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.