Strasburg Negotiations Likely Will Go Down to the Wire

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009

ATLANTA, Aug. 12 -- Until next Monday night, a figurative countdown clock lords over the day-to-day operations of the Washington Nationals, reminding all involved of the days, hours and minutes remaining to sign No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg. By Monday, at midnight, the Nationals will know: Either they'll have signed the most heralded pitching prospect to the richest contract in amateur history, or they'll have to explain why the deal didn't happen.

But in the meantime, the Nationals, according to industry observers familiar with Scott Boras negotiations, are stuck in a holding pattern. The countdown clock ticks away, but the real action must wait. Executives who have dealt with Boras in the past say he strategically holds off all serious negotiating until the 11th hour. "That's his strategy," one executive said. "He's got his timetable. That's his M.O."

Boras represents not only Strasburg, the San Diego State right-hander drafted first overall, but four other players selected in the