We’re getting our first real news about the Nationals’ negotiations with No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg. Club officials met with Strasburg last week, and they’ve since made an offer that exceeds the draft-record $10.5 million contract Mark Prior got from the Cubs in 2001.
Saturday, in the first public quotes issued by any of the principals involved, Washington team president Stan Kasten told the Associated Press on Saturday that he has no idea if his club will be able to reach a deal.
"This kid is so impressive," Kasten said. "We have nothing but the highest regard for him. If he wants to come and begin his career right now—and do so with the largest contract ever given to any drafted player in the history of Major League Baseball—we can help him accomplish that. But if this is more about changing the whole way an industry does business, then we won’t be able to reach a deal."
File those comments under "Rhetoric," even if they have spurred several "Nats May Not Sign Strasburg" stories. It’s too early to jump to that conclusion, and these talks are playing out just like they figured to.
All the serious negotiating always was going to happen right before the Aug. 17 deadline and any deal is going to be reached in the final few minutes. It’s no more surprising that Kasten is accusing Strasburg’s adviser, Scott Boras, of trying to change the marketplace of the draft than it would be if Boras pointed out how much MLB’s revenues have grown since Prior’s signing or the special nature of Strasburg’s talent.
The woeful Nationals can’t afford not to sign Strasburg, and they’re going to offer him more money than he can sensibly risk turning down. He would be worth more than his $50 million asking price on the open market, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Strasburg and Boras would walk away on principle. But there’s no obvious path to make him a free agent, and I’ll be stunned if a deal doesn’t get done late on Monday night.
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