Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not Signing Washington/Diekroeger Hurts

Immediately after the draft, I laid out my best-case scenario for the Rays draft:
But here's my best-case(within reason) scenario: a) Signing picks 1-10 with the exception of Kenny Diekroeger or Derek Dennis; I'll think they'll sign one of those two. b) Signing picks 11-20 with the exception of Jacob Partridge or Dylan Floro. Realistically neither of those two will sign, but this is best-case. And then one of the HS pitcher trio in the 21-25 range(Swilley, Peterson, Heaney) and one in the 26-30 range(Jensen or Wager). Any signing besides the college seniors in round 30+ would be gravy.
So. The Rays didn't sign first-rounder Levon Washington and they didn't sign Kenny Diekroeger or Derek Dennis. They did sign Jacob Partridge, but didn't sign 15th rounder Pierce Johnson(to my eternal chagrin). They signed one of the 21-25 range guys(Matt Swilley) and Marcus Proctor. And they didn't sign anyone unexpected past the 30th round, which isn't a surprise.

They didn't hit my best-case scenario, and I would argue that they didn't do better than an average job overall. It's not breaking news that signing picks 1 and 2 isn't good. The obvious consequence is that the Rays failed to add two pretty high-ceiling players to their system. True, the Rays will get compensation picks for not signing those two in the 2010 draft, but that creates a whole new set of problems.

First of all, Tampa Bay will now have four draft picks in the first two rounds(assuming they don't lose or sign a type-A free agent). However, the compensation picks aren't protected, meaning that if the players drafted with those picks don't sign, the Rays lose them forever. That means that almost certainly they'll have to pick players who aren't a risk to not sign, which generally means low-ceiling college players. Just for fun, picks 31 and 79(the picks the Rays will have next year) slot money this season is $972,000 and 457,000, respectively(combined 1.429 million). Slot recommendations from 2009 were slashed from 2008 though, and it's possible that it'll return to 2008 level in 2010, meaning we're talking closer to 1.7 million. And it's wholly unlikely that the talent level of those picks would match Washington/Diekroeger(for example, the Nationals failed to sign Aaron Crow and wound up taking a college reliever with their compensation picks).

Of course, in addition to those the Rays will have their regular 1st and 2nd round picks, which would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million dollars in slot money. The problem is that because the Rays are basically stuck giving out 1.7 million to the compensation picks, their draft budget may not allow them to take over-slot possibilities with their regular picks, meaning they're likely getting worse talent. And unless they decide to spend a lot more on the draft, they probably won't be taking any risks in rounds 3-10 like they did this year with Jeff Malm, Kevin James, Luke Bailey, and Todd Glaesmann. So they're looking at reduced talent in those rounds, too. And if their draft budget does increase enough to go over-slot a few times next year, the obvious question is: Why didn't they spend that money this year?

So despite all the picks next year, I'm already a little bit worried. But back to this year. In regards to Levon Washington, right after the draft he couldn't have been more excited to have been taken by the Rays. He seemed ready to sign right away. What happened? Well, Scott Boras happened. With him as Washington's advisor, there was little chance of a deal getting done early. But still, if he wanted to sign, what stopped a deal from getting done today? This afternoon, Andrew Friedman said the Rays "put up an offer that was consistent with a late first-round pick." So presumably they offered slot or slightly more.

A few questions here. Did they ever offer Washington over-slot money? Did he tell them before the draft he wasn't seeking over-slot money? Did the scout who talked with Washington not do his homework? Or did he decide after he was drafted he wanted more money? The complicating factor with Washington is his injured shoulder. The apparent reason Friedman was able to declare talks dead this afternoon was because they would run him through a physical before deciding what kind of money to offer. Now I don't know if Boras dragged his feet on this, but it seems like they should have been able to get a physical done in time to negotiate until the final hour.

With regards to 2nd rounder Kenny Diekroeger, I'm even more confused. Before the draft, he told a newspaper he was "definitely going to Stanford." He was a good student whose family is pretty well-off(meaning the money may not have been a huge factor) with a scholarship to Stanford, a notoriously tough place to sign high schoolers away from. Realistically, he was never more than a 50/50 shot to sign, and even that's pushing it. That's a pretty big risk to take with your second round pick, even with compensation, since in all likelihood you're getting worse talent with the comp pick.

