The draft budget instituted by the latest collective bargaining agreement means that signing draft picks isn't as simple as, well, signing draft picks. Nowadays, a team has to deal with budget constraints and the fear of penalties for overspending, and that means negotiations are a more important thing than just whether or not a player signs: what matters as well is what they sign for, and if it's going to be a detriment or boon to other draft pick signings.
In 2012, the first season a draft budget was instituted, the Red Sox managed to "create" extra budget space by signing a slew of college seniors for less than the total budget allotted to their draft slots. This allowed them to give fourth-round pick Ty Buttrey roughly $1 million more than the recommended price for his draft slot, and in effect greatly improved the takeaway from their draft.
They seem to be using a similar strategy this year, as three of their first 10 picks -- the first 10 rounds are the ones covered by the draft budget, with one exception we'll get to -- have signed for just $10,000 each, netting the Sox $412,100 of surplus budget from rounds eight, nine, and 10. They also signed second-round pick, pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz, for $1.1 million, throwing another $129,600 on top of that pile.
This allowed them to give third-round selection Jon Denney more money than recommended, with the backstop receiving an $875,000 bonus instead of the recommended $671,200. They were also able to ink round-19 pick Gabe Speier for $200,000 -- budget space matters again here, as any bonus money over $100,000 for a pick from rounds 11 through 40 counts against the draft budget of the first 10 rounds, meaning $100,000 of Speier's $200,000 bonus is counted against the budget. This is to keep teams from simply saving all of their high-ceiling signability issue picks for the latter rounds, then pulling up dump trucks full of money in front of their homes to convince them to sign.
After signing Speier and Denney to over-slot deals, Boston remains $237,900 under budget. They are expected to sign first-round pick Trey Ball to an under slot bonus, which should give them even more room to work with, and, since penalties for overspending don't start until a team crosses the five percent threshold, the Red Sox have nearly $342,000 in space above and beyond the budget to work with. Without even counting Ball, that's nearly $580,000 in "extra" that Boston still has to use as of this moment.
What is there to do with this money? Like with Speier, the Sox can use it to try to lure a pick from the later rounds to Boston, rather than to college, by paying them the kind of money that would have been available to them much earlier in the draft. Jordan Sheffield, who has undergone Tommy John surgery but is a highly touted pitching prospect that Baseball America ranked #88 in their pre-draft top-500, could be one such player. It would likely take a deal resembling Denney's to get him to drop his commitment to Vanderbilt, but if the Red Sox can save a few hundred thousand more for their budget on Ball's deal, and don't have to go over-slot for any of the remaining four picks in their first 10, than they should have that kind of budget space leftover.
If not Sheffield, it could be spread out among any of the many others they drafted who are committed to college. While they aren't as well thought of as Sheffield in the prospect community, there is something to be said about loading up on top-500 draft prospects from a quantity standpoint, especially since there might be a few big-league players in their ranks.
It's tough to say just where the Red Sox will go with the rest of their draft signings until we see if Ball goes under slot, and if so, by how much. The chances are good that Boston will have room to do something else exciting for the organization's future outside of the top-10, though, and it's thanks to the way they structured their draft once again.
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