With deadline looming, Nationals have a ways to go with Strasburg
Guesses from a multitude of executives around baseball for ballyhooed/deified No. 1 pick
But here is another possibility: zero dollars.
With only a long weekend to go before the signing deadline, there's no evidence of progress in the negotiations between the rebuilding Nationals and Strasburg's agent,
These big-ticket draft deals almost invariably go down to the last few hours (or minutes), but there seems to be some extra negativity surrounding the Strasburg talks.
Only a handful of first-rounders have signed so far, and most of them likely at the parameters of a deal done at draft time. That means the majority of signings will occur in the remaining days or hours before Monday's deadline. Boras' top clients this year include picks No. 1, 2, 3, 9, 13 and 30 in the first round, and while pick No. 3, Cartersville, Ga., high school outfielder
The Nationals are thought to be willing to bestow on Strasburg the highest contract ever for an amateur draftee, beating the record $10.5 million of
But Boras sees Strasburg as a once-in-a-generation amateur talent and points out that baseball's revenues are up several fold, to about $6.5 billion, since Teixeira and Prior signed their deals in 2001. While the economy is in the midst of a recession, baseball continues to thrive. Attendance is down only about five percent this year and revenues may actually be flat or slightly up from a year ago.
Boras has heard the arguments that a big bonus for Strasburg will wreck the system. He counters by pointing out that he once got
The Nationals' entire entourage of top decision-makers trekked out to Southern California in recent weeks to make a presentation to Strasburg. But while they may have taken bells and whistles with them, there is no evidence they presented an offer anywhere near the ballpark Strasburg is looking for.
The Nationals will cite the history of previous bonuses, and history has its limits. It also has a mixed record with big bonuses. While pitchers who happened to have been picked No. 1 overall have a rather mediocre record (
Boras can also try to make a case for Strasburg's extraordinary value by citing rare trades of recently drafted prodigies. For instance, if the Nats were to sign Strasburg, then trade him in a year (draftees cannot be traded for one calendar year), Boras could argue they'd get a haul. Well-regarded recent draftees
Executives say Strasburg might be worth $50 million as a free agent. But that is Strasburg's problem: he isn't a free agent.
Word is, Boras has used the bonuses of
Boras, though, will note that Strasburg, who just turned 21, is five years younger than Matsuzaka was when he signed with Boston, and that Strasburg has better stuff than Matsuzaka. Strasburg has been timed at 100 mph and scouts say he has a devastating breaking ball as well. Even a Nationals person said, "He throws 98 and has a legit hammer [curve]." Boras doesn't see why Strasburg should get less than Matsuzaka.
"Major League teams, in the best interest of baseball, must stop penalizing American boys and American families," Boras said. "The fact of being born in the United States should not result in a dramatic diminution of value, even though your talent exceeds that of a talent born elsewhere."
The issue for American players is leverage -- they don't have much of it. Japan seems like a long shot for Strasburg (though technically, Boston's signing of
Boras has had a few star prospects who took the idle route, such as
However, none of the previous highly regarded draftees had an eight-figure offer to consider, as Strasburg surely does. And a case could be made that Strasburg's current leverage diminishes if he returns to the draft in 2010 one year older.
The call, ultimately, will be Strasburg's, Boras said. Some previous clients have insisted on signing, as highly regarded catcher
People close to Strasburg say he wants to start his professional career as soon as possible, and Boras doesn't dispute that notion. But Boras is believed to see no great advantage to signing now, as he doesn't mind the idea of limiting Strasburg's innings to preserve his one-in-50-million arm. Strasburg threw 109 innings for the Aztecs last season, going 12-1 with a 1.32 ERA, allowing 65 hits, striking out 195 and walking 19 (that 10-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't bad). Boras has widely praised Aztecs manager
Boras has told confidants (and surely the Tigers many times) that he worries about the arm of another prodigy, Porcello, who's pitched 112 innings in the majors with the Tigers at age 20 (he's 10-7 with a 4.34 ERA). Boras worries about the possibility Porcello could repeat the career path of yet another Boras client,
There is pressure on the Nationals, as they are still in line to lose 100 games this year, even after a recent eight-game winning streak. They recently lost promising right-hander
"They have to sign him," one competing executive said of the Nationals/Strasburg situation. "If they don't sign him, what are they in business for?"
Kasten has cited the history of past top signings, an indication of where they stand. But Boras sees Strasburg as a history-making case.
By midnight Monday, we will see whether history is repeated or overcome.
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• Even the Yankees think
The purpose of these comments isn't known. But there have been hints Arroyo suspects he may be on the list of 2003 survey failures, and perhaps he is trying to get ahead of the story. Arroyo went a little over the top with his remarks, especially invoking the name of serial killer
• Some around the Nationals believe acting GM
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• The Yankees are 21-6 since the break. Boston remains a favorite to make the playoffs, but Texas is definitely a threat.
• Not enough has been said about the terrific job Rangers pitching coach
• I am starting to believe in Marlins magic. Though, judging by the crowds, you wonder whether their fans do. They've now won six of seven, yet the crowds are still sparse (announced as 14,047 Thursday night).
• The Twitter continues at: