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Amateur Signing Bonuses Rumors
Over the last month or so we've looked at the five largest signing bonuses each team has given to amateur prospects. The vast majority of those bonuses were given to drafted players, but there were certainly plenty of international free agents from Latin America and Asia as well. The bonuses included in the series total just under $500.4MM, ranging from the Braves ($9.67MM) to the Rays ($30.75MM) at the extremes. Here's a link back to all 30 clubs…
Time to wrap up our amateur signing bonus series with a trip to the nation's capitol…
- Stephen Strasburg, $7.5MM (2009)
- Bryce Harper, $6.25MM (2010)
- Ryan Zimmerman, $2.975MM (2006)
- Justin Wayne, $2.95MM (2000)
- Josh Karp, $2.65MM (2001)
Having the first overall pick in back-to-back years can get pretty expensive, especially if there happens to be one of the best and most-hyped prospects in draft history available each year.
By all accounts, Strasburg is the greatest pitching prospect in draft history, and he was paid as such. His bonus is the largest in draft history by more than a million bucks, and the total value of his four-year big league contract is $15.1MM, again the largest in draft history. He zoomed right through the minors as expected, putting just 44 men on base while striking out 65 in 55 1/3 innings before being called up on June 18th. Strasburg famously struck out 14 Pirates in his major league debut, and perhaps more famously will miss just about the entire 2011 season after needing Tommy John surgery. In a dozen starts with the Nats, Strasburg posted a 2.91 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
Harper wasn't the greatest position player prospect in draft history, but he was certainly hyped as such. His signing bonus is tied with Donavan Tate for the second largest in draft history, and the total value of his five-year contract is $9.9MM. That's the record for non-pitchers, and Washington immediately moved Harper out from behind the plate and into right field to help him get the majors sooner. Although didn't play during the regular season after signing, Harper is hitting .323/.400/.613 in 31 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.
For all the promise Strasburg and Harper have to offer, Zimmerman is the best player in the young history of the Washington Nationals. He was the fourth overall pick in 2005 and needed just 269 plate appearances in the minors (.336/.377/.564) before reaching the big leagues later that year. Zimmerman has been the team's regular third baseman ever since, and is a .288/.355/.484 career hitter. The performance is ever better over the last two years: .299/.375/.518.
Wayne was the fifth overall pick in the century's first draft, though his time with the then-Expos lasted just two years. He pitched to a 2.92 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 259 1/3 minor league innings with the franchise before being traded to the Marlins in an eight player deal that was highlighted by Carl Pavano and Cliff Floyd in July 2002. Although he pitched in the big leagues with Florida later that year and in each of the next two, Wayne has been out of baseball since 2005.
The Expos selected Karp sixth overall in 2001, but he certainly didn't give them their money's worth. He pitched to a 4.73 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 475 1/3 minor league innings, and has been out of baseball since having shoulder surgery after the 2005 season. Karp never reached the big leagues.
Let's take our series looking at each club's spending on amateur players north of the border…
- Adeiny Hechavarria, $4MM (2010)
- Adonis Cardona, $2.8MM (2010)
- Ricky Romero, $2.4MM (2005)
- Felipe Lopez, $2MM (1998)
- Deck McGuire, $2MM (2010)
When Alex Anthopoulos replaced J.P. Ricciardi as Toronto's GM last October, one of the first things he did was considerably increase the size of the team's scouting department. The fruits of that labor are seen above, as three of the five largest signing bonuses the team has ever given to amateur players came this year.
Hechavarria defected from Cuba in 2009 and signed with the Jays this March. His bonus was part of a four-year big league contract worth $10MM, and he reportedly passed on signing with the Yankees because he didn't want to get stuck behind Derek Jeter. The 21-year-old shortstop hit .242/.272/.333 in 440 plate appearances this season, most of which came at Double-A.
Cardona was the team's other big international signing this year, receiving the largest bonus ever given to a Venezuelan-born player and the second largest ever given to a Latin American pitcher. The 16-year-old signed in July and will begin his career next season. McGuire was the tenth overall selection in this year's draft, though he did not pitch after signing and like Cardona he will start his career in 2011.
