UPDATE: Mark Sheldon reports that Stephenson signed just before the bell. A "source" reports that his bonus will be $2M.
Here's a look back at what our own Thundering Turtle had to say about Stephenson:
Long, loose and projectable, Stephenson is a University of Washington signee, but is considered among the more signable HS hurlers. In 64 innings, he struck out 132 and walked 23. Stephenson throws 93 to 97 and can pitch up in the zone. A series of minor flaws in his delivery appear easily correctable. He features a strong curve and mixes in a developing change. Very intelligent, Stephenson started the Aflac East-West All-Star game. Baseball America ranked him 24th overall. He’s very receptive to coaching and is a high-character kid, hard-working and coachable..
Gammons and others agreed with Turtle's assessment that Stephenson is sign-able, at least adjusting for a high school player with a college commitment. But on August 8th, Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA tweeted there was a "greater than 50% chance" that the Reds' 2011 first-round and 27th overall pick Robert Stephenson will attend the University Of Washington this fall, owing to him being an academic type. So is Stephenson more like his authorial namesake? And how credible is this tweet? Like any good deadline negotiation, it's all in the posturing. So anything that isn't misdirection, might just be idle speculation.
As Ken brought to our att. earlier today, Baseball America's Jim Callis expects Stephenson to sign. Despite any potential bias to PG's client base (this exists in all media), Kendall Rogers could be dead-on, with access to inside information. But BA is the kind of source I'd look to first for credible analysis. Callis goes on to tell FSO: "I think all 33 first-rounders will have signed by the time the clock strikes midnight on Aug. 15." As of this morning, only 10 of 33 first-rounders had signed, but any holdout is more than likely to be brinksmanship rather than an honest attempt to flee from a 6 or 7 figure paycheck.
The Reds have failed to sign only one 1st-rounder this Century. And while he was, yes, a high school pitcher (Jeremy Sowers, 2001), they've come up aces since then, especially with their last three HS signings: Devin Mesoraco, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey. It would be possible, though not at all likely, for the Reds to call up Yasmani Grandal and Devin in September and field a team featuring seven of their most recent first round picks.
Only 3 of 32 first round picks failed to sign in 2010, two of which were high school pitchers. High school pitchers benefit from leveraging the more believable threat that they'll decide to go off and attend the college to which they've already committed. With their draft stock at its likely peak, it's hard to take seriously a threat from a college senior that goes, "Keep your $1.67M, I'm going to play for the Traverse City Beach Bums."
The Braves already signed their 1st round pick, Sean Gilmartin, who went just after Stephenson at #28, for $1.13M. In 2010, the estimated slot for #27 was $1.16M, which was exactly how much the Phillies' Jesse Biddle accepted. Stephenson should probably command somewhere in the range of $1.14M and $1.5M, depending on how talks go with the other high school arms.
The Reds have already signed the 9 other picks in their first 10 rounds. On top of getting a compensation pick for their failure to sign Stephenson, they can also look to potential hard-slotting of bonus money in the next collective bargaining agreement and incresaed international scouting as leverage (or solace) if the Stephenson is asking for too much. There wouldn't appear to be much incentive for the Reds to go much over slot for the high school righty, unless they are especially high on him internally.
Every case is unique. We'll know if Stephenson prefers lots of money or "You-dubb" purple by 12:01 AM tonight.