That $50 million figure that's being attached to ballyhooed college-pitching prospect
Whether Boras is naming the figure or just dropping hints isn't known. What is known is that big-league execs are bracing for the $50 million bomb to be dropped come June's amateur draft.
Boras isn't speaking about this publicly. But in discussions with other baseball people, he's saying quite a bit apparently. One club executive said Boras has found at least one comparable hurler for the right-hander Strasburg, who is said to have clocked between 100 and 103 mph 14 times in one recent game.
Well, at these prices, he had better be.
The ceiling for drafted players historically has been about $10 million.
Now Boras is said to want $50 million on a six-year contract, a contract proposal that was first floated as a possibility by
Besides Finch, executives say they believe the other comparable player Boras sees is
That might be true -- the reviews of Strasburg are extraordinary -- but this may still be Boras' toughest sell yet. To raise the bar by 400 percent seems like a long shot, at best.
The Nationals have the first pick, and assuming they take Strasburg, this promises to be the stickiest, thorniest, craziest amateur negotiation ever, easily beating the ones Boras had with
This one potentially pits Boras against Nationals president
"We intend to take the best player; we know what No. 1s get and we intend to sign that player," Kasten said, noting that he is hereby issuing a moratorium on speaking about the subject of the No. 1 pick. The subject is
Kasten isn't saying who the Nationals believe the top player is. But another Nationals person made clear who he thinks is best. Speaking of Strasburg, that Nationals person said, "He's good. He throws 98, plus he's got a hammer," referring to his sweeping breaking ball
Kasten indicated he has heard the $50 million rumors, and while mentioning the 40-year history of the draft, he insisted, "No one's situation is going to change the industry."
If that's the case, Boras would undoubtedly prefer that the Nationals pass. The Mariners, one of baseball's richer teams, are waiting at No. 2 and would probably like nothing more than to combine Strasburg with
Kasten's remark about "knowing what No. 1s get" suggests that the Nationals don't intend to go beyond the $10 million figure, though he didn't explicitly say as much. Another Nationals person predicted, "We'll pay the $10 million, and we'll get him signed."
The Nationals do indeed have history on their side. The precedent has long been set that $10 million is the ceiling. The leverage is very limited for these amateur players since no other league is comparable. If college players don't sign, they can return to college and hope for better a year later, or they can go to an independent league. None in the past have tried playing overseas, or even using that as leverage, but nothing can be ruled out in this once-in-a-generation case.
A couple top collegians represented by Boras have declined to sign after being selected and offered million-dollar bonuses, including
Strasburg looks like a sure thing right now. But as esteemed
No matter, Boras apparently will try to make the case that Strasburg is otherworldly, and specifically that he is at least the equal of Matsuzaka, who got his $52 million after the Red Sox paid a $51 million posting fee. Boras will make the case Strasburg already has a top-five fastball, and top-five stuff overall, and that, unlike Matsuzaka, he's been treated with kid gloves throughout his formative years. Boras declined to discuss the upcoming negotiations or his suspected target figure but did gush about how Hall of Famer
If the Nationals do take Strasburg, as expected, there are at least a few factors in Boras' favor. While Kasten has been a longtime nemesis and isn't anxious to break ranks with what MLB wants, the Lerners generally have shown they are willing to pay for young talent. Plus Boras apparently had a very amicable, high-level negotiation this winter with Nationals owner
The Nationals also will face tremendous pressure to sign Strasburg after failing to sign No. 1 draft choice
The Nationals have the money (Ted Lerner has been estimated to be baseball's richest owner at about $4.5 billion, though in this falling economy it's difficult to gauge anyone's true net worth), and they certainly have the need. But they also have history on their side. That history says amateur players get $10 million tops. Strasburg should beat that figure. But the question is by how much.
Things have loosened up and are a lot more relaxed around the Nationals since Bowden was forced to resign following the Gonzalez/Alvarez revelation.
"Things are much better around here," one Nationals person whispered to me.
