Kevin Gausman can respond to questions about returning to LSU for his junior season one of two ways.
The first thing he can tell you is he has no desire to return and that he expects a deal to get done with the Baltimore Orioles before Friday’s signing deadline. The other is that he would be more than happy to put off pro ball and come back to college for another year if the O’s aren’t willing to give him the money he desires.
Which response would you choose?
In a report Monday by the Times-Picayune, Gausman, the No. 4 pick by Baltimore in last month’s MLB draft, said his heart was still at LSU and that missing the College World Series in 2012 left him some unfinished business. I’m sure Gausman is telling the truth when he says he loves LSU. I’m sure he’d have a ball pitching the Tigers to college baseball’s promised land.
But I doubt seriously he’d surrender millions of dollars on account of it.
The word “leverage” in baseball is as much a part of the draft-process lexicon as “upside,” “bonus money” and “arm slot.”
By suggesting he may rejoin Mason Katz, Raph Rhymes & Co. at Alex Box Stadium, Gausman sounded like a prospect who had hit a sticking point in the often precarious negotiations between a club and its top pick and was looking to send a message about it.
The bottom line is that the Orioles still have until 4 p.m. Friday to strike a deal.
It would not be uncommon for a college star of Gausman’s ilk to sign a pro contract at the 11th hour. It would be very much uncommon for one not to sign.
In the history of LSU baseball, the Tigers have never had a player drafted in the first round who returned to college the following year.
“We intend to sign him,” Orioles general manager Dan Duquette told Fox
Sports.com Tuesday, adding the two sides have made “progress” recently.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, every club has a signing bonus pool, and every player’s draft position has a set value. As the fourth pick in the draft, Gausman carries a recommended signing bonus of $4.2 million, which the Orioles could exceed depending on how they pay other signees.
Gausman is one of only two Orioles prospects taken in the first 10 rounds yet to sign. What could make his case interesting is that he has two years of college eligibility left instead of the usual one.
Most players are drafted after their junior year, but Gausman was draft-eligible this year because he turned 21 in January. So if he returned to LSU to pitch in 2012, he’d still have some college leverage after being drafted as a junior.
But what are the odds Gausman, the first pitcher taken in this year’s draft and the second-highest draft pick in LSU history, would improve his position as a pro prospect by returning to the Tigers for another season?
One of his goals this week, judging by Monday’s comments, is to convince the Orioles he could.