As we mentioned over the weekend, the Washington Nationals’ brass were all in California, ostensibly to convince Stephen Strasburg to sign before the deadline of midnight tonight. But the weekend came and went without a deal, and the odds are awfully low that Strasburg’s a member of the Nats by the time the clock strikes 12.
That fact wasn’t lost on the Nationals’ in-house announcers last night as they called the Washington-Cincinnati game, a 5-4 rally win for the Nats. While watching their team fight with another bottom-feeder in a game of absolutely no relevance, the broadcast team lit into Strasburg and agent Scott Boras with a jarring fury.
The D.C. SPORTS BOG has the choice quotes from the three MASN announcers:
“I’m sick and tired of Scott Boras. The problem is you can’t take him out, because everybody knows he’s the best agent out there Johnny, and the amazing thing is he has the top three draft picks, none of them have signed. He has three other guys, they haven’t signed, and he’s taking this Major League Baseball by hostage. And if I were the guys, I wouldn’t sign any of them. I wouldn’t sign any of them. You’ve got to stop this guy.”
“[T]hink of the millions of dollars you’re losing in arbitration by not pitching and not getting toward the Major Leagues.”
“If Stephen Strasburg’s listening to us, your agent works for you, so whatever he’s been filling your head with, this money sets you up for the rest of your life.”
“They will get ripped to shreds if they don’t sign Stephen Strasburg. And if they don’t sign him, it’s for all the right reasons. And I think the young man ultimately has to make a decision, do I want to pitch and get to the big leagues ASAP, or do I want to sit around for a year of my young life because of money. Which Aaron Crow has already done.“
“I know I’m not a very good negotiator, but I would tell my guy, ‘Get as much money as you can, but I’m signing. Get as much as you can, but we sign before midnight Monday, and I want to go play ball.’ It’s hard for me to fathom a young man at that age, with a dream, not feeling that way.”
That, sirs, is unequivocal. It’s also a sure sign that a deal is not going to happen at all; considering the fact that the MASN announcers are only thisclose from being paid staff of the Nationals, their talking points probably came directly from the office of owner Ted Lerner. They wouldn’t be outraged if the two sides were only haggling over a million dollars or two and likely to get a deal done. No, they’re only expressing Lerner’s frustration at what must be a chasm of difference in expected pay.
And look, Boras wants the Nats to pay an outrageous price for Strasburg, and we suppose that’s fine; there’s no salary cap or anything, so Strasburg’s salary wouldn’t necessarily limit the Nats’ ability to surround him with talent.
But at the same time, there’s no such thing as an unlimited budget (outside Yankee Stadium, anyway), and money above and beyond a rather reasonable $10-15 million that Boras demands go to Strasburg is money that the Nationals can’t spend on other players. Boras is essentially forcing the team to gamble their future on one player who hasn’t so much as played a game in the minor leagues, a strategy that usually doesn’t end well.
Moreover, since the Nationals can’t trade their draft pick or draft rights, this is just going to play itself out all over again during the next draft. If Strasburg doesn’t sign (and he won’t), he’ll just go back into the 2010 draft pool… where, if they hang onto last place, Washington will hold the first two picks - #1 for sucking so badly, and #2 as compensation for failing to sign Strasburg in 2009.
And if I’m Ted Lerner, I’m drafting Strasburg right away once again and forcing Boras to get a deal done before Strasburg spends his prime being priced out of the highest level of baseball competition by the very man who’s supposed to work for him. [UPDATE: Okay, I completely misinterpreted the text of the rules for draft picks. When it said that a player “had to consent” for the team to draft him the next year, I thought that meant “was forced to consent,” not “was given the option to consent.” Our commenters are on the ball and I… should really stop drinking vodka before lunch.]
So the onus, it seems, is on Boras here: You’re going to have to strike a deal with Washington [UPDATE: or a different horrible team!] for this player. Why wait a year to do it and negatively affect his ability to earn the maximum amount of money while playing? If he’s actually worth an eight-figure rookie contract, he’ll probably make nine when his initial contract runs out. Make that happen and stop forcing him to sit out.