Bryce Harper: How Stephen Strasburg's Words Could Help or Hurt a Deal
Monday at midnight is Major League Baseball's deadline to sign draft picks selected in June's amateur draft. While nearly all highly drafted players have signed their deals, one very notable player remains unsigned—Nationals pick Bryce Harper.
Harper, considered one of the best prospects in the history of the draft, heads to the deadline with little news coming out of his camp. His agent, Scott Boras, leads the negotiations with the Nationals, who are trying to sign an extremely touted prospect for the second year in a row.
However, it is that other top prospect-Stephen Strasburg-who has come out with some sharp words for Harper.
"If [Harper] wants to play here, he's going to play here," Strasburg said Sunday, after pitching five innings in the Nationals' win over Arizona. "He doesn't need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn't want to play here, then we don't want him here." (from ESPN.com)
Will Strasburg's interjection help or hurt the team's chances at signing Harper, or will his words push Harper away from the table, sending him back to the draft pool for the 2011 draft? Here is a look five reasons going either direction.
1. Strasburg Got His Cash...
...and so will Harper. Strasburg, like Harper, is a Scott Boras client and eventually got the richest guaranteed contract for any rookie in the history of the draft all while going to the deadline.
The Nationals have set a precedent with signing their number one picks. Harper is the Strasburg of position players. There is no way the Nationals let him walk.
2. Strasburg Gets His Line
Harper is known in scouting circles to have, let's just say, a lofty opinion of himself. Strasburg, conversely, has been out in front of everything he's battled with this season and instantly earned the respect of his teammates.
He hasn't hid behind his agent in good times or bad. Harper likely knows by now the effect Strasburg had on the organization with his arrival. Hopefully, he takes a cue from the Nationals' most visible player.
3. Coded Message to Boras
Strasburg and Harper share the same agent, so it would not be difficult for Strasburg to convey a message from Harper. However, Strasburg's public comments-the first time he's directly went after another ballplayer-can be seen as a warning shot from the Nationals clubhouse from their most publicized player.
The message simply tells Scott Boras, "everyone in this clubhouse is frustrated by this, go get it done."
4. Coded Message to the Nationals
Just like the message could be a veiled signal to Scott Boras, Strasburg's comments could be seen as a sign from the clubhouse to the Nationals front office that they are willing to move on without Harper.
Harper, who will spend some measure of time in the minors, may not be in the instant impact player like Strasburg, but he nevertheless is a future centerpiece player. Strasburg's comments could be a sign that the Nationals players, who all seemingly enjoy their time and place in Washington, are willing to build a team that does not include Harper.
Such a bold move would save the Nationals roughly $15 million they could spend elsewhere. That's not exactly chump change for the Nationals.
5. Don't Be That Guy
The Washington Nationals may still be Adam Dunn's team or Ryan Zimmerman's team, but come 2011, this will be Stephen Strasburg's team. While Harper is likely to move out from behind the plate and remove the chance at a Strasburg-Harper battery, Strasburg still has significant leg up on Harper in their rather young careers.
The Nationals clubhouse has rallied around Strasburg, and the last thing a teenage rookie should do is ruffle the feathers of the biggest bird in the joint.
1. Harper's High Self-Worth
It's only natural for a young phenom who has graced dozens of magazine covers and received the national sports media's attention to have a high opinion of himself. He shouldn't let that get in the way of getting the business side of the game done, but it may.
Harper could look at the field in front of him and figure, following Strasburg's comments, that Washington just isn't the place for him.
Harper, who does not turn 18 until this October, could ultimately decide to return to junior college ball and come back for the 2011 draft when he'd unquestionably remain the top pick barring injury.
2. Puts the Nationals in a Bind
Negotiating with the top overall pick in the draft is already a tenuous situation. Having a marquee player (and former first overall pick himself) interject with stinging comments could hurt negotiations especially if Harper and Boras feels the tension could hang over in the future.
Contract negotiations are tense enough without more drama being thrown into the mix.
3. Not Exactly a Welcome Mat
Harper will likely see some time in the minors, but otherwise, his time will be spent with the big league club. But what will that environment be like after the team's biggest star just called out Harper before he's even had a chance to put a uniform on?
Strasburg's comments are already making headlines, but his comments are bound to reappear when the Nationals reconvene for spring training next year, should Harper sign.
4. Strasburg the Hypocrite?
Did Strasburg forget that he signed right at the midnight deadline just last year? Scott Boras' methodology with top 10 picks is to make teams sweat it out until the deadline. That is no different this year with Harper. One would think Strasburg would recognize this, considering he just went through it last summer.
This notion hurts Strasburg more than it does Harper, but the absurd nature of the comments could be a source of tension once Harper does sign.
5. Sign of Things to Come?
There is much that goes behind the scenes in the clubhouse, as well as negotiations that never make the public airwaves. That's why I personally think there is a reason behind Strasburg's comments rather than simple frustration that Harper's taking this long to sign.
Strasburg's comments could underscore a growing in-house conflict between the Nationals last two top picks. That is not good news for an organization that looks to Strasburg and Harper as baseball's most dynamic duo for the next decade.