Indians to groom White as a starter
Tribe excited about signing of versatile first-round pick
CLEVELAND -- In truth, it wasn't really a last-minute deal that landed Alex White on Monday night.The Indians actually had a whopping four minutes to spare before the midnight deadline. General manager Mark Shapiro estimated that the deal between the Tribe and White, the No. 15 overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was consummated at about 11:56 p.m. ET. It was at that time that the parties agreed to a signing bonus of $2.25 million for the right-hander from the University of North Carolina and fired off an e-mail to the Commissioner's Office to confirm it. After a long night at the office, Shapiro has his gripes about the process his club had to go through to sign White. But he said he's happy with the end result. "I'd like the deadline to be earlier," Shapiro said with a laugh Tuesday afternoon. "The system is obviously an imperfect system. But what matters most to us is that we get all the guys we wanted signed, and obviously Alex was the most important. He gives us that 10th pitcher infused into the system in a short period of time. He's another guy who's going to be on a player development timeframe, but somewhat of an accelerated one, with the background experience he's got." That experience came in multiple roles for the Tar Heels, for whom White, who will be in Cleveland to talk to reporters on Thursday, both started and relieved over three seasons. In his junior year this past spring, White went 8-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 121 and walking 44 in 107 innings for a UNC team that advanced to the College World Series. He allowed just a run on seven hits in nine innings while walking three and striking out 12 in the Tar Heels' first CWS game against Arizona State on June 14. Because of White's innings total this year, the Indians will not have him pitch for any of their Minor League affiliates before season's end. "There will be time in [the Arizona] Instructional League, and we need to weigh whether or not the Arizona Fall League is an option, too," Shapiro said. "Where he starts next year is still very much undecided, but he will be in big league camp." And White, contrary to speculation at the time of the Draft, will initially be groomed as a starter, not a reliever. Some members of the Tribe's scouting department still believe White's ultimate big league future could come in the 'pen, but he will be given the opportunity and the innings to develop as a starter first. "The best way to develop any pitcher is to give him that opportunity to get the ball every fifth day and get the extended innings," Shapiro said. "We'd like to preserve the option of him pitching in either role." To preserve the option of signing White at the last minute, the Indians had him come to Cleveland about two weeks ago to complete a physical examination. Then the negotiation process continued in a slow-developing signing market that resulted in a flurry of activity just before the deadline. The recommended bonus money for the No. 15 slot, as determined by the Commissioner's Office, was $1.55 million, and it was well-documented that White was seeking a bonus north of $2 million. He got his wish eventually. "It was a negotiation in the truest sense of the word," Shapiro said. "It involved some give and take from both parties and also involved both groups having a full lay of the [first-round] landscape as well." Shapiro said the Dolan ownership family never balked at the thought of going above the slot, even as the Indians have made some drastic cost-cutting moves in recent weeks. As for what the Indians are getting for their investment, they believe White has not only the raw stuff (a mid-90s fastball, as well as a plus splitter and slider) but also the mental makeup to succeed at the Major League level in the relatively near future. While 2010 might be too soon to expect to see White, Shapiro said 2011 is not at all out of the question. "He certainly has the stuff, the size and the makeup to be a premium pitching prospect," Shapiro said. "And that's what he'll be -- a prospect. The rigors of pro ball will be different than pitching once a week [in college]. But from a talent standpoint, he comes into the system with the ability to be one of our upper-level prospects. ... The guy has never backed down. He's pitched in every role, whether it be starting the biggest game of the College World Series or closing the biggest game of his team's championship season. He has no trouble accepting the ball in the toughest situations." And the Indians are happy he finally accepted their offer.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.