Pirates Have The Leverage In Mark Appel Negotiations

May 15, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sports agent Scott Boras attends the MLB game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Dejan Kovacevic talks to Scott Boras, who, naturally, isn't about to reveal anything that directly pertains to Mark Appel negotiations. Boras doesn't like the new draft rules, which, again, isn't surprising, given that they appear to make him almost obsolete.

With that, though, my take on what these draft rules mean is a little different from Dejan's.

No team spent more over the previous four drafts than the Pirates’ $48 million, including record bonuses for Pedro Alvarez ($6.35 million), Jameson Taillon ($6.5 million) and Gerrit Cole ($8 million). Alvarez and Cole are Boras clients.

"All three of those players are a big part of what the Pirates are doing," Boras said. "That’s how you build a team, investing like that."

The new draft rules have very little bearing on the Pirates' ability to sign picks like Alvarez, Taillon and Cole. I'm no fan of the new rules, but where they really hit the Pirates hard is in their ability to sign big-bonus players in later rounds, players like Josh Bell, Stetson Allie, Robbie Grossman, and Zack Von Rosenberg. They would not have prevented the Pirates from signing Alvarez, Taillon or Cole, who were all first or second overall picks. The first overall pick this year had a pool value of $7.2 million; the second overall pick had a value of $6.2 million. Had those numbers been in place in 2008, 2010 or 2011, Alvarez, Taillon and Cole almost certainly still would have signed, probably for figures very close to the bonuses they ended up getting in real life. So I'm not sure what Boras is getting at.

Also, Kovacevic on Appel:

It looks like the Pirates’ backs are to the wall.

They have a chance to sign the best pitcher in the draft three years in a row and build from what would be the richest core of pitching prospects in baseball. That’s tough to pass up.

At the same time, they’ve already signed eight of the other 10 picks in the top 10 rounds at a cost of $2.58 million, leaving about $4 million to offer to Appel if no other top-10 pick signs. That’s far less than Appel was expecting to get if the Astros had taken him.

Who cares what Appel was expecting to get? The Pirates' backs aren't "to the wall" here in the least. If they don't sign Appel, they get a similar pick next year, and they get several hundred thousand dollars extra to spend this year on a late-round player or two. Depending on how next year's draft class shapes up, it's not even yet clear that the Pirates would be losing out on talent by failing to sign Appel. I hope they do sign him, but the one nice thing about the current rules is that there's no reason whatsoever for the Bucs to feel cornered. The fact that the Pirates have already spent a bunch of their draft pool money on other players doesn't put the Pirates in a corner. It puts Appel there.

Kovacevic also notes that Appel is in a tough position. I just think Appel is the only one who is. What's really tough about it is that

1) It's really hard to get picked in the top 10 of a draft, and under the current rules, Appel will need to do that again in order to get paid, and

2) He'll be reentering the draft as a college senior, which will mean the team that drafts him next year will have even less incentive to break the bank for him than the Pirates currently do.

In other words, Appel has very little leverage. The Pirates have tons. If Appel wants to sign, great. If not, that's also fine. Too bad, Boras.

The funny thing about this is that if the Pirates don't sign Appel, they're going to take a giant, and wholly undeserved, beating in the press from people who don't really understand what's going on here. If the Bucs don't sign Appel, it will not be a big deal. At all. Yes, Appel might turn out to be a star, which would lead to all kinds of second-guessing, but whoever the Pirates take at No. 9 next year will have a shot at stardom, too.

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