Toronto selected Romero with the sixth overall pick in 2005 and expected him to climb the ladder quickly as a polished college left-hander, but he didn't make it to the show until four seasons after being drafted. He's certainly proven to be worth the wait though; Romero has posted a 3.99 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 61 starts (388 innings) over the last two years.
Lopez was the eighth overall pick back in 1998, and after a little more than three years in the minors he made his big league debut. Lopez hit just .240/.293/.399 in 501 plate appearances for the Blue Jays before being traded to the Reds in a four-team swap that included Erubiel Durazo, Elmer Dessens, and a player to be named later (Jason Arnold).
Time to take our amateur signing bonus series to Texas, the home of the defending AL champs…
- Mark Teixeira, $4.5MM (2001)
- Justin Smoak, $3.5MM (2008)
- John Danks, $2.1MM (2003)
- Vince Sinisi, $2.07MM (2003)
- Thomas Diamond, $2.025MM (2004)
The Rangers just finished the single greatest season in franchise history, but just one of the above players directly contributed to that cause. That would be Justin Smoak, who reached the big leagues just two years after being drafted 11th overall. He hit just .209/.316/.353 in 275 plate appearances for Texas before headlining the four prospect package that went to Seattle for Cliff Lee in early July.
Teixeira, the fifth overall pick back in 2001, contributed to the team's success this year, though in an indirect way. His bonus was part of a four-year, $9.5MM major league contract, the largest ever given to an amateur position player at the time (the record stood until Bryce Harper showed up this year). Tex was massively productive for the Rangers, hitting .283/.368/.533 with 153 homers in four-plus seasons before being traded the Atlanta. That haul netted the Rangers their current starting shortstop (Elvis Andrus) and closer (Neftali Feliz), not to mention another useful arm in Matt Harrison and their Opening Day catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia). That return is the gold standard when it comes to moving superstars.
Texas took Danks with the ninth overall pick in 2003, and he pitched to a 4.20 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 426.1 minor league innings for the team before they traded him and two others to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and a minor league in December 2006. Now one of the best starters in the game, Danks never pitched in a game for the team that drafted him.
Sinisi was the 46th overall pick in the same 2003 draft that netted the team Danks, but his career wasn't nearly as productive. He hit .293/.354/.423 in 909 plate appearances with Texas' various minor league affiliates before being traded to the Padres in a May 2006 deal that barely registered on the radar. It brought Freddy Guzman to the Rangers, and Sinisi hasn't played since becoming a minor league free agent after 2009. He never reached the big leagues, and spent three uneventful years in Triple-A.
Diamond was part of the team's highly touted DVD trio of pitching prospects along with Edinson Volquez and Danks. He was the tenth overall pick in the '04 draft and dominated in the minors (3.62 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9) before missing the entire 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery. Despite the procedure's high success rate, Diamond never fully regained his stuff nor his already shaky control. The Rangers designated him for assignment last September, after which the Cubs claimed him. Diamond did finally make it to the big leagues this year, making three starts with a 6.83 ERA for the Cubbies.
Next up in our amateur signing bonus series, the Rays…
- Matt White, $10.2MM (1996)
- Tim Beckham, $6.15MM (2008)
- David Price, $5.6MM (2007)
- B.J. Upton, $4.6MM (2002)
- Dewon Brazelton, $4.2MM (2001)
The then-Devil Rays spent years in the AL East cellar, and the result was a lot of high draft picks and huge signing bonuses. White signed two years before the team even started playing, though he was originally selected seventh overall in the '96 draft by the Giants. Instead of signing with San Francisco, he was granted free agency when the team failed to tender him a contract within 15 days of the draft as per league rules. Travis Lee and John Patterson went through the same thing. Tampa pounced shortly thereafter, though White never reached the big leagues. He pitched to a 4.64 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 672.2 minor league innings and was out of baseball by 2004.
