Pirates Draft Signing Recap: Is the System to Blame For Appel Not Signing?

Mark Appel will return to Stanford. – Image Courtesy: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are facing a problem that they haven’t faced in the last several years: they were unable to reach a deal with a draft pick that was considered a difficult sign. In years past, all the Pirates had to do was throw money at the draft pick to get a deal done. This year, Major League Baseball reworked the draft to limit spending. The end result was that the Pirates were unable to sign first round pick Mark Appel, as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement rules prevented them from spending over a certain point without imposing harsh penalties and the loss of future draft picks.

Earlier in the week, the Pirates made their final offer to Appel, offering him $3.8 M. That would have put them over their draft pool, bringing a 75% tax on the overage, but falling just short of losing their first round pick in the 2013 draft.

“We were willing to go as far as we were able to under the new system,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “Unfortunately it was not something that they had interest in. We knew it was a calculated risk when we drafted Mark. We knew it was going to be a tough sign. We were optimistic that he would want to join an organization on the rise, but at the end of the day we wish Mark nothing but success as he goes back to Stanford.”

There was very little the Pirates could have done. The Appel camp told the Pirates repeatedly that they wouldn’t be able to match the value on Appel. All the Pirates could do was offer the maximum amount, and move on to other players after Appel turned it down.

“When Mark declined our final offer and made us aware that there was no value that we could get to without forfeiting picks to have him sign with the Pirates, we then made the conscious decision to spend the remainder — as much of the remainder as we could — of the $600,000 that we created in the first ten rounds,” Huntington said. “And then we were going to stay under there from then on out.”

The Pirates created just over $600,000 in the top ten rounds, after going under-slot on compensation pick Barrett Barnes (saving $136,400), fifth round pick Adrian Sampson ($2,100), sixth round pick Eric Wood ($88,800), seventh round pick Jake Stallings ($138,000), ninth round pick D.J. Crumlich ($124,100), and tenth round pick Pat Ludwig ($120,000). They used that money to sign Max Moroff, Hayden Hurst, and John Kuchno to over-slot deals.

Moroff received $300,000 in the 16th round. He’s a prep shortstop who had a commitment to UCF. He runs well, and drives the ball well. He was 80-for-80 in stolen base attempts during his high school career and hit for a .408/.594/.750 line with five homers this past season.

Hurst received $400,000 in the 17th round. He touches 95 MPH with his fastball, but mostly sits in the 88-92 MPH range. He needs work on his other pitches. Hurst had a commitment to Florida State, then changed his mind and decided to go to JuCo before eventually deciding to sign.

Kuchno received $125,000 in the 18th round. He’s a college player from Ohio State who can touch 95 MPH with his fastball, and has a good power curve. When both pitches are working, they have the makings of a two plus-pitch mix. Kuchno profiles more as a power reliever, but will probably be used as a starter initially, based on how the Pirates use top arms in the lower levels.

After the tenth round, any amount over $100,000 counts against the bonus pool. The three signings took $525,000 of the available money the Pirates had. The Pirates also signed eighth round pick Kevin Ross for $130,000, which was $8,200 under the bonus pool.

“In Hurst and Moroff we feel like we added a third, a fourth round pick, and another fourth round type pick with the extra money we pulled out of the pool,” Huntington said. “In Kuchno we feel like we got a good college arm that has some growth and development upside. You add next year’s ninth pick in the country and this year’s draft class and we feel like overall we’re going to feel pretty good about it. There’s no question, we’d rather have Mark Appel, but it didn’t work that way.”

The Pirates had discussions with other players in the middle rounds. They were unable to meet the price of 14th round pick Walker Buehler. They negotiated with 35th round pick Jackson McClelland and offered him an over-slot deal on Wednesday night, but fell short of his total. There were also some cases where players changed their bonus demands after the draft.

“Unfortunately we also had some challenges, and while it’s been great to be the Pirates the last four years in the draft, we had some young men change their bonus requests after we drafted them,” Huntington said. “And that’s been a frustrating thing, and I think our history worked against us there as some people have struggled to adapt to the new system.”

With Appel returning to Stanford, the Pirates will receive the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft. That will be in addition to their original first round pick next year. They will get additional bonus money for the additional pick. With the competitive balance lottery scheduled next week, there’s a chance they could end up with three of the top 45 picks in the draft next year.

“Some have argued that next year’s draft class is going to be better than this year’s draft class,” Huntington said. “We may end up with a player we like just as much as Mark. Again, the opportunity cost is a lost year of development. We might prefer to have Mark Appel. We drafted Mark Appel to sign Mark Appel. We were excited about the opportunity to add him to the plethora of quality young arms.”

It should be noted that under the old system, Appel probably wouldn’t have fallen to the Pirates, so not all blame can go to the system. However, the Pirates could have landed a top talent with the eighth overall pick. Lucas Giolito also fell in the draft, and ended up signing with the Washington Nationals for $2,925,000. The old system would have given the Pirates a chance to spend a little extra and sign some of those later round picks who were about $100,000 apart from what the Pirates could spend. They could have thrown big money at Walker Buehler to get him to sign. They wouldn’t have had to go under-slot for several of their picks in the top ten rounds.

