As the midnight deadline approaches, there are strong signals the Nationals will raise their initial offer of $12.5 million for No. 1 pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.

Although, with less than hour remaining before the deadline, it's still too early to tell whether the significant gap can be bridged.

It isn't known how high the Nats will be willing go yet. But there may still be some hope for a deal right at the deadline.

Nationals president Stan Kasten said over the weekend they made a record offer to Strasburg but didn't name the price. The record is the $10.5-million Mark Prior received from the Cubs in 2001. Kasten also suggested a deal might not get done.

Strasburg, who went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA as an Aztec, is believed to be seeking a much higher bonus. He is said to throw up to 100 mph with an excellent breaking ball, and some scouts have called him the best college pitching prospect ever.

The Nationals, who failed to sign No. 1 pick Aaron Crow, the University of Missouri pitcher last year, have said they are using history as a guide, and the top bonuses for amateurs in history have been for about $10 million, including the ones for Mark Teixeira, Jeff Samardzjia and David Price.

Strasburg's agent Scott Boras has used the deals for Daisuke Matsuzaka ($52 million) and Jose Contreras ($32 million) as comps.

The Nationals have until midnight tonight to sign Strasburg. If he doesn't agree to sign, he can be drafted again next June.

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