The other thing here is that 15th rounder Pierce Johnson and 20th rounder Dylan Floro didn't sign. Now, I don't know what kind of money either was asking for, but once it became evident that Washington and Diekroeger weren't going to sign, couldn't the Rays have taken some money they had set aside for those two and offered it to one of Johnson/Floro(or 10th rounder Derek Dennis, but he was never a serious candidate to sign). Last season, the Rays spent over 7.5 million dollars on Tim Beckham and Kyle Lobstein alone. This year, they barely spent half of that on the entire draft. Obviously Beckham commanded a large bonus being taken #1 overall, but if they investing 6.15 in just him, couldn't they invest that same kind of money to sign a whole group of players: Glaesmann, Bailey, Malm, James, Johnson, Floro?

It's not a system-killer that the Rays didn't sign Washington or Diekroeger. Quite frankly I think Bailey/Malm/Glaesmann may be the better prospects anyway. But it certainly hurts, and for a team like the Rays, it's imperative that they get the most out of the draft. Last year, the Yankees failed to sign their top two picks. But they 1) have a boatload of money, so could draft a high-ceiling guy(Slade Heathcott) and pay him whatever it took with the compensation picks and 2) knew they would be active in free agency, so the comp picks were their only picks in those two rounds. The Rays don't have those luxuries. They won't be getting comparable talent with their extra picks next season, and merely having extra picks to pay could hurt the rest of the class they draft. That's why failing to get deals done hurts.

[Quick Update] This article says that 20th rounder Dylan Floro wanted 450,000 and the Rays only offered 280,000. Assuming that Pierce Johnson was in a similar spot, I'm extremely disappointed the Rays didn't spend an extra 350,000 or so to bring in two more players, especially considering Floro was a possible supplemental 1st rounder/2nd rounder entering the season.


  1. Agree Kevin, nice summary.

    Something kind of odd I saw here: http://sports.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20090818/SPORTS0206/908180329&template=UHSports/UH+recruit+turns+pro

    "Kapolei graduate Kalani Brackenridge did not sign with the Tampa Bay Rays, who picked him in the 44th round as an infielder. Though he signed a letter of intent to play football at UH, he said last night he has decided to forego the sport to concentrate on baseball at the collegiate level, but hasn't determined where he will play at yet."

  2. Kevin,

    This is a good analysis; I'd just add a couple of points:

    1. Under the current CBA, it makes more sense to take a reach and negotiate hard with players drafted in rounds 1 and 2 than in the later rounds, because of the compensation pick. In general, you're correct that the value of the same pick next year is less than the same pick *this* year, but remember that the overall value is a function of the class.

    Let me tease that out a little bit. Most scouts believed that the '09 class was really thin. If the '10 draft class is superior in terms of depth at picks 20-30, then it is entirely possible that the compensation pick for Washington will be worth more in 2010 than Washington is worth now (particularly given his shoulder issues).

    2. Similarly, the Rays' 2010 non-compensatory 1st and 2nd rounders next year will have the same protection as their picks this year, meaning that the team can continue to take high-upside players early. The only thing they can't do is take a Diekroeger-type "tough sign" with their compensatory pick. But that's not a big deal; you take the tough sign with your regular 2010 pick and then take the easier sign with the compensatory pick. That's not a bad way to spread around risk in the 1st two rounds anyway.

    3. I also think the Nationals' selection of Drew Storen at #10 overall with their compensatory pick is a bad analogy; the Nats were not only hamstrung by the fact that they had to sign their compensatory pick, but also by the fact that they knew they were going to spend $15 million on Strasburg at #1. Signability does not always mean low-ceiling. Thus, you're correct to note that the Rays will spend their '10 compensatory picks on guys who will sign, but incorrect when you imply that those types of players are uniformly low-upside scraps like Storen. As a counter-example, the Astros were able to sign Jiovanni Mier, a high-school shortstop, at #21 and below slot this year.

    4. I also think it's misplaced that you seem to be *criticizing* the Rays for spending big on the draft last year. If we assume that Friedman's draft budgets are variable from year to year, it's possible that the FO said, "hey, this 2008 class is really deep, let's spend the money we need to get premium talent, even though we can't afford to spend around $10 million every year on the draft." That would be an unambiguously *good* thing.

    And Lobstein has done awfully well so far. The results on T. Beckham are obviously a lot more mixed, but the kid is just 19 and scouts still love him; it's a *little* early to write him off as a bust, no?