Beckham was the first overall pick in the 2008, signing for what was then the largest bonus ever given to a player as part of a minor league contract in draft history, at least until Buster Posey broke it a few weeks later. Still just 20 years old, Beckham is a .263/.332/.371 hitter in his two-plus year old minor league career.
A year before they took Beckham, the Rays selected Price first overall, making them the first team in history to have the first pick in back-to-back drafts. His bonus was part of a six-year, $8.5MM major league contract, the fourth richest deal in draft history. Price helped the team to their first ever World Series berth just a year later, and he just wrapped up his first full season as a big league starter by posting a 2.72 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 208.2 innings.
The elder Upton brother was the second overall selection in the 2002 draft, and the team rushed him up to the big leagues just two years later. At 19 years old, he was the youngest player in franchise history. After a 45 game cameo that season (.258/.324/.409), Upton returned to the minors and didn't get back to the majors for good until 2006. He eventually moved out of the infield and became of the game's best defensive center fielders, and is a career .260/.345/.413 career hitter with 165 steals.
Brazelton was the third overall pick in 2001, right behind Joe Mauer and Mark Prior and right before Gavin Floyd and Mark Teixeira. He reached the big leagues the very next season and made a total of 41 starts (and 13 relief appearances) for a franchise from 2002-2005, posting a 5.98 ERA with more walks (142) than strikeouts (136) in 253 innings. He was traded to the Padres for Sean Burroughs after the 2005 season in a deal that gave each former top prospect a much needed change of scenery.
It's worth noting that the Devil Rays signed Rolando Arrojo to a deal that included a $7MM bonus in 1997 after he defected from Cuba. That was a year before the team started play, but Arrojo was already 29 years old and had been the long-time ace of the Cuban National Team. Hard to consider him an amateur in terms of experience. Evan Longoria, Tampa's franchise player, signed for a $3MM bonus as the third overall pick in the 2006 draft.
Next up in our amateur signing bonus series, the Mariners…
- Dustin Ackley, $6MM (2009)
- Jeff Clement, $3.4MM (2005)
- Brandon Morrow, $2.45MM (2006)
- Matt Tuiasosopo, $2.29MM (2004)
- Philips Castillo, $2.2MM (2010)
The Mariners have long been a powerhouse when it comes to signing international free agents, but their four largest signing bonuses were given to drafted players. Ackley, the second overall pick last year, hit .267/.368/.407 in 587 plate appearances in 2010, his first professional season. He's also in the process of learning a new position (second base) after playing the outfield and first base at UNC.
Clement was the third overall pick in a top heavy 2005 draft, but that tends to happen when a catcher hits 46 homers in his three-year college career. He reached Triple-A in 2006 and the big leagues a year later, but he flunked a 224 plate appearance audition as the team's regular catcher in the second half of 2008. The Mariners traded Clement and four others to the Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell before the 2009 trade deadline. He was a .237/.309/.393 hitter in 243 plate appearances for Seattle.
Morrow was one of several power-armed college pitchers in the 2006 draft, going fifth overall. He threw just 16 minor league innings after signing (2.25 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 5.1 BB/9) then broke camp with the team as a reliever in 2007. Morrow pitched to a 4.12 ERA in 63.1 relief innings as a rookie, then tossed up a 3.34 ERA in 40 relief appearances and five starts the next year. It seemed like the Mariners were changing his role every other month, at least until they traded him to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer last December. All told, Morrow threw 197.2 innings with a 3.96 ERA and 9.3 K/9 for the Mariners (116 relief appearances, 15 starts).
Seattle gave Tuiasosopo a huge bonus as the 93rd overall pick in 2004 (third round), buying him away from a football scholarship to the University of Washington. His brother Marques and father Manu both played in the NFL. Tuiasosopo never lived up to the bonus, hitting just .270/.363/.407 in close to 2,700 minor league plate appearances, though he has had several stints in the big leagues. He's a career .176/.234/.306 hitter in 210 major league plate appearances spread across three seasons.
