Posted: 6:04 pm Friday, June 8th, 2012

Tighter MLB budgets lead to swift signings of draft picks 

By Matt Porter

After Wednesday’s conclusion of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, draft picks are signing with unprecedented quickness.

By Friday evening, nine of the 13 draft picks who attended Palm Beach County high schools agreed to or had signed big-league deals. In previous years, negotiations between clubs and their unsigned draft picks often lasted for weeks. Now, in most cases, they are agreed to beforehand and sealed with a quick call on draft day.

“The player agrees to an amount, and we take them,” said a National League East scout, who asked not to be named. “If they don’t agree, we pass them. It’s really much easier. Not advantageous to the player, but easier for us.”

The brevity comes from baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, which places restrictions on signing budgets. This year, each MLB club was given a total pool for the first 10 rounds. Penalties for overspending include taxes and loss of draft picks. That had teams adopting take-it-or-leave-it stances, the scout said.

It also led to some top high school players putting their professional dreams on hold. Palm Beach Central catcher and first baseman Brady Roberson, who has a scholarship to Florida, “got a couple calls on draft day,” Palm Beach Central coach Scott Benedict said. “Whatever they were offering wasn’t hefty enough for him to bypass Gainesville.”

Dwyer center fielder Jamal Martin, an 11th-round choice of the Boston Red Sox, is in a similar situation. Martin, who has a scholarship to Florida State, says he’s “50/50″ on whether to turn pro or head to college.

As did many clubs, the Red Sox selected an unprecedented number of college seniors — players with no college eligibility left, and thus, low leverage in contract negotiations. Boston chose five seniors in the first 10 rounds, after taking zero from 2007 to 2011, according to SoxProspects.com.

Per the new CBA, bonuses for players drafted after the 10th round do not count against a team’s total unless they exceed $100,000. That means Boston and teams like them will try to sign those college players to low bonuses — some reportedly as low as $5,000 — leaving more cash to spend on Martin and other later picks.

Trinity Christian catcher Phildrick Llewellyn, drafted in the 13th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, bypassed a scholarship to Florida International to sign for $125,000. Arizona, like all big league clubs, will pay for Llewellyn’s education.

“That’s the main thing that made me sign,” Llewellyn said. “I get to play out my dream of playing baseball, and if anything happens, knock on wood, I still get to attend college and live a great life.”

Summit Christian catcher John Silviano, a 13th-round choice of the Toronto Blue Jays, chose a pro career over a scholarship to North Florida.

Palm Beach State right-hander Brandon Welch, a Palm Beach Gardens alum, signed with the New York Mets, who drafted him in the fifth round (170th overall). Welch’s signing bonus is approximately $200,000, which is $42,600 less than the MLB-suggested amount for the pick, but “more money than I have right now,” Welch said.

“When I got drafted, my phone was blowing up,” Welch said. “I’ll be happy to get back to everyone and tell them thank you, let them know how grateful I am they helped me get here.”

Other signings: FAU right-hander R.J. Alvarez, a Cardinal Newman alum, agreed to sign with Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who chose him in the third round. Terms of the deal were not available. The suggested bonus for the pick is $416,300.

Palm Beach State right-hander Ronald Pena (John I. Leonard), signed with the Washington Nationals (16th round). Miami-Dade Community College right-hander Dixon Llorens (Dwyer) signed with the St. Louis Cardinals (25th round).

Stetson junior catcher Sam Kimmel (Palm Beach Gardens) signed with the Baltimore Orioles (18th round). Stetson senior third baseman Ben Carhart (Gardens), signed with the Chicago Cubs (35th round). Stetson senior right-hander Jake Boyd (John I. Leonard), said he will sign with the Angels (38th round) on Saturday.

Three other Palm Beach County picks had not decided: Wake Forest senior third baseman Carlos Lopez (Atlantic), a 12th-round Nationals selection; Florida State junior second baseman Devon Travis (Palm Beach Central), a 13th-round Detroit Tigers choice; and Stetson junior right-hander Kurt Schluter (Jupiter), a 39th-round Red Sox pick.

The deadline for signing draft picks is July 13.

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