By 5:30PM today (it usually takes a bit of time for news of last-minute singings to trickle through cyberspace), we should know whether Stanford RHP Mark Appel (pronounced “a-PEL”) is a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. A quick rundown of 10 points as we head into MLB Signing Deadline Day… (Opening image credit, sfexaminer)
1. It certainly helps MLB clubs that the signing date was moved one month forward from the previous August 15th signing deadline. And as we may see, such signings have the potential to affect the heart-pumping July 31 MLB Trade Deadline…
2. Draft picks from this season cannot be traded regardless, but at least one report surfaced that IF the Pirates sign Appel, it could make the Pirates more willing to include a current high-ceiling arm like SP Jameson Taillon in trade for a marquee MLB bat or arm to bolster the team down the stretch.
3. As of yesterday, there are only 6 remaining 1st round picks that haven’t agreed to contracts, including Appel. The highest remaining unsigned player is Baltimore Orioles’ 4th overall pick, Lousiana State RHP Kevin Gausman. There’s a nice article by a writer named Mike Rosenbaum about whether missing out on Gausman or Appel will hurt the Orioles or Pirates worst. The Pirates appear to have a leg up leverage-wise, as Appel is a junior, while Gausman is only a draft-eligible sophomore.
4. If Appel does not sign, the Pirates will receive an extra 1st round pick in the 2013 draft. They will also receive the extra slot amount for that pick, entitling them to slightly more money for their first 10 rounds. That’s a smart provision for MLB to add; otherwise, it would still provide agents with huge leverage amounts, as teams could risk being stuck with multiple 1st rounders, yet no extra money to land them.
5. If Appel is not a Pirate by the end of the day, he essentially has two options: A) Return to Stanford for his senior season, which many believe will hurt his draft stock, or B) Play a professional year in Japan. There are rumors that his agent, Scott Boras, is considering testing MLB’s new draft policy by sending Appel to Japan, and then negotiating a free agent contract for him in 2013, but MLB appears adamant that Appel would have to return to the draft, unable to circumvent it, or their hard-slotting brainchild.
6. Apparently, the rumors of the 2013 Draft Class being talent-thin were overblown. If Mark Appel returns to Stanford, there’s a slight chance he could increase his draft stock higher than 8th. But it’s unlikely he’ll go 1st or 2nd overall, and the ever-present injury risk *shouldn’t* be enough to risk him sacrificing the comparatively-small jump in slot values from the 3rd, 4th, or 5th overall spot to 8th overall, where he currently sits.
7. However, that’s without factoring in Scott Boras. In a move uncharacteristic of Boras, the mega-agent already voiced his frustration with MLB’s new draft-slotting system, which has been an overwhelming success in its maiden season…if you aren’t a player or an agent. Its cuts down on teams’ financial outlays, reduces the leverage of players and agents, and expedites signings. Boras has shown that he will ABSOLUTELY use one of his own clients as collateral damage to prove a point, most recently doing so when he announced that the Pirates had not signed 2008 pick 3B Pedro Alvarez by the signing deadline, even though it meant risking Alvarez losing millions of dollars.
8. One wonders whether players will continue to elect Scott Boras to represent them, due to agents’ now-reduced abilities to negotiate much over slot value, all while Boras’s apparent flair for drama-inducing theatrics continues. Prospects may be better off signing on with solid representatives that will still secure them their full-slot amounts, and do so quickly.
9. As of today, no MLB team has exceeded their draft $$$ allotment by 10%, which would result in the loss of their 2013 1st round pick. The Pirates appear willing to pay the 75% tax on overage in signing Appel, i.e. giving him more than his slotted amount, as long as they do not exceed 9% for the entire class.
10. The one and only repercussion of Appel and Boras holding out right to 5:00PM: The Pirates may miss out on offering contracts to their (2) other unsigned picks in the first 10 rounds: 5th rounder CF John Thomas, and 9th round SS Kevin Ross. However, missing out on later-round picks is a fair price for the Pirates to pay, especially when a player of Appel’s caliber falls to them.
My prediction is that Appel and Boras WILL begrudgingly sign by the 5:00PM deadline. The Pirates will give Appel all of their remaining draft allocation + 9% overage, thus missing out on signing Thomas and Ross. Appel will provide the Pirates another marquee arm to add to their arsenal, as he will surely be a top 50 prospect heading into 2013. His presence will likewise increase the chances of the Pirates moving fellow top prospect Jameson Taillon in a big trade prior to MLB’s July 31st trade deadline.
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