As Friday’s deadline to sign draft picks looms, there remains doubt about the Nationals’ chances to strike a deal with first-round pick Erick Fedde, a right-handed pitcher from UNLV.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t get done,” one person familiar with the negotiations said.
The skepticism by no means eliminates the chance of a thaw and a deal in the next three days. General Manager Mike Rizzo views securing draft picks as sacred, and he has not allowed a top pick to go unsigned since he took the helm as general manager in 2009. One phone call could change things at any moment. Intense back-and-forth at the deadline may well lead to an agreement.
Fedde wants a signing bonus of roughly $3 million, demands based on what teams choosing after the Nationals told him they would sign him for – and what he believes he could fetch if he re-entered the draft next year. The slot value for the No. 18 overall pick is $2,145,600. It is not known what the Nationals have offered.
Fedde, who is advised by high-profile agent Scott Boras, underwent Tommy John surgery two days prior to the draft. The injury enabled the Nationals to draft him, because he slid from a potential top-five pick. But it may also hurt their chances to sign him. Fedde will not pitch in a game for the next year regardless of if he signs now or re-enters the draft in 2015, which could embolden him to walk away.
Fedde’s target is tied to what other pitchers who fell in the draft because of Tommy John surgery have signed for. This year, the Blue Jays signed No. 9 overall pick Jeff Hoffman with a $3.08 million bonus. In 2012, the Nationals signed No. 16 pick Lucas Giolito – who had yet to undergo surgery but whose elbow-ligament concerns were widely anticipated – with a $2.925 million bonus.
The Nationals could counter that Hoffman signed for the slot value of the ninth pick, and that Giolito had a higher ceiling. Before his injury, Giolito was viewed as the possible first overall pick. He’s now regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
The Nationals would receive compensation if they cannot sign Fedde. They would receive the No. 19 pick in next year’s draft, along with the bump in bonus pool money attached to the pick. It would be difficult to nab a player of Fedde’s talent at that point in the draft. Nationals scouting director Kris Kline called Fedde a “top-five” talent before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament.
As the Nationals try to ink Fedde, they have also yet to sign second overall pick Andrew Suarez, a left-hander from Miami whom they selected with No. 57 overall choice.
After the Giants reportedly reached a deal with their second-round choice, Suarez is the only second-round choice left unsigned. The Angels and Astros are the only other teams that haven’t signed their first-round picks.
Suarez and Fedde are inextricably tied together by Major League Baseball’s draft rules. The Nationals will incur penalties if they exceed their bonus pool of $5,275,700. So far, they have exhausted $1.638 million in signing seven of their top 10 picks, according to MLB.com’s database. Whatever bonus money the Nationals dedicate to one player is money they cannot use to sign the other, without penalty.