MLB Prospects Who Refused Draft Deals Then Became Big Stars With Other Teams

Baseball | 4/4/19

For athletes considering a career in Major League Baseball, there is more to the MLB draft than simply being chosen and then starting your professional career with the team that picks you up first.

With the nature of the baseball draft, many players are chosen, only to turn down offers as they choose to continue working on their skills at the college level. Lost MLB draft picks don’t always haunt teams but every so often a player will choose a different ball club and become baseball legends.

Kyler Murray Chooses Football Over An Oakland Contract

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It’s a perfect fit to add Murray to this list. The two-sport phenom already signed a contract with the Oakland Athletics. But, after winning the Heisman Trophy in college football, that all changed. The Oklahoma State alum is heading to the NFL and leaving baseball in his rearview mirror.

He’s widely projected as a first-round pick, especially after his firm commitment to football. At 5’8″, he could become the shortest quarterback drafted in NFL history, three inches shorter than Russell Wilson.

Ozzie Smith Was A 15-Time All-Star, Sorry St. Louis

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Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

In 1976, Smith was playing semi-professional baseball in Iowa. That same year, the Detroit Tigers selected the shortstop in the seventh round of the amateur draft. However, the parties never came close to an agreement on a contract as Smith elected to return to college for his senior year.

A year later, the San Diego Padres selected him in the fourth round. The 15-time All-Star would help the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series in 1982, becoming a Hall of Fame inductee in 2002.

Paul Molitor Chose College Over The Cardinals

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Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

After graduating from Cretin High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, Molitor was selected in the 28th round of the 1974 free-agent draft. The St. Louis Cardinals took a chance on Molitor but instead he chose to attend college in his home state.

Following his junior year in college, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted him as the third overall pick in 1977. During his career, he was known for his exceptional hitting and speed. He made seven All-Star appearances and was named the World Series MVP in 1993.

Barry Bonds Could Have Been A Giant His Entire Career

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Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Bonds was first drafted by the Giants in 1982. Both sides were unable to come up with an agreement and Bonds would attend Arizona State University. In 1985, the Pirates took the outfielder with the sixth overall pick.

During his career, Bonds was regarded as an exceptional hitter, eventually surpassing Hank Aaron for most career home runs. In total, he picked up an impressive eight Golden Gloves for his defense on the field. In 2016 Bonds served as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins but he was fired at the end of the season.

Mark McGwire Helped His Second Draft Team Win A World Series

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David Madison/Getty Images
David Madison/Getty Images

The Montreal Expos drafted him in 1981 but never signed. Instead, he played college baseball at the University of Southern California. After three years of college and a stint on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, McGwire was drafted by the Athletics.

He would help Oakland win the World Series in 1989 and as a coach with St. Louis in 2011. One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, McGwire is the former record holder for both home runs in a season and home runs hit by a rookie.

Todd Helton Skipped San Diego For The Rockies

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Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

San Diego’s second-round draft pick in 1992 opted to play two sports at Tennessee. Helton was the school’s starting quarterback until an injury opened the door for his backup and pal, Peyton Manning. In 1995, the Colorado Rockies selected the two-sport athlete eighth overall.

The five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger hold the franchise club records in many categories. He’s the leader in hits, home runs, doubles, walks, runs scored, runs batted in. Helton has his number 17 retired by the Rockies as well.

Tim Lincecum Rejected Several Offers

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Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images
Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs drafted Lincecum in the 48th round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He would instead attend college and was selected by the Cleveland Indians in 2005, rejecting a $700,000 signing bonus.

The following year, he was the 10th overall pick for the San Francisco Giants, opting for a $2.025 million signing bonus, which at the time, was the most the organization had paid for any player. The big payday paid off significantly, the two-time Cy Young Award Winner is now the proud owner of three World Series rings.

Ian Kinsler Waited Until The Time Was Right

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The four-time All-Star was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks twice. In 2000, Kinsler was selected by the team, taking the high school prospect in the 29th round. But, the infielder opted to go to Central Arizona College. When the 2001 draft came around, Arizona once again took Kinsler, but in the 26th round.

He would then become a 17th round draft pick for the Texas Rangers. The five-tool player is one of the 12 ballplayers in major league history who’s had multiple 30-30 club seasons.

Chris Sale Jumped For The 21st Round To 13th Overall Pick

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Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Colorado Rockies drafted the high school senior in the 21st round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Sale was presented with an offer of $125,000 but this prospect chose to attend Florida Gulf Coast University.

Sale gained strength, velocity, and maturity as he blossomed into the 13th overall pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2010. The money he left on the table with the Rockies ultimately made up for winning the 2018 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

George Springer Made The Right Choice By Gaining Ground In College

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Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

After the Minnesota Twins selected Springer in the 48th round in 2008, one thing stopped him. He decided he wasn’t ready for professional baseball. Springer would enroll at the University of Connecticut, eventually being named to the 2009 Baseball America Freshman All-America First Team. Plus, he was named the Big East Conference rookie of the year.

The Houston Astros landed Springer in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Making the outfielder the highest selection in the MLB Draft in Connecticut baseball history.

