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System Sundays: Draft Signings So Far

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Updating who has and has not signed from among the Cardinals’ 2019 draft class.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images

Good morning, all. Hope you’re still high and dry after our most recent round of storms. There’s a soccer field right next to I-55, just off Meramec Bottom, that I use as essentially a rain gauge. Every day on my way to work I drive by that field, and I look to see how much of the nets I can see. If those are completely underwater, I use the little pavilion in the back. And if that’s all the way underwater, then a) I know we’re in a bit of trouble, and b) I use the big chainlink backstops. How much of those I can see tells me how worried I should be about the flood, basically.

Well, the good news was that as of a couple days ago the pavilion was becoming visible again, meaning the water was down probably three or four feet from its height. The bad news? Well, if you’re in this relatively large geographic region, chances are you saw how much water got dumped on us again yesterday. And that could be a real problem. My house is plenty dry; I live up on a limestone hill, and if the water ever actually gets close to my front door we’re well past any state of emergency and into ark-building territory. However, I do have to cross the Meramec to get to work, and the Mississippi is less than six miles from my road, so I do occasionally have to worry about being stuck up here on this hill. I hope wherever you are is dry. Or dry enough, anyway. But not too dry.

Anyway, I’ll try to keep this brief, but I wanted to offer some updates on who among the Cardinals’ draft class has signed, who has not, and what some of the financial/bonus machinations are looking like.

  • First off, a reminder the signing deadline for draftees this year is July 12th at 5 p.m. Easter, four Central. I believe this is the earliest I can recall the deadline ever being; after years of draft-and-follows and negotiations that bumped up against the next year’s draft, MLB has taken steps to significantly shorten the time teams and draftees can drag the process out. We now get about five weeks’ worth of drama, and that’s it. I miss the old way, if I’m being honest, though there are obviously reasons to want some clarity much faster than pre-2008 draft rules allowed.
  • As of this morning, the Cardinals have officially come to terms with 30 of their 40 selections. They have signed every player drafted in the first ten rounds, so there will be no issues with bonus money being lost due to negotiation breakdown or simple miscalculation.
  • Of the ten unsigned players, I think about five of them look unsignable. From round 37 through 40, the Cards took three high school kids and one first-year juco player, and I can’t see how any of them are gettable at a price that fits into the club’s bonus budget. As best I can figure, the Cardinals had a draft budget of $6.9 million, and the players they have signed so far put them at $7.185 million. Now, remember, teams can go up to 5% over their draft bonus number without incurring any penalties beyond paying a tax on the overage, which the club has never been shy about paying. Anything over that and you start seeing first-round picks bumped down ten spots or even lost entirely, penalties which no club has really been willing to incur to this point. That 5% overage number would dicate the Cards could spend $7.245 million, so they appear to have about 60 grand left to try and entice any players they are still fighting to sign. (Remember, though: all players drafted after round 10 can be signed for up to 100K without any hit to the bonus pool. So in reality they have up to $160,000 they can offer to a particular player if it will get him into the system.)
  • Chris Newell, the most highly thought of player from that late-round group, has already put it out on social media channels and the like he will be attending the University of Virginia. He has one of the more dynamic high school bats in the whole draft, but was always a doubtful sign due to a hard commitment to UVa.
  • I have heard from two people in the industry (but without close knowledge of the situation), that the Cards seem to have one more signing up their sleeve. Who that might be I don’t exactly know, but there are a couple of players who look like realistic possibilities, including Zarion Sharpe, the club’s nineteenth-round pick. Sharpe is a left-handed pitcher out of UNC-Wilmington, and I’m a little surprised he hasn’t signed already. He happens to be one of my favourite picks the club made in the later rounds, so hopefully the two sides can come to some sort of deal.
  • Jack Owen, another lefty selected in the 21st round, is unsigned. Auburn was playing in the College World Series up until just a couple days ago, though, so it makes sense he hasn’t been able to negotiate yet. Given the club’s limited bonus pool and Owen’s sophomore status, though, I expect he goes back to school.
  • Connor Lunn, right-handed curveball specialist out of USC, is the highest selection the Cards haven’t yet signed. (11th round) Not sure what the holdup is, but I’m pretty light on Lunn anyway, and will not lose any sleep if he ends up going back for his senior season.
  • The Cards managed to get their first round pick, Zack Thompson, for a little over $300K under slot. I assume the discount was because his medicals are shaky, taking away a bit of leverage Thompson otherwise would have had. Slot bonus for pick 19 this year was $3.36 million; Thompson came in at $3 million even. I don’t like to celebrate a player getting less money pretty much ever, but in this case with the way the bonus system works it’s a definite positive for the club. Because...
  • The Cards signed Trejyn Fletcher, their second-round pick and one of the more exciting athletes in the entire draft, to a $1.5 million bonus. Fletcher was seen as a tough sign going in, largely because he was committed to Vanderbilt, which is always a tough one to get a kid to come off of. In this case, that $1.5 number was 300K above slot for the 58th overall pick, meaning in terms of money at least Thompson and Fletcher came as sort of a package deal. Which is interesting.
  • The Cards paid basically slot value for every player through round nine, with a tiny savings on Pedro Pages in the sixth. However, in round ten, they brought in Jake Sommers, a college senior who served as closer for Milwaukee-Wisconsin, for just $10K. Slot for that pick was $143,600, so this was clearly a case of the club going for a hard cut on a guy who, I’m sure, agreed to the deal before the pick was made.
  • The club signed Patrick Romeri, an intriguing athlete and outfielder out of IMG Academy, for 200K in the twelfth round, and Tyler Statler, a big hard-throwing righty out of an Illinois high school, for 300K in the fourteenth. Those are both really good additions to the system, and a good job of calculated gambling by Randy Flores’s scouting department.
  • The Cards also signed Thomas Hart, a right-hander with great pure arm speed out of a Texas high school, and Zade Richardson, a catcher with some real promise on both sides of the ball out of Wabash Valley J.C. in Illinois, for $200,000 apiece. Again, great calculated gamble; I didn’t think the club would be able to get quite so many of these higher-upside bets signed within the bounds of a relatively modest bonus pool.
  • Of the players left unsigned, I expect Tommy Jew to sign as he is a college senior, and may just be drawing out the negotiations to get the best bonus he can without much leverage on his side. Alex MacFarlane has a solid commitment to Miami, so I expect him to go to school. Of the trio of Connor Lunn, Zarion Sharpe, and Jack Owen, I think the Cards should be able to sign two of the three if Owen goes back to school. Sharpe is the guy I value most of that group, even if I think he may very well be a reliever long term. Beyond that group of three, though, I don’t think there’s going to be many more surprises. The club will probably end up signing 32 or 33 of their 40 picks, which is a fine number, given they took a fairly large number of long shots to sign later on in the draft. I like this draft more today than I did immediately after, though it’s still not my favourite group overall. In general, though, Flores and the front office took several calculated risks on tough signs, I think, that have the potential to pay off down the road, and have managed to get maybe slightly more of those players signed than I was expecting.