Purke chooses TCU over Rangers
Team has additional time to negotiate with Scheppers
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were unable to come to terms with pitcher Matthew Purke, their first-round pick (14th overall) in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft.The Rangers made an offer of a $4 million bonus in the final minutes leading up to the deadline. Going into the last day of discussions, Purke was looking for at least a $6 million signing bonus. There were indications in the last hour that Purke and agent Peter Vescovo might be willing to settle for a similar deal that the Tigers gave Jacob Turner, a high school pitcher from Missouri who was the ninth overall pick in the draft. His deal included a $4.7 million signing bonus.
No matter, the Rangers weren't able to close the deal.
"It's disappointing," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We drafted a player we intended to sign, and for all the right reasons. We couldn't make it work."Purke will spend at least the next two years playing for TCU. The Rangers will get the 15th overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft as compensation, in addition to their regular first-round pick. "We'd prefer to get [Purke] in a Rangers uniform," Daniels said. "You'd like to add a premium talent, but this was one we couldn't afford to add." The Rangers and Rays were the only two teams that weren't able to sign their first-round picks. "We were still talking right up until the end," Daniels said. "It was amicable. I have a lot of respect for the Purkes. They had options, so do we. Ultimately, given the options, they elected to go to college. "The biggest issue was money. The communication was good. Both sides were clear as to what they wanted to do, it just didn't match up." When Purke was drafted by the Rangers, he expressed a strong desire to play for them and in his home state. He predicted he would be an "easy sign." That ultimately wasn't the case. "I don't have any issues with how they handled it," Daniels said. "Every player and every family has to make a decision on how they value themselves and what they want to do with their careers. Matthew made a decision and we have no choice but to respect it." This is the first time the Rangers have not been able to sign a first-round pick. In 2000, they didn't sign outfielder Tyrell Godwin after taking him with the 35th overall pick in the supplemental round. In 1998, their third-round pick, a junior college pitcher named Barry Zito, didn't sign. The Rangers could still focus on right-handed Tanner Scheppers, whom they took in the supplemental first round with the 44th overall pick. Scheppers is from Fresno State, but pitched for St. Paul in the independent American Association and is not bound by Monday's deadline. The Rangers can continue to negotiate with Scheppers up until next year's Draft. Scheppers is working out in California, and the Rangers had scouts watch him throw last week. Daniels said the inability to sign Purke does not add urgency to signing Scheppers. "I don't think they are related," Daniels said. "We would like to have signed both guys. Unfortunately, we only have the ability to sign one. We'd still like to sign Tanner Scheppers, no more and no less than we did an hour ago." The Rangers were able to sign their No. 2 pick, third baseman Tommy Mendonca from Fresno State. He is currently hitting .300 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in 39 games and 150 at-bats for Class A Spokane. Robbie Erlin, the Rangers' third-round pick from Scotts Valley (Ca.) High School, made his professional debut on Sunday and struck out the side in his one inning for the Arizona Rookie League Rangers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.