Every year all 30 clubs will spend millions of dollars to procure amateur talent, but that still pales in comparison to the amount they spend on their big league roster. As young players have become more prominent in baseball and teams shifted their focus to the draft and international market, the amount of money spent on amateur players has skyrocketed.
In this series we'll look at the largest bonuses each club has given to amateur players, and see what kind of return they got on the investment. Let's start off with the Diamondbacks…
- Travis Lee, $10MM (1996)
- Justin Upton, $6.1MM (2005)
- John Patterson, $6MM (1996)
- Stephen Drew, $4MM (2004)
- Max Scherzer, $3MM (2006)
Lee and Patterson have interesting back stories. Both advised by Scott Boras at the time of the 1996 draft, they were declared free agents (along with Matt White and Bobby Seay) when Boras found a loophole in the signing process. The Twins selected Lee with the second overall pick, but they failed to tender him a contract within 15 days of the draft as required. Patterson, taken sixth overall by the Expos, did receive a contract offer within the 15 day window but it was not on official team letterhead.
The Diamondbacks were still two years away from their inaugural season and in the process of building their organization, so they dipped deep into their wallets to sign two premium talents. Lee went on to hit .252/.336/.401 in 338 games for Arizona before being traded to Philadelphia in July 2000 as part of the Curt Schilling deal. Patterson didn't debut in the big leagues until 2002, and he threw just 85.2 innings (5.04 ERA) for the D-Backs. They dealt him to the Expos in 2004 for Randy Choate. Both Lee and Patterson have been out of baseball for several years now.
Upton was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft and signed what was then the largest minor league contract in draft history. Still just 23, he's on the cusp of stardom (.272/.352/.471 career) although a shoulder injury sabotaged his 2010 season. Drew signed the largest contract of the 2004 draft as the 15th overall pick after a year long holdout (this was before the signing deadline was implemented), and through four-plus seasons as a big leaguer he's hit .272/.332/.448. Scherzer was the 11th overall pick in a 2006 class loaded with college pitching, and he went on to post a 3.86 ERA in 226.1 innings for Arizona before being included in last winter's Curtis Granderson–Edwin Jackson–Ian Kennedy blockbuster.