Brian Johnson, a starting pitcher out of Florida selected with the #31 pick in the 2012 draft, is expected to sign with the Red Sox by this weekend, now that he is no longer playing in the College World Series. It was believed Johnson would sign under slot, but, it's being reported that the left-handed hurler is set to sign for the $1.575 million suggested by the slot system instead.
A few weeks ago, this would have been cause for panic, in terms of how Boston's draft was going to be pan out -- Johnson was meant to sign under slot so that the Red Sox could offer more money to high school picks who could head to college, picks like Ty Buttrey and Jamie Callahan, but the savings from their college seniors were so great that there's essentially no need to do so at this stage. Especially since Pat Light, selected after Johnson at #37, signed for nearly $400,000 under his slot recommendation.
This is how Boston's draft signings in the first 10 rounds currently stack up, assuming Johnson signs for slot:
Johnson would be the lone player to sign at slot, unless his teammate at Florida, Maddox, also does. J.T. Watkins is signed, but his bonus is unknown -- given he's the son of an area scout, who is set to begin his military status in the fall, it's safe to say that his bonus will be in line with other college seniors Boston selected, in that it will be well under slot and a benefit to their goal.
That does leave the Red Sox over budget, even if Watkins signs for the same as Kyle Krauss (leaving the Red Sox $207,700 over). However, penalties don't occur until a team has overspent their budget by five percent or more. In Boston's case, with a total of $6,884,800 allotted, that gives them $344,240 of wiggle room until they are taxed 75 percent on their overage; that $344K and change is a figure they wouldn't have exceeded yet even if Watkins signed for the full $125,000. As we've discussed, he won't be signing for anywhere near that, even if it does end up being over the $1,000 minimum that seems to have been set in this draft.
This means the Red Sox are free to sign both Johnson and Maddox at slot without any repercussions, and it's unlikely they would have committed to Johnson for slot unless the negotiations with Maddox were going in such a way that slot or under would get it done. That's because, should Boston fail to sign a player from the first 10 rounds, money is actually subtracted from their budget, meaning the Red Sox would end up in the penalty, and likely suffer the loss of a first-round selection in the 2013 draft. (This, by the way, is why someone like Ty Buttrey was picked later, rather than earlier -- if Boston had failed to sign him, the hit to the budget would have been minimal.) It's very unlikely that a team with as thought-out a draft process as the Sox in 2012 would set themselves up for that situation, especially given they've tried to squeeze every dollar and prospect they can out of this limited budget.
If both Johnson and Maddox sign for slot, and Watkins makes just the $1,000, that leaves Boston with $136,540 to spend on their round-15 selection, Carson Fullmer. Fullmer, ranked #123 in Baseball America's top 500 draft prospects, projects as a high-leverage reliever, and while the high schooler could certainly go to college, Baseball America reports that scouts felt he was leaning towards pro ball.
There's no penalty for the Red Sox if this pick outside of the top 10 fails to sign, but it might very well be that $100,000 will sway him. Why does Boston need to worry about how much he costs, given he's not within the bounds of the draft budget as a 15th-round selection? Because, in order to sign him, it will likely cost at least $100,000, and once a pick past round 10 signs for $100,000 or more, it counts against the allotment pool.
If Boston can get Maddox under slot, then there's even more money to work with in order to entice Fullmer to sign. But, as said above, they might not even need to do that, just as they didn't necessarily need to with Johson, in order to make things work with the budget.
[Update 10:16 am] Alex Speir reports that a deal with Austin Maddox is indeed close, and that it is expected to be under slot, giving the Red Sox more flexibility in their negotiations with picks after the 10th round. However, he also mentions that it's expected that Carson Fullmer would require a bonus with seven figures in it, meaning the Red Sox are unlikely to pull him away from his commitment to Vanderbilt, since this would cost them future draft selections as a penalty for going over budget. That being said, if seven figures is what it would take, there was little chance he was ever going to sign with the Red Sox (or anyone who selected him late) at this stage of his career. This keeps him out of anyone else's hands for now, though, and the future brings the possibility of a redraft.