chadd reluctantly admitted that Castellanos reminds him of Evan Longoria.

“I’m very confident in his ability to play third base,” Chadd said of the 18-year-old Florida native. “He can field, he can throw, he can run. So as a scout, when you start talking about tools, he has all five.”

The Tigers also signed Texas reliever Chance Ruffin to a $1.15MM deal and Arkansas left-hander Drew Smyly for $1.1MM. Chadd compares Ruffin to Huston Street, another right-hander who closed for the Longhorns. Smyly doesn’t throw as hard as Ruffin, but Chadd says the lefty's pitching instincts are like Cliff Lee’s.

Castellanos, Ruffin and Smyly would be welcome additions to any farm system, but it took a while for the Tigers to come to terms with the trio, especially Castellanos. 

“It came down to the last second,” Chadd said. “It was gut-wrenching and fortunately we got a deal done, but it was tense.”

Teams, players and agents will always have tense moments before the deadline to sign picks, whether or not the deadline falls in mid-August. At this point, it’s too late for players to start their pro careers, so Chadd would be in favor of moving the deadline to sign picks in the next collective bargaining agreement.

“I think that makes the most sense,” he said. “I would be extremely in favor of that … The earlier the deadline, the better from me.”

For example, a mid-July deadline would give teams, players and college coaches certainty earlier on in the summer and would enable players who sign at the last minute to start their pro careers sooner.

Draft Pick Signings

Today's draft pick signing deadline passed at 11pm central time.  This post contains notable signings outside of the first round, with the latest up top.

Pirates Sign Jameson Taillon

12:03am: Taillon's bonus is worth $6.5MM, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America (on Twitter).

9:14pm: Taillon and the Pirates agreed on a deal worth slightly more than $5MM, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).

7:52pm: The Pirates signed second-overall pick Jameson Taillon, the pitcher's father told to Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The tall Texas right-hander has drawn comparisons to other power pitchers such as Roger Clemens and Josh Beckett. Back in May, MLBTR's Mike Axisa profiled Taillon in detail.

The specifics on Taillon's deal aren't yet known, but MLB recommended a $3.25MM bonus for the second overall pick last year. The Mariners, who chose second overall in 2009, signed Dustin Ackley to a $6MM bonus and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Pirates pay Taillon considerably more than slot, too. They already appear to have signed second-rounder Stetson Allie.

With less than three hours remaining between now and the deadline to sign picks, 13 first-rounders have yet to sign.

Orioles Sign Manny Machado

11:43pm: The Orioles, who announced the deal via press release, agreed to a $5.25MM deal with Machado, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter link).

11:06pm: The Orioles agreed to sign third-overall pick Manny Machado, according to Jim Bowden of Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). The 18-year-old shortstop is from Miami, so some have compared him to one of the best draft picks in MLB history: Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, also represents Machado (and a number of top picks in this year's draft). He wasn't an easy player to sign but, Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan said after the draft that Machado has the talent to be an impact major leaguer.

“He’s going to automatically be one of the premier prospects in the organization,” Jordan said.

Last year, MLB recommended a $2.925MM bonus for the third-overall pick. Click here for the complete list of 2010 first-rounders to sign.

Nationals To Sign Bryce Harper

For the second consecutive summer, the Nationals signed the first-overall pick to a record-setting deal. Last August, it was Stephen Strasburg, and tonight Bryce Harper made history. The 17-year-old gets a major league deal that guarantees him $9.9MM over five years - more guaranteed money than any position player in draft history. Of the $9.9MM, $6.25MM is a bonus.

The buzz surrounding Harper started last year, when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old. Harper, still just 17, got his GED early, enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada and won the 2010 Golden Spikes Award as the country’s top amateur player.

Mark Teixeira previously held the record for the biggest deal given to a position player ($9.5MM) and last year's top pick, Strasburg, holds the record for the biggest deal in draft history ($15.1MM). Scott Boras advises Teixeira, Strasburg and Harper.

The Nationals have confirmed the deal, after it broke on Twitter. Jim Bowden of Sirius XM RadioKendall Rogers of Yahoo SportsJon Heyman of SI.comYahoo's Tim Brown and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post were among the reporters who contributed to the story.

Click here for the complete list of 2010 first rounders to sign.