(Photo by Associated Press)
I had a chance tonight to talk to Brodie Van Wagenen, the well-respected agent who served as the advisor to Danny Hultzen, the Mariners’ first-round draft pick who signed tonight right at the deadline.
Van Wagenen, the co-head of the baseball division of CAA Sports, said that both sides compromised to get the deal done. He acknowledged that navigating a satisfactory conclusion was complicated by several factors. Those included Hultzen’s pre-draft expectations — reportedly he was seeking a four-year, $13-million contract. On the Mariners side, they had knowledge of the fact that the pick right after Hultzen, UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer, had signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a reported $3.4-million bonus — well below what Hultzen was seeking.
“That created a pretty large gap for both sides to bridge,” Van Wagenen said. “The signing of Dustin Ackley two years ago also created a complicated road block.”
Ackley was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009, the same slot in which Hultzen was picked. Ackley signed a five-year major-league contract for $7.5 million, with a possible $2.5 million in incentives.
Hultzen wound up signing a five-year major-league deal for a guaranteed $8.5 million — the fifth-largest guarantee in draft history (behind Stephen Strasburg’s $15.1 million, Mark Prior’s $10.5 million, Bryce Harper’s $9.9 million, and Mark Teixeira’s $9.5 million). He’ll receive a $6.35 million signing bonus, with a maximum value of $10.6 million for the entire package.
“We were able to structure a contract we feel both sides can not only live with, but also be excited about at the start of a long journey together,” Van Wagenen said. “It’s never about setting a record, but reaching a fair d eal that accomplishes the goals of the player. That was absolutely accomplished.”
Wagenen added, “I think the reason this deal was able to get done is that there continued to be, until the end, a lot of mutual respect from the Mariners’ organization to the Hultzen family, and that was reciprocated.
“In any deal, you have to go past the point of comfortability, and the Mariner and Hultzens were able to do it. Both sides were able to make extreme compromises to get it done.”
Van Wagenen had high praise for the Mariners negotiating team, singling out general manager Jack Zduriencik, scouting director Tom McNamara and attorney Bart Waldman, the Mariners’ executive VP of legal and governmental affairs who plays a key role in many high-profile negotiations.
“The Mariners should be proud of the way they handled it,” he said. “They are completely class acts.”
There had been speculation that Hultzen wanted to be allowed to attend the fall quarter at the University of Virginia, but Van Wagenen said, “The final deal got done because both sides were motivated to have Danny compete for a big-league job next spring. He’s going to commit to playing baseball in the fall and really do everything he can to help the Mariner organization right away.”
Hultzen will go to major-league spring training with the Mariners next year, and Zduriencik said, “Hey, we’ll give Danny a shot right off the bat to see what he can do, if he can make the big-league club or not.”
Asked if he ever feared that the Mariners might lose Hultzen, McNamara said, “I spent Friday with him, and I asked him if he wanted to be a Seattle Mariner. He said he did. Leave it at that.”
Added Zduriencik: The process can be agonizing, but in the end, the guys that really want to play are going to sign.”