HOUSTON -- The Astros' creative use of baseball's new financial rules concerning the First-Year Player Draft allowed them to sign what they believe is their third first-round talent. The club announced Monday it had signed fourth-round pick Rio Ruiz, a high school infielder selected in the fourth round out of California.
Terms of the agreement weren't disclosed, but a baseball source confirmed Ruiz received a signing bonus of $1.85 million to forgo his commitment to USC. That's more than five times higher than the prescribed slot recommendation of $360,200 for that pick.
The Astros signed top overall pick Carlos Correa, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, for $4.1 million, which is well below the $7.2 million slot for the No. 1 pick. The savings allowed them to sign Ruiz and 41st overall pick, right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. ($2.5 million), away from college.
"To get three players we believe were first-round caliber signed and out playing within a month of the Draft was our goal, and we've accomplished that," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We feel very good about continuing to add talent to the pipeline."
Surrounded by his parents, siblings and agent Scott Boras, Ruiz, a left-handed-hitting third baseman who's been compared numerous times to Eric Chavez, took batting practice with the Astros at Minute Maid Park. He'll begin his career in the Gulf Coast League.
"It's all surreal for me," Ruiz said. "Coming from a small town in Southern California and coming out here to big ol' Texas, this is all I've dreamed about. It's a big day for me and my family."
Ruiz missed most of his senior year at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, Calif., after undergoing a procedure last March to remove a blood clot, but he was cleared by doctors Thursday to resume baseball activities. He's eager to get his career underway.
"This is the game I love to play and the thing I love to do," he said. "It's all about playing hard and playing the game the right away, and that's what I have to do when I get out there. I have a lot of work to be done."
The Astros have signed 29 of their 41 picks, with second-round pick Nolan Fontana (University of Florida) among those still unsigned. Houston has signed 18 players selected in first 21 rounds.