Mark Appel has until 5 PM EST to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. – Image Courtesy: Pittsburgh Pirates

Almost one year ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 2011 third round pick Alex Dickerson. There was nothing special about the timing of the deal. Dickerson signed for slot, and while his signing came about a month after the draft, it was normal for players to wait a few weeks before signing. Dickerson signed on July 14th. Fast forward a year later. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement moved the signing deadline up a month. Last year it was normal for most players to be unsigned at this point. This year, every player who is going to sign, will sign by 5:00 PM EST today.

The big question for the Pirates this year is whether Mark Appel will sign. The new CBA not only moved up the signing deadline, but it also limited what teams could spend. In previous years the Pirates could give Mark Appel whatever it took to get him to sign (although Appel probably wouldn’t have fallen to them under those rules). This year they have a limited amount they can spend, and if they go over that amount, they face harsh penalties, which include taxes and the loss of future draft picks.

The slot price for Appel is $2.9 M. The Pirates have an extra $609,400 to spend after saving money on other picks in the top ten rounds. They can also spend an additional $304,430 without losing any future draft picks. The most they can spend on Appel right now without losing a future pick is $3,813,830. If fourth round pick Brandon Thomas and eighth round pick Kevin Ross both sign for slot, that number goes up to $3,837,575.

We’ve heard rumors that Appel won’t sign and will return to Stanford for his senior year. If it just comes down to money, then I don’t think it benefits Appel to go back in to next year’s draft. He’s unlikely to get the same amount of money next year, and even if he gets a bit more, it’s probably not going to be worth the risk of going back to college for one more year.

There are mixed opinions about the strength of next year’s draft. Some say next year is stronger than this year. Some say it is the same. Either way, Appel fell to eighth overall in this draft, and he put up one of the best seasons in college baseball this year. Even if the draft class next year is the same quality as this year, that wouldn’t help Appel go higher next year. He will also be a college senior, giving him less leverage.


If Appel Doesn’t Sign

If the Pirates don’t sign Mark Appel, the following will happen:

**They will lose his $2.9 M in the 2012 bonus pool. The team would still have their extra $609,400 to spend on later round picks. They could use that money to offer second round money to someone like Walker Buehler, who was a top 50 prospect heading in to the draft.

**They will get a compensation pick in the 2013 draft. The compensation pick would be the ninth overall pick in the draft, and it would be protected, meaning if they didn’t sign that pick they’d get a compensation pick in 2014. While they’d lose the $2.9 M from the 2012 bonus pool, they’d get the money from the 9th overall pick added to their 2013 bonus pool.

**The Pirates would have to get Appel to sign a waiver, allowing them to draft him again next year.

In the short-term, the Pirates would be without a first round pick, providing a blow to the 2012 draft. They could lessen that blow by adding Buehler, giving them another second round talent. The long-term would outweigh the short-term. While the Pirates wouldn’t have a first round pick from the 2012 draft, they’d have an extra first round pick in 2013 to make up for it. So in the long-term it would even out in picks, assuming they signed the 2013 picks.

You could say that they won’t get a player as talented as Appel next year, but that’s the same thing that was said in the minutes leading in to this year’s draft. I wouldn’t rule out that possibility, as every year someone drops lower than they should have gone.


Middle Round Picks

The Pirates have been actively negotiating in the middle rounds the last few days. They recently signed 17th round pick Hayden Hurst. The bonus information is not yet known. The Pirates could spend up to $100,000 without going over-slot. Any amount over $100,000 would go against their bonus pool.

The Pirates have been talking with other middle round picks in the last few days, and offering a few above slot deals.

**They’re close to the asking price for 16th round pick Max Moroff, although no deal has been reached. I’m told that Moroff will go to UCF if the offer doesn’t increase.

**They negotiated with 35th round pick Jackson McClelland, and offered him an above slot deal if he would have signed Wednesday night. McClelland turned down the offer and will be heading to Pepperdine.

**The Pirates were ready to draft 27th round pick Jake Johansen in the fourth round, although he turned down the money for that pick. They took him in the 27th round in case he changed his mind.

**21st round pick Jordan Steranka has agreed to a deal. However, he’s had mono, and as a result has failed his physical twice. Since he’s a college senior, the Pirates have until a week before next year’s draft to officially sign him.

**No word on where Walker Buehler stands, although he seems to be the primary backup option if Appel doesn’t sign.

The fact that the Pirates are offering over-slot deals to later round picks raises some questions about Appel. It could mean that they don’t plan on offering Appel every last cent in their budget. Or it could mean that they know Appel isn’t likely to sign, which means they’d have to find other areas to spend that money.


Competitive Balance Lottery

On Saturday, MLB will hold a competitive balance lottery for the 2013 draft. The lottery will award extra picks to small market and low revenue teams. The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of 13 teams eligible for the lottery. The other teams are the¬†Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Athletics, Padres, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers, and Cardinals. The chances in the lottery will be based on the previous year’s winning percentage, with the lower winning percentages giving teams a better chance at a pick.

Those teams will enter a drawing for six picks at the end of the first round. The picks will come after any free agent compensation picks. Keep in mind that the compensation picks should be lower next year, as MLB also revamped that system, making it harder for teams to get extra draft picks.

A second set of six picks will be awarded for after the second round. Any team that didn’t get a pick in the first lottery will have a chance at these picks. Also, any team that received revenue sharing money will be entered in to the pool.

If a team goes over slot enough to forfeit a future draft pick, the pick will be awarded in a third lottery along with any other forfeited picks. The only teams that would be eligible for this lottery would be teams who didn’t exceed their bonus pool.

These compensation picks can be traded, but can only be traded once. Those picks could factor in to deadline deals this year, although they won’t hold a ton of value. In the past, compensation picks have carried a value of about $2.5 M per pick.

Right now, nine teams have exceeded their bonus pools, although no team is over the five percent barrier that would result in the loss of a pick. For that reason, the Pirates might be better off going over their bonus pool up to that five percent mark. They’d have an extra $300,000 to spend, which could either seal the deal with Appel, or allow them to get one or two additional later round picks. The Pirates wouldn’t be missing out on much if they missed the third lottery. If any team did lose a pick, the Pirates would be far from a guarantee to get that pick, since two-thirds of the league is currently eligible for that lottery. It might be different if there were a lot of picks available, but with the chances of no picks being available, the Pirates would be better off investing in guaranteed prospects in the later rounds with that extra $300,000.