Fayetteville (HawgsIllustrated.com) - Zack Cox, Brett Eibner and Drew Smyly all signed professional contracts on Monday, ending their respective careers at the University of Arkansas.
Right-handed pitcher Ryne Stanek, an Arkansas signee taken in the third round by the Seattle Mariners, did not come to terms and will attend school.
Cox, a first round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, signed just before the 11 p.m. deadline. The sophomore-eligible draftee signed for a reported $3.2 million after a record-setting season for the Razorbacks.
Cox set school records for batting average (.429) and hits (102), and added nine home runs and 48 RBIs. He was considered to be a top 10 pick in the draft but fell to 25th overall because of high asking price.
Eibner, who was taken by the Kansas City Royals in the second round of draft, signed at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale - home to the Royals' double-A affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Though he declined to discuss the terms of his contract, the deal is worth $1.25 million, according to Baseball America.
"It was a pleasure playing for the Razorbacks and I had a good three-year career, but now it's time to move on," Eibner said. "I want to thank the Royals for this opportunity."
Eibner batted .333 as a junior with a career-best 22 home runs and 71 RBIs. The right-hander was also a regular on the mound, but struggled with a 4.34 earned run average. Royals regional scouting director Lloyd Simmons said Eibner will be evaluated as an outfielder first when he reports to the organization's rookie team in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on Tuesday.
"An old scout once told me if you get the opportunity to coach one great player, that's an honor," Simmons said. "As a scout if you get the chance to sign one great player, that's an honor. That's what we've got with Brett."
Smyly, another second-rounder, signed with the Detroit Tigers just before the 11 p.m. deadline for a reported $1.1 million. The Little Rock native went 9-1 with a 2.80 ERA as a redshirt sophomore for the Razorbacks.
Both Eibner and Smyly signed for significantly more than the $663,300 contract guideline set by Major League Baseball for second round picks.
In addition, right-handed pitcher and Arkansas signee Ben Wells, a seventh round draft pick, said he agreed to a $530,000 signing bonus with the Chicago Cubs on Monday.
"I was going to be able to play somewhere great next year regardless," said Wells, a Bryant native. "I just tried to look at the bright side of everything. Playing for the Razorbacks has always been a dream of mine, but playing pro baseball has been, too."
Wells joins Justin O'Conner (Tampa Bay Rays), Robbie Ray (Washington Nationals) and Jared Lakind (Pittsburgh Pirates) as Razorback signees to opt out of their national letters of intent in favor of beginning a professional career.
O'Conner, a first round selection, signed with Tampa Bay less than a week after the June draft. Ray and Lakind were different stories, however. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said in July both were strong possibilities to make it to campus for the 2011 season.
But Lakind, a 23rd round selection as a first baseman, agreed to a $400,000 deal late last week after the Pirates were unable to come to terms with several high round draft picks.
Ray, a 12th round pick, agreed to a $799,000 deal after the left-hander threw a bullpen session in Washington D.C. over the weekend. Both deals were worth significantly more money than MLB's suggested rates for their respective slots, but both were reportedly approved Monday.
The flurry of late signings were the first involving players with Arkansas ties in more than a month. Andy Wilkins (White Sox), Mike Bolsinger (Diamondbacks), Jordan Pratt (Tigers) and Jeremy Heatley (Marlins) all signed contracts earlier this summer. Wilkins signed the largest contract out of that group, worth a reported $195,000 after being drafted in the fifth round.
Arkansas outfielder Collin Kuhn didn't come to terms after being drafted in the 15th round by the Tigers and will return to school for his redshirt junior season in 2011.
Drafted signees Dominic Ficociello (Tigers, 23rd round), Nolan Sanburn (Tigers, 34th round), Sam Bates (Marlins, 39th round) and Jeff Harvill (Phillies, 40th round) also failed to come to terms with their respective franchises and will attend school.