Castillo signed earlier this summer out of the Dominican Republic. The 16-year-old corner outfielder will begin his professional career next season.
Seattle paid a $13.125MM posting fee for the rights to negotiate with Ichiro Suzuki before the 2001 season, and they then signed him to a three-year, $14.088MM contract that included a $5MM signing bonus. He was far from an amateur though, at least when it comes to his experience level. Felix Hernandez, meanwhile, signed for $710K out of Venezuela in 2002, reportedly turning down larger offers from the Braves and Yankees.
Next up in our amateur signing bonus series, the World Champion San Francisco Giants…
- Buster Posey, $6.2MM (2008)
- Zach Wheeler, $3.3MM (2009)
- Rafael Rodriguez, $2.55MM (2008)
- Angel Villalona, $2.1MM (2006)
- Tim Lincecum, $2.025MM (2006)
As we saw during their title run, the Giants have done a great job of drafting and developing the core of their team. Hot shot rookie catcher Buster Posey was at the center of attention, and San Francisco paid the price to bring him into their organization as the fifth overall pick: $6.2MM, at the time a record for a minor league contract. Posey tore through the minors in less than two years (.333/.427/.542) and established himself as the Giants' everyday catcher this summer. He hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 homers in 443 big league plate appearances this season, then topped it off with a strong postseason.
Wheeler was the sixth overall pick in last year's draft, and in his first pro season he pitched to a 3.99 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 5.8 BB/9 in 58.2 innings. He missed some time with a fingernail injury this summer. The Giants signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic on his 16th birthday, and so far he's hit .280/.343/.355 in his young minor league career.
Villalona was arguably the top talent available out of Latin America back in 2006, and the Giants landed him for what was then the largest bonus in franchise history. He climbed the minor league ladder steadily until the 2009-2010 offseason, when it was announced by police that Villalona was a suspect in the murder of a 25-year-old man back in the DR. He eventually reached a settlement with the victim's family, however the prosecutor still intends to prosecute. Villalona has been free on bond since the settlement, but his United States visa has been revoked and his playing career with the Giants is essentially over. He has not played since the end of the 2009 season, and there have not been any updates on the status of the criminal case since April.
It's hard to believe that Lincecum lasted until the tenth overall pick in 2006, but that's exactly what happened. The Giants signed him and less than a year later he wasn't just in the big leagues, he was dominating. Lincecum won the Cy Young Award in each of his first two full major league seasons, and he made five starts (and one relief appearance, 2.43 ERA overall) this postseason, including winning the World Series clincher in Game Five over the Rangers. Overall, his big league career consists of a 3.04 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 811 innings. He's led the league in strikeouts and strikeout rate in each of the last three seasons.
Since I'm sure everyone is curious, I might as well mention that Matt Cain signed for $1.375MM as the 25th overall pick in 2002, Madison Bumgarner for $2MM as the tenth pick in 2007, and Jonathan Sanchez for just $2,500 as the 820th overall pick (27th round) in 2004. That's textbook development of a championship caliber rotation right there.
Let's take our amateur signing bonus series to California's second largest city…
- Donavan Tate, $6.25MM (2009)
- Matt Bush, $3.15MM (2004)
- Mark Phillips, $2.2MM (2000)
- Sean Burroughs, $2.1MM (1998)
- Adys Portillo, $2MM (2008)
The Padres are certainly a small market team, but in recent years they've made an effort to go out and spend the money required to sign premium young talent. They were unable to get 2010 first round pick Karsten Whitson (ninth overall) under contract, but they'll have two top 25 picks next year as a result.
San Diego made a statement in 2009 by taking the supremely talented (and Scott Boras client) Tate with the third overall pick and signing him to what was then the largest bonus ever given to a player as part of a minor league contract. Tate's career has been marred by injuries so far, as he's dealt with a broken jaw (suffered in an ATV accident), a sports hernia, a shoulder sprain, and a concussion (suffered when he was hit in the head by a pitch). In 107 professional plate appearances, he's a .222/.336/.344 hitter.
