Cardinals Reportedly Come to (Insane) Terms with James Ramsey

click to enlarge This is the Dirt Cheap chicken. This is who should have been negotiating with James Ramsey. At the very least, its cries of, "Cheap! Cheap!" would have gotten the message across as to why the Cardinals picked him. 
This is the Dirt Cheap chicken. This is who should have been negotiating with James Ramsey. At the very least, its cries of, "Cheap! Cheap!" would have gotten the message across as to why the Cardinals picked him. 
I've said before, talking about the Cardinals' draft picks this year, that I initially hated what they did. I didn't like the players that well, I didn't like what I saw as the overly-risk-averse nature of the strategy, and I hated that they seemed bound and determined to load up on limited upside middling prospects at all costs. Then, as time went on, I warmed to the Redbirds' strategy, as the draft played out and it became apparent that the new rules were affecting how teams were picking in a major way, and the Cardinals had a definite strategy all along. 

In Friday's draft report, I expressed honest admiration for the Cards' strategy. I said I thought their approach was intelligent and disciplined, allowing them to accomplish exactly what they had set out to, and that careful planning early had led to a couple of very savvy risks later on. I had come around to what the Redbirds did in a big way. 

Now, well... If the most recent piece of news regarding the Cards' draft -- and one pick in particular -- is accurate, then I may very well be back on my way to hating the whole damned thing. 

Jim Callis of Baseball America reported late yesterday that the Cardinals have come to terms with their first round (23rd overall) draft pick, James Ramsey, an outfielder from Florida State. That's actually good news; you have to sign players and get them into the system before they can start producing and turning into productive members of the big league club, after all. 

The problem isn't the fact the Cardinals signed Ramsey; the problem is the amount they reportedly gave him: 1.6 million of their dollars. Now, let me give you some context. 

The full value of the slot where Ramsey was selected was $1.775 million. That's the number his slot was budgeted at; anything lower than that and the Cards could save money for use on other picks. That last part is key. As a college senior, Ramsey had very little (some might say zero), leverage in negotiating. If he didn't want to sign with the Cards, he could, well, do nothing. Go sign with the Muskeegee Wildebeests of the East Jesus League and play for 300 elk herders a night, I suppose. But beyond indy ball, Ramsey really has no other options. 

Ergo, he should be cheap. Like really cheap. Like, cheap enough that his price tag is one of the most attractive things about picking him. That's a big part of why I could get on board with selecting him so early, when otherwise I don't think he was worth a pick as high as 23rd overall. 

Well, guess what? That $1.6 million? That's not cheap. That's barely under full value. Certainly not the kind of cheap he should have been. 

So what happened? Well, I don't know, but I have to believe this was a huge miscalculation on the part of the Cardinals' front office. They clearly drafted Ramsey as part of a strategy geared toward saving money for later in the draft -- see their eleventh and twelfth round picks. Now, whether they made a mistake in estimating what it would cost to sign him, or something changed since the time of the draft -- i.e. Ramsey's team decided to alter the terms of the deal, Darth Vader-style -- it doesn't look like the savings are going to be anywhere near the level that would justify making this pick in the spot they did. For just under full value, the Cards could likely have taken virtually any player they wanted. And, while I think Ramsey is a very good prospect, I can't begin to imagine they thought he was the absolute best player available at number 23. 

Derrick Goold is reporting the Cards have apparently come to terms with Max Foody, the 12th round southpaw with significant upside who was a big part of the reason I came around to the Cards' drafting strategy; that takes some of the sting out of this. But perhaps the biggest prize of the Cardinals' class, aside from Carson Kelly in the second, was Trey Williams, the ultra-talented infielder taken one round earlier than Foody, and this number for Ramsey all but kills any hopes anyone might have had for the Redbirds to sign Williams. If Ramsey had signed for half of that $1.6 million maybe Williams was attainable; as it stands now I can't conceive of a scenario that gets him into pro ball. 

So, I'm back to largely hating much of the Cardinals' early draft now, because they basically went cheap and then paid a premium for it. The problem may have been those same new draft rules that prompted the Cards' strategy in the first place; they couldn't afford to not sign Ramsey, because they would have been heavily penalized. So the leverage, counterintuitive as it may seem, was actually tilted back toward the player here. The Cardinals invested too valuable a pick in Ramsey, and couldn't take the chance of him not signing. He certainly didn't want to go play indy ball for a year and try to get redrafted another year older and even less leverage, I'm sure, but the Redbirds needed him to sign. And need is not conducive to getting the best deal possible. 

The terms of the deal have not been officially announced yet; it's possible the actual number may be a little different from this. But if it's even in the same ballpark as what's being reported -- and there's really no reason to believe it isn't -- then the Cardinals' draft just got a whole lot uglier for me. And a whole lot less sensible. The strategy the Cards' employed was based largely on finding ways to build the war chest early to spend late. By handing a college senior who should have been Aristocrat vodka a Grey Goose bonus, the strategy they so carefully cultivated -- and I so ardently admired -- has gone right out the window, and with it much of the value we all thought they were getting. 

I would just like to say for the record this doesn't mean I don't still think Ramsey is a very good prospect. I still like him as a player, and I think he could be something very intriguing in professional ball. But his price tag was one of the best things about him. And when you take that away, I just don't see how he belongs as the 23rd pick in the draft. 

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