Pirates Notebook: The myth of above slot signings

There seems to be a common misconception about signing players above slot. Every time I see someone talking about what it will take to sign our “signability” picks, it’s always the same talk:

“With $4 M left to spend, we only have enough to sign 4-5 more picks.”

“Zach Von Rosenberg and Billy Cain will probably cost us $3 M total.”

“We really need to sign Parker Bangs and Zach Nuding to pitch with Brooks Pounders in the ultimate porn name rotation.”

Last year was the first experience for Pirates fans to witness their team go considerably above slot. I haven’t done the research, and I’m sure they’ve gone above slot before, but I doubt they’ve done so in the fashion of Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, Jarek Cunningham, and Wes Freeman.

Since two of our biggest above slot signings were signed for around seven figures ($1 M for Grossman in the 6th, $900 K for Miller in the 20th), that has probably led to this belief that all above-slot deals require seven figures. This was obvious today when a lot of people were surprised that Trent Stevenson signed for $350 K, which is mid-third round money for a seventh round pick, and still pretty uncommon.

To show how uncommon the seven figure above-slot signings are, I went through the 2008 draft, finding all of the significant above slot signings. I tracked four categories:

-$1 M + for rounds 4-50
-$500 K – $1 M for rounds 4-50
-$300-500 K for rounds 6-50
-$100-300 K for rounds 10-50

The chart below shows how many players signed for each level, by round:

As you can see, a seven figure bonus is rare. There were only six of them last year beyond the third round, and only one beyond the seventh round. As for $2 M bonuses, there was only one beyond the fourth round last year. That being said, I think it will probably take a seven figure bonus to get ZVR, and maybe something close to seven figures for Cain, but I don’t think we’re looking at much more than $2 M combined.

The $500 K-$1 M range is a little more populated in rounds 4-10, although still kind of rare with only 11 signings, and 9 more in rounds 11-50. A lot of people believe the Pirates got a great deal on Stevenson, probably assuming it would take close to seven figures to get him. I’m not saying it wasn’t a great move, but it was a pretty common deal for an above slot seventh rounder.

Beyond the tenth round, a lot of above slot signings are in the $100-300 K range. Two of our signings last year, Cunningham and Freeman, were in the $100-150 K range. There’s no slot prices for the sixth round, but that’s sixth round money, which is good for people drafted in rounds 11-50.

A lot of what’s fueled the belief that we will be seeing a lot of seven figure deals might have come from the talk that Neal Huntington said after the draft that a good number of players are demanding six figures. Two points there:

1. Six figures doesn’t necessarily mean $500-900 K. It could mean $100-300 K.
2. It’s a negotiation process, so the players are going to start high, the Pirates will start low, and they’ll try to meet in the middle. I’m not concerned with what they ask for, just with what they get.

I wrote a lot of this after the draft in my “Wrapping Up the Draft” post. Actually, I predicted Pounders and Black would get $1.5 M max ($1.387 M actual), and that the top three rounds would cost $4.5 M ($4.2859 M actual) so those two predictions were right on.

The Pirates have about $5 M to spend to get up to the $9.8 M figure from last year. If we assume that they have two guys at around $1 M, three guys in the $500 K range, and maybe eight in the $100-300 K range, averaging about $200 K each, that amounts to 13 people signed above slot. They also have some extra money from the Adam LaRoche trade, so it’s possible they could go beyond the $9.8 M figure from last year. Just don’t assume that the $5 M means five players max.

Draft Signings

Along with seventh round pick Trent Stevenson signing, 34th round pick Zac Fuesser also signed today. Stevenson gets $350 K, which is the slot price for the middle of the third round, while Fuesser gets $125 K, the same as ninth round pick Brock Holt. The Draft Pick Signing Tracker has been updated with the signings.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated with the 7/22 win. Here are the top impacts for 7/23:

1. Charlie Morton: -.263 WPA
2. John Grabow: -.208
3. Freddy Sanchez: -.186
4. Evan Meek: -.183
5. Ramon Vazquez: -.092

Other Stuff

-The Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch for 7/23 is up.

-Brian from Raise the Jolly Roger did a trade deadline preview for MVN Outsider.

-Pat at WHYGAVS has a good look at why there could be so many “salary dump” accusations surrounding the Pirates. With attendance down, maybe they’re hurting in the books.

-Jon at The “Mc” Effect compares Andrew McCutchen and Nate McLouth since the trade.

-Jim at North Side Notch has a good post on Adam LaRoche, which sparked a discussion: is Adam LaRoche the best first baseman for the Pirates in the last 20 years? Check out the post to see a lot of opinions on that subject (in the comments).

-New blog to check out, added to the links on the side: The Unsportsmanlikes.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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