US Presswire file photo
Anthony Rendon has until midnight to sign with the Nationals.
If you've been following the Nationals over the years, this drill is nothing new. The Crow debacle notwithstanding, the Nats have done well at the deadline in the past. Obviously, they signed Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper just seconds before the 2009 and 2010 deadlines. But they also last August struck last-minute deals with Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole.
So you know the drill by now, and certainly Mike Rizzo knows the drill.
Unlike the last two years, the Nationals aren't attempting to sign the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, once-in-a-generation talents like Strasburg and Harper. Which isn't to say Rizzo's task tonight will be easy. He's attempting to sign the organization's top five picks, all who have waited until now to negotiate deals.
At the top of the list is Anthony Rendon, the former Rice third baseman who was initially projected to be this year's No. 1 pick, only to slide to the Nationals at No. 6 due to concerns about a right shoulder injury that limited him almost exclusively to DH duties. The Nats have no concern about the shoulder, and Rizzo confirmed Rendon has already passed a team-issued physical.
Rendon, though, won't come cheap. Agent Scott Boras will try to claim his client is the best player in this year's draft class and deserves to be paid the most. Given Rizzo's ability to negotiate with Boras in the past on Strasburg, Harper and Justin Upton, it doesn't appear as though money will get in the way here. Expect a deal for a large sum of money ($6 million to $7 million) to be completed after 11:30 p.m.
Boras also represents the Nationals' two compensatory picks from the June draft: Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer and Miami-Dade Community College outfielder Brian Goodwin. Both players figure to get above-slot deals, and both players figure to sign before the night is over.
The biggest question mark of the bunch is Matt Purke, the TCU left-hander who has already been through a wild ride. Drafted out of high school by the Rangers with the 14th overall pick in 2009, Purke had negotiated a $6 million deal at the time, but that contract was struck down by Major League Baseball, so he went to college instead.
Like Rendon, Purke's 2011 season was less-than-spectacular because of a shoulder injury. But like Rendon, Purke passed a physical with the Nationals when he visited town shortly before the All-Star break. So the club isn't concerned about his health. The only question is how much money the Nats are willing to spend on the lefty, who has leverage in that he can return to TCU for another season, prove he's healthy on the mound and earn an even bigger signing bonus next summer.
That could be a bit of a risk for Purke, though, because MLB is expected to overhaul the draft signing process before next season. It's going to be one of the hottest topics of discussions for the new collective bargaining agreement, with Commissioner Bud Selig strongly pushing for a hard "slotting" system that would force all draft picks to accept predetermined signing bonuses.
The players' association might not go for that, though plenty of veteran players don't like the fact draft picks who have never played a professional game in their lives get more guaranteed money than some guys who have been in the major leagues for multiple seasons. At the very least, the August 15 deadline is likely to be bumped up to an earlier date, allowing draft picks to start playing in the minors sooner and not spent their entire summer waiting around for this deadline-day madness to resolve itself.
Check back here later for updates on all the draft signing negotiations, but fair warning: Don't expect there to be much of any news until the evening hours, probably not until the final hour on Rendon and Purke.