Moustakas' 'dream' comes true
No. 2 pick's 11th-hour signing a relief to Royals' front office
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Moustakas would have been fine heading to USC and playing college baseball for the next three years.
"I was okay with that," Moustakas said Thursday afternoon in a teleconference with Kansas City media.
However, Moustakas decided minutes before the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline Wednesday night that he wanted to forgo college and start his professional career -- providing a sigh of relief for the Royals' front office and its fan base.
Moustakas, the No. 2 pick in the Draft and the Royals first-round selection, became one of the last first-round picks to sign when he called KC 11 minutes before the deadline.
"It's been my dream since I was a kid," he said. "Now that it's finally come true, it's unbelievable. Now we've got one more goal to reach at this point. I'm real excited about it."
Moustakas signed for a $4 million signing bonus, the same amount the Royals gave Alex Gordon as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 Draft -- and well above the $3.1 million slot value Major League Baseball recommends for the No. 2 pick.
Moustakas' contract was not a Major League deal and he won't start on the 40-man roster. However, he could start his pro career before the Minor League season's end in a few weeks.
For a small-market franchise such as the Royals, not signing a No. 1 pick would have been a blow. General manager Dayton Moore called Moustakas going to college a "setback," a sentiment that manager Buddy Bell agreed with.
"The way we have to do things, it's really, really important we sign all our Draft choices," Bell said.
Leading up to the deadline, it appeared Kansas City would not be able to sign Moustakas, a Scott Boras client. A Baseball Prospectus poll called Moustakas, a shortstop from Chatsworth (Calif.) High School and Baseball America's High School Player of the Year, the second hardest player to sign behind high school pitcher and eventual Tigers' signee Rick Porcello.
Several players, including Porcello, eventually signed for well above slot value. Porcello inked a Major League contract worth over $7 million, while David Price, the No. 1 overall pick, also signed a Major League deal worth over $11 million.
For a time, it appeared the Royals would have to pay similar value to sign Moustakas. Boras said Moustakas "was fully aware" of the major signings.
But the Royals managed to sign Moustakas, who hit .577 with 24 homers this spring, to a deal far less than several other picks. If Moustakas hadn't signed, the Royals would have received pick 2a (the No. 3 selection) in the 2008 Draft as compensation.
"I think Mike made a decision once the compromises were made and the benefits and detriments were evaluated," Boras said. "Mike told us late in the process what he wanted to do and we told him all along it's going to be his decision. We work for him."
Boras has compared Moustakas, a left-handed-hitting shortstop, to Alex Rodriguez. Other talent evaluators have not made the A-Rod comparison, but agree Moustakas is an elite prospect.
Jason Hisey, Moustakas' coach on the 2006 Junior National Team, coached five 2007 first-round picks, including Michael Main and Moustakas' high school teammate Matt Dominguez. Hisey said Moustakas was a step above those players.
"Mike is probably one of the best pure left-handed hitters that I have had the privilege to coach and I think in his class, he was probably the best left-handed hitter in that class," Hisey said.
"I think there was no question that of the talent level that he was playing with, which was the best kids in the country, he was a tier above most of those kids," he added. "Nothing against the kids he was playing with, they were tremendous players on that team. His bat speed, his natural ability was a notch better than the rest of the guys."
It appeared Moustakas would take that incredible talent to USC or a junior college and wouldn't be eligible until the 2008 Draft at the earliest. After several players had signed mega-deals, Boras upped his asking price to $7 million.
At 7 p.m. CT, four hours before the deadline, KC raised its offer from $3.1 million to $4 million -- an offer Moustakas and Boras eventually accepted.
"Mr. Boras and the Royals both made a compromise," Moustakas said. "They came up to where we were and we came down from where we were. I mean, it just worked out. It ended up working out pretty well."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.