Bubba Starling would really have to love the sport of football to pass up the opportunity that's currently in front of him. When it comes down to it, that's what the Kansas City Royals are hoping Starling realizes when faced with the option to not sign with the club that selected him at No. 5 in the recent MLB Draft.
The star 6-5 outfielder is known for having projectable Major League talent across the board -- from power to speed to fielding and back -- so it was no surprise to see him taken so early in the draft. Rumors persisted that even the Pittsburgh Pirates at the top of the overall order might take him at No. 1. However, the question that also lingered was that Starling had already committed to the University of Nebraska football program. Now that the Royals have selected him, it's a showdown to see which sport he's really committed to -- one with August two-a-days and a few years from becoming a starter, the other offering millions of dollars.
How much money would Starling leave on the table? Last year, the Cleveland Indians selected Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz at No. 5 overall and went down to the final minutes before settling on a $2.65 million contract. The Royals selected at No. 4 and took Christian Colon and signed him early to a $2.7 million deal. Starling could beat both of those and settle for just south of $3 million. Perhaps he could even cross that threshold. But would he truly be willing to head to conditioning and walk away permanently from that sort of money until he's possibly drafted again in a few years? I doubt it.
The reality is that every party recognizes the dance right now -- holding any ounce of leverage to go one way or the other. Agents and front offices will be locked in these sorts of encounters for just over a month until the August 15th signing deadline appears. Then you will find out who is really willing to walk away and who was playing all along. The San Diego Padres found out that Karsten Whitson wasn't joking at No. 9 overall when he said he was willing to go to Florida. The starter threw in this year's College World Series and should be another top flight pick when he's eligible again.
But here's guessing Starling is a late summer addition to the Royals farm system, and that they'll get at least a glimpse of what all the fuss is about.