The Toronto Blue Jays failed to come to terms with 21st overall draft pick Tyler Beede ahead of last night’s, or to be more accurate this morning’s, midnight deadline for signing 2011 draft picks. Beede was the only first round draft pick not to sign with the club that selected him.

Cue hysterics.

The gulf in dollar figures between the two parties was believed to be $1 million, and while that represents a minuscule amount of total payroll for even the lowliest of teams, it was $1 million more than the Blue Jays were willing to spend on Beede.

I’m not so much of an apologist for Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos as to suggest that a mistake wasn’t made here. Even with a compensatory 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Blue Jays didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity that they were presented with the 21st overall pick in what many believed to be the deepest draft in recent memory.

If they had done it all over again, would they have drafted Blake Swihart or Alex Meyer in Beede’s place? Probably. But the mistake made here was in underestimating what type of bonus the Massachusetts prep arm would settle for, not in the Blue Jays refusal to meet his demand.

As Anthopoulos explained in his early morning teleconference with the press:

I think generally speaking we’re very pleased with the result. We had a lot of a draft picks, we took a lot of [what] draft experts deemed tough signs and were able to come to terms with pretty much all of them. I don’t think we went into it with the expectation that they all sign. Not only that but I think the model that we use going forward is what we’ve done here. When you’re going to be aggressive like this I expect each year to have several players unsigned. But on the whole I think we’re going to come out ahead.

The team had a set value for each drafted player that they wouldn’t exceed. I assume that Beede’s camp made it clear to interested teams that they wouldn’t settle for anything less than something close to the $3.5 million that they held strong to during negotiations. The Blue Jays selected him with the hope that they would be able to negotiate a deal closer to the $2.5 million that was reportedly their final offer. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

While drafting and signing elite level talent offers the possibility of a great bargain, it obviously becomes less great when you hand that possibility a blank cheque. According to the often quoted Hardball Times research by Victor Wang, the average late first round draft pick WAR value in dollar terms ends up bringing back around $5.5 million after accounting for signing bonuses. The Blue Jays measured that risk and believed that $3.5 million wasn’t worth the investment for the potential return. That’s not to suggest that Beede wouldn’t have returned a value higher than the $3.5 million he requested. It’s merely that the Blue Jays believed that $3.5 million would have a higher return invested somewhere else.

For an example of the Blue Jays strategy working well, one need look no further than one of the players that they did sign prior to the midnight deadline. Heading into the draft, it was widely believed that Daniel Norris would seek something in the neighbourhood of $3.9 million for a signing bonus. The Blue Jays had a value in mind for the high school left hander and were able to negotiate to a figure within that value range, ultimately signing him with a $2 million bonus.

The same was also done with Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith Jr., Kevin Comer, Christian Lopes and Matt Dean, a third baseman considered by Baseball America to be among the best high school position players in the draft.

In fact, the only other top pick not to sign was another high school pitcher from the Northeast, Andrew Chin. As we learned shortly after the Blue Jays selected Chin, he had just had Tommy John surgery a couple months before the draft. I’m still unclear if this was a horrible mistake by the Jays scouting department (unlikely, right?) or if it was a case of trying to cash in on a guy at his lowest value.

No matter what, it’s a testament to the team’s scouting staff and management’s negotiation skills that the Blue Jays, despite not coming to an agreement with their first selection, still appear to have had a very successful draft. And now it’s time to use the conclusion that only the very best of articles use: Only time will tell, though. Unfortunately, this cliched phrase is almost always the most accurate way to end any discussion related to draft picks in baseball.

Comments (22)

  1. I think you’re spot on with the analysis. In the overall, this is obviously a very successful draft, and the Jays grabbed a bunch of high-end talent.

    While not signing Beede doesn’t greatly change that, it’s of course bothersome that the $2.4M they offered him could have signed a different high-end talent like Swihart, Meyer, etc.

  2. Knowing that you’re at worst getting the pick back next year is a solid rationale for holding firm on your price. When the Jays lost out on Paxton, they picked up Syndergaard the next year for less money which worked out quite well.

  3. Who cares anyways? We should use that extra money to sign a PROVEN closer and a DH.

  4. ‘Proven’ like BJ Ryan and K-Rod? Great plan, John.

  5. So the big question of course is: How much did Eliopolous sign for?

  6. Perhaps if they don’t sign lefty they up their deal to VD. It’s not exactly overstating it to say that some stratification in stockpiled talent is good … so the 22nd pick next year provides a bit of added value considering the number of pitchers they signed.

    Let’s not forget that there was likely a budget here too… no point in unleashing a kid in a candy store with $1,000 as he can’t carry all that candy home.

  7. Ya, good luck finding a PROVEN closer for $2.4 million, bud. You know who cost around $2.4? Kevin Gregg. Enough said.

    The Jays could have easily taken Norris in the 1st round and Beede in the second. The only things that would have changed are: a) the optics for fans, and b) getting a later compensation pick.
    So really, this strategy worked out better for the team overall (assuming they would have drafted Beede no matter what).

