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Wire Taps: Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper And The Approaching Deadline.

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With a little over three weeks remaining before the August 15th deadline to sign team's 2010 Draft picks, "...and about two weeks and six days before we begin negotiations," Nats' team President Stan Kasten quipped recently in an interview with ESPN980's The Sports Fix's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, the Washington Nationals have signed all but three members of their 2010 Draft Class, with the three remaining unsigned, of course, being three of the four top picks they made this past June: 1st Rounder, Bryce Harper (OF) - College of Southern Nevada, 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis (LHP) out of the University of San Diego, and the Nats' 4th Round pick, A.J. Cole (RHP) - Oviedo HS.

DC GM Mike Rizzo told 1500 WFED in DC's Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler this past week in a wide ranging, hour-long rain delay interview while the team was in Cincinnati, that the Nationals, "... feel that we've done the research on the three players [and] they want to go out and begin their professional careers, so when two parties are of the same mindset to get a deal done often times it does." Nats' team President Stan Kasten held Washington's second '09 1st Round pick, reliever Drew Storen up as a, "fantastic example" for players seeking to get their major league careers started when Bryce Harper, in particular, was brought up in the interview this week with Mr.'s Sheehan and Loverro: 

"...[Storen] was the first guy signed last year, got right out the first day, and because of that he's in the major leagues eleven months later. He had a whole year in the minor leagues, and I think if Bryce Harper or anyone in this year's draft had gotten out and gotten a full year under their belt, they would've been a year closer to the major leagues and let's face it, no matter what you get as a draft pick, that's where the real money is. Get to the major leagues, get your service time built up, get to arbitration, get to free agency." 

By not signing immediately and getting some work done in the minors in this year, which no one really expected, the Nats' 2010 1st Round pick delayed the start of his professional career, "...and so now," Mr. Kasten continued, "I think Bryce [Harper] is one year behind where he might have been, but I'm sure he's gonna be fine...we're confident he's going to [make] a big contribution here. Now he's only 17, so he's not the same kind of thing that we went through a year ago, but we do see a big future for him, we really do." 

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark seems to agree with Mr. Kasten's assessment that Washington isn't dealing with, "...the same kind of thing [they] went through a year ago," in negotiating with Harper that the Nats' went through with their '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, a 21-year-old college junior, who ended up getting a major league deal rounded off as $15.1M over four years, and in Mr. Stark's opinion, as expressed in a section of his article yesterday entitled, "Call it simply a 'mediocre' starter market", which is subtitled, "Feel a draft?", attempts to put Harper in the same category as Reds' pitching prospect Aroldis Chapman, who signed $30 million dollar deal with Cincinnati last winter, or even Mark Teixeira's $9.5M dollars from the '01 Draft, "...when he set the June draft position-player record that still stands", are a stretch for Harper's camp, since Chapman, in Mr. Stark's view, is a, "...nearly big league-ready free-agent pitcher," and Teixeira was, "...a 21-year-old college hitter who was on a much faster track to the big leagues than Harper."

Mr. Stark points to the, "...last two high school position players who were taken with the No. 1 overall pick," as better examples of what Harper should expect, or as he phrases it, Harper's "true comparables":

"Justin Upton, who got $6.1 million from Arizona in 2005, and Tim Beckham, who signed for $6.15 million with Tampa Bay in 2008 -- still the record for drafted high school players."

Harper has already been, and will, of course, as the deadline approaches, continue to be sold as another "once-in-a-generation talent", who deserves the sort of record-breaking deal the Nationals handed out to Strasburg last season, but while some have argued that the 17-year-old catcher/outfielder has all the leverage since he can simply return to college and reenter the draft should he fail to sign, the great lengths Harper went through to make himself eligible for this year's draft would make one think he's as eager to get his Major League career started as anyone, and if the idea of making his MLB debut within the one or two year window Mr. Kasten mentioned in an interview last month isn't enough motivation, ESPN.com's Mr. Stark points out that, "...the prospect of a slotting system looming large in the 2011 labor talks," might further influence Harper's decision to get as good a deal as he can get done before midnight on August 15th, or he might find himself two years behind in his development with far less than he's probably been told to expect. 

As the DC GM Mike Rizzo explained to during the interview with Mr.'s Slowes and Jageler, in summing up his thoughts on the negotiations with this year's picks, "...we feel confident that these three guys want to play, they want to be Washington Nationals, they've stated that and we've been in close contact with them throughout the process we and continue to talk and leave the lines of communication open." Hopefully it doesn't take until the literal last minute to get a deal done this year, Nats fans don't need any additional stress.