08/15/08 6:15 PM ET
Clock ticks on Draft signing deadline
Ten first-rounders in limbo on final day to agree with teams
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
As of Friday afternoon, 10 first-round selections had yet to sign -- including picks two, three, four and five -- and the high-stakes game of chicken will likely continue the rest of week. If players don't sign, clubs will receive a compensation pick in next year's Draft, while the players will head back to school, independent ball or simply wait it out until next year's Draft.
Just last week the Brewers signed their top pick, Brett Lawrie, before he jetted off to Beijing to join Team Canada for the Olympics, and the White Sox signed shortstop Gordon Beckham earlier this week. Whether any of the remaining unsigned first-rounders join them in the ranks of professional baseball this week is anyone's guess. Here is a closer look at who has yet to sign on the dotted line.
2. 3B Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have taken a great deal of heat for the deals they made at last month's trading deadline despite the fact that the club went a long way toward restocking a thin farm system. It would seem logical that, in keeping with that philosophy, they wouldn't let Alvarez escape their grasp.
But Scott Boras is his agent and plenty of ink has been spilled chronicling his negotiating ploys. Both sides have remained mum on the negotiations but don't expect the Bucs to go far over slot on this one. Team president Frank Coonelly seems as willing to spread the wealth and use the money to sign a few more middle-round picks. If Alvarez signs, he'll get a nice deal but probably not the one Boras wants.
Just as interesting is what Pittsburgh will do with second-rounder Tanner Scheppers out of Fresno State. The right-hander sat out the last six weeks of the season, including the College World Series, after hurting his shoulder when he was overused. He was a projected first-rounder before getting hurt and has been in Pittsburgh for the past few days for a physical and to throw for the Pirates brass, which he did on Tuesday. The exam and the bullpen session should go a long way in determining whether the Pirates will sign him and how much they will pay.
"[It] looks like the ball is coming out of his hand well," Pirates general manager Neil Huntington said. "He's not 100 percent yet. He's not throwing his bullpens at 100-percent velocity. He's not throwing breaking balls yet. But the signs are definitely positive."
3. 1B Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Hosmer has a scholarship offer from Arizona State on the table -- a nice option should he not sign. And with Boras in his corner, you know it will go down to the last minute, much like with Alvarez. But the Royals have a history with Boras in similar situations. He negotiated a $5.3 million deal for Luke Hochevar, the top pick in the 2006 Draft, and got Mike Moustakas, last year's third overall selection, a $4 million contract.
One source was "optimistic" that a deal would get done. Hosmer played in an amateur tournament that concluded last weekend, and it appeared that negotiations weren't about to get serious until he was through. Don't be surprised if Hosmer signs a deal in the neighborhood of the one Moustakas signed.
4. LHP Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles
Matusz and the Orioles are reportedly close, with the pitcher said to be in Baltimore for a physical exam. But the left-hander is believed to still be asking for a Major League contract. An Orioles official said, "We're close, and we've jumped some hurdles in the last 48 hours. Hopefully, we'll continue to do that until we get something done. But we're not there yet."
Both sides want to get a deal done, but it appears their talks will be affected by the result of Aaron Crow's negotiations with Washington (see below). The O's have signed their eight subsequent picks, leaving only the big one left in the pond.
5. C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Indications, including a published report, are that the Giants are nearing an agreement with Posey. Though no formal announcement was scheduled by the club, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Posey will receive a bonus of approximately $7.5 million. According to other published reports, Posey recently checked into the Giants' training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., to undergo a physical, another sign an agreement could be forthcoming. The Giants have only signed one of their top four picks -- supplemental pick Conor Gillaspie joined the fold this week -- and have been relatively quiet about Posey.
7. 1B Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati Reds
This one will likely go down to the very last minute as well, if it gets done at all. Don't expect it to be resolved cheaply, either. The Reds are looking to pay slot money, in the $3 million neighborhood, while Alonso is believed to be asking for at least twice that. He told the Miami Herald last week that he was willing to go back to school for another year, "break some records and go back to Omaha [for the College World Series] and finish the job. I always said if worse comes to worse, I'm going back to school." Alonso wants close to $7 million, so look for some fireworks on this one before a conclusion is reached.
9. RHP Aaron Crow, Washington Nationals
The Nationals would have loved to have had Crow in the fold shortly after the Draft and gotten straight to work with him. But he and his reps, the Hendricks brothers, are playing hardball, looking for considerably more than the $2.15 million the club gave Ross Detwiler, last year's first-rounder. This one is contentious, and it doesn't appear the Nats will budge. Crow was talking in the $8-10 million range before the Draft, and that's just not realistic.
He can take his chances and go back to Missouri for another year, but next year's crop of Draft-eligible pitchers is much deeper. Crow has some leverage, but he might just use it to push himself out of a good deal. Washington signed its third- and fourth-round picks earlier this week, but the club has been adamant about not giving out a Major League contract.
11. 1B Justin Smoak, Texas Rangers
The domino effect will play a significant role with Smoak, so let's see what happens with Alonso, Posey and Gordon Beckham. Sources said late last week that the parties were "hopeful," but nothing was close enough to call the negotiations optimistic. At least the two sides are having discussions.
20. RHP Josh Fields, Seattle Mariners
Here's another Boras client, and perhaps one of the most perplexing holdouts in the entire Draft. Fields, who was drafted by the Braves in the second round last year but opted not to sign, doesn't have much leverage. He's done with school and indicated, at least in conversations with MLB.com during the College World Series, that he was going to sign quickly and get his career started. There were rumors that he had already signed and both sides were delaying the announcement because he was over slot, but retarding his development for such a reason doesn't make much sense. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out during the week.
23. 1B Allan Dykstra, San Diego Padres
It appeared the Padres and Dykstra had a deal in place, with a bonus of nearly $1.5 million on the table, but that was scrapped when San Diego's medical team examined Dykstra's surgically repaired hip and apparently didn't like what it saw. Dykstra had the surgery in high school after developing avascular necrosis and hasn't had a problem since, but the Padres are still cautious. The Wake Forest product went to Dr. Lewis Yocum for a second opinion and was cleared after being examined by Padres doctors. He is also in the Boras stable, so this one should get interesting, particularly since San Diego knows Dykstra isn't entirely opposed to heading back to school.
28. RHP Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
Boras rounds out his first-round contingent with this California prep star, with whom the Yankees will not reach an agreement by Friday's deadline due to the 17-year-old right-hander's interest in pursuing an education at UCLA.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.