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Twins 2017 MLB Draft Preview: Bonus pool strategies

With the largest signing bonus pool in this year’s draft, the Minnesota Twins have to decide if they want to blow it all at once or diversify their bonds.

MLB First Year Player Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

We’ve already taken a look at the top three prospects in this year’s MLB Draft: Hunter Greene, Brendan McKay, and Kyle Wright. While these guys are generally considered the best prospects available this year, that doesn’t mean the Twins will just be choosing from those three with their first overall pick. Since none of them are surefire first picks like Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg, the Twins could choose to take a less exciting prospect first overall to save money that they could spend to pick up more high upside prospects later in the draft.

As we know, Twins have the first overall pick this year because they finished dead last in 2016 with 103 losses. In addition to the number one pick, they have the 35th overall pick thanks to competitive balance round, which awards teams with the lowest revenues extra picks to remain competitive. After that they have the 37th overall pick, which is the first pick of the actual second round.

The Twins also have the highest draft bonus pool this year at $14,156,800 total. Of that, $7,770,700 is allotted to the first overall pick. That means that $7.77 million is added to the Twins’ overall bonus pool so long as they actually sign the player they pick first overall. If the Twins fail to sign their first pick, the $7.77 million will be subtracted from their total bonus pool, leaving them with $6,386,000 for their remaining picks. It works that way for all picks and the dollar amounts allotted to them. So signing each pick is important, as it helps the Twins keep their overall pool total at just over $14 million. If the Twins sign all of their draft picks, they can use the full bonus pool however they see fit.

In past years teams have found ways to save money here and there by reaching for some players, signing them under the slot value of a certain pick, and adding that extra money to the signing bonuses for other players. For instance, if the Twins were to spend $5.7 million on the first overall pick instead of $7.7 million, they would save $2 million from the initial allotment for that pick and could use that extra money however they wanted, likely on the 35th and/or 37th pick.

Using this strategy would allow the Twins to get a top 5 or top 10 talent of their choice first overall, and then potentially get a 20th to 30th ranked player at the 35th or 37th pick. This is possible because there are generally some high school players who want to be taken at a certain pick or bonus value, and if no team will give them the bonus value they want, they can just elect to go to college instead. Similarly, good college prospects are usually juniors who have the leverage of returning to school for their senior year if they do not get a signing bonus that they like. In these situations, the Twins could make a deal with the player before the draft and then have that player tell all other teams they want to go or return to college instead of signing to guarantee that they fall to the Twins.

Extra bonus money could also come in handy if a bevy of highly-ranked players fall to the 35 pick (which often happens). The Twins could then draft them knowing they have enough money to offer a high bonus.

Below are the numbers for the Twins’ 35th and 37th overall picks, and the bonus slot the Twins could mimic depending on how much they save on the first overall pick.

Deal Potential

Draft Pick Allotted Bonus Draft Slot mimicked if $1 million added Draft Slot mimicked if $2 million added
Draft Pick Allotted Bonus Draft Slot mimicked if $1 million added Draft Slot mimicked if $2 million added
35th $1,935,300 21st ($2.89 Million) 13th ($3.875 Million)
37th $1,846,100 22nd ($2.79 Million) 14th ($3.727 Million)

If the Twins save enough money, they could make their 35th and 37th picks mimic the signing bonus of the 13th and 14th picks. That is a huge jump in value and a very enticing offer for players who were looking for a bit more money than they would receive if they had been taken between the 20th and 30th picks.

Of course, this draft strategy is not fool proof. Another team could always take a flier on the falling talent. The Reds (second overall pick and thus, second largest bonus pool), Rays (fourth overall pick), and Athletics (sixth overall pick) do have their second picks before the Twins thanks to the competitive balance round. The bonus pool was also shifted around this year so that the gap in bonus money is less striking between the top and bottom of the first round. Although all other teams still do not have as much money overall to play with as the Twins, they should be able to play the same money-saving strategy if they so choose, signing the falling players before they get to the Twins and offering them a similar amount if not more. If the Twins feel confident that they would be able to get a highly ranked prospect that they want with the 35th pick, though, it may be worth the risk.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have their work cut out for them this June. Do they take the highest rated prospect first overall, or do they try to get two of the best fifteen prospects, or three of the top thirty? I can see reasons to do both, and it will be exciting to hear the rumors going up to the draft and watching the draft as it progresses to see which strategy they choose.