Blog Entry

Score it another big night for Nationals

Posted on: August 17, 2010 1:10 am

On a warm August evening as the kids prepare to head back to school, the Washington Nationals' just-before-the-midnight-deadline signing of outfielder Bryce Harper really wasn't as urgent as the Padres extending their lead in the NL West, the Atlanta Braves' stirring comeback win over the Dodgers or the Mets' dilemma with the outrageous behavior of closer Frankie Rodriguez.

But a couple of years from now?

Oh, you bet an otherwise non-descript summer's evening has every chance to be historic if the Nationals continue to close the talent gap on their rivals with nights like this.

One year after signing Stephen Strasburg just before the clock struck 12 -- and you've seen this summer why Strasburg is so important -- Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo hammered out a deal with agent Scott Boras that granted Harper a major-league contract worth a guaranteed $9.9 million, according to sources.

It was déjà vu in that the two chief negotiators -- Rizzo and Boras -- were the same two men who battled to the deadline with Strasburg last year.

It also is déjà vu in the importance to the Nats' franchise: Down-and-out in the years after leaving Montreal with a farm system badly in need of restocking, Washington made history in becoming the first franchise to pick first overall in two consecutive drafts.

"No one ever had the opportunity to have two No. 1 [overall] picks two years in a row," Rizzo said in a post-midnight conference call, and just before taking a celebratory shaving-cream pie in the face from club president Stan Kasten. "And to be fortunate enough to have two picks this vastly talented is extraordinary, I believe."

The Nationals intend to assign Harper to their Florida Instructional League team at the soonest possible moment and, depending on how Harper fares there, he could wind up in the Arizona Fall League this autumn. Maybe.

Either way, he'll be in spring training with the big boys next year thanks to his major-league deal, and Rizzo said the Nats believe Harper capable of being "fast-tracked" to the majors despite his tender age of 17.

The signing was no surprise; Harper worked a loophole to get out of high school early, play ball at a Nevada community college and become draft-eligible at 17. That's how badly he's been wanting to get started on his professional career.

The Nationals, meanwhile, are committed under Kasten and Rizzo to building from the ground up. We saw this with the $15.1 million deal they handed Strasburg and the $1.6 million signing bonus granted Drew Storen last year and we saw it again Monday.

In addition to the $9.9 million guaranteed Harper, the Nationals spent roughly $3.8 million on three other players: Second-rounder Sammy Solis, a left-handed pitcher from the University of San Diego; fourth-rounder A.J. Cole, a right-handed high school pitcher; and Robbie Ray, a left-handed pitcher from Tennessee.

"It means a commitment from ownership," a pleased Rizzo said. "They gave us the resources to have an impactful draft.

"We picked four players that at some time during the amateur season were [projected] to be first-round picks on Baseball America's list. They're guys we're extremely happy about. ...

"Kris Kline and Roy Clark [the Nationals' director of scouting and the vice-president of player personnel, both of whom were hired last Oct. 16 as Rizzo constructed his front office after earning the GM job earlier last summer] did an outstanding job. We knew they would. That's why they were brought here."


Since: Jul 21, 2009
Posted on: December 1, 2010 9:52 pm

Score it another big night for Nationals

     Seeing how Sammy Solis did in the AFL championship game (only giving up 2 runs in 4 IP, and I believe both were unearned)--and how Bryce Harper did good (as did Steve Lombardozzi at SS)...there is a future as far as the Nats are concerned.Smile
     Now if we can just find us a 1B...

Since: Jun 11, 2010
Posted on: August 17, 2010 9:02 pm

Score it another big night for Nationals

They are making impact moves, signing Maya the other week and investing in their draft fortunes.  Storen and Strasburg made their climb through the minors at lightning speed.  Harper should take a fair bit longer, seeing as he is 17, and a position player.  Maybe they rush this kid if he proves worth the hype in the minors? I like Espinosa as a future MI, along with Derek Norris as a high .OBP catcher someday and now they drafted some nice young LHP's.  Their model is sound, although I wouldn't rely too much on the system.  Zimmerman is a stud that Harper would ideally be able to benefit from down the road.  The standings might be skewed a bit, but I'd rather have their situation than the Mets for the next 5 years, IMHO.           

