Signings Reach Historic Level Despite Drop in Bonuses
By Allan Simpson
Tampa Bay's signing of No. 1 overall pick Delmon Young to a major league contract that includes a $3.7 million bonus has made the 2003 draft one of the most historic on record.
It is the first draft in which every player selected in the first two rounds has signed. The 2003 draft has also seen the greatest signing rate among 307 players chosen in the first 10 rounds, with only 16 such players going unsigned. The previous low was 24 in 2000.
All this comes as the average first-round bonus has taken a pronounced drop from 2002. This year's 30 first-rounders were given bonuses that averaged $1.757 million. Last year, that figure was $2.106 million. That represents a 16.6 percent decrease from 2002 and is the largest decrease in bonus payments from one year to the next in draft history.
As summer rolled into September, Young elected not to enroll in college and continued to negotiate a contract with the Devil Rays that was expected to pay him slightly more than No. 2 overall pick Rickie Weeks signed with the Brewers. Weeks' contract included a $3.6 million bonus and roster incentives that guarantee him a minimum of $4,790,164 over the life of the life of a five-year major league deal.
With Young's signing, the distinction of being the highest unsigned pick from this year's class falls to another Tampa Bay draft pick, lefthander Andrew Miller of Buchholz High in Gainesville, Fla. Miller, the first player drafted in the third round, elected to attend the University of North Carolina. Other unsigned third-rounders are Dodgers lefthander Cory Van Allen (Baylor) and Astros outfielder Drew Stubbs (Texas).
Led by the Montreal Expos, who signed their first 19 draft picks, 18 teams signed at least their first 10 selections. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays inked their top 18 picks.
Thirty-three players signed bonuses of at least $1 million, including 27 of 30 first-rounders.