Is it because Bowden's not here? "I won't say that," Kasten said. "Jim's going through things personally. I expect him to be fully exonerated. He's assured me he will."
Kasten did agree that things seem different around the team. "But I wouldn't personalize it," he stressed. "Whenever there are questions or confusion, and it's cleared up, that's a good thing."
Well, here's one big question going around baseball: What took them so long? (That's a hard question for Kasten to answer since the press release said Bowden resigned; of course, we all know he was forced out.)
And one more question: How did Bowden last 15 years as a baseball general manager between Cincinnati and Washington when he alienated a large percentage of people in the game through more than a decade of dicey dealings, temper tantrums and inconsistent behavior?
Many of the folks who worked for Bowden admired his smarts and knowledge. But others speak of a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality that didn't help matters. "You never knew whether you were going to get the good Jim or the bad Jim," one former Nationals person said.
But beyond all the personality issues surrounding Bowden, and beyond the skimming issue currently being investigated by MLB and the FBI (and Bowden has maintained he's innocent), as one AL scout said, "He's left a mess ... There are some issues."
One issue that's more a symbol of the Bowden years is that Gonzalez/Alvarez is having "visa problems." That should be no surprise since traveling as an impostor is generally frowned upon.
Another issue is Bowden liked to collect tools
A bigger problem is not enough capable major-league pitchers, which necessitated them taking talented
Nonetheless, things do seem much better lately with the Nats, even though baseball people figure to see another last-place finish in perhaps baseball's toughest division. Kasten said "there's an air of positive energy" and "things are smooth and professional and moving in the right direction." He attributes the improvement to "all the youth on the team," though, and not Bowden's exit.
It may be a little of each. Anyway, the Nats are better with a fresh start, and the new baseball operations chief Mike Rizzo brings the scouting expertise a team starting at the bottom absolutely needs. While sources say a person close to Kasten tried hard to get Kasten to consider
Kasten won't say this, but those other folks are probably wasting their breath, as Rizzo is said by baseball sources to have the support of the Lerners and is expected to eventually get the job full time. It's believed the Lerners were the ones who picked Bowden, so they have nowhere to go but up. Rizzo probably deserves the chance, anyway.
"I'm enjoying it," Rizzo said of his new role. "It's a big job. But I feel I'm prepared for it."
Before Angels ace
Lackey, who's making $10 million in his walk year, was very disappointed with the Angels' opening offer, which he said appeared to reflect the team's wish that he take a hometown discount again. According to someone familiar with the talks, the Angels are estimated to have offered Lackey a four-year guarantee for close to $13 million a year, or somewhere around $50 million guaranteed (both Angels GM
It's no surprise the Angels' offer wasn't of the bank-breaking variety, as Lackey signed a team-friendly deal last time and is known to want to stay (who wouldn't want to be an Angel?). The Angels may also be slightly spooked by injuries suffered by
The Angels once again look like the safest bet to win their division, and they do a lot of things right, but they've struck out in their biggest negotiations in recent months. Both Teixeira and Sabathia turned down nine-figure offers from them this winter. And now Lackey doesn't appear to be quite the certainty to sign, either.
The idea to bat
"We like what we see," Yankees manager
While Girardi added that nothing's official, everyone around the Yankees seems excited by the switch. There are four reasons for this: 1) They like the left-handed Damon batting second when the opposing first baseman is more likely to be holding a runner on first; 2) Jeter usually has a higher on-base percentage than Damon; 3) Damon hits into fewer double plays; and 4) By batting the right-handed-hitting Jeter first, it breaks up the left-handed hitters since lefty-swinging
Additionally, neither player minds one bit. Jeter summed up his feelings, saying, "It only means I get up a minute earlier."
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• Jeter, incidentally, says he doesn't worry too much about all the critics who are hitting on defensive issues (and they are hitting him hard). Jeter has as thick a skin as anyone around. Jeter said that, like everything else, he has things to work on. But he disagrees with the generally held belief that he's not as good going to his left as he is to his right, coming in or going back.
• Something tells me the Yankees don't mind
• Good luck to