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No common ground to be found for Pirates and Mark Appel

Jul 9, 2012, 6:57 PM EDT

Mark Appel AP

The Pirates knew they were taking a risk when they made Stanford right-hander Mark Appel the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Expected to go first overall, Appel reportedly turned down a $6 million bonus from the Astros before the draft, causing Houston to choose Carlos Correa instead.

The fall to No. 8 guaranteed that Appel would no longer be a candidate for a $6 million bonus. MLB’s proposed slot price for No. 8 is $2.9 million, compared to $7.2 million for No. 1 overall. Now that Appel is the Pirates’ only top-10 pick unsigned, the team knows exactly what it can offer him without losing a 2013 first-rounder: $3.84 million. That reportedly isn’t good enough for Appel.

Appel would seem to have a lot more to lose than to gain by going back to school for his senior season. If he duplicates his 2012 performance, he could be a top-three pick next year and get more than $3.8 million. However, there’s a significant risk of injury and it’s also possible he just won’t perform quite as well. Plus, as a college senior, he’ll have less leverage in negotiations next year no matter where he’s drafted.

Still, it looks like that’s where we’re headed. It’s not like the Pirates can simply up their proposal against Friday’s deadline; they’re offering him every dollar they can without losing a first-round pick. And while one could argue it might be worth losing the pick to land someone with Appel’s talent — particularly given that the Pirates probably won’t be drafting it the top 10 again next year — it’s clear they’re not willing to budge on that possibility.

  1. redguy12588 - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Pirates are still in a no lose situation here. If Appel doesn’t sign, the pirates get the #9 next year plus their own first rounder. Best of luck to Appel, but this isn’t a huge loss to the Pirates.

    Plus this makes Selig look idiotic for thinking this system is better

    • Kevin S. - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:35 PM

      Actually, it kind of is a losing situation for the Pirates. They’ll have the #9 pick (or #10 if the Orioles’ pick doesn’t sign, either) and their own pick… which looks like it’ll be in the 20s. Appel is likely to be the #1 pick next year, given that it’s an even weaker draft class than this year’s. Not that you can trade picks in MLB, but would you trade the #9/10 pick and a pick in the 20s for the #1 pick, especially if you’d have the #1 pick developing in your system a year earlier? I would. I’m guessing Pittsburgh feels a lot of pressure from the commissioner’s office not to cave, but I think it’s worth seeing at the last minute what he’s willing to come down to. Appel might find it worth going back to school for a shot to double what he’d get from Pitt… but what if the difference is $2 million instead of $3-4 million? At some point, the risk won’t be worth it.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:37 PM

        And if the following link is to be believed, it would be #10 in next year’s draft:

      • paperlions - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:17 PM

        oh yeah, it is definitely losing. Not only will a player of Appel’s talent not be available at #9 next year, but they’ll also lose a year of development time…..and if they sign Appel and lose next year’s 1st….that is kind of a loss as well, using 2 picks for one guy when you are always going to have to build through the draft hurts, and with the new cap rules, it’ll hurt teams like the Pirates more.

        Looks like a no-win situation for the Pirates,

      • explodet - Jul 10, 2012 at 12:02 AM

        …Why would he be #1 next year, exactly? He wasn’t the best player in a weak draft in the opinion of 7 teams, he’ll have less leverage as college senior, and he’ll be THAT MUCH older still. Realistically, he has nowhere to go in the draft but down.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 10, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        You seriously think he fell to the Pirates because the first seven teams didn’t think he was as good? He fell because of his bonus, the exact thing this new system was supposed to stop. As for next year, his lack of leverage will work for him, not against him, going where he would have gone talent-wise – a team drafting #1 overall knows that he really can’t hold out for more than slot. If he gets slot as the #1 overall pick next year, that’s $7.2 million – $3.4 million more than he’d get now.

  2. redux23 - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    i understand that this kid is leaving a lot of money on the table but i dont see how he has a lot to lose. he comes from an already affluent family and if he goes back to school, he is going to graduate with a degree from stanford. if his baseball career does not pan out or if he gets injured, he still has that stanford degree (and the perks that come with it) to fall back on. he is very fortunate to have that luxury – not a lot of guys do.

    • mgdsquiggy17 - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:22 PM

      because he can go back and get that degree anytime. he can’t always go back and be a top 10 pick and sign for the kind of money that is being offered to him.. he can always sign, play pro ball and go back to school either during the off-season or after his career. he has much more to lose by going back. Yes he can get picked #1 and get more next year but that is a lot riskier.

      • paperlions - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:20 PM

        Actually, you can’t go back any time. If he waits too long, he’ll pretty much have to start all over (college credits are not eternal, courses have to be completed within a reasonable time span), which no adult would do. That is one reason so few MLB player have college degrees.

      • mgdsquiggy17 - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:47 PM


        The Detroit Tigers selected Granderson in the third round of the 2002 amateur draft, after his junior year at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As the son of teachers, Granderson felt a familial obligation and personal desire to graduate. So, while playing for Class A Lakeland in 2003, he asked the Tigers if they would accommodate his desire to fulfill his degree requirements. The organization agreed, even though his obligations to baseball didn’t cease.

