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Amateur Signing Bonuses Rumors
The Phillies are next in our series looking at the five largest bonuses each team has given to amateur prospects…
- Gavin Floyd, $4.2MM (2001)
- Pat Burrell, $3.15MM (1998)
- Brett Myers, $2.05MM (1999)
- Cole Hamels, $2MM (2002)
- Chase Utley, $1.78MM (2000)
Philadelphia managed to land an above-average big leaguer with each of those bonuses, but unfortunately Floyd developed into that player with another team. Taken fourth overall in 2001, he pitched to a 6.96 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9 in 108.2 innings with the Phillies before being traded to the White Sox (along with Gio Gonzalez) for Freddy Garcia in December 2006.
As the first overall pick in 1998, Burrell's deal paved the way for the mega-deals we see now. The $3.15MM bonus was part of a five-year, $8MM major league contract, an unheard of amount for a draftee back then. Burrell reached the big leagues less than two years after being drafted, and was a fixture in the Phillies' lineup for the better part of a decade. He hit .257/.367/.485 with 251 homers in seven years with Philadelphia before departing for the Rays as a free agent after the 2008 season.
Myers was the 12th overall pick in 1999 and made his big league debut in July 2002. He made 30+ starts every year from 2003-2006, and overall pitched to a 4.40 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 183 starts and 57 relief appearances with the Phillies. He, of course, signed with the Astros as a free agent last winter.
Hamels is yet another first round success story, reaching the majors less than four years after being drafted 17th overall. He owns a 3.53 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 149 career starts, taking home World Series MVP honors in 2008. More money well spent.
Might as well save the best for last. Utley was the 15th overall pick in 2000 and first reached the big leagues in 2003. He's a .293/.380/.514 career hitter at a premium up-the-middle position, earning five consecutive trips to the All Star Game (2006-2010) and three top eight finishes in the NL MVP voting (2006, 2007, 2009) in his career. Since Utley's first full season in '06, only Albert Pujols (42.6) and Joe Mauer (33.8) can top his 30.8 WAR.
Let's take a trip to the Bay Area and continue our amateur signing bonus series…
- Michael Ynoa, $4.25MM (2008)
- Mark Mulder, $3.2MM (1998)
- Grant Green $2.75MM (2009)
- Renato Nunez, $2.2MM (2010)
- Michael Choice, $2MM (2010)
The Athletics are undeniably a small market team, but they spend like financial powerhouses when it comes to young talent. Ynoa, formerly known as Michel Inoa and arguably the most hyped Latin America pitching prospect of all-time, had a deal in place with the Yankees for $2.7MM before agent Adam Katz stepped in and raised the price. He ended up signing with Oakland for the largest bonus ever given to an international prospect, nearly doubling the previous record (Wily Mo Pena's $2.44MM). Ynoa missed a big chunk of the 2009 season with elbow soreness, then managed just nine innings (six hits, five runs, four walks, eleven strikeouts) this season behind needing Tommy John surgery that will cost him most of 2011.
Mulder was the second overall pick in 1998 reached the big leagues less than two years later. He pitched to a 5.44 ERA in 154 innings as a rookie in 2000, then finished second in the Cy Young voting thanks to a 3.45 ERA, 6.0 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 229.1 innings the very next season. Mulder was a horse for the Athletics (3.92 ERA in 1003 innings from 2000-2004) before being dealt to the Cardinals for a package highlighted by a 24-year-old righty named Dan Haren.
Green (13th overall) and Choice (tenth) are Oakland's last two first round picks. Green hit .318/.363/.520 in his full season as a professional in 2010, Choice .266/.377/.587 in 130 plate appearances after signing. Nunez was the team's top international signing this summer, agreeing to his deal on July 2nd, the day the signing period began. He'll begin his career next season. The A's also signed another top Latin American prospect this year in 16-year-old catcher Argy Raga. His bonus is unknown, however.
Next up in our amateur signing bonus series, the soon-to-be no longer defending champs…
- Andrew Brackman, $3.55MM (2007)
- Gary Sanchez, $3MM (2009)
- Wily Mo Pena, $2.44MM (1999)
- Ian Kennedy, $2.25MM (2006)
- Slade Heathcott, $2.2MM (2009)
The Yankees are no strangers to spending money, and that goes for the amateur players as well. Brackman was considered one of the best talents available in the 2007 draft but fell to the 30th overall pick due to bonus demands and injury concerns. The Scott Boras client signed his big league deal right at the deadline and had Tommy John surgery almost immediately after the ink dried, which New York knew he needed. Brackman returned from the procedure at the start of the 2009 season, and has thrown 247.1 innings with a 4.77 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 as he climbs the ladder.
