Top pick turns down $3.8 million
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MILWAUKEE -- The courtship of first-round pick Mark Appel, a microcosm of the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement, ended Friday with Appel going back to Stanford University.
Appel, a right-handed pitcher the Pirates selected in June with the eighth overall pick in the first round, was not among the 20 draft picks the team agreed to terms with by the 5 p.m. deadline Friday.
He turned down a $3.8 million bonus, the most the Pirates could offer without surrendering a draft pick, and will return to school for his senior year.
The decision by Appel, who is advised by agent Scott Boras, to return to school was a result of the new CBA's restriction on draft signing bonuses and the addition of strict penalties if teams exceed those limits.
"We were told that [$3.8 million] would not reach his value, that they would not be signing with the Pirates," general manager Neal Huntington said Friday on a conference call.
"We continued to engage in conversation with the hopes of changing their minds. We weren't able to do so."
Major League Baseball assigned a value of $2.9 million to Appel's selection.
He was projected as a potential first overall pick, but the Houston Astros bypassed him and selected shortstop Carlos Correa.
The Pirates spent about $3.2 million of their $6.56 bonus pool, according to Baseball America.
A year ago, before the new rules were imposed, they spent $8 million on first overall pick Gerrit Cole alone and $17 million total.
The Pirates lost the money slated for Appel, but stayed within their bonus pool.
They will not pay any taxes or lose a draft pick. They are eligible for the lottery of picks forfeited by teams that exceeded their bonus pool by more than 5 percent, which is held Monday, along with the competitive balance lottery.
"We were going to stay under the pool from there on out," Huntington said.
Appel was the only first-round pick that did not agree to terms. The Pirates will receive the ninth overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft as compensation.
"We would much prefer to have Mark Appel," Huntington said. "We drafted Mark Appel to sign Mark Appel.
Losing a draft pick was too steep a price to pay for an organization such as the Pirates, which places a good deal of emphasis on player development and building the franchise through the draft.
The Pirates will have two first-round picks in 2013 with the chance for additional picks after the first and second rounds.
The Pirates signed or made official deals with four other draftees.
Eighth-rounder Kevin Ross agreed to terms, as did Max Moroff, Hayden Hurst and John Kuchno, the 16th, 17th and 18th-round picks.
Moroff signed for $300,000, Hurst for $400,000 and Kuchno for $125,000, according to Baseball America.
Huntington said the Pirates used the approximately $600,000 saved for Appel to sign Moroff, Hurst and Kuchno.
Only the money that exceeds $100,000 counts against the bonus pool because the trio was selected outside the top 10 rounds.
The Pirates did not sign fourth-round pick Brandon Thomas, who will return to Georgia Tech for his senior year.
Huntington said some of the 21 unsigned players changed their bonus demands after they were drafted.
"I think our history worked against us a little bit there," Huntington said.
Huntington knew they might not be able to sign Appel, but the risk, coupled with the chance for a compensatory draft pick, made the selection worthwhile, he said.
"We took a calculated gamble," he said. "It didn't work out for us. The upside is, now we have a chance to get the ninth pick in the next year's draft and our regular pick.
"This, too, shall pass. We move forward."
First Published July 14, 2012 12:08 am