OAKLAND, Calif.—When Orioles director of amateur scouting Joe Jordan went to sleep Sunday night, less than 24 hours before the deadline to sign his 2011 draft picks, he had an idea of what would constitute a productive Monday.
The Orioles had to sign two of their remaining "big three," and one of them sure as heck had to be top pick Dylan Bundy.
With about five minutes remaining before the midnight deadline, the Orioles reached an agreement on a five-year major league deal with Bundy, the former Owasso (Okla.) High standout with the prized right arm and vast potential. Bundy, the fourth overall pick, got a guaranteed $6.25 million that includes a $4 million signing bonus.
"I'm very excited," Bundy said in a phone interview Tuesday night. "My brother [Bobby] is with the Baltimore Orioles, and it would be awesome to get an opportunity to play with him. I'm living the dream, getting a chance to play professional baseball."
About 45 minutes before Bundy's signing, the Orioles hammered out a $1.525 million deal with sixth-round pick Nicky Delmonico, a Tennessee prep third baseman who most draft pundits felt was a lock to go to the University of Georgia. And about two hours before Delmonico made his decision, one that he acknowledged reduced him to tears, the Orioles agreed to a $600,000 deal with second-round selection Jason Esposito, a third baseman out of Vanderbilt.
"I don't know how the hell it could have been a better day," Jordan said about a half hour after the deadline.
Jordan and the Orioles agreed to terms with 22 of their 50 picks, including each of their first 11. Bundy, Esposito and Delmonico signed 2012 contracts, meaning they'll report to the team's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla., but won't be added to affiliated rosters until next year.
Esposito, a third baseman, batted .341 with nine homers and 59 RBIs in 65 games for Vanderbilt this past year, but he's more known for his glove than his bat. The Orioles project Delmonico, a catcher at Farragut High in Tennessee, as a future third baseman, but his best tool is his offense.
Meanwhile, some viewed Bundy, the 18-year-old who went 11-0 with an 0.20 ERA as a high school senior, as having the most upside in the draft.
"We will just allow him the opportunity, and he'll show us how quick his timetable will be to the major leagues," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "Our job is to create the environment, the facilities and the instruction necessary, and his performance will dictate what happens after that."
The Orioles took some risk in signing Bundy to a major league deal, a rarity for high school pitchers. That allowed the Orioles a little more financial flexibility with his contract, but it also puts Bundy immediately on the 40-man roster. That means that when Bundy is optioned to the minors next spring training, the Orioles will use up the first of three or four contract options. Once those are gone, Bundy would have to pass through waivers to be sent down.
Bundy is hardly concerned about that. He said he and his representatives, which include Jay Franklin and his father, Denver, felt that a major league deal was "necessary."
"Definitely, the plan for me is to get up there [in the major leagues] in 2013. That's a very high goal. We'll see what happens," said Bundy, who reports to Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday . "We truly believe that I'm going to be up there in 2013 and help the Orioles win some games."
The Orioles signed first-round picks Brian Matusz and Adam Loewen to big league deals, and in Loewen's case, some in the organization believed that type of contract forced the club to rush him to the majors when he wasn't ready.
"For me, the negatives are just simply you have to put him on the roster," Jordan said. "That's something you don't want to do initially with an 18-year-old kid. It's not something you look to do ever do, but the talent said at the end of the day, it's not a deal breaker, and we'll do it."
While Jordan expected the Bundy negotiations to go down to the wire, he grew frustrated with the team's inability to reach an early agreement with Esposito. The team wound up signing him for $30,000 above Major League Baseball's slot recommendation.
Esposito passed up a reported $1.5 million offer from the Kansas City Royals after they drafted him in the seventh round out of high school in 2008, but he has no regrets, largely because of the experience he gained at Vanderbilt, which he helped lead to the school's first College World Series this June.
"At some point, you need to make a decision. First and foremost, it was important for my family and me to have a Vanderbilt education. Growing up near Yale [in Connecticut], I know the value of a good degree. That was something I couldn't pass up from the beginning," he said. "Making it to Omaha [for the College World Series] was the ultimate high. It's something you dream about as a little kid. That's why you go and play college baseball. It was the pinnacle. That's what it's all about, and of course, it led me to the Baltimore Orioles, which is very exciting. "
Delmonico, considered first- or second-round talent who fell to the sixth round because of his asking price, was more of a wild card, and the Orioles didn't have high hopes of signing him until very late in the process. Delmonico acknowledged that he, too, didn't expect to sign with the Orioles until a phone call early Monday evening with his brother, Joey.
Joey Delmonico is going to be a senior at Georgia, and the two talked about playing together for one year, as they did in high school, when they were teammates on a Farragut squad that won a state championship. However, Joey encouraged his younger brother to follow his professional dreams.
"I got on the phone and started tearing up," Nicky Delmonico said. "It was very emotional. It was something for me to get his permission to be able to go and sign. All along, this is what I wanted to do. This is what I wanted to do since I was little. He called me and told me that 'this is a great organization and I want to play with you, but this is your dream. I don't want to be the guy to make you pass that up.' It was a very special for me to hear that from him. After that, I called my dad and told him that I wanted to be an Oriole."
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