With the signing deadline now less than a week away, I guess this post is due. I’ve been largely quiet regarding Zach Cox and Austin Wilson thus far because a) I don’t have anything official to report and b) the rumors weren’t very thick until the last few days. It’s still difficult to get an exact feel for which direction the Cardinals will take, which should tell you a lot about the direction of this post.
The Cardinals essentially drafted two first round talents in first rounder Zach Cox and in the twelfth rounder Austin Wilson. At draft time, Wilson was considered an extreme long shot with no adviser (read: agent) and a strong commitment to Stanford. The story went that his affluent parents, both alumni of prestigious universities, wanted to see their son attend Stanford. Zach Cox slipped to late in the first round due to perceived signing demands. The Cardinals snatched up both players.
Two months since the draft, the Cardinals find themselves in an unusual situation. Austin Wilson has proven far more open to signing than they expected. The Cardinals, who are very high on Wilson, have spent a great deal of time talking to the family. They’ve discussed various special provisions of a contract in relation to school. They’ve shown the kid what life is like in the bigs. (I don’t suspect spending the day with Quad Cities to see minor league life is as persuasive.) In short, they’re pulling out all the stops and, it may, be working.
Zach Cox has, however, proven far more difficult to come to a consensus with. With Scott Boras as his advisor and rumors floating pre-draft that he was looking for $5M+ in signing compensation, the Cardinals have been stymied by the disparity in perceived value. Equally frustrating has been the fact that the Cardinals, despite Cox being a sophomore, feel they hold most of the negotiating leverage. Cox is highly unlikely to improve his draft position in a stacked 2011 class and waiting till 2012 would leave him a senior with little negotiating power. The Cardinals continued discussion with Wilson give them the opportunity to acquire a first round talent without actually signing their number one pick overall. Still, Cox has proven less tractable than hoped.
So the team finds itself with an arduous week ahead. They’ll continue to have discussions with both players but budget constraints are a real world thing and it may not prove possible to sign both players. I’ve framed this discussion in the idea that Wilson has been more apt to sign than the team thought and Cox less so. That is, as near as I can tell, an accurate portrayal of the current state of affairs. The degree to which that is true is something that only Luhnow or Zach Cox or Austin Wilson could really tell you. The smart money is still on the Cardinals signing Zach Cox and not signing Austin Wilson.
The takeaway today should be that things are much more fluid than they were two months ago. The team would be content to take a supplemental pick in the 2011 draft and sign Wilson this year. (MLB would not be so thrilled with that.) If at draft time, there was a 10% chance Wilson was going to sign, I’d call 50-50 now. Likewise Cox seems to have gone from a 3-to-1 odds to something nearing 2-to-1 or 3-to-2.
If the Cardinals acquire both players, they’ll have a strong claim to a top 5 draft class. You could argue that it would be Luhnow’s best draft class to date comparable to 2005.
(Poor Jordan Swaggerty has proven an afterthought to most Cardinals fans. I expect him to sign this week without any major concerns.)