Two undrafted amateur free agents signed huge contracts this week, both landing in the upper echelon of player contracts in the Bull League.
Steve Rollins, a starting pitcher from Pembroke Park, Florida, who did not play in any affiliated college or amateur league before this year, but whom some scouts have hailed as a “dominant hurler”, has signed an 8-year deal with the New York Dragons organization, jetting to fifth place on the list of largest Bull League contracts.
Rollins will earn over $156 million during his time with New York, not including incentives and extensions. The 25-year-old’s contract value ranks only behind California’s reliever Lien-ying Li, Denver’s catcher Javier Chavarria, Anchorage Aces outfielder Alex Viramontes, and top earner Alex Medina, left handed ace for the Toronto Nomads.
The second huge contract inked this week is for Greg Whittington, a 22-year-old out of Winston-Salem, NC, said to have a blistering 99 mph fastball. Whittington was picked up by the Chicago Pit Bulls, and given a 10-year deal that will see him earn $139.7 million in total, not including bonuses. This ranks him 8th overall in the Bull League.
Rollins and Whittington were among a pool of free agent starting pitchers lured to offer themselves to the Bull League to overcome what was perceived as a shortage of decent prospect arms in the upcoming first year player draft. A league analysis determined that many teams had a current pitching staff headed by pitchers with less than premium quality skills. About 30 pitchers were scouted at varying quality and invited into the free agent pool prior to Opening Day.
New York now has a very enviable problem: where to put their new star Rollins. The team is currently 2nd in the Lake League in starting pitcher ERA, behind only Toronto, with a 2.44 team starter ERA. They are getting incredible performances right through their whole rotation, from Jose Castaneda, currently 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA, to #5 man Ricky Naugler, at 3-0 with a LL leading 0.59 ERA.
The Dragons could put William Febres into a long relief role, as he is arguably struggling with a 1-3 record, although with an ERA that is still right around league average, 3.52 (compared to the current LL average 3.51). But that it unlikely, as he is among the leaders in strikeouts, and really only had one “bad” game, a 4 earned run loss to Ohio on May 27, where he struggled with recording outs, and let up 7 hits, his worst showing this season.
Chicago, on the other hand, has pieces they can move out of the rotation, and will likely send Yardbrook Rooks either to the bullpen, or could option him right down to Hartford. The Pit Bulls have the worst bullpen in the LL at the moment, and moving Rooks to the pen could be a good strategy to stave off late inning losses.
Only a handful of decent free agent pitchers remain, and none are thought to be good enough to land big deals like Rollins and Whittington. The next signing frenzy will likely come later this month after the June 17 draft, when teams will once again break out the check books to send out signing bonuses to college and high school draftees.