The Cincinnati Reds were only one of a few teams left who had not yet signed their 1st round draft pick this year. With the deadline coming up on Sunday afternoon, things weren’t concerning yet that he hadn’t signed. Now they aren’t concerning in any manner as Matt McLain has officially signed his contract and is a part of the Reds organization.

Cincinnati had plenty of pool money to work with in order to sign Matt McLain. And they needed all of it. And then some. McLain signed for $4,625,000. That is more than a million dollars higher than the slot value of the pick and it put the Reds into the tax overage penalty group. Teams can go over their draft pool allotment by up to 5% before they must give up their next years 1st round draft pick. No team has ever made that kind of commitment. Cincinnati is now $432,600 over their allotment, which works out to 3.63%. That means the Reds owe MLB 75% of $432,600 as a penalty – or $324,450.

Here’s what we wrote about McLain on draft day:

Matt McLain was previously selected 25th overall in 2018 by the Diamondbacks. He’s has been on the radar of scouts for a quite a while. There were some struggles as a freshman, hitting just .203/.276/.355 back in 2019. Since then he’s hit quite well. In the last two seasons he’s hit .349/.431/.589.

McLain impresses scouts with his ability to hit and with his speed. He should be strong on the bases where he could steal double digit bags in the big leagues. The right-handed hitter also projects to hit for a good average in the future. Defensively there’s some split opinions on where it is that he winds up. He may be able to play shortstop in the big leagues, but he’ll likely be below-average there from a defensive standpoint. Most scouts believe he will wind up at second base, but third base could also be an option for him down the line. A few scouts belief that he could even make a move to center if a team wants to try it thanks to his speed. As a freshman he spent some time in the outfield, so that move wouldn’t be something that would be starting from scratch. There is concern about just how much power he can hit for, with most scouts grading his power out as below-average with 12-15 home runs being the projection for him.

Late on draft night here’s what scouting director Brad Meador had to say about Matt McLain.

“He’s a guy that we really wanted, we really liked, he was really high on the board. We didn’t think we’d be able to get him. But the way it worked out…. Really excited. He’s a player we think can play shortstop, he’s a plus runner, he can handle the bat, hit in the top of the lineup. Middle of the field player with really good tools, really good make up – a lot to be excited about.”

On whether McLain reminded him a bit of Jonathan India and Nick Senzel

“Yeah, we talked about that. I think that’s a good one. We talked about that in the room. He’s a tough kid. He’s played different positions. We think he can play shortstop and we think that’s where he fits best. But he’s a good athlete who’s played second base, who’s played center field, he can move around the field. He gives your team when he gets there, he gives you flexibility, and he can be able to fit into different spots. That’s a good thing. That’s exciting.”

32 Responses

    • Doug Gray

      Is it, though? They’ve gone over almost every year of the system, I believe.

      • Gaffer

        I think that “over” penalty is basically budgeted. No one will ever give up next years pick but paying under half a million is no deterance and the agents know that.

    • Doug Gray

      They’ve gone over almost every year of the slotting system.

    • Redsvol

      Reds go over every year. Reds spend money on player development for at least last 5 years. Reds kept their scouting department and development department largely intact during 2020 pandemic year while most teams slashed their employment. Now whether he was worth going over slot is the better question.

  1. Gaffer

    It’s only 3ook so no big deal but it’s not like that kid was gonna go back as a senior and risk being a second rounder with no leverage. This whole idea that he “should have been drafted higher” is a little overstated. He’s far from a “can’t miss” and his ceiling is rather low (probably a second division starter). Good thing we didn’t NEED the m0ney.

    The guy picked a ahead of him was supposed to go in the top 5 (maybe 1) and only got 4.5 million as a high schooler with a solid college commitment so it’s not like we “won” the negotiations here.

    • Gaffer

      The comment about India and Senzel is also absurd, as McClain is a contact/low power guy who is an up the middle defender. How is that “similar” to power hitters that were corner defenders? I guess they were college infielders, wow. Also neither of those guys so far look to be future all stars and were both better hitters in college than McClain and way higher draft picks.

      I hope McLain is awesome but this team has continually valued “speed” guys more than most teams and the results speak for themselves as every all star hitter we have had in the last 20 years are “hitters with no defense”. T. Stephenson maybe next?

      • DaveCT

        I read this as ‘highly skilled.’ And, ‘Really highly skilled. And will move quickly in skills as well as developmentally.’ Really high aptitude in other words. Great insight in this plan.

        In other words, I highly approve. He’s got plus intelligence and plus aptitude. The type that makes others a lot better. Then blows by them. We nor have at least three, Senzel, India, Tyler. Now lets sdd another and whoever breals through as well.

      • Doug Gray

        The question asked was with a “multiple position possibility” thing, which is where that came from. You seem very mad about this pick and signing my man.

    • Hanawi

      Agree. Poor business by the Reds. Hope he’s worth it.

  2. MK

    First draft pick sighting. Blake Dunn played in Arizona and got his first professional hit.

  3. Kurt

    Maybe that’s why he dropped. Teams knew they would have to pay over slot.

