Mark Appel passes on Pittsburgh, will return to Stanford for senior season

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Mark Appel and his advisor Scott Boras believe that he is worth more than the $3.8 million the Pittsburgh Pirates were reportedly offering him to sign.

They're so confident, in fact, that they're willing to wait a year to find out. The Stanford pitcher is heading back to school for his senior season after he and the Pirates failed to come to an agreement before Friday afternoon's signing deadline for picks from last month's MLB amateur draft. Appel was the only one of 31 first-round picks to not sign a contract.

Though he was once considered the potential top pick in the draft, Appel and Boras' financial demands were part of the reason the righthander fell all the way to the Pirates at the No. 8 spot. And while Appel's camp apparently still thought he should be paid like one of the top couple of picks in the draft, the Pirates felt differently. GM Neal Huntington said on Friday that selecting Appel was a "calculated risk" that didn't work out.

Meanwhile, here's what Appel said in a statement (via @JonHeymanCBS):

"After much thought, prayer and analysis of both opportunities, I came to the conclusion the best decision is to remain at Stanford continuing my studies, finishing my degree and doing all I can to assist the Cardinal baseball team. I greatly valued the prospect of a professional opportunity and I will pursue a professional baseball career after getting my Stanford degree."

That Appel and the Pirates couldn't work past their stalemate isn't too surprising since both sides had a decent amount of leverage. Appel could always threaten to return to school for his senior season at a world-class university while the Pirates could rest easier knowing that any failure to sign Appel would result in the team being awarded the No. 9 pick in the 2013 draft as compensation. Pittsburgh offered what it could at that slot without losing next year's spot, but it wasn't high enough for Appel, who was surely still stinging from his drop in the draft.

[Tim Brown: Pirates on the rise in the latest power rankings]

While it would have been a steal for the Pirates to add Appel to a minor-league system that already includes pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, the organization can't feel that badly about the deal not working out. It would have been nice to add a talent like Appel on a value signing at $3.8 million but they'll get two picks in the first round of next year's draft to help ease the pain.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder what Appel is thinking by turning down $3.8 million. No, it's not as much as $5.5 million or $6 million but it 1) still makes him very rich, 2) gets him into professional baseball and 3) moves him one year closer to the real payday in baseball — free agency.  Getting past the disappointment of falling from No. 1 and getting to work on a professional career would seem to be the supreme show of confidence (at least to me), but Appel and Boras' actions show that such a thing is up for interpretation.

If nothing else, you have to admire their patience.

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