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Strasburg, The Japan Possibility, And A Comparison

Yesterday, a 21-year-old left-handed pitching phenom named Aroldis Chapman defected from Cuba. "It was easy," Chapman said. One moment, he was with his Cuban teammates at a hotel in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Then he walked out. Just like that. Next step: the big leagues. He'll establish residency somewhere -- perhaps the Dominican Republic -- and welcome the bidding war. He'll be a free agent, and a left-handed prospect who happens to throw 100 mph, on the open market, just might fetch between $30 and $60 million.

It will be fascinating to discern Chapman's value, if only because it lends some clues about the current open market value of a pitcher with elite talent and assumed Major League readiness.

There are plenty of differences between Chapman and Stephen Strasburg -- Strasburg is the more refined prospect -- but the biggest difference between the two, at least when it comes to immediate earning potential, has nothing to do with talent. Strasburg is a college kid who was born and raised in San Diego; thus, he's subject to the amateur draft. Chapman, an international prospect, can sign anywhere.

Oh, to be a free agent!

If Strasburg gets that luxury before signing his initial MLB contract, it won't come easily -- probably not without an unprecedented exodus to a foreign country, as Sheinin writes about today, and a corresponding legal battle. For now, of course, only one team has negotiating rights with Strasburg. And as those negotiations have gotten started, one thing is evident:

The Nationals want to pay Strasburg like a draft pick.

Strasburg's advisor/attorney, Scott Boras, wants Strasburg to be paid along the lines of a Major League-ready international player.

The Nationals have 45 days to bridge that gap. It is believed the Nationals, who made Strasburg the first overall pick June 9, have already submitted a first offer, per MLB Rule 4(e)(1). [For explanation, see below.] "I can assure you we are adhering to the Major League Rules," Nationals President Stan Kasten said, declining to address specific questions regarding the negotiation. Both sides are dealing with, and fighting, limited leverage, which makes this a classic and intriguing bullfight. Washington's franchise credibility is riding on the signing, so in some respects they have to give in to lucrative demands. On the other hand, Boras's demands are undercut because, quite simply, Strasburg isn't on the open market.

So what would a player like Strasburg command on the open market? That's where Chapman comes in. The Boras camp, in trying to frame Strasburg's value, brings up a timeline of foreign players who signed lucrative contracts before proving themselves in the majors. Start with Cuban defector Danys Baez, who signed with the Indians for $14.5 million (four years) in 1999. Then continue along with Jose Contreras, who signed with the Yankees for $32 million (four years) in 2003. Then continue along with Dice-K, who signed for $52 million (six years) in 2007. Those dollar figures rose in relative tandem with MLB's revenues.

Of course, the draft is baseball's discount shopping center, and no matter how well Boras sells Strasburg's value, he still faces the strictures of the system. The Nats have until Aug. 17 to sign him. If they fail, Strasburg can try some odyssey-like path to seek free agency, or he can play a year of independent ball and re-enter the draft in 2010.

But let's just say, purely speculating, the Strasburg eventually signs for $25 million with the Nats. Then, let's say Chapman signs for $40 million with the Red Sox-Yankees-Mets -- some team that loves to swing big. The difference, then, between a Strasburg deal and a Chapman deal will provide some means of measuring the "draft discount." Strasburg won't come cheap. But he'll probably be cheaper than a similar player born in Cuba.


Full text of Rule 4(e)(1), regarding Tender of Contract: "Not later than 15 days after the close of the First-Year Player Draft, the Major League Club that has selected the right to negotiate exclusively with a player must commence negotiations by providing the player, either in person or by certified mail, return receipt requested (or its equivalent, such as private overnight courier), to the player's last known address, with the following:

(A) written notice that the player has been selected;

(B) a copy of Major League Rules 3(c) (Contract Terms for First-Year Player Contracts), 4(d) (Effect of Selection on Player) and 4(e) (Negotiation Rights); and

(C) three identical, executed Minor League Uniform Player Contracts, two of which are to be returned to the Major League Club for approval processing after execution by the player.

By Chico Harlan  |  July 3, 2009; 7:01 AM ET
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Pay the man, Shirley.

Posted by: joemktg1 | July 3, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I can't say I'm surprised by Sheinin's story today, since I raised the prospect of Japan here a few weeks ago, after reading similar stories elsewhere. I still think Boras has a legal argument that could eventually win out, if he fights long enough and gets the right judge.

But if Strasburg and his parents have any sense, they'll get real and sign with the Nats, after a long, drawn out negotiation, of course.

Is it worth it to your peace of mind, personal reputation and even professional development to uproot yourself for one year, go to a foreign country with a different language and culture where you may not be welcomed, pitch under an entirely different system and delay your arrival in the big leagues (where the real money is) to get $10-15 million more, when you're already getting $15-20 million?

