What is Josh Bell Worth?

Throughout the entire Josh Bell saga, we’ve seen many imaginations running wild over what it could possibly take to get the prep outfielder to sign.  When he was drafted, we were hearing numbers in the $4-6 M range.  Now that we’ve come close to the August 15th signing deadline, we’re hearing that $10 M might not even do it.  It’s to the point where there are rumors that the Pirates have offered $4.5 M, and that is seen as something that might have no shot of getting the deal done.

Let’s think about that bonus amount for a second.  A $4.5 M bonus would be the third biggest in Pittsburgh Pirates history (fourth once you factor in what Gerrit Cole is sure to get).  Only Pedro Alvarez (2008, 2nd overall pick) and Jameson Taillon (2010, 2nd overall pick) have received more.  In the entire history of the draft, only 11 players have received a bonus of $6 M or more.  None of those players went lower than fifth overall.

Josh Bell is a good talent.  He’s not “$10 M” good.  That’s Bryce Harper money, and Josh Bell is not Bryce Harper.  Bell is a switch hitter with potential plus power from both sides of the plate.  That’s valuable, but keep in mind that Bell was rated the 15th best prospect in the draft.  When you’re picking 62nd overall, being able to get a top 15 guy is a great thing.  But that doesn’t mean he’s worth top five money, much less record breaking money.

If I had to place a value on Bell, I’d say the maximum should be the $5.25 M that 2010 first round pick Zach Lee received.  Lee was also considered an impossible sign, as he had a scholarship to play quarterback at LSU.  The Dodgers drafted him, and gave him $5.25 M to break that commitment.  Just like Bell, Lee wasn’t one of the top guys in the draft, but was valued high because of his rare potential coming out of high school.  He was paid due to his talent, combined with his signability issues.

I’ve always been skeptical about Bell’s intentions that he won’t sign.  If this is all a bluff, it’s a brilliant negotiating ploy.  By setting no price, you let imaginations run wild, to the point where people suggest that $10 M won’t get it done.  Then, if you get $4-5 M in the end, it’s seen as a huge value, even though that amount ranks up there with some of the top bonus amounts in history. Bell isn’t even one of the top draft prospects in history, so if all of this ends up netting him a $4-5 M bonus, then I’d expect to see a lot of future draft prospects sending letters out to every team saying they don’t want to be drafted.

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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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  • Lee Young

    Tim……….which one of you is “Dale Berra’s Stash” on the Only Bucs Fan Forum?

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more.  If Pirates offer $4 million that would be difficult to pass up.  There would be a lot of risk for Bell to go to school and top that offer in a couple years.  Is his future not in pro baseball? Do the baseball reporters really believe he turns down the money to go to college?  There was no more a ridiculous rumor this summer than the one that said Bell may not even sign for $10 million. Really?  Really?!  Boras always throws out crazy high #s for possible contracts with his players.  Why?  Because every now and then a GM talks themselves into a $100 million for Barry Zito.  All the #s for Bell coming from unnamed sources is just really Boras feeding those reporters the cited #.  Boras is controlling all of the information on Bell trying to drive up the offer from the Pirates.  Tough to know what the Pirates are offering, but if it is close to $4 million I believe he signs.

  • Anonymous

    One would have to make $50k/year for 90 years to earn $4.5m (gross).

    I cannot think of many people that would say they would take “the college experience” over $4.5m, especially when the team would probably also give Bell 5 years of college ON TOP of that.

    Just sayin’…

  • Anonymous

    Good article Tim…..My personal opinion is, if he rejects $4.5 mil then let him go and take the pick in next years draft. That would give us at least 3 picks in the top 2 rounds(free agent compensation picks possible) in a draft that will probably have a hard slotting system in place. I looked at it this way from the door: It’s a win win situation. Either you get him or you get 2 picks in the 2nd round next year….

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