Houston Astros and Mark Appel Reportedly Have a Deal for Well Under Slot – Good News, Yes?

stanford mark appelAs Jeff Passan reported last week, the Houston Astros and top pick Mark Appel were expected to have a deal in place by this week, and now Jon Heyman reports that a deal is, indeed, in place.

A key difference in the reports? While Passan was not specific about the signing bonus, his piece left you understanding that Appel was going to get close to the full $7.79 million slotted for the first overall pick (even if Passan has subsequently said that isn’t quite what he was saying). Heyman, on the other hand, says Appel is getting between $6 and $6.5 million.

That is a huge, huge distinction – and one that carries a fair bit of importance for the Cubs. But we’ll get to that.

First, it’s worth laying out how the Astros may have gotten Appel for so far under slot.

If you’re Appel, you’ve got a pretty good argument for accepting no lower than $6.7 million, which was the Cubs’ slot at No. 2: “Look, Astros, if you hadn’t taken me, the Cubs would have. And they would have paid me at least their slot. So there’s no way I’m taking less than $6.7 million.”

Of course, the Astros have a pretty good rejoinder: “Look, Mark, that’s irrelevant, because the Cubs didn’t take you. We did. So, here are your options: take $6.3 million right now from us, or take ANOTHER year off in your professional development, go play independent ball, and then try to get a better offer next year in the Draft. Good luck with that.”

If I’m Appel, I find that argument pretty persuasive, and I take the cash.

Against that backdrop, how relevant is the huge under slot signing to the Cubs’ negotiations with their top pick, third baseman Kris Bryant?

At, say, $6.3 million, Appel would be signing for $1.5 million under slot. Combine that with No. 3 pick Jonathan Gray signing for $800,000 under slot, and the Cubs have plenty of ammo for arguing that their top pick – Kris Bryant, selected second overall – should sign for something under slot in the $800,000 to $1.5 million under slot range.

From the Cubs, the argument would look fairly similar to the one the Astros made to Appel: “Look, Kris, you can return to San Diego for your senior season, sure. And maybe you have an even better year. But in a better draft next year, you still might not be selected first overall – hell, you might fall to third or fourth. Your options are to take the $6 million (or $6.2 or $5.8 or whatever) we’re offering you now, or take a chance with injury/ineffectiveness/anything else that precludes you from duplicating an historically good junior season at San Diego. Maybe you get a few hundred grand more next year. Is it really worth the risk? This isn’t an Appel situation where there are additional millions on the table for you with another good season. It’s $6 million this year – and your professional career gets going a year earlier – or *maybe* $6.5 to $7 million next year.”

Feels like a pretty compelling argument, and one that I suspect will win out in the end.

(There is also the representation element of his: Scott Boras represents both Appel and Bryant. Is Boras really going to want to tell Appel (and the world) that he could get him only $6.3 million – hugely under slot – but could get Bryant more than that at No. 2?)

So what does Bryant land from the Cubs? I feel more confident about the Cubs’ ability to get him for under slot than I did before Appel’s bonus was reported, that’s for sure. Bryant probably had the most leverage of the top three picks – Appel is a senior, Gray was at risk for a free fall after the positive stimulant test – but, for the reason laid out above, wielding the return-to-school leverage is fairly hollow for Bryant. And with the guy ahead of him signing for well below slot (and since no one can argue that Appel was a mere “value” pick), Bryant may have to accept what the market is saying about the top picks in the Draft this year.

Given that Bryant signing – and signing for a price within a known range – was always so critical for the Cubs’ overall draft approach, I remain fairly certain that the Cubs knew what it was going to take to sign Bryant before they selected him. I reckon that the two sides are currently negotiating within a narrow range of prices – $5.8 million to $6.5 million? – and the Cubs will hope to get him locked down sooner rather than later so that they know how much money they’ve got to use elsewhere in the Draft.

Long story short: Appel signing way under slot does not, alone, ensure that the Cubs can get Bryant for under slot. But it certainly doesn’t hurt. Even if Appel signs for $6.5 million, the Cubs could still make Bryant the best paid pick in the entire Draft and still sign Bryant for slightly under slot.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

78 responses to “Houston Astros and Mark Appel Reportedly Have a Deal for Well Under Slot – Good News, Yes?”

  1. Derrick

    If the Cubs do sign Bryant under slot, who do they use the savings on? I don’t recall them drafting a lot of hard to sign high upside guys.

    1. BD

      If they already gave a 12th(?) rounder a “3rd round bonus”, then they are already signing guys overslot. I’m pretty sure some of the pitchers in the 4th-8th rounds will need more as well.