How much is enough? If you do something like this, how do you convince anyone that your first concern is baseball and not money? It's not like the Lerners are being cheap: they'll pay Strasburg more money than any American amateur player has ever gotten. How do you complain about that?

As for the Nats' position, yes, it would be terrible and stupid if they didn't sign Strasburg. But look at the people cited in the article as examples of previous milestones in the free agent/draft process: Danys Baez, Contreras, J.D. Drew. None of them turned out to be stars and I don't think any of those teams would give them the same contracts they got in the first place.

The rest of the world is facing some hard economic realities right now and maybe Scott Boras should, too. He should just settle for making Strasburg richer than any kid to ever come out of college and become a professional baseball player, without trying to blow up the system. That seems okay to me.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 3, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

I was away yesterday and am still catching up on posts and comments but this has to be a strong candidate for post of the day. Seriously.

i tawt i taw a puddy...oh, tweeting not tweety. never mind.

Posted by: surly_w | July 2, 2009 2:56 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Hey Rizzo:

Quit dicking around and sign this kid. While you're at it, sign the Cuban.



Posted by: 6thandD | July 3, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Also, no surprise, I'm with the Luddites who don't "get" Twitter. Not that I couldn't figure out how to send or read a Tweet if I wanted to, but why would I want to? Particularly at a ballgame.

"Hi, I'm sitting behind home plate. Do you see me? DO YOU?" (waves while wearing vacant grin)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and sweet Nats pic over at the Bog:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

"Hi, I'm sitting behind home plate. Do you see me? DO YOU?" (waves while wearing vacant grin)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

No, no. You are not "that guy".

Recently there was a guy that took a picture of the scoreboard when the fan cam showed him up there (so what we saw was part of a guy behind a camera taking a picture of the scoreboard). We were trying to decide if that was funny or sad.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | July 3, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Wake me on August 17, this deal won't be done before then.

Posted by: Brian_ | July 3, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

You know Boras is telling this kid and his parents that Japan is a viable alternative as oppossed to the Nats,MLB's version of a triple A franchise. Scott Boras is saying to Strasburg "don't worry the price will be so high they'll never sign you". I mean think about it if you were Strasburg's agent and let's leave the Boras factor out of it would you in good consience with all that's gone on with this franchise over the last two years want him here, knowing they couldn't or wouldn't sign their no.1 from last years draft?

Posted by: dargregmag | July 3, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

As long as the Lerners negotiate in earnest, offer a record setting but still reasonable amount (<$25K) (and I don't doubt for a minute they will), I won't have much heartburn if they walk away from Boras and his ridiculousness. In fact, I think I would applaud it.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 3, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I think it's important to remember that EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Boras says between now and August 17, including "hello" and "good morning," is entirely a negotiation tactic. Not one thing he says should be interpreted as anything else.

Posted by: Section220 | July 3, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

With the Nats' luck, they will fail to sign Strasburgm but before 2010 -- when they would have the top two picks -- the MLB raft is ruled illegal and no top-flight amateur talent would choose to sign to play in this woebegone baseball graveyard.

Posted by: VPaterno | July 3, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

No, I'm not. I'd vote for sad.

And good point made by sec220.


No, no. You are not "that guy".

Recently there was a guy that took a picture of the scoreboard when the fan cam showed him up there (so what we saw was part of a guy behind a camera taking a picture of the scoreboard). We were trying to decide if that was funny or sad.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | July 3, 2009 8:04 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday, a 21-year-old left-handed pitching phenom named Aroldis Chapman defected from Cuba.*


*Real name = Fielding Mellish.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Also, a potential pre-fourth bombshell before I head out for the day again (hehe), this one in re. the previous posting and data about late-inning and bullpen woes. I was always a fan of Knorr as skipper of the P-Nats and recall his stint in the bigs after Wetteland was canned, but at what point does bullpen coaching/preparation bear some examination? They've already thrown the pitching coach overboard but does the bullpen coach get a pass?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

*Real name = Fielding Mellish.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 9:26 AM

+1, but you're showing your age.

Posted by: joemktg1 | July 3, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I know, joemkting. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Well -- there's a new Woody Allen pic, with a script that sat in a drawer for 30 years. That's showing age.

Posted by: fischy | July 3, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Besides, I hear Chapman's real name Siddio Finches.

Posted by: fischy | July 3, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

...anyone else cathc the Kurt Snibbe cartoon on ESPN page 2 yesterday...

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | July 3, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The answer to at least one of these is apparently about 24 hours. The Boras connection can't be far off.


