It’s weird to think that the Pirates won’t play for this long, but the deadline for 2012 draft picks to sign is actually going to pass by a few hours on Friday before their season resumes. As a result, there’s going to be a whole lot of talk about Mark Appel over the next few days. He’s one of the highest picked (and highest profile) guys left unsigned, he’s the Pirates’ highest pick left, and he’s the guy that everyone kind of singled out as a potential test-case for how Scott Boras would handle the new draft rules after he fell to the Pirates at #8 after everyone expected him to go in one of the first two picks.
Today, CBS’s Jon Heyman reports that Appel is leaning towards not signing because the Pirates will refuse to offer more than $3.8 million (which is the threshhold for losing next year’s first round pick). Jim Callis backs the Pirates’ end of the report up and Michael Sanserino hears that Appel was hoping the Pirates would save more money later in the draft for him.
This is all well and good, except that we all know for a fact that Boras practically refuses to negotiate before the deadline. We know that Boras has almost no leverage here; the Pirates will literally offer Appel every single last penny that they can possibly offer him and there’s absolutely no guarantee that Appel will be picked high enough next year to make more money than the Pirates are offering him right now (I will note that even though Pirate fans have more or less be repeating ad nauseum that the 2013 draft class is stronger than 2012, Keith Law pretty definitively disagreed with that idea on Twitter today). He’ll have even less leverage as a college senior next year. If you want to veer further into theoretical territory, Appel and Boras will have a much harder time challenging the system if Appel doesn’t sign, because then he’s not really part of the system. There’s a much stronger argument to be made that the new draft system kept Appel from signing for his true value if Appel actually signs a contract.
My point here is this: Boras is well-known for blowing smoke in the lead-up to draft and there’s one particular journalist that is pretty widely suspected to be his smoke-blower (it’s not Michael Sanserino, if that helps you narrow it down). Appel certainly might not sign; if Keith Law thinks there’s a chance he could be drafted higher in next year’s draft then it’s certainly possible that Appel really believes that, too. Regardless, the Pirates hold most of the cards right now and it’s almost in Appel’s best interest to sign. The reality, though, is that no one is going to know anything for certain until Friday afternoon, and you should take everything you read between now and then with a big grain of salt.