The wealthy Yankees, Red Sox and Mets were all hoping that by some miracle Stephen Strasburg would slip to them due to signability concerns. (Hey, it happens -- coveted hurler Rick Porcello fell all the way to Detroit at No. 27 in 2007.) But there was no talking the needy Nationals off the pitcher who's considered one of the greatest prospects of all time.
Here are some more thoughts about the most hyped draft ever (thanks to one player) and the potentially contentious upcoming negotiations, separated into myth, reality and somewhere in between, with commonly heard statements italicized ...
1. The Nats' concern about failing to sign Strasburg is mitigated considerably by the rule allowing them to receive a replacement pick in the same spot next year, which might mean a stacking of picks.
That's a myth. The last thing the Nats need to do is keep pushing their future another year into the future. Besides, an extra pick, even at the top, isn't going to make up for Strasburg if he's as good as everyone says he is.
2. Scott Boras has an excellent relationship with Nats president Stan Kasten.
I doubt that's true. Boras put one over on the Braves when he somehow got them to offer arbitration to Greg Maddux, busting their budget one year. And Kasten got Boras by getting Andruw Jones to commit to an under-market-value, $75 million, five-year contract without Boras' involvement. Regardless, Boras does appear to have a fine longstanding relationship with interim GM Mike Rizzo and seemed to get along swimmingly with Nationals billionaire owner Ted Lerner while rejecting Lerner's basically blank-check offers to Mark Teixeira this winter.
3. The Nats-owning Lerners deserve praise for making this pick.
They did do the right thing. But let's wait a bit before putting them in the Hall. Rizzo praised them on MLB Network for allowing him to pick the finest available talent, regardless of signability. That's tremendous, of course, but only up to a point. They now have to sign him. If they just select him but fail to sign him, they are just getting quick pub for spending no money. Of course, we all know they took Aaron Crow last year, then failed to sign him.
4. The draft is just another way for Boras to make money.
Though he's made a lot of money with drafted players, that's a myth. Boras was undoubtedly pleased to nearly prove true his claim of having the best college pitcher, best college position player, best high school position player and best high school pitcher when players of his who fit those four categories were picked first (Strasburg), second (Dustin Ackley, Seattle), third (Donavan Tate, San Diego) and ninth (Jacob Turner, Detroit). However, the draft giveth, and the draft taketh away. While Boras is said by people close to the situation to be seeking $50 million for Strasburg, as a free agent Strasburg would actually make that, and more. Meanwhile, with Washington holding his rights, the final offer is expected to range in the $15-30 million ballpark.
5. It's crazy to think Strasburg would sit out a year.
No, it's not completely crazy. Although it is something of a long shot, it can't be ruled out entirely. Strasburg is only 20, and maybe for some reason he doesn't find the Nats completely appealing. Boras has had two stars in the past who sat out seasons after being high draft choices -- J.D. Drew and Luke Hochevar -- and both of them made more money by missing the year (though baseball people would argue they missed valuable service time and experience). It may be tougher for Strasburg to hold out, however, considering he is going to be offered quite a bit more money. (Drew and Hochevar were both offered around $3 million before signing for around $8 million and $5-plus million, respectively). While it seems less likely a pitcher would take that chance, both Crow and Tanner Scheppers, who were represented by others, pitched for independent league teams last season after being taken in the 2008 draft (Crow went ninth overall to Washington, while Scheppers went 48th to Pittsburgh). On Tuesday night, Crow was picked 12th by the Royals and seems likely to duplicate or beat what the Nats offered him, while Scheppers was taken off the board at No. 44 by Texas.
6. Strasburg is actually better than Dice-K was when Boston signed him.
He might be. But he might not be. He is definitely younger, as he turns 21 next month. And he throws harder, as he's hit 100 mph on the gun multiple times. But while Boras may claim that the Japan League isn't the majors, and that the stuff of Hideki Irabu and especially Kei Igawa didn't translate, those are at least professional hitters in Japan. Plus, let's not forget Matsuzaka was the World Baseball Classic MVP when he was signed. So Matsuzaka was at least a more proven commodity.
7. Strasburg will go to Japan.
That's a rumor possibility. And with Junichi Tazawa, an amateur in Japan, coming over here to sign with Boston last winter, anything is possible. Strasburg could make a few mill in Japan next year, then try to be posted. Or even try to be a free agent. But it all seems a little sticky. And it's still tough to imagine a San Diego kid making that call. So I'm guessing this won't happen.
8. If Strasburg gets double the bonus money of the current record holder, Mark Prior at $10.5 million, he'll set a precedent that will wreck the draft.
That's not necessarily true. After J.D. Drew got what at the time was an unfathomable $8 million from the Cardinals, it didn't lead to a series of bonuses of $8 million or more. In fact, in the 10 years since, only Mark Teixeira ($9.5 million) and Prior received more.