      1. cubbie blue thru n thru

        Skulina who just signed yesterday got around 400k over slot

    2. BluBlud

      The Cubs drafted a whole lot of high upside guys that the need to sign.

    3. andoalex

      Baseball America has 4th Rounder Tyler Skullina being signed for $800,000 when his slot was $477,300. So part of it is probably going there.

    4. hansman1982

      “who do they use the savings on?”

      Ricketts Pocket.

      1. Joker

        C’mon Hasny – you don’t need to sound like a troll.

        1. hansman1982

          I was SHOCKED that I had to be the one to say it.

  2. Bwa

    Any chance we could lure 38th rounder Martinez from going to college if we give him third round money?

    1. Joker

      Would be ideal, but he seems fairly set on going to SC. Money is the one thing, however, that can get a kid to change his mind. Let’s back up the Brinks truck.

    2. ssckelley

      I think the Cubs already made him an offer and he shot it down. The Cubs best chance is going after Alamo who has already gave positive indications he wants to sign via twitter. He might be the better of the 2 anyway.

      1. SenorGato

        Yeah Alamo is themore physically gifted player between the two. Maybe in 5-6 years that makes a difference. I’m pretty intrigued byAlamo’s combo of size and athleticism. He seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of non-first HS catching prospects. Hes another 16U Team USA kid.

        1. SenorGato

          Alamo also went to the same HS as the Vitters.

  3. BD

    Also… isn’t Appel from Houston? Signing for your hometown team could have made taking less money easier.

    1. bbmoney

      Boras is known for his home discount deals ;).

  4. BluBlud

    Another pitch to Bryant could be that we have one of the top farms in baseball, and we are only getting better in that department. We are trying to build a winner here and you will be with us for 6+ years, plus however long you play in the minors at the minimun. Do you wanna be part of a winner by taking less and helping sign a whole lot of other potential talent, or do you want to take the full slot and force your team to lose out on some other very good prospects that could help us with our turn around.

    That alone might not get it done, but add in all the other variables and he has plenty of incentive to sign for less.

    1. ncsujuri

      Blu, how about that WOLFPACK beat down of the Heels yesterday?

      1. BluBlud

        Yes sir. WOLFPACKnation is in full effect. I really feel like this will be our year. We just have to many things working for us.

        1. ncsujuri

          like a terrible hitting UCLA team eeking one out against the other best team in our pool yesterday?? I loved it, hopefully the Tigers knock out the Heels Tuesday afternoon!!!!

      2. Jp3

        I hope Rondon’s arm isn’t good for another game against the heels… I hope it’s done and he has forearm tightness or something that shuts him down

        1. BluBlud

          We don’t want that, because at the current rate, Rondon just might be a Cub this time next year. Plus, the Tar Heels might not make it back to N.C. Stae.

          1. ncsujuri

            Honestly though I think we were building towards next year…Rondon et al will be in their JUNIOR year’s not sophomore years…I’ve been secretly hoping the Cubs are able to get him in the draft next year but I’m a bit worried we aren’t sucking enough yet as I expect he would be a top 5 pick at least…

            1. ncsujuri

              It’s Rodon not Rondon…fat fingers….oops

              1. BluBlud

                Yeah, i fell into the bait. The funny thing is i corrected someone else on that a while back.

            2. Jp3

              He’s a stud though for sure😀. I’m just not able to be overly objective

          2. Jp3

            If he ends up with arm trouble he’s def the kind of player we want

            1. ncsujuri

              Yeah I do worry about his pitch counts…but its a bit different in college because they are pitching once every 7 days for the most part unless you are UNC and bring your ace back two days after throwing 120 pitches to throw another 50+ and almost not make it to the CWS in the first place…

              1. Jp3

                I was actually just referring to the Cubs only being interested in pitchers with arm trouble, to my knowledge Rondon doesn’t have any history of that. I was just saying it because the Heels are my favorite team and I don’t want to have to face that 95 mph, slider throwing lefty again😀. I think UNC is easily the better team BUT that guy is easily the best player on the field (including Moran)

                1. ncsujuri

                  No, no history to this point at all, he has been a beast for us for sure…worry in the sense that at some point all those pitches might catch up with him. Agreed UNC is probably the better team but I wouldn’t go w/ “easily” considering the rain shortened series was 1-1, the loss in the ACC tourney was in 18 innings and the game yesterday was a WOLFPACK blow out….2-2 but I’d even take 1-3 if the one was yesterday ;)

                2. SenorGato

                  Didnt Rodon go through a weird period earlier in the year with some forearm stuff?

