Strasburg vs. Nats is shaping up as biggest battle in draft history
A Washington Nationals official pretended on Sunday not to know a thing about
Strasburg, meanwhile, has stopped corresponding with a buddy who works for MLB. "He's shut it down,'' the friend said. The friend assumes the Strasburg strategy is to bunker up.
Everyone involved understands now what's coming next is the amateur Armageddon.
The negotiations between the Nationals and Strasburg's adviser,
People familiar with Boras' thinking expect the asking price to be $50 million, which would blow away the $10.5 million record for an amateur. While the best amateur prospects, such as
"There are rare opportunities for franchises to obtain a talent that is extraordinary," Boras said Monday. "In most instances, those opportunities come via free agency. Teams that capitalize on these opportunities can sway the competitive balance.''
As a free agent, some estimate Strasburg could garner something approaching $100 million, even though he hasn't pitched at any level above the Mountain West Conference. But as an amateur draftee, well, let's just say it's going to be interesting.
The Nationals are sending signals that they're intending to try to adhere to draft precedent and are thinking more along the lines of the $10.5 million mark, which could blow up negotiations. There are still those who wonder whether the Nationals might pass on the expense and angst expected to accompany the Strasburg pick and take someone else, perhaps
While the Nationals appear well on their way to the worst record in baseball again, 82-year-old billionaire owner
Strasburg's fastball consistently reaches the upper 90s after he threw only around 90 mph in high school (he has hit 100-103 on many occasions), he has a "legit hammer'' (curve ball) in the words of one Nationals person and wows scouts by carrying his stuff into the late innings. One scout marveled at Strasburg hitting 99 mph in the ninth inning of a recent game. "No one does that,'' the scout said. Well, except maybe closers.
Strasburg's once-in-a-decade arm is said to have been treated with comparative kid gloves by
Yet, for all the accolades heaped on Strasburg, the history of ballyhooed amateur pitchers is no better than mixed.
The $50 million figure still might actually be considered low if Strasburg were a free agent and could sign with anyone. But since he'll be tied to one team, the guesses of baseball executives generally range from the low- to mid-$20 millions, up to one National League executive predicting $30 million. Of course from the Nationals' perspective, if they go to even $15 million, that's still about a 45 percent rise above the record of $10.5 million, which is what
And let's not forget that the $10.5 million bonus was in the days before teams that failed to sign their picks were rewarded with a replacement pick the following year -- and also before the economy went south. Baseball executives say commissioner
Leverage is the key, and leverage for drafted baseball players is generally very limited since there's no other comparable league to MLB. However, word going around the game is that Strasburg's team could threaten to send him to play in Japan, where he would become a valuable commodity to any team that sought to post him, as was the case with Matsuzaka. "Can you imagine what kind of posting fee they could get for this guy?'' one American league executive mused regarding the potential of a Japanese team holding the right-hander's rights.
There's nothing to prevent Strasburg from going to Japan, and Boston's winter signing of amateur pitcher
Strasburg could also threaten to play for an independent team in a more typical play. Boras has represented a couple tough-minded amateur standouts -- including
Of course, the real leverage that Boras and Strasburg have is the Nationals' own situation, which includes: 1) a terrible team; 2) awful pitching; 3) a rich and committed owner, who tried to sign Boras client
"If they don't take [Strasburg] and sign him, they might as well give up,'' the owner of one competing team said. "You'd have to wonder why they're in business. He's got them by the [gonads].''
We'll see if that's true in the coming weeks. In light of all the past flame-outs, Strasburg still has to be considered a gamble -- though it's a gamble most executives believe the Nationals can ill afford not to take.
All the elements are there for what figures to be the biggest knock-down, drag-out fight in draft history.
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