Ten Biggest Surprises from MLB's First-Year Player Signing Deadline
A few weeks before the 2011 MLB draft took place, an ever-talented outfielder from Texas named Josh Bell sent a letter to all 30 Major League teams.
The letter detailed his desire to attend college at the University of Texas, something he and his family had wanted for a long time, especially his mother, who is a professor at the school. Draft day came, and 29 teams respected his wishes, with most passing on him at least once. Then one team came calling and tabbed him.
A little more than two months later, the Pittsburgh Pirates are thanking their lucky stars it only took $5 million to sign the youngster, who was regarded by many as the top hitter in the draft class aside from Anthony Rendon.
Such is the way of the MLB draft and its ludicrous signing deadline.
Full of surprises, questionable decision-making and loads of second-guessing.
The Pirates made by far the biggest splash by signing Bell, but they weren't the only team pulling something out of its hat or out from its sleeve.
Here are the top 10 biggest surprises from yesterday's signing deadline.
Matt Purke's Major League Contract
I can handle the fact that Purke earned a $4.15 million signing bonus, but what really irks me is that he received a big-league contract, one of just a handful of players to achieve such a status, and the only one from outside the first round.
Purke was a potential top-three pick heading into the 2011 college season, but had a disappointing year, getting hit with numerous injuries. His velocity was down, and all of the injuries brought back concerns about his delivery.
Teams wavered on whether they thought Purke was going to try to go back to TCU and earn his way into the first round for next year, hence his drop all the way to the third round.
For a player who has apparent mechanical difficulties, a big-league deal seems a bit hasty. Unless of course the Nats have no plans to use him in a starting role. That's the only way I could envision Purke getting to the majors in the four years that they have him under contract for.
As an Orioles fan, I remember the team giving Adam Loewen a Major League contract, despite the fact that he was one year removed from high-school and had a history as a two-way player.
Clearly that move didn't work out too well for the Orioles, and I'm fearful that the results will be just as bad for their cross-town rivals.
Josh Bell Signing
Bell made his intentions to head off to college more widely known than any other draft prospect in history. He wrote letters, he gave interviews...and in the end he signed for a second-round record $5 million.
Either the money was too good to walk away from, or Bell and his adviser, Scott Boras, just pulled off the most impressive negotiating tactic in baseball history.
Regardless, the Pirates ended up with two players who were top-10 talents, along with Gerrit Cole of course. Their farm system should make a huge leap into the top five or even top three, and their future looks brighter than ever.
Brian Goodwin's $3 Million Deal
As of this past weekend, the Nats primary targets remained first-round pick Anthony Rendon and third-rounder Matt Purke.
Everyone seemingly forgot about second-rounder Brian Goodwin. And then word broke late Monday that the team had agreed to a deal worth $3 million. Most casual baseball fans following the draft had never heard of Goodwin until that news report, and for good reason.
He put together a fantastic campaign as a freshman at UNC, but got into some hot water and ended up leaving the Tar Heels program for junior college, making him eligible a year earlier as a sophomore.
Had he stayed at UNC, he could have been a potential top-five pick in 2012. Still, you'd have to agree that he played the game incredibly well, knowing that a new CBA could alter the structure of draft bonuses.
For his efforts, he was rewarded with a bonus that would have been similar to what he could have achieved had he come out next year.
Kevin Comer Signing and Tyler Beede Not
Tyler Beede entered into draft season as one of the most committed prospects in recent memory. Committed to college that was. And despite his repeated requests to not be drafted and the numerous interviews he gave claiming he was indeed headed to Vanderbilt, many felt he was ultimately signable.
The Blue Jays must have believed so, and they went ahead and used their first-round pick on the Massachusetts right-hander. They raised their offer all the way to $2.5 million, but still fell about a million short of Beede's demands.
So he headed off to Vandy.
And in an interesting turn of events, a player who was all but guaranteed to join him in Nashville, Kevin Comer, did an about-face and signed a contract with Toronto, worth $1.65 million.
Aside from Beede, Comer was the most steadfast in his commitment to attending college, which made the fact that he signed for less than $2 million that much more surprising.
Toronto has to be bummed that they wasted a first-rounder on Beede, although they'll get a comp pick in next year's draft, but they came out about even by signing both Comer, who Baseball America projected as a top-five pick in 2013, and left-hander Daniel Norris.
