Royals sign No. 2 overall pick 11 minutes before deadline

Updated: August 16, 2007, 9:38 PM ET
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Waking up Thursday as a brand new millionaire "feels pretty good," says muscular Mike Moustakas.

But he thought that enrolling at Southern Cal with a baseball scholarship and no $4 million signing bonus from the Kansas City Royals would have been a hoot, too.

Maybe that explains why the top home run hitter in California high school history waited until 11 minutes before the deadline to make the decision that's going to change his life and possibly transform the sports landscape for an entire city.

"I was confident if the deal wasn't done, I'd be going to SC, and I was OK with that," Moustakas said in a teleconference Thursday. Asked to clarify that he would have been just as happy going to college as joining the Royals, he said, "yes."

But the husky 6-foot shortstop who set California high school home run records and hit over .500 his senior year also sounded delighted to be taking the next step toward his lifelong dream of playing in the majors.

"It's been my dream since I was a kid," he said. "Now that it's finally come true, it's unbelievable. Now we've got one more goal to reach at this point. I'm just real excited about it."

The overall No. 2 choice in the June draft, Moustakas got almost $900,000 more in bonus money than the $3.15 million recommended by major league baseball in the new informal slotting arrangement.

But it was considerably less than the $5.6 million bonus Tampa Bay gave Vanderbilt pitcher David Price, who was taken just ahead of Moustakas as the overall No. 1.

Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, selected fifth by Baltimore, also came to terms late Wednesday and got a $6 million signing bonus. Pitcher Andrew Brackman, the No. 30 pick, agreed to a $3.35 million signing bonus with the New York Yankees.

Did the Royals get a steal?

Scott Boras, Moustakas' agent, said the final decision rested solely with the teenager.

"We told him, 'If you're going to be a professional baseball player, you make your own decisions regardless of your chronological age," said Boras.

"I think Mike made a decision once the compromises were made and the benefits and detriments were evaluated. Mike told us late in the process what he wanted to do and we told him all along it's going to be his decision. We work for him."

As the day wore on and the clock kept ticking, Royals executives sweated it out. Under the new rules instituted this year, they would have received the overall No. 3 pick in next year's draft as compensation for not getting Moustakas signed.

The Royals, whose long rebuilding effort appears, finally, to be starting to bear fruit, desperately wanted Moustakas. He has leadership qualities to go along with an abundance of physical talents. As a power-hitting high school prospect, he's been compared by sober-minded baseball people with Alex Rodriguez.

Finally, at 11:49 EDT Wednesday, general manager Dayton Moore's cell phone rang. It was Boras. The offer was accepted.

"We were very happy," said Moore. "Let's face it -- to not get Mike Moustakas signed would have been a setback for the Royals."

So what finally in those last few moments tipped the scales?

"I'm really not sure," Moustakas said. "Both sides came to a compromise."

Boras, known as the toughest negotiator among all baseball agents, declined to name a winner and loser.

"I will say this -- Mike Moustakas makes the decision here," Boras said. "If anybody asked me who Mike Moustakas is and what he does, I think the Kansas City Royals should be very, very pleased over what type of player they have. It's rare you have a high school player who's as far along maturity-wise and talent-wise and has the skill level, the exhibitable skill level Mike has."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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