By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Washington Nationals have roughly 24 days remaining to sign Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher they selected first overall in the June draft. As negotiations intensify in the coming weeks, the team's efforts to sign the high-profile pitcher could be undermined by several high-profile questions about the team's leadership, a source familiar with the negotiations indicated.
Since March, the Nationals have been operating without a permanent general manager; since the all-star break, they've been operating with an interim manager. In recent conversations, those in the Strasburg camp have expressed concern to Washington's managing principal owner, Ted Lerner, about what the source called a "rudderless" organization. According to the source, who declined to be identified because of the ongoing negotiations, Washington's system of interim leadership is a point of particular worry for Strasburg, particularly because the right-hander's development will be entrusted to a yet-undetermined pitching philosophy.
"They're setting a record about not selecting a GM," the source said. "Why would you ever want to go to an unknown? They're the only team in baseball that offers an unknown."
Since former general manager Jim Bowden resigned, Mike Rizzo has been running the major league operations as the acting general manager. But Mark Lerner, one of the team's principal owners, told MLB.com in a recent interview that "We have a responsibility to conduct a proper search for both [the GM and managerial] positions, and that may entail going beyond our own gates. We will not be rushed or pressured into a decision that so significantly affects our future."
Asked on Friday about the timetable for selecting a permanent general manager, President Stan Kasten said, "You know I'm not talking about any aspect of that search."
If Strasburg and his advisor, Scott Boras, are uneasy about the Nationals' direction, they have limited recourse. If a deal does not get done by the Aug. 17 deadline, Strasburg -- in the most conventional scenario -- can play a year of independent ball and reenter the draft in 2010. Though the Nationals could have the No. 1 pick again, Strasburg can deny permission for them to redraft him.
If the Nationals fail to sign Strasburg, they would also receive a 2010 compensatory pick -- "1B," if you will. But Strasburg, after missing the Nationals, could be selected by the next team, potentially the San Diego Padres, who have the second-worst record in baseball right now. Strasburg was raised in San Diego and attended San Diego State.
Storen Keeps It Going
Drew Storen, the Stanford pitcher selected 1 1/2 months ago with the 10th overall pick, is with Class A Potomac after 11 games with low-Class A Hagerstown. In his first appearance with Potomac, Storen threw two scoreless innings and struck out three. His minor league totals so far: 0 walks, 29 strikeouts, and a 3.24 ERA.