TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays handed Vanderbilt star Austin Martin a $7,000,825 bonus that is the largest in franchise history and the second biggest bonus of the 2020 draft, spending the maximum they could in their pool without forfeiting a future pick to make it happen.
To make the numbers work on Martin, whose signing was first reported by Sportsnet colleague Hazel Mae, the Blue Jays also finalized a below-slot deal with fourth-rounder Nick Frasso for $459,000, initially reported by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and confirmed by an industry source.
That pushed their total spending in the draft to $10,202,325, an amount $485,825, or exactly five per cent, above their bonus pool total of $9,716,500.
Teams that exceed their bonus pools are subject to penalties, with any overage ranging from 0-5 per cent taxed at 75 per cent. Overages in excess of five per cent also result in the loss of future draft picks.
The Blue Jays will be charged $364,368 for their overage.
Martin’s bonus also surpasses the $4,547,500 full slot deal given to Alek Manoah, selected 11th overall by the club last year. The right-hander’s total bested both the $4 million bonus Adeiny Hechavarria received as part of a $10-million, four-year, major-league contract as an international free agent in 2010, and the $3.4 million infielder Jordan Groshans received as the 12th overall pick in 2018.
Largest bonuses in Blue Jays history
Widely considered the best pure hitter in the draft class, Martin unexpectedly slid to the Blue Jays when the Baltimore Orioles, expected to select him at No. 2, chose Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad instead.
Kjerstad signed for $5.2 million, well below the spot’s assigned value of $7,789,900, and the Orioles used the savings on their later-round picks. Tracking his progress against that of Martin will add an intriguing twist to the clubs’ rivalry in the American League East in coming years.
No. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson, like Martin a Scott Boras advisee, signed a record deal worth $8,418,800 with the Detroit Tigers.
Martin is expected to be named to the Blue Jays’ 60-man player pool, where a decision on his defensive position is likely to be made. The versatile 21-year-old was selected as a shortstop but mostly played centre field during this pandemic-shortened season, while logging most of his work at third base last year at Vanderbilt.
No matter where he is in the field, the bat plays.
In 16 games this spring, he batted .377/.507/.660, similar to the .392/.486/.606 line he posted over 65 games in 2019.
With 85 walks against only 82 strikeouts during his college career, he has the potential to become the type of dynamic, high-contact, good-power hitter so rare in the game today, and is advanced enough to time with Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Danny Jansen, among others.
Fourth-rounder Frasso is an athletic, 6-foot-5 right-hander from Loyola Marymount who had first-round chatter before being shut down for part of the spring with elbow tightness.