The supposedly unsignable player, drafted by the team that supposedly didn’t want to sign him, signed Monday night. Zach Lee won’t play quarterback for LSU and will pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, agreeing to a contract worth $5.25 million over five years. It's not a major league deal and is backloaded so the Dodgers are protected if Lee decides to give up baseball and go back to football.
"I’m ecstatic for Zach, his family and for the entire Dodger organization,” said Logan White, the Dodgers assistant general manager in charge of scouting. "We’re bringing an outstanding talent into the fold. I have tremendous confidence in this young man and it’s clear that he signed because he has a lot of faith in the Dodgers and in their tradition of developing young pitchers."
Lee fell to the Dodgers at No. 28 in the first round of the June draft because of signability concerns. When the Dodgers didn’t contact him all summer, many observers concluded that financially strapped owner Frank McCourt had no intention of offering a lucrative contract and would take advantage of a compensation rule that would have given the Dodgers the No. 29 pick in the 2011 draft.
But the Dodgers’ strategy all along was to remain low-key until the last minute, then spring an offer on Lee that dwarfed the $1.2 million slot amount for a 28th overall pick. Lee, 18, had come to realize that the soonest he could compete for a starting job at LSU would be 2012. No college quarterback had ever become a successful major league pitcher, so turning down the Dodgers’ offer now could have meant an end to any dream he had of becoming one.
The signing bonus is by far the largest the Dodgers have ever paid. The previous high was $2.3 million in 2006 to Clayton Kershaw(notes), who like Lee was a flame-throwing high school pitcher from Texas.
The Dodgers discussed with Lee the possibility of him signing and continuing to play football, but Lee wasn't keen on the idea and neither was LSU coach Les Miles. In the end, the Dodgers got exactly what they wanted – a complete commitment from Lee to develop into a major league pitcher.