It has become something of an annual tradition: experts across the baseball industry lauding the Marlins for their handling of the MLB Draft. Director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik is incredible at what he does. A 2020 postseason berth dropped Miami in the draft order and limited their signing bonus pool relative to the previous two drafts, yet Svihlik worked his magic again.
The Marlins also got lucky. Prep shortstop Kahlil Watson, widely considered a top-10 talent in the 2021 class (MLB Pipeline was especially high on Watson, ranking him fourth), fell into their laps with the No. 16 overall pick. It’s so rare for an All-Star-caliber prospect to be available past the halfway point of the first round.
Pundits were quick to tout Watson as “the steal of the draft” and the Marlins as one of the teams that made the most of their resources...with the caveat that the Marlins still need to actually sign him.
More so than anything else, Watson’s slippage was due to signability concerns. Prior to the draft, his representatives contacted teams with his signing bonus asking price (a common practice for big-time prospects). Even if those picking ahead of the Marlins believed in Watson’s talent, they may have decided to go in a different direction in order to preserve financial flexibility for the rest of their draft class.
For 2021, the Marlins have a $9,949,800 bonus pool that applies to players selected during the first 10 rounds. They can spend 5% above that—$10,447,290—without losing any future picks. Regardless of how much Miami adores Watson, it is safe to assume that they won’t go above that threshold (nobody has dared to since the current draft system was implemented a decade ago).
As you can see in our draft signings tracker, the Marlins have finalized deals with all of their other Day 1 and Day 2 draftees well in advance of the August 1 signing deadline. Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reports that negotiations with Watson will likely go down to the wire. Mish is mildly optimistic about them working things out, while MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis considers it inevitable:
However, there isn’t much negotiating to be done. The Marlins have used a combined $5,906,500 from their bonus pool so far, leaving them with a maximum of $4,540,790 for Watson (the No. 16 pick slot value is $3,745,500).
Is that enough for the 18-year-old shortstop to forgo his commitment to North Carolina State?
Worst-case scenario, the Marlins will be awarded the No. 17 overall pick in the 2022 draft as compensation if Watson turns them down.
Will the Marlins be able to sign top draft pick Kahlil Watson?
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