The wealthy Yankees, Red Sox and Mets were all hoping that by some miracle Stephen Strasburg would slip to them due to signability concerns. (Hey, it happens -- coveted hurler Rick Porcello fell all the way to Detroit at No. 27 in 2007.) But there was no talking the needy Nationals off the pitcher who's considered one of the greatest prospects of all time.
Here are some more thoughts about the most hyped draft ever (thanks to one player) and the potentially contentious upcoming negotiations, separated into myth, reality and somewhere in between, with commonly heard statements italicized ...
1.The Nats' concern about failing to sign Strasburg is mitigated considerably by the rule allowing them to receive a replacement pick in the same spot next year, which might mean a stacking of picks.That's a myth. The last thing the Nats need to do is keep pushing their future another year into the future. Besides, an extra pick, even at the top, isn't going to make up for Strasburg if he's as good as everyone says he is.
2. Scott Boras has an excellent relationship with Nats president Stan Kasten.I doubt that's true. Boras put one over on the Braves when he somehow got them to offer arbitration to Greg Maddux, busting their budget one year. And Kasten got Boras by getting Andruw Jones to commit to an under-market-value, $75 million, five-year contract without Boras' involvement. Regardless, Boras does appear to have a fine longstanding relationship with interim GM Mike Rizzo and seemed to get along swimmingly with Nationals billionaire owner Ted Lerner while rejecting Lerner's basically blank-check offers to Mark Teixeira this winter.
3. The Nats-owning Lerners deserve praise for making this pick.They did do the right thing. But let's wait a bit before putting them in the Hall. Rizzo praised them on MLB Network for allowing him to pick the finest available talent, regardless of signability. That's tremendous, of course, but only up to a point. They now have to sign him. If they just select him but fail to sign him, they are just getting quick pub for spending no money. Of course, we all know they took Aaron Crow last year, then failed to sign him.
4. The draft is just another way for Boras to make money.Though he's made a lot of money with drafted players, that's a myth. Boras was undoubtedly pleased to nearly prove true his claim of having the best college pitcher, best college position player, best high school position player and best high school pitcher when players of his who fit those four categories were picked first (Strasburg), second (Dustin Ackley, Seattle), third (Donavan Tate, San Diego) and ninth (Jacob Turner, Detroit). However, the draft giveth, and the draft taketh away. While Boras is said by people close to the situation to be seeking $50 million for Strasburg, as a free agent Strasburg would actually make that, and more. Meanwhile, with Washington holding his rights, the final offer is expected to range in the $15-30 million ballpark.
5. It's crazy to think Strasburg would sit out a year.No, it's not completely crazy. Although it is something of a long shot, it can't be ruled out entirely. Strasburg is only 20, and maybe for some reason he doesn't find the Nats completely appealing. Boras has had two stars in the past who sat out seasons after being high draft choices -- J.D. Drew and Luke Hochevar -- and both of them made more money by missing the year (though baseball people would argue they missed valuable service time and experience). It may be tougher for Strasburg to hold out, however, considering he is going to be offered quite a bit more money. (Drew and Hochevar were both offered around $3 million before signing for around $8 million and $5-plus million, respectively). While it seems less likely a pitcher would take that chance, both Crow and Tanner Scheppers, who were represented by others, pitched for independent league teams last season after being taken in the 2008 draft (Crow went ninth overall to Washington, while Scheppers went 48th to Pittsburgh). On Tuesday night, Crow was picked 12th by the Royals and seems likely to duplicate or beat what the Nats offered him, while Scheppers was taken off the board at No. 44 by Texas.
6. Strasburg is actually better than Dice-K was when Boston signed him.He might be. But he might not be. He is definitely younger, as he turns 21 next month. And he throws harder, as he's hit 100 mph on the gun multiple times. But while Boras may claim that the Japan League isn't the majors, and that the stuff of Hideki Irabu and especially Kei Igawa didn't translate, those are at least professional hitters in Japan. Plus, let's not forget Matsuzaka was the World Baseball Classic MVP when he was signed. So Matsuzaka was at least a more proven commodity.
7. Strasburg will go to Japan.That's a rumor possibility. And with Junichi Tazawa, an amateur in Japan, coming over here to sign with Boston last winter, anything is possible. Strasburg could make a few mill in Japan next year, then try to be posted. Or even try to be a free agent. But it all seems a little sticky. And it's still tough to imagine a San Diego kid making that call. So I'm guessing this won't happen.
