With this afternoon’s announcement that 7th Round pick Robert Benincasa has signed with Washington, the Nationals now have nine of their top ten selections in this year’s MLB Draft. The team can now focus on their top pick, right-hander Lucas Giolito.
Benincasa’s signing was briefly delayed due to the fact that his Florida State Seminoles were still playing in the College World Series up until recently, meaning his focus was on the field and not off of it. Slot for his pick (#234 overall) amounts to roughly $145,000, but exact terms have not yet been made public.
Left-hander Brett Mooneyham (3rd Round, #111 overall) signed this past week. He had been the only other unsigned pick from the team’s first ten selections. He was eliminated from the postseason by Benincasa’s Seminoles earlier this month.
With the organization’s top picks now signed, Washington has a much clearer idea of what funds it has available for a potential bonus offer to Giolito. Speculation has mounted over the past few weeks about how the organization will treat the negotiations in light of the changes made in the recent collective bargaining agreement. Under the new guidelines, each team is permitted a collective bonus pool limit that covers their first ten selections. Any team that exceeds this limit by under 10.0% will face a stiff financial penalty from Major League Baseball. If a team goes beyond 10.0%, the fine if coupled with the potential loss of a draft pick next year. So the reasons are plentiful for Washington to remain under that pool limit. Multiple sources have reported that the organization has zero intention of exceeding their pool limit, meaning the maximum offer Giolito may receive would largely depend on what the other nine top selections receive.
If we collect the recommended slot amounts or known bonus amounts for the top nine selections, Washington has doled out approximately $2,175,500. By my calculations that leaves them $2,260,700 for Giolito – a much lower sum than he was believed to be seeking at one point this Spring. A number of outlets have mentioned a figure closer to $3,200,000 as a remaining balance available for Giolito.
It is widely believed that Washington’s plan all along was to present Giolito with a figure and essentially let him take it or leave it. If that is the path they choose to take, it could prove to be a risky proposition. While it would still represent a significant bonus, Giolito always has the option to continue with his commitment to UCLA. In doing so he’ll postpone his professional career for at least three years but there’s some precedent for making such a decision. Gerrit Cole was once a late first round pick by the Yankees (#28 overall), in 2008, but elected to follow through with his commitment to UCLA. Three years later he was the first overall selection by the Pirates, received a bonus significantly higher than what the Yankees had offered, and he is arguably one of the top prospects in Pittsburgh’s minor league system right now.
The signing deadline is July 13th, two weeks from this Friday. It will be interesting to see if the team can get Giolito under contract before then.