2013 MLB Draft: Could the Cubs Force the Astros to Pass on Appel?

mark-appel-ap2Kiley McDaniel has posted his first mock for the 2013 MLB Draft and passes along some potentially interesting machinations from behind the scenes. Dmick has previously addressed the possibility that the Astros could once again pass on Mark Appel, but McDaniel doesn’t think it will happen:

Last year, there was a large top group of talent with varying price tags that allowed the Astros to be creative. This year there’s a top group of two players: Appel & Gray. Appel has a better frame, arm action, delivery, track record and projectability along with a wider base of skills. Right now they may be comparable prospects, but scouts prefer Appel going forward… With a weaker crop to spend savings later from this pick, Gray will need to come in well below Appel’s price tag to get serious consideration here, but he doesn’t have the motivation to do that as he’ll get paid just fine going second.

If the Astros have the same feelings as McDaniel, they will probably take him first overall and offer slot value. However, McDaniel also hears that the Cubs are very high on Appel, which could push them towards drastic actions:

This could create a situation where the Cubs could float a full slot or above slot number to Appel to see if they can play the signability game to get him slide to them.

The signability card used to be wielded by draft candidates with some regularity in order for them to get more money, but the current CBA makes that very difficult. Could the Cubs and Appel feasibly strongarm the Astros into passing on Apple under the current system? I do think it’s possible.

For this exercise, let’s assume that the Astros would offer slot value for Appel, but no more (keeping in mind they set a hard line at significantly less than slot for their top pick last year). If the Cubs really wanted to go all in, it would have to look something like this:

1. Make it clear to Appel that they will offer significantly more than #1 slot value.

This would require significant sacrifice on the part of the Cubs. The difference between the slot value of the #1 and #2 picks is about $1.1 million. The Cubs could offer up a 5% overslot for their entire draft budget (approximately $0.5 million) to close that gap to $0.6 million. In addition, they would need to essentially punt on other early selections in the draft. The slot value of their second pick is $1.4 million. Taking an extremely signable college senior at that slot would allow them to devote nearly the entirety of that money to an Appel offer and substantially top the slot value for the #1 overall pick. They could do the same for a combination of their third and fourth round picks, or their fourth through seventh picks, or fifth through tenth, etc…

2. Convince Appel to take a hard line with the Astros.

Appel is advised by Scott Boras, which is really all that needs to be said. The Appel/Boras duo played hardball last year, and could well do the same this year if given assurances by the Cubs. They have limited leverage, but not none. No team wants to risk giving up a year’s worth of development time on a prospect when there are other good options available.

Would it be worth it for the Cubs to sacrifice #41 overall to “move up” from #2 to #1? Historically, yes. In the 2013 MLB draft? I have no idea. If Appel really grades out that much better than Gray, it’s probably a decent bet. To take some recent examples, is upgrading from (#2) Dustin Ackley to (#1) Stephen Strasburg worth (#41) Chris Owings? Of course. Is it worth (#40) Tyler Skaggs or (#42) Garrett Richards? Still yes. How about upgrading from Danny Hultzen to Gerrit Cole (prior to Hultzen’s injury)? Is it worth (#40) Jackie Bradley Jr.? Maybe not.

GW

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