8. If Strasburg gets double the bonus money of the current record holder, Mark Prior at $10.5 million, he'll set a precedent that will wreck the draft.That's not necessarily true. After J.D. Drew got what at the time was an unfathomable $8 million from the Cardinals, it didn't lead to a series of bonuses of $8 million or more. In fact, in the 10 years since, only Mark Teixeira ($9.5 million) and Prior received more.
The trade market for relief pitchers, potentially pitiful, could improve substantially if the Indians and Diamondbacks become sellers.
That's ironic in that both teams have awful bullpens. The Indians are 25th with a bullpen ERA of 4.80, the D-backs 26th at 4.86. Yet, cherry picking the right piece from those 'pens could still make things very interesting.
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro is still telling teams he isn't ready to begin his sale, and that he hopes his biggest star, Grady Sizemore, will be back the first week of July. But by then a seemingly star-crossed Indians team may be out of it. In his tenure as Cleveland's GM, Shapiro has already conducted a few very successful sales: the CC Sabathia and Casey Blake trades were solid, but the Bartolo Colon deal (which netted Cleveland Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips) worked best of all. He could consider deals for closer Kerry Wood, in addition to his long litany of other trade candidates, including Mark DeRosa, Victor Martinez, Lee and Carl Pavano. Wood's $10 million salary and current 5.59 ERA and 1.60 WHIP probably won't add up to bonanza for the Indians, though.
The D-backs' bullpen appears overtaxed and outmanned since ace Brandon Webb went down, necessitating many more innings from relievers who aren't ready, including talented former first-rounder Daniel Schlereth. But word is that if the D-backs become sellers, solid veteran Chad Qualls surely will become available. Some wonder whether Tony Pena will, too, though one National League GM said he'd still be surprised if Pena hits the market since he has three years to go before free agency.
Meanwhile, the Rockies' Huston Street has seemingly been available since coming over to Colorado from the A's in the Matt Holliday trade, and insiders believe the Astros wouldn't mind unloading closer Jose Valverde, who is trying to return from a calf injury and whose $9.5 million salary limits his value.
The Yankees (4.75 bullpen ERA, 24th), Mets (2.91, 2nd), Rangers (4.87, 27th), Angels (5.82, 30th), Twins (4.16, 15th) and Cubs (4.42, 20th) are among several contenders that could be in the market for relief help.
Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd is aggressive by nature, and he now appears willing to listen to trades on just about anyone on his roster in an effort to find the right mix. That includes the usual suspects plus even outfielder Brad Hawpe, who's seventh in the National League with a .998 OPS. One scout says he believes Hawpe is "feasting on bad pitching,'' but there's apparently enough of it to make him very successful.
The Rockies would love to find takers for failing former star Garrett Atkins, whose annual slow start has been taken to an extreme this year with that .194 batting average, as well as high-priced first baseman Todd Helton. But deals for them will be difficult (though a hot streak for Atkins could help in his case). They'll have a much better chance of finding fits for center fielder Ryan Spilborghs, starting pitcher Jason Marquis and Street. Marquis, who has a surprising 73 victories since 2004 and ranks near the NL leaders in that period, has been a consistent and underrated winner. Veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba also is available.
The Giants and Cardinals are looking for a third baseman in a pretty fair market at that position.
DeRosa, Miguel Tejada and Adrian Beltre are all expected to be available. While Tejada's currently playing shortstop for Houston, as one scout said, "Everyone knows he'd be better at third. His range isn't what it used to be.'' He can still hit, though, as evidenced by his NL-leading .357 mark.
The Giants need to punch up their offense if they're going to try to contend, and Pablo Sandoval's arm issue looks like it'll keep him at first base this year. The Cardinals might also want to consider Beltre, a well-known second-half player whose slugging percentage rises to .490 after the break, compared to .424 before. But Beltre's salary is rather high at $13.4 million, and St. Louis is notorious for not making mid-year expenditures.
One scout who recently watched the Cardinals marveled at their style. "They play the game right,'' that scout said. That doesn't mean they couldn't use a little help.
Two Yankees people said they "loved'' local product DeRosa. But they don't appear to have any room for him, particularly with Xavier Nady progressing nicely in his comeback from elbow trouble.
Take that, Chipper Jones.
Jones lit into cavernous Citi Field on the Ripken Brothers show on Sirius XM radio, suggesting the ballpark plays way too big. But the Phillies and Mets combined for seven home runs in the Mets' 6-5 victory on Tuesday.
