The last time there were genuine questions about whether or not a top Washington Nationals' draft pick would sign and the Nats didn't sign him was 2008 when they drafted right-hander Aaron Crow out of the University of Missouri with the 9th overall pick. The Nats and their 1st Round pick failed to reach an agreement before the deadline to sign the year's selections and Crow was forced to hook up with the independent Ft. Worth Cats, playing there for a season before reentering the draft and getting selected by the Kansas City Royals. The Nationals, of course, got a compensation pick in the '09 Draft and used the "Crow" pick to draft Drew Storen out of Stanford 10th overall after they'd drafted Stephen Strasburg no.1.
The drama with Strasburg went down the last minutes before the deadline with the Nats, and former Team President Stan Kasten in particular, joking afterwards that they'd signed him with time to spare. "People thought it would take to the last minute," Kasten told reporters, "We didn't even need that last minute." 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper had left high school early, earned his GED, played a year of Junior College ball and made sure he was available for the first draft he was eligible to enter, so there was little doubt he would sign since he was clearly so eager to get his professional career underway.
Strasburg got a 4-year/$15.1M dollar major league deal. Harper got 5-years and $9.9M. Both deals set records for the biggest deals signed by a pitcher and position player, respectively. The Nationals, as has been noted repeatedly in the last two years, outspent the rest of the league in signing bonuses in each of the last two seasons. Three of the top four, and four of the top twelve draft picks last year went down to the wire with the Nats paying Harper, left-hander Sammy Solis, right-hander A.J. Cole and lefty Robbie Ray above-slot deals to get them into the organization in the hours before the deadline passed.
The Nats signed 25 of their top 26 picks last season and 33 of 50 overall. So far this year Washington's signed 23 players already with just six days to go before the Monday August 15th midnight deadline. Their top four picks, however, 1st Rounders infielder Anthony Rendon and RHP Alex Meyer, supplemental round pick outfielder Brian Goodwin and 3rd Rounder, LHP Matt Purke, are unsigned as of today. Both Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore and Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak reported this week that all four had already taken physicals with the team, a procedural measure that will allow them to sign more quickly if and when a contract is agreed upon.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, on last night's Mike Rizzo Show on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., told host Danny Rouhier that obviously, "The draft is kind of a unique situation. Most of the activity happens at or around the deadline," so there's no real reason to worry right now. "There's very, very few of the top draft picks that have signed already. We feel good about where we're at with the guys. We've been in discussions with the representatives of the players. We're in that stage right now where we're still feeling each other out, negotating. We're going to be aggressive as we have in the last couple drafts and we feel optimistic that if the players and representatives come in with an open mind, then we feel that we can get these guys in under the fold, and if we do that we would have one heck of a draft."
Baseball America's Jim Callis has stated recently that he doesn't think Nats will be able to sign 3rd Round pick Matt Purke, and in a BA Q&A he estimated that Rendon, Meyer and Goodwin, "... might cost a combined $10 million (counting salaries in a big league deal for Rendon), but I bet they sign all three," with Rendon getting around $7M in his estimation, Meyer around $2M and Goodwin around $1M. In a discussion with MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr, Mr. Callis suggested that though the Nats, "can offer [Matt Purke] maybe $3 million," which would be another way-over-slot deal, he believes the lefty could go no.1 overall in 2012 with another strong season in college and might be confident enough in his own abilities he'll choose to take that route.
Rendon, Meyer, Goodwin, Purke and the other Nats' 2011 picks have six days to make their decisions before midnight next Monday. Will the Nationals outspend the league for the third-straight season?