Draft deadline? No problem

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has kept quiet as the trade deadline approaches. (Sarah J. Glover/Staff file photo)
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has kept quiet as the trade deadline approaches. (Sarah J. Glover/Staff file photo)

The Phillies spent more than $5 million to corral 30 of 51 picks in the signing period.

Posted: August 17, 2011

That Monday's deadline to sign draft picks barely registered on the Philadelphia baseball radar screen is a testament to the process the Phillies have mastered. In the last three seasons, the Phillies have traded 14 prospects - 11 of whom were drafted - to obtain Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence.

The price for maintaining a championship-caliber team lies not only in money, but in prospects, too. That's why, Ruben Amaro Jr. said two years ago, trading Cliff Lee to replenish the minors was a necessity. Now, a front office still adapting in its quest to keep the machine churning increased its draft spending to offset the lost young talent.

In the previous two years, the Phillies have ranked near the bottom in draft bonuses. But they spent more than $5 million to lock up 30 of their 51 selections in the 2011 draft - including six agreements in the final days before the deadline.

"As things went on, and in light of what some other people had done, we felt like we had to move to make these things happen," said Marti Wolever, director of scouting. "That's the decision we arrived at."

That money likely will put the Phillies only in the middle of the pack in draft spending. Part of that is because they do not have the high picks that require massive bonuses. The Washington Nationals, for example, doled out $16 million to sign their first four draft picks.

In 2009, according to Baseball America, only the Mets spent fewer dollars on draft signings than the Phillies ($3.2 million). Last season, the Phillies were 27th in draft spending at $3.9 million. For a team with an ever-expanding payroll at the major-league level, it simply was not as high of a priority financially. There was a larger dedication in 2011.

"The dollars have gone up in what it costs to sign players," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "[Team president] David [Montgomery] and our ownership responded greatly and gave us those resources."

Two of those late agreements were the team's top two picks, outfielder Larry Greene ($1 million bonus) and infielder Roman Quinn ($775,000). Each signed for more than Major League Baseball's recommended slot. But those deals were expected.

Wolever and Looper were most proud of an agreement with fifth-rounder Mitch Walding, a prep shortstop from Stockton, Calif. Walding signed for $800,000, well more than the recommended slot of $129,900.

"We felt like after observing him," Looper said, "that he was better than a fifth-rounder."

The Phillies also reached a late agreement with Braden Shull, a 6-foot-6 lefthanded pitcher from Iowa. They invited him to Busch Stadium in June to throw a bullpen session, when he met Cole Hamels. He was committed to Kansas State until the Phillies bought him away with a hefty bonus for a 27th-rounder.

Additionally, the Phillies went over slot on 11th-round shortstop Tyler Greene ($375,000), 17th-round righthander Jesen Dygestile-Therrien, and 49th-round outfielder Jonathan Knight.

"Circumstances sometimes allow us to do that," Wolever said. "Oftentimes, they haven't. In key situations where we all feel the same, we've had the opportunity to go beyond where we probably should, based on the MLB recommendation."

The last time the Phillies spent big in the draft was 2008, when bonuses totaled $6.7 million. Of that, $2.4 million went to the top two picks. Anthony Hewitt ($1.4 million) is an unequivocal bust. Zach Collier ($1 million) is still an unknown after wrist surgery a year ago.

They spent $1.2 million to sign three over-slot pitchers named Vance Worley, Jon Pettibone, and Trevor May - now at the top of the team's young pitching pool. And a total of $1.9 million was dedicated to sign three over-slot players in Anthony Gose, Jason Knapp, and Jarred Cosart - all later used in trades.

After a fruitful deadline, the Phillies hope this draft is as profitable.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

comments powered by Disqus