Dillon Maples Spurning UNC
If Daniel Norris' bonus of $2 million as a second-round pick came as a shock to those in the industry, they must have been flat-out floored by the $2.5 million ex-UNC commit and 14th-round pick Dillon Maples earned.
Chicago seemed to be spending pretty freely this year, shelling out $1.6 million to second-rounder Dan Vogelbach and nearly $1.3 million to 12th-rounder Shawon Dunston Jr.
Maples bonus takes the cake however.
The right-hander had a very firm commitment to UNC, where he was offered a full scholarship by the football squad, where he was expected to start the season as the first-team punter and kickoff specialist. Heck, Maples practiced with the team this past weekend.
He made signing look even more unlikely when his camp floated a bonus demand between $2 million and $3 million.
And then the Cubs went and broke the rules, and got him to agree to a deal for $2.5 million, the most of any player ever selected after the second round by Chicago.
In addition, they also agreed to shell out $200,000 to be awarded to Maples after he retires for one purpose: to finish school.
The Yankees Failing to Sign Sam Stafford
You don't often think about the Yankees not being able to pony up enough cash to sign their draft picks, but that's exactly what happened with their second-round selection Sam Stafford, who will now return to the University of Texas for his senior season.
According to the Austin America-Statesman, the Yankees had concerns over Stafford's arm strength, which led to an offer that was well below his recommended bonus set by MLB. Stafford's camp felt that offer was incredibly low, considering the results he put up and the fact that he had been clocked before the draft as high as 95 mph.
At Texas, Stafford will inherit the role of staff ace now that Taylor Jungmann has signed professionally. The lefty, who was clocked in the low 90s before the draft, went 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA this past season for the Longhorns.
The Rays Signing Their Top 14 Picks
Prep right-hander Taylor Guerrieri ended up signing for $1.6 million
When it was announced that the Rays had 10 of the top 60 picks in the 2011 MLB draft, many wondered where the team was going to get all the money it would inevitably take to sign all those players.
Many expected them to break all sorts of bonus records, and it was almost guaranteed that they would set a new team mark.
Not only did Tampa sign their top-10 selections, but they went even further, signing their next four after that. And in the end it only took them just over $10 million to sign their top 14 selections.
That's almost $4 million less than it took the Washington Nationals to sign their top four picks!
Talk about doing things economically.
Danny Hultzen's Spring Training Guarantee
Few negotiations were as complex as those of Danny Hultzen, the second-overall selection in the draft.
Rumors flew in the days leading up to the signing deadline that not only was he looking for a bonus in the neighborhood of $13 million, but he also required Seattle to pay for him to finish his schooling. Really? Did you have to ask for both Danny?
In the end, both rumors turned out to be false, and the M's were able to agree with the seasoned lefty on a big-league deal worth $6.35 million. With incentives, the deal could eventually be worth $10.6 million.
But that's not even the most surprising part.
Hultzen, ever the crafty negotiator, was able to squeeze in a guarantee that the team will let him fight for a spot in the big-league rotation during spring training next year.
"Hey, we'll give Danny a shot right off the bat to see what he can do, if he can make the big-league club or not," said Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
That mean's Hultzen could go straight to the big leagues without ever setting foot in the minor leagues.
Brandon Nimmo's Deal
It's not necessarily surprising that Nimmo managed to get a bonus worth $2.1 million from the Mets, but what is amazing is the fact that he managed to do it without ever having played high-school baseball.
Nimmo's home state, Wyoming, doesn't sanction high-school ball due to the terrible weather the state faces in spring. In order to get properly seen, Nimmo was forced to play American Legion ball and try to make it to as many showcases as he could.
To make it into the top-three rounds would have been amazing, so the fact that he was able to go in the top 15 and earn a bonus of over $2 million is astounding.
Amir Garrett's $1 Million Deal...that Allows Him to Continue to Play Basketball
Garrett was such an unknown entity before the draft that he had to schedule multiple workouts so that teams could get their first real look at him.
He wasn't really on the radar until really late because he was a basketball prospect who ranked in the top 100 over at ESPN.com.
The Reds were the team that finally took a chance on him, in the 22nd round, and obviously they must have seen something they liked in the lanky lefty, because they shelled out an astounding $1 million bonus to him last night.
Everyone seems to agree that Garrett has immense potential, but considering he's so raw and has never played baseball full-time, you have to wonder if they would have been better served letting him head off to college and pocketing the extra cash.
Instead, they have to try to develop an incredibly raw prospect, while simultaneously hoping he doesn't get injured playing basketball for St. John's.