Buster Posey Moved Positions And It Works Out For The Giants

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Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

In 2005, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Posey as a right-handed pitcher out of Lee County High School. But, he never signed as he already made a commitment to attend Florida State University. Three years later, the San Francisco Giants drafted him as the fifth overall pick.

Since Posey’s arrival in the Bay Area, he’s been a significant factor for the franchise. The 2010 Rookie of the Year has been named to five All-Star appearances and steering San Francisco to three World Series championships.

Jake Arrieta Bounces Around Colleges Then Settled Into The Bigs

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Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Following his freshman year at Weatherford Junior College, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted the pitcher in the 26th round. Instead, Arrieta opted to transfer to Texas Christian University, winning the Mount West Conference Pitcher of the Year Award. In 2007, the Baltimore Orioles selected the pitcher in the fifth round of the MLB Draft.

A year later, Arrieta would be on the United States Olympic baseball team who would win the bronze medal. He would be traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2013, winning the Cy Young as well as ending the Bambino Curse in 2016.

Gerrit Cole Waited Until The Time Was Right To Sign An MLB Contract

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Tim Warner/Getty Images
Tim Warner/Getty Images

The New York Yankees selected the pitcher in the first round while attended Orange Lutheran High School. Cole opted not to sign, pitching three seasons at UCLA before being taken with the first overall pick of the 2011 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Two years later, Cole reached the majors going 59-42 with a steady 3.37 ERA. Interestingly enough, the Yankees discussed trading for Cole from the Pirates, but the Bucs opted for a player package from the Houston Astros.

Aaron Judge Waited To Sign Then Had A Record-Breaking Rookie Season

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Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Aaron Judge was once an Oakland A, sort of. Judge was selected by the franchise as a high schooler in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Instead, he opted to continue his development at the college level, accepting a scholarship to play for Fresno State.

The Yankees would draft the outfielder as a first round selection in 2013. Judge would go on to have a record-breaking rookie season in 2017. The All-Star broke Mark McGwire’s MLB rookie record of home runs with 52.

Kris Bryant Was Picked Up By The Cubbies After Toronto Failed To Act

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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Before the third baseman became a recognizable face, the Toronto Blue Jays owned his rights. But, the front office never offered him a contract, which led Bryant to attend the University of San Diego.

Luckily, the Cubs drafted him as the second overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft. Bryant quickly became one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The Blue Jays missed out on a player who has emerged as both an All-Star and a National League MVP in 2016.

Max Scherzer Ditched His Hometown Offer For A Warmer Climate

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Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Scherzer, a St. Louis native, was selected by his hometown team in 2003. The pitcher didn’t consider going pro at the time, which is why he wanted to go to college instead. Scherzer maintained his commitment to the University of Missouri, developing into one of the best pitching prospects in the country.

But, while Arizona had the pitcher, they traded him away for serviceable stars. As for Scherzer, he’s got three Cy Young awards under his belt, and a World Series appearance in 2012.

Roger Clemens Became A New York Pitcher… But Not For The Mets

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Sporting News via Getty Images
Sporting News via Getty Images

The New York Mets selected Clemens in the 12th round of the 1981 draft. Clemens decided not to sign with the club, electing to attend San Jacinto College North. Two years later, the Boston Red Sox would draft him with the 19th overall pick.

From there on, he quickly rose through the minor league system, making his big league debut on May 15, 1984. Clemens would go on to win 7 Cy Young Awards, two World Series titles, and was selected to 11 All-Star appearances.

J.D. Drew Battled Injuries But Won A World Series

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Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

Drew remains a controversial figure in Phillies history. In 1997, his agent, Scott Boras insisted his client not sign for anything less than $10 million. The Phillies had no intentions on paying Drew so much money, especially coming out of college.

After playing in St. Paul for a season, the Cardinals selected Drew with the fifth overall pick in 1998. But injuries and poor consistency on the field would eventually catch up to the right fielder. Despite this, he still won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007.

Randy Johnson Waited Then Won Big In MLB

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Harry How/ALLSPORT
Harry How/ALLSPORT

After high school, the Atlanta Braves drafted Johnson in 1982. Johnson turned down a $50,000 bonus to sign, choosing instead to attend college at the University of Southern California. Johnson would eventually be drafted by the Expos in the second round of the 1985 MLB draft.

After struggling early in his career, Johnson would go on to lead the league in strikeouts nine times, winning the Triple Crown Award in 2002. The Hall of Famer would be a pivotal piece for the Diamondbacks, helping the team win its first World Series in 2001.

Tom Seaver Made The Right Choice By Waiting To Sign With The Mets

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Focus On Sport/Getty Images
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

In 1966, Seaver signed a contract with the Braves, who drafted him in the first round. However, his contract was voided due to his college team playing two exhibition games that year, despite Seaver never playing in either game. The pitcher insisted on finishing his college season, but couldn’t after signing a professional contract.

The Mets would win his signing rights in a lottery draw, eventually winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1967. Seaver is the Mets’ all-time leader in wins, and is one of the best starting pitchers.