Bubba Watch

It’s getting closer.

The deadline for signing selections from this June’s first year player draft is August 15 and the Royals have a lot of stake.  Bubba Starling, taken fifth overall by the Royals, is as dynamic a player the Royals have drafted since perhaps Bo Jackson.  His reputation coming out of Gardner Edgerton high school is a tale of 500 foot homers, 80-yard runs and the type of athleticism that earned him scholarships to Nebraska to play football and baseball.

He’s in line for a huge bonus from the Royals – if he takes it.

Starling seemed fated to be the Royals pick.  On draft day, when pitchers went with the first four picks, the Royals had options.  Anthony Rendon had been touted as the top prospect heading into the 2011 draft immediately after the 2010 draft.  Francisco Lindor was available as a shortstop and pitchers like Sonny Gray could have been the pick.

To their credit, the Royals took the best player available and the player with the highest upside.  Starling combines power and speed and could be a slugging center fielder with every other tool you can imagine.  Adding that he’s a local kid just increases the intrigue.

He’s a Scott Boras client, and as such, the Royals knew Starling would be a pricey selection.  Boras also represents Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Luke Hochevar who received three of the top four bonuses to sign in club history (Alex Gordon is the exception).

Dayton Moore hasn’t shied away from paying to get talent into the system, and he’s unlikely to do so this time, either.  He’s commented on the situation by suggesting that it’s an “August 15 situation” and that most real negotiations start 48 hours before the deadline.  Moustakas signed moments before midnight in 2007.  Hosmer signed so late that he got dragged into the Pedro Alvarez mix up and missed time in the minors as a result.

So expect negotiations to go down to the last hour.

Starling has some leverage due to his Nebraska commitment, as he can always walk away from the money and play football and baseball for the Huskers.  He has potential to be a starter this year or next if he did.  That’s tough to give up.

However, he hasn’t been added to Nebraska’s roster yet.  That’s logical, as an injury during early workouts would jeopardize both of Starling’s options.  With one play, one low tackle, one bad plant, it’s all gone.

It makes sense, but I see it as a sign that Starling is very much leaning towards playing professional baseball as soon as possible.  It seems to me that he could run drills with the team but be under no-contact rules until the final decision is made.  Holding him off now just hurts Nebraska.

Plus he’s going to get a lot of money.

Because he’d be surrendering a scholarship in a sport outside of baseball, the Royals can spread his bonus over five years.  If they were prepared to offer $7-9 million in one lump, you can see them offering $10 million spread over five if that’s what it takes.

Also in the Royals favor is, ironically, that he is a Boras client.  Scott Boras makes nothing right now if Bubba goes to college.  He has just enough leverage to optimize his client’s return,but not so much that they can step away from the table.  Both he and Dayton Moore want to see Bubba on the Royals.

The Royals haven’t missed out on signing a first-round pick  since their first first-round pick.  If the Royals somehow miss out on Bubba, they’ll get a second selection in next year’s draft, picking sixth overall.  Greg Schaum at Pinetar Press has an early look at a potential top ten for next year’s draft class.  If the Royals don’t sign Bubba, they aren’t left with nothing.

Both the Royals and Bubba Starling are better off getting a deal done.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bubba Starling Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Luke Hochevar Mike Moustakas MLB Royals Scott Boras

  • jim fetterolf

    One question in this is the collective bargaining agreement over the next couple of years. Will a new one be in place before Starling can get drafted again in he chooses football? I expect the next agreement to severely compress signing bonuses so that there will no longer be $5 or $8 million bonus babies. That and the fact that the Royals get a comp pick next year if Bubba doesn’t sign takes quite a bit of pressure off the team, looking at likely having two picks in the top six next year and already having Elier in the bank as well as Eibner, Prades, Paulino, and Cain in the pipeline.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf These are all good points. It’s pretty likely that Bubba couldn’t cash in the same in three years because MLB hates the bonus system as it is and can’t REALLY do anything about it under the current CBA.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel I think we both expect the current system to change, current players agreeing to free up money for established players at the expense of unproven kids. Have also heard that international signings will be targeted, putting prospects into a draft rather than the current free agency. According to MLB Players Association, current agreement ends Dec 11, 2011. That suggests Royals have the upper hand in this one.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf I’m just glad I don’t work in the group that has to figure out the logistics of an international draft.

    FWIW, Dayton is part of that committee and at the Blog to the K event in May we asked him about that, and his hunch was that they wouldn’t be able to get it ironed out to where everyone would agree on a system.

    We’ll see. I think it’s an idea with merit to level the playing field, but at the same time, the Royals have gotten some good prospects by getting aggressive in Latin America. A draft system with similar caps would reduce the risk a lot of teams take, handing out two million dollar bonuses to 16 year olds who may not ever do anything past rookie leagues.

  • LennyNightwolf

    Don’t forget football now has a rookie wage scale, so both Starling and Boras would be making significantly less by going the football route. So, he can wait 3 years to make less money, or take the real money now. We should thank the NFL for making his decision that much easier.

  • jim fetterolf

    @LennyNightwolf I think that gives the Royals a little more leverage.

  • eric.akers

    I don’t see why Bubba would not sign with the Royals. I read in one article that he would like to play maybe 2 or 3 years at college before going pro. Since he apparently doesn’t want a degree, it seems he would be risking his guaranteed millions now by playing college football for only 2 or 3 years. I suppose he might rather play professional football. Are there a lot of college football players that get drafted before their senior year?