NEW YORK — At 5-foot-11, Kyle Kraus didn’t expect to be a high pick in the Major League Baseball draft after going 7-6 with a 2.03 ERA as a senior at the University of Portland.
Then about 2 hours before second-day selections started June 7, his telephone rang. On the line with the 22-year-old right-hander was Pat Portugal, a Northwest area scout for the Boston Red Sox.
“They called me that Tuesday morning and said, ‘Hey, we want a senior in the seventh round or the 10th round that will sign for $1,000. Would you do it?’ ” Kraus recalled. “I said: Yeah.’”
Signing bonuses have dropped for many top picks in this year’s amateur draft, the first under restrictive rules adopted in baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement. Teams face penalties if they exceed specified totals for their bonuses.
As a result, some clubs selected players they knew they could sign for close to nothing.
Kraus was taken with the 241st pick overall, assigned a value of $143,000 in baseball’s labor contract. If he had not signed, the Red Sox would have seen the cash from his slot deducted from their total.
With the money saved, the Red Sox were able to sign their top pick, Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, for $2.05 million – $300,000 over the amount slotted for the 24th selection overall.
“My whole thing was, I’m not 6-5 and I don’t throw 95 (mph), and so I’m not going to make a whole lot of money being a senior out of college,” said Kraus, who has made two relief appearances for Lowell, Boston’s Class-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. “I figured I can’t turn down $1,000 in the seventh round when I don’t even know if I’ll get picked up later on for the same amount. It’s a dream come true. Yeah, I would have liked to have slot money, but for me money is not the reason why I’m playing this game.”
Marrero’s selection helped push the Red Sox into picking Kraus.
“As the draft is developing and the players end up being there and you know what their signability roughly is going to be, then you need to start making adjustments,” said Mike Hazen, a Boston assistant general manager. “We sort of had to adjust in the seventh and 10th round this year, among other rounds, to sort of make the cap work.”
Facing a July 13 deadline, 22 of the 31 first-round picks last month already have signed, and their bonuses total $51.8 million, according to a review by The Associated Press.
Last year, 32 of the 33 first-round selections signed for a total of $91.6 million in guaranteed money.