The Astros have currently signed nine of their top 10 picks in the 2016 draft. First-round pick Forrest Whitley signed Wednesday for a reported $3.1 million, which is significantly more than his $2.5 million slot amount.
The way the MLB draft bonus pool work now is that if a team exceeds their bonus pool, they are taxed 75 percent of the overage up to five percent. If a team spend more than five percent of its bonus pool, it loses a first-round pick and is taxed 75 percent of the overage. Spending more than 10 percent over the bonus pool loses said team a first and a second-round pick plus invokes a dollar-for-dollar overage tax. More than 15 percent and the team loses two first-rounders and gets taxed dollar-for-dollar on the overage.
No team have ever overspent by more than five percent.
The Astros, of course, came close during their contentious negotiations with Brady Aiken. When the first overall pick's injury concerns came to light, the Astros tried to sign him for below slot to lock up two other players. One of those, Jacob Nix, had taken a physical and had a deal in place but not signed. When Aiken didn't sign, the Astros lost all of his bonus pool money and would have far exceeded their remaining pool by signing Nix.
Instead, they did not sign the high school right-hander and were not penalized. Nix took the matter to arbitration and settled with the team.
Currently, the Astros have spent $1.25 millon of the nearly $6 million pool they have to sign picks. That's $360,000 less than the slot amounts for signed picks 3-10. Adding in Whitley's $3.1 million puts the team $240, 000 over their pool limits without second-round pick Ronnie Dawson's bonus factored in, who was reported to sign with the team for his slot value of $1.05 million.
Baseball America doesn't list signing bonuses for Abraham Toro-Hernandez or eighth round pick Nick Hernandez, but Astros County does. Toro-Hernandez signed for $94,000 less than his slot and Hernandez signed for $51,000 less. Seventh-round pick Tyler Buffet also hasn't signed and won't until the College World Series ends (or the Oklahoma State Cowboys gets bounced). If he signs for less than his $193,300, the Astros could scrape together enough room to fit Whitley without incurring a penalty.
The Astros sit about four percent over their bonus pool. Even shaving $40,000 off Buffet's signing amount keeps them well below that five percent threshold to lose a draft pick. Considering how they've operated in the past, I'd expect they have deals in place to do just that.