For those who haven't heard, TCU lefty Matt Purke is going to see Dr. James Andrews because of shoulder problems which have resulted in him being shut down indefinitely.
Purke, of course, was the Rangers' first round pick in the 2009 draft, a guy who slid to Texas because of bonus demands, and who ultimately didn't sign with Texas after the commissioner's office (which by that point had a lot of say in how the financially floundering Rangers were spending money) limited the bonus they could pay.
Purke, a draft-eligible sophomore, was expected to go in the first five picks of the 2011 draft after his dynamic freshman season. Now, with shoulder problems hindering him, he looks in danger of falling out of the first round altogether.
The thought in 2009 was that the Rangers had missed their one shot at Purke, and that they were unlikely to be drafting high enough to have another shot at him. That may no longer be the case now, although Purke would have to give permission for the Rangers to re-draft him (something that is normally just a formality).
That being said...if Purke were to slide to the Rangers, would the Rangers draft him? And more importantly, would Nolan Ryan feel obligated to draft him, and have the Rangers honor the commitment they made to him two summers ago?
Let's be clear on one thing from the outset...Nolan Ryan has acknowledged there was an agreement in place to sign Purke for $6 million:
The sides had agreed before the draft to a $6 million deal, well above the slot money for the No. 14 overall pick, and owner Tom Hicks gave his approval.
That was in June. By July, Major League Baseball was overseeing the Rangers’ finances and had the final say on all transactions beyond what had been budgeted.
When the Aug. 17 deadline to sign Purke arrived, the commissioner’s office wasn’t going to budge.
Ryan, of course, in so saying, contradicted what Tom Hicks said in September of 2009, when he claimed the Rangers didn't sign Purke because Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels didn't want to pay Purke more than $4 million.
There's been a variety of stories out there, and I've heard conflicting reports...some national writers said that the Commissioner's office wouldn't approve more than slot money, local writers have said the Rangers offered $4 million. And interestingly, after I drafted this post and scheduled it to publish, but before it actually did publish, Jim Callis had these tweets:
Easy for you to say. Unclear what MLB would have approved. @scoutingthesal: Purke should have taken what MLB would have approved. #mlbdraft
Why do a slot deal if you know you can get $6 million? @scoutingthesal: Had Purke said, "I'll do a slot deal", he would have $ #mlbdraft
Slot money was $1.8 million, and if Purke were willing to take slot money (at whatever slot he was picked at), he wouldn't have lasted to Texas.
And Purke, of course, was hammered by Rangers fans for not signing.* Knowing what we know now, if Purke and his family had been assured before the draft by Rangers team president Nolan Ryan that Texas would give him $6 million, and then they found out 24-36 hours before the deadline that that wasn't going to happen, and the Rangers could only offer him some amount of money that was, at the very least, $2 million less than he'd been promised, is it really that inexcusable of Purke and his family to have issues with taking that much less?
* The collection temper tantrum that was thrown by Rangers fans when Purke didn't sign, and the personal attacks on him and his family, is one of the more embarrassing moments for me as a Ranger fan. I wonder if those people who said that they hoped his arm fell off at TCU are happy now?
But the dynamic I keep coming back to...Ryan has a reputation for being a straight shooter, a man of his word. The fact that he had to renege on the agreement he made with the Purke family is, from what I can tell, a major factor in what seemed to be a deteriorating relationship between him and Tom Hicks.
Is Ryan so much a man of his word that he would now, two years later, feel obligated to honor the agreement that he, and the franchise he now owns,* made to the Purke family two years ago?
* Yeah, he only owns a small percentage, Simpson and Davis and those folks are the "real" owners. You know what I mean.
Put another way...if Purke misses significant time the rest of the way, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Rangers drafted Purke again this summer. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Rangers ended up signing him for a number that is more a reflection of what they committed to two years ago, than what Purke is necessarily perceived to be worth now, because of the promises made two years ago.