Royals ink Draftee Moustakas to deal
High school infielder signs only minutes prior to deadline
KANSAS CITY -- At 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday, scouting director Deric Ladnier made the Royals' final offer to their first-round pick and No. 2 overall selection Mike Moustakas.
And then, they waited. General manager Dayton Moore said the front office was relaxed but wasn't confident.
"We have done everything that we can do," Moore said. "When you feel like you have done everything can do, it's out of your control now, and you just give it away. That's what we did."
Moustakas' family called back 10 minutes before the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. They would sign KC's offer for $4 million, more than Major League Baseball's slot recommendation for $3.1 million for the No. 2 selection.
"He actually called me after he had agreed to terms and you could hear the excitement in his voice," Ladnier said of Moustakas. "He wanted to be a Royal. He was happy to put this uniform on and is happy to represent the organization."
Moustakas, a shortstop from Chatsworth, Calif., High School, was named Baseball America's High School Player of the Year after batting .577 with 24 homers this past spring.
His advisor, Scott Boras, said Moustakas is the best power-hitting high school middle infielder since Alex Rodriguez. Several other talent evaluators said he is a prospect with 25-homer and All-Star potential. Jason Hisey, Moustakas' coach on the 2006 U.S. Junior National team called Moustakas "one of the best pure left-handed hitters" he had seen.
Moustakas inked for the same amount Alex Gordon signed for as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 Draft, but was less than the $5.3 million Major League contract ($3.5 million signing bonus) than Luke Hochevar received as the No. 1 overall pick last season.
Moustakas' contract was not a Major League deal and he won't start on the 40-man roster. Ladnier said Moustakas could start playing professional baseball before the Minor League season ends on Sept. 1.
"Alex Gordon, a couple years ago, signed for $4 million and he was the premium guy in the Draft as a college player, coming out of college," team president Dan Glass said. "Mike was a premium player coming out of high school, and, two years later, we figured they were very comparable the way they were out of the Draft."
In the first year of Major League Baseball's mandated Aug. 15 signing deadline, Moustakas was one of the last first-round picks to sign. All first-rounders eventually signed, including several within the last few minutes. For the last few days, it appeared Moustakas would not sign.
A recent Baseball Prospectus poll recently showed that baseball personnel believed Moustakas would be the second-hardest player to sign behind high school pitcher Rick Porcello.
Porcello, considered the best high school pitcher in the Draft -- and also a Boras client -- slipped to No. 27 because of contract demands. He eventually signed for a Major League contract worth over $7 million dollars. David Price, the No. 1 pick, also signed a Major League deal worth 11.25 million.
"We did not think it was going to be that large of an impact on Mike Moustakas signing with the Kansas City Royals or not," Ladnier said of the mega-deals. "Is it a factor? Yes, it is always a factor, but, in this given situation, and the relationship with the family, we did not feel like it would have been as big of a deal as it would have been with other players."
If Moustakas hadn't signed, the Royals would have received the No. 3 overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft as compensation. Moustakas would have either attended a junior college or USC. If he went to USC, Moustakas would not be eligible for the Draft for three years. However, the relationship between the family and KC helped keep Moustakas from attending college.
"Even during the Draft and after we talked to the family, after we had selected him and during this entire process of the summer, the process between myself and this family has always been excellent," Ladnier said. "From Day 1, we felt confident that he would play and he would want to go out and be a part of what we were doing."
The process intensified Wednesday. Dr. Jeff Davis, the principal at Chatsworth High, a former baseball coach, and a close friend of Moustakas and his family, said he hoped Moustakas would sign. Hisey, echoed similar comments in a phone interview Wednesday.
"In reality, the 3-4 million dollars that he would make in a signing bonus is significantly life-changing," Hisey said. "Whether he could get something comparable or something better [at a college], it certainly could happen, but you are talking about the X-factor of injury and all other types of things that could happen in that span."
"I think that if it your goal to be a Major League Baseball player, and the organization is willing to treat you fairly, and you are in a position like he is in, I just don't know what would be in way of taking that opportunity," Hisey added.
It appeared Moustakas would take the college route, but Moore said several published reports that quoted Boras saying Moustakas was headed to college and the parents had pulled out of any deal were false.
"The family had never told us that they were giving up on the process," Moore said. "Deric was very tenacious and aggressive all summer, staying in touch with the family and having a relationship with the family and the family had not told us '[N]o.'"
At 7 p.m. CT, Ladnier made the team's final offer.
"To be here and go through the process all day, I don't think reality really slapped me in the face until I looked at the clock at Baseball America ticking down the entire day," he said. "You sit there, and you watch that, and you realize that the final hour is approaching."
A few hours later, they received the news KC wanted to hear. Moustakas was a Royal, completing the largest draft haul in Royals' history.
"You always want to sign your players," Moore said. "When you draft them, that's great and everyone is happy on Draft day, but you have to get them signed and you have to get them in the organization. That's what Deric has done."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.