Strasburg Negotiations Between Nationals, Boras Could Result in Historic Signing
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
They are separated by 2,700 miles, a negotiating gap that could be as large as $40 million and a philosophical chasm regarding players' rights that has had them at each other's throats on more than one occasion. But this summer, old rivals Scott Boras and Stan Kasten are likely to be brought together again, at their familiar spots on opposite sides of the table, for a negotiation that will impact the futures of a 20-year-old pitcher named Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals franchise and perhaps the sport of baseball as well.
With the Nationals set to select Strasburg, the already-legendary San Diego State right-hander, with the first overall pick of today's Major League Baseball draft, Kasten, the Washington team president, and Boras, the super-agent based in Newport Beach, Calif., will be reunited for a contract negotiation that is being closely watched across the sport for its record- and precedent-setting possibilities.
Within the sport, the Strasburg negotiations are being viewed as a possible landmark case, bringing together baseball's most notorious agent, a pitcher who has been called the best prospect in history and the worst franchise in the game -- all within a draft system that has been criticized as unmanageable and unfair.
Between today and Aug. 15, the deadline for completing a deal, there will be several participants at the table for the Nationals besides Kasten: Acting general manager Mike Rizzo, who has his own history with Boras, will hold a central role for the team, while owner Theodore N. Lerner also is expected to be an active participant, as he was in negotiations for free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, another Boras client, in December.
"Both parties have been face-to-face. They've had a dialogue," Rizzo said of the Lerner-Boras meetings during the Teixeira negotiations. "I think it's beneficial this is not the first time they've been in a room together. So, yeah, I think it helps."
Teixeira signed an eight-year, $180 million contract with the New York Yankees in December.
Kasten is expected to handle the heavy lifting in the Strasburg negotiations, and he has been the public face of the Nationals' pre-draft posturing -- implying the team intends to remain within the range of earlier signings of high-profile talents.
The record for guaranteed money remains the $10.5 million that pitcher Mark Prior received from the Chicago Cubs in 2001; like the vast majority of pitchers selected No. 1 overall, he fell short of expectations, winning just 42 games in the majors thus far. A year ago, top overall pick David Price, a left-handed pitcher, received a guaranteed $8.5 million from Tampa Bay.
The record for a signing bonus is $6.2 million, which catcher Buster Posey received from the San Francisco Giants last year.
"We intend to be aggressive, and we have every intention of signing the pick," Kasten said last week at Nationals Park. "We know what [top picks] have made [in the past]. We know the risks associated with any draft pick, much less a pitcher. It's why they get what they get. And we're going to be consistent with that. And if [a contract agreement] doesn't happen, and we have to take the second pick next year [as compensation], so be it."
Boras, meantime, has remained mostly mum about the pending negotiation. However, in a recent interview in the stands before one of Strasburg's starts, he implied a connection between Strasburg's case and the $52 million contract he secured for Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka in December 2006.
"The international market has always been a link to the value of the extraordinarily gifted draft pick," Boras said. "The fact is, we now have international baseball players who have never played in the major leagues dictating what the market is for talent. We have non-major leaguers getting value points. That means that the need for talent without major league certification is at a level it's never been at before, which tells you about the demand."