After the first round, the baseball draft goes from studio show to conference call.
After the first round, commissioner Bud Selig flies back to Wisconsin. After the first round, you have permission to tune out (if you even tuned in in the first place).
But stay with us for Day 2. At least stay with us for Pick 1 of Day 2, because the Pirates made it interesting.
With the first pick in the second round (via conference call), the Pirates took Josh Bell, the high school outfielder from Dallas who had sent a letter to teams saying he plans to attend the University of Texas and didn't even want to be drafted.
There was talk Monday that if teams honored Bell's request and he got as far as the 33rd pick, the hometown Rangers would take him. But they didn't, going for Georgia high schooler Kevin Matthews instead. That seemed to be an indication that even with their hometown advantage, the Rangers considered Bell unsignable.
Maybe the Pirates know something the Rangers don't. Maybe they're simply gambling on a big talent (Baseball America says Bell had the best power bat of any high-school player in the draft). Or maybe, club president Frank Coonelly (who once worked for MLB and was in charge of screaming at teams for spending too much money in the draft) is now ready to spend big.
Speaking of which, the Nationals seem to again have a big draft budget. After taking three straight Scott Boras clients on Monday night, the Nats made news on Day 2 by taking pitcher Matt Purke from TCU in the third round. Purke is one of the more interesting names in the draft, in part because he agreed to sign with the Rangers for $6 million out of high school (only to have the deal not go through, because MLB had taken over operation of the team from bankrupt owner Tom Hicks). Purke had some shoulder trouble this year, so it's not clear how much money he'll get, but it will no doubt take more than a normal third-round bonus to sign him.
As for the Pirates, they'll already be spending big on first-round pick Gerrit Cole, another player who showed no interest in signing out of high school. The Yankees drafted Cole in the first round three years ago, and he told them he had no interest in even listening to an offer. Cole went on to UCLA, became the first pick overall, and will almost command more money than the Yankees would have offered him out of high school.
Overall, the first-day picks suggest that baseball as a whole could be ready to spend big on draft picks this year. Ken Davidoff of Newsday theorized Tuesday morning that Selig will be more lenient on big bonuses this summer, because baseball strongly hopes that a hard-slotting system is in place before next year's draft. Selig renewed his call for a hard-slot system on Monday night, even though he admitted it needs to be bargained with the players' union.
In any case, the Pirates quickly made sure there was something to talk about on Day 2.
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