Waking up today made yesterday's events even more surreal.
The two most notable deadlines in baseball, the trading deadline and the signing deadline, produce a lot of action, and typically there is a flurry of activity in the final 20 minutes. Of course, there needs to be a foundation of communication for those final 20 minutes to be worthwhile, which we had established with all of our remaining draftees.
With about 20 minutes to go we received word that AJ Vanegas had decided to attend Stanford. This was a disappointment, especially since we thought so highly of him and his family, but we understood his desire to fulfill that dream. We knew it was a longshot from the beginning, but we still tried to make a compelling case. Our signing bonus offer would have placed AJ among the top ten picks in the country, but that didn't sway his decision. It was clearly never about the money for AJ, and that is admirable.
With about eight minutes to go until the deadline, we heard from John Barbato, our 6th round selection, and within a minute had agreed on a deal that would pay him 1st round money to pass on his commitment to the University of Florida. This was a big and unexpected win. It was expensive, but we feel as though we got a top round talent.
As for Karsten Whitson? I don't think anyone is happy this morning - not the player, not the agent, not the team, and not the fans. With that being the case, it's justified to question how we ended up there.
We had every reason to believe that he would be signing within a few days of the draft (and I mean every reason). Then other people got involved and slowed the process down. Nevertheless, we were still confident that we would get a deal done, especially due to all of the conversations that had taken place before the draft. Once it continued to drag on, we knew that the deadline was the only way that it was going to happen.
When the deadline approached, despite feeling somewhat taken advantage of, we did what every team does in order to get a deal done: we improved our offer to the last dollar. At the end of the day, it was an over slot offer that would have placed Karsten just behind the 8th pick in the country and comfortably ahead of the 10th. However, Karsten did not do what every single other first rounder (who didn't have an issue with their physical) did do: agree to a deal.
At 11:59 eastern time last night, we had over $5 million of offers on the table to three high school players, and they all turned down the money, two of them due to a strong commitment to school. We even had two offers to high school right-handers that would have paid them both like top ten picks in the country! Surreal indeed.
The good news is that, despite having a winning Major League team, we'll have a top pick in next year's draft as compensation, and the industry believes that the 2011 draft class will be much stronger. Also, as in Major League free agency, when someone doesn't take your money, you find another player or basket of players to acquire with that money. A straightforward example is when the Nationals were unable to sign Aaron Crow a few years ago with the 9th overall pick and then the following year took Drew Storen as compensation. Crow is now in A ball with a 5.40 era, while Storen is in the big leagues with a 2.61. So, we didn't sign Whitson, Vanegas, and Dwyer, but now we'll be able to put that money toward other investments either in the draft, internationally, or at the big league level.
Hey, given our organization's track record in the first round, maybe it was time to take a year off!
Seriously, at the end of the day, we were unexpectedly able to sign a handful of players in the 2010 draft in over slot deals, including Cates, Barbato, and Dore. We can also be opportunistic going forward since we expected to spend a lot more money yesterday. Lastly, it doesn't change the fact that from 2007-2009 only the Yankees and Red Sox spent more on amateur players than we did. We planned for that trend to continue in 2010, and we'll plan for it again in 2011.