The Twins can spend up to $7,770,700 for the first overall pick in June’s draft, based on league recommendations.
But don’t expect the Twins to use all of it. Not on that pick, at least.
As we creep closer to the June 12 draft, the Twins are sending out signals that they won’t blow that much on one player. They could be more interested in signing a player for below the recommended bonus and use the savings later in the draft. Every pick among the first 10 rounds of the draft has an assigned value. The Twins’ total bonus pool is a league-high $14,156,800, and they can be penalized for exceeding that sum.
But there’s plenty of room for cap management, if a team can sign a player for under the assigned value. The Twins have three of the first 37 picks in the draft — including a supplemental pick at No. 35 — and could spread the money among them.
“We’re just keeping our options open,” Twins scouting director Sean Johnson said. “If we decide that one of those guys is comparable ability-wise but we can sign for way less and save money, maybe that’s the route we go.”
More clubs are taking this path to building draft classes.
Last year, the Phillies had $9,015,000 to spend on their first-round pick but signed outfielder Mickey Moniak for $6.1 million. Their second-round pick was assigned a bonus of $1,536,000, but with the money they saved on Moniak, the Phillies signed righthander Kevin Gowdy for $3.5 million. Their third-round pick had an assigned value of $813,500, but they had the money to sign shortstop Cole Stobbe for $1.1 million.
“They saved a ton and spread it out over a few other guys,” Johnson said.
The best example of bonus juggling came in 2012. Houston had the first overall pick and selected Carlos Correa. They signed him for $4.8 million. The second pick was Byron Buxton, and the Twins signed him for $6 million. The money the Astros saved was used to sign righthander Lance McCullers, the 41st overall pick. He received a larger bonus than the player taken 32nd overall that year — Jose Berrios.
Correa, of course, has become a star. McCullers is 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA for the Astros.
Twins General Manager Thad Levine, while speaking to ESPN 1500 on Friday, said that this year’s draft does not “offer a transcendent singular talent,” which suggests that there’s isn’t a player worth a $7 million signing bonus.
“We’re going to have to get creative,” Levine said.
While prep pitcher Hunter Greene and Louisville lefthander Brendan McKay are considered the top prospects in the draft, the Twins continue to monitor a handful of prospects for the No. 1 pick. They could opt to sign a comparable player for less than the assigned value of that first pick and hope to hit a home run later in the draft like Houston did.
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