Shelby Miller Signing May Go Down to the Wire

The St. Louis Cardinals plan to renew their efforts in August to get their first-round draft pick signed. They only have until the 15th.

Almost in passing, I asked St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak if there has been any progress in the club's negotiations with their first-round pick (19th overall) in this June's First-Year Free Agent Draft, right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller from Brownwood, Texas.

 

Expecting a short, non-descript answer from the busy GM, instead what I received back offered a bit of a surprise. Mo replied, "There isn't a quick answer."

 

Mozeliak said that he and Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow plan to "engage in early August, after the trade deadline passes" with Miller and his representatives.

 

I took two thoughts away from that remark.

 

First of all, it was encouraging that Mo plans to keep busy up until the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. While the Matt Holliday deal is clearly the main course, the comment offered some hope that there might still be room for a small dessert, perhaps a right-handed setup man?

 

The second thought I spun right back at the GM for clarification. "Don't you mean RE-engage with Miller?" I asked.

 

The impression I walked away with is that the organization had some very initial conversations with the Miller camp on or shortly after draft day. My guess (and it is a guess only) was that the two sides saw they were far apart and decided to suspend discussions and talk again later.

 

The Cardinals brass are apparently planning a new frontal attack, with a personal visit on the schedule.

 

On the ITD Morning After program on Team 1380 in St. Louis on Monday, Luhnow said, "… Mo and I are going to go down to Texas to visit with the family and talk to the kid. He has been working out and he is dying to sign and get into games, but we sort of had to let the process unfold.

 

"I did talk to his Mom and his Dad and the agent just a few days ago. I think we are building a good rapport, a good relationship and foundation. So now, it is probably going to come down to dollars and cents. I don't know how quickly we are going to be able to get something done, but we are working on it," Luhnow explained.

 

Given Miller has said since draft day that he wanted to sign, money undoubtedly is the issue.

 

Prior to the draft, rumors that apparently originated from Baseball America had the fireballing right-hander's asking price to be $4 million-plus. As a point of reference, last year's 19th overall pick settled for well under $2 million. Here in 2009, the closest signed players to Miller in the draft order are number 17 who agreed on $1.4 million and number 21 who settled for $1.358 million.

 

The hard and fast deadline for Miller and the Cardinals is coming soon, as the signing deadline is less than three weeks away - August 15. (Update: The actual deadline in 2009 is Monday, August 17.)

 

At that point if Miller is unsigned, he can head off to college while the Cardinals will receive a compensatory first-round selection in the 2010 draft. Miller made what is considered in recruiting circles a "solid verbal" commitment to Texas A&M University back in March.

 

In addition to losing both the services of Miller and a year of prospect development in the process, the Cardinals may not want to go the comp route for another reason.

 

Along with their own first-round selection, they may acquire two additional compensatory picks if agent Scott Boras takes the newly-acquired outfielder Holliday into the free agent market this coming winter. While stocking up on expensive early picks is nice, there is only going to be so much budget allocated for signing bonuses.

 

I did get the feeling the organization wants to sign Miller, though it may go down to the wire. Even if the end is positive for the club, we probably should not expect the 18-year-old to be suiting up for a short-season affiliate this season.

 

Mozeliak observed that the 2009 season of Johnson City, the likely destination for Miller if he had come to terms quickly, will be pretty much done by the signing deadline. (The Appalachian League schedule actually runs through September 1.)

 

I suggested the fall Instructional League might be an alternate place for the organization's coaches to get a look at Miller. Mo called that "an option", but made no commitments.

 

It is clearly putting the cart before the horse if the Cardinals and Miller remain $2 million or so apart, for example.

 

 

Note: For those interested in Miller's repertoire and some video of his pitching, check out this scouting report from Baseball-Intellect.com.

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

 

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