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Deadline Day for Draftees is Quickly Approaching

August 5, 2010

With a mere 11 days to go until the deadline for 2010 draftees to reach agreement with their respective teams there are a number of interesting stories worth monitoring. As of this morning, 25 of the first 50 picks have yet to sign a contract – including 7 of the first 10. The surprising part of this, however, is how little we’ve heard as far as negotiations between pick and team.

First overall pick Bryce Harper is a prime example. For months leading up to the draft it was widely known that Harper would be selected by the Washington Nationals. By all accounts he was the top talent available in the draft and at a premium position to boot. Yet, immediately upon drafting the 17-year-old (he won’t turn 18 until October) the team announced that they’ll move Harper from behind the plate to right field in an effort to both prolong his health and expedite his ascension to the Major Leagues. But, before any of this can happen they need to get him on the field.

To date there has been zero news about negotiations between the two sides. Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, made waves leading up to the draft that he’d be looking for a record bonus for the young player, perhaps even seeking the highest agreement ever for a position player. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was aware of these potential demands and didn’t seem bothered by them, all-the-while knowing that he’d have a challenge on his hands to get the pick signed. Time is running out for both sides but presumably a deal will be reached as the deadline draws nearer.

Meanwhile, 6th overall pick Barret Loux has taken a much different path since the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him. The starting pitcher from Texas A&M came out early to enter this year’s draft with the hopes of being taken in the first round. The D’backs went the safe route with their first selection and chose Loux higher than most experts predicted and were rewarded by Loux’s willingness to both sign quickly and for less than the recommended bonus. Yet, a routine physical prior to completing the deal showed a number on injury concerns – a torn labrum in his shoulder and signs of an eventual need for Tommy John surgery, both major red flags.

As a result, Loux has no deal with Arizona. He likely will not receive an offer between now and August 16. His options at this point – as broken down by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan – are limited. He’ll likely end up back at school, presuming he still has some eligibility remaining, where he’ll hope to stay healthy enough to attract some interest next year.

Finally, there is Chris Sale, the 13th overall selection by the Chicago White Sox. Sale, a left-handed starting pitcher from the Florida Gulf Coast University, was thought of as one of the top collegiate arms available in the draft. Yet, due to signability concerns he fell into their laps at #13. Those concerns quickly vanished as Sale and the Sox reached agreement on a deal less than two weeks after the draft. Sale signed for less money than expected but received a promise from team management that he’d be given an opportunity to reach the Majors quickly if his performance in the minor leagues warranted it. Essentially Sale turned down more money upfront for the chance to be playing in Chicago more quickly.

In a mere 11 appearances out of the bullpen between High A Winston Salem and AAA Charlotte, Sale totaled 10.1 innings of work with a 2.61 ERA and an astonishing 16.5 K/9. Impressive numbers but an extraordinarily small sample size. Yet, it was enough for the White Sox to call Sale up to the Majors yesterday where he’ll work out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season before converting back to starting games next Spring. Sale will be the first 2010 draftee to appear in a game once he makes his debut and will do so before most of his peers even sign their contracts.

The draft is often a gamble – both for players and the teams that draft them. There are numerous risks associated with each side. For some, injuries can derail a dream even before it can get started. For others, the simple desire to play allows doors to open quick than normal. Over the next 11 days we’ll see just how many of the draftees end up beginning their journey.

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