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Big Deal Made Over Team's 6th-Round Pick

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Washington Nationals reached an agreement late last night with left-handed pitcher Jack McGeary, a deal that solidifies a spectacular draft for a team that is in the process of rebuilding what had been a farm system bereft of talent.

The Nationals selected McGeary, a native of Newton, Mass., in the sixth round of the June draft. Most people in baseball believed McGeary would honor his commitment to play college ball at Stanford, and though several clubs rated him as a first-round talent, teams didn't want to risk wasting a high pick on him.

The Nationals, though, wooed McGeary from the start, and ended up signing him for a bonus of $1.8 million -- a record for a player taken in the sixth round. The contract allows McGeary to attend college, playing pro baseball in the summers.

Though the deal was finalized at a downtown Washington steak house at 11:45 p.m. -- 15 minutes before the deadline for signing picks -- it had been in the works for at least 24 hours. But there was some question as to whether the Nationals' ownership, headed by the Lerner family, would be willing to break from baseball's conservative guard and pay such a sum for a player who slipped so far in the draft. According to Baseball America, the bonus slotted for the last pick of the fifth round is $123,300, and MLB officials are unhappy with teams that exceed their guidelines.

But throughout the past two days, several deals were brokered that fell well outside of MLB's parameters, headed by a deal worth as much as $11.25 million for David Price, chosen with the No. 1 pick by Tampa Bay, and a $7.28 million deal Detroit gave to high school pitcher Rick Porcello, who fell to 27th in the draft.

Sources said those deals helped the Nationals' baseball operations side -- headed by General Manager Jim Bowden and team president Stan Kasten -- persuade ownership that a player of McGeary's caliber was worth the money.

McGeary joins two other lefties -- Ross Detwiler, the sixth pick overall and Josh Smoker, taken with the first pick of the supplemental round between the first and second rounds -- as talented pitchers injected into the Nationals' system. Those three players were paid bonuses totaling $4.95 million.

McGeary is due to be introduced at a news conference this afternoon at RFK Stadium.

Zimmerman Goes to Work in the Field

Less than 24 hours after he committed a key throwing error in the top of the eighth inning of what became a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was on the field yesterday at RFK Stadium. There, he and Manager Manny Acta worked on footwork and the stance from which Zimmerman throws in hopes of eliminating some of the sailing throws he has made.

"I don't think it's my footwork as much as I'm standing too tall on some of those throws," Zimmerman said. "I think it was good to go get that work in. I know what I'm doing wrong. You look at [Scott] Rolen. He's always low. . . . I'm a taller guy, and sometimes I stand up too high."

Zimmerman entered play last night with 18 errors, tied for most in the majors by a third baseman. Acta and Zimmerman agreed that Zimmerman's throwing errors mostly come on plays involving a slow runner. On such plays, Acta said, Zimmerman's feet often are too close together.

"Throwing is like hitting," Acta said. "It's like when you're going to punch somebody or when you're going to guard somebody playing basketball. Your legs have to be separated according to your body height. . . .

"I pointed out that whenever he dives and gets up and he doesn't have time, his feet are in perfect position."

Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, whose club sees the 22-year-old Zimmerman as often as any, said yesterday: "He has a chance to be real special. And you go look back at some of those real good third baseman. I bet they had a bunch of errors when they first came up."

Indeed, 10-time Gold Glove winner Mike Schmidt had 26 errors when he was 24, and 24 errors at third base the next year.

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