I was looking around for the latest information on Stephen Strasburg's negotiations with the Washington Nationals when I came across two very interesting articles, one by MLB Trade Rumors.com's Ben Nicholson-Smith entitled, "Aroldis Chapman's Value", which deals, in part, with the effect the Cuban defectee's signing might have on Strasburg's contract with the Washington Nationals, and another by Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin entitled, "Boras May Explore Japan for Strasburg", which details rumors of Mr. Boras' "unique" approach to securing a deal for the former SDSU Aztec starter. Mr. Sheinin's article actually inspired me with a little hope for the Nationals' chances of signing their No. 1 overall pick, but the combined effect of the two pieces left me wondering if the Nationals' negotiations with super agent Scott "Maximum" Boras over Stephen Strasburg's deal might lead to an international incident?
The subject of Ben Nicholson-Smith's MLBTradeRumors.com article is a story by ESPN.com's Jorge Arangue, entitled, "Top Cuban prospect defects" which seeks to determine how much Aroldis Chapman, the talented 21-year-old, left-handed flame-thrower from Cuba will command on the open market now that he's defected, and there's a video included with Mr. Arangue's piece wherein ESPN.com's Buster Olney calls Chapman "a left-handed Strasburg" who can reach triple-digits with his fastball, though Mr. Olney makes clear the distinction that Strasburg's limited to working out a deal with the Washington Nationals while Arangue will be available to the highest bidder league-wide...
ESPN.com's Mr. Arangue holds Jose Contreras' contract with the NY Yankees up as a template for what Aroldis Chapman might expect, but how long will it be before Strasburg's agent, Mr. Boras, starts saying that his client deserves at least as much as this reportedly "unpolished" Cuban prospect, especially considering that the first dollar amount leaked to the press in relation to the Strasburg negotiations, via ESPN's Peter Gammons' 3/21/09 article entitled, "Trade to A's was best thing for Holliday", was the idea of a "Daisuke Matsuzaka-like" 6-year/$50 million dollar deal.
In Mr. Arangue's article, he writes that, "By several estimates, Chapman could garner a contract worth anywhere from $30 to $60 million," and Mr. Arangue points out that Jose Contreras, back in 2003, received a 4-year/$32 million dollar deal. Scott Boras' argument that Stephen Strasburg is more of a proven commodity than most drafted pitchers, came long before any talk of the young Cuban pitcher signing such a significant deal, and as the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin points out in his article entitled, "Boras May Explore Japan for Strasburg", Mr. Boras:
"...would love nothing more than to blow apart baseball's draft system, allowing Strasburg to be compensated in line with his talent..."
"Acting" DC GM Mike Rizzo had previously challenged the notion that Strasburg was different than any other collegiate prospect taken in June's draft, telling ESPN.com's Tim Keown in an article from June 8th '09 entitled, "Playing Hardball", that as talented as Strasburg is, the soon-to-be 21-year-old right-hander is, "...is no different from anyone else who's been drafted No.1," and as the Washington Post's Mr. Sheinin writes in his article, "...within the parameters of the current system...no player (taken in the draft) has ever received more than $10.5 million."
If the Nationals and their No. 1 pick's agent are unable to reach an agreement on Stephen Strasburg's value, however, Mr. Sheinin writes that Mr. Boras has been, "...dropping hints privately that he is preparing to explore a new frontier in his ongoing draft-busting crusade: Japan." The problem with that however, as "Washington-based" lawyer Stanley Brand, "...who serves as vice president of Minor League Baseball and who acted as counsel to MLB," explains to the Post's Mr. Sheinin, is that Stephen Strasburg:
"...wasn't born [in Japan]. He hasn't voted there. He doesn't own property there. (So)...[A claim of residency] looks like what it is: a ruse to get around the draft."
Without mentioning the contract that Aroldis Chapman might receive, Mr. Sheinin once again brings up the deals that Jose Contreras and Daisuke Matsuzaka signed, while noting that Mr. Boras' argument is that the MLB Draft is:
"...patently unfair in that it does not cover international players, who are considered free agents, and suppresses the incomes of American players..."
Moves that Mr. Boras has made with past clients have forced Major League Baseball to alter the rules of the draft, and Mr. Sheinin quotes officials from Japan who are unhappy with Mr. Boras' actions in Daisuke Matsuzaka's exit from Japan, and, "...the Red Sox' signing last winter of amateur pitcher Junichi Tawaza." Robert Whiting, who is described by Mr. Sheinin as, "...an American who has authored seven books on Japanese baseball," is quoted in the article stating that:
"...many people here are [fed] up and angered by (Boras') remarks that he is intending to use Japan just as a tool to intimidate MLB and get more money for his client. (Because) It shows a lack of respect for the country."
Why Strasburg would allow himself to be used in this way is beyond me, though it makes sense for Mr. Boras, who might be able to secure more money for prospects he represents in the future, but if Mr. Boras is going to continue to challenge long-standing rules regarding amateur and professional prospects signing with Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals might find themselves caught in the middle of an argument that's bigger than their desire to add an ace to the top of a rotation that's finally beginning to show the results of the work they've done in the last few years to rebuild their roster and system. Will Scott Boras' attempt to further challenge the rules of the MLB Draft cost the Nationals' their second-straight No. 1 draft pick, and perhaps their best chance yet at changing their status as "the biggest joke in baseball"? The next five weeks are going to be very interesting...