Projected No. 1 pick Strasburg's $50 million figure and much more
Boras is said to seek $50 million on a six-year contract for Strasburg
Nationals operations running much smoother since Jim Bowden's exit
Pedro Martinez is in no hurry to sign and more notes around baseball
That $50 million figure that's being attached to ballyhooed college-pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg is no joke. Baseball people who have spoken to Strasburg's adviser Scott Boras say they believe that's the figure Boras has in mind for Strasburg, the San Diego State pitcher some are calling a once-in-a-decade talent.
Whether Boras is naming the figure or just dropping hints isn't known. What is known is that big-league execs are bracing for the $50 million bomb to be dropped come June's amateur draft.
Boras isn't speaking about this publicly. But in discussions with other baseball people, he's saying quite a bit apparently. One club executive said Boras has found at least one comparable hurler for the right-hander Strasburg, who is said to have clocked between 100 and 103 mph 14 times in one recent game.
"He is Sidd [bleeping] Finch," Boras allegedly said to this one executive, referring to the first true fantasy player, invented for Sports Illustrated back in 1985.
Well, at these prices, he had better be.
The ceiling for drafted players historically has been about $10 million. Mark Prior ($10.5 million), Mark Teixeira ($9.5 million) and David Price ($8.8 million) were all very high draft choices seen as big-time future stars who commanded close to $10 million (though only Price went No. 1-overall due to monetary considerations). Most No. 1-overall picks go for between $3 million and $7 million, with only that oh-so-rare handful coming close to that $10-million ceiling.
Now Boras is said to want $50 million on a six-year contract, a contract proposal that was first floated as a possibility by Peter Gammons. It seemed fanciful when it was first thrown out there. But apparently it's deadly serious.
Besides Finch, executives say they believe the other comparable player Boras sees is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who got $52 million over six years from the Red Sox after starring for years in the Japanese League. Boras, who declined to comment, apparently is suggesting the tens of thousands of previously drafted players over the past 40 years aren't in Strasburg's league.
That might be true -- the reviews of Strasburg are extraordinary -- but this may still be Boras' toughest sell yet. To raise the bar by 400 percent seems like a long shot, at best.
The Nationals have the first pick, and assuming they take Strasburg, this promises to be the stickiest, thorniest, craziest amateur negotiation ever, easily beating the ones Boras had with Stick Michael over Yankees draftee Brien Taylor in 1991 and with Frank Coonelly over Pirates draftee Pedro Alvarez last year.
This one potentially pits Boras against Nationals president Stan Kasten, a Bud Selig ally, longtime Boras combatant (they battled over Greg Maddux and Andruw Jones when Kasten ran the Braves) and noted hardliner who cheerily admits to not liking agents (or sports writers, for that matter).
"We intend to take the best player; we know what No. 1s get and we intend to sign that player," Kasten said, noting that he is hereby issuing a moratorium on speaking about the subject of the No. 1 pick. The subject is that touchy.
Kasten isn't saying who the Nationals believe the top player is. But another Nationals person made clear who he thinks is best. Speaking of Strasburg, that Nationals person said, "He's good. He throws 98, plus he's got a hammer," referring to his sweeping breaking ball
Kasten indicated he has heard the $50 million rumors, and while mentioning the 40-year history of the draft, he insisted, "No one's situation is going to change the industry."
If that's the case, Boras would undoubtedly prefer that the Nationals pass. The Mariners, one of baseball's richer teams, are waiting at No. 2 and would probably like nothing more than to combine Strasburg with Felix Hernandez.
Kasten's remark about "knowing what No. 1s get" suggests that the Nationals don't intend to go beyond the $10 million figure, though he didn't explicitly say as much. Another Nationals person predicted, "We'll pay the $10 million, and we'll get him signed."
The Nationals do indeed have history on their side. The precedent has long been set that $10 million is the ceiling. The leverage is very limited for these amateur players since no other league is comparable. If college players don't sign, they can return to college and hope for better a year later, or they can go to an independent league. None in the past have tried playing overseas, or even using that as leverage, but nothing can be ruled out in this once-in-a-generation case.
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