The Toronto Blue Jays picked right-hander Deck McGuire in the first round in 2010, and paid a $2 million signing bonus.
Alex Anthopoulos and his expanded scouting staff are hoping that all their work leading up to the draft pays off, but first they are going to have to spend.
The way the MLB draft is structured now, some top prospects often fall deeper into the draft due to either the agent that represents them, or the player having a previous commitment to a school, as it often means they are going to demand a large signing bonus.
The Blue Jays recognized this going in and decided to take the risk by drafting players with great potential, but could be difficult to sign.
Elements of this strategy have been apparent since Anthopoulos took over the GM's reins, as the Blue Jays have used their money to sign several international free agents. Entering the 2010 draft, Anthopoulos was adamant that money would not determine whether they would sign their top draft picks, as they had missed out on signing so many in 2009.
Their negotiations with 2010 first-round pick Deck McGuire went down to the wire, but they ended up signing him to a $2 million bonus. Their fifth-round pick, Dickie Thon, was viewed as first- or second-round talent, but was passed over by other teams due to the supposed difficulty in signing him.
Anthopoulos ended up signing Thon to a $1.5 million bonus.
That same approach was used in the 2011 draft, with the Blue Jays able to grab some highly touted talent in the first couple of rounds.
The Jays decided to pick Tyler Beede 21st overall with their first selection, despite the 18-year-old's commitment to Vanderbilt University, reported Gregor Chisolm at MLB.com. Anthopoulos and the director of amateur scouting Andrew Tinnish, are confident that they will be able to work out a deal.
With their first pick of the second round, the Blue Jays selected Daniel Norris 74th overall. Norris was projected as the second best left-handed pitcher available, but fell down in the draft due to his commitment to play at Clemson.
It is often the case that early-round picks in the draft commit to colleges, both for the security of having that option, as well as a negotiating tool for contracts. Some may scoff at this capitalistic behaviour, but there are sound reasons for this.
If the young prospect were to sign for very little and then get injured, they not only could no longer have a career in baseball; they might have just missed out on their chance for education. It is likely that they were awarded a scholarship to attend school, so if they are going to give that up, they need a suitable backup option if things don't work out.
The Blue Jays recognize this, and they are also aware that many teams aren't willing to pay some of the higher bonuses awarded to the high-end athletes.
Then there is John Stilson, another pitcher who earlier in the year was projected to go high in the draft, but fell further because of an injury he suffered that requires surgery. There is also inherent risk in this pick, but also the chance for great reward.
Stilson has a mid to high 90s fastball and then a devastating changeup that he can throw in the low 80s—a combination that could work very well if makes a full recovery.
Anthopoulus recognizes to compete with the giants of the American League East they will need to take calculated risks, as middle of the road is simply not going to cut it. This philosophy was even more evident this past homestand against the Boston Red Sox, when the Jays were swept and blown out in two of the games in a humiliating fashion.
If the Jays want to avoid that in the future, they are going to need high-end talent and the draft is just one more tool they are using to get to that point.