When Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft decided not to sign with the San Diego Padres before the signing deadline, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Whitson, widely considered the second-best prep pitcher in the draft, was considered an easy sign and a player who was motivated to get his professional career started, despite a commitment to the University of Florida.
The Padres, for their part, did their due diligence on Whitson and came away with the same impression as everyone else: Whitson was ready to sign and play.
On draft day, Whitson was so excited to be headed to the Padres that he and his representatives even came to a verbal agreement with San Diego for $1.953 million shortly after the Padres picked him. While a verbal agreement certainly isn’t binding, it shows that the kid was ready to go to play and had no qualms about playing in San Diego.
Then, for some reason, Whitson backed off that agreement. Obviously he got advice from someone that most first rounders don’t sign until the few hours before the August 16 deadline. So the Padres and Whitson sat, and waited. Both sides understood the game and, to this day, I think both sides ultimately believed a deal would get done.
In the days before the deadline, the Padres upped their offer to Whitson several times. Eventually they offered him $2.1 million, just less than No. 8 pick Delino DeShields Jr. received. That, apparently, wasn’t enough.
Padres owner Jeff Moorad told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Whitson’s advisor, Troy Caradonna wanted $2.7 million. Moorad said, “The kid was bawling his eyes out on the other end. It was a badly orchestrated agent’s game.” And Moorad would know, he is a former agent.
“Naturally we’re disappointed,” Moorad said. “To hear that the player was ‘crushed’ as the deadline passed tells us that this was agenting gone bad at its best … If we’re committed to anything, it’s to carry ourselves professionally and do business the right way.”
Both Keith Law and Buster Olney think Whitson got awful advice. He will now likely head to Florida to play college ball and won’t be eligible for the draft again until 2013 (unless he chooses to go to a junior college and re-enters the draft next year). By that time, there could be radical changes to how the draft is run (hopefully) and he may not get anywhere near the same type of money San Diego was offering. And that’s if he stays healthy and if he gets drafted as highly. On top of that, what pitcher wouldn’t want to play in Petco Park and live in San Diego? Clearly his advisor was not looking out for Whitson’s best interests.
Olney also discusses how most teams are completely frustrated by the current system. It is sure to come up for review the next time the owners meet, and could be an issue when baseballs collective bargaining agreement needs to be renewed or reviewed.
The current system just has to go. The baseball draft is utterly out of control. But that is a post for another day.
As for this story, while Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa believes the failure to sign Whitson is a major embarrassment for the Padres, I disagree. I think they stood their ground and didn’t back down to the demands of an agent who clearly didn’t have his client’s best interests in mind.
The Padres will receive the No. 11 pick in the 2011 draft as compensation for the failure to sign Whitson, and everyone claims that the 2011 draft will be one of the deepest of the last decade.