It’s no secret that first round draft picks use the signing bonuses of other first round draft picks to angle for a slightly higher bonus for themselves. If a guy picked after you gets $X, well, then, you better get $X + 2. If a guy picked before you gets a bonus well over the slot value associated with his pick, then you should also be getting a bonus above slot.
This is all just part of the negotiation dance, and it doesn’t always actually impact the final deal. But there’s some relevance, given that there are only so many data points available in these kinds of negotiations.
For the Cubs and top pick Kris Bryant, the most relevant data points are probably what Mark Appel gets from the Astros (as the only pick ahead of Bryant, the Appel bonus would arguable set a ceiling for Bryant (relative to his slot value, that is)), and what the second overall pick – Byron Buxton – got last year from the Twins. We don’t know Appel’s figure, and probably won’t any time soon. Buxton signed for $6 million, which was $200,000 under slot for the second overall pick last year. Incidentally, Buxton is now considered by some to be the best prospect in baseball.
But as picks below Bryant sign this year, could you argue there’s some negotiating relevance there? The Rockies have reportedly signed top draft pick (no. 3 overall) Jonathan Gray for $4.8 million, about $800,000 under slot. That figure is almost $2 million lower than the Cubs’ slot for Kris Bryant at no. 2, and would seemingly offer a great deal of “distance” for the Cubs to work with in giving Bryant a bonus that is far higher than Gray’s, but still below slot.
So, does this mean the Cubs won’t have to go the full $6.7 million on Bryant?
The truth is, although there’s some intellectual appeal in an argument there, I don’t think you can work backwards like that. It’s too easy for Bryant and his advisor, Scott Boras, to argue that the bons for picks after Bryant – even immediately after Bryant – are irrelevant. The Cubs didn’t want Gray, they wanted Bryant. They picked Bryant. They should have to pay the full value for Bryant, regardless of what bargain deals the teams after the Cubs elected to take. That’s the argument, anyway.
I wondered aloud on Twitter whether there was an impact here for Bryant, and speculated that there wouldn’t be. Jim Callis responded that he didn’t think there was an impact, either.
I’m sure the Cubs will mention the Gray deal to Scott Boras in negotiations about Bryant, but the whole Gray/Adderall thing and the Boras-takes-no-shit thing … I just don’t think it gets them anywhere. I think there was a narrow range that both sides understood Bryant would accept when they drafted him in the first place (remember that five minute window of silence when the Cubs were late on their pick? you better believe that was about pitting Bryant and Gray against each other), and the Cubs are likely trying to save just a hair under slot on the deal – but it won’t be waaaay under, if it’s under at all.
The signing deadline is July 12. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryant take a little while before he signs.