The Nationals have a little over 24 hours to sign first-round pick Lucas Giolito, a hard-throwing prep right-hander from Southern California they selected 16th overall, before the deadline strikes Friday at 5 p.m.
The deadline moved up about a month this year, a provision that came along with the other rules put into place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that caps how much money teams are allowed to spend on signing bonuses with harsh penalties.
Both camps have remained quiet about negotiations. Giolito, who has a commitment to play college baseball at UCLA, visited Nationals Park in mid-June for a game and what amounted to a recruiting pitch.
The money alloted for the 16th pick this year, Giolito’s slot, is $2.125 million. But the Nationals added to their available bonus pool by signing other top 10 picks for less than their recommended slot. They can pay Giolito $2,812,700 without incurring any fine at all, according to calculations done by Baseball America.
If they were willing to pay a financial penalty but not lose a future draft pick, the Nationals could pay Giolito a bonus of up to $3,034,510. The Nationals’ stance is they will not pay a fine of any sort to sign him.
If the Nationals do not sign Giolito, they would receive the No. 17 overall pick in next year’s draft as compensation. The extra pick would have the added benefit of extra money and more flexibility in their 2013 draft bonus pool.
Still, it would be considered a significant disappointment if the Nationals do not sign Giolito. Rizzo considers not signing draft picks a cardinal sin. Giolito comes with risks, having rehabbed from a strained ligament in his right elbow.
If not for the health concern, Giolito may have been taken high in the first round, perhaps first overall. He has thrown his fastball 100 miles per hour, and General Manager Mike Rizzo said his changeup is just as good as his heater. If he signed, many experts would immediately consider him the Nationals’ top prospect.
The Nationals have signed all nine of their other top 10 picks.
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