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Padres Spend $11 Million on Draft Picks

In the moments leading up to Monday’s 9:01 p.m. PT deadline, the Padres signed three of their “big four” unsigned picks from the June draft. They inked right-handers Joe Ross (25th overall, $2.75 million) and Michael Kelly (48th, $718,000), and catcher Austin Hedges (82nd, $3 million), all of whom had strong college commitments (Ross and Hedges to UCLA, Kelly to Florida).

The only one that got away was catcher Brett Austin (54th), who chose to attend North Carolina State instead. The Padres will receive the 55th pick overall in the 2012 draft as compensation for their failure to sign Austin.

The Padres signed 22 of their top 23 picks, and 35 of 53 total, spending “a little over $11 million” in the process. I can’t find exact slot bonus recommendations, but Baseball America has the 14th pick at $1.6 million and the 67th pick at $545,000.

By my estimation, the Padres went about double the slot recommendation for Ross and more than five times the recommendation for Hedges. They also signed their 14th-round pick, right-hander Burch Smith, for $250,000. Obviously, the organization (and the industry) is cheap when it comes to doling out contracts to amateur talent.

* * *

The draft signing process sucks. People who follow this stuff (at least the ones I encountered on Twitter) were freaking out when nothing had been announced even 30 minutes before the deadline. By that time, if memory serves, 22 first-round picks remained unsigned.

This isn’t a Padres problem, it’s a baseball problem. Or maybe not. Maybe we are better off not worrying about who did or didn’t sign until after the fact. It’s hard to sell that concept to information junkies, but it’s the approach I take.

A few people asked me if I was concerned about whether the Padres would sign their picks. Not really; I’m not the guy negotiating the deal or signing the checks. Nobody is paying me to worry about these things. I’m just some guy drinking beer, watching people freak out on Twitter. Isn’t that entertainment enough?

I’ll tell you what does concern me: I hope the Padres evaluation of talent is better this year than it has been in some years past. And I hope that the player development folks can turn these talented kids into useful big leaguers who provide at least some return on investment.

A team with a $45 million payroll can’t afford to blow a quarter of that amount on draft picks that fail. The commitment to spend is fantastic, but without subsequent development, it means nothing beyond a bunch of money wasted.

Also not my problem. Beer. Twitter. I’m good…

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14 Responses »

  1. I don’t know, Geoff. I would have had a real difficult time trusting ownership in any way had they not signed a few of these guys. But that’s me.

    Also… Beer and Twitter is good.

  2. @Mike@AJM:

    I would have had a real difficult time trusting ownership in any way had they not signed a few of these guys. But that’s me.

    Me, too. I just found all the “oh noes, nothing is happening!” talk to be a bit silly. If the signings hadn’t gotten done, we’d be having a different conversation right now, but I don’t have the energy to get worked up about rumors and speculation. Give me the facts, then let me decide what to make of them.

  3. They said what they were going to do and they did it. I am going to call that a good thing. The respectability moves they made this year by signing Hawp, Cantu… did not really matter much. On the other hand: The draft, The Rizzo trade, The Maybe trade, The Adams trade, will set a direction for the franchise. Hopefully that direction includes October baseball in Petco.

  4. “It’s a great statement by ownership” says Hoyer. I’ll second that.

    Major League roster player payrolls are publicized and compared relative to on-field success. What about spending on draft picks? Come to think of it, what about minor league player payrolls? What about coaches, assistants, advisers, scouts and the like? On what other areas can the Padres focus their resources to get the most bang for their buck (and hopefully more bang than the 29 other organizations)?

  5. Good point on the freaking out before the deadline. Many people complain about the broken system, but it seems to me to mostly just be broken for the reporters and people that want to know about the deals ahead of time. Most of the draft picks signed (all but two of the first round including compensation picks); the ones who didn’t sign wanted to go to school. Bonuses were kept down – compare the bonuses to the $10 million each Matt White and Travis Lee got as amateur free agents 15 years ago. Signed players lost a month, maybe two, of development time at a time when pitchers’ innings are being limited anyway.

