The first of the St. Louis Cardinals' so-called unsignable draft picks has agreed to terms.
Chad Hutchinson, a right-handed pitcher from Stanford, fell to the second round of the June 2 amateur draft because teams were concerned they'd have a tough time getting him in the fold.
First, he was a two-year starter at quarterback for Stanford and had NFL aspirations, and second, his agent is Scott Boras, a notoriously tough negotiator.
So tough that Hutchinson, who the Cardinals would have taken with the fifth pick overall had J.D. Drew not been available, was still around for the 48th selection of the second round. Hutchinson was a first-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and decided to go to college instead.
But it took them only three weeks to sign him to a $3.5 million package that includes a $2.4 million signing bonus and $1.1 million for a four-year guaranteed contract. That leaves the Cardinals with the rest of the summer to concentrate on Drew, another Boras client.
"We're in the talent business, and we've got to try to do the best we can to acquire talent," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "You've got to roll the dice once in a while.
"We had a lot to sell and we were convincing."
Jocketty said Drew's name did not come up during negotiations. Drew sat out all of last season holding out for a $10 million bonus that he didn't get from the Philadelphia Phillies, and re-entered the draft.
"We tried to separate the negotiations," Jocketty said. ``We targeted Hutchinson first, because I felt all along he was a guy we could sign if we approached him the right way."
Boras said Drew was offered an $11.5 million, four-year deal by one team before the draft, and that four other teams had no problem paying that amount.
"We're continuing to talk," Boras said. ``It's dependent on principles. It's really up to St. Louis to determine if J.D. is worth that amount to them."
Now that they've got Hutchinson, Jocketty said the Cardinals don't have to sign Drew to have a successful draft.
"IF WE DON'T sign Drew, we've still got a irst-round pick," he said. ``If we sign Drew, we've got two, so that's pretty exciting."
Jocketty saw Drew playing for St. Paul, Minn., in the independent Northern League last week, but doesn't plan on making another trip there soon.
"We've done all we can do with him, and I think it's just a matter of negotiating with his representative," Jocketty said. "They're holding pretty firm, but we'll keep working at it."
Hutchinson, 21, has a 97 mph fastball and struck out 115 in 99 1-3 innings as a junior at Stanford. Ed Creech, the Cardinals' scouting director, estimated his staff has seen Hutchinson pitch 25-30 times the last three years.
The Cardinals believe Hutchinson could be ready for the starting rotation as early as next season, and Creech said cutting football out of the equation will only speed up his timetable. After taking a physical and spending a few days with pitching coach Dave Duncan next week in St. Louis, the Cardinals are shipping Hutchinson to Class A New Jersey.
"What's going to help him is just being able to pitch more," Creech said. "This guy is going to have a whole year of doing nothing but baseball, and I think it's going to help him."
Stanford began a summer football program on Tuesday, hours after the parties wrapped up late-night negotiations at 2:30 a.m.
"We felt the longer he was involved in football, the harder it would be for him to say no to football," Jocketty said.
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