Per Kevin Levine-Flandrup and Jim Callis, the Yankees have inked 2nd-round selection Austin Aune (#89 overall) to a $1 million bonus, nearly double the slot recommendation of $548,400 for the 89th pick. Aune is an athletic prospect who some scouts believe profiles best in the outfield, but the Yankees will apparently try him at shortstop first. Aune has a strong arm (as a great high school QB) and good power potential, which combined with the possibility of sticking at an up-the-middle position gives him great upside. He’ll likely reported to the Gulf Coast League when their season begins next week.
That Aune received an overslot bonus is not exceptionally surprising. Even under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is supposed to hold down bonuses by limiting teams to pre-determined bonus pools, high school players have still been able to use leverage to get overslot bonuses. Aune was able to use the leverage of his football scholarship to TCU to earn the extra $451,600 from the Yankees, and the fact that the Yankees viewed him as a borderline first round talent was presumably the reason the Yankees were willing to pay up. This is not to imply that there was any deception or foul play on Aune’s part. I imagine he was pretty clear with his price all along, and the Yankees obviously liked his talent enough to think he was worth the expenditure.
While the new CBA may not prevent guys like Aune from getting paid, draft bonuses are now somewhat of a zero sum game. Paying Aune in excess of the slot recommendations means that unless the Yankees are willing to give up a future 1st-round pick (which they almost certainly are not) there is less money to go around to sign the other draftees. The Yankees should not have any issues with the other selections in the top 10 rounds, because they lose money from their bonus pool if they fail to sign. The Yankees were presumably cognizant of this fact, which would explain why they drafted so many college seniors in the early going. While some (like fellow 2nd-rounder Peter O’Brien) may get bonuses around slot value, a number of the other seniors (7th-10th round selections) have already signed for $10,000 each, saving a total of $482,700. The savings from these 4 selections cover Aune’s overage almost exactly, leaving $30,000 extra for other signings.
It will be very interesting to see what kind of bonuses the Yankees give out to their other mid-round picks, because it will give us a better idea of how much money will be left over for some of the tough signs in the late round. There are some interesting high school players, like outfielders Ty Moore, Vincent Jackson, DJ Stewart, and David Thompson, as well as pitchers Jose Mesa, Jose Diaz, Dayton Dawe, and Brady Lail. While some of these guys may sign for the $100,000 amount allotted for late-round picks, the Yankees will likely need to go overslot to bring some of the more talented guys into the fold. With Aune’s big bonus, it doesn’t look like there will be a lot of room to do that unless Hensley signs for less than expected. But I’m sure the Yankees know what they are doing, so it will be interesting to see how things turn out.
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