I think we all know the Matt Bush story. The Padres took him first overall in 2004 because they didn't want to spend the money needed to sign Stephen Drew or Jered Weaver, the top consensus talents in the draft class. Bush signed less than two weeks after the draft, and about a week after signing he was arrested for his role in a fight outside an Arizona nightclub. He never really hit in the minors, putting together a .219/.294/.276 batting line in 812 plate appearances before the team shifted him to the mound in 2007. Bush had Tommy John surgery not long after the conversion, costing him the entire 2008 season, and the Padres eventually designated him for assignment in February 2009 after he was allegedly involved in an assault on a high school campus. Although he's still trying to make it work as a pitcher, Bush is one of just three first overall picks to not reach the big leagues (joining Steve Chilcott and Brien Taylor).
San Diego drafted Phillips with the ninth overall pick in 2000, but his career was over seemingly before it even started. He performed well through 2001, but career started to deteriorate in 2002, when he walked 94 in 148.1 innings. The Padres traded him and Bubba Trammell to the Yankees in March 2003 for Rondell White, and Phillips walked more batters than he struck out (50 K, 51 BB) in his only season in New York's minor league season. Aside from a brief comeback attempt with an independent league team in 2007, he's been out of baseball since 2004.
Burroughs, yet another ninth overall pick, was one of the game's very best prospects around the turn of the century thanks to his absurd hitting ability. He reached Triple-A at just 20 years old, and hit .332/.397/.459 in the minors before starting the 2002 season as the Padres' third baseman. Burroughs was just okay as a rookie (.271/.317/.323) but he improved the next year (.286/.352/.402). Ultimately it never worked out in San Diego, as Burroughs hit .282/.340/.360 in four years with the team before being dealt to Tampa Bay after the 2005 season for Dewon Brazelton, an exchange of high draft picks (Brazelton was selected third overall in 2001) in need of a change of scenery.
Portillo signed for what was then the largest bonus ever given to a Venezuelan born player, and he's currently working his way up the minor league ladder. In 116.2 innings, he's pitched to a 4.94 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9.
Next up in our series looking at each team's amateur spending, the Cardinals…
- J.D. Drew, $3MM (1998)
- Shelby Miller, $2.875MM (2009)
- Rick Ankiel, $2.5MM (1997)
- Chad Hutchinson, $2.3MM (1998)
- Zack Cox, $2MM (2010)
A year before the Cardinals made Drew the third overall pick in 1998, the Phillies took him second overall. Advisor Scott Boras guaranteeed that the Florida State standout would not sign for less than $10MM, and he stuck to his word. After a stint with the independent St. Paul Saints, Drew spurned Philadelphia and re-entered the draft, landing in St. Louis. He was called to the big leagues just a few weeks after being drafted, and made his debut on the night that Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run. Drew hit .282/.377/.498 in five-plus seasons with the Cardinals, making at least one trip to the disabled list in each season. He was traded to the Braves with Eli Marrero for Ray King, Jason Marquis, and a minor league pitcher named Adam Wainwright in December 2003.
Miller was the 14th overall pick in 2009, falling due to bonus demands despite being one of the best high school arms in the draft. In 107.1 career minor league innings, he owns a 3.69 ERA with 11.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Cox was the 25th overall pick in this year's draft, another top prospect who fell due to bonus demands. His bonus is part of a four-year, $3.2MM major league deal. In 17 plate appearances after signing, Cox hit .400/.471/.467. He will begin his career in earnest next season.
Everyone knows the Ankiel story. The 72nd overall pick and Boras client landed what was then the fifth largest bonus ever given to an amateur player, and he gave the Cardinals no reason to regret it. Ankiel made his big league debut barely a month after his 20th birthday, allowing three runs in five innings against the Expos. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting the next season thanks to a 3.50 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 175 innings. Of course he then unraveled in the playoffs and returned a few years later as an outfielder. Ankiel's career in St. Louis consisted of a .251/.311/.452 batting line and a 3.90 ERA in 242 innings before he signed with the Royals last offseason.
