Let’s say the Pirates would have just signed outfielder Barrett Barnes, their supplemental pick, for his $1.13 million and left the rest of the class alone. In other words, pay for just the two big-ticket items.
Would Appel still have considered signing for, says, $5.5 million or so?
The impression I got from Boras is that he would have at least strongly considered it.
There are so many reasons why this would be stupid that it's difficult to count them all. Let's take a look at what a draft like this would look like.
1. Draft Mark Appel.
2. Draft Barrett Barnes, and pay him.
3. Draft nine college seniors with your other nine picks, losing out on tons of talent in the process. Remember, you can't draft good players in these rounds as a backup plan, because if they don't sign, you don't get to use their pool money.
4. Pay all nine players bare-minimum, token-type bonuses. Pray that none of the nine get angry and refuse to sign, because if that happens, you lose the entire amount of their pool value, which you can no longer use to pay Appel.
5. Then gamble that Scott Boras won't do who-knows-what and still not let you sign Appel, in which case your entire draft boils down to Barnes and whatever other late-round talents you can convince to sign.
6. Also gamble that Boras won't play his typical game of having his client wait until the last possible second to sign, or not, thus preventing you from signing late-round players like Walker Buehler or Max Moroff.
Basically, Scott Boras is suggesting that, if the Pirates wanted to sign Appel, they should have put pretty much their entire draft in his hands, and essentially not signed anyone of value except Appel and perhaps Barnes. Or maybe just Barnes. That's beyond idiotic. It must be very frustrating for Scott Boras that major league teams tend not to be run by idiots anymore.
Boras (and Dejan Kovacevic) suggest that this is the strategy the Nationals pursued with Lucas Giolito, who ended up signing. Kovacevic contrasts the Nationals' strategy with that of the Pirates', which he calls "business as usual." This is, for the most part, wrong, since the two teams' strategies were broadly similar.
The Nats paid $500,000 to their second-rounder, saving just $130,000, and signed their third-rounder for his entire pool value. They saved $212,000 on their fourth-rounder and saved smaller amounts on later picks.
The end result is pretty similar to what the Pirates did -- the Bucs signed their seventh-, ninth-, and 10th-round picks for practically nothing, saving almost $400,000 against the pool. They also saved $136,000 on Barnes and $88,000 on sixth-rounder Eric Wood.
In the end, the Nationals signed Giolito for a bonus of $2.925 million, $800,000 more than his pool amount of $2.125 million. The Pirates, by all accounts, offered Mark Appel $3.8 million, $900,000 more than his pool amount of $2.9 million. In other words, the Pirates did exactly what the Nationals did with Giolito. In fact, they did more.
Boras' example makes no sense whatsoever. As far as I can tell, the next team who does what he's suggesting will be the first. And when it happens, it'll either be an extremely stupid team, or a much better talent than Mark Appel.
UPDATE: Kovacevic on the difference between the Pirates' and Nationals' situations:
And the reason it is not at all similar to what the Pirates did is that Washington worked to the level by working with Boras on a known figure that would Giolito signed. There was no such work done between the Pirates and Boras regarding Appel. Yes, Giolito’s bonus is lower, but so was the Nats’ pool at the outset.
What? As far as I know, Boras doesn't represent Giolito. CAA does. So I have no idea why Boras would be working with the Nationals on Giolito's bonus. Nor can I find any reporting anywhere that connects Boras to Giolito. Can anyone imagine Boras -- not CAA, Boras -- working with a team on a prearranged figure that isn't utterly insane? If I'm mistaken, let me know.