(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)
When the Pirates make the first selection in the 2011 MLB Rule V draft, Gerrit Cole is expected to be the name that is called. As many teams have learned in the past, however, making a selection is only the first step in the draft process.
Cole, a 20 year-old right hander from UCLA, should be well known to most Yankees fans because the young fire baller was the team’s 28th selection in the 2008 draft. Unfortunately for Brian Cashman, Cole eschewed the Yankees’ money and opted instead to go to college, making his loss a potential gain for Pittsburgh (or whatever team eventually drafts him).
Most Productive Active Players Drafted More than Once, Ranked by WAR
|Todd Helton||58.5||2x||1992, ’95||Padres, Rockies|
|Jason Giambi||53.1||2x||1989, ’92||Brewers, Athletics|
|J.D. Drew||46.9||3x||1994, ’97, ’98||Giants, Phillies, Cardinals|
|Tim Hudson||46.6||2x||1994, ’97||Athletics (2x)|
|Chase Utley||39.2||2x||1997, 2000||Dodgers, Phillies|
|Mark Teixeira||38||2x||1998, 2001||Red Sox, Rangers|
|Placido Polanco||34.7||2x||1993, ’94||White Sox, Cardinals|
|Barry Zito||31.8||3x||1996, ’98, ’99||Mariners, Rangers, Athletics|
|Michael Young||26||2x||1994, ’97||Orioles, Blue Jays|
|Cliff Lee||24||3x||1997, ’98, 2000||Marlins, Orioles, Expos|
If Cole eventually becomes the star that many predict, he won’t be the first Yankees’ draftee to spurn an offer and become a star for another team. Perhaps the most famous player to turn down the Yankees was Mark Prior, although among active players, Casey Blake has been the most productive. Otherwise, Daniel Bard is the only other notable player currently in the majors who was drafted, but not signed by the Yankees.
If [Drew] doesn’t agree to the numbers we have in mind, we won’t be able to sign him. I am not going to be a part of making the industry worse off financially than it is now.”– Phillies’ GM Bill Giles, Reading Eagle, June 4, 1997
Most of the time, the failure to sign a draft pick is the result of a club refusing to meet contract demands. The most famous case of a player sticking to his guns is J.D. Drew, who refused to sign with the Phillies for anything less than $10 million after being taken second overall in 1997 (Drew was also drafted by the Giants out of high school in 1994, but opted to attend college). At the time, bonuses for drafts picks were escalating, but Philadelphia GM Bill Giles refused to budge from his top offer of $3.1 million over four years. As a result, Scott Boras took his client to the independent St. Paul Saints, where Drew played for a year before being redrafted by the Cardinals in 1998. Although Drew didn’t get his $10 million asking price, the guaranteed $7 million deal more than doubled the Phillies’ best offer.
Money is usually at the center of most draft pick holdouts, but sometimes the lack of a contract simply stems from the player’s desire to go to college. Such was the case with Cole. Despite growing up a Yankees fan, Cole eventually opted for a scholarship to UCLA, leaving the Yankees with cash in hand instead of a prized prospect.
Gerrit Cole is not going to sign with us, it’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, he wants to pursue college, and he does not have an interest in pursuing professional baseball. It’s not a money-negotiating issue as much as a life choice at this moment in time.” – Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman, MLB.com, August 16, 2008
Exactly 10 years earlier, the Yankees suffered the same fate when they selected Prior with the 43rd pick in the 1998 draft. In that instance, however, Prior initially was willing to sign a $1.5 million contract, but the team’s reluctance opened the door to Vanderbilt University. So, by the time the Yankees finally decided to open up the check book, the young right hander had changed his mind and opted to go to college instead of turn pro.
Over the years, several prominent players have slipped through at least one team’s net, but among active players, no one has been more coveted than Mark Hendrickson, at least based upon the number of times he has been drafted. The 6’ 9” right hander was an intriguing prospect in high school, which earned him a 13th round selection in 1992. However, in addition to being a pitcher, Hendrickson was also a renowned power forward. So, instead of signing a contract with the Braves, he opted to play basketball at Washington State University, beginning an annual ritual that would take place over the next five years.
After being drafted by four different teams in five years, a period during which Hendrickson had a successful college career and brief stint in the NBA, the Blue Jays finally convinced the tall righty to turn his back on basketball (getting waived by the Vancouver Grizzlies probably helped as well). Unfortunately, Hendrickson has been the exception to the rule about good things coming to those who wait because over a nine-year career with five different teams, he has only been able to contribute a cumulative WAR of 3.8 to date.
Mark Hendrickson’s Draft History
Because a significant percentage of even early round draftees won’t ever make a significant contribution in the majors, or even make it at all, a general manager can ill afford to let a big catch get away. That’s why the real hard work doesn’t start until after the draft ends, and a true assessment of a team’s performance can’t begin until the negotiating period is over.