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Reds sign a whole bucket of draft picks, raise an interesting question

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs LSU Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Reds announced that they have agreed to terms with a whole bucketload of their recent draft picks. They have now signed every one of their picks from the first ten rounds aside from their top pick, Jonathan “The Basebollywood Bengal” India. (I strongly encourage you to check out the work that our old friend Doug Gray is doing over at his site, redsminorleagues.com, and consider contributing to his Patreon.)

The really big deals are second-rounder Lyon Richardson and fourth-rounder Mike Siani. Richardson’s deal is Facebook official and earns him $2 million (about $500k over slot value) while Siani’s deal, also for about $2 million, is not yet final. And for good reason.

Richardson was committed to go play his baseball at the University of Florida, so the Reds had to spend a bit of extra coin to convince him otherwise. Siani was all set to go to the University of Virginia, so the Reds had to spend A LOT of extra coin to convince him otherwise. They both are reportedly getting bonuses around $2 million, but Richardson was selected in the second round, so his slot value was about $1.5 million. Siani was taken in the fourth, so his slot was just about $500k.

This slotting system is pretty complicated stuff, so stick with me here.

Each selection a team gets in the first ten rounds has an assigned slot value. A team’s draft budget is determined by adding up all of those slot values from the first ten rounds. So heading into the draft, the Reds had about $11 million to spend on these picks.

So far, if all of the reported signings are finalized and accurate, the Reds have spent around $5.9 million. So they have about $5 million left to spend on the one pick who has yet to sign: India. Of course, the snag is that India, the No. 5 overall selection, has a slot value of nearly $6 million. The Reds don’t have the cash left to offer him the full amount of his slot value.

So that might be a bit of a problem. But fortunately, it probably isn’t. One of the many reasons that teams have started targeting college players at the top of the draft is the relatively small amount of leverage they have in these contract negotiations. A guy like India, for example, has really only two choices. He can accept the best offer the Reds make to him, or he can return to Florida for his senior season. Or, I guess, he could reject the Reds’ offer and try to get himself declared a free agent and do all the complicated wrangling necessary to make that work, but basically he has two choices.

Players hardly ever return to school for a senior season anymore if they are drafted as a junior, especially if they are selected relatively high and are offered a relatively lucrative signing bonus. The Reds have the money to offer India something like $5 million, which, unless he’s a real gomer, should be plenty. The chance that he could possibly go back for his senior season and increase his value so much more as to earn him more than that $5 million with the value-depressing fact of his lack of eligibility after a senior season is diminishingly small. He won’t get a better offer than the one Reds make, so he’ll probably take it. We won’t know any of this until the Gators are finished with their College World Series run, which might take a while. They are really good (three Gators were selected in the first 33 picks).

We will have to wait a bit to see how this situation resolves, but I’m pretty confident that you can rest easy. The Basebollywood Bengal will be a Red in due time.

While you wait, I suggest you follow along with the Gators. I don’t personally have a rooting interest in college baseball, but they seem like a fun squad so I’m all up ons. If you need further convincing beyond my esteemed opinion, check this out.