McClanahan should take the money and run

The Tampa Bay Rays selected USF pitcher Shane McClanahan with the 31st overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, but he hasn't signed a contract yet. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

Here are some words of advice for Shane McClanahan: do not stay in school. Leave now and never look back.

The Bulls’ former — actually, possibly still current ace — has yet to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays after being selected with the 31st overall pick in this month’s MLB Draft. Not much has come out from either side since, as McClanahan is the only unsigned Rays draft pick from the first 10 rounds.

McClanahan and the Rays have until July 6 to come to an agreement. After that, the Rays would lose the lefty’s major league rights and McClanahan likely would return to USF for his redshirt junior season. USF officials told The Oracle on Monday that no decisions have been made.

What’s with the hold up?

It’s about money.

Tampa Bay has a little more than $2.4 million remaining in its signing bonus pool that it could give McClanahan. If the historically-thrifty Rays were to award McClanahan more than that amount, they would face a fine and potentially worse punishments depending on how far over its allotment the team went.

McClanahan is not likely to receive more than that amount. He’d be lucky if the Rays even offer him that much as a signing bonus, considering his pick was valued at $2.2 million. It’s time to accept that — or something similar —  and sign.

Entering the 2018 season, McClanahan was projected to be a top-10 pick in the draft, but he struggled with command during the season, finishing with a 5-6 record and a 3.42 ERA. He eventually fell to the first-round compensatory picks.

The No. 10 pick in this year’s draft, Travis Swaggerty, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $4.4 million. Theoretically, McClanahan’s value dropped by at least $2 million during USF’s season.

But $2.2 million is still a lot of money and there are no guarantees that a similar offer will find its way to McClanahan in 2019.

The potential downside of not signing now is not worth the risks associated with one more year of college ball. McClanahan already has a history of injury, missing the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Even without injury, the chances McClanahan does better next year are not guaranteed. There were 1,214 draft picks in 2018. Only 30 players were drafted higher than McClanahan. Of all people, McClanahan should know how unpredictable the MLB Draft can be.

In 2015, McClanahan was projected to be drafted in the first 10 to 15 rounds, according to a spotlight on McClanahan published before this year’s draft by The News-Press, which is based out of Fort Myers. McClanahan was eventually drafted by the New York Mets in the 26th round. McClanahan’s decision was easy then – sign with USF, improve his game and hope to do better next time around.

There’s always room for further improvement. Rather than spending another year at USF, McClanahan should take the money that comes with signing to an MLB club.

The Rays aren’t realistically expecting McClanahan to be major league ready until toward the end of the 2020 season — and that’s in the most expedited of timelines. There’s plenty of time to work on mechanics in the minor leagues before he sees the bright lights of the majors.

McClanahan’s decision should be easy. In fact, it should have already happened by now. McClanahan should accept what the Rays are offering, sign on the dotted line and begin his career as a professional baseball player as soon as possible.