Do or Die Draft Deadline for Padres, Strasburg

Monday night at midnight marks the draft deadline in baseball. What this means for Strasburg, Moorad...

By Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton



The deadline is coming — Monday at midnight. It’s draft pick deadline time in baseball.

The datelines will read Washington, D.C. and San Diego.

You either sign a pro baseball contract, or you sit out a year. You either sign your first-round draft pick, or you lose him with little chance to get a player of equal quality a year from now.

Your name is Stephen Strasburg, the legendary pitcher from San Diego State.

Your name is Jeff Moorad, player-agent turned baseball owner.

You both have enormous decisions to make. Strasburg set high water mark pitching records for the Aztecs, and now with agent Scott Boras will try to set an all-time record for signing bonus and guaranteed money as the Washington Nationals number one pick in the draft.

Moorad faces the challenge of handing out the biggest bonus ever to a Padres draft pick, the Georgia high school sensation and number three pick, slugging outfielder Donavan Tate.

If you are keeping score at home, the highest contract ever given a first pick was the $10.5 million deal given to Mark Prior, the University High star, who went to USC eventually the Chicago Cubs. His career exploded to a 41-29 start before two shoulder surgeries and numerous setbacks ended his pitching days just last week.

Strasburg’s people want a record $20 million package guaranteed with escalators that could create a $50 million windfall over the first six years of his contract. Boras compares him to Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who cost the Red Sox $53 million. The difference is that the Japanese right hander was a veteran free agent who had proven himself in Japan.

Strasburg’s dominance has been in college baseball with a taste of some international competition. Washington will have to pay, but will refuse to write a record check that most think the former Aztec does not deserve without having thrown his first professional pitch.

Negotiations have been followed by rhetoric about Strasburg going back to SDSU, going to Japan on a one-year deal, or going to the independent league. The risk is way too high.

What if he gets hurt? What if his velocity diminishes? What if the learning curve that first year is rougher than imagined? What leverage will he have next year? Do you think Kansas City, the Pirates, the Padres or the Nats — the cry-poverty teams, who will likely draft high next year — would pay Strasburg what he demands?

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