Updated at 2:12 a.m.
From the moment they assumed control of the Nationals organization in the summer of 2006, the Lerner family insisted they would be as committed as any other club in baseball to building a winning franchise through the draft, scouting and player development.
They had taken plenty of steps along the way to back up that assertion. But on Monday night, they took a giant leap forward and quashed any doubts that may have still lingered about their willingness to spend whatever it takes to build a team from the bottom up.
In signing all of their top picks from this summer's draft -- third baseman Anthony Rendon, right-hander Alex Meyer, outfielder Brian Goodwin and left-hander Matt Purke -- the Nationals doled out about $16.5 million to four players who have yet to appear in one professional game.
Of course, that's only $1 million less than they paid Austin Kearns in a 2007 contract extension. So let's not get completely carried away here.
Wait, too late for that. Just listen to the way Mike Rizzo crowed early Tuesday morning in announcing the deals.
"We're the talk of the industry right now," the general manager said. "Before we signed these players, we had a minor-league system that the needle was heading north in a big, big way. And this just solidifies us as, to me, one of the great scouting and player development organizations in baseball. We feel really good about ourselves tonight."
Bold words from Rizzo, who has always been confident in his abilities to draft and sign players but doesn't always show that much bravado