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Draft Update: School looms for top picks

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Deadlines pass but players keep options open

By Allan Simpson

Wednesday, August 30

The first day of class for the fall semester has come and gone for five unsigned first-round draft picks, but all remained in limbo Wednesday.

Righthander Matt Harrington, drafted seventh overall by the Rockies, has not attended classes at Arizona State while he and his adviser, Tommy Tanzer, try to iron out a bonus contract similar to the one signed by White Sox first-rounder Joe Borchard, who signed a record $5.3 million deal. The Rockies are reportedly countering with a contract more in line with the $3.96 million deal signed by outfielder Josh Hamilton, the top pick in the 1999 draft.

It is unlikely that Harrington will still attend Arizona State if he doesn't sign with the Rockies. It is expected that he will either attend a junior college in California or sit out the fall altogether, in which case he would remain Rockies property.

Righthander Chris Bootcheck, the 20th overall selection, continues to reject an Angels offer of $1.6 million. He also has not returned to college at Auburn, where classes began Aug. 22, amidst reports that his scholarship has been rescinded.

Published reports that he is considering transferring to Georgia Tech for his senior year have been denied by officials at both schools.

Shortstop David Espinosa, drafted 23rd overall by the Reds, has stayed out of classes at Miami for seven days now as he wrestles with a bonus offer that is substantially less than he had hoped for. Espinosa says he will make a decision by Friday, the last day a student can add or drop classes at Miami.

Another Reds draft pick, righthander Dustin Moseley, is deliberating whether to attend school at Arkansas, where classes started Monday, or Texarkana (Texas) Junior College if he doesn't reach an agreement. He was a supplemental first-round pick of the Reds.

Lefthander Billy Traber, selected 16th overall by the Mets, also remained unsigned but he is expected to sign with the Mets on either Thursday or Friday. He had agreed to terms with the Mets a couple of weeks ago on a $1.7 million bonus, pending a physical, but that physical and a second opinion turned up some abnormalities in his elbow.

That caused the Mets to substantially reduce their off to Traber, who has deliberated whether to return for his senior year at Loyola Marymount, where classes began Monday, or bite the bullet and sign with the Mets. A source at Loyola Marymount said he is almost certainly expected to take the Mets' reduced offer.

Normally a team loses its negotiating rights to a player once he sets foot in his first college class but a large number of players have delayed a decision this year by simply not attending class. The add/drop date is generally the final deadline.

The first day of classes Monday also came and went for two second-round picks, Pepperdine catcher Dane Sardinha (Reds) and California third baseman Xavier Nady (Padres). It was expected that Sardinha will not return to class at all this fall to keep his options open with the Reds while Nady was expected to sign with San Diego by Monday or return to school.

Like Bootcheck and Espinosa, Sardinha and Nady are being advised by Scott Boras, who has not had a good track record signing his clients. To date, only one of the nine players he represents has signed.

Cincinnati is having almost as difficult a time as Boras getting its picks signed. Besides Espinosa, Moseley and Sardinha, their top three picks, the Reds did not sign fourth-rounder Marc Kaiser (in college at Arizona), fifth-rounder Roydell Williams (Tulane) and eighth-rounder Dan Gooris (Creighton).

Tulane began classes Wednesday and kept the services of Williams, a football-baseball star, but it lost out to the Padres on Williams' football teammate Mewelde Moore,a fourth-round pick who signed with San Diego just as he was scheduled to attend his first class. Moore's contract with the Padres will allow him to continue playing football.

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