    2. DeuceJuice

      I’d have to disagree. I think at this age, he’s worried about financial security for his future. Those other potential prospects won’t help him out if he has a career ending injury and goes broke. He needs to be a little selfish here and take what he can get. The focus won’t shift to winning until after he’s got his first big contract, IMO.

  5. Brian

    The FO aren’t dummies. If they offered Skulina 300K over slot and Clifton “3rd round money”, they have to know they will have the money to make it work. Whether that comes from Bryant or signing other guys in 1-10 enough under slot. Don’t think they will risk losing picks over signing players.

    1. Kyle

      Basically, signing Bryant underslot is the only thing that would cover all these overslots. So you have to assume they have the framework of a deal in place.

      1. ssckelley

        Not really, keep in mind the first 100K does not count against the pool since he was taken in the 12th round. Plus the Cubs can go slot over by $500K.

        Honestly I think the amount saved is going to Alamo.

        1. Jp3

          If we don’t sign someone though in rounds 1-10 we lose that slot money right? So we have to actually have to know we’re saving it somewhere right?

          1. Justin

            Yeah there is a rule where you’re not “suppose” to negotiate before the draft. But it really seems for the most part teams have a strong idea what it will take to get a guy signed. So I guess they’re negotiating.

  6. Rich H

    On PSD there are a number of “insiders” that are saying that the only reason that Bryant is not signed is because he wants some R&R before the physical. I do not know how true that is but it at least is a good sign.

    I asked Jim Callis this morning about it on twitter and he just said no comment. Which is strange because he could have just ignored it.

    1. DarthHater

      He wants some R&R before the physical? Sounds like the next Ian Stewart to me… :-P

      1. Jp3

        Is he staying up watching WCW or something?;)

      2. Rich H

        Well in all fairness he has been playing baseball most of the year. Bumps and bruises happen.
        I think if he hits the ground running by the end of the month all will be forgotten. Lets hope we get him in soon and he streaks to at least A+ this year.

        1. King Jeff

          He’s also been on the awards circuit since his team quit playing, which means he’s been traveling pretty non-stop for a few weeks now. He might have been a little too aggressive at the buffet tables and wants to drop a few pounds first.

      3. JM

        Your name fits…

  7. Chris

    Analysis like this is why you are the best Cubs blog and why I read your site multiple times a day.

  8. ruby2626

    What’s R&R?

    Not sure if I agree with the talk that Appel helped himself get millions more by staying in school an extra year. True the Pirates offered him in the neighborhood of $4M last year but had he not been so greedy it’s my understanding a deal would have been worked out with Houston at #1 and he quite possibly would have been in the major leagues already and his service clock would be a year ahead. He might get a little more of a bonus this year but was it really worth the risk?

    1. Rich H

      I assume he it means rest and relaxation. Taking a break from the game for a week or so since he was in the College World Series till a week before the draft.

      1. Jp3

        Whatever, I’m thinking he should take it because hopefully once he gets started again he’s good for the next 15 years and takes the cubs to a World Series or 2. No more breaks after this big guy on your way to earring millions and being a 1st ballot HOF😝. There, at least I didn’t set the bar too high

    2. ssckelley

      Appel did roll the dice returning to Stanford and he won. Even if he signs for under slot it is still almost double what the Pirates were offering him at #8. I think he still ends up in the majors around the same time from so from a service time perspective he did not lose anything.

      1. SenorGato

        Gotta love how Appel shoved that “leveragezzzz and greeeedz” thing down a whole lot of throats. Infinite respect for that guy and how he handled dummies and their general ideas. Every week they elevated some random who was ahead of the third tier arms into a legit competitor and he never lost a step to any (even Gray).

        As someone who still appreciates the individual and the individual narrative in sport, Appel earned himself a fan. Dudes got a pair of steel balls somewhere.

    3. Spriggs

      Rock’n Roll

  9. terencemann

    There’s a rumor that the Cubs focus on Appel before the draft is part of what’s delaying Bryant’s signing and could cost them a little extra since they didn’t do a lot to massage his ego pre-draft but it’s going to happen.

    1. Justin

      That’s crazy. If the Cubs really liked Appel that much they should have been acting like they loved everyone else way more than Appel. That would not be a good strategic move to jock a guy if you truly loved him. I have a hard time believing that Theo and Co let everyone know they were taking Appel for sure if he was there. That seems like it would only hurt their chances of getting him on a fair deal.