    The Padres in the past have actually done a decent job identifying high risk, high reward players in the draft, they just haven’t signed the right ones. Grant Green, Christian Colon, and Jason Kipnis were all Padre draft picks in the past 5 years that turned down the Padres’ overslot offers. They are all now easily worth the bonus figures they were asking for. Hopefully Hedges can turn out as well as Kipnis has. But maybe if Kipnis comes through the Padres system he doesn’t develop like he has. Hopefully the Padres’ development of talent is better than in years past, as well as their evaluation being better.

  6. @Ben B

    Right on as to the whining. It reminds me of the complaining about a college football playoff system like it’s a matter of national security. Few, if any, of the complainers pay even lip service to how important this decision is for the players. It’s mostly “hard slotting! be grateful! sign quick!”

    Lee and White were both declared free agents, which gives us an idea of how much the draft suppresses costs. Teams set several bonus records this year, the delay in announcing doesn’t appear to have had any effect.

    The way Kipnis burned through the Tribe’s system, they might not have done much development. Just let the kid hit.

  7. Great job by the Padres. If it was only going to be 3, these were the 3 I would have preferred. The movement on Kelly’s fastball is spectacular.

  8. @PadresFuture

    Both pitchers were a must after losing Whitson last year. They almost double the number of potential #2 or better starters in our system.

    I was more interested in Austin than Hedges. If you can’t hit against high school competition with an aluminum bat, it’s a serious question whether you can do enough in the pros no matter how good your defense is. It makes me wonder if they could have put too much stock into the former backstops who evaluated him (Hinch, Ausmus, Mayne). None of those guys could hit, outside of a year or two, it’s only natural to value (possibly overvalue) the skills that kept you in the big leagues. But it’s a good day, so maybe he’s a 90 OPS+ hitter with great D behind the plate, and that’s worth a lot.

  9. TW: I am with you on Austin. I would have preffered him over Hedges and $3M is steep, but I am very happy with the draft. Both Ross and Kelly look to have pretty nasty movement on their mid-90′s fastballs.

  10. @Tom – If a catcher can not handle himself defensively, then he better be able to hit like Piazza or like Montero supposedly can. I have not heard from any scouting that Brett Austin is projected to have the kind of offense that would allow him to play any position “well” at the MLB level other than catching. I have read scouting on Hedges that suggest his defense is at or near MLB and that his offense may be underrated. All indications are Hedges would have been a first rounder if he was not considered such a tough sign. We already have a catcher that can hit and is questionable fielding at AA.

  11. @PadresFuture

    There’s a continuum. There are catchers who never made it because they couldn’t defend well enough and others who never made it because they couldn’t even match the modest offensive demands of the position.

    I’ve seen people suggest that BAustin could switch to second or third base. He’s got raw power and a fluid swing, definitely not the offensive tools that would only play at catcher.

    I’m not unhappy they signed Hedges, but it’s awfully hard to be productive if your offense is non-existent. That’s the only worry about him, and it’s not a little one. Every report on him I’ve read mentions it. Doesn’t mean he’s fated to hit poorly, but it doesn’t mean we focus only on his defense, either, or ignore the possible advantages of a catcher who defends “well enough” and hits far better than his peers.

  12. I’m just happy we got the two pitchers signed.
    As for the catcher, I kept getting confused at the Brett Austin Hedges being drafted twice by the Padres. ;)

    I supposed it’s hard to get excited about a catcher who’s already been compared to Brad Ausmus especially on a team like the Padres who need any offensive help it can get. On the other hand, a super defensive catcher would be great if he can hit even just a little. Let’s this one works out just fine.

    Now, that little trouble called the shortstop problem is much harder to fix. I wish Drew Cumberland the best in his new endeavours and hope he’ll be a success and healthy.

  13. I wonder why it took so much to get Hedges away from UCLA, which doesn’t have the kind of college baseball history that North Carolina has. Maybe the Padres realized it would be impossible to sign Austin and decided to get Hedges at all costs?

    June FA signings are never going to be a TV event, so I wonder what all the complaints were about. MLB would do well to shorten the signing period, moving the deadline to July 15 or so, so some/all of the signees could get acclimated to the minor league system they signed onto, and give instructors an early look at them so reasonable development plans can be made. I wonder if the July 31 trade deadline prevents moving the date up.

  14. @Tom- Another reason I like Hedges, he shares my birthday!