PITTSBURGH - Mark Appel goes to Stanford, so he has to be pretty smart.
Appel was the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 1 choice in last month's draft. He chose not to sign with the Pirates as Friday's deadline passed.
The Pirates offered him $3.8 million as a signing bonus, but Appel elected to pass on that offer. He'll return for a senior season at Stanford and be available in next June's draft.
It's a calculated gamble, and it will be a year before we know it paid off.
Appel enlisted commando agent Scott Boras as an advisor, which leads some people to suspect that Boras was controlling this negotiation. That wouldn't appear to be the case in this instance.
Appel has a value in mind for his signature on a contract, and it's more than the amount the Pirates offered. Under the new slotting system, the Pirates didn't have a lot of flexibility in negotiations.
The slotting system was designed to provide a firm range that amateur players would get. There had been unofficial slots in the past, and the Pirates often exceeded them.
The new system makes that almost impossible. Had the Pirates gone over the slot amount assigned, they would have paid penalties and - most damaging of all - forfeited future draft choices.
That isn't an option for a team like the Pirates, which must focus on player development.
There was a risk in drafting Appel. He supposedly told the Houston Astros he wouldn't sign for the $6 million they had floated in advance of the draft.
Appel is basically betting he'll be one of the first three players chosen next year. That means he has to have a great senior season, and avoid injury. His college eligibility will be expired next year, so that bit of leverage will be gone.
His decision to bypass a guaranteed $3.8 million is curious, but it's his right. He's the only first round choice who didn't sign.
Next year he'll find out if he was smart enough to beat the system.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org