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Sign of times? Talent trumps demands

Sign of times? Talent trumps demands

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At least for one day, it was ability that won out against signability.

Over the past couple of years, the obvious thing to analyze after the first day of the Draft has been what impact the big "S" -- signability -- had on the Draft, particularly in the first round. Typically, there have been at least a few players whose supposed bonus demands have forced them to slide down the first-round board or not go where they should according to talent. Think Rick Porcello and Matt Wieters last year, a guy like Andrew Miller the year before that.

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Often, though not exclusively, that discussion involved "the Boras Factor," the impact that agent Scott Boras and his advisees would have, seemingly annually, on the structure of the Draft. Unfortunately, the statistics that got more attention on Draft day had to do with dollar figures and not batting average or ERA.

On Thursday, that all changed and changed early. Right from the get-go, it was apparent teams were going to take the best player available, period, bonus demands be damned. And it started with a team that had been at the forefront of the issue of bonuses keeping low-revenue teams from taking who they've wanted for financial reasons.

Last year, the Pirates ended up taking Daniel Moskos with the fourth overall pick when most people believed Wieters was the obvious choice. Truthfully, the pick wasn't all about signability -- there wasn't a consensus about him in the Pirates' Draft room -- but his price tag was a big contributor to Wieters going one pick lower to the Orioles. Pirates fans still haven't gotten over it.

This year's pick, Pedro Alvarez, should help the healing begin. Pittsburgh's new management wanted to make an important statement to its fan base, that things would work differently from now on. Alvarez was the obvious choice at No. 2 and, despite what might be a hefty bonus and perhaps a Major League contract, the Pirates took him. They took the right player at the right time regardless of cost (taking Tanner Scheppers in the second round was an interesting move as well).

Whether it's a new era remains to be seen, but the Pirates weren't the only ones making a statement. It's becoming a habit for the Royals to go down this road: For the third straight Draft, they took a Boras-advised player with their first pick. They took Luke Hochevar No. 1 overall in 2006 and Mike Moustakas No. 2 last year.

"It's good," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said of what he hopes is a new trend among all teams. "If we want it to get back to where it was, people should take the best player. We took the best player. we'll grind it out and try to sign our players. In the end, they'll have to make a decision, either sign or not sign."

Other teams joined the Royals and Pirates by drawing that line in the sand. The Giants took Buster Posey at No. 5 overall despite huge demands being floated in the hours prior to the Draft, and the Reds took Yonder Alonso because they believed he was the best player on their board, ignoring what many thought was a high price tag.

Top 10 overall picks
Pick
POS
Name
School
1. TBSSTim BeckhamGriffin HS (Ga.)
2. PIT3BPedro AlvarezVanderbilt U
3. KC1BEric HosmerAm. Heritage Sch. (Fla.)
4. BALLHPBrian MatuszU of San Diego
5. SFCGerald PoseyFlorida State U
6. FLACKyle SkipworthPatriot HS (Calif.)
7. CIN1BYonder AlonsoU of Miami
8. CWSSSGordon BeckhamU of Georgia
9. WASRHPAaron CrowU Missouri Columbia
10. HOUCJason CastroStanford U
Complete Draft results >

In the end, the important thing to remember is that just because a player and his adviser suggest a bonus amount, that's not set in stone. It may be called a demand, but that doesn't mean it has to be met. Yes, certain players are worth a good amount of money. But the game doesn't have to be held hostage.

"Players have a choice to sign or not sign," Ladnier said. "We're offering them a chance to be instant millionaires and if they don't take it, that's their fault. Anyone can ask for anything, but that doesn't mean they have to get it. It's up to the industry to either give in or not.

"Truthfully, I'm not courageous enough to walk away from millions of dollars, especially if I know it will impact my life for the rest of it. The risk involved in walking away from millions of dollars is very big."

That's something that is sure to be reiterated by these clubs as they negotiate to get these players signed. But look at this as a step in the right direction in evening out the competitive balance on Draft day.

There's all this talk these days about parity in baseball, with new teams competing and more organizations having legitimate opportunities to make postseason runs. Just seeing the Rays fighting it out for first place while making the first overall pick is encouraging enough.

What can make it lasting and long term is what transpired in the first round of the Draft. If all 30 teams can head into the event thinking they will do something so seemingly simple, yet often unattainable in the past -- take the best player available, period -- the overall health of the game can only improve.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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