    5. I think you're underrating just how much of a coup it was for the Rays to draft AND SIGN Bailey, Malm, and Glaesmann in the middle rounds knowing that they'd get *no* compensation if they failed to do so.

    But these are quibbles; in general, what you've said is right on. Good stuff.


  3. 1. Draft strength is a big part of it, it's too far off to tell how strong next year's class will be.

    2. You're right in that they can take a high-upside guy early with their regular picks, but my point was because they'll be spending slot money on two comp picks, they may not go over-slot for high-upside guy with the regular picks.

    3. That's absolutely a good point about Strasburg. Only two teams didn't sign their 1st rounder under the new agreement: The Nats and Yankees. I touched on each of them in my post, and while every situation is different, the Rays situation is closer to the Nats(though obviously they're not spending huge on Strasburg).

    4. I didn't mean to come off as criticizing spending last year, and with picking 1/1 they were kind of shoehorned into doling out a big bonus. My point was that I hoped that now the Rays were drafting late, with a lower first-round bonus to give out they could still spend similar money but get a much bigger haul.

    5. It's great that they drafted and signed those guys, but it's my opinion that teams should sign at the very least 9 of their first 10 picks.

  4. this is i think the best thing that could have happened for a couple of reasons. 1 your not dealing with a boras guy any more. 2 you we get 4 picks in the first two rounds next year. We paid a lot of money to some of these high schoolers this year. plus with what ever money we didnt use this year hopefully they set aside for extra money to land those 4 picks which can be good picks. So all this negative about not signing the first two picks isnt bad. Plus he has shoulder surgery that is a flip of the coin with baseball players and how they come back. Any way i am glad they stood up to boras and im glad they took the chance on their second rounder its a good risk to take. Any way thats what i have to say and my opinion on this whole draft. they haev a lot of good talent from previous drafts plus with some good latin player signings as well so the 2 picks are not going to kill this farm system what so ever.

  5. Floro wanted 450000 and we only offered 280000?Thats just stupid how hard would it be to add 170000 after not signing Levon or Diekroger?

  6. Kevin,

    I don't think we disagree much. Had the Rays signed Washington and Diekroeger, this would have been a *great* draft. Their failure to do so bumps it down to merely average, perhaps a tick above.

  7. Since the 2010 class was mentioned above, John Manuel at BA has a Winners and Losers column up. Two of the Losers are LeVon Washington and the Tampa Bay Rays. From his note on Washington is this on the 2010 class:

    "It's the first time the Rays failed to sign their first-round pick. Then a report on a Florida Gators fan website reported that Washington has not qualified academically to go to Florida. If that report proves to be true, Washington will have had truly a rough day. However, he can recover by going to junior college and joining a 2010 draft class that appears to be light on college hitters."

    Here is part of what he said about the Rays:

    "The Rays have a strict budget. This point was hammered home at the trade deadline, when the Rays were essentially inert, and now again at the draft deadline, when the Rays failed to sign their top two draft picks. First-rounder Washington should have gotten done; he's a quintessential Rays pick, a premium athlete and plus runner who also can hit."

    Link to article: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/draft-dish/2009/268716.html

  8. I hadn't seen this before on Diekroeger:

    "His athleticism was evident at the Area Code Games in Long Beach last August, when Diekroeger notched the top score on the SPARQ test of any of the elite prospects."

    Link: http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_13148817

  9. Sounds like we had a shot after all with Derek Dennis:

    "It wasn't for lack of trying by the Tampa Bay Rays, who took Dennis in the 10th round of the June draft. The Rays offered a $700,000 signing bonus, more than $500,000 higher than Major League Baseball's suggested signing bonus for a 10th-round pick.

    Dennis' counter offer of $1 million ultimately ended more than two months of intense negotiations shortly before the deadline.

    He acknowledges that if the Rays had met that offer, he "probably" would have signed."
    "Before making an initial offer, Tampa Bay spent July evaluating Dennis as he played for the Wyoming-based Diamonds Training summer team. Finally in early August, the Rays offered Dennis $515,000 to sign.

    When that was rejected, the Rays quickly bumped the offer up to $700,000, far more than the typical $60,000 to $125,000 money that Major League Baseball suggests for a 10th-round choice."

    Link: http://www.mlive.com/sports/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/08/forest_hills_grad_derek_dennis.html