Vanderbilt's College World Series home run hero John Norwood has played his last game as a Commodore. After winning the CWS and tearing it up in the Cape Cod Summer League, Norwood has signed a free agent contract with the Miami Marlins. The news was first reported by Matt Schneidman, who is the beat writer for Norwood's summer team, the Cotuit Kettleers. Norwood was hitting .324 in 18 games during his stint with the Keetleers.
This may seem like a late signing, as it does come after the MLB Draft signing deadline. However, it is a legal signing as Norwood was passed over by all 32 teams in June's draft, making him a free agent. The MLB First Year Player Draft Rules state:
"A player who is eligible to be selected and is passed over by every Club becomes a free agent and may sign with any Club until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college full-time or enters, or returns to, a junior college."
Because school has not yet started, Norwood is completely eligible to make this type of move. Teams likely shied away from Norwood during the draft due to his lack of college production (Norwood struggled early in the 2014) and the fact that he had turned down a massive signing bonus from the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school. After his stellar postseason and outstanding performance during his Cape Cod stint, Norwood's stock skyrocketed.
While a massive loss for Vanderbilt, this decision makes sense from Norwood's perspective. Being a free agent, he was able to pick the right team and right situation for himself. Also, Norwood had leverage when it came to negotiating the contract. He could have easily returned for his senior season and just waited to get drafted next summer. Norwood likely will receive a significant signing bonus because of this, a rarity for undrafted free agents in baseball.
Norwood has reported to the Bataiva Muckdogs of the NYPL. Norwood went 1 for 3 with a single in his debut on August 6th.
UPDATE: Norwood's signing bonus was very large, as predicted. He received $275,000 from the Marlins, which is equivalent to what an early 6th round draft pick received for a slot value bonus.
In a stunning development of events, John Norwood is heading to play pro baseball with the Marlins.
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