It wasn’t a typo, it wasn’t just transposed numbers. The Twins will pay Aaron Sabato $2.75 million, not the $2.57 million that the 27th overall pick in this month’s MLB amateur draft was projected to receive under the sport’s “slot” system. And while the additional $180,000 amounts to just a 7% upgrade over his slot amount, it’s still significant: He’s the first.
Sabato, a slugging first baseman from the University of North Carolina, signed his contract with the Twins on Tuesday and became the team’s first top pick to receive more money than prescribed by the slot system, which was instituted in 2012. Even top-of-the-draft picks such as Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis accepted somewhat smaller bonuses than slotted.
The reason likely has to do with Sabato’s leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore, particularly after he developed from an undrafted high school shortstop into a first-round-worthy power hitter in under 1½ seasons.
The 21-year-old Sabato hit .343 with 18 home runs and earned national freshman of the year honors in 2019. He also broke Bryce Harper’s exit-velocity record by hitting a ball 103 mph at a high school prospect showcase.
Negotiations weren’t difficult, Sabato said, and though he could have returned to the Tar Heels, he never really wavered. “It was realizing I was in a perfect spot with the organization, and I want to be a Twin,” said Sabato, who traveled to Minneapolis this week to undergo a physical exam and sign his contract. “We both were going to get a deal done, for both sides.”
That deal will actually pay him only $100,000 this year, under the special rules of this five-round draft, with payments of $1,325,000 due on July 1 of 2021 and 2022.
Sabato sounds certain he’ll be worth it. He wants to be a defensive standout at first base — “I don’t want to have just my bat take me the whole way,” he said — and continue to develop as a home-run hitter.
“I know I can fit right in and be a part of that Bomba Squad,” Sabato said.
Sabato is the third of four Twins picks to sign, and the other — fifth-round pick Kala’i Rosario, a power-hitting high school outfielder from Hilo, Hawaii — should sign soon.
His deal is being delayed while the Twins arrange a physical and contract signing without requiring him to travel to the mainland.
Second-round pick Alerick Soularie, an outfielder from the University of Tennessee, signed for a $900,000 bonus. Fourth-round pick Marco Raya, a righthanded high school pitcher from Laredo, Texas, got $410,000.
Rosario’s slot figure is $330,100, though the Twins still have $468,000 from their draft pool remaining.