SBD/Issue 181/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Record Deal For Top Pick Could Change Structure Of MLB Draft

The Nationals are expected to select San Diego State Univ. P Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 pick in today's MLB First-Year Player Draft, and all parties involved in the negotiations understand “what’s coming next is the Amateur Armageddon,” according to Jon Heyman of SI.com, who wrote under the header “Strasburg Vs. Nats Is Shaping Up As Biggest Battle In Draft History.” Sources familiar with agent Scott Boras, who reps Strasburg, “expect the asking price to be $50[M], which would blow away the $10.5[M] record for an amateur.” Boras is "expected to use Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, who received $52[M] from Boston after the Red Sox paid a $51[M] posting fee, as the real Strasburg comp." Sources estimated that Strasburg "could garner something approaching" $100M as a free agent. But since Strasburg will be "tied to one team, the guesses of baseball executives generally range” to the low- to mid-$20M. Some sources "wonder whether the Nationals might pass on the expense and angst expected to accompany the Strasburg pick and take someone else." However, Nationals Owner Ted Lerner is "thought to be fully committed to winning," so a "pass on Strasburg would be a shock." Meanwhile, MLB execs noted that Commissioner Bud Selig is "strongly urging teams to try to sign similar draft slots for about 10[%] less than last year," so there is "added pressure on the Nats not to go nuts" (SI.com, 6/8).

POTENTIAL LANDMARK CASE: In DC, Dave Sheinin writes the Strasburg negotiations are "being viewed as a possible landmark case," and it has been "suggested Boras could sign Strasburg to an independent league team or take him to Japan -- and re-enter him in the 2010 draft -- if he does not get what he wants from the Nationals." Boras: "The international market has always been a link to the value of the extraordinarily gifted draft pick. The fact is, we now have international baseball players who have never played in the major leagues dictating what the market is for talent. ... The need for talent without major league certification is at a level it's never been at before, which tells you about the demand." But Sheinin notes demand, "while a crucial factor in free agency, is not part of the equation in the draft" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/9).

Nationals Will Face Considerable
Pressure From Fans To Sign Strasburg
IMPORTANT MOMENT FOR NATS: In DC, Tim Lemke notes the Nationals "face considerable pressure from fans to sign Strasburg because they failed to sign their first-round pick last season," former Univ. of Missouri P Aaron Crow. Nationals officials recently have "shown a willingness to spend money on players," but spending money on "drafted players with no major league experience is a whole other ballgame." ESPN MLB analyst Steve Phillips: "There are numbers thrown around that are absolutely crazy for a guy who's never thrown a pitch in major league baseball" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 6/9). ESPN’s Pedro Gomez noted Nationals President Stan Kasten "has bristled at the suggestion of an unprecedented contract." Kasten: "We know what No. 1 picks get, and we intend to sign our No. 1 pick." But Gomez reported the "stage is set for a contract dispute of epic proportions." Baseball America writer Aaron Fitt: "It's going to get contentious. I'm sure that they'll start by asking for $40-50(M). But realistically, I think $20-25(M) is probably where it will settle." The Washington Post’s Sheinin: “Scott Boras holds a lot of leverage and part of that is because the Nationals failed to sign their No. 1 pick last year. … They have to get this done or there’s going to be a fan revolt” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 6/7). ESPN THE MAGAZINE's Tim Keown notes Strasburg "could be a referendum on the validity of the franchise." The top pick in the draft "affords the Nats the opportunity to get a once-in-a-generation talent, a pitcher who would be out of their range on the open market." The Nationals have a "chance to acquire a potential superstar and change their sad-sack image," but they are also "prisoners of the hype" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 6/15 issue).

TIME FOR A CHANGE: In L.A., Bill Shaikin wrote with Boras "hinting at the mother of all bonus battles" for Strasburg, MLB owners and the MLBPA "ought to commit to draft reform that pays players fairly and promptly and enables the worst teams to select the best players rather than pass on them for fear of not signing them." It comes as "little surprise ... that owners covet a bonus scale, with each draft pick receiving a specified amount." MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations Rob Manfred: "You have some cost certainty, but, frankly, that is not the biggest benefit. The biggest benefit is restoring the integrity of the draft. If you know Round 1, Slot 1, is going to cost you X dollars, you have no motivation to do anything other than take the best player." Shaikin noted the owners "proposed slot payments for draft picks in the last two rounds of collective bargaining," and the union "rejected the proposal each time” (L.A. TIMES, 6/7). ESPN’s Peter Gammons noted slotting is “going to be a big sticking point” in CBA negotiations in ’11, and the “union will fight it, but in the end I think they'll give in to it” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 6/8).

PLAYING SLOTS: SI’s Tom Verducci said the Strasburg negotiations "may be the lynchpin where we get to a slotting system in 2012, because I have a feeling even some Major League players are going to say, 'Timeout. This guy hasn’t played a day in the big leagues and he’s making more than me and I’ve been around in the big leagues for three or four years.'" MLB Net’s Harold Reynolds: "That’s what happened with the NBA" ("MLB Tonight: Batting Practice," MLB Net, 6/8). FOX SPORTS' Michael Rosenberg wrote MLB "needs a true slotting system -- not just a ridiculous, unenforceable commissioner's recommendation. It needs a system like the NBA, where the top pick is locked into a certain figure and the contract values diminish with each subsequent pick." Rosenberg: "Having a slotting system should mean more to the owners than not having one means to the players. We're talking about competitive balance and the fate of a dozen or so small-market teams" (FOXSPORTS.com, 6/8).

A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN: BASEBALL AMERICA's John Manuel writes Strasburg "may set a new bonus record, but his peers shouldn't count on it." With the economy "sagging and major league attendance already taking a hit, clubs may not be as prepared to go above" the slotting recommendations. One NL Scouting Dir said, "I'm sure this economy will have some effect. I don't see how it couldn't." A second NL Scouting Dir: "You have to think the economy will be a factor. The problem is the bonus expectations were raised by all the spending last year" (BASEBALL AMERICA, 6/1 issue). However, ESPN’s Gammons noted there are “some teams, like the Tigers, the Red Sox, the Yankees, who don't adhere” to MLB’s suggested slotting system. Gammons: "The team that spent the most on the draft last year was Kansas City, which I find pretty remarkable" (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 6/8).

NO HOLDING BACK: In Pittsburgh, Chuck Finder reports Pirates GM Neal Huntington sent a letter to season-ticket holders about the Draft that read, "Our selections may or may not match-up with the rankings compiled by various publications, but in every case we will select the player who we feel will have the greatest impact on the Pirates' organization." The Pirates last year did not complete a contract with first-round pick 3B Pedro Alvarez, repped by Boras, until September, but Huntington "reiterated the club will consider all prospects regardless of agents or 'financial restrictions'" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/9).

MLB Creates Twitter Account
Dedicated Solely To Draft
FULL-SCALE COVERAGE: MLB.com's Lisa Winston reported MLB has launched the "first online 'social community' integration of the Draft by integrating Twitter into its expanding live interactive media experience, the Draft Caster, and its searchable Draft database, the Draft Tracker." MLB.com has created a Twitter account "devoted to the Draft" where fans can "stay updated on every piece of info as it becomes available" at www.twitter.com/MLBDraft. Meanwhile, MLB Network tonight will air the first round of the Draft from its Studio 42, and "beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively" to MLB.com/Live (MLB.com, 6/7). MLB Net's Sean Casey: "The Draft has never gotten the publicity I think it deserves. Maybe this is the first step toward it becoming a big thing every year" ("MLB Tonight: Roundtripper," MLB Net, 6/8).

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