Stephen Strasburg Not Signing Would Lead to the Same Story, Different Year
Over a week ago, the Washington Nationals offered top pick Stephen Strasburg a deal worth more than the $10.5 million one that Mark Prior got from the Chicago Cubs in 2001—still a record for a first-year player.
Now, with a Monday night deadline, team president Stan Kasten has stated that there is a "very real possibility" that the two parties will not reach an agreement. Should this happen, Strasburg would enter the 2010 amateur draft, and the Nationals would receive the No. 2 overall pick in that draft.
Strasburg is represented by agent Scott Boras, infamously known for getting his clients outrageous sums of money. Kasten said that Boras' approach was "advocating a new methodology for evaluating draft picks," i.e. revolutionizing the draft-pick signing process.
And for what?
The obvious reasons behind not getting a deal done are:
- He doesn't want to play for the Nationals. Understandable.
- He wants more money. Not quite as understandable.
I mean, $10.5 million is a lot of money, especially for a 21-year-old kid. So (I can only hope) he's not holding out for more money. But if his concern is playing for the worst team in the majors, on the surface that's understandable. Who would want to play for a perennial 100-loss team, as the Nationals are shaping up to be?
The only problem with that complaint, however, is that Strasburg has no choice. Let's pretend for a moment that he doesn't sign a deal. Fast-forward to June 1, 2010: the day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Strasburg is a year older and more mature. And therefore...:
He (again!) is taken with the top pick in the draft! Now, whether it's the 18-consecutive-losing-seasons Pittsburgh Pirates or the Nationals, Strasburg is going to a downright BAD team. Only the difference is he's missed out on a year of baseball, be it in the minors or with the major league club.
There is no advantage for a player like Strasburg to refuse to sign a contract and re-enter the draft. When a player like that is good enough that they so obviously would perennially be a top five (and probably top overall) pick, they cannot avoid going to a bad team. Strasburg should take a lesson from players like Alex Rodriguez, Justin Upton, and Ryan Zimmerman.
Rodriguez was drafted top overall by the Mariners in 1993. He quickly moved up to Triple-A in 1994 and made his MLB debut on July 8 of that year as the starting shortstop for the Mariners organization, going on to become the full-time starter in 1996.
Upton was drafted with the top pick in the 2005 draft. He spent under two years in the minors, making his MLB debut in September, 2007.
Zimmerman was drafted in 2005 and became the permanent starting third baseman in September of that same year.
Strasburg should just sign a six-year deal with the Nats. He can beg and plead to be traded, and if that fails, he'll qualify for MLB free agency, and can go to a better team. But the bottom line is he needs to sign first, otherwise he's a whole more year removed from becoming a free agent.
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