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5 Aug 2023

Major League Baseball teams have paid a staggering record $350,089,060 to players selected in the 2023 Draft in July.

That shattered the previous spending mark of $316,560,984 set in 2019. There’s one huge difference. Back then, 1,217 players were picked in 40 rounds compared to 614 across 20 rounds this year.

Here is what each team spent:

Detroit Tigers: $17,677,450

Pittsburgh Pirates: $17,123,300

Washington Nationals: $16,150,000

Oakland Athletics: $15,882,600

Cincinnati Reds: $15,321,500

Minnesota Twins: $15,245,600

Kansas City Royals: $14,002,200

Seattle Mariners: $13,990,500

Miami Marlins: $13,692,400

Colorado Rockies: $13,192,450

Milwaukee Brewers: $12,498,100

Tampa Bay Rays: $12,172,100

Arizona Diamondbacks: $12,055,000

Boston Red Sox: $11,851,200

Texas Rangers: $11,442,900

San Francisco Giants: $11,433,525

Baltimore Orioles: $11,414,800

Chicago White Sox: $10,967,800

Chicago Cubs: $10,695,000

Cleveland Guardians: $10,221,275

Los Angeles Angels: $10,015,225

Atlanta Braves: $ 9,988,500

New York Mets: $ 9,869,850

Los Angeles Dodgers: $ 8,583,000

Houston Astros: $ 8,234,500

Toronto Blue Jays: $ 7,856,185

St. Louis Cardinals: $ 7,618,500

San Diego Padres: $ 7,161,600

New York Yankees: $ 6,970,900

Philadelphia Phillies: $ 6,761,100

Pitcher Paul Skenes and outfielder Dylan Crews reaped the two most lucrative signing bonuses in history. Skenes, selected No. 1 overall by Pittsburgh, received $9.2 million. His Louisiana State teammate was chosen next by Washington and got $9 million.

2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship

OMAHA, NEB. - JUNE 26: Paul Skenes of the LSU Tigers hoists the NCAA College World Series ... [+] Championship trophy after defeating the Florida Gators. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Skenes got slightly below the slot value set by Major League Baseball of $9,721,000. Crews got more than the $8,898,500 recommended. MLB assigns each pick in the first 10 rounds a slot value. The sum is that team's total bonus money allowed to spend. A club can try to save money on earlier picks to pay a later selection more.

An example is Milwaukee, which paid Brock Wilkin $3,150,000 as the 18th pick, slotted by MLB at $4,021,400. That and other negotiations helped the Brewers dole out $547,500 Justin Chambers, far more than any other 20th-round choice this year. The Arizona prep pitcher got that to keep him from fulfilling a signing commitment to play at Washington State.

The last player picked at No. 614, Western Carolina shortstop Pascanel Ferreras, got $150,000 from the Houston Astros. That beats the $100,000 Rick Monday got from the Oakland Athletics as the very first pick in the inaugural draft in 1965. A year later, Reggie Jackson signed for $80,000 with Oakland as the second overall pick. He went on to become the first drafted player to eventually make the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Paying a prospect big bucks does not guarantee great return. In 1991, Brien Taylor was the first draftee to crash the million-dollar threshold. The New York Yankees paid the precocious high-school left-hander $1,550,000 as the No. 1 pick. After two decent seasons in the low minors, Taylor hurt his throwing shoulder in a fight, missed an entire year, then compiled a woeful 3-15 record over five years of Class A ball. In 2012, he was charged with drug trafficking and spent three years behind bars.

Fort Lauderdale Yankees Brien Taylor...

Brien Taylor of the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in a Class A Florida State League game. FL 6/1/1995 ... [+] CREDIT: Tom DiPace (Photo by Tom DiPace /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: D32287 )

Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

In 2002, Bryan Bullington got $4 million from Pittsburgh as the first overall choice. He had a 1-9 record in only 26 games for four different big-league teams in his career. The lefty had a 33-17 overall record his first three years in the minors. Called up to the Pirates, he gave up two runs over 1 1/3 innings in relief, hurt his shoulder and had surgery one month later. He was never the same.

A year earlier, Pittsburgh paid its first-rounder $2,400,000 and got a 2-13 record with 9.20 earned run average over just 26 starts in return. John Van Benschoten led the nation in home runs with 31 as a senior at Kent State. The Pirates preferred the big right-hander’s big fastball and chose him at No. 8 as a pitcher.

He had a combined record of 24-10 in the minors in 2002-03, also batting .306 (11-for-36) with one homer. He homered in his second MLB start in August 2004. That was a high point for him — and me. Working in the Pirates’ TV truck, when “VB” came to bat in the second inning against Arizona’s Casey Fossum, I asked the director to use a graphic we had built showing the rookie’s batting prowess. Seconds later, Van Benschoten blasted a two-run homer over the center-field wall. I may have been happier than him.

A month later, the prized pitcher’s shoulder was sore. He soon had a series of surgeries and was ineffective the rest of his career.

The year before Taylor’s rich reward, the Atlanta Braves became the third club to sign a first-rounder who became a future Hall of Famer. They got third baseman Chipper Jones for only $275,000. In 1987, the Seattle Mariners signed legendary slugger Ken Griffey Jr., for $160,000 and in 1977, the Chicago White Sox shelled out only $32,000 for No. 1 overall pick Harold Baines. Remarkably, 23 of the 25 other first-rounders that year got higher signing bonuses.

Sports Contributor Archive 2018

CHICAGO - Rookie Harold Baines of the Chicago White Sox before a 1980 game at Comiskey Park. Baines ... [+] hit .289 with 384 homers and 1,628 RBI for five teams overall in 22 seasons. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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Cash-strapped White Sox owner Bill Veeck knew he could not afford the player generally considered the top talent in that year’s draft, infielder Paul Molitor. "Our choice was universal," Veeck told Chicago reporters. "We scouted him as thoroughly as we scouted anybody.”

That was true. Veeck had seen Baines play Little League ball and followed his career through high school.

Molitor, got the biggest bonus that year of $77,500 after being selected No. 3 overall by Milwaukee.

Oh, how finances have changed. One thing is certain: teams cannot afford to be wrong these days without paying a very hefty price.