Red Sox in a surprise fight to make the playoffs and more (cont.)
The struggle to sign Strasburg
Nationals president Stan Kasten's acknowledgement over the weekend that Washington may not sign ballyhooed No. 1 draft choice Stephen Strasburg should be taken seriously. This is not a baseless threat. He wouldn't be saying this aloud if he doesn't believe there's a real chance they'll fail to sign Strasburg.
The Nationals say they have offered a record bonus at or north of $12 million (the record is $10.5 million for Mark Prior in 2001), according to sources. But there's no evidence the sides are close. Strasburg's camp is believed to see him as having a $50 million value.
As a free agent, Strasburg would be worth $50 million or more. But there's a strong feeling in management circles that players need to prove themselves at the big-league level before getting the really big bucks, and Kasten isn't the type to change that belief. The Nats failed to sign their 2008 first-round pick, Aaron Crow (though their second first-rounder this year, Stanford relief pitcher Drew Storen, was quickly inked and recently promoted to Double-A Harrisburg).
While the Nats are offering a contract above Prior's record deal, Strasburg's agent Scott Boras is said to be using Matsuzaka's $52 million bonus as the baseline. That doesn't mean they wouldn't come off that number. But it likely means they don't believe $12 million is a fair number. Or even a close number. Strasburg's people believe he is worth several times that and shouldn't have to sign for what they believe is a fraction of his true value. They also don't see any reason to hurry to get Strasburg onto a mound after he threw 109 innings for San Diego State.
Of course, it's Strasburg's call in the end. And it takes a rare amateur player to turn down a seven-figure offer (or in this case, an eight-figure offer).
So far, though, there has been little indication of any progress at all in the Strasburg talks, the most anticipated in years, with the midnight Monday deadline looming. Of course, these big-ticket amateur signing almost always go right down to the deadline. The vast majority of first-round picks are expected to sign on deadline day Monday, but it doesn't look great for a Strasburg deal now.
Some are pooh-poohing Kasten's assessment. But there is every reason to believe there's real concern that a deal will get done here.
Around the majors
Smoltz could be released today. It's tough to trade a pitcher with an 8.32 ERA and plenty of roster bonuses, even a Hall of Fame player. The Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins and Rangers are among teams said to have some interest in him. One scout said he'd be "better off going to the National League."
The Brewers offered nothing beyond taking the $2.5 million remaining on Doug Davis' contract after claiming him (that's the obligation of the claim), so the Diamondbacks kept Davis.
Baseball people still believe the Nats' GM job is going to come down to acting GM Mike Rizzo, Boston's Jed Hoyer and Arizona's Jerry DiPoto.
There still appears a decent chance Toronto will make a change at general manager. While Ricciardi kick-started the rebuilding process by unloading the contract of Alex Rios and all but $4 million of Scott Rolen, his bosses are not thrilled with how the Halladay sale was handled. Acting president Paul Beeston told murraychass.com he supports Ricciardi. But there's no guarantee Beeston will be there next year. And as one competing exec said, "No one gets to rebuild twice without making the playoffs once."
The reason the Rangers gave up on Vicente Padilla is not because he was pitching poorly but because they view him as a bad teammate.
Hard to believe the Reds -- who play in hitter friendly Great America Ballpark -- have the lowest OPS (.694) in baseball. Yes, even lower than that of the Giants.
Derek Jeter passed Luis Aparicio to become the all-time hits leader at shortstop. He now has 2,675 hits as a shortstop plus another 13 as a DH. The way he looks today, Jeter probably has at least another 1,000 hits left in him.
Congrats to baseball aficionado and twitter friend @Alyssa_Milano, who married some lucky stiff yesterday. Maybe her honeymoon will give me a chance to catch her in number of followers. I have 16,000, she has hundreds of thousands of followers. You can help me catch up by going to: http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman.
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