SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, with three days left until the deadline for the Red Sox to sign first-round selection Jason Groome, a gap remains in negotiations between the team and the 17-year-old lefthander out of Barnegat (N.J.) High School.
The Red Sox have made an offer, according to the source, that is “a tick over [$3.5 million] at this point but still south” of Groome’s asking price. (Jon Heyman of todaysknuckleball.com was first to report the Sox’ offer at $3.5 million.)
The lefthander has yet to take a physical for the team, adding to the sense of urgency surrounding a deal, since the team would want a standard medical examination of the pitcher before finalizing a deal.
The recommended slot bonus for the No. 12 overall pick is $3,192,800, so the Red Sox have already pushed roughly 10 percent beyond that mark. But as a 17-year-old with top-of-the-draft talent (a fastball that has touched 97 miles per hour, with a standout curveball) who can re-enter the draft in a year if he enrolls at Chipola College in Florida, Groome has leverage to seek an above-slot bonus.
Indeed, signability questions along with some questions about makeup resulted in Groome’s slide in the draft from his anticipated place in the first few picks. As Heyman wrote, there is a belief in the industry that the Padres were prepared to offer Groome a $5 million bonus if he slid to them at No. 24.
Nonetheless, Major League Baseball’s limits on teams’ abilities to make above-slot offers somewhat ties the hands of the Red Sox. The Red Sox have a total available bonus pool for their top 10 picks of $6,997,400; the team can exceed that amount by 5 percent (just under $350,000) without getting penalized with the loss of future first-round picks, meaning it can spend roughly $7.35 million on its picks from the top 10 rounds.
To this point, the Sox have committed about $2.2 million of their available pool money, leaving just over $5 million to sign picks in the top 10 rounds. However, in addition to Groome, the team has yet to sign fourth-rounder Bobby Dalbec (a third baseman expected to get a bonus roughly in line with his $501,300 slot recommendation) and fifth-rounder Mike Shawaryn (a righthander seeking a bonus in excess of his $375,500 slot).
The Sox hope to sign all three players, but if they cannot sign Groome, then even though the team would lose his slot recommendation from its available pool, it saved enough money on its other picks signed from the top 10 rounds that it could contemplate a charge at a player such as high school shortstop Nick Quintana, their 11th-round pick who visited Fenway and met with team officials last week.
Still, the Sox’ priority is a deal with Groome (as well as Dalbec and Shawaryn). Adding a pitcher with the upside of the 6-foot-6-inch, 220-pound lefthander with his fastball/curveball combination to 18-year-old Anderson Espinoza (currently in Single A Greenville) and 20-year-old Michael Kopech (in High A Salem) could give the team a trio of pitchers with the sort of impact potential that it hasn’t possessed in years.
Multiple major league sources remain optimistic that a deal likely will get done, with resolution potentially coming as soon as Tuesday on an agreement in order to ensure that Groome has time to take a physical before Friday and so that the Sox can make a determination about who else they can sign by Friday. But for now, the two sides have yet to bridge the gap, leaving at least a hint of uncertainty about the final resolution as the July 15 deadline for an agreement comes ever closer.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.