Ricciardi says signing period too long

NEW YORK -- With one week left before the deadline to sign prospects from the June draft, the Toronto Blue Jays have only two of their first 10 picks under contract.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi isn't worried -- that's status quo these days.

Major League Baseball and the players' union agreed to the signing deadline before the 2007 season. Teams that fail to reach agreements with first- or second-round picks get a selection in the following draft right after the same number pick. Players are not eligible to sign after the deadline, and many go back into the draft.

It's created a frenetic rush to get players signed at the last minute. Most top draft picks hold out to get the best offer, causing them to miss most of the minor league season.

"We're not talking 1940 anymore, where a guy drives up and says, 'I'll give you a glove and, you know, a glass of Coke and come sign with us,'" Ricciardi said Monday night, before the Blue Jays played the New York Yankees. "Everybody knows what the money is and no player is signing and saying, 'Oh my God, I got really screwed.'"

Last year, six agreements were reached among the top 11 players in the hours before the deadline. The Washington Nationals couldn't reach a deal with right-hander Aaron Crow, the No. 9 overall selection, and the Yankees didn't agree with right-hander Gerrit Cole, the 28th pick, who decided to attend UCLA.

Ricciardi used Crow as an example. He spent the year pitching in the independent American Association and went back in the draft this June, where he was picked 12th overall by the Kansas City Royals. He still has not signed a contract.

"Maybe the solution is you got one month," Ricciardi said. "If you don't want to sign, just say you don't want to be drafted. You could solve that problem right there."

The Blue Jays have been trying to bolster the depth of their minor league system, making the next week critical. Ricciardi said most of the offers for the top five players are on the table and "we're just waiting for them to accept."

They include right-hander Stephen Jenkins, the No. 20 overall selection, left-handers James Paxton and Jake Eliopoulos, right-hander Jake Barrett and outfielder Jacob Marisnick. All of them were drafted in the first three rounds.

"It's just unfortunate not a lot of guys are signing," Ricciardi said. "The sad part is, with some of the players, we try to explain it to them, and you look at [Marc] Rzepczynski and [Brett] Cecil and they're in the big leagues in two years. They sign right away and they're out.

"We want to sign all of them," Ricciardi said. "Hopefully we will sign all of them."