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Boras: Pirates could have offered Appel more

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Could the Pirates have done more to sign Mark Appel?

And would it have been worth it?

We won’t fully know the answer to the second question for a long time based on a lot of variables. But a phone call from Scott Boras over the weekend reminded me that the correct answer to the first question is a resounding yes.

As Boras put it, “It depends on how much you value a one-one talent.”

That’s draft lingo for first round, first pick, which is how some — though not all — publications had rated the big Stanford righty going into this draft, and how most already are labeling him for 2013. No one puts Appel in the category of, say, Stephen Strasburg or even Gerrit Cole, but there is a consensus for now that he’s the best player available in this draft class or the next. Let’s work with that.

In the moments after the 5 p.m. deadline passed without the Pirates signing Appel, Neal Huntington issued this statement, in part: “Our final offer exceeded the available bonus-pool money and was essentially up to the last dollar we could offer prior to falling into the second-tier penalty which would have resulted in the loss of a first-round draft selection.”

Technically speaking, Huntington is right. The amount the Pirates had left to spend to offer Appel was $3.8 million. That was miles short of the $6 million Appel had been hoping to land all along.

But the reason the Pirates were down to $3.8 million was that they decided to spend a big chunk of the $6.56 million they were allotted for the top 11 picks (top 10, plus the compensation round) on nine of those other 10 guy, as well as some over-slot in later rounds that works against this pool. Most of the top 11 guys, surprisingly, were signed very quickly. It’s almost as if the team wanted to send Boras a message right away that it wasn’t going to come close to setting aside the $6 million Appel wanted.

Well, message received.

Let’s say the Pirates would have just signed outfielder Barrett Barnes, their supplemental pick, for his $1 million and left the rest of the class alone. In other words, pay for just the two big-ticket items, and pretty much nothing else.

Would Appel still have considered signing for, says, $5.5 million or so?

The impression I got from Boras is that he would have at least strongly considered it.

So the real issue here is whether or not the Pirates would have been better off signing Appel and Barnes, or signing the nine guys that they did. Again, only time will tell on that, depending on how all of them fare down the road.

But, as Boras cited, the Nationals took the former approach. They drafted pitcher Lucas Giolito 16th overall and knew it would cost above-slot to sign him, a challenge within a small $4.5 million bonus pool. GM Mike Rizzo recognized that right away and essentially restructured the way Washington would handle the rest of its draft. Players the Nats knew could be had for slot or less were taken in the rest of the top 10 rounds, all of them were still wrapped up, and Giolito still signed for $2.93 million.

It was an effective tactical adjustment to the new draft system.

The Pirates, went into rounds 2-10 operating mostly business as usual, though there were a couple of very inexpensive players they took late in that sequence. The Pirates and Nats ended up with a similar amount of free money, but the Nats knew they didn’t have to come up with nearly as much to get their first-rounder.

Who did it right?

I’ll say it a third time: Time will tell.

But I’ll also repeat something I’ve written consistently for years now: Teams like the Pirates need to acquire elite talent through the draft and Latin America. It’s not optional. It’s the only place that can realistically happen. Generally speaking, the caliber of talent you find in rounds 2-10, you can find later in those players’ careers at low acquisition cost. They’re a dime a dozen. All you have to do is look at all of the Huntington/Greg Smith drafts for proof.

Appel and Barnes were judged by the Pirates themselves to be their best talents taken. Maybe that should have been the priority.

UPDATE 5:49 p.m.: For those still discussing how much the Pirates could or couldn’t have offered Appel, let me break it down in only the most EXTREME reality of paying Appel the ABSOLUTE MAX without giving up a draft pick. I just spoke with a Pirates official, and the above information is correct.

The Pirates’ pool for the top 10 (plus a comp) picks is $6.56 million. Let’s say they take Appel, then realize it’s going to take about $6 million to sign him. From there, they could — and I’m not suggesting this would be intelligent — draft 10 college seniors and pay each of them the minimum $5,000. They also wouldn’t be able to go over $100,000 on any picks after that.

Yes, I know it’s implausible. Stay with me.

That gets you down to $6.5 million left in that pool. Now, let’s say Barnes signs for $1 million. You’re at $5.5 million that can be given to Appel.

You pretty much punt on the rest of the top 11, then work off your draft board for the rest of the rounds.

Is it ideal?

That depends on how you view Appel, Barnes and the rest of the pool.

Is it possible?

Yes.

6:05: You’ll also find an edit up in the main part regarding the Nationals. I totally misunderstood something Boras had said about the Nats and have changed it to reflect accurately. My apologies on that portion.

But the primary scenario involving the numbers and the dollars is wholly accurate.

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