Machado helps make amateur class most expensive in Orioles history

Club spends more than $9 million on 39 draft picks

August 17, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Agreeing to a $5.25 million signing bonus with Miami high school shortstop Manny Machado with three minutes to go before Monday's midnight deadline pushed the Orioles into uncharted territory -- the most money the franchise has ever spent on one amateur class.

Joe Jordan, the organization's amateur scouting director, said the total expenditure for the 39 players the Orioles signed this year was "a little north of $9 million." That's the most the club has spent since Jordan began drafting for the Orioles in 2005, surpassing last year's $8.7 million.

The Orioles don't publicize the exact amount of money spent on their drafts, but according to Baseball America, which has tracked team composite bonuses for most of the past decade, the Orioles didn't spend $9 million in any of the previous six drafts. It's highly unlikely the club would have matched that number before the early 2000s, when bonuses trailed current values.

This also was a high-water mark for the number of amateur players signed by the Orioles under Jordan. He inked 39 of 49 picks -- including all but one (sixth round) in the first 10rounds -- besting his previous high of 38. Jordan said the farm system needed reinforcements, but he doesn't expect to sign so many players next year -- or for a while.

"That's a pretty heavy number. I really like a lot of what we did," Jordan said. "But we shouldn't come close with that number anytime in the near future."

Machado, who was the third overall pick in June's draft, received the second-highest amateur bonus ever doled out by the Orioles, falling short of the $6 million for catcher Matt Wieters in 2007. Both Wieters and Machado are represented by Scott Boras, who is confident that the deal given to Machado, 18, is money well spent.

"In my 30 years or so of doing this, we have asked for $5 million [for an amateur] less than 15 times, maybe even less than that. They have to be a very special player, and Manny falls into that class," Boras told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday.

"Skillwise, attitude and exuberance, who he is is a tried-and-true baseball player, and so this is a very equitable deal for both sides," Boras added. "This is a young player that is going to be a very important part of their future."

Boras had roughly a half-dozen big-money picks he was representing as the deadline neared, and he got them all signed -- with significant help. He had a cadre of about 30 people, including a team of attorneys hammering out contractual language, another one of financial analysts poring over numbers and four negotiators, besides Boras, talking to teams.

Other Boras Corp. personnel were responsible for staying in touch with Major League Baseball, and one representative was with each of his clients to keep them apprised of the discussions.

"We have a large staff, a dedicated group to manage every aspect, and it is really exciting to watch these young men and their families realize their dreams come true," Boras said. "I am not a doctor, but I can imagine it's like a doctor of obstetrics delivering babies. This is what is really fun about this business, witnessing people fulfill their dreams and getting to be a part of it."

Machado, the Orioles' highest pick in franchise history except for LSU's Ben McDonald in 1989, batted .639 with 12 homers and 68 RBIs in 29 games for the Brito School in Miami. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Machado has been compared to another former Miami prep shortstop and Boras client, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

"Manny is a very instinctive hitter. And he will be a guy who hits for power. He certainly has the power, and he can hold the middle infield now and he will have the bat to move to third base if and when he gets older and it merits a move off short," Boras said. "There is not going to be a high schooler in next year's draft that will be the caliber of Manny. There will be a college player or two, but not out of high school."

If Machado hadn't signed, he could have honored his commitment to go to Florida International University or chosen a junior college and re-entered the 2011 draft. But the Orioles felt all along that Machado would sign, though it wouldn't happen quickly.

"I did bring up Manny's name in one of the meetings we had before I came, out of curiosity," manager Buck Showalter said about discussions with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. "And [MacPhail] said that would go down to the last minutes. He said, 'I am not going to blink, but we will see.'"

Boras also said he was confident a deal would come together. In 2007, Wieters didn't sign until four minutes before the deadline. The Orioles also agreed to terms that year with another Boras client, pitcher Jake Arrieta.

"I had Matt Wieters and Jake Arrieta, and both of them are players sitting in the big leagues right now," Boras said. "We knew [Manny's] value, Joe knew his value, and I think this is a great signing for Baltimore, as Wieters was."

The Orioles would like to bring Machado to Camden Yards, conduct a physical and then introduce him to the crowd and Baltimore media on this seven-game homestand, which ends Sunday. Because of logistical issues involving Machado, however, it might not happen this week.

Still, Machado is in the fold, in what, at least for now, will go down as the most expensive amateur class in Orioles franchise history.

"What we spent, does that make me feel good? I haven't really thought about it like that," Showalter said. "That's kind of the going rate. You've got to either get in or get out, and we got in. There's not much gray area there."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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