  4. DaveCT

    Glad to get him. Over many years, what is a million or so dollars? Pennies on the dollar, actually.

  5. SteveO

    Doug, where do you see him start? Daytona? Dayton? With just 1 more player needed to be signed, would like to get your input on where the draftees will get their start in the Reds organization.

    • Doug Gray

      Might get his feet wet in the ACL for a few days before going to Daytona is my guess. Most guys that do get assigned somewhere will stay in Arizona, but a few will wind up in Daytona. Doubt anyone is going to Dayton this year.

      • Max BRAGG

        Doug these are great comments, but the fact is this organization still being miss lead. Look at minors NO Outfielders that have much acclaim. Shortstop will be manned by Barrero for some years to come. I value Reds nation,Nation, tell me why they won’t switch Lopez to centerfold like Cedric Mullins of Orioles? Don’t look now but FARMER hitting is starting to rebound and be in upper 50 percent of NL!

      • Jeremy

        1) Does this signing make it very doubtful Shawn Guilliams signs?
        2) Was the reason McClain slipped in the draft his asking price?

      • Doug Gray

        I expect Guilliams to sign.

        And that’s the theory that’s out there, but who really knows (some people do, but they aren’t talking)

  6. kevinz

    Glad got him signed.
    Now for the fun part.
    follow the draft class.
    See how did overall few years down the road.

  7. Alan

    Hey, Doug. I’m not seeing why this guy was considered by the team to be an “over slot” guy. He seems like a nice enough player, but do you think – in your opinion – that he’s the same caliber as players who typically command deals $1 million over slot?

    Also, the Reds say they believe he can stay at short. What is your assessment of his defensive tools versus Senzel’s in terms of ability to play short, because, as I recall, the team really didn’t want to give Nick a chance to play at that spot when the system had a pretty big hole there.

    • Doug Gray

      I think he’s the caliber of player who is a $4.5M signing, yes. Don’t focus on the “overslot” and focus on his talent level.

      I have never seen him play in person so I don’t have an opinion of value on his defense, so I defer to the experts and plenty of them think he’s a shortstop. Until I see otherwise, that’s what I’m going to stick with.

      • Brent

        Reds paid him the equivalent of the slot value of the 10th pick. If you think hes a top 10 player in the draft this matches up pretty well with his signing bonus. Good job by the reds in the ability to manipulate the system

      • RedBB

        I’ve watched a lot f video on McClain’s defense and its solid at SS but nothing really wow’s you. I get why some scouts think he eventually moves to second to be honest.

      • Doug Gray

        General rule: Watching defense on video is useless unless you can see the entire field the entire time.

  8. Tom

    I think this works on all sides as the Reds can now expect more of McClain to stay at SS. I’m sure McClains side insisted he is a SS and deserves more money.

    Anyway, when a draft pick ‘wins’ the negotiation it could only be characterized that way if he fails to make any impact at the mlb level. Since he is a high floor guy, this was much more like a free agent signing for, as DaveCT said, pennies on the dollar.

    This was a top 10 player the Reds pulled down to 17 with this money. Good deal all around if you aren’t focusing on paying bottom dollar at every turn. Would rather not be known as a team that is “cheap” as “you get what you pay for” oftentimes.

  9. RedsFaninPitt

    With the McClain signing, should the Reds entertain a trade centered around Barrero for Trea Turner? I know it would take quite a bit more than Barrero to land Turner. Could McClain be close to MLB ready by 2023 when Turner is a free agent?

    • Tom

      Pretty clever idea. I might go along with that but you’d have to include another blue chip player according to the mlb trade calculator website. I’d try to add Senzel to get it done. Senzel could play 3b for them going forward and could use a fresh start. To trade these two players (and maybe 1 or 2 more) from the Reds for Turner would be risking a lot of young talent and payroll flexibility.

      The offense isn’t broke, it’s the pitching, so not getting an arm back during this trade period would seem odd. Smart teams make the determination that players like Senzel and Barrero are not future 1st division players and trade them at their peak. Barrero is near his peak (could go higher still). Senzel is at his lowest. It would be an interesting trade to see play out, but not sure the Reds would win it.

      If you keep Barrero down to learn through this year and early next, you likely have a 2-4 win player. Senzel is Senzel – no one knows what’s next for him.

      • DaveCT

        In general, I hedge on a one-plus year rental for Turner, as players (at least position players) aren’t flocking to play for the Reds. Hence he departs after 22.

        If we do a deal, however, I’d consider including one or more of our leading young guys *if* the Nats took a bad contract in return as well. Either Moose or Geno would qualify at this time.

        So. Barrero, Senzel, Moose for Turner and spare parts.

  10. redwolf

    the mistake we made was letting bullpen go in offseason, Archie and iggy would have been nice pieces to not screw up some of those late inning leads. I was also on board with trading Saurez this past off season because his trade value was at an all time high. We are hamstrung until the votto contract runs out it really hurts. We could have put india, moose, or senzel at third. I think senzel may stay healthier at a position where he needs less mobility. Right now, unless Saurez cuts those k’s down he is not that valueable, especially to a national league team. His defense has regressed year over year.