When the Red Sox drafted Jason Groome at number 12, they knew they would have some work to do. When one of if not the best talent in the draft falls that far, they're going to want quite a bit more than slot money. In later rounds, 10 picks' difference doesn't make all that much difference in terms of signing bonus. But the difference between pick 12 and pick, say, 4? More than $2 million.
If the Red Sox could simply throw around their allotted bonus pool as they pleased, they could even manage the $6.5 million allotted to the third pick. But that's not how the draft works. Each pick has a certain value assigned to it, and the drafting team only gets access to that value if they actually sign the player drafted in that slot. So if the Red Sox want to spend a full $7 million on the first ten rounds, they have to sign all 10 of the players they drafted in them.
The way, then to free up money to sign a player like Groome at well over his slot value is to draft players likely to sign for under their allotted slot value. Every dollar saved on those picks can go to Groome. And the Red Sox certainly did a lot of that in rounds two through ten. Their second round pick, CJ Chatham, is ranked more like an early third-round pick. Their third-rounder, Shaun Anderson, as a fourth-to-fifth rounder. And all four of the players picked from rounds seven-to-ten fall outside of the top-300.
Where does this leave them with Groome? In pretty good position, frankly. With Groome's pick alone, they have access to $3.35 million thanks to the 5% overage they're allowed. Even a fairly conservative guess of $1 million for Chatham adds $295,000 more. Their seventh-round pick in Ryan Scott is a college senior, likely leaving him in line for the $10k special and putting $205,000 more in Boston's Groome fund. Even if the Red Sox were forced to pay slot value to all the rest of their top-10 picks, that would leave them at nearly $4 million for Groome based on the 5% overage alone. That's already top-5 money, which is the clearest figure we've heard on what it might take to sign him.
That's pretty much a worst-case scenario outlook, too, where only two of Boston's picks come in under slot, and Chatham by relatively little. The reality likely leaves them with something much closer to $4.5 or even $5 million to offer Groome--or $1.2 to $1.7 million over the value afforded by that 12th pick alone.
That should be enough. The difference between, say, $4 million and the $9 million allotted for the first pick is significant, but $4 million is already life-changing money, and Groome has to realize this isn't as simple as waiting a year to earn $5 million extra. Even if he's only got a year to wait having switch his commitment from Vanderbilt to a Junior College, that's one year for things to go wrong, either based on performance or injury, and even if they don't, Groome is still a guy who fell to the 12th pick despite having top-3 talent. It's not clear that anything he does on the mound in the year to come will change where he lands in 2017.
Still, even if Groome does decide to demand an impossible figure (one he'd know the Red Sox can't possibly meet under current draft rules), the Red Sox have not put themselves in position to have their whole draft blown out by one player refusing to sign. Yes, if Groome does leave them high-and-dry, the Red Sox will have sacrificed quite a bit of value from rounds 2-through-10. But they'll also have:
1) The 13th overall pick in 2017 as compensation for Groome failing to sign
2) All that excess draft money to throw around elsewhere.
Where does that go? To the half-dozen players with signability issues they picked after the 10th round. Any money the Red Sox have left in their bonus pool for the first 10 rounds from signing players under-slot can be used to offer bonuses over $100,000 to late-round draftees.
Starting as early as the eleventh, the Sox started establishing their backup plan, drafting Nick Quintana, a top-150 talent with a seemingly strong commitment to Arizona...albeit one that was established with a tweet that has since been deleted. From rounds 29-to-33, the Red Sox picked four players who might have gone in the first five rounds had they not had signability concerns.
When you think about it, the reason why a player has signability issues in the first place suggests that failing to sign Groome and instead landing a few of these guys is...less than ideal. Why would a player be considered difficult to sign? Because their demands are higher than they should be based on where they should be picked based on talent. Simple as that. They will almost certainly be overpaid at least based on pre-draft evaluations.
But Plan B is never as good as Plan A or, well, it would be Plan A in the first place. In this case, it does what it has to do: allows them to go for the gold in Groome without putting all of their eggs in one basket. 2016 is not Groome or bust. It might feel that way simply because of how unlikely the Red Sox were to have a chance at him in the first place, but even if you remove the big name up top, you're still looking at a productive draft class, albeit one perhaps focused slightly on quantity over quality, and trades its first-round pick for a 2017 selection. To put it in draft terms: high upside, but with a reasonable floor.