        So Appel could easily still get his money and still get the college degree if it really is that important.

      • paperlions - Jul 10, 2012 at 7:29 AM

        Yes, and Granderson is the rare exception. This year 39 players in the league (4.3%) have a college degree. People can always do things, but life gets busy and they rarely have time to do them later. Even for players that don’t make the majors, their career often lasts many years and by then they have wives, kids, and responsibilities.

      • stex52 - Jul 10, 2012 at 1:44 PM

        We had this discussion when I was at Rice in the early ’70’s and a guy we knew went pro in tennis. There is just too much money to be made to turn it down. If you are a student at a quality private school (like Stanford or Rice) you can always go back. If you are wealthy and want the degree, what’s the problem? Just start over and take the four years if you have to. You were smart enough to make the grades the first time.

        If you don’t want the degree that is fine, too. Odd are that most players won’t. But if you have a job and have made a lot of money or are in business, the degree thing is a personal goal, not a necessity.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      That Standord degree, while worth a great deal, isn’t worth $3 million guaranteed.

      • paperlions - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:22 PM

        True, but it Appel had TJ surgery tomorrow and had a normal recovery, he could still sign for $1M+ next year.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jul 9, 2012 at 11:43 PM

        And $1 million still isn’t $3 million.

      • paperlions - Jul 10, 2012 at 7:32 AM

        The point is that the only alternative isn’t $0, he isn’t going double or nothing. Obviously there is risk, but far less risk that HS players that don’t sign, enroll in D1 programs, and have to wait 3 years to be eligible…..and no one is ripping on those guys. There are at least as many examples of guys going to school or staying in school and doing better in future drafts as guys that do worse.

    • istillbelieveinblue - Jul 10, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      He’s a pitcher, so the injury risk is higher than, say, a right fielder. He and Boras really botched this whole situation. Had he been willing to accept the slot value, he’d be getting over $7 million as the first pick and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      • jrbdmb - Jul 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

        If he already turned down #1 slot money this year, why would he and Boras be willing to sign for #1 slot money next year?

        Only (slightly reasonable) possibility is that Boras will use Appel to challenge the whole slotting system.

  3. proudlycanadian - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    Reminds me of the Luke Hochevar story. There is no guarantee that he will even be as good (ahem) as Hochevar. It also reminds me of another Boras client named James Paxton who went back into the draft and lost a lot of money.

    • headbeeguy - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:30 PM

      Luke Hochevar turned down a little under $3.0 million and got $5.6 million the following year. Things worked out pretty well for him, even though he’s terrible.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:01 PM

        He has been terrible. Would he have had been a better pitcher with better pro coaching than he received in the Independent league?

    • garylanglais - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:36 PM

      Unless a report comes out that says Boras violated NCAA rules the Paxton comparison is not applicable. Paxton withdrew from Kentucky when the NCAA attempted to compel him to answer questions regarding the advisor process. When Paxton refused the NCAA and Kentucky came down hard on him and instead of facing an inevitable suspension for not cooperating he chose to withdraw.

      Now there was that story from Tom Krasovic shortly after draft day saying Appel turned down $6m from the Astros but he later backed off it. But who knows, maybe the NCAA will try and compel Appel to “interview” just like they tried with Paxton

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:58 PM

        Very interesting! Are teams allowed to make offers to NCAA players before the draft?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:10 PM


        They aren’t supposed to, but it happens all the time. In fact both KG and Klaw mentioned this year it probably happened far more than usual so teams could game the system.

        However, the Paxton issue had to do with the NCAA’s gestapo like tactics of suspending players for violating their bylaws, in doing something that any one of us would do. Each year the NCAA sends out a survey to all players, high school and college, asking questions like, did you hire an attorney to speak on your behalf with a team? Did you hire an agent?

        If players say they did either of those things, the NCAA has and will restrict their eligibility to play in college*. If you refuse to answer the survey, they have and will restrict your eligibility to play in college. Paxton fell into the latter category, and Kentucky, rather than risk getting their season tossed out, removed Paxton from the team.

        *Can you imagine being a 17 year old HS senior and being drafted in the bottom of the first round, and being unable to have anyone advise you on the process? The NCAA is a f’ing sham.

    • schlom - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:39 PM

      Hochevar actually went from the 40th pick in 2005 to the 1st overall pick in the 2006 draft. He probably didn’t gain that much money from the higher position as he signed and then turned down a $2.98m bonus from the Dodgers in 2005 to sign a major league deal with a $3.5m bonus from the Royals. So in Hochevar’s case passing on the Dodgers to play independent ball was a good idea.

      James Paxton probably didn’t lose money by not signing with the Blue Jays in 2009. He was the 37th overall pick that year and Scott Boras wanted $1m while the Blue Jays offered him the slot bonus of $875k. He went back into the draft in 2010 and was drafted in the 4th round by the Mariners but got a bonus of $942,500.

