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Franklin Signs; All About Ackley Now

Nick FranklinGood news for the Mariners today (which they could use after a tough last couple days). First round pick Nick Franklin has signed. The shortstop received a $1.28 million signing bonus, which is a bit higher than I anticipated a few weeks ago. It is also about $100,000 over the recommended slot bonus, so all in all Nick Franklin should be considered the winner of these negotiations.

However, from the M's perspective, $100K is not all that much, and the team has been consistently signing their higher selections to bonuses slightly above the recommended amounts by Major League Baseball. More importantly, the Franklin signing leaves only top pick Dustin Ackley among the M's top selections yet to sign. That means they should be able to focus all attention on Ackley, which is important given that the signing deadline is this Monday.

Ackley is a Boras client, so it is not surprising that negotiations are coming down to the last minute. Boras is the agent for the top three picks in the draft (a group that of course includes Ackley), and none of them have signed.

As unsettling as going down to the wire is, I think the surest bet to sign among the trio is Ackley.

Donovan Tate, the third pick, is a prep star with a strong commitment to North Carolina for baseball and football. Tate was practicing with the Tar Heels football team, but has left because Boras is close to striking a deal with the Padres according to a report. Still, reporting to practice is more than a bargaining tactic. I think it will take San Diego some pretty serious cash to pry away Tate from college, especially with Boras negotiating. Considering the Padres are dumping money left and right, I wonder how much money they have to offer.

San Diego wouldn't have drafted Tate if they did not think they had the money to sign him though. Ultimately, it will likely come down to Tate weighing a college football career versus a guaranteed multi-million dollar signing bonus. Depending on how much Tate enjoys football, and how much he enjoyed practice, that could be a very tough decision.

Top pick Stephen Strasburg's negotiations are fairly well-publicized, and will become a major story over the next couple days as the deadline gets closer. The most current reports are that the Nationals have offered a record deal, but no agreement is imminent. It has been known for a full year that it would take a record contract to ink Strasburg; the only question is how much of a record it will be.

Although on some level it makes sense for Strasburg to sign, given he can't go any higher than number one overall, there are several factors to consider. Scouts think he is one of the greatest prospects of all-time, so he will go high again next year, and could/will demand a record contract again next year. By 2010, the economy will likely have recovered some (or at least stabilized), so teams may be willing to shell out more money. Furthermore, Strasburg and Boras in 2010 should not have to deal with an interim GM that could be replaced any day. The haphazard mess that is the Nats front office right now, combined with an uncertain economic climate, and Strasburg's lofty status among scouts, likely make the Strasburg negotiations uniquely difficult.

Then there is Dustin Ackley. Even if Strasburg signs, the hype over prep catcher Bryce Harper has already begun. He seems to be somewhere between the 2010 version of Stephen Strasburg and Josh Hamilton (remember Hamilton went first overall when he was drafted). The point is that Ackley has maximized his draft position. On top of that, he got drafted by an organization that needs bats, so he has the opportunity to move quickly if he performs. Plus, Jack Zduriencik has a terrific player development track record, and he has infused the Mariners with a remarkable amount of talent, stability, and vision already.

Between Jack Z, the M's resources, and how the 2010 draft looks early on, it should be clear to Scott Boras (and Dustin Ackley too) that Ackley will not find a better situation next year than the one he is in right now. Negotiations will go down to the wire, but a deal will be reached. It makes too much sense for all sides involved. Expect it to be well over the suggested slot value, but expect it to happen sometime Monday evening.