Jones complained about his own Citi misfortune, then revealed that when he was on the base paths after one drive stayed in play for a double, Mets star David Wright sarcastically muttered to him, "Nice Park,'' suggesting Wright doesn't like it, either
First of all, hasn't Jones done enough damage to the Mets (40 HRs, 126 RBIs, .330) without repeating what's obviously a private conversation?
Naturally, Wright downplayed Jones' remark when asked about it. But his frustration would be understandable. He had only three home runs total (two at Citi) before going deep Tuesday night in that rare homer-happy contest for the big park.
"You can't try to hit homers and you can't be intimidated,'' said Carlos Beltran, one of the seven homer hitters on Tuesday. Beltran's been one of the better Citi hitters, but even he is much better on the road (three HRs, 13 RBIs, .292 average at Citi compared to 5, 22, .383 on the road).
The Braves' release of Tom Glavine still doesn't seem right, and some Braves people have conceded it could have been handled better. This was no way to treat a player who's heading to Cooperstown as a Brave.
If Glavine and the Braves don't kiss and make up sometime in the next five years, can you imagine how uncomfortable that day will be?
That coming day is why I don't ultimately believe that Glavine, given time to think, will take the Braves into a grievance hearing. While it does seem clear that the Braves' decision was at least partly motivated by money -- they saved about the same amount of money they spent the very same day to acquire outfielder Nate McLouth -- and baseball rules disallow a player to be released over money, I still have to think Glavine and the Braves will work this out more amicably. Anyway, they should do that.
While Glavine is right about this, no one wants to see a player who's made $128 million (according to baseballreference.com), take his team to court over a million or two more. Overall, their relationship has appeared to be OK, and it would behoove both sides to figure something out.
• The Red Sox aren't fooled by their success with Nick Green at shortstop (they are 22-8 with Green starting) and are scouring the shortstop market. Some available shortstops could be Jack Wilson, Yuniesky Betancourt, Bobby Crosby, Omar Vizquel and Orlando Cabrera. Brewers star J.J. Hardy would seem to be a long shot even if the Red Sox are willing to part with their big-time young pitchers -- though Milwaukee has promising young shortstop Alcides Escobar.
• Boston pitcher Brad Penny needs to be gone fairly soon to make room for John Smoltz and Clay Buchholz. Getting Phillies shortstop prospect Jason Donald for Penny sounds like a Boston daydream to me.
• There is renewed concern over Daisuke Matsuzaka's conditioning, especially now that he is struggling. He is 1-4 with a 7.33 ERA
• Brad Lidge didn't request or want to go on the disabled list, but the Phillies are taking no chances with their struggling star closer. He hasn't been in the training room lately after suffering knee pain early. But his 7.27 ERA and six blown saves appear to be a tipoff he isn't right. Ryan Madsen, the setup man, has closer stuff, so they should be able to get by.
• Raul Ibanez, who hit his 20th homer Tuesday, has been a godsend for the Phils.
• ... and Francisco Rodriguez has been the same for the Mets. He hit 95 mph on his final two pitches while saving the 6-5 victory over the Phillies Tuesday, making it 16 for 16 in saves.
• Derek Jeter, who turns 35 June 26, looks like he's found the Fountain of Youth. One key for everyone in the Yankees' infield is new first baseman Mark Teixeira. The four starting infielders have only made eight errors combined (A-Rod 4, Jeter 2, Robinson Cano 2 and Texeira 0).
• The contracts of aces Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt, which once looked team-friendly (they each make about $15 mill per), aren't necessarily going to be easy to move in this economy, executives predict. It'll take a rare team with money to spend. While the Cubs' ownership situation is in limbo, they remain the favorites for Peavy.
• Execs still expect Matt Holliday, who's starting to hit better (8 HRs, 37 RBIs, .279 average), to be traded. The A's' asking price will be high since want to match what they gave up, which included the just-promoted center fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
• Congrats to Stanford reliever Drew Storen, who was picked 10th overall by the Nationals. His father, Mark Patrick, was the host of an XM radio show "Baseball This Morning'' I used to go on.
• Wish I could have been there for the apparent repossession of Lenny Dykstra's Rolls Royce. In terms of personal conduct, ethics and fair play, he may actually be the biggest loser among the alleged Steroid All-Stars, eclipsing even that noted tag team of Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens.
• Everyone, even Dykstra, is invited join me on Twitter at SI_JonHeyman. The Twitter page Championist now lists me as fourth in followers in baseball, though still behind Nick Swisher, Barry Zito and CC Sabathia.