Jays save early in draft with plan to spend late

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, right, talks with manager John Gibbons. (CP/Nathan Dennette)

The Toronto Blue Jays appear to be trying to shoehorn first-round pick Phil Bickford plus later-round selections Jake Brentz and Rowdy Tellez into the roughly $5.2 million in bonus pool space they still have ahead of Friday’s signing deadline.

Bickford, a high school right-hander chosen 10th overall armed with a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton, was one of three remaining first-rounders unsigned as of Thursday morning.

The assigned value for his spot is $2,921,400, but given that he went higher than expected, the Blue Jays are likely seeking a slight discount on that amount.

Whatever savings they’re able to generate from a potential Bickford signing would be added to the $1.773 million in spending room they already have, and the Blue Jays could spend an additional $319,270 above their pool limit without forfeiting a future draft pick if they pay a luxury tax.

The idea would be to spend that money on Brentz, a high-school lefty who has hit 97 m.p.h. chosen in the 11th-round, and Tellez, an intriguing slugger who slipped all the way to the 30th round.

Players chosen after the 10th round can receive bonuses of up to $100,000 before their bonuses count against a club’s pool limit.

At minimum, the Blue Jays should be able to sign two of them, but locking down all three would deepen a draft class that includes second-rounder Clinton Hollon and third-rounder Patrick Murphy, a pair of right-handers with the former expected to need Tommy John surgery in the near future and the latter having already had it.

The Blue Jays have spent about $1.7 million in signing nine of their first 10 picks, but unlike last year, when they sought to create spending room for players in the draft’s early rounds, this time they tried to find value in the latter stages of the draft.

Eric Lauer, a 17th-round pick, and Sam Tewes, a 22nd-rounder, were also signability gambles but both are expected to forego pro ball for college.

Brentz is committed to Missouri while Tellez has a scholarship to USC, but each is believed to be willing to sign if the Blue Jays can meet their number.

Recommended slot value of the Blue Jays’ selections through round 10:

Name Overall Slot Bonus obtained Over/Under slot
Phil Bickford 1 $2,921,400 N.A. N.A.
Clinton Hollon 2 $1,168,200 $467,000 -$701,200
Patrick Murphy 3 $650,800 $500,000 -$150,800
Evan Smith 4 $446,100 $350,000 -$96,100
Daniel Lietz 5 $334,000 $ 200,000 -$ 134,000
Matt Boyd 6 $250,100 $ 75,000 -$175,100
Connor Greene 7 $187,400 $100,000 -$87,400
Kendall Graveman 8 $156,900 $5,000 -$151,900
Chad Girodo 9 $146,500 $5,000 -$141,500
Garrett Custons 10 $136,800 $1,000 -$135,800
Total $6,398,200 $1,703,000 -$1,773,800