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Premium picks remain unsigned as school opens

Diggins signs, but Harrington, nine Boras clients wait

By Allan Simpson

With classes about to start at a large number of colleges this week, a sense of urgency has hit the unsigned premium picks from this year's draft.

Fifteen players taken in the first 100 picks still had not signed through Sunday, including four first-rounders. The list of unsigned picks includes all nine players being advised by agent Scott Boras. Once a player sets foot in his first college class, he can no longer sign.

The latest player to remove his name from the list of holdouts is University of Arizona righthander Ben Diggins, the first-round pick of the Dodgers (17th overall). Diggins agreed to a $2.2 million deal Sunday, though the signing will not be announced until Wednesday. He had been scheduled to begin his junior year at Arizona Monday.

The list of unsigned picks starts with righthander Matt Harrington, the seventh overall selection and the only player in the top half of the first round who remains unsigned. He has committed to Arizona State, where classes began Monday, but his adviser, Tommy Tanzer, was in Denver trying to work out a deal with the Rockies and Harrington had not gone to class yet.

Harrington was regarded as the top player in the 2000 draft, but he fell because of signability questions. Negotiations with the Rockies have moved slowly and were complicated when the White Sox signed Stanford outfielder Joe Borchard, the 12th overall pick, to a record $5.3 million bonus in late July.

If negotiations with the Rockies bog down, Harrington still might not attend Arizona State, where he has a six-day grace period to enroll late. He may instead enroll in a junior college--either Los Angeles Pierce Junior College or College of the Canyons--to allow the Rockies to retain his rights as a draft-and-follow until a week before next year's draft.

The list of unsigned players also includes two who have agreed to terms but still haven't passed their physicals. North Carolina outfielder Tyrell Godwin agreed to $1.2 million bonus last week as a supplemental first-round pick of the Rangers, but the contract is being held up by what the Rangers claim is a pre-existing knee injury.

Godwin, rated the fastest college player in the 2000 draft, never missed any time in college because of knee problems. But he is missing a ligament in one of his knees, a condition that has existed since high school, and had arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee early in his college career. The latter condition is at the root of the holdup.

The Rangers voided the contract of righthander R.A. Dickey, their first-round pick in 1996, when a physical revealed that Dickey did not have an ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Dickey had agreed to an $810,000 bonus, but the Rangers nixed the deal and he later signed for $75,000.

Godwin and the Rangers are under pressure to wrap up their deal because classes begin Tuesday at North Carolina. The Rangers had already agreed to let him finish the final 12 hours he needs for his degree this fall, rather than attending instructional league. But that will work only if he signs a contract before he attends his first class.

The Mets have also hit a snag in the negotiations with their first-round pick, Loyola Marymount lefthander Billy Traber. After agreeing on a reported $1.7 million deal, they backed away because Traber may have an elbow injury. He has not pitched this summer.

The list of unsigned Boras clients includes first-rounders Chris Bootcheck and David Espinosa. Bootcheck is a righthander from Auburn who was selected 20th overall by the Angels. He still had not signed, and classes at Auburn begin on Tuesday. Espinosa, a Miami high school product picked 23rd overall by the Reds, is scheduled to attend his first class at the University of Miami on Wednesday.

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