In 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Pedro Alvarez with the second pick in the MLB Entry Draft. The pick was monumental for the Pirates who were finally starting to take players based on skill instead of signability. Standing in their way was Scott Boras, Alvarez's agent, who was -and still is- notorious for getting teams to break the bank at the signing deadline.
It didn't take long for the Pirates to figure out why Boras was renowned for being a tough negotiator. After reporting that a deal was in place at the signing deadline, Boras claimed that the Pirates did not officially consummate the contract until 12:01 August 16th, two minutes after the deadline. The MLBPA filed a grievance shortly thereafter, forcing Alvarez on the restricted list. The Pirates would eventually get a deal done with Pedro, but at a $6 million dollar major league contract.
Last season, the Pirates had to negotiate with Boras on their first two draft picks. Both Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell had Boras as their "advisor". The result: Cole signed an $8 million minor league contract and Bell signed for $5 million, the highest figure for a second round draft pick.
This year, the Pirates selected another Scott Boras client, Mark Appel.
Same result? Don't count on it.
Appel was a consensus top-2 pick heading into the 2012 draft. Jim Callis had Appel as the top pick in all four of his mock drafts, citing Appel's ability as well as his roots to Houston. Instead, Appel dropped to the Pirates at number eight with all signs pointing to Boras as the main reason.
As much as small-market fans hate the new draft spending rules, in this particular instance it may work out for the Pirates. Boras is going to do everything in his power to get Appel top dollar. After all, he was able to get Mark Teixeira $9.5 million despite being the fifth pick in the 2001 draft.
This time around, Boras may be lucky if his client gets half that much money. First overall pick, Carlos Correa, his slotted at $7.2 million while Appel's value is slotted at $2.9 million. The Pirates will probably offer Appel a contract around $4 million which will leave about $2.5 million to sign their next 10 picks.
Boras may think that offer is ridiculous, but before he jumps the gun, he needs to consider the facts. Mark Appel was the 8th overall pick in one of the weakest draft classes over the last 25 years. He could opt to go back to Stanford for his senior season. However, the chances of Appel raising his stock at Stanford are much smaller than a dip in performance or injury. A $4 million deal may be as good as it gets until Appel reaches free agency 5-6 years from now.
The Pirates have very little to lose in this situation. Appel is a good pitcher, with the upside to be a frontline starter. But he's not the second coming of Walter Johnson. Neal Huntington admitted, Monday night, that Appel was not quite as advanced as Gerrit Cole was at this time last year. And with Appel's slow, methodical delivery, coupled with a fastball that lacks movement, it will probably take some time for him to move through the system.
If Pittsburgh signs Appel, they will add another talented front-line starter to an organization already deep with pitching. If the Pirates are unable to sign Appel, they will receive the ninth overall pick next year in what should be a much deeper draft class. Either way, it appears the Pirates are in a win-win situation.
Your move, Boras.