Strasburg Watch: A Monumental Battle Takes Shape
If Peter Gammons is correct -- that agent Scott Boras is floating the notion of a six-year, $50 million contract for probable No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg -- it could touch off a monumental negotiating battle that pits Boras and his client against not only the Washington Nationals, but also Major League Baseball itself.
Reading between the lines of the Gammons note, Boras appears to be preparing to use Strasburg, the exceptionally talented San Diego State right-hander, as a way of exploding the "slotting" system with which MLB has tried -- mostly unsuccessfully -- to reign in signing bonuses for draftees. It also appears Boras will be attempting to equate Strasburg not with previous No. 1 overall picks (Mark Prior holds the record for the biggest contract ever awarded a top pick, $10.5 million in 2001), but Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese import (and Boras client) who signed a six-year, $52 million contract with the Boston Red Sox before the 2007 season. Such a stance would almost certainly invite MLB's involvement in the process and force a complete overhaul of the slotting system.
Boras's argument would be that, in terms of ability and immediate impact, Strasburg has more in common with Matsuzaka than, say, David Price, who was the last pitcher to be picked No. 1 overall (he got $8.8 million from Tampa Bay in 2007). Would the argument be valid? Right now, Strasburg is making a complete mockery of the college game, striking out an average of 19.4 batters per nine innings this season. His radar gun readings are consistently over 100 mph. ESPN's Buster Olney has quoted an unnamed scout as saying Strasburg, right now, would be as good a pitcher as A.J. Burnett -- who (dare we mention?) signed an $82.5 million contract with the Yankees this winter.
What makes this potential negotiation so fascinating is the fact Boras would have most, if not all, of the leverage -- thanks in part to the Nationals' failure to sign their top draft pick from last June, pitcher Aaron Crow. There would be a fan revolt in Washington if the Nationals fail again -- particularly when the prize is a once-in-a-lifetime talent such as Strasburg. On the other hand, the Nationals would little negotiating leverage beyond the threat of walking away from the table and forcing Strasburg to play a year in the independent leagues (or, as Gammons mentions, in Japan).
Near the end of the Matsuzaka negotiations, the Red Sox took exactly that take-it-or-leave-it approach. Having flown to California to negotiate with Boras and Matsuzaka face to face, only to see those talks break down at the end, the Red Sox's braintrust sent Boras an ultimatum, as related in this masterful Gordon Edes piece: Their plane back to Boston was taking off at 9 a.m., and if Matsuzaka wasn't on it, the deal was off. Matsuzaka made the flight.
So what's a fair price for a pitcher like Strasburg? Ultimately, it will almost certainly be way north of Prior ($10.5 million) and way south of Matsuzaka ($52 million). But there is a lot of territory in between, undoubtedly enough to send a shiver through the spines of the Nationals' owners.
Posted by: db423 | March 22, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cokedispatch | March 22, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NattyFan | March 22, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wigi | March 22, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sec307 | March 22, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BGinVA | March 22, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nunof1 | March 22, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: EdDC | March 22, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Brue | March 22, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Avar | March 22, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Brue | March 22, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: clermontpc | March 23, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: nospinzone1 | March 23, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.