Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Appel Of Their Eye

OK, everybody's happy that RHP Mark Appel fell to the Bucs; they're equally bummed that Scott Boras is his advisor. A very nondescript post-draft statement fired up the fan base, but hey - the kid just watched a few million smackeroos vanish by dropping from da man to the eight spot, is still pitching in the College World Series super-regionals, and has his own class finals at Stanford to worry about, so we wouldn't read much into that.

Scott Boras is in it for his client, not the Pirate cause, and that doesn't make him evil incarnate. While he's created more than his share of smoke during negotiations, a fire has never erupted. His high profile guys - Pedro Alvarez, Gerritt Cole and Josh Bell - all signed, becoming well compensated young 'uns in the process.

This year, he may have to resort to magic to wring much blood from the Bucco cash vein. First, the Pittsburgh selections from one through six are all legit players and several should cash in pretty close to slot, we'd imagine. Then they backtracked and filled in with signable guys to free up a little play money in the top ten draft pool.

There are two reasons for that: to build up some bonus bucks for the elite selections, and to leave some cash to wave in front of the kids that were overdrafted, like high school pitcher Walker Buehler, who was taken in the fourteenth round but won't give up college for $100K.

We'd be very surprised if the Pirates didn't announce a rash of signings soon. It's to their benefit to get the kids inked and playing, and also gives them an idea of much of the pool money can be shifted to other guys.

For example, Houston signed the number one pick of the draft, prep SS Carlos Correa, for $4.8M, well under the $7.2 slot, allowing them lots of wiggle room to ink their other guys.

The Royals signed their first rounder Kyle Zimmer, taken number five, for $3M. The suggested MLB slot was $3.5M, so they have a half mil to use for other guys (in fairness, they struck a midpoint - from 2009-11, the average fifth round pick was signed for $2.5M, as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus/ESPN noted). But that number will serve as a brake for Appel's bargaining power.

And the truth be told, he doesn't really have all that much leverage. Oh, Boras will drag out the talks, but in the long run, that may hurt him if the Pirates decide to sign later picks to above-slot bonuses. Appel is between a rock and a hard place. As a junior, he can not sign and go into next year's draft, but it's stronger on paper now than this season's, so that's a roll of the dice he may not care to make.

To make things a little more tilted, Appel isn't considered ace material like Cole and Jameson Taillon were. He's thought of as an excellent pitcher, of course, but more of a two-three arm in a MLB rotation. And if he forgoes the Pirates, the team will get a ninth round pick to compensate for his loss next year, which may result in a better player in a deeper draft down the road.

Even Boras knows his leverage is pretty minimal, calling the new system "a mockery" in USA Today. Our guess is that Appel will wait until the July 13th and ink a contract between $3-$3.25M, maybe a little higher with a sweetener added if he signs sooner as opposed to later.This is one case that we think reaching a deal quickly will pay off rather than the ol' line-in-the-sand drag out.

The only joker in the deck is Scott Boras. The master of the loophole will probe for any weakness in the system that he thinks may benefit his client. But this time around, it looks like the deck may be stacked against him.

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