7/11/2013 1:33 P.M. ET
Toronto unlikely to sign top Draft pick Bickford
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays have until Friday evening to reach a deal with first-round Draft pick Phil Bickford, but it does not appear as though they will sign him.
When asked why Bickford doesn't appear likely to be signed, general manager Alex Anthopoulos hinted that there are factors at play aside from just money.
Bickford was taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, and the recommended slot value is just above $2.9 million.
"Right now, it looks as though we won't be signing him," Anthopoulos said. "Anything can change, but tomorrow's the deadline. Right now, we probably won't have a deal in place."
Anthopoulos went out of his way to praise Bickford's character and lamented the fact that he was limited to what he could say publicly about the negotiations. One thing that Anthopoulos did confirm, though, is that the Blue Jays expect to receive an extra pick in next year's Draft if the two sides are unable to reach an agreement.
The only way a team can receive a compensatory pick is if it offers at least 40 percent of the recommended slot value. That has definitely taken place, but Anthopoulos wouldn't disclose the exact amount Toronto was willing to pay Bickford.
"I wouldn't jump to conclusions to judge and things like that," Anthopoulos said. "Out of fairness, I would just say, like anything, offers are made. No doubt about it, we've definitely made an offer, and it doesn't look like it's going to be accepted. I wouldn't jump to conclusions ... there's sometimes a lot of information that's not out there."
There has been speculation that there could have been an issue with Bickford's medical records. Teams do not have access to the records prior to the Draft, and it's possible that the Blue Jays uncovered something that scared them off after taking Bickford in the first round.
If the two sides do not reach a deal, it would mark the second time in three years that the Blue Jays were unable to sign their top pick. The club was also unable to reach an agreement with right-hander Tyler Beede after the 2011 Draft. But those negotiations were strictly about money, and when Beede didn't receive an offer to his liking, he decided to attend Vanderbilt University.
Anthopoulos' comments prior to the 2011 deadline made it clear that the issue surrounding Beede was about money. The tone this time, however, was much different. Bickford is a 17-year-old right-hander who finished his senior year in high school with a 1.72 ERA, while allowing 44 hits and recording 159 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings.
"We have money in our pool, so I think we're capable," Anthopoulos said. "If anything, unless players don't want to sign, I think we're capable of signing. There's maybe a few guys we took later that really want to go to school, and they're committed to going to school. But I don't want to speak for him or the family.
"We definitely have the ability on any one of our remaining signees to go over slot. I know I'm being evasive over this in respect to all parties involved."
Morrow eyeing August return; Happ progressing
CLEVELAND -- Right-hander Brandon Morrow will take another step forward in his rehabilitation by throwing a side session on Friday, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to return before the middle of August.
Morrow has been out since May 28 with soreness in his right forearm. He attempted a rehab stint during the middle of June, but had to shut things down when the pain resurfaced.
That issue appears to have gone away, but Morrow is expected to require three rehab starts before rejoining the Blue Jays, and that's going to take some time.
"He's going to throw a side [session Friday], but right now, he doesn't have any pain or issues, and I think we gave it enough time to completely heal and rest," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Thursday morning. "He was adamant that he felt good."
Morrow believes that the injury was related to his use of a cut fastball. The 28-year-old started throwing the pitch during Spring Training and frequently used it during the early stages of the season.
Left-hander J.A. Happ is also getting closer to a return and could start his rehab stint on Saturday or Sunday in the Gulf Coast League. Happ has been out of action since he was struck in the head by a live drive off the bat of Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings on May 7.
But the head injury isn't what has kept Happ out of action for such an extended period of time. He also suffered a sprained knee on the play, and it has taken a long time to heal. The veteran left-hander kept his arm in shape during the time off, but he didn't field his position during simulated games and only recently began running sprints.
"The reason it's the Gulf Coast is just because it's the first time not having a screen in front of him -- comebacker, things like that, how will he react," Anthopoulos said. "We can control the environment a little bit more there. We'll see how he does, but he's built up to throw three innings -- doesn't mean he will, but he has gone three innings with an L screen in front of him. If he passes that test, he can move up to the Florida State League, and he should be back very soon."