WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 18: Members of the Cincinnati Reds stretch prior to their game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 18, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
After super agent Scott Boras got Jayson Werth a 7-year/$126 million dollar deal from the Washington Nationals this past winter, he explained in an MLB Network Radio interview that the Nats had not only added a right fielder, but changed the perception of the franchise by showing their willingness to pay for elite-level talent. "The brand in Washington is now a different brand," Boras said, "It is now an acknowledged brand. Their fans know it. Other players know it. And it provides a brand value to the franchise that did not exist prior to Jayson Werth signing."
It was hard not to think of that quote this past Monday night when D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, "We've got a system that's second to none. We're the talk of the industry right now. This just solidifies us as one of the top scouting and player development organizations in the game," as FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal quoted the Nats' GM saying in a recent FOXSports.com video report in which he cautioned the Nats' general manager about "getting carried away" in a humbling sport...
One point of concern, the FOXSports.com reporter pointed to was the Nats' 3rd Round pick Matt Purke. According to an anonymous rival GM quoted in the video, the 21-year-old left-hander who started the year as a potential 1st Round pick before a shoulder injury caused his stock to drop was not a wise investment. "[Purke] is a guy with shoulder issues, a guy with a bad delivery and a guy that you probably shouldn't be spending $4.4 million on," Mr. Rosenthal quotes his source saying.
It was also hard not to think of Boras, Rizzo and Rosenthal's sources' quotes when reading the Nats' 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke's response to a question this afternoon during his introductory press conference when he was asked about why he'd decided to sign on to pitch for the nation's capital's Nats when many expected he'd try to go back to college and get himself selected in the first round. Instead he just got paid like a first round pick. "I came up here," Purke explained, "They come highly recommended. I've seen the things they've done the last few years with the prospects they've brought in and the Major League players as well. This organization is going to be very strong, they're building, and they're going to be a serious team to deal with in the years to come. I knew I wanted to be a part of that and hopefully to be a helpful piece in the puzzle."
The one aspect of the negotations with the Nationals that's come as a surprise was Purke's decision to let Washington do an MRI arthrogram on his injured left shoulder, but the TCU Horned Frogs' starter explained that it wasn't a difficult decision. "I just knew that, the only thing I could do was lay it out there and say 'Do what you want to do'," Purke said, so he told the team, "... do the test, look at it, get your own assessment of it and then we can talk. I knew that I was healthy and I was fit again. I just had to prove it so I said 'do what you have to do' and then we'll talk from there."
Asked if he had any concerns about undergoing the procedure, Purke reiterated that he just, "... knew that's what needed to happen. Obviously when you talk about investing in someone you're going to want to know what your investment is all about. I was comfortable and confident in the results I had gotten from everything throughout the year and so I said that's fine,. I had no objection. They're looking to protect their investment and I understand that and understand that it's business and it's not personal and so I was open to do it and I was thankful that I did it early. I really was glad to do it early and get it out of the way, that way talks would be able to continue then and we wouldn't have anything pending on what happens in the end."
The limited action during his sophomore year after a dominant freshman campaign in which led TCU to the College World Series was frustrating for the pitcher. "You want to compete for your guys and your teammates and I loved TCU and the opportunity I had there and everybody, the staff, Coach [Jim] Schlossnagel and those guys. But I sat down with them and he said, 'I've seen you work all year. You've done what you need to do for this team' he said, 'But you need to take care of yourself because you have a bright future and a long career and that's what you need to do.' So we were able to work with that."
Though he dropped from the 1st Round in '09 to the 3rd Round this season, Purke told reporters, "I was not worried or concerned where I got picked. I just wanted to know who it was going to be. I knew that at some point I would get picked and this was the right team and the right situation that I needed. So I was very fortunate and excited when it happened." Returning to school again was always an option but he said that, "... once everything had started here and I'd gotten up here and gotten a feel for this organization I knew that this was a good fit for me and the right situation that I was looking for. And so I knew I was ready to play and move on, and I was thankful enough to get the opportunity."
Asked how and when he knew Washington was the right place for him, Purke said, " I think it was pretty much right away once I had seen and heard about the things that are going on here and how this organization, the Lerners and Mr. Rizzo run things around here and I knew that was something that I was looking for and value a lot. So I knew this was a really good spot."
The Nats' GM was asked about what the plan was for the Nats' newest left-hander? After a few days in the nation's capital, Purke will, "... go down to Florida and we're going ot have our pitching coordinator, Spin Williams down there," Rizzo said, and after that, "We'll assess where he's at as far as his readiness to pitch, and as Matt said I've seen him pitch recently and he's well on his way to pitching in a game so when we make that assessment we'll put a plan together to get him on the mound."