Last week when the Mariners drafted DJ Peterson in the first round there was some idea that the team would be able to sign him for less than slot money. He was viewed by some as a guy with a low ceiling for a player drafted that high, but also a guy whose bat was almost sure to play at the big league level, even if he has to move off of third base.
The team signed him for exactly slot money today: $2.759 million. After a 2012 draft that included Mike Zunino signing for a remarkable $4 million signing bonus, about $1.2 million below his suggested slot value, this may seem like bad news. As a result of Zunino’s sacrifice the Mariners were able to sign all of their picks in the first 10 rounds with the exception of Nick Halamandaris, who they couldn’t buy off a scholarship at Cal. They signed Tyler Pike, Joe DeCarlo, Timmy Lopes, and Chris Taylor for above-slot bonuses.
But while the news that Peterson signed for his slot value may not be as good as the inexplicable signing of Zunino, it actually affords the team some flexibility. You see, by signing Peterson the Mariners gained about $138,000 that they can use above their allotment without losing draft picks.
If they do spend all of that $138,000 it will actually cost them more than $241,000 if you include the tax associated with spending between 0-5 percent over the spending cap, but that may be worth it considering some of the odd value that has been found in later rounds in the past two drafts – especially considering this team’s record for finding prospects in later rounds.
The organization hasn’t been clear about their plan on how to use Peterson, though Peterson seems pretty adamant about staying at third base, while smart money may be on him ending up at first base. If the team is willing to continue to punt corner outfield defense, or if Peterson shows an aptitude for either corner position, the team may give him every opportunity to maximize the value of what figures to be an impressive, albeit nearly-fully-developed bat.