I smell whiffs from 2008′s Aaron Crow debacle.
(Which, just to head off hindsight is 20/20 arguments, did result in a comp pick that turned into Drew Storen … but Storen was a huge overdraft at the 10th overall pick in 2009, a college reliever who was a quick sign. The Nats left a lot on the table in the Crow non-signing, as discussed in this space recently).
Right now, as of the morning of the 2014 Rule 4 signing deadline day, there exists just a small handful of players from the first 10 rounds of the draft who have not signed. According to MLB.com’s great draft bonus tracker, just NINE players out of the first 315 players drafted remain unsigned as of the moment of this posting.
Three of them are Washington Nationals draft picks. And they include the two most important picks of the draft; i.e. our first two picks Erick Fedde and Andrew Suarez.
What is going on?? We havn’t seen these kinds of difficulties in signing guys since before the slot bonus system went into place. What is Mike Rizzo doing?
According to reports (this Bill Ladson report quoting Jim Callis and Adam Kilgore), Fedde got a “$3M offer” from another team he he dropped to them in the 2nd round and (with notoriously difficult negotiator agent Scott Boras in charge) is holding out for more than the assigned slot bonus to his pick ($2,145,600). The Nats can go a bit above the $2.1M figure without incurring penalties … but it depends on what happens with their other two marquee picks. Media pundits (unnamed of course) are predicting a stalemate here.
Meanwhile, the general sense from reading the tea leaves is that Suarez will sign at or near slot (which makes you wonder what the heck is taking so long?), while unsigned 8th rounder Austin Byler seems to be unsignable at his slot figure ($145k) and will be returning to school. Byler’s non-signing isn’t too much of a surprise; he was a 3rd round projected guy who slipped to the 8th round, and the Nats didn’t really free up that much cash in its other first-10-rounds of picks in order to get Byler the $600k it likely would have needed to sign him.
Aside: speaking of lack of signing bonus money for Byler; is overpaying its college senior signs? They drafted four college seniors in the first 10 rounds (Carey, Gardner, Van Orden and Page) and gave them combined more than $200k. Could that 200k have been better allocated? Did those seniors need to be offered that much money?
It makes zero sense to me for Fedde not to sign frankly, even if he’s offered less money; by the time he rehabs his TJ surgery, it’ll be nearly the end of next year’s college season. There’s just little chance of him going higher than he did this year, nor getting as much bonus money offered. And if he has the slightest setback in his recovery, he’ll be lucky to be drafted in the first 5 rounds next year and will be looking at a tenth of the signing bonus offers. And, if he doesn’t sign, he’s rehabbing under the care of his personal physician instead of an experienced professional major league team that has rehabbed probably a dozen TJ surgeries in the last few years, including some pretty significant and nationally renound names. Why this is taking so long is just beyond me.
If the Nats fail to sign all three guys, they’ll have compensation picks in the form of the 19th overall pick in the 2015 draft for Fedde and the 58th pick for Suarez (if i’m reading the rules correctly that is; you’re supposed to get compensation for unsigned first, second and any supplemental round picks at your unsigned slot +1 in the following draft, irrespective of how many comp picks get stuffed inbetween rounds the next year). I guess that’d make 2015′s draft pretty good. But they’ll lose the Byler pick altogether.
Are you worried?