Are the Cubs Being Cagey About Signing Bonuses?

In MLB Draft by GW

The Cubs appear to be making steady progress in signing their most recent draft class. Updated information can be found here.* Top pick Kyle Schwarber is in Boise, and no less than 15 others have given strong indication in one form or another that they have agreed to terms. Notably absent, though, is any indication about signing bonuses for most of these picks.

*Bandwidth limits have been exceeded, but updates are still visible in the background. EDIT: It’s fully functional now.

Signing bonus information typically starts flowing in after the draft, and this year has been no exception. Twitter feeds from Jim Callis and Chris Cotillo are filled with data for signees from all over the league; a good overall signing tracker is here. For the Cubs, however, we really only have any indication for Schwarber and Mark Zagunis, which leads me to wonder whether the team is doing everything it can to suppress that information. Players who were expected to require overslot deals (Carson Sands, Justin Steele, Jordan Brink) appear to be in Mesa, but the details of their agreements remain a mystery.

Under the current CBA guidelines, a team’s signing bonus pool is well known to everyone. Slot values are assigned to the first 10 picks, and the team can exceed the combined value of those slots by up to 5%  without losing any future draft picks. Teams have an incentive to save money where they can and use those savings to sign picks from after the 10th round, where the slot value is only $100,000, or on difficult signs in the first 10 rounds.

The end result of all this is that when signing bonus information starts to leak out, players have a very good idea of how much money is available to them. Typically, this doesn’t make much difference, since teams agree on the framework of a deal with players in the top 10 rounds before drafting them, and most of the tough later-round picks are unlikely to sign for any reasonable amount of savings that a team could accrue. There are exceptions. The notable example is Kevin Gausman, who agreed with Orioles two years ago after waiting until the last minute and extracting every available dollar. If a team could suppress all signing bonus information, it would take away significant leverage from draftees still negotiating. The Cubs, for example, have an interest in keeping Dylan Cease from knowing how much money they have available if they intend to make a run at one of their highly-regarded later round picks.

Ultimately, it’s a losing battle, of course. Agent aren’t exactly introverts, and I strongly suspect that some reporters have contacts in the league offices. The Cubs might be able to convince some agents to stay quiet, but if they want to field an Arizona Rookie League team this coming Saturday, they are going to have to fax the newly-signed contracts to the league. The signing deadline for draftees isn’t until July 18th, so players win in the waiting game. Still, it will be interesting to see if the team moves as quickly as possible to sign as many as they can from the class prior to information leaking out this week.

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