On June 5, the day before this year’s baseball draft, Washington Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner offered an affirmation. He promised the Nationals would be aggressive in drafting players with dollar signs in their eyes that other clubs might pass on, with the intent of signing them to lucrative signing bonuses. “Signability issues,” Lerner said, would not be an issue for the Nationals.
When the deadline to sign draft picks arrived Monday night, Lerner’s version of General Manager Mike Rizzo’s vision came to bear. The Nationals signed their first five picks for roughly $16.5 million combined, smashing the signing bonuses recommended by Major League Baseball’s slot system with all five players. Rizzo and staff identified the best players they could pick. Lerner gave him the money and got out of the way.
The Post Sports Live crew discusses the Nationals' signing of five draft picks just before the deadline late Monday night, and what it means for the future of the ball club.
Monday night’s deadline to sign draft choices promised to pass for the Nationals with significantly less fanfare than the previous two seasons, when they brokered midnight deals for franchise-changers Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. But Rizzo believes it could have as much impact as those drafts, and it also sent a message: The Nationals will try to build a winner through the draft, sparing little expense.
“It just solidifies where we’re at in the industry,” Rizzo said. “These guys want to come here. He knows that we develop players and we develop them well. We’ve got a system that’s second to none. We’re the talk of the industry right now. This just solidifies us, to me, as one of the great scouting and player development organizations in baseball. We feel really good about ourselves tonight.”
The Nationals finalized negotiations with their top three picks, all clients of super-agent Scott Boras, “at the buzzer,” Rizzo said. Rice infielder Anthony Rendon (No. 6 overall) signed a major-league deal for $7.2 million over four years, with a team option for a fifth year. Kentucky right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer (No. 23 overall) signed for a $2 million bonus. Miami Dade College outfielder Brian Goodwin (No. 34 overall) signed for $3 million.
TCU left-handed pitcher Matt Purke (No. 96 overall) joined Rendon in signing a major league deal, worth roughly $4 million over four years. Purke and Rendon received major league deals because they are “close to the big leagues” and “extreme talents,” Rizzo said.
The Nationals reached an agreement with fourth-rounder Kylin Turnbull (No. 127 overall) early in the night, signing the 6-foot-5 left-hander from Santa Barbara City College with a $325,000 signing bonus.
“For us to land what we believe are four first-round picks and pay them accordingly is I think a testament to the commitment of winning here in Washington,” Rizzo said. “We did get four players that we had first-round numbers on coming into the draft. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me.”
Turnbull’s bonus exceeded the MLB recommendation by $100,000, a hint of what the Nationals hoped would come later in the night. If the Nationals had adhered to the signing bonuses recommended by MLB, they would have spent about $5.2 million. If you add Harper’s $9.9 million deal from last year to that total, it would still fall short of the difference between the slot money and the money the Nationals handed out Monday night.