First Pitch: Do the Pirates Have To Go Over-Slot on Appel?

Two days ago I wrote about how players don’t have as much leverage under the new collective bargaining agreement. Yesterday I pointed out that players are signing quickly, highlighting some middle round college seniors. Today we saw two top ten picks officially sign, which is almost unheard of in comparison to previous years.

Carlos Correa, the first overall pick, signed a $4.8 M deal with the Houston Astros. The slot price was $7.2 M. Kyle Zimmer, the fifth overall pick, signed a $3 M deal with the Kansas City Royals. The slot price was $3.5 M.

The slot prices are more a guideline, and not meant to represent the value of the pick. Instead, they’re supposed to give teams some flexibility, while serving the purpose of keeping the overall spending down. For example, the Astros signed Correa for under-slot so that they could give guys like Lance McCullers an over-slot deal. But as long as the total bonus pool is below the recommended figure, Major League Baseball won’t care.

This has led to a lot of moves meant to allow for more spending on select players. A lot of teams took college seniors in the middle rounds, and as I pointed out yesterday, those seniors are getting $10,000 or less. That’s about what those players would have received in previous years, only they probably wouldn’t have been drafted in the top ten rounds. But because they are drafted that high this year, teams can give them a low bonus, and use the rest of the money on over-slot signings.

The Pirates are set up well to potentially have $500,000 or more left in their budget after signing their round 6-10 players. They could use that money for later round prep players like Walker Buehler. The popular theory would have that money going to first round pick Mark Appel, giving him more than the $2.9 M slot price for the eighth overall pick. The question is, do the Pirates need to give Appel any more than $2.9 M?

Let’s say the Pirates come up with an extra $500,000 in rounds 6-10. Then let’s say that they immediately give that to Buehler, making his bonus $600,000, which is second round money. Then, they come up with an extra $100,000, and give Appel $3 M even to match Zimmer, and they tell him to take it or leave it. What could Appel do?

His options would be signing, or going back to school/going to independent ball and trying next year. But if the fifth overall pick this year is taking $3 M, and the first overall pick took $4.8 M, then how much is Appel really going to benefit by trying again next year? And once again, next year is a stronger draft class, which means that if Appel fell to eighth this year in a weak class, it’s even more likely he could fall again next year in a stronger class. That would make it harder for him to get more than the $3 M the Pirates could offer this year.

For the Pirates, there’s no downside to losing Appel’s slot money. They’re not going to pay harsh penalties just to get him half a million more. And they’d get a compensation pick if Appel didn’t sign, which would be the number nine overall pick in a stronger draft class.

Most draft rankings had Appel, Zimmer, and Kevin Gausman ranked together, with very little difference between them. If Gausman also signs for $3 M, then it would be hard for Appel to justify that he’s worth more than that. Appel’s adviser, Scott Boras, vented his frustration with the draft, calling it a “mockery”. If one wanted to read in to that comment, it doesn’t sound like Boras has a plan to get a huge over-slot bonus for guys like Appel. If he did, I don’t think he’d be complaining about the new draft system.

It will be interesting to see how the negotiations play out with Appel. The more I look at things, and the more signings that come out, the less bargaining power I see for the players. If there was any kind of bargaining power, I don’t think we’d see guys like Correa and Zimmer sign so early, and sign for below the maximum slot price in the process.

Links and Notes

**Today is the last day to join the Draft Street free roll. It’s FREE to join, and you can win part of a $150 prize pool. Click here to join.

**Also, only a few more days to get the 2012 Prospect Guide for only $8! That’s $12 off the regular price. Use the code “DRAFT” on the products page of the site.

**The Pirates pulled off a surprise win against the Reds, getting the win off Aroldis Chapman. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at the win, and whether the Pirates should move Kevin Correia to the bullpen.

**Prospect Watch: Phil Irwin makes a strong start, and Robbie Grossman misses his last four starts.

**Jeff Karstens was removed from his rehab start tonight with an injury.

**The Pirates traded minor league catcher Kris Watts to Washington.

**They also signed minor league right-handed pitcher Doug Salinas.

  • Good piece Tim. I really don’t see how Appel CAN’T sign. The new rule that would give the Pirates a guaranteed pick (#9) next year (previously if they didn’t sign this pick then it was lost for good) if Appel walks just adds to the Bucs leverage. Hopefully he signs before too long & can get some work in this season with an attitude that he will prove the 7 teams that didn’t draft him wrong.

  • Mets people are reporting Gavin Cecchini is set to sign as well (plus Roache signed already)

    • It’s great to see. Seems like with the decrease in bargaining leverage, the players seem more open to just wrapping everything up as soon as possible and getting on the field.

      • Hopefully whenever a few of these higher level type guys make it to the Pros 6 months ahead of when they would have under the old system, it’ll really start to catch on.