Waiting On Harper (and the Others)

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, August 16, 2010 | , , | 2 comments »

It's ridiculous that all of NatsTown -- General Manager Mike Rizzo included -- must sit and wait until midnight tonight to announce what surely will be another record amateur contract for another Scott Boras client.

Bryce Harper, 17, out of the College of Southern Nevada, waits too.

For under Major League Baseball's arcane and downright silly guidelines, the Commissioner's Office doesn't want anyone else to know how much the contract is worth until it's too late to affect anyone else's.

MLB has guidelines in place -- recommendations for bonuses based on the "slot" a player is chosen -- for how a draft pick gets his money.  Instead of a rookie salary scale, in place in the NBA, this slotting system is a cloak-and-dagger operation, leaving everyone in the dark until about 10:30 pm on deadline day.

Currrently, 17 of the 32 first round picks are still unsigned, less than eight hours before the deadline, including the top three and nine of the first 12 picks.  Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has a much more elaborate description of the situation in his column today discussing Harper's negotiations.

Most expect the rules to change with the next collective bargaining agreement with the player's association, since both the teams and MLB players want to divert money that would go to draftees toward players in the association.  The losers:  top draft picks and their agents.

But back to Harper.

There's no reason why Harper shouldn't end up signing once the clock strikes midnight.  Boras and Rizzo have a good working relationship.  Harper has nothing to prove and everything to risk going back to play JuCo ball.  And he graduated high school a year early for just this opportunity!

Add on the uncertainty of potential changes in the system -- of which Boras is fully aware and no doubt "advised" Harper and his family of in their decision for him to get his GED and enter this draft -- and all doubt is removed.

So it all boils down to how much of Uncle Ted's money does he get.  Frankly, the number doesn't particularly interests me.

A bigger question in my mind is the fates of the other three high draft picks still unsigned:  second rounder LHP Sammy Solis (U. San Diego), fourth rounder RHP A.J. Cole (Oviedo (FL) H.S.) and 12th rounder LHP Robbie Ray (Brentwood (TN) H.S.).

All three have been rumored to have already signed.  And that might be the case.  But, as with Harper, we still need to wait.  Because all three "fell" to the Nats and therefore if they sign will sign for above-slot money.  Which again means that the Commissioner's Office won't want the amounts coming out until it's too late to affect any other negotiations.

But here's the rub:  the cat's already out of the bag.

It's been widely reoprted (first by Baseball America's Jim Callis) that Solis signed a $1 million deal, Cole a $2 million deal and Ray for $799 K.

The Cole deal is the big one here.  Two million is huge money for a fourth round pick and will blow out of the water the previous record deal for a player taken in that slot.  ESPN.com's Keith Law twittered today that he "Heard several places that the A.J. Cole deal with Washington ($2MM) is pushing up demands on other HS arms..."

Now we know the potential "snag in negotiations" over the Cole deal.

Regardless of the posturing, it now sounds like all four players will be in the fold at the deadline, when best guesses would have been maybe two of the four on draft day.  The two high schoolers are both committed (Cole to Miami, Ray to Arkansas) and Cole seemed a real long-shot to sign.  He was considered a low first round talent, and slipped all the way to the fourth over signability concerns.

If Mike Rizzo can bring all four of these players under contract tonight, he will have produced D.C.'s finest draft class ever, and one of the best in baseball this season.

Just a shame we have to wait so long to find out.


  1. Sec314 // August 16, 2010 at 4:58 PM  

    Ah, so THAT's the snag! Seems obvious now.

    Hope you're right!

  2. dmichalopoulos // August 16, 2010 at 5:24 PM  

    Thanks for the analysis. It certainly makes sense and show's why hard slotting is needed.