Pirates Can't Sign 1st-Round Draft Pick

Tallahassee, FL, USA; Stanford Cardinal pitcher Mark Appel (26) prepares to pitch the ball in the third inning of game one of the Tallahassee super regional against the Florida State Seminoles at Dick Howser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Entering this year's Rule 4 (amateur) player draft, Stanford right-hander Mark Appel was perhaps the top talent available, and many observers expected the Houston Astros, drafting first, to grab Appel.

They didn't, and it wasn't just them. Appel ultimately slid all the way to the eighth slot in the draft, where the Pittsburgh Pirates finally selected him. He'd lasted that long not because anyone questioned his talent, but because some questioned his signability. For good reason, it seems.

The Pirates had something like $3.5 million available for Appel's signing bonus, so we may assume they offered him something like $3.5 million. Which is more than usual for the eighth pick in the draft, but less than usual for the first pick in the draft. And Appel might easily have been the first pick in the draft.

The good news for the Pirates is that they'll have a compensatory draft pick -- the ninth in the first round -- next June. The bad news is that the draft next year isn't supposed to be as deep as this year's, and they're little chance of choosing someone with Appel's talent.

Meanwhile, Appel will presumably go back into that same draft next June, with a bit less leverage than he had this time. But his agent is Scott Boras, so things will probably work out well enough. Financially, at least.

Update: According to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, the club offered Appel as much money as they could, without triggering the loss of their first-round pick next year. These new draft rules are tricky!

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