The Red Sox made a splash with their first selection in the 2016 MLB draft, picking high school lefty Jason Groome, a consensus top-five talent in this year’s prospect pool. The problem is that he expects to be paid like a top-five talent, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. Well, "problem" might be overstating things, but it is important to recognize that, per Passan, there is no deal currently in place with Groome.
Now, it’s unlikely the Red Sox didn't contact Groome at all prior to picking him at 12, considering that 46 percent of their draft budget is tied up in that pick — should they fail to sign him, they would lose that budget allotment for 2016, and do so after structuring a significant portion of their draft around the idea of affording him. They would, however, receive a similarly placed pick in next June’s draft as compensation for failing to sign Groome, so it’s not like they would be out of luck forever. It would just feel that way until this time next year.
What is likely is that there was at least a discussion of what it would take to get him — obviously nothing agreed to or necessarily firm, but a number tossed Boston's way that they were comfortable trying to get to. Drafting shortstop C.J. Chatham in the second round — a future second baseman with doubles power who ranked 101 on Baseball America’s pre-draft top-500 — makes this seem even more realistic. It's not that Chatham is a bad prospect or anything — again, he’s ranked 101 out of the top-500, and roughly 1,200 players will be drafted between Thursday and Saturday — but he very well might be under-slot.
If Chatham does sign under slot, it’s one of Boston’s best chances of scrounging up some cash for Groome. The fifth pick in the draft has a slot value of $4,382,200 this year. At 12, the slot value is $3,192,800. Add in the five percent budget overage that a team can spend without incurring the loss of a future draft pick — that’s $349,870 in Boston's case — and the Sox have $3,542,670 for Groome already. That’s still short nearly $840,000 short of the five part of top-five money -- if Groome is leaning more toward top-four ($5,258,700) or top-three ($6,510,800) then there is almost no way to make this work given Boston's entire bonus pool is just $7,347,270 even after accounting for the allowed overage.
A couple hundred thousand here — say, from Chatham's slot at 51, which is worth $1,232,800 -- and a few college seniors here and there in the first 10 rounds who can be signed for $1,000 or $10,000 or some well, well below-slot figure, and maybe the Sox can get to Groome’s number. He might also be more willing to head to an organization like Boston’s over, say, the Rockies or Padres or Reds, who probably won’t make him rich long-term and don’t exactly scream success. If that shaves off even a little bit of cash or softens his negotiating stance even a little, that’s to the Sox’ benefit.
That’s no guarantee of course, and Groome has leverage on his side given he wouldn’t be turning down signing and then going to school for three years. He’s headed to a junior college and can enter next year’s draft as an 18-year-old with a year of college experience behind him, likely set to make even more money than he will with the Sox this year. Maybe that bet isn’t worth it to him just yet, not when someone dangles $4-plus million in front of him right now. That’s what the Sox are going to have to hope for, as having Groome fall to them is only the start of actually acquiring the southpaw.