Sanchez received one of the largest bonuses among international free agents last year, and hit .329/.393/.543 in 196 plate appeared in the low minors this season, his professional debut. Heathcott was the team's first round pick in 2009 (29th overall), the pick they received as compensation for failing to sign Gerrit Cole in 2008. Like Sanchez, he made his pro debut this season, hitting .253/.354/.344 in 362 plate appearances at the Single-A level.
Despite being just 17-years-old at the time, the Yankees signed Pena to a major league contract worth a total of $3.7MM. His bonus stood as the record for international prospects for nearly a decade. Pena had originally signed with the Mets the previous summer, but MLB questioned the validity of the deal and it was eventually voided. He was with the Yankees for just over two full seasons (.234/.299/.391 in 541 Single-A plate appearances) before being traded to the Reds for Michael Coleman and former Yankee farmhand Drew Henson before the 2001 season.
Kennedy zoomed up the minor league ladder after being the 21st overall pick in 2006, making his big league debut just a year after signing. He spend most of his Yankee career in the minors (1.95 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 in 248.2 innings) and also missed most of 2009 due to an aneurysm near his pitching arm, though he did throw 59.2 innings with a 6.03 ERA with the big league team. The Yanks shipped him to Arizona last offseason in the Edwin Jackson–Curtis Granderson–Max Scherzer blockbuster.
We're not counting veterans of the Japanese or Cuban leagues in this series even though they have zero MLB experience, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Hideki Matsui and Jose Contreras received $8.5MM and $6MM signing bonuses, respectively.
Next up in our look at each team's spending on amateur players, the Mets…
- Mike Pelfrey, $3.55MM (2005)
- Phil Humber, $3MM (2004)
- Matt Harvey, $2.525MM (2010)
- Scott Kazmir, $2.15MM (2002)
- Lastings Milledge, $2.075MM (2003)
The Mets made Pelfrey the ninth overall pick in 2005 after three utterly dominant years at Wichita State (2.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 1.7 BB/9), and just a year later he was making his big league debut. He didn't stick for good until the middle of the 2007 season, but the Amazins have gotten their money's worth. Pelfrey owns a 4.31 ERA in 113 career starts (and three relief appearances), and he just wrapped up the best season of his young career: 3.66 ERA in 204 innings. He'll be a fixture in New York's rotation for years to come.
Humber was the first of three Rice pitchers taken within the first eight picks of the 2004 draft (joining Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend), going third overall. He missed the second half of 2005 and the first half of 2006 after having Tommy John surgery, but he made his major league debut shortly after returning. Humber spent most of the 2007 season in the minors, and he threw just nine innings for the Mets (6.00 ERA) before being sent to the Twins in February 2008 as part of the Johan Santana trade.
Harvey was the team's first round pick this year, seventh overall, marking a change in the team's recent stance of adhering to MLB's slot recommendations. He didn't pitch after signing and will start his career next spring. Kazmir was the 15th overall pick in 2002 but as we all know that he never appeared in a game for the Mets. After posting a 2.41 ERA, 11.2 K/9, and 3.7 BB/9 in 49 minor league starts, he was traded to the then-Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano at the 2004 trade deadline. Nothing more to say here, this one's been beaten to death already.
Milledge was considered one of the three or four best prospects in the 2003 draft, but his stock took a hit after he was expelled from high school before his senior year for alleged sexual misconduct with a minor. The Mets gambled on him with the 12th overall pick, but negotiations between the two sides were halted a few months later after more allegations arose. The team eventually signed him after being satisfied with the results of their own investigation. Milledge climbed the ladder and made his big league debut in 2006, though he drew the ire of some team veterans by showboating. He hit .257/.326/.414 in 391 plate appearances with the Mets before being traded to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider after the 2007 season.
