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Are the Jays Playing Hard Ball With 2011 Draft Picks?

The most recent signing from the class of 2011 for the Jays was Justin Atkinson, a Canadian SS – something of a rarity, who was selected in the 26th round of this year’s draft. There’s no word on the amount of the bonus, but it does lead to another interesting note about this year’s draft class: sign-ability.

The Toronto Blue Jays have plenty of time left to get the majority of their draft picks under contract, and there’s little doubt in my mind that they’ll sign most of them. However, it is very interesting to note that as of today, with less than a month remaining in that signing period, the Jays have only signed 4 of the picks they selected in the top 25 rounds.

Meanwhile, the Rays have signed 19 of their 30 picks in the top 25 rounds, the Yankees and Orioles have signed 12 of their top 25 round picks, and the Red Sox have signed 11 of their top 25 round picks. That places the Jays pretty far behind them in terms of “getting the job done” when it comes to getting their young and very talented players under contract and playing baseball again within their affiliates.

With the Jays spending so much money on the international market, and having saved so much money from the Vernon Wells deal and other “team friendly” deals, the Jays should have plenty of money to throw at their draft picks. But, therein lies the problem – I’m guessing. If you’re the agent for one of those young players, you know how badly Alex Anthopoulos wants to get all of his picks under contract, and you know he has a ton of money to do it with, so why be in a rush to sign? Squeeze him for all he – or the Jays – are worth, and sign at the last minute.

If you’re the Jays and Alex Anthopoulos, you’re dealing with a ton of these issues across the board and are stuck in limbo, waiting for their prices to come down to earth. The Jays may be hungry to win, but they’re also a business that needs to weigh the bottom line. The truth of it all is that there may be a half-dozen to a dozen players out of this class who even sniff the majors, so the Jays are not going to overspend on all of them just for the sake of watching them play ball in the minors for a few years.

So, judging from the number of high-end signings the Jays have made so far, they are playing hard ball with players and their agents and letting the lot of them know that they’re not a candy store where they can get whatever they want.

There are rumors making the rounds that Tyler Beede has already agreed to a deal, so that is somewhat encouraging, but I’ll only believe it when I see it. If the Jays were to miss out on one or two picks in terms of signings, it wouldn’t be a huge deal because it would mean that they also got the majority of very hard to sign players under contract. However, if they miss out on 3, 4 or 5 high end picks from this year’s draft, it will be a hard blow to the organization as a whole, and one that I’m positive would not sit well with most fans who know just how wealthy the franchise owners are.

My final point about this issue may help explain why the Jays are in no rush to get players signed this year. The majority of their picks this year, particularly in the top 25 rounds, are from the High School ranks. The later they sign, the lesser the chances are that they’ll play for a Jays affiliate in 2011, allowing the Jays the chance to give those players some breathing room as well as a chance to get some development time in with coaches before next season begins. There’s a reason the Jays went on a non-drafted free agent spree after the draft if you ask me, and it’s because they never really expected the 2011 class to do much playing this season. They’ll get their instructions in, will begin 2012 fresh, and doing so allows the Jays an opportunity to move their 2010 class players up a level when this year’s class takes over at the lower end of the minors. Wave after wave, as Anthopoulos stated.

The Jays will likely sign most, if not all, of their 2011 picks. I predict they may miss out on 1 or 2, but that they will eventually get all of that ink on paper and that we’ll get to enjoy watching them progress beginning in 2012, for the most part.

- MG

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