The Chicago Cubs 2023 draft class is complete.

Today is the day! The MLB Draft signing deadline is 5 PM EST tonight, and the Cubs came to terms with all 20 draft picks including second round compensation selection Arkansas RHP Jaxon Wiggins. It was clear from the beginning that Wiggins’ signing would be less sure than most selections. He ultimately signed for approximately $1.4M, which was the rest of the bonus pool.

The nature of this signing going right to the deadline created angst, but as Jim Callis first reported, Jaxon Wiggins is in the fold.

Let’s explore a few aspects of the signing.

Why did this go to the deadline?

Quotes directly from Chicago Cubs VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, hinted that he would be a more challenging signing than most. Via Bleacher Nation’s writeup of Day 1 (bold for emphasis), “Jaxon, actually, in his case, some of the stuff he was doing in Arkansas was just literally off the charts when it came to strength and conditioning, and just sort of what kind of a deluxe athlete he is,” Kantrovitz said. “If we’re fortunate enough to [sign him], he’s somebody that we would probably, really just take our time with, obviously, and make sure first and foremost that, health is sort of the driving factor in development, initially.”

His ultimate signing bonus may come as a surprise. However, it’s clear the Cubs felt his ceiling justified being so aggressive in targeting Wiggins despite the risks in his profile. Cubs officials characterized Wiggins as having a first-round caliber arsenal. They also described how he appeared to address some of his inconsistencies this past fall.

So what was Wiggins waiting on?

It’s possible that Wiggins believed his upward trajectory positioned him alongside other college arms that had arsenal question marks (Sean Sullivan) or TJS (Grant Taylor). We can’t discount the possibility that Arkansas NIL (Name Image and Likeness) played a factor. NIL in College baseball can’t compete with upper level MLB signing bonuses, but if a player already wants to bet on himself, NIL can provide a cushion.

Let’s look at a hypothetical: On a deeper level, let’s say Wiggins did value himself like Sean Sullivan or Grant Taylor (who signed for $1.7M and $1.66M respectively). The Cubs potentially had nearly that figure available and yet still signed Zyhir Hope for $400k where $250k counted against the pool. Perhaps Wiggins and his advisors thought the Cubs would forgo signing any Round 11-20 round overslots leaving about $1.61 million remaining. When they inked Hope, it left Wiggins with a decision. Thankfully for the Cubs, it all worked out.

Why did the Cubs take him?

It’s that first-round caliber arsenal that the Cubs officials quoted post draft. It’s like if Cade Horton was available February 2022. You hadn’t seen him throw, but you needed to make a $1.4M bet on him. Would you do it? Some teams would say “no”. I’m guessing the Cubs would say “let’s ride”. It’s a riskier approach, but one that is a good deal easier to take because of the safety in having Matt Shaw anchor your draft. The Cubs rolled the dice. We should see what way the dice land in 2024.

I like to stare into the abyss. What would have happened if they didn’t sign Wiggins?

The Cubs would have received a compensatory selection next year. Since the pick was before the third round, the Cubs would have received either pick 68 or 69 (go ahead and say it…). Failing to come to terms with Wiggins would not have affected the draft signings already agreed upon. The Cubs had available room in the budget, even for Zyhir Hope, who received a $400k bonus in round 11.

On to the next class

And this signing completes the Chicago Cubs 2023 draft class. It was a group built upon college talent with upside mixed in. Jaxon Wiggins will need to continue his rehab before he can get back on the mound, but the upside is undeniable. Now the Cubs get to see what type of impact they get from the class.