Cardinals come to terms with top two picks
Cox gets big league deal; Swagerty also signs at '11th hour'
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals held serve, and that's not a bad thing at all.
St. Louis completed deals with its two top Draft picks in advance of Monday's 11 p.m. CT deadline, signing infielder Zack Cox and pitcher Jordan Swagerty, but could not complete an agreement with 12th-round pick (but perceived first-round talent) Austin Wilson. The end result was that the club signed every player it drafted in the first 11 rounds, bolstering a farm system that was in dire need of an infusion of depth.
"We really looked at this year's Draft as an opportunity to replenish our system," general manager John Mozeliak said on Monday night. "By getting Cox signed, getting [Tyrell] Jenkins signed, getting [Seth] Blair signed and Swagerty now, we really feel that we've changed the look of our Minor League system in terms of prospects right away."
Mozeliak characterized both agreements as "11th-hour" deals, and said the Cox deal in particular was finished very shortly before the deadline.
Cox and Swagerty were both Draft-eligible sophomores, significantly increasing their leverage in negotiations. Cox signed a Major League contract and will be added to the 40-man roster, though he will report to the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League affiliate. Swagerty will report to short-season Batavia.
"Early on, from [Cox's] end, he had the position that for him to leave the University of Arkansas, it would require a Major League deal," Mozeliak said. "We knew that going in when we chose him. What we weren't sure about was the overall value of the deal. ... We agreed that it was going to take that early on in this process. What took time was getting to the total value of the contract."
Wilson has a baseball scholarship waiting for him at Stanford, and that's always a difficult hurdle for a drafting club to overcome. Mozeliak said that the Cardinals never got as far as talking dollars with Wilson, even after the lefty-swinging outfielder and his mother visited Busch Stadium for a "recruiting visit" in July.
"That never was about money," Mozeliak said. "This was all about his desire to go to college. They entertained thoughts of Major League Baseball and what it would be, but in the end, we never even exchanged numbers. They decided that Stanford would be the best route for them. It was one of the most pleasant experiences we've had with a drafted player, and we respect their decision."
The Cards' two supplemental first-rounders, pitchers Seth Blair and Tyrell Jenkins, previously agreed to deals, and Jenkins has reported to rookie-level Johnson City. Blair signed for a bit over $750,000, while Jenkins received $1.3 million.
Yahoo! Sports reported that Cox signed for $3.2 million, which would be a club record for a draftee. However, Mozeliak said that Cox's contract was not a club record, indicating that it's for less than J.D. Drew's $3 million in 1998.
By signing Cox, even though they missed out on Wilson, the Cardinals have to consider the signing period to be a success. The club considered both Cox and Wilson, as well as Blair and Jenkins, to be first-round-caliber players, so bringing in a total of three such players counts as a victory. Bringing in Wilson to boot would have qualified as a "grand slam," in the recent words of Jeff Luhnow, who serves as the Cardinals' scouting director and farm director.
Cox was regarded by many experts as the most polished hitter in this year's Draft. A left-handed-hitting third baseman, he batted .429 for Arkansas in 2010 as the Razorbacks made it to the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament. He hit nine home runs, drove in 48 runs and scored 67, and stole 11 bases in 12 tries. Cox slugged .609 for the Hogs this year.
Swagerty was the closer for Arizona State's College World Series team in 2010, and a teammate of Blair with the Sun Devils. The right-hander was the 75th overall selection in the June Draft. He recorded 14 saves in 34 appearances for ASU, striking out 48 against 10 walks in 37 innings.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. Jonathan Mayo contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.