The new slotting system the MLB implemented was bound to create some interesting storylines. We learned a thing or two about some front offices by how they played the new system.
Pittsburgh Pirates: They played hardball.
The Bucs showed they were willing to take a risk and shoot for the moon. GM Neal Huntington knew Mark Appel would be a difficult sign, but he drafted him anyway. The Pirates were not able to come to an agreement with the Stanford flamethrower, but they stood tall against his demands and refused to give up future draft picks. Pittsburgh played hardball, and they may have lost, but you‘ve got to admire their willingness to take a risk.
Here are a couple excerpts from Charlie Wilmoth’s excellent recap at Bucs Dugout:
"I would have liked him to sign, but I'm not particularly sad that he didn't. The Pirates will now get two first-rounders next year, including the No. 9 overall pick."
"It sounds like the Pirates did all they could without turning into idiots, and Appel wasn't interested. Oh well."
Teams that drafted 1-7: They played it safe.
While some people did have Carlos Correa as their No. 1 player, Appel was widely expected to be the top pick of the draft. Houston was able to negotiate a deal with Correa, and they ended up signing the 17-year-old Puerto Rican to a $4.8 million bonus, way under the slot of $7.2 million. From there, the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres all passed on Appel, instead taking players they were already familiar with and knew they could sign.
We never really know what goes on behind closed doors, but the Marlins used some dirty tactics to try and get Andrew Heaney to sign for under slot. A little more than 24 hours before the signing deadline, the Marlins’ people were telling media outlets that they would not be signing the lefty from Oklahoma State. He was looking for his slotted $2.8 million, the Marlins signed him for 2.6. Maybe both sides were fighting dirty, but I guess today all that matters is a deal got done.
There was very little detail about the Nats’ negotiation with top pick Lucas Giolito, and word didn’t even break that they signed him until shortly after the deadline had passed. Washington took a big risk drafting the high schooler who injured his elbow this season. If he had been healthy, Giolito would have been in the conversation for top pick. The Nationals were willing to sign the 17-year-old over slot, thus playing a penalty, but not to the point where they’d have to forfeit future picks. The Nats came close to losing Giolito, with the negotiations literally coming down to the final minute.
Talk about last-minute signing. Lucas Giolito said he signed with about 30 seconds to spare before 2 pm deadline.— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) July 13, 2012
Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement had to make things tough on teams, as the signing period ended a month sooner than usual and added a ton of budgeting. Things were even tougher on some players who would have gotten much bigger bonuses in previous years.
All in all, things turned out pretty well, but you have to wonder what will happen the next time the draft has an elite superstar like Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a scenario under the new CBA in which a No. 1 pick could end up going unsigned.
Hopefully it never comes to that.