Key Draft picks remain unsigned
Tigers will work right up to Monday's midnight deadline
DETROIT -- The Tigers were aggressive in June's First-Year Player Draft, taking highly touted high school players who were seriously weighing college careers. The work they put in Monday will be the payment they make.
With hours left until Monday's midnight ET deadline for most drafted players to sign, Monday will be an off-day for the Tigers in schedule only. While the playing field remains open, phone lines inside the front office will be busy as team vice president/legal counsel John Westhoff and scouting director David Chadd try to sign as many of their 29 remaining unsigned selections as they can, from first-round pick Jacob Turner to second-rounder Andrew Oliver and on down.
They won't sign them all, obviously. For instance, 48th-rounder Jake Porcello, Rick's younger brother, has made it known he will pass up the Tigers, as expected, to attend Seton Hall University. At least a few others also are expected to go to school, or in some cases, go back. But a handful of key selections loom as the potential difference in how well this Draft turns out for Detroit's player development system.
Turner and Oliver, not surprisingly, are at the top of the list. Also not surprisingly, they're expected to be the toughest signings, and the Tigers aren't saying much about them. But others with high-round talent whom Detroit selected later, notably sixth-round pick Daniel Fields, could end up being a nice boost.
"We continue to talk," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Sunday. "We'll see what happens."
Neither the Tigers nor Turner's family nor Turner's adviser, agent Scott Boras, are saying much about the situation, other than negotiations are ongoing. But as soon as the Tigers selected Turner with the ninth overall pick, they were expected to get to this point, still working out a deal as the deadline approaches.
Even before he was drafted, Turner and his family were rumored to be seeking a contract along the lines of the last high school pitcher to be a Tigers first-round pick. Rick Porcello, who also was advised by Boras two years ago, went to the eve of the deadline before signing a four-year Major League contract worth $7,285,000, plus two option years. His success as a rookie this season not only made the Tigers look wise for their investment, but it also created a buzz in the Draft for teams to look again at top high school hurlers, long considered among the biggest Draft risks.
Like Porcello, Turner has a spot waiting for him on the pitching staff at the University of North Carolina, if he so chooses. But the same reasons that make his situation difficult are the same reasons they're expected to eventually reach an agreement. The Tigers drafted him fully knowing the kind of deal it would take to sign him.
"We are continuing to explore any options we have and look forward to where the Lord will lead Jacob," Turner's father, Mark, told the Detroit News.
Oliver's situation is a little different, and less predictable. The power left-hander from Oklahoma State won a lawsuit to return to school last winter after the NCAA initially declared him ineligible for hiring an agent out of high school a few years earlier. He's coming off a relatively disappointing season that knocked him out of the first round, and he could opt to improve his stock with one more year of college ball.
Oliver, too, has Boras acting as his adviser.
Then there's the case of Fields, who likely would've been selected in the first couple of rounds if not for expectations that he'll follow through on his commitment to the University of Michigan. Now, he's seriously considering a contract offer from the Tigers to turn pro and join the organization with which his father worked for years, first as a player and then as a coach in Toledo and Detroit.
Fields told MLB.com Saturday he's still in talks with the club, and he expects his decision will go all the way to Monday. At some point, he's going to talk it over with his family and make a decision. For now, he said, it's a nervous time.
Fields' dad will be at work Monday night as the deadline approaches -- in, of all places, the Tigers' farm system. The Indians' roving hitting instructor is meeting up with Triple-A Columbus, which plays at Toledo this coming week. The elder Fields, of course, also managed at Toledo for years before he became Detroit's hitting coach in 2003.
Other Tigers picks who remain unsigned include: eighth-round selection Craig Fritsch, who's expected to return to the Baylor pitching staff; 12th-round right-hander Matt Thompson from the University of San Diego; high school right-hander Mark Appel (15th round); Kennesaw State lefty Kenny Faulk (16th); and Ypsilanti prep outfielder Victor Roache (25th).
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.