"Aroldis Chapman Defects. Aroldis Chapman is a 21 year-old lefty who's touched 100 mph with his fastball."

How long before the Aroldis bidding begins? How long before we hear he's acquired the services of one Scott Boras? How long before we start hearing the comparisons between Aroldis and Strasburg? Yet another wrinkle to consider before the Aug 17 deadline.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | July 2, 2009 6:18 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: RicketyCricket | July 3, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I think the smart thing to do would be to try to sign chapman for around $15-20M quickly, then try sign strasburg to the same contract or possibly .5M more. If you sign chapman low it gives boras less ammunition to use against us.

Posted by: ans07766 | July 3, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Psh. The Nats will not be signing Mr. Chapman anytime before Hell freezes over.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 3, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

A question:
How does Cuban and international baseball compare with NCAA baseball? Is Chapman-Strasburg a fair comparison?

Boras is a bum. The JD Drew fiasco in Philadelphia is proof that he's just grabbing for money ... has JD Drew turned into the mega-stud that Boras promised when he demanded the highest-ever (at that time) amateur draft contract, and when he turned down the highest-ever contract offered to a draftee (at that time)? No. And I doubt that Strasburg will, too. Is Drew good? Yes. Will Strasburg be good? Yes. But record-setting, once-in-a-lifetime stud? No.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | July 3, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Why is Boras making this situation so antagonistic. They have not had one positive word to say about the Nats. I don't think Strasburg has even mentioned the Nats once.
Nothing wrong with wanting to be paid. But they have really been downright nasty. I truly don't think Boras wants Strasburg to sign with the Nats for any price.
This is really unpleasant stuff that has nothing to do with money.
Strasburg and Boras don't want any part of the Nats. There is no way they will end up signing.

Posted by: dovelevine | July 3, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Excellent snark this morning, starting with you, Joemkting1, and your immortal: "Pay the man, Shirley." Post of the day comes early!

Why am I getting the sneaking feeling that Scott Boras vs. the Lerners and Stan-the-plan-man is not a fair fight? Has Old Man Teddy ever seen, much less written, a check for this much? If this doesn't kill the old man, nothing will.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I doubt SS grew up dreaming of the day he could play in Japan. Boras needs to cut the crap. He's going to break the record for a draft pick contract anyway. Asking 50 million for a kid that has not even thrown a pitch in MINOR league ball is insane. Hey Boras- do what's best for your client, not you. Get him signed and let him get some experience in the minors prior to a Sept call up.

Posted by: thegraneys | July 3, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Nice post and chatter. I think Boras has every intention of sucking every (million) dollar out of the club. "Of course", you say. But aside from the obvious agent money searching, Boras might think some of the same things that our friend Boz does on the matter. A pitcher this high in the draft is a risky prospect. There is no guaranty that Strasburg will get a huge second contract - so they will strike while the iron is hottest. Every million does make a difference when stud fireballers have a tendency to flame out early.

I think Japan is only a negotiation ploy. What if Strasburg plays there for a year and gets torn up? Then where's your precious free agent bargaining chip?

Posted by: Kev29 | July 3, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Heard this a few months ago on MLB-Homeplate XM-175 and I sort of dismissed the notion. Anyway, Dan Duquette who was a guest on one of the shows made a great point about this issue of the A-Draft and then the wide-open International signings.

Here is a paraphrase from my memory bank. Duquuette said, "the situation is not fair and MLB better start to rethink this whole us vs them scenario" which is basically boils down to we know that baseball is having touble attracting inner city black kids, now we are starting to see white kids basically giving up on baseball and playing lacrose in the springtime. Now I have no idea if the disparity in the slotting system for the draft payouts has anything to do with why suburban white kids are opting ourt for lacrose but is it fair to compare some sandlot 15 or 16 year old from the DR or a defector from the Cuban National Team or even a player from Japan on the same level as a US citizen who just happened to get drafted out of HS or college. I mean the whole thing needs to be looked at. On SS, well frankly at this point he is probably more trouble then he is worth wins!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 3, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

OK, so I went to and registered. It wasn't compatible with Mozilla, incidentally, so I switched to Explorer. Then I accidentally started following 20 people I had no interest in. Some chick named Mia is following me.
Anyway, now what? How do I communicate with the Post from the ballpark? I majored in computer science, but that was a long time before this era of self absorption.

Posted by: paulkp | July 3, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Pete McElroy posts lineups on

CF Nyjer Morgan
1B Nick Johnson
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Adam Dunn
RF Josh Willingham
SS Cristian Guzman
2B Willie Harris
C Josh Bard
P Ross Detwiler

Posted by: wrw0601 | July 3, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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