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: August 17, 2010 7:27 pm

Score it another big night for Nationals

Someone mentioned the Rays building from within. Just imagine if the Rays had just held onto Josh Hamilton for one more year - the one he put it all together. Put Josh Hamilton in that outfield and how good would Tampa be?

Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: August 17, 2010 12:20 pm

Score it another big night for Nationals

If the Nats have patience enough to stick with their development plan, they could look like an NL version of the Twins who tend to stick with their own development plan.  There is one significant difference, though.  Minnesota's never had the qulaity of players the Nats have in their system because of financial restraints.  This quality gives the Nats a good future if, and that's a big if, they stick with the plan.

I don't know about the quality of instruction in the Nats system.  MN excels at that, taking players not as talented as Strasburg and Harper and turning them into productive MLB players if not stars.  If the Nats provide good teaching and evaluation, they could field a powerhouse in a few years, especially if the stars are in good alignment.  A lot can happen over the course of years to upset the applecart.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: August 17, 2010 10:34 am

Score it another big night for Nationals

This is a huge step forward from the shipwreck that Major League baseball left the Expos in when they took the team over. Thanks to Bud Selig. The Expos had a minor league system that was the envy of most major league teams and V Guerrero would have had his jersey on boatloads of Washington fans young and old. So I hope the Nationals build a winner and consistently pounds the rest of baseball. It would be deserving.    

Since: Jan 4, 2008
Posted on: August 17, 2010 10:09 am

Score it another big night for Nationals

My only concern is Harper getting a major league deal -- they must really feel he is < 1 1/2 yrs away from the bigs.  The only thing he is lacking now is experience -- both at the plate, and shagging balls in the outfield.

They have done well drafting, but honestly Strasburg/Harper were no brainers.  The Storen pick is the one that really impressed me.  As a Pirates fan, I'm seeing Tony Sanchez in High-A ball.  Storen is in the bigs, contributing from the 'pen.  That is OUTSTANDING -- 2 pitchers contributing from last year's draft class.

I think there is one HUGE thing that separates the Nationals from the Rays -- the Nationals are going to have the $$$ to do what they want.  They will be able to resign players, extend players, and to go grab free agents.  They could very well be a force to reckon with in the NEAR future!

Since: Sep 13, 2006
Posted on: August 17, 2010 10:06 am

Score it another big night for Nationals

The core offensive players for the Rays were also drafted.  Longoria,
Crawford amd Upton are all from the farm.  I believe they signed Pena
as a free agent let go by the Tigers.  I know they got Garza from the
Twins for Young and not to even mention that they would also have
Hamilton if his head was screwed on straight when they picked him.

The Nats are doing it the right way.  Harper is a big time pick for them
as well as the other pitchers they inked yesterday.  Storen and Strasberg
were only the beginning and as long as they keep putting the money into
the scouting department, you will see the Nats as a force in the NL soon.
Washington DC isnt a small market and they will be able to pay the players
that do blossom from their system unlike so many teams that pick high
in the draft year in and year out.

Since: Aug 12, 2010
Posted on: August 17, 2010 9:43 am

Score it another big night for Nationals

The Nationals have hit a homerun in their last few draft classes.  The ability to sign impact players like Drew Storen, Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper have given this team a lot to look forward to going forward.  Stocking talent and grooming from the farm teams is a great way to build a MLB roster.  This team is doing that.  I am starting to see a lot of similarities with how the Rays were built.  Stockpile your young pitching and use the pitching to bring in young position players down the road that will have the impact needed to be competitve. Kasten and Rizzo have made a commitment to winning and Washington has already seen the fruits of that commitment with more to come. 

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