WASHINGTON - AUGUST 26: General Manger Mike Rizzo Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and Scott Boras talk to the media during a press conference at Nationals Park on August 26 2010 in Washington DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
"I like to tell people we were unsure until about 11:58:42," former Washington Nationals' team president Stan Kasten joked with reporters after the Nats signed '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg to a major league deal with just over a minute to spare before the mid-August midnight deadline in 2009. "People thought it would take to the last minute, we didn't even need that last minute," Kasten said. After the Nationals signed 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper just before the deadline a year after Strasburg had gone down to the wire, Kasten told Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore (as reported on Twitter @AdamKilgoreWP) that the negotiations had once again come down the last minutes before midnight. "#Harper and #Nats agreed 'seconds" before 12,' the WaPost reporter wrote, and he quoted Kasten, who said, "'With a full minute, Mike [Rizzo] and I thought we were not going to have a deal."
The Nationals were negotiating with three 1st Round picks and a 3rd Round pick with 1st round talent last summer as the deadline approached. Though the talks once again went to the last minute with D.C. GM Mike Rizzo telling the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore that the deals with the top three picks (Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin) were completed "at the buzzer," the Nationals got the deals done and even signed 3rd Round pick Matt Purke, a pitcher many doubted would sign after he'd fallen from a 1st Round pick in '09 to the Nats in the 3rd Round in 2011 after dealing with shoulder issues in his sophomore year at TCU. "'If you’d have told me that we’d walk out of this thing and we signed everybody that we wanted to sign,'" the GM told the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore, "'I would have doubted that it could have been done.'"
Under the new rules for the Draft agreed upon in the CBA, the deadline to sign this year's picks was moved up a month from mid-August to mid-July. There was also a bonus pool assigned to each team that covered the amount they could spend without having to pay fines and potentially lose future draft picks. The Nationals had nine of their top ten picks signed long before the 5:00 pm EDT deadline yesterday, with only 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito still negotiating as the final hours fell off the clock. With the other picks signed, both sides knew approximately how much money the Nationals had left to give the 6'6'', 17-going-on-18-year-old high school right-hander. The negotiations still went down to the last minute, however. Actually the last thirty seconds.
After the deadline passed, and the Nationals announced that Giolito had agreed signed for $2.925M, the Nats' GM spoke to the press from Marlins Park where Washington was starting the second-half of the season and explained that it had once again gone down to the wire. "[There was] a time there that we thought that it was a possibility that it wouldn't get done. Right there at the end it got a little hairy. For the first time I thought we might not get it done, but cooler heads prevailed. We both agreed we thought it was best for the player to sign with us, it was just getting an agreement on the dollar figure. And at the end of the day we came to an agreement on the dollar figure because we thought it was the best thing for the player."
Just how close had they come to the deadline before agreeing on the deal? In a report in the Los Angeles Times after the deadline passed, the right-hander who was was a (9-1) with 78 K's (9.98 K/9) and a 1.00 ERA in 70.1 IP as a junior before suffering a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that ended his senior year, was quoted by LA Times' writer Eric Sondheimer explaining that they'd gone even closer to the deadline than Strasburg had four years earlier. "'It's pretty funny,' Giolito said. 'There was 30 seconds to go.'"
The right-hander had made a commitment to UCLA, but chose to start his major league career instead, explaining to the LA Times' Mr. Sondheimer, "'The Nationals and I are really happy. My arm feels great. I'm looking forward to pitching. I'm ready to be a professional.'"
"[Giolito] was the coup of our draft," Mike Rizzo told reporters after they'd signed the deal, "And we thought that he was a big-time prospect that fell to us at [no.] 16 and to get a guy that we had so far up the board at 16 and then to get him signed. We feel really good about it."
"We thought that the amount of money that we spent on this particular pick was a value for us," the Nats' general manager said, "We felt that we wanted this player in the system and we felt that his value and his upside this was a good fair number for both sides and like I said, when you come up with a number both sides can work for and agree with then you've got a deal."
As for where he'll start his career, Rizzo said, "He'll report to Florida and begin his minor league career. He'll be on a rehabilitation program and a we'll hope to ramp him up to pitching competitively very soon."