Unlike other sports, the MLB first year player draft takes place while the regular season is still going on. Many probably tuned in or at least followed the first round of the draft, but quickly forgot about the players drafted and turned their attention back to the big league club. Most experts felt the Indians had one of the better drafts this year, but drafting the players is only half the battle. Getting them to sign on the dotted line can be just as challenging, especially with the new bonus restrictions in place. Every signing counts now, especially the top 10 rounds. Here’s a quick rehash of the new draft slotting system and penalties:
Each pick in Rounds 1-10 (including any compensation/competitive balance picks) are assigned a slot value. The Indians had 12 such picks this year, one in each of the first 10 rounds, plus a compensation pick for Ubaldo Jimenez and a competitive balance lottery pick. You then add up the total slot bonus for each pick to come up with each team’s Draft Pool. For the Indians this year that draft pool was $8,234,100 for their top 12 picks. Any player drafted in rounds 11-40 has a “max” bonus of $100,000. Teams may go over this amount but anything over $100K is counted against the previously mentioned draft pool amount. Should a team go over that amount, they will face penalties ranging from a fine/tax to loss of picks in future drafts. Also, if a team fails to sign one of the picks in the top 10 rounds, they lose that bonus money and any penalties would be based off that new draft allotment. For example, if Team A had a $10M draft pool but failed to sign their 1st round pick that had a $2M slot, they’d actually end up with only an $8M draft pool allotment and have to sign their remaining top 10 picks with that amount.
So how has the Tribe done in their quest to sign their picks? The only player that has not officially signed from the top 10 rounds is their Competitive Balance pick, Mike Papi (UVA, 1B/OF). Mike Papi has actually been unable to sign until just recently as he was playing in the College World Series. Papi’s season ended Wednesday night in heartbreak as his Virginia Cavaliers lost the best of 3 World Series finals to the Vanderbilt Commodores. The other 11 picks have all signed, which is not a big surprise. However, the amounts given out have been somewhat of a surprise in that the Tribe is currently $366,600 over their draft pool allotment. Good news is that amount is less than the 5% mark that results in the loss of a future draft pick; however, the Indians would be facing a 75% tax penalty on that amount they are over, which comes to $274,950. They are also only $45,105 shy of losing their 2015 1st round pick.
Here’s a current breakdown of each pick signed in the top 10 rounds, including slot at each spot, how much the player actually signed for, and the difference over/under slot.
|9||278||Alexis Pantoja||SS||HS (PR)||$144,600||$144,600||$0|
Should be noted that the $366,600 over slot amount is based on the assumption Mike Papi signs for slot. He very well could sign for under slot, and actually I’d be a bit surprised if that was not the case. He like Bradley Zimmer is a college bat that doesn’t have quite the leverage of a high school kid. Not expecting vastly under slot but would be a surprise if he came in over slot. If fact, I would not be the least bit surprised if there wasn’t a “handshake agreement” with the Tribe and Papi already in place, for somewhere in the $1.25-1.45M range. I say this because the Indians would in fact lose their 2015 1st round pick if Papi did not sign. Were Papi not to sign, the Indians draft pool money would drop to $6,738,700M. Given that and the $366,700 the Tribe is over slot, they’d then be over the 5% limit and thus lose their 2015 1st round pick. So with that in mind, simple logic would dictate that Papi is as good as signed, and the Indians are simply waiting on his John Hancock. In fact, there are even some reports that Papi will be in Cleveland later today to do just that.
As far as guys drafted in in Rounds 11-40, there isn’t really a ton to report. A couple of the noteworthy signings though are Bobby Ison, who’s got an inspirational story, and Luke Eubank. Eubank could be the hidden gem from this draft who in a few years we are wondering how he lasted so long. He was a top 250 draft prospect who is a bit undersized, which is really the only big knock on him. I have yet to see the actual dollar amount for his signing bonus, though the assumed amount is $100,000, or the ‘max’ a guy drafted in the 15th round can get. I would not be surprised if he got a bit more, but the fact that nothing has been reported suggest this signing wasn’t too out of the ordinary (though assuming can always bite you). Again though, simple logic would suggest he couldn’t have gotten too much given the tight budget constraints the Tribe is working under.
In any case, this does appear on paper to be a very solid, productive draft for the Indians. It looks as though they will get all their top 10 round guys signed, plus a few solid pieces in the later rounds. There are a few guys in those rounds that could affect the draft pool still (Ryder Ryan for example), but they are at this point extreme long shots to sign. Also barring Papi coming in way under slot, it would appear the Indians are more than willing to pay a tax penalty to get the talent they want, which is nice to see. While the final tally won’t be known til after the signing deadline, it appears the Indians will be spending around $9-10M on this draft (including tax penalties). That makes it one of the richest drafts in Tribe history, and potentially the most expensive draft ever for the Indians. So while we are still a couple weeks away from the July 18th signing deadline, thus far, great job by the Indians staff in terms of both drafting and signing these players.