UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole was among 22 of 23 first-round draft picks beating the deadline to sign, with the top selection in June's amateur draft agreeing late Monday night to a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates that includes an $8 million signing bonus.
"It's essentially the largest signing bonus ever given an amateur player," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Sometimes, it's more advantageous for a player to take a minor league contract with a bonus that can be spread over nine months than a major league contract that would be spread out over four years."
Cole turned down an $8.5 million major league contract running through 2016. His agent, Scott Boras, said the pitcher projects to earn an additional $1.4 million under this deal.
"We feel Gerrit is going to be in the major leagues in a year," Boras said.
Only 10 first-round picks — and just one among the first nine players selected — had agreements with one hour left before the midnight deadline. By the end of the night, the only first-round pick without a deal was right-hander Tyler Beede, taken by Toronto with the 21st pick. Because he failed to sign, the Blue Jays will receive an extra-first round selection after the 21st choice next year.
Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 pick, agreed to an $8.5 million, five-year contract with Seattle that included a $6.35 million signing bonus. Dylan Bundy, a high school right-hander selected fourth by Baltimore, got a $6.25 million, five-year contract.
Among the lower rounds, the Chicago Cubs agreed to a $1,275,000 signing bonus with California high school outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., an 11th-round pick. His father was the No. 1 overall pick by Chicago in 1982. The Cubs also agreed to a $375,000 bonus with seventh-round selection Trevor Gretzky, the baseball-playing son of hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
Dereck Rodriguez, son of the 14-time All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez, agreed to a $130,000 deal with Minnesota. D-Rod was a sixth-round pick.
Boras was negotiating for the top pick for the third straight year after reaching agreements with Washington for pitcher Stephen Strasburg ($15.1 million over four years) and outfielder Bryce Harper ($9.9 million over five years).
Three years ago, Cole decided not to sign after the Yankees selected him with the 28th overall pick. He was 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA for the Bruins as a junior, but the Pirates decided his potential outweighed his latest statistics.
The deal was reached about 15 minutes before the deadline.
"There was an ebb and flow to them all night," Huntington said. "At times, everything seemed to be going really well and then there would be times where we seemed to be moving apart."
Pittsburgh also gave a $5 million deal to second-round pick Josh Bell, a high school outfielder from Dallas who had said he was committed to attending the University of Texas.
"After the draft, we had the opportunity to sit down with Josh and his family and let him know what our organization is about and how we operate," Huntington said. "We made it clear that we would really like him to be part of our organization. We left with the idea that they were open-minded and that if we were able to reach a financial agreement that both sides were comfortable with that he would be willing to begin his professional career with us."
Boras also negotiated a $7.5 million signing bonus for high school outfielder Bubba Starling with the Kansas City Royals, and a $7.2 million, four-year major league contract for Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon with the Washington Nationals, a deal that would be worth up to $10 million, including an option year. Starling was the fifth overall pick and Rendon sixth.
Boras' son, California high school third baseman Trent Boras, failed to reach an agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers. Trent Boras, a 30th-round pick, will attend the University of Southern California.
Scott Boras spoke with Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin in the hours before the deadline.
"We made the decision long ago that we wanted him to go to college," Scott Boras said. "The Brewers gave us every courtesy of working with him."