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Signing Alonso a 'priority' for Reds

Signing Alonso a 'priority' for Reds

PITTSBURGH -- Both the Reds and Yonder Alonso are on the clock.

Major League clubs have until a midnight ET deadline on Friday to sign players selected during the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. As of Wednesday, the Reds and Alonso -- a University of Miami first baseman and the No. 7 overall pick -- were not close to coming to terms on a contract.

Reds scouting director Chris Buckley declined to detail the negotiations.

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"I don't want to get into it but we're still a bit apart," Buckley said. "We're working and trying to get it done. We're hopeful we'll get him out there."

Cincinnati isn't alone with its stalemate. Ten clubs have yet to get their first-rounders in the fold -- many of them are top-10 picks, like Alonso. Perhaps activity will pick up following Wednesday's White Sox signing of Gordon Beckham, who landed just behind Alonso as the No. 8 overall selection. Terms were not immediately known.

"Hopefully, some other guys might sign and that could help us," Buckley said. "It's getting close to the deadline and agents are taking the dance until Friday. We'll see who blinks."

If a deal isn't reached, the Reds would lose their rights to Alonso, who would likely return to Miami for his senior season and re-enter the Draft next year. The 22-year-old told the Miami Herald last week that he was willing to do that. He could also opt to play professionally in an independent league. Either option is a risk, should he get injured or see his Draft stock fall.

Reports say that Alonso is seeking $7 million and possibly a Major League contract, which would require Cincinnati to place him on the 40-man roster. The Reds are believed to want to sign him according to the slot system, which could keep the bonus in the $2-3 million range.

"Our preference is to do a Minor League contract," Buckley said.

A message was left with Alonso's advisor, agent Greg Genske

By rule, the Reds would get a first round compensation pick exactly one spot later next year if they are unable to ink Alonso. That means they would get the eighth overall selection, in addition to their regular pick. Based on the Reds' current record, that would mean two picks in the top 10.

"We're optimistic. If not, we'll take the Draft pick," Buckley said. "I can't say I know for sure we'll sign him. If we don't, we'll have two first-round picks next year. Obviously, our priority is to sign."

Buckley, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and assistant GM Bob Miller are leading the club's negotiations. Jocketty has been in the Dominican Republic on a scouting trip, but was scheduled to return to Cincinnati on Wednesday night.

During his junior season, Alonso batted .370 with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs. He participated with the Hurricanes in the College World Series.

So far, the Reds have signed 31 of their 50 Draft picks this year. Signing the 32nd guy, Alonso, has clearly been the most challenging.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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