clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Report: No. 1 draft pick Paul Skenes signs with Pirates for biggest bonus in MLB history

The hard-throwing righty made history this season at LSU, and now he’s made history with his first MLB contract.

Paul Skenes of the LSU Tigers pitches against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Charles Schwab Field on June 22, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

A potentially generational pitching prospect has just signed a generational contract. The Pittsburgh Pirates and former LSU pitcher Paul Skenes, who the team took No. 1 overall in the 2023 MLB Draft last week, have agreed to terms on a record-setting deal. Per MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, Skenes’ first pro contract features a $9.2 million signing bonus, the highest ever handed out to a draft pick — and some $800,000 more than the previous record holder, Detroit’s Spencer Torkelson. Here’s the new top five, with Skenes at the top of the list:

  1. Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates, $9.2 million (2023)
  2. Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers, $8.42 million (2020)
  3. Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles, $8.19 million (2022)
  4. Druw Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks, $8.19 million (2022)
  5. Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles, $8.10 million (2019)

Four of the five players on that list were No. 1 picks, with the exception of Jones, a high-schooler that Arizona went way over-slot to sign last year in order to make sure that he wouldn’t make good on his college commitment to Vanderbilt.

For all 30 teams, deciding which players to select on draft night is only the beginning — the next step is actually signing those players to contracts, a process that can be a lot more fraught than it is in other sports. Rather than cap the salary of each individual pick like, say, the NFL, MLB instead simply recommends a monetary value for each pick within the first 10 rounds. But those are just that: recommendations. Each team is assigned a total pool of money that they can use across all of their draft picks however they see fit — whether that’s spending big at the top or taking a player who can be had for a little cheaper and using the savings to land several other picks later on.

The Pirates were reportedly considering taking the latter course, as they were linked to several other players who wouldn’t figure to demand as much money to sign. But they opted to take Skenes instead, a player they knew would cost a premium after a record-setting season at LSU in 2023. Armed with a high-90s fastball and wipeout breaking stuff, the righty dominated against high-level competition, striking out 48% of the batters he faced in SEC play before helping the Tigers win the College World Series. He’s considered among the best pitching prospects in recent memory, and now he’s far and away the most expensive.

Pittsburgh hopes that Skenes will join a youth movement already underway, as the team has recently promoted several first-round picks to the Majors — catcher/outfielder Henry Davis (the No. 1 pick in 2021), infielder Nick Gonzalez (No. 7, 2020), and right-hander Quinn Priester (No. 18, 2019) — as well as international signing and top-35 prospect Endy Rodriguez. The Pirates are still a way’s away from contention, but we should be seeing Skenes anchoring their Major League rotation before too long.