      There have certainly been players that turned down bonuses one year and got less the next year (like Matt Harrington) but there’s not a ton of evidence that Scott Boras clients don’t eventually get what they want even with the lower leverage the following year.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:56 PM

        Very good research, although it does not take into account the time value of money and the potential salary loss due to a delayed entry into the majors.

      • schlom - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:14 PM

        True enough but I’m not sure how you could properly value all that. Or the particular circumstances for each player – Hochevar might be better off with the Dodgers but as a better team he’d have more competition and might not have been a starter. Same thing with Paxson, being a pitcher in Seattle might be worth sitting out a year.

  4. Tapps - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Well, they WILL be drafting in the top 10 again is Appellate doesn’t sign.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:11 PM

      However they cannot re-draft him with that pick unless Appel agrees.

  5. echech88 - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Boras attempting to manipulate the situation through his media henchmen really doesn’t work as well in a situation like this.

    I thought it was a great story that the Pirates could potentially have 3 top flight pitching prospects just as they are starting to become a contender (similar to the Rays a few years back) but I think they also won’t be too crippled by this if he doesn’t sign. #9 next year on top of their own pick, they’ll be fine

  6. rcali - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Nice work Boras. One bad pitch at Standford and you’ve sent another kid to work at a auto repair shop.

    • obpedmypants - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:26 PM

      I don’t care. I’m still a millionaire.

      -Scott Boras

  7. pghburgher - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    Next years draft looks stronger than this year. He looked okay in the College World Series but He’s no Strasburg. If he doesn’t want to be part of the Pirates franchise and the Pittsburgh Sports scene Good Riddance Have fun In Houston next year. Oh thats right they did’nt want you.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 9, 2012 at 8:12 PM

      Next years draft looks stronger than this year

      This has to be the latest troll here at HBT. Who says it’s stronger?

      • paperlions - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:26 PM

        No one says that except, apparently, for fans of Pittsburgh and Baltimore….and perhaps Washington.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:54 PM

        It is a way too early to tell if next year will be better or worse. Teenagers and young adults. do mature a different rates. Obviously, players will become more physically and mature in a year.

      • paperlions - Jul 9, 2012 at 10:09 PM

        Yes, but….all things being equal, approximately the same number of guys “come out of no where” each year to be prospects, whereas some years the number of guys that are legitimate prospects a year before the draft is far greater than other years….for next year’s draft, there just aren’t that many guys that scouts really like….so, yes, next years draft could look fantastic in 8 months, but odds are that it won’t.

      • natslady - Jul 10, 2012 at 7:48 AM

        Giolito is 4 years away and might need surgery. If he doesn’t sign, we will get #17 pick and can take a college player, and still have a guy in the majors in a year or two (assuming there is a good guy available at #17). So, it’s not so much that the draft looks stronger, it’s that #17 will be better than #32 (you like how I did that?).

  8. stan97 - Jul 9, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    Players and their agents shouldn’t be able to ‘game’ the system like they currently do.

    The whole idea of the draft is that the weaker teams can improve by selecting higher in the draft.

    When a player refuses to sign or sits out a year in order to to reenter the draft it violates the spirit of the draft and what it’s intended to accomplish.

    They need to change the rules so that players who refuse to sign are banned from professional baseball for at least 3 seasons if they refuse to sign with the team who drafted them.

    That would put an end to much of this nonsense.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 9, 2012 at 11:29 PM

      They need to change the rules so that players who refuse to sign are banned from professional baseball for at least 3 seasons if they refuse to sign with the team who drafted them.

      Sure, as long as the AAV of the contracts are equal to or above the starting salary of a MLB first year player (~450k now). Or do the indentured servants, I mean players, not get a choice in this matter?

    • Reflex - Jul 10, 2012 at 12:13 AM

      Yeah, and your employer should be able to sign you to a contract for whatever they want and if you refuse, you are unemployed for three years, cause this is america and thats how we do it!

    • Kevin S. - Jul 10, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      Oi. So much wrong with this.

      Why should amateur players abide by the “spirit of the draft?” The entire thing was set up by two parties (current players and owners) specifically to siphon money away from them and transfer it to those two groups. Players holding out for more money amounts to somebody firing a BB gun over the Rio Grande and your response would be the equivalent of the US nuking Ciudad de Juarez.

      They could have put an end to “this nonsense” by leaving the system as it was, in which smart small-market teams were the biggest spenders on amateur talent because it pays off in spades. Instead, they set up a system where teams pass on better talent not because they’re too stupid to pay the bonuses, but because MLB actively enforces penalties for doing so.

      Go Mark Appel. Go Pirates. Screw Bud Selig and his cronies for allowing this to happen.

    • stex52 - Jul 10, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      My gosh, what a terrible idea. “Spirit of the draft”? What are we talking about? Spirit of indentured servitude.

      A fair world would have no draft. It might well not work in professional sports because the rich teams would dominate, but don’t punish people for wanting the freedom to negotiate.

  9. paperlions - Jul 10, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    Man, people really aren’t a fan of reality, if your team fails to sign its #1 pick, it is never a good thing for the team, and it usually isn’t a bad thing for the player.

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