Today the Mariners announced the signing of their final unaccounted for 2020 draftee: RHP Connor Phillips out of McLennan Community College in Waco, TX. Phillips was the 64th overall pick earlier this month, taken with the competitive balance pick Seattle secured along with RHP Adam Hill from the Brewers in return for for catcher Omar Narváez. Today’s news closes the loop on that particular deal for now, though the 19 year old righty will likely have to wait until at least 2021 to play for his new organization in any formal capacity. While Phillips signed for the full value allotted to the 64th pick - $1,050,300 - he will not join the Mariners 60-man player pool, meaning his debut season will likely be limited to individual workouts and remote coaching sessions.
Still, today’s news means the Mariners have successfully come to terms with all six picks in their 2020 draft. The brevity of the draft hurt Seattle’s chances to bring in a breadth of talent, leaving the club with just the six selections to bolster their farm. The Mariners went the college route for each of their selections, with Phillips as the youngest draftee, after just a season at McLennan CC.
Additionally, 2B/OF Kaden Polcovich out of Oklahoma State, whose signing was previously announced, had his signing bonus made public by MLB’s Jim Callis. As expected, Polcovich signed for underslot, with his deal coming in around $240k under the 78th pick’s slot value.
The 2020 draft was a rather unprecedented one, but the Mariners have, like many teams, typically taken any excess bonus pool space from the first 10 rounds and used it to lure talented players to sign in rounds 11-40. Clubs can go up to 5% over their total bonus pool to sign players while only receiving a tax of 75% on that overage, before higher overages incur draft pick punishments that no team has chosen to weather. In past years, Seattle has used this sort of strategy to sign players like RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs, C Carter Bins, RHP Anthony Tomczak, and others, but the shortened draft removed that capability. MLB’s rule to discourage competition for undrafted free agents capped bonuses for any player who goes unselected at $20k, prohibiting clubs like Seattle who lack proximity or a storied history to differentiate themselves with from more popular clubs with a heftier bonus offer.
As a result, Seattle’s unspent bonus pool, roughly $300k, as well as the extra overage space, which is another $500k and change, for a little over a million in actual spending, will go unused. This isn’t an instance of the club cheaping out, as they still spent nearly all of the total possible money they could use. In an entirely unique draft, with no means to use money that goes unspent, nor get the picks back, it’s an even more imperfect science than most drafts. Still, the extra cash, without a player overslot selected, does make for a slightly frustrating final taste, especially as the club went into its final couple picks with what seemed like the chance to take toolsier, albeit pricier and more uncertain prospects. All the same, six players with a good shot at making the big leagues, headlined by arguably the best pitcher in the draft is nothing to lament, and Seattle has now signed them all.