"For the most part, each and every one of these players got the same instructions from their advisers," one scouting director said. "Everyone got the same playbook this year. They played with us all summer like they have the last few years. They're going to sign. Some of these college juniors, you think they're going back to school?
"What the scouting directors and the clubs need to do, we need to take a breath. By Monday night, we'll all be fine."
It's been a difficult lesson to learn. Last year, 14 of the 32 first-round picks signed on deadline day. The deadline was moved up to August in 2007, and while that's helped teams, players and college programs know much earlier who's going where, more and more draftees seem to be using the pressure of the deadline to get better paydays. More often than not, it's the teams that have blinked and upped the ante to get their top selections signed.
Many of the picks are somewhat tied together with a bit of a domino effect a distinct possibility. While there was no trickle-down impact from No. 3 pick Trevor Bauer signing early with the D-backs, some players are undoubtedly linked. No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole, who almost certainly will go to the wire with the Pirates, might be a separate entity, but he was also the top college pitcher in this year's Draft. Danny Hultzen, taken at No. 2 by the Mariners, is also unsigned. What happens with that duo could have an impact on the other college arms in the first round: Taylor Jungmann (Brewers), Jed Bradley (Brewers), Matt Barnes (Red Sox), Tyler Anderson (Rockies) and Alex Meyer (Nationals).
Similarly, the high school pitchers are in holding patterns, waiting to hear how negotiations go between No. 4 pick Dylan Bundy and the Orioles and No. 7 Archie Bradley and the D-backs. Both have the same adviser. Jose Fernandez (Marlins), Tyler Beede (Blue Jays), Taylor Guerrieri (Rays), Joe Ross (Padres) and Robert Stephenson (Reds) are all in that boat, though it appeared on Friday that Beede would be heading to Vanderbilt University instead of the Toronto organization.
Anthony Rendon, the top college hitter in the class, will surely be looking for an above-recommended-slot bonus from the Nationals. Could his demands be setting the bar for George Springer (Astros), Levi Michael (Twins) and Michael Mahtook (Rays), the other first-round college bats?
"The agents have done a great job of manipulating the deadline," the scouting director said. "What once was a great idea has been turned on us. It's not human nature to be patient. It's human nature to panic. I do think you'll see some of that, but I also think you'll see some clubs who know we're going to offer too much money for these players to say no to."
What could also be beneficial is the potential for a new system in 2012 and beyond. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is being negotiated, and the Commissioner's Office has made it clear that the Draft system will have some priority. That could entice more players to decide to take what money is offered this year, rather than risk losing the opportunity for over-slot bonuses in the future.
"I think the threat is real," the scouting director said. "Whether it happens, who knows? It's definitely a possibility; the Commissioner has made that clear.
"We just lose sight of the fact we have the opportunity that every one of these players want. We give them millions of dollars to do what they want, in their heart, to do. The threat of slotting is there, but how many will really turn it down anyway?"
This much is certain: Everyone will be kept busy right up until the stroke of midnight.
Here's a complete list of unsigned first-rounders:
RHP Gerrit Cole (Pirates)
LHP Danny Hultzen (Mariners)
RHP Dylan Bundy (Orioles)
OF Bubba Starling (Royals)
3B Anthony Rendon (Nationals)
RHP Archie Bradley (D-backs)
SS Francisco Lindor (Indians)
SS Javier Baez (Cubs)
OF George Springer (Astros)
RHP Taylor Jungmann (Brewers)
OF Brandon Nimmo (Mets)
RHP Jose Fernandez (Marlins)
LHP Jed Bradley (Brewers)
RHP Matthew Barnes (Red Sox)
LHP Tyler Anderson (Rockies)
RHP Tyler Beede (Blue Jays)
RHP Alex Meyer (Nationals)
RHP Taylor Guerreri (Rays)
RHP Joe Ross (Padres)
C Blake Swihart (Red Sox)
RHP Robert Stephenson (Reds)
SS Levi Michael (Twins)
OF Mike Mahtook (Rays)