COLUMBIA — The deadline is quickly approaching for Justin Smoak to reach a deal with the Texas Rangers, lest he join an independent league or even return to South Carolina.
But, as of late last week, neither party was overly concerned about the ticking clock, which will hit zero at midnight Saturday.
Sources familiar with the negotiations between Texas and its first-round pick, the 11th overall selection of the June draft, described them as "productive" and "ongoing." They said there was no contingency plan even being discussed for Smoak and that they expected him to be in the Rangers system this late summer and fall.
Messages left Tuesday afternoon with Smoak and Smoak's adviser, Knoxville, Tenn.-based Dustin Bledsoe, were not immediately returned.
Smoak isn't the only high first-rounder sitting and waiting. In fact, as of Tuesday, seven of the top 10 picks in front of him are still unsigned. Only one college player, Stanford catcher Jason Castro, has signed ($2.1 million).
Smoak, the native of Goose Creek and former Stratford star, is slotted for about a $2 million signing bonus.
Additionally, Baseball America reported Monday that Smoak, seventh pick Yonder Alonso (1B, Miami) and eighth pick Gordon Beckham (SS, Georgia) are all attempting to negotiate for big league contracts instead of the previously standard minor league deals.
If that's true, teams will be hesitant to give in, fearing future demands from high draft picks.
A major league contract means you're protected as a member of the 40-man roster, considered elite within the organization. It essentially ensures the player that he's in the club's big league plans.
In addition to Smoak, USC third baseman James Darnell, a second-round pick, still hasn't reached an agreement with San Diego.
Meanwhile, Reese Havens, the other USC first-rounder and Lowcountry native, bounced back from a wrist injury and is playing for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones.
In 21 games so far for the 22nd overall pick by the Mets, Havens is hitting .263 with three homers and 11 RBIs. Of his 21 hits, 11 have been for extra bases (six doubles, two triples).
The Cyclones eased Havens in by starting him as a designated hitter, but they've recently been playing him at shortstop. Most believe the Mets' plan is to eventually move the Sullivan's Island native to second, since the major league club has an All-Star shortstop in Jose Reyes.
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