Hutchinson is a unique case. The Braves took him with their first round pick in 1995, but he chose not to sign and instead attended Stanford. Three years later the Cardinals took him 48th overall and bought him away from the NFL with a huge bonus. Hutchinson worked his way up the ladder and reached the big leagues in 2001, allowing 11 runs and 15 baserunners in just four innings pitched (three appearances). But that was it, Hutchinson called it a career after that season and instead pursued a career in football. He started nine games at quarterback for Dallas in 2002, and all told played in 15 NFL games with the Cowboys and the Bears.
In case you're wondering, the Cardinals drafted some kid out of Maple Woods Community College (Kansas City, MO) with the 402nd overall pick (13th round) in 1999, signing him for just $60K. His name? Albert Pujols.
Let's move our amateur signing bonus to the Steel City…
- Jameson Taillon, $6.5MM (2010)
- Pedro Alvarez, $6MM (2008)
- Bryan Bullington, $4MM (2002)
- Brad Lincoln, $2.75MM (2006)
- Luis Heredia, $2.6MM (2010)
If there's any good that can come out of finishing with a below-.500 record for 18 straight years, it's that you'll have a ton of high draft picks. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they really didn't take advantage of those high picks until the last few years, as too many first rounders to count have flamed out since the team's last winning season. Neal Huntington has been dedicated to building the next great Pirates team through the farm system, so he's spent a ton of money on amateurs since taking over in late 2007. In fact, Pittsburgh has doled out close to $30.6MM on draft picks in the three years that Huntington's run the team, the most in baseball by more than $2MM.
Taillon was the best pitcher available in this year's draft class, high school or otherwise, so the Pirates gobbled him up with the second overall pick and gave him the second largest signing bonus in draft history, trailing only Stephen Strasburg's $7.5MM bonus. It's also the largest bonus ever given as part of a minor league contract. Taillon did not pitch after signing and will start his career next spring.
There was a bit of drama with the Alvarez signing after he was chosen second overall in 2008. Alvarez and agent Scott Boras agreed to a minor league contract worth $6MM, but the deal was struck two minutes after the August 15th signing deadline passed. The union filed a grievance on the player's behalf, and the issue was resolved a month later. Alvarez ultimately received the same $6MM bonus, though the second time around it came as part of four-year, $6.335MM major league contract. He reached the big leagues this summer and hit .256/.326/.461 with 16 homers in 386 plate appearances. Alvarez is expected to be a force in the middle of the Pirates' lineup for the next half-decade, at least.
Bullington was one of those dud draft picks we talked about earlier, taken with the first overall pick in 2002. The Pirates' brain trust famously referred to him as a solid mid-rotation starter not long after the draft (an opinion other teams agreed with), not exactly what you expect with the top pick. Even worse, Bullington failed to deliver on even those modest expectations. He pitched to a 3.32 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 288 innings in his first two pro seasons, then made his big league debut in September 2005 (two runs in 1.1 innings). Bullington missed the entire 2006 season due to shoulder surgery, and he was eventually lost to the Indians on waivers after being designated for assignment in July 2008. All told, he threw just 18.1 innings for Pittsburgh, posting a 5.89 ERA.
Lincoln was the fourth overall pick in 2006, but he ended up missing the entire 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2008 and pitched well enough in the minors to earn his first taste of the big leagues this June. In 52.2 innings with the Pirates (nine starts, two relief appearances), Lincoln pitched to a Halloween appropriate 6.66 ERA. He figures to get a long look in Spring Training.
The draft isn't the only place where Huntington has spent big, he's also given out some huge bonuses on the international market. They heavily pursued Miguel Sano before he signed with the Twins, though they did sign the 16-year-old Heredia this past August. Since his rights were owned by the Mexican team Veracruz, Heredia received just 25% of that bonus ($650K). The other 75% went to Veracruz ($1.95MM). He'll start his pro career next season.