Mark Appel didn’t sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but we’ll probably be hearing about him at least until the 2013 draft is over. Scott Boras addressed the media today at the Winter Meetings, and Rob Biertempfel had the following quote about the Pirates’ chances of signing Appel:
“There was no communication with us (before draft). We certainly would’ve let them know we didn’t have a fit there. These players have options when you have that kind of talent. That was an unfortunate event for all of us.”
Boras is known for his games, so even if the Pirates would have talked to him before the draft, it would have been hard to believe him. This is an agent who had Josh Bell send out a letter to every team telling them not to draft him. The Pirates did draft him, paid him $5 M, and he ended up signing. The Appel situation is a bit different. The new draft rules restrict spending, so the Pirates can’t offer big money to Appel. At the same time, the new draft rules restrict spending, so the Pirates can’t offer big money to Appel. That works both ways. The Pirates would have to pay big penalties to sign Appel, or would have to focus their entire draft around him, or both. Appel isn’t going to find a team that would do that, since no team did that this year.
Drafting Appel wasn’t a mistake. It’s a good risk to take to try and get a guy who wasn’t expected to be there at eighth overall. The Pirates will get the ninth overall pick next year as compensation. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about all of this is that the Pirates had a pre-draft deal with David Dahl, who hit for a .379/.423/.625 line in the rookie leagues. The consolation is that there will be a talent like Dahl available next year at number nine. It’s unlikely that there would have been a talent like Appel at number nine. It didn’t work out, but the Pirates made the right choice going for the best talent.
For Boras, the draft is still an unknown. Under the old system, guys could refuse to sign, go back to college or Indy ball, and get the money they wanted the following year, even if they fell in the draft again. Under the new system, Appel is either going to have to be drafted in one of the top spots, or Boras is going to have to find a team willing to focus their entire draft around Appel. That second part is a risk. The Pirates took a chance this year, and Appel went back to school. If Appel falls next year, he could run into the same situation, with a team willing to play chicken to see if he’ll sign for slot, rather than skip signing for a second straight year.
Overall, it’s a new draft system. Boras is taking a gamble with Appel. That might pay off, and it might not. The Pirates made the right move in taking Appel. In hindsight it is easy to say that they could have contacted Boras to find out Appel wouldn’t sign, since that’s what happened. Before the draft it would have been hard to know if that was just Boras playing games, or if he’d actually take Appel back to school another year. Not to mention, the chances of Appel falling to the Pirates before the draft seemed very slim, since he was expected to go first overall right up until the draft started.
Biertempfel also mentioned that Boras commented on the Navy SEAL training. The key quote here is as follows:
“I think when you go to practices that are untested and that are certainly not the norm, it’s going to raise a level of concern. You want to be fair with every team, with how you evaluate them. But the benefits and detriments certainly need to be looked at.”
That’s pretty much been my take from the start. The Navy SEAL training is fairly new in sports, but is a growing trend. The long-term benefits are still in question. That’s going to raise the concerns Boras points out. That doesn’t mean the training is bad, it just means it’s an unknown that needs to be monitored. Bob Nutting said that those types of training methods will be scaled back in the future, which I’d guess would impact the “Hoka Hey” methods more than the Navy SEAL drills.