Smoak signing uncertain for Rangers
Texas took first baseman with their first pick in 2008 Draft
BOSTON -- The Rangers are two days away from finding out whether or not they'll sign Justin Smoak, the switch-hitting first baseman from the University of South Carolina who was their first pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.But as the clock ticks toward Friday's deadline, both sides remain tight-lipped about the situation. That's by agreement. Both sides have agreed not to negotiate in the media, and Smoak's advisor, Dustin Bledsoe, has yet to comment at all. Bledsoe also represents Robbie Ross, the high school left-hander from Kentucky who was the Rangers' second-round pick, and all indications are that they have a better chance of signing Ross than Smoak.
But the Rangers hold out hope, and Smoak has not informed the club of any desire to return to South Carolina for his senior season. That's his only option."We're talking, but it's still a slow pace," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Obviously, we'd like to get him signed and get him out playing." The Rangers have until 11 p.m. CT on Friday to get a deal done. If not, Smoak goes back to South Carolina, and the Rangers get a compensation pick in next year's Draft. Obviously, money is one issue. Major League Baseball has prescribed recommendations for every "slot" in the Draft, recommendations they prefer clubs to stick to when dealing with picks. Smoak was the 11th overall pick, and "slot money" for that spot is right around $2 million. The 11th overall pick in last year's draft -- Mariners pitcher Phillippe Aumont -- received $1.9 million to sign. Agents don't like players settling for slot money, because there is no need to hire them. Only three of the 10 players taken before Smoak have signed, including Tim Beckham, the high school shortstop from Georgia who was the first overall pick. The three who have signed received only a small increase over what was paid in 2007 to the player taken in the same slot. The three corner infielders taken before Smoak -- Pedro Alvarez (No. 2, Pirates), Eric Homser (No. 3, Royals) and Yonder Alonso (No. 7, Reds) -- have yet to sign. Another issue is a Major League contract. Some players hold out for them, and there are reports that Smoak is one of them. The Rangers gave a contract to Mark Teixeira in 2001, and that's how they were able to sign University of Tennessee outfielder Julio Borbon right at the Aug. 15 deadline. By signing a Major League contract, a player goes on the Major League roster right away rather than having to wait three years or more.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.