08.17.09 9 years ago 4 Comments

UPDATE: Strasburg signed: 4 years, $15.67 million. That’s a bargain, and ultimately why MLB has a draft.

It’s not everyday that No. 1 picks in the baseball draft become big news two months after the fact, yet here we are: If Stephen StrasbUrg doesn’t sign with the Washington Nationals at midnight tonight, the team loses his rights, but then will also be ineligible to draft him again in 2010. And it’s getting pretty GD tense.

If I were the Nationals, who have already put a record-setting deal on the table for Stephen Strasburg, I wouldn’t offer more than $16 million. That’s 50 percent more than any pitcher in the baseball draft has ever gotten — Mark Prior’s $10.5 million deal in 2001. A 21-year-old who has never faced a professional hitter isn’t worth more than that. The top contract in 2008 was only $6 million. –Tom Boswell.

StrasbUrg’s deal obviously has big ramifications for No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley, but also for subsequent players in future drafts. Some people are pointing the finger at Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras.

If I were Scott Boras, Strasburg’s agent, I wouldn’t accept less than $22 million. That would double the biggest contract in the history of the draft ($10.8 million for Mark Teixeira). When the Rangers paid Teixeira in 2001, baseball’s total revenues were $3.7 billion. Now they are $6.5 billion, dead even with the NFL. Prices go up. Proportionally, Teixiera’s number now would be $19 million. And, as a power pitcher, Strasburg could someday become more of an October game-changer than any hitter. In fact, Boras might justifiably want even more. He believes deeply, not just as a ploy but also on principle, that American amateur-draft players, with no union behind them, have been shafted for decades. This is his chance, maybe the best ever, to redefine a market full of fixed prices. –Boswell.

Works for me. Teams like their players shiny and new, and if they also like them cheap, then the Nats will have to take a stand and basically toss their No. 1 pick back into the pond, and wave goodbye. Personally, I hate the baseball draft; it doesn’t include international players and it’s too damn long for any reasonable fan to follow. But this matchup of zealous superagent vs. stodgy big-market franchise fascinates me. It’s like watching a robot trying to engage in carnal relations with a whale. But, you know, more baseball-y than that.

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