Rangers middle-of-the-pack in draft bonuses since 2007

Jim Callis has tabulated and ranked the major league teams in order of the amount each team has spent on bonuses for draftees since the 2007 draft.  In what may be a surprise to some folks, the Texas Rangers are 15th on the list, with $31,384,300 in bonuses.

Texas, of course, has a reputation for spending big in the draft and being willing to go above slot, and of course, they've had multiple first round picks almost every year since 2007.  That said, drilling down into the numbers, it makes more sense that Texas wouldn't be among the top spenders.

First of all, here's the top five teams, in terms of bonuses:

Pittsburgh Pirates

Washington Nationals

Kansas City Royals

Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles

Notice a trend there?  The top two teams are the Pirates and the Nationals, who have spent $52 million and $51 million,* respectively.  Those are teams who have had really high picks the past five years, and thus have had to spend a bunch of money signing their picks.  

*  I'm rounding off the numbers from here on.

Two of the top five bonuses in draft history were given to Gerrit Cole, the Pirates' 1st rounder this year, and Jameson Taillon, their first rounder last year.  In addition, the Pirates gave Pedro Alvarez a $6 million bonus as part of a major league deal, and Josh Bell just got $5 million from them this year.  The Pirates spent more money in bonuses on those five players than the A's, Astros, Mets, Rockies, Dodgers, Twins, Phillies, Angels, Braves, Marlins, and White Sox spent in bonuses on their entire draft classes from 2007 through 2011.

Similarly, the Nationals had huge bonuses for Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, and have also paid above-slot for other draftees, including Matt Purke this season.

The Royals and Orioles are also bad teams who have had high picks they'd paid big dollars to (although there is a big drop-off from the Nationals, at $51 million, to the Royals ($45 million) and the Orioles ($41 million).  Boston, meanwhile, doesn't have high picks, but does tend to moneywhip signability guys later in the draft, contributing to their high bonus figure.

Texas, meanwhile, only had one high draft pick during this span -- Justin Smoak, who they went above slot for in 2008.  Texas had five first rounders in 2007, but didn't go too high above slot to sign any of them, while in 2010 and 2011 they paid slot for their first rounders.

The 2009 draft, of course, could have changed all this, as the Rangers had agreed to pay Matt Purke $6 million to sign, but were prevented from doing so by MLB, since MLB had basically taken over the team's finances by that point.  If Purke signs for $6 million, the Rangers would be eighth in bonus expenditures since 2007, between Toronto and Seattle.

Texas would also rank a lot higher, even without Purke, if you look at just the 2007-10 draft classes.  As has been discussed here quite a bit, the Rangers didn't go after tough signs until the later rounds of the draft, and while they inked a few of those draftees to above-slot deals, they didn't spend huge amounts for those guys.  Texas also didn't pick until the last pick of the first round, and had only one supplemental first, so the bonuses amounts for those guys are lower than if the Rangers were picking, say, 20th.

As a result, the Rangers were 22nd in draft bonuses handed out in 2011, between the Cardinals and the Marlins, at $4,193,000.

This should not be interpreted as a criticism of the Rangers, incidentally...the team has invested heavily in amateurs, and in particular, in 2011, chose to spend heavily in Latin America, signing top players such as Leonys Martin and Ronald Guzman to big deals.  In a year when many teams opted to devote more resources than usual into the draft, the Rangers chose to zag while others zigged, going the amateur free agent route.

Callis also provides a look at the largest big league contracts in draft history, and it helps illustrate why Cuban players, when they defect, are loathe to establish residence in the U.S., and why agents like Scott Boras are so anti-draft.  Stephen Strasburg has the largest guaranteed deal in draft history, at $15,107,104, while only Mark Prior, at $10,500,000, has cracked the $10 million mark.  Bryce Harper was guaranteed $9.9 million, and Mark Teixeira was guaranteed $9.5 million...they landed the third and fourth largest major league deals.

Leonys Martin, meanwhile, got a $15.5 million guaranteed contract this year from the Rangers, and Aroldys Chapman got a guaranteed $30.25 million from the Reds last year.  

As huge as these draft pick bonuses seem, they are actually less than what an amateur player would get if he were a free agent, rather than getting to negotiate with only the team that drafts him.

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