By John Maffei
May 28, 2002
SAN DIEGO–The Padres’ Matt Harrington gamble is over. And so the longest holdout saga in draft history continues.
The Padres, who took the righthander from Palmdale, Calif., in the second round of last year’s draft, decided not to sign him after watching a five-inning stint for the Long Beach Breakers of the independent Western League on Sunday.
Scouting director Bill Gayton assigned former big league pitcher Rich Bordi, an area scout, to watch Harrington’s outing against the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox. Three other big league organizations–the Devil Rays, Mariners and Royals–also scouted Harrington’s outing.
“Matt was throwing 93 with good life,” Gayton said. “His breaking ball was 74-77, but he couldn’t throw it for a strike, and he had no command. Based on where he was at, we told him to re-enter the draft.”
The Padres had offered Harrington a package of around $1.2 million that included a bonus and a major league contract. That was far below the $4 million Harrington’s camp, headed at the time by agent Tommy Tanzer, turned down as the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2000.
Harrington went back into the draft last year and was selected by the Padres. After the draft, he switched agents and is now represented by Scott Boras, who was asking for more than twice what the Padres offered.
“It was nothing for us or Matt to be ashamed of,” Gayton said. “But there was very little flexibility. We wanted to sign Matt through the whole process, but it was long and drawn out. He wasn’t 100 percent healthy when we drafted him and there was turmoil with his representation.
“Honestly, we had hoped to sign the Matt Harrington of old. I’m not a gambler, and I hated to lose a second-round pick. But his money was going to come out of this year’s budget, and we don’t have unlimited funds.”
The Padres didn’t ask for consent to draft Harrington again, which is required when a team does not sign a player who goes back into the draft, so for San Diego, the Matt Harrington experiment is over.
Harrington’s holdout has become the longest in draft history, surpassing Jason Varitek’s of nearly three years. Varitek was a first-round pick of the Twins as a junior at Georgia Tech in 1993, but he decided to return to school for his senior year. The Mariners made him a first-round pick in 1994, and he didn’t sign until April 1995.