D-backs beat deadline, sign No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson
PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks and No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson didn’t go down to the last minute — there were about 10 left — but both sides admitted to feeling some stress before they finally agreed Friday afternoon to a $6.5 million signing bonus.
"I just figured that’s how it was going to go," said Swanson, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound shortstop out of Vanderbilt. "It was pretty stressful but I had faith that everything would get done in an orderly fashion, and it all did."
De Jon Watson, the D-backs’ senior vice president of baseball operations, also admitted as much after the organization notified MLB via email that the deal was done at about 1:50 p.m.
"We let them kind of sit on it, think about it," Watson said of the final offer, "and kept trying to massage it to make sure that both sides understood exactly where we were getting down to the last few hours.
"I think everyone was pretty comfortable, one way or the other. We felt like, again, we made a very competitive offer and looking at how the market kind of set itself up, we were in a good place."
Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa visited Swanson at his home in Marietta, Ga., earlier this week before negotiations hit the homestretch in the last few days.
"There’s definitely some relief," Watson said. "We were picking No. 1, we were able to sign our first-round pick and get him in the fold and get him prepared to fulfill his goals and dreams."
The slot value for the No. 1 pick was $8.6 million. No top overall pick signed for the slotted value since the slotting system was installed prior to the 2012 draft. Still, Swanson’s signing bonus tied for the sixth largest in MLB history. The only players to receive more were Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Kris Bryant, Carlos Rodon and Bubba Starling. Cole and Strasburg also were No. 1 picks, though before 2012.
Dansby Swanson's $6.5 mil bonus ties sixth-highest in @MLBDraft history. Only Cole, Stasburg, Starling, Bryant, Rodon got more. Tied Taillon
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) July 17, 2015
"If you look at the history of the draft, that’s how’s it’s gone," Swanson said of signing below the slotted value. "It was great to be able to be part of the negations and learn now the business works."
The D-backs held much of the leverage in the negotiations. Swanson likely would not have exceeded the team’s offer if he elected to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season and enter next year’s draft. The D-backs would have received the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft if they did not sign Swanson.
The Astros did not sign last year’s No. 1 pick, high school pitcher Brady Aiken.
"You don’t want to lose your first-round pick," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "It’s a great opportunity for him to get into a growing organization that we fee like we’re on the come. And he can be part of that now."
Swanson, 21, will report to Arizona on Sunday and will start to workout with the Arizona Rookie League D-backs.
Watson said ideally Swanson soon will join High-A Visalia, though he also mentioned Short-season Hillsboro and Double-A Mobile as possibilities.
"We feel like he’s an advanced player," Watson said. "We feel like he should move relatively quick. But the game itself will dictate some of those things."
For his part, Swanson said he looks forward to the transition from the college game to pro ball.
"I’m curious to see how the transition goes," he said.
The D-backs also signed 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, a high school right-handed pitcher out of New York. He was a top 100 prospect who threw as hard as 99 mph before the draft but fell because he needs Tommy John surgery.
"Throughout the scouting season this guy was lights out," Watson said. "We’ll have our doctors reassess how we get him back on the field."
The Diamondbacks signed 27 of their 40 picks from the June draft. They did not spend nearly $1.7 million of their bonus pool.