Thom Loverro of the Washington Times wrote an interesting column on former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden’s new gig as a recurring guest on a Los Angeles radio show. The best part of Loverro’s piece, from a Draft Blog perspective, was Bowden’s take on whether his old club would pop San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick.
Strasburg is clearly the best talent in this draft and perhaps the best pitching prospect of the draft era, and he’ll be represented by the Scott Boras Corp. Boras reportedly has likened Strasburg to the mythical Sidd Finch and is believed to be seeking a $50 million big league contract for Strasburg—nearly five times the draft-record $10.5 million that the Cubs guaranteed Mark Prior in 2001.
Bowden said Washington definitely will select Strasburg. On air, he said:
"The decision has already been made. It was made when I was there. That is who they are going to take . . . This is the best amateur pitcher since I was born. He is that good--his delivery, his stuff, 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning, his makeup. He's got the entire package . . . Strasburg is going to be drafted by Washington. You think they are going to sign him early? No, it's going to be Aug. 15 at 11:57 p.m. It will end at around $15 million, about under $35 million of what Scott wants, but that is where it ends up. It will be record-breaking, and he will be pitching in the big leagues in September. He is that good."
If what Bowden is saying is true, it makes a lot of sense. Despite Strasburg’s demands and the less-than-stellar track record of pitchers selected No. 1 overall, the Nationals would be making a huge mistake if they don’t take him. And despite all the rumblings about that $50 million price tag, Strasburg and Boras don’t have the leverage to make that happen.
If Strasburg was a free agent, I don’t doubt that the bidding would escalate into that territory. But he’s not, and there’s no strategy that would make him one. If the Nationals offer Strasburg a big league deal in the neighborhood of $15 million or $20 million, and hold firm to that price, my guess is that Boras will wait them out until 11:59 on the night of the Aug. 15 deadline but Strasburg will accept it. There’s too much risk to turn down that kind of money, and if he did, he’d just re-enter the 2010 draft.
Maybe Boras will work some easily reached but not fully guaranteed roster bonuses into the deal, as he often does. Maybe it will be a six-year contract instead of the five-year pact most college pitchers have signed, which would add more guaranteed money. Just don’t expect Strasburg to quintuple Prior’s record.
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