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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  • RAWagman

    I can’t say that I agree with your main premise here. I don;t think that the team is playing hardball at all. In fact, I am fairly positive that not only Beede, but several other of the high-end prospects have deals agreed to (at least in principle) but as they are over-slot, Selig and his band of merry men will not approve of the contract until closer to the deadline. We’re already seeing some loosening on the publication ban with deals as much as 25% over slot being approved and announced. Methinks some of these kids will sign for well over 25% over slot. Myusgrove signed for under slot, so he has already debuted.

    FYI – if there is one guy who doesn’t sign, chances are it’ll be Norris (asking for $4M).

  • lolwut

    We drafted basically high schoolers, which a lot were tough signs and require over slot bonuses. It’s possible some of the signings may already have been done but it won’t be official until they approve it and overslot bonuses don’t get approved until near the deadline. I wouldn’t worry too much about it right now. They won’t get everyone signed but I am sure they will get a good chunk of them signed.

  • loocb

    Cmon man. We drafted lots of high schoolers. High schoolers usually mean over-slot bonuses because of the leverage they have of going to college. Over-slot bonuses won’t get approved by the MLB until August 15th.

  • gnor

    In the end, I think the pressure is on the players, because the chances are good that the new CBA will mandate hard slot money. In this case, the high schoolers have a hard decision to make: if they elect to go to college and try for a higher draft pick in a few years, they may not get much more bonus money than they would get by signing now.

  • ryanpicks

    @RAWagman Tyler Beede hasn’t even been offered a contract yet according to his father on twitter… I believe they are in deed playing hardball, and AA has already stated he thinks the deadline should be much earlier then it is… My guess,is he’s waiting as long as he can to put the presure on the agent and the players. Deadlines create momentum, he’s simply waiting for the right time.

  • ryanpicks

    correction… not the agent… as these kids can’t have agents…

  • RAWagman

    @ryanpicks @RAWagman Yes, Beede’s father claimed that no contract was offered, but many other insiders are pretty sure that he’s blowing smoke to protect his son just in case things don’t work out and he has to go to school. Fact is, Beede didn’t show up for summer classes at Vanderbilt, as he had originally planned. The Jays aren’t alone in not signing their top picks. IN the 1st round, 14 high school kids were drafted. Only 2 have signed.

  • chewbacca

    One problem here. The Jays picked a lot of guys who SAID they were not interested in signing, but insisted on drafting them anyway. How many of those Rays/Sox/Yank draftees had indicated as much negativity? Why did AA choose such a hard bunch? Many of these names, BTW, were not on the radar this site had compiled for possible drafting – ie they were almost a complete surprise. Is the problem “leveraging”, or is it just plain over-confidence that AA could get a deal done, when the kids had said all along “no”?

  • RAWagman

    @chewbacca Other than Seddon from Michigan (20th round), who esle did the Jays draft who said they were not interested in signing?

    Yes, there were reports that Beede’s father had made that statement, but there is not a single person in the industry who does not believe that the Jays and Beede have already come to an agreement. The MLB draft is not fantasy baseball. As AA has said many times (and he’s right), the average draft class, rounds 1-50 usually nets 2-3 MLB players. Not even MLB regulars, but players. Furthermore, the ones who pan out are usually the ones who require good money to sign, because they are good. So AA wants to lay it all on the line, and try to draft 5-6 future MLB players. He’ll spend a bit more up front to achieve that, but the potential for success far outweighs the marginal dollars spent on signing bonuses. Also, while it’s a shame that they can’t get the new kids under contract quick, in today’s draft economics, that usually simply means the kids are good enough to warrant bigger dollars. Think of all of the young superstars in the game. How many of them began their professional careers in the summer they were drafted? Not many, right? It’s because they held out for bigger signing bonuses. I’ll also bet you that the GM’s who signed the cheques (assuming they are still employed) don’t regret those guys at all.

  • chewbacca

    I was following the draft. There was norris (who said gimme the money or go home), couple of guys who went to the same university (forget the name) who were said to be determined on going, Erasmius (something like that)…

  • RAWagman

    @chewbacca Of course Norris said that. And the Jays knew that going in. They plan on offering him a lot of money. There were three Vanderbilt commits – Beede, Comer and 12th rounder John Norwood. It’s possible that Comer is a fallback option as there has been no info out there.

    The high-round guy least likely to sign is probably Andrew Chin who just had TJS and still wants over $1 million.

  • Mike Rapp

    @RAWagman Beede never planned to attend the first summer school session at Vanderbilt. Word is he has enrolled as planned for the second session. Everyone knows what Beede, Comer and Norris are demanding, and everyone knows they won’t sign with Toronto if they don’t get it.

    All three of these kids are going to a school that will virtually guarantee them that kind of bonus in 30 months. They will each pitch more, in front of more fans, with better hands on coaching, and get a free college degree if they go to school. It’s not really all that difficult to figure out. Either Toronto will pay these kids $3 mil or more, or they are all three going to college.

  • RAWagman

    @Mike Rapp All of that is true.

    But so what? You know what these guys are demanding, I know it and Alex Anthopoulos definitely knows it. And he knew it when he drafted them. And he will still sign them. In fact, I will buy you a drink if at least two of those three don’t sign.

    The fact is, at the prices these guys want, even if the Jays have already agreed to it (as many rumours state regarding Beede), MLB won’t sign off on the deal until Aug. 14/15.

    Look at all the high-ceiling young arms AA drafted last year. remember how many signed hard by the deadline?

    Here are some names of over-slot signings from last year who signed too late to make a debut:

    Deck McGuire, Griffin Murphy, Justin Nicolino, San Dyson (other issues there, too, I know), Dickie Joe Thon ($1.5M in the 5th round), Mitchell Taylor, Brandon Mims, Zak Adams, Myles Jaye, Adaric Kelly, Seth Connor.

    AA knows, like all other insiders, that the absolute best value for getting elite talent is through the draft. Even if you overpay, it is still way cheaper than getting comparable talent through trades or free agency. He is doing the right thing and by August 15, the Jays organization will be that much stronger for it.