After agreeing to a 4-year/$15+M deal with right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg with minutes to spare before the deadline last August, Nats' team President Stan Kasten told a group of internet writers that he hoped the Nats would win every game the rest of the way because he wanted nothing to do with another no.1 pick, "I do not want the no.1 pick next year or ever again. Having said that, do I think whoever we're picking will be a negotiation that goes down to the last minute? It's certainly possible until we fix the system in the sensible way that it needs to be fixed like the NBA did a decade ago. They had the same problem, and the problem is players don't get out and start working on their careers, that's the no.1 problem and that's now resolved in the NBA and I'm confident something akin to that will be the end result here in baseball."
Mr. Kasten was beating the same drum yesterday when he spoke to the press. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore quoted the Nats' President in a Nationals Journal article entitled, "Kasten bracing for the Harper 'derby'", in which Mr. Kasten lamented the fact that the process of waiting until the last possible minutes to negotiate a deal has become a, "...charade, the kabuki dance, the nature of all of this, is just kind of silly. We can do better as an industry, and I think both sides recognize that."
Mr. Kilgore had also quoted a teammate of Harper's, Tyler Hanks (a closer at the College of Southern Nevada last year also selected by the Nats) in a recent Nationals Journal post entitled, "Bryce Harper going back to school? 'Hell, no'", in which Mr. Hanks stated his belief that, "You don't take your GED and show everybody that you're ready to play this game, ready to move up, so you can go back to school." In Mr. Hanks' opinion, the 17-year-old catcher-turned-outfielder is simply, "...biding his time in order to rest after a stressful season, not to drive up the Nationals' price."
Of course, MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr quoted Harper's coach at CSN, Tim Chambers, in an article entitled, "Harper is "begging to play", stating that:
"(Bryce) wants to play. He is begging to play. I saw him two days ago and he told me, 'I just want to play again...'"
According to Scott Boras, however, (the agent for both Strasburg and Harper), the decision ultimately is in the player's hands. In an interview with Danny Simmons from 619Sports.net out of San Diego last August, Mr. Boras expressed his own frustration with the system he and team owners are forced to work under, but not for the same reasons as Mr. Kasten. As Mr. Boras explained, "...our game has to create a system whereby the revenues allocated must go equally to American players as it does foreign players." Boras' opinion on these issues likely only grew stronger after Strasburg signed for 4-years/$15+M (the largest contract ever given to a draft pick) and then Cuban-born pitcher Aroldis Chapman doubled that amount (6-years/$30.25M) as an international free agent last winter.
As Boras explained in the interview though, it is the player's decision:
"'Every ballplayer wants to play ball, and every ballplayer also has a business acumen, and the advice he receives and the information he receives allows him to be judgemental about those decisions, and our job is never to make a decision, our job really is to make sure the information is as tightly and precisely given to him so that each decision he makes is really in the end justifiable...'"
DC GM Mike Rizzo seemed confident a deal with Harper would get done. In an interview on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio show, "Inside Pitch", Mr. Rizzo said it was fairly simple, "I think you have a player that wants to sign, an organization that wants to sign him and usually when that happens you can come to an agreement." The Nationals, Scott Boras and Bryce Harper have until 11:59 pm EST on Monday August 16th to figure it out. In the one instance I was actually asked to offer my own estimation as to how much Harper will get, I said somewhere in the $10-12M range, more than the previous high given to a position player, Mark Teixeira's 4-year/$9.5 M dollar deal with the Rangers, but less than Strasburg received last year, which set the mark for pitchers and Draft picks overall. Strasburg was a proven commodity at the collegiate level. A 21-year-old Junior at San Diego State with a history of success at the collegiate and international level who'd even pitched in the Olympics for Team USA. Harper's a 17-year-old batter with one (admittedly spectacular) year of JUCO baseball and some time with USA Baseball on his resume. How much will Harper get?