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WAUKEE -- When the Pirates selected Mark Appel with the eighth overall pick of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, general manager Neal Huntington knew it would be a "tough sign." He found out just how tough in the last month, as Pittsburgh and Appel failed to reach an agreement before Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline to sign drafted players.
The 20-year-old right-handed pitcher, who was being advised by agent Scott Boras, said in a statement that he has decided to return to Stanford University for his senior year. The Pirates, meanwhile, will have the ninth overall pick in next year's Draft as compensation.
Huntington would rather have had Appel, who was 10-2 with 2.56 ERA as a junior for the Cardinal.
"We were excited about the opportunity to add him to a plethora of great young arms," Huntington said in a conference call on Friday. "It didn't happen. Now we turn the corner, and this too shall pass."
Under baseball's new labor agreement, Appel's selection at No. 8 had a signing slot of $2.9 million. Pittsburgh had more than $6.5 million to sign their 11 Draft picks in the first 10 rounds. Huntington said the organization offered Appel $3.8 million, which was the most they could give him without surrendering a Draft pick, earlier this week. The Pirates were told that number didn't reach Appel's value.
"We continued to engage in conversations in the hopes of changing their minds," Huntington said. "But we were unable to do so."
Instead, the Pirates signed their eighth-, 16th-, 17th- and 18th-round picks on Friday. Pittsburgh reached the deadline having signed 20 of its 41 selections from last month's Draft, including eight of its top 10 picks.
With the new labor agreement limiting the amount teams can spend on top picks and changing how teams sign draftees, Huntington said this year provided a "very valuable lesson." However, he doesn't think he would have done anything differently.
Along with the No. 9 pick in next year's draft, the Pirates also are included in the competitive-balance lottery, which could land them another pick at the end of the first or second round. Although signing Appel was the main goal, Huntington said he was still pleased with the recent Draft and excited about the future.
"We took the calculated gamble," Huntington said. "The upside is now we have the chance to get the ninth pick in next year's Draft, our regular pick and then the competitive balance lottery. ... We may be looking at three of the top 40-45 picks in the country next year.
"At the end of the day, we think we're going to get a great player."