Draft 2008: Pirates set to pick Alvarez
When the Pirates' turn comes in Major League Baseball's draft this afternoon, according to multiple sources, they plan to use their No. 2 overall choice to take Vanderbilt University third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
The path appears clear: The Tampa Bay Rays, the team picking first, have let it be known through the sport's circles that they will pass on Alvarez, preferring either Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham or Florida State University catcher Buster Posey.
Even if the Pirates draft Alvarez, though, that will represent only the beginning of efforts to acquire him ...
Teams and draft picks must sign contracts by the Aug. 15 deadline, or the team gets a compensatory pick the following year -- No. 3 overall, in the Pirates' case, if deferred to 2009 -- and the player goes back into the draft pool. And, with Alvarez represented by super-agent Scott Boras, meeting that timetable is no slam dunk: Boras, famed for ignoring MLB's slotting recommendations for draft picks, is expected to seek a signing bonus of more than $7 million, plus a major league contract.
Boras had the No. 2 pick a year ago, shortstop Mike Moustakas, and took the Kansas City Royals to the deadline day before agreeing to a $4 million bonus, $900,000 above slot.
"I don't know what slotting means," Boras told reporters at the time.
Moustakas was not alone, as 12 of the 30 first-round picks went right to the deadline. But all signed.
Boras has not returned calls this week.
A negotiation between Boras and the Pirates would match the game's most prominent player representative and team president Frank Coonelly, who, in his previous job as MLB's chief legal counsel, was responsible for overseeing the slotting system and, to the limited extent he could, enforcing it.
It also, some might say, could put Boras in a favorable position, given that everyone in the Pirates' hierarchy, from owner Bob Nutting on down, has publicly pledged to draft the best player available.
A fan asked Coonelly yesterday on his monthly online chat if Boras might capitalize on that.
"No, I do not feel we have backed ourselves into a corner at all from a PR perspective or any other perspective," Coonelly replied. "We have said consistently that we will take the best player available when we select second and that we will make every effort to sign the player. I have also said consistently that we respect and appreciate work that the commissioner's office does with respect to the draft and will take its recommendations into account as we move forward."
No player in the draft last year received a pure major league contract, not even pitcher David Price, who went first to Tampa Bay.
The Rays gave him a $5.6 million signing bonus, payable in six annual installments, plus a $500,000 salary for last season. From there, the contract was fairly conventional: He has one rate of pay for time spent in the majors, with his salary escalating from $650,000 this year to $1.5 million in 2012. But his salary for time spent in the minors, over the same span, ranges from $100,000 this season to $1.2 million in 2012.
Price, 22, currently is pitching for Class A Vero Beach.
His guaranteed total of $8.5 million was third-highest in draft history, behind Mark Prior's $10.5 million and Mark Teixeira's $9.5 million, each in 2001. His signing bonus was the third-highest, behind Justin Upton's $6.1 million in 2005 and Matt Wieters' $6 million last summer.
Wieters, of course, was the Boras client the Pirates bypassed with the No. 4 pick in favor of pitcher Danny Moskos. Baltimore drafted Wieters at No. 5 and more than doubled the slotting recommendation. Moskos' bonus of $2.475 million followed the slotting to the penny.
That prompted many at the time to accuse the Pirates, particularly Nutting, of taking the cheap route. But it has since become clear from multiple sources -- including some no longer employed by the team -- that the call to take Moskos was made by former general manager Dave Littlefield and his staff and that it was a baseball decision rather than a financial one.
Those accounts gained credibility a month later, when Nutting did not prevent Littlefield from trading for pitcher Matt Morris and his guaranteed $14 million.
Alvarez, 21, is rated the No. 1 player available in the draft by Baseball America, the sport's preeminent publication on the amateur ranks. He batted .349 with 49 home runs in 170 games over three years at Vanderbilt. He lost six weeks this season to broken right hand, but returned April 3 and batted .317 with nine home runs in 40 games.
Tampa Bay is thought to be passing on Alvarez, largely because the Rays already have a 21-year-old third baseman, Evan Longoria, who is an elite talent and recently was signed to a long-term contract.
First Published June 4, 2008 8:56 pm