Time to take our amateur signing bonus series to the Land of 10,000 Lakes…
- Joe Mauer, $5.15MM (2001)
- Miguel Sano, $3.15MM (2009)
- B.J. Garbe, $2.75MM (1999)
- Adam Johnson, $2.5MM (2000)
- Ryan Mills, $2MM (1998)
It's funny looking back at it now, but the Mauer vs. Mark Prior debate was huge back before the 2001 draft. Both were legitimate first overall talents, but Prior was considered more of a sure thing and certainly closer to the big leagues. The Twins opted for the hometown kid with that first pick, and all he's done is develop into one of the two or three best players on the planet. Mauer debuted in 2004 as a 21-year-old and hit .308/.369/.570 in 122 plate appearances, though knee issues dampened his coming out party. He returned the next year fully healthy and hasn't stopped hitting since. Minnesota's franchise player is a .327/.407/.481 career hitter with four All Star appearances, three batting titles, and an MVP to credit. I'd say they got their $5.15MM worth.
The Twins faced heavy competition for Sano last year, most notably from the Pirates, but they were able to sign him to that huge bonus in December. He turned just 17 this past May, hitting .307/.379/.491 in 241 rookie ball plate appearances this season, his pro debut.
Garbe, Johnson, and Mills were all high-priced busts. Garbe, the fifth overall pick in '99, hit just .231/.314/.311 in more than five-plus seasons in the Twins' farm system, eventually getting traded to the Mariners for Pat Borders in August 2004. He's been out of baseball since 2006. Johnson was the second overall pick in '00 and managed to reach the big leagues with Minnesota for all of 26.1 innings (10.25 ERA) in 2001 and 2003. His minor league career consists of a 5.02 ERA in 747.1 innings, and he wound up in an independent league after the Twins released him in January 2005. Mills, taken sixth overall in '98, posted a 5.79 ERA in 480.1 minor league innings and never reached the big leagues. He's been out of baseball since becoming a minor league free agent after the 2004 season.
Next up in our series looking at each team's spending on amateur prospects, the Brewers…
- Rickie Weeks, $3.6MM (2003)
- Ben Sheets, $2.45MM (1999)
- Ryan Braun, $2.45MM (2005)
- Prince Fielder, $2.4MM (2002)
- Mark Rogers, $2.2MM (2004)
The Brewers had a lot of high draft picks in the early-aughts, and they spent accordingly. Weeks was the second overall pick in 2003 after a season at Southern University that was straight out of a video game: .500/.619/.987 with 46 walks and 17 strikeouts in 50 games. He made his big league debut later that year but didn't stick until 2005. He finally put together a full, health season in 2010, hitting .269/.366/.464 with 29 homers.
Sheets, the tenth overall pick in '99, was really the first young player to come up and help get the Brewers back to respectability. He was an All Star as a rookie in 2001, and overall made four trips to the Midsummer Classic in his eight years with the team. Injuries derailed him starting in 2005, but he was always dominant before leaving as a free agent after 2008: 3.72 ERA, 7.6 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 221 starts.
Braun was the fifth overall pick in 2005 and the third college third baseman drafted (behind Alex Gordon and Ryan Zimmerman), but he's since moved to left fielder. His Rookie of the Year campaign in 2007 featured a .324/.370/.634 batting line and 34 homers, and overall he's a .307/.364/.554 hitter in his four big league seasons.
High school first basemen aren't drafted in the first round all that often, but Milwaukee made an exemption for Fielder, who the chosen seventh overall in '02. He reached the big leagues three years later, and is a career .279/.385/.535 hitter in five-plus seasons. Fielder has a 50 homer season and two top-four finishes in the MVP voting to his credit.
Rogers was the fifth overall selection in 2004, but a series of arm injuries and setbacks kept him on the shelf from June 2006 through the 2008 season. He returned in 2009 and performed well (1.67 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 in 64.2 innings), then reached the big leagues this past September. Rogers struck out 11 and allowed just five baserunners and two runs in ten innings, putting himself in prime position to break camp with the team next season.
The Brewers have gotten a ton of return on these investments, with Rogers even coming back from major injuries to produce at the big league level. They haven't spent much on international free agents, but that should change after kick-starting their Latin American program earlier this year.
Time to head to Hollywood for our amateur signing bonus series. Here come the Dodgers…
- Zach Lee, $5.25MM (2010)
- Clayton Kershaw, $2.3MM (2006)
- Joel Guzman, $2.255MM (2001)
- Ben Diggins, $2.2MM (2000)
- Ethan Martin, $1.7325MM (2008)
With the McCourt's divorce still ongoing and the team facing an uncertain financial situation, many assumed that the Dodgers were punting the 28th overall pick in this year's draft by selecting Lee. The talented righthander was considered extremely tough to sign, using a scholarship to LSU as one of the nation's best quarterbacks recruits as leverage. The Dodgers could have claimed to have made Lee a fair offer, then taken the 29th overall pick in the 2011 draft as compensation if they didn't sign him. Except they did sign him, so give them credit. Lee didn't pitch after signing and will start his career next season.