      1. JM

        I think the Cubs were taking Bryant no matter what. Though stud pitchers are wanted, quality arms can be found deep in the draft or via free agency. Look how many aces were taken as top picks, and those that were, look how many have had arm problems.

        1. BluBlud

          I agree. I think bryant was always the pick, and the fact that people report that the Cubs were going after either Appel or Gray probably proves that. I don’t think Gray’s flunked drug test had anything to do with it.

          1. cubbie blue thru n thru

            cant remember where I read it but after the Bryant pick I remember reading that Appel was 1 and Bryant was 2 on the cubs big board

            1. BluBlud

              No one from the Cubs said that though. That was just one scouts perspective. I not saying it’s true or false, just no one knows. The Cubs probably aren’t going to say either.

              1. Jacob

                Assman said Appel was 1, Bryant was 2. Just sayin’…

                1. hansman1982

                  Before the test it was Gray 1, Bryant 2

                  1. JM

                    Before the test, I remember it being Gray / Appel, whoever was on the board, according to this site and many others. What they DID say was that they would take the best player. Bryant’s awards may be proving who the best player is.

                    1. hansman1982

                      I am simply going off what Le Almighty Assman decreed in the days leading up to the draft.

                      I had them Appel, Bryant, Gray (I don’t trust guys who shoot up the board in the months leading up to the draft) leading up to the draft.

                  2. Jacob

                    Well then maybe the Cubs changed their minds? Assman knows all…

              2. JM

                No, they wouldn’t say. It is just my feeling that they were going to take a position guy, rather than a pitcher. Should we look at the draft history of Theo? I wonder what it may bear out.

          2. SenorGato

            I don’t think Gray’s test hurt him so much as him being overrated hurt him.

            Personally I think if Appel was on the board at two the Cubs would have pounced. To me, even despite being a cursed young pitcher, he fit this organizstion to a T. Makeup, size, fastball, relative polish, command, corntrol, three pitches, durability ans moving out of the injury nexus….Booooo Houston.

  10. Justin

    Yeah Appel has to take the underslot offer from the Astros. I am still shocked he turned down their underslot offer last year. That was a ballsy move to the say the least… But it looks like it worked out alright in the end.

  11. Rich H

    This weeks “The Minor League Report” has them talking about the Daytona Cubs. The incite is pretty interesting. Their weekly poll question is who would you build your team around Baez or Soler. I am going to be very interested in seeing how that poll plays out.

  12. Bigg J

    Did he not sign with Pitt last year because he wanted to be #1 or what? Wonder if he will be called up right away?

    1. Justin

      By all accounts the Astros were going to take Appel last yr #1, but offered him well under slot. Appel and Boras played hardball and he dropped to 8 last yr because other teams feared that he wouldn’t sign for their alloted money.

    2. Bigg J

      Yea I know Houston wanted him #1, but he scared them off……not sure why he wanted to go back 1 more year for about the same money he would have got last year. He could have been in the bigs early this year

  13. SenorGato

    I doubt Bryant gets full slot, but if he does can I yell “power to the people?” Of course to deaf ears, I can!

  14. 5412


    I hope Bryant gets enough that he and Borass feel it was fair. If a guy feels like he was screwed, his motive is revenge. Say Bryant becomes All World. A few hundred grand today could save millions down the road. You don’t want his big boy contract clouded with the idea they owed him from the past. That is why Pujols is in CA.



    1. TWC

      “If a guy feels like he was screwed, his motive is revenge.”

      Are you really suggesting that if Bryant feels like he was “screwed” out of a “few hundred grand”, he will still sign with the Cubs, but only to take them to the cleaners to exact his “revenge” in a few years when he’s negotiating his first free agent or arb. buyout contract? (Of course, this is assuming that his performance merits such consideration in 2018 or so.)

      The conspiracy theories that continue to develop around these parts are really pretty embarrassing.

      “You don’t want his big boy contract clouded with the idea they owed him from the past.”

      My, what condescending crap that is.

    2. Coop

      Are you suggesting that Pujols felt he was screwed by whatever bonus he got when drafted in the 30th-something round?

      1. Coop

        Meh, guess it was the 13th round. But same point.

        Note to self – research then post, not post then research…

      2. OCCubFan

        Of course. He played “poorly” for 10 years and then left the Cardinals for a “few” dollars. (sarcasm)

  15. Shortcircuit

    I found this from baseballamerica.com. It checks in on all the draft picks of 2012.


  16. Astros Officially Sign Top Pick Mark Appel for $6.35 Million – Well Below Slot | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    [...] had been reported for a few days now, the Houston Astros have officially agreed to a deal with the top overall pick in the 2013 MLB [...]

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