The Cleveland Indians, as they did at this very time last season, broke out the check book and inked their top two draft selections heading into Monday evening’s deadline. In the 11th hour – status quo for most early-round MLB draft picks in today’s age – the Tribe brass locked up first-round draft choice shortstop Francisco Lindor and second-round right-handed pitcher Dillon Howard.
Signing 17 of their top 19 selections, the Indians (once again) spent considerable money to ensure that the recent selections were brought on board. The 17-year-old Lindor had committed to Florida State University, a route which would have served as a fall-back plan in the event that the two sides were unable to come to terms. Instead, the team reportedly offered the electric switch-hitting infielder, selected eighth overall, a signing bonus of $2.85 million versus the slotted value of $2.043 million.
The Houston Astros signed last year’s eighth-overall draft pick, Delino DeShields Jr, to a contract that included a bonus of $2.15 million (approximately $100K over the recommended slot compensation). In 2008, the White Sox handed second baseman Gordon Beckham $2.6 million, a similar deal given to last year’s fifth-overall selection, former Indians farmhand Drew Pomeranz.
Trumping this gap was the signing of Howard who opted to forgoe his commitment to the University of Arkansas, taking home a signing bonus of $1.85 million; the slotted value for the hard-throwing rightie was $545,400. The 6-foot-4-inch, 210 pound Howard was 9-1 (12 starts) with a 0.31 ERA during his senior season at Searcy High School, allowing a mere two earned run in 58 innings, striking out 115 batters while walking 25.
Lindor, who will not be an object of considerable interest as he makes his way through the Indians system, is coming off of a season where he hit .523 with 30 stolen bases; his glove is already said to be MLB-ready. After being drafted by the Indians, Lindor spoke highly of former Cleveland Indian – and newly enshrined Hall of Famer – Robbie Alomar, his childhood hero.
As Jon pointed out around this time last season, the current Tribe front office is willing to allocate considerable resources toward the draft rather than overpaying for marginal wins in the free agent market. Fast forward to today, and signing two first-round pitchers ultimately landed the Indians a present day starter who is expected to be be at the top of the rotation in the event this team makes it to the playoffs. Gone are the days of Beau Mills and Jeremy Sowers; here are the days of Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and – hopefully, one day - Francisco Lindor and Dillon Howard.