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Double Play: A Cautionary Tale for Strasburg

Daan De Kerpel
6/10/2009 1:11:43 PM
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The Washington Nationals did what everyone in the baseball figured they would do on Tuesday night at the MLB draft, and that was select uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg pitched for San Diego State this year and posted a 13-1 record with a 1.32 ERA. He racked up 195 strikeouts in only 109 innings, issued just 19 walks and held opponents to a .172 batting average.

He's clearly the type of pitcher that the 15-41 Washington Nationals could use. The only question mark surround Strasburg is how much it will cost to sign him.

Unlike the NHL and NBA, Major League Baseball does not have a rookie salary cap - meaning that players are free to try to get as much money as they can from the teams that draft them.

While MLB suggests that teams draft players and sign them to 'slot' prices – which is a list that says players taken in certain places should sign for certain amounts - no one is obligated (the players or the teams) to follow it. And there are more and more teams choosing not to follow it after seeing talented players slide in the draft because some smaller market teams pass on better players to draft players they can actually sign.

The system is clearly broken, and I would wager that when the leagues and players' association are sitting around working on their next collective bargaining agreement that this issue will be brought up.

Either way, Strasburg and agent Scott Boras are entitled to ask for a lot of money from the Nationals, and there is every indication that the 20-year old right hander will sign a record contract that will surpass the $10.5 million deal that draft pick Mark Prior signed with the Chicago Cubs in 2001.

I'm not sure how much money he'll make ($12 million, $20 million - who knows), but what I do know is that he'll be the best paid draft pick ever either way.

I'm not sure he's willing to take advice from someone with the athletic ability of a wounded duck, but if he is, I have two words for him - Matt Harrington.

Harrington was selected seventh overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2000. He and his agent wanted $4.9 million from the team. After going back and forth, he never signed.

He was drafted four other times and never signed a contract to play ball. He's now retired from baseball and works at the tire department at Costco for $11.50 an hour.

ESPN.com recently did an article covering Harrington and the events that led him out of the game, and the impact it had not only on him, but his family.

Strasburg, like many pitchers, could be one throw away from a serious injury. Now I'm not saying he will get hurt, and I hope he doesn't. He's supposed to be a freak on the mound, and it will be fun watching him pitch for the next 10 years.

I just hope he realizes that maybe holding out for a few million more - when he's already going to get well over $10 million without ever throwing a pitch in the majors - could be a costly strategy.




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