Tigers Play Hardball
As I wrote yesterday, Baseball America said one team is very close to pulling out from their negotiations with their first round pick. I thought the obvious choice would have been the Diamondbacks and their pursuit to sign Stephen Drew, but once again I was wrong. The Tigers have pulled out of negotiations with the #2 overall pick, Justin Verlander.
"We do not have any interest in signing Justin at this point," Tigers scouting director Greg Smith said. "We're extremely disappointed, but we've made an organization decision not to sign him. We're going to turn the page."
Their window to negotiate is still open, but it does not look good. None of the remaining first rounders are looking to back down from their demands and the negotiations all seem to be one sided. The Tigers offered him more than a $3.35 million dollar major league contract, which he had turned down.
If he doesn't sign, Verlander will become just the fifth player taken with one of the top two picks in the 40 years of the draft to not come to terms. The others were Pete Broberg (No. 2, Athletics, 1968), Danny Goodwin (No. 1, White Sox, 1971), Tim Belcher (No. 1, Twins, 1983) and J.D. Drew (No. 2, Phillies, 1997). The Tigers have failed to sign just one first-rounder, Detroit high school first baseman Rick Konik, the 14th overall choice in 1966. Konik never played professional or college baseball.
Verlander not signing is definitely an uncommon occurrence for draft pick as high as him, but I like the fact an organization took a hard stand when they felt their players demands were just too high. It is not my favorite team, so I'm glad it was not the Mets setting the example. The cycle has to stop somewhere and maybe this is the catalyst for the Phil Humber and New York Mets negotiations that sets them straight and lets them come to a reasonable compromise. At this point Verlander looks as though he is headed back into the talent pool for the 2005 draft. Baseball America had listed out the top prospects for 2005 a bit ago.
Top 10 Prospects, 2005 Draft
1. Justin Upton/ss/Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
2. Cameron Maybin/of/T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
3. Alex Gordon/3b/Nebraska
4. Jeff Clement/c/Southern California
5. Tyler Greene/ss/Georgia Tech
6. Wade Townsend/rhp/Rice
7. Luke Hochevar/rhp/Tennessee
8. Mike Pelfrey/rhp/Wichita State
9. Stephen Head/1b/lhp/Mississippi
10. Troy Tulowitzki/ss/Long Beach State
Verlander would immediately become the top pitcher available in the draft and may be the biggest name outside of Justin Upton. With the Mets picking 9th next year, this development definitely affects them in a big way. One would assume that Justin is going to scare off a lot of potential suitors in 2005 again, but he will have less leverage knowing it's the majors or the highway for him. This year he can at least attend school again and pitch for his college team at Old Dominion but next year it is sign or do not play.
The thing that is curious about all of this is that these playes are going to get paid. If Justin Verlander was offered a major league contract in excess of $3.35 million, he would have been offered a signing bonus of around $3.5 million as well. By him passing up this oportunity means that he has to wait another year for his payday and another year to reach the majors. By holding out for more money he it is just prolonging the time it will take him to reach the majors and effectively shortened his prospective major league career by one year. If he does become a solid major league pitcher, it would behoove him to sign sooner so he can become a free agent sooner and hit his big payday. This squabbling over a million or two just does not make sense and seemingly hurts the players more in my eyes. He actually loses leverage in his negotiations for next year since he cannot return to school and he also risks having a bad year in college or even injury.