  8. AA better hope that pick #22 Kolten Wong doesn’t turn into the second coming of Troy Tulowitzky or he’ll never hear the end of it…

  9. “PROVEN closer”….uh…seriously?

  10. Paxton looks like the next lefty beast fwiw….

  11. Pretty sure if Kolten Wong had anywhere near the ceiling of troy tulowitzski he wouldnt’ve fallen to the #22 pick…

  12. While I am not one of those who has lost their shit over the failure to sign Beede, it is nevertheless a bit of a disappointment – particularly since it was largely assumed from the reports of a pre-draft agreement that getting him signed was a foregone conclusion. It does splash cold water on what has otherwise been IMO a fantastic year for the development of the team.

    I find it hard to believe that an 18-year old kid could walk away from $2.5M, but I also find it almost equally hard to believe that the team couldn’t somehow bridge that gap by exceeding their own pre-negotiation budget for the player, especially since this might very well be the last draft class not subject to a hard-slot and thus no real precedent would be set by doing so..

    Anyway, I guess the bright side is that this loss is mitigated by the fact that the Jays will get an extra first round pick next year. While it might not be as deep a draft as this year’s class, in the long run we might be as good or better off with whatever player we draft with that pick next year.

  13. It was very frustrating reading on more mainstream links about this story (CBC, The Star etc.) about Beede was greedy and should have taken the money. Now I was drooling about signing him but both sides had their ideas of what fair market was and they couldn’t agree on it.

    @olerude I was thinking the exact same thing, if they were reveresed then we don’t know if we could luck out with some as high of a ceiling as Beede with a second round pick next year.

  14. If you look at the others drafted before and after Beede they got much less than 2.5mil. Do you think that since the jays always talked about spending through the draft Beede thought he could take advantage of it??

  15. I guess my problem with all of this is going to require a bit of a ramble.

    Without worrying about ‘the details’ the Jays are a .500 team. By this I mean a team that will win between 70 and 90 games a year and finish out of Wild Card. Again.

    The Jays are a .500 team at home and a .500 team on the road. They were a .500 team under Riccardi and are a .500 team under AA. They were a .500 team earlier this year with Rivera and Patterson and they are a .500 team with Rasmus and Lawrie. They were a .500 team before Bautista was a star, a .500 team after Bautista became one of the best players in baseball, a .500 team when Hill and Lind were on fire, and a .500 team with Doc. As fans we have, myself included, drunk the AA koolaid but the reality is that this is a team that is .500 over its last 10 games.

    Worrying about Beede not signing isn’t the issue; the issue is how this team is going to get good enough to be a legitimate playoff contender in the AL East on a sustained basis. One could argue that the path to success does not become shorter when the team fails to sign its number one pick.

    I suspect that signing Yu Darvish might be a good start to making us feel a bit more excited about 2012. Prince Fielder might help as well.

  16. @KK That is very short sighted and not looking at what each era was about. JP’s threw money at”proven stars” at it only got him as you say .500 but AA is rebuilding and is at .500 so id say we are in a much better position now

  17. Yah. I’m thinking I’d rather them trade for Hanley and Kind Felix than sign the Japanese phenom (how many of them have worked out) and a wildly expensive DH. Having a great farm system is another way to get premium big league talent.

  18. none of you know anything about this kid, and now everyone is talking like we just lost roy halladay. get a fucking grip and enjoy the 9 players we did sign. if he turns into roger clemons, you can moan against AA for decades. in the meantime, lets all cheer for him to blow his arm out at vandy next year, the greedy prick

  19. Signed 35 players this year and 35 players in 2010. Quality, though as yet unknown, said to be much better in this year’s draft, so I’m not sweating the lack of a Beede signing. I really like the process being used in the overall. Telling prospective signees not to bother issuing their demands because you’re going to come up with your own value independent of all the hype and posturing (as per AA on Prime Time Sports tonight) is the only way to go in my mind. Will they miss out on some picks in some years with this philosophy? You bet. But as long as they stick to this “balls out, best player available, punch the other teams’ representatives in the face on their way to the podium to announce their selection” strategy, in the long run, I think they’ll come out ahead…and that’s all that matters. Don’t sweat the small battles and skirmishes. The only result that matters is winning the war.

  20. Gotta gree with Tom here. I heard the AA interview and he makes a good point. If you just listen to their demands, then a player can slip to the Yankees or Red Sox and suddenly sign for half of what he said because that’s who he wanted to play for. It’s a way of playing the game as if you’re a free agent and good on the Jays for not playing that game.

    You have to be able to draw a line. If not you just are saying, hey we have a bottomless amount of money. Come rob us.

  21. Jeff, the guy turned down a guaranteed $2.5 million (minimum) in favour of a scholarship that is, at best, worth $150,000. Call him all the names you want (short-sighted would be my preference, since MLB practically matches baseball scholarships for prospects anyway), but he’s not greedy. He’s lost more guaranteed money by not signing with the Jays than if he’d just taken their offer.

  22. How could you turn down 2.5 million to play baseball? I don’t know who this kid is but hell i know I would do that in a heartbeat

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