Phillies paying in the draft for earlier spending

Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac (sliding) could be a Phillies selection in the MLB draft.
Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac (sliding) could be a Phillies selection in the MLB draft. (Associated Press)
Posted: June 06, 2011

Signing a prized free agent in baseball comes with a price. And it's not just the contract with alllll those zeroes on it.

A second bill arrives the following June.

When the Phillies inked Cliff Lee for $120 million in December, it was just one component to their devilish deal. Today, comes the other.

Another result of the Lee deal is the Phillies' forfeiture of their first-round pick in the subsequent draft, which begins this evening at 7 o'clock (MLB Network). In addition to all that money they gave Mr. & Mrs. Lee, the Phillies had to give Texas their first-round pick.

But the hammer swings both ways. Because the Phillies lost Jayson Werth to the Nationals via free agency, the Phils received a pick in the compensation round that follows the first round and Washington's second-round pick.

In simple terms, because they signed Lee and lost Werth, the Phils' first pick isn't until No. 39.

The baseball draft is less about helping the big club next year and more about stocking the shelves of the farm system for the years beyond. Marti Wolever, Phillies director of scouting, identified a few holes he's hoping to fill.

"We try to look at the deficiencies in the organization or places we'd like to add some strength to," Wolever said. "Certainly, lefthanded pitching, catching and middle infield - a shortstop or two - would be great to have. We've kind of focused on that. As we go through [the draft], we'll see how it plays out. That may or may not happen, but we'll see."

Drafting late is nothing new for Wolever, who joined the Phils in 1992 and has been scouting director since 2001. The general manager, whether it's been Ed Wade, Pat Gillick or Ruben Amaro, hasn't been afraid to sign free agents (such as Lee, Jim Thome, David Bell, Raul Ibanez and Jon Lieber), but it's Wolever and his staff who must pay the tab in June.

There have been three drafts since 2003 in which the Phils haven't had a first-round pick and the early selections haven't been good. In 2003, the Phillies' first pick was forgettable second baseman Tim Moss in the third round. In 2005, third baseman Mike Costanzo was a second-round pick and lefthanded pitcher Matt Maloney was picked in the third. In 2009, outfielders Kelly Dugan and Kyrell Hudson were picked in the second and third rounds, respectively. Not exactly an Utley, Rollins, Howard or Hamels in that group.

Redemption came in later rounds, however. In 2003, the Phillies unearthed Michael Bourn (fourth round) and Kyle Kendrick (seventh). In 2005, they found Josh Outman (10th), Mike Zagurski (12th) and Vance Worley (20th; they redrafted Worley 3 years later in the third round). In 2009, they selected prospects Brody Colvin in the seventh round and Jonathan Singleton in the eighth. Singleton, one of the real bright stars in the farm system, is at Class A Clearwater. He was the 257th player taken.

But back to this year's draft.

"There's probably a handful of both high school and college kids that we have on the board," Wolever said. "But, unfortunately, a lot of clubs are doing the same thing we are. They've identified those guys [too]. We'll just have to wait to see how things shake out."

In its predraft rankings, Baseball America has one catcher and one middle infielder ranked between 30 and 50. Oregon State sophomore Andrew Susac, a 16th-round pick by the Phillies in 2009, is the catcher. Irving (Texas) High School shortstop Trevor Story is the middle infielder. Baseball America has five lefthanded pitchers ranked between 30 and 50, including Kent State's Andrew Chafin at 38 and Oregon State's Josh Osich at 41.

"When you're picking 39th, it comes down to what's been taken in front of you and what you're left to choose from," Wolever said. "Sometimes, that doesn't correspond to what you were looking for initially."

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