Kershaw was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, the first high school player selected in a class dominated by college arms (and Evan Longoria). After just 44 minor league starts (and four relief appearances), Kershaw was pitching in the the big leagues as a 20-year-old. Two-plus seasons into his career, the lefty owns a 3.17 ERA, 9.3 K/9, and 4.2 BB/9, as well as the top spot in Los Angeles' rotation.
The Dodgers signed Guzman out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old and allowed him to steadily climb the minor league ladder. He made his major league debut in June 2006, and his first career start came as a cleanup hitter. Unfortunately Guzman didn't live up to the bonus or hype, hitting .211/.348/.211 in just 23 plate appearances before being sent back down. The Dodgers dealt Guzman to the then-Devil Rays a few weeks later for Julio Lugo. He hasn't appeared in a big league game since 2007, but is still toiling away in the minors.
Diggins, drafted out of the University of Arizona with the 17th overall pick in 2000, made his pro debut in 2001 and had was solid: 3.58 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 4.1 BB/9. He was better the next year (3.20 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9), but the Dodgers traded him and another minor leaguer to Milwaukee for Tyler Houston and a player to be named a week before the 2002 trade deadline. Diggins appeared in five games with the Brewers that season, but was out of baseball a few years later after having Tommy John surgery and subsequent setbacks.
Martin was the team's first round pick in 2008 (15th overall), but he didn't make a good first impression. He suffered a season ending knee injury almost immediately after signing, and didn't debut until 2009. Martin's currently working his way up through the system; in 213.1 career innings, he's posted a 9.5 K/9, 6.0 BB/9 and 6.35 ERA.
We're not counting Japanese veterans in this series even though they have zero MLB experience when signing, but Hiroki Kuroda's $7.3MM bonus would easily top the list. Hideo Nomo received $2MM when he came stateside.
Next up in our series looking at each club's five largest amateur signing bonuses, the Angels…
- Jered Weaver, $4MM (2004)
- Kendry Morales, $3MM (2004)
- Kaleb Cowart, $2.3MM (2010)
- Troy Glaus, $2.25MM (1997)
- Joe Torres, $2.08MM (2000)
Coming off a junior season at Long Beach State in which he posted a 1.62 ERA with 213 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 144 innings (13.3 K/9, 1.3 BB/9), Weaver was the best pitching prospect in the 2004 draft but fell to the 12th overall pick due to bonus demands. The Scott Boras client held out until the following May (this was before the days of the signing deadline), pitching in an independent league to stay sharp in case he re-entered the draft in 2005. The Angels eventually got him to sign, and just about a year later he was in the big leagues. Weaver has a 3.55 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 144 career big league starts. He earned his first trip to the All Star Game in 2010, leading the AL with 233 strikeouts.
Morales defected from Cuba as a 21-year-old during the summer of 2004, signing with the Angels that December after establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. The $3MM bonus was paid up front as part of his six-year, $4.5MM major league contract. That deal just expired this season, but the Halos still control him as an arbitration eligible player for the next three years. The switch-hitting first baseman is a .284/.336/.502 career hitter in 1,240 big league plate appearances, coming into his own with a 43 double, 34 homer season in 2009.
The third overall pick in 1997, Glaus zoomed through the minors and made his major league debut in July 1998. A three-time All Star with the Angels, Glaus hit 40+ homers twice with the team, leading the AL with 47 big flies in 2000. He was named the World Series MVP during the team's 2002 title run, and overall hit .253/.357/.497 in six-plus years with the Angels before signing with the Diamondbacks as a free agent after the 2003 season. That $2.25MM bonus, a staggering amount at the time, was a tremendous investment. The Angels got their money's worth and then some.
Cowart was the the team's first round pick this year, the 18th overall selection. He hit .192/.214/.308 in just 28 plate appearances down in rookie ball after signing, but his career will begin in earnest next season. Torres flamed out after being the tenth overall pick in 2000, never getting out of Single-A. He missed part of 2003 and all of 2004 after having Tommy John surgery, and left the team as a minor league free agent after the 2006 season. Torres threw 375 innings in the Angels' system with a 5.40 ERA.
