Toronto Blue Jays: Playing with draft pool money to sign Austin Martin

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: A Toronto Blue Jays bag is seen during batting practice, prior to their MLB game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on September 13, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: A Toronto Blue Jays bag is seen during batting practice, prior to their MLB game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on September 13, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays agreed to deals with three of their 2020 draft picks, with only 1st rounder Austin Martin and 4th rounder Nick Frasso left to sign on the dotted line.

Heading into the 2020 amateur draft, the Toronto Blue Jays have a bonus pool worth $9,716,500 for their five draft picks this year.

This past week, the Blue Jays were able to sign three of their drafted players, with second-round pitcher C.J. Van Eyk, third-rounder Trent Palmer, and fifth-rounder Zach Britton agreeing to deals with the organization.

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Both Van Eyk and Palmer would end up signing above their allotted slot bonus targets, with Van Eyk cashing in at $1.8 million (slot target was $1,771,100) and Palmer at $850,000 (slot target was $805,600).  Britton would end up signing under slot value, inking a deal worth $97,500 while the value for his overall draft slot was $410,000.

This amounts to the Toronto Blue Jays saving roughly $239,200 when you factor in all three players, which will be useful for signing Vanderbilt product Austin Martin.

To be completely honest, there were not many in the game of baseball who believed Martin would be available for the Blue Jays to select at 5th overall. After the dust had settled with the first four selections off the board, the Blue Jays were quick to draft the Vanderbilt product who was dubbed the purest hitter in the 2020 draft.

With Martin sliding down from his projected #2 slot ($7,789,900) to the Toronto Blue Jays #5 selection ($6,180,700), there are rumblings that the right-handed 3B/OF is still looking to collect the higher slot evaluation. Combined with the fact that his representation is Scott Boras, an agent who is notorious for signing his clients to the most amount of money he can (he is pretty good at his job, to be honest), and it is easy to see why the Blue Jays may have to pony up some more money to get Martin to sign on the dotted line.

Given that the Blue Jays recouped some bonus pool money with Britton signing under slot value, the organization should look towards signing Nick Frasso ($549,000 slot value) first before working towards Martin. The Blue Jays could recoup some money given Frasso did have some elbow troubles this year, but it will still not be enough to meet the $7.7 million dollar slot value.

This doesn’t mean the Blue Jays will not be able to sign Martin if they don’t have enough cash from their pool.

Clubs face a penalty if they go over their allotted bonus pool money when signing players from the amateur draft. Jim Callis of wrote a great article outlining the penalties, but it essentially translates to a higher tax and possible loss of future draft picks depending on how far the organization goes past their allotted dollar pool for the draft that year.

If Martin does intend to sign at the $7.7 million evaluation, the Blue Jays would need to spend just around $11 million to get all five drafts (this includes Frasso signing for his assigned value). This would force the Blue Jays to go over the 10% threshold, meaning they would lose a first-round and second-round pick next year while also being charged a 100% tax penalty. No team has ever gone above the 5% (let alone 10%) mark since the draft bonus system was put in place in 2012.

Now Martin could (and should) sign for less than the $7.7 million, but unless he signs for $6,420,000 to zero out against the Blue Jays bonus pool (assuming Frasso also signs for his full slot value), the organization will have to pay a tax penalty regardless.

Going over the 5% or 10% threshold will be a huge hit for the Blue Jays over the next few years, so the pros and cons will have to be weighed on whether the team will be able to sign Martin if he is unwillingly to move from the second round slot evaluation.

To stay under the 5% threshold, Martin would have to sign for around $6.9 million ($9,716,500 x 5% = $485,825; meaning the team could spend $10,202,325 total). Given that the other four players (assuming Frasso signs for slot value) are already at $3,296,500, that leaves $6,905,825 left to sign Martin (hooray for math) to be at 5%.

Next. Blue Jays: Where does Austin Martin fit in the grand scheme?. dark

There is still a lot of information up in the air given Frasso still remains unsigned and Martin’s monetary ask has not been 100% confirmed. The deadline to sign drafted players is August 1, 2020, so the Toronto Blue Jays do have some time to negotiate with both players before they are on the hot seat.