We skipped the mailbag last week, but don’t worry, we’re back in full force today. Among the items on today’s menu is the amazing Pat Venditte, or really the Yankees decision to keep him cooped up in A-ball. There’s also a little draft talk, with an explanation about how those kinds of contracts work. And last, but certainly not least, we play off Mike Ashmore’s latest and greatest to see which Yankee farmhands received the largest signing bonuses, allowing them to live a little more comfortably in the minors.
Steve asks: Pat Venditte continues to have terrific numbers at each minor league level. While the ambidextrous pitcher is a great curiosity there doesn’t seem to be much interest to test him at the next level. He’s now 25 in A+ Tampa, which is on the old side. While it’s been written that the Yankees may not have him projected as a true prospect, somewhere along the line they will need to find out how far he can go. What is the hesitancy at this point?
I think it’s just a matter of the team not believing he’s an actual prospect, so he’s low on the totem pole. Other guys get moved up first because they’re of higher priority, so to speak. There’s no arguing the numbers, obviously, but he’s not the only reliever to perform well in A-ball history. His stuff is better from the right side but still nothing special, and he’s a nice gimmick for minor league teams always looking for funpromotions.
Not to sound harsh, but if it wasn’t for the whole switch-pitcher thing, no one would think twice about Venditte. He is what he is, a 25-year-old senior sign schooling younger batters. Think of it as a redux of Colter Bean or Chris Britton; the guy has such great numbers in the minors and we all want him called up, but when he does we watch him and say “oh … ewww.” Most of the time the Yankees are right about these kinds of guys, with the only obvious exception being John Axford. If they don’t believe Venditte has a future in the big leagues, he probably doesn’t.
Matt asks: Hey, I was wondering what the contract value of a draft pick actually means. When someone says a player signed for five million, is that just the bonus? Also when the details say that someone signed a five year, 9.9 million dollar contact, does that mean that player gets that much money for five years in the minors or is that when he reaches the majors?
It depends on the type of contract. If it’s a minor league deal, which most are, then it’s a straight bonus and the player gets all his money up front. At some point in June, the Yankees handed Cito Culver a check for $954,000, less taxes and what not. That must have been a cool feeling for Cito.
Major league deals are different, but they’re just like free agent contracts. The player receives a signing bonus and an annual salary set forth in the contract. They could receive the bonus up front, or it could be paid out over time. The guaranteed portion of the deal is the bonus and salary, incentives are not guaranteed, obviously.
Since we don’t have the full breakdown of Bryce Harper’s deal just yet, let’s use David Price as an example. He signed a six year deal worth $8.5M guaranteed after being the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, with the majority of that money coming in the form of a $5.6M signing bonus paid out in annual installments from 2007 to 2012. The contract also set his salary each year from 2007 to 2012, both in the majors and minors. The minor league salaries are the guaranteed money he’ll receive no matter what, the big league salaries will push the value of the deal to $11.25M. These deals are rare and are generally reserved for elite prospects, but this is a typical breakdown.
Like I said, the big league deals are the same as free agent contracts. There’s the guaranteed money plus incentives that can be earned on top of that. The only difference is that the player is optioned to the minor leagues for some length of time, and they don’t have the service time to refuse the assignment. For the player, the benefit of a big league deal is he goes right on 40-man roster, theoretically bringing him closer to the bigs, but it also puts the player in the union and gives them those benefits (like better health coverage and miscellaneous royalties).
I wrote this post at MLBTR back in April about the largest major and minor league contracts in draft history, but it obviously doesn’t include this year’s signees.
Tyler asks: Mailbag: Reading Mike Ashmore’s godfather minor league piece, I got to wondering; who are the players in the Yanks organization, not on the 40-man, who have received the largest signing bonus?
I’m sure you’ve seen it, but in case you haven’t, here’s Ashmore’s great article on minor league life that Tyler’s talking about. Don’t miss it, truly great stuff.
I thought this was a pretty neat question, and it was fun researching it. Unsurprisingly, most of the players who received large signing bonuses without going on the 40-man roster are high profile draft picks or international free agent signings. Andrew Brackman‘s $3.35M bonus is the largest the Yanks have ever given a player out of the draft, but of course that was part of a Major League contract. Ian Kennedy’s $2.25M bonus is the second largest overall and the largest they’ve ever handed out in a minor league deal, but he’s no longer in the organization, obviously.
This is the completely unofficial list I came up with. I can’t guarantee its accuracy, I think I got it right. The list is after the jump for space reasons, and I limited it to players who received $500,000 or more.