Casey Kotchman is right behind Torres at $2.075MM. He was the 13th overall pick in 2001. Mike Trout, the best prospect in baseball and the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was originally asking for $2.5MM to sign last year, but he settled for $1.215MM. Through 807 minor league plate appearances, he's a .344/.426/.489 hitter.
Time to take our amateur signing bonus series to Kansas City…
- Eric Hosmer, 6MM (2008)
- Alex Gordon, $4MM (2005)
- Mike Moustakas, $4MM (2007)
- Luke Hochevar, $3.5MM (2006)
- Christian Colon, $2.75MM (2010)
You're looking at five of the Royals' last six first round picks, with the lone exception being 2009 pick Aaron Crow. He received a $1.5MM signing bonus as part of his $3MM major league deal.
Hosmer, the third overall pick two years ago, was touted as one of the best high school bats in recent memory. He has lived up to that hype in the minors, crushing Single-A and Double-A pitchers to the tune of .338/.406/.571 with 20 homers as a 20-year-old in 586 plate appearances this season.
Gordon was the best college player in the country when the Royals selected him second overall in 2005, but so far he hasn't delivered on the unrealistic and unfair George Brett comparisons. In parts of four seasons with the big league team, Gordon is a .244/.328/.405 hitter in 1,641 plate appearances, moving from the hot corner to the outfield in 2010. He's still just 26 though, plenty of time left for him to figure it out.
Drafted with the second overall pick in 2007, Moustakas holds the California high school record with 52 career homers. He's continued to mash in the minors, hitting .322/.369/.630 with 36 homers split between Double-A and Triple-A as a 21-year-old this season. Moustakas is Kansas City's third baseman of the future, and he and Hosmer represent prospects 1 and 1A in the game's best farm system.
The lone pitcher on the list, Hochevar was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft after spending a year in an independent league. The Dodgers selected him in the supplemental first round the year before, but after much drama the two sides were unable to work out a contract and he went back into the draft the next year. Hochevar has made 65 starts (and four relief appearances) for Kansas City over the last three-plus years, posting a 5.60 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 387.2 innings.
Colon was the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, and his pro debut consisted of a .278/.326/.380 batting line in 271 Single-A plate appearances. His coming out party is set for 2011.
The Royals have the best farm system in baseball, and it's easy to see why. They spend the money needed to sign elite amateur talent, and that extends beyond the first round. Over the last three years, they've spent over $24MM on draft picks, the fifth most in baseball.
Next up in our series looking at each team's amateur spending, the Houston Astros…
- Ariel Ovando, $2.6-2.8MM (2010)
- Delino DeShields Jr., $2.15MM (2010)
- Chris Burke, $2.125MM (2001)
- Jason Castro, $2.07MM (2008)
- Max Sapp, $1.4MM (2006)
The Astros made a major splash on the Latin American market this summer by signing Ovando, a 16-year-old Dominican outfielder. The exact amount of the bonus isn't known, but it's easily enough to set the franchise record. Ovando's playing career will begin next season.
The son of the man once traded straight up for Pedro Martinez, DeShields was the eighth overall pick in this June's draft and signed for a bonus roughly $100K over slot. He started his career as an 18-year-old down in rookie ball, hitting .289/.337/.395 in just 83 plate appearances. Like Ovando, DeShields' career will begin in earnest next year.
Castro was a bit of a surprise with the tenth overall pick in 2008, but he has more than justified the selection by reaching the majors this June. He hit an unimpressive .205/.286/.287 in 217 plate appearances with the big league club, but that's not out of the ordinary for a 23-year-old rookie backstop. Castro is clearly Houston's catcher of the present and future.
Burke, the tenth overall pick in 2001, reached the big leagues in 2004 and spent the next three full seasons playing all over the field as a super-sub, getting over 350 plate appearances each year. A career .249/.319/.377 hitter with the Astros, Burke was shipped to the Diamondbacks in the Jose Valverde trade in December 2007.
Sapp, the 23rd overall pick in 2006, had his career derailed by a life-threatening battle with viral meningitis, chronic sinus disease, and seizures. He was released earlier this year after hitting .224/.310/.313 in 839 minor league plate appearances. Sapp hasn't played in a game since 2008.