Casey Martin’s massive deal is calculated risk for the Philadelphia Phillies.
After weeks of anticipation, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed Casey Martin, the 87th overall pick in the MLB Draft, silencing any doubt over whether he’d return to college for a senior season at Arkansas.
The deal, worth $1.3 million, is way above the suggested salary for Martin’s draft slot ($689,300), signifying a clear desire to lock up the player MLB ranked as their 30th overall prospect in their final predraft mock.
This, my friends, was the easy part.
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While actually getting Martin to sign with the team was far from a guarantee after his draft stock took a tumble due to an underproductive start to the 2020 season, as he was reportedly on the fence about going back to school, it was always assumed that the Phillies could eventually get a deal done with some financial finagling and some goodwill. The Phillies all but made it so by selecting Carson Ragsdale 116th overall and Baron Radcliff 146th overall – both far above their assumed draft spot – who both agreed to below-market deals to free up money for Martin.
What comes now, however, is anything but guaranteed.
With only four players selected over five rounds, the most high profile of whom is an 18-year-old pitcher who may not see a major league diamond until 2024, the 2020 MLB Draft very well may go down as a one-player draft, entirely decided based on how good Martin’s career turns out to be. If he can rise up the ranks of the minors – maybe even joining the Phillies as a September call up if that is a thing this fall – and eventually cement himself as the team’s long-term shortstop sandwiched between Jean Segura and Scott Kingery then it really won’t matter how much over his draft slot he was signed to. No one remembers how much Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, or Ryan Howard signed for, all they remember is their collective decade-long stretch with the team.
Heck, Kingery signed a long-term deal worth up to $65 million before he even stepped foot on a major league diamond. While his rookie season left something to be desired, locking up a promising young player in a league without a hard salary cap is all that really matters.
But then again, by going all-in on Martin, the Phillies effectively made the 2020 MLB Draft a one-player draft, which isn’t good if he isn’t good. That’s the danger of putting all of your eggs into a single basket, if it doesn’t work out, there really isn’t much available in the way of fall back plans. With the 19th ranked minor league system in MLB with only two players ranked inside the top 80 prospects, the Phillies could seriously use an influx of young talent to help reload the farms after a series of trades shipped out promising youngsters like Sixto Sanchez.
But hey, with only $5.4 million in their bonus pool, there was only so much the Phillies could do.
Is Casey Martin an underappreciated star who was inexplicitly overlooked by every other MLB team multiple times over, or a legitimately flawed boom-or-bust prospect (more on that here)? Only time will tell, but by signing an above-market deal to join the Philadelphia Phillies, the 2020 MLB Draft will forever be judged based on his long-term prospects.