You could make an argument that the old system was better for the Pirates, especially after this result. Huntington didn’t make that argument, but noted that clubs and agents are learning how to operate under the new system.

“The system seems to have worked for many, if not all of those involved,” Huntington said. “It was different. It was a challenge at times. But it is what it is. It’s the system going forward, and clubs are learning how to operate within that more that benefits them the best. The agents are learning how to operate in it that benefits them the best.”

Tim Williams

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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  • Lee Young

    From the BA mag I bought on the draft:

    Mark Appel

    “The knock on Appel is that he hasn’t dominated. Hitters square him up because he is ‘easy to see’.

    They really ‘saw’ him in that CWS game.

    My prediction: He is gonna be sorry he turned down $3.8mil. And, we’re gonna be happy he did!

  • Lee Young

    If a team drafts him next year, what leverage does he have other than to take what is offered? Go to Indy Ball?

    What a stupid stupid decision.

    • Kevin_Creagh

      I would be somewhat surprised if Appel goes back to Stanford. More likely he will take the Crow/Hochevar path to Indy Ball this year. My reasoning is that if he gets drafted as a college senior, the team that drafts him can wait up to 1 year to sign him as a college senior (if they can’t come to terms by signing day). So in theory, Appel could have to wait until 2014 to sign a contract.

      If he goes to Indy Ball (or even overseas), he could only wait a team out until the July 2013 deadline. When a team drafts him next year, why would any team offer him one penny over his slot amount? I wouldn’t even offer him that as a GM. I would underslot him due to his lack of leverage. Not that I would draft a college senior/guy who refused to sign the previous year anyway.

      • Lee Young

        Kevin….as I said above, I am hoping some GM does that. Appel is gonna be mighty sorry he turned down $3.8 mil.

  • jdt2x jdt2x

    rest assured-APPEL SWEEPSTAKES next July. Boras will advise him to play indie ball, thus Bud has ensured the Bosox and NY get the first overall pick each year. And who said baseball is flawed! Love you bud!

  • tom homolek

    How about a 75% tax and loss of a first round draft pick for anything over $10,000,000 per year on a free agent. Really sucks they took away the only strategy a small market team like the pirates have to get quality players. But I guess we can’t have Boston, NY, and LA missing out on all the good players.

  • buccotime57

    I call this terrible luck for the bucs…both giolito and freid signed, the two prep pitchers and we get a college player..with theoretically less leverage and he decided to go back to college

  • JohnDreker

    The draft ended up being Barnes, Mathisen,Sandfort,Sampson,Hurst and Moroff plus Ross/Kuchno/Diaz/Wood are lower tier players if you want to stretch it, and then fillers. It is a very weak draft class overall, but when you factor in where they picked and the extra comp pick, it looks horrible. No idea why Thomas wouldn’t sign either, but without him and Appel it is a setback for the organization and now they are handcuffed on the International scene, can’t throw that saved money other places for amateurs. The system failed the small market team that needs to build through amateurs and you can’t do anything about it.

    You could argue that last year’s draft without Cole/Bell looks better than(at minimum the same as) this years. Dickerson plus five prep pitchers in the top nine rounds and some other maybe’s

    • Lee Young

      Yeh, but Appel wouldn’t even have fallen to us in the old system.

      • JohnDreker

        They would’ve got someone almost as good though, plus they wouldn’t have wasted picks in the top ten rounds to make room for a normal first round pick. Picks from round 6-10, except Ross, could’ve easily been made after the first ten rounds and you still would’ve picked guys as talented as Hurst/Moroff after the first ten rounds, plus there is a great chance they could’ve signed more than three overslot deals after the tenth round. It cost the team all over the place, not just Appel, or a player similar to him.

        The only bright side is an extra pick next year. As this draft showed though, this new draft system really handcuffs the Pirates ability to get better than other teams through the draft. They need more than Barnes/Mathisen plus four better than average guys at the top of their class. This draft, due to the system, is a setback because there are no guarantees about what will be available next year and if the Pirates are willing to waste picks again to make room, it certainly didn’t work this time

        • JohnDreker

          One last thing on this because it’s making me sick thinking about it. When they announced the new system, I obviously hated it but this draft class is even worse than the worst case scenario I came up with in my head. I never thought the combined players we signed would be this bad. This is it folks, the players you see signed are it(except Jordan Steranka, who can/will still sign because he’s a senior). This is a draft class of a 90 loss team with an extra comp pick. Enjoy

          • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

            I say good riddance. Let’s see if the new system works. It won’t take more than one or two guys who get nothing to get them in line in future years. Appel rolled the dice. He’s going to have to live with it. A torn labrum and he’ll be hoping to catch on as an undrafted FA.

            • Lee Young

              I’m with you on that sentiment, buddy!

              He’ll be lucky to get slot next year.

  • http://twitter.com/millec311 Chris M

    Scott boras put his ego above the interests of Appel. It’s not like Appel was the consensus top guy in the draft, and the only guy who got more than 5 Million was Buxton who was a HS senior who actually had to be convinced not to go to college… 3.8 million was a very fair offer in the NEW system. Boras can’t expect to get what Appel was worth in the OLD system.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

      Totally agree Chris. Boras has done some bold things to make a name for himself and to get him to where he is today. Mostly he’s intimidated teams into giving him what he wants. In this system, a team would have to be insane/stupid to even entertain his demands, and in the end he comes out looking like a pretty big loser and a pretty terrible agent (in this instance). Sucks that the Bucs didn’t sign Appel, but in reality they should have never had a chance to draft him (probably should have gotten Fried/Giolito). The ninth pick next year will get them approx. what they should have gotten this year (maybe better), with the unfortunate delay of 1 year. In the meantime, it’s nice to see Boras really flounder for once, and get put in his place on a national stage. Maybe he’ll tone down the theatrics and deception and general overall sleaziness in his future dealings. Then again, I wouldn’t count on it. He’ll probably just keep going and try to make this some kind of legal case despite the fact that he has no ground to stand on at all.

      • Lee Young

        Mark Appel, Senior = ZERO leverage!!!

        Mark should send a BIG Thank You card to Bora$$ for costing him so much money!

  • RandyLinville

    Anyone know how many players in the first five rounds that didn’t sign? Bucs missed on two picks in the first five rounds. I think everyone else from round 1 signed, but I’m wondering what the hit/success/sign rate was overall through the first five rounds.

    • Lee Young

      Not too upset about losing Thomas. BA said that, if he had to move to a corner his value goes down a lot.

  • Thom Kay

    In hindsight, I wonder what we should have done. Drafted Dahl, Russell, Giolito? Or is it better to have next year’s 9th?

    No way to know, but I do know I want Appel to fail miserably in every aspect of his life, and I don’t like feeling that way about a kid who only turns 21 in two days.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      Yeah, I don’t understand all the, best luck, sentiments towards this guy. Screw him. If he doesn’t play for the Pirates, I sure don’t want him doing well for anyone else. That goes for all non-Pirates, but especially this guy. In fact, and I know it’s still not going to happen, but if the top 2 starting pitchers for each team in the NL central (excluding the Bucs) went down with season ending injuries, wouldn’t everyone be cheering that on? I mean, I understand the honor in beating another teams’ best with your best, but can’t we save that macho crap for the postseason?

      • Lee Young

        I agree….screw him! Exactly what my buddy said.

      • mikez09

        I would never cheer for an injury!!!!

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

          Hey, I’m not saying that I hope Beltran, wainwright, and freese run head on into a car with Joey votto and Brandon Phillips….justsaying, if it happened, there would be a collective sigh in regards to Pirate baseball

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

    After some thinking, I don’t see how Boras could possibly let him sign with the bucs. They told the Astros no to their offer and as Chris M stated I also think Boras let his ego get in the way and Boras said “I’m not going to look good taking 3.8 after turning down 6.6″ or whatever it was. I could only imagine Appel’s reaction to Boras, “Gee Scott, thanks for costing me almost $3,000,000.

    • Lee Young

      In the end, it may be even more. Bora$$ used this young man to his detriment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.biddle.50 Craig Biddle

    This has hardly been a disaster of a signing period for the Pirates – don’t forget the Latins they have signed, Getting a lottery pick, after either the 1st or 2nd rounds, as well as the 9th next year, is probably fair value for Appel. And my understanding is that they are very likely to do just that.

    Boras had better be careful – if he repeats this act next year, he may well find it difficult to attract top-end draft prospects in the future. So he could be a little light on leverage next year. We will see.

    • Lee Young

      AGREE!

  • Lee Young

    Because Appel did not sign, the Pirates will receive an extra
    first-round pick in next June’s draft, the ninth selection over all. The
    Pirates also could gain an extra selection from baseball’s first
    competitive balance draft, which will be held Wednesday in Secaucus,
    N.J.
    “We may be looking at three of the top 45 picks in the country,” Pirates
    General Manager Neal Huntington said. “Some have argued next year’s
    draft class is going to be better than this year’s draft class.”

  • HamburgBucco

    Somewhere down the line Appel will see how wrong his decision has been.
    As for Boras for the first time really he lost hands down. His pedigree was based on the fact that after hard negotiations he usually got his clients the best deal and the most money. Now there is no deal and no money.
    With the way Boras and Appel have acted in this draft I can’t see any other team taking the gamble and drafting him early when they know he’ll be looking at a 7 million bonus.
    In fact I’d be surprised if Appel ever throws a pitch in the MLB.
    I guess he’ll alway have the memories of his senior year at Stanford to look back on…

  • David

    What happens if Appel doesn’t sign next year? After his signing period is over or does indy ball or plays in Japan does he become a free agent? If so, are there any stipulations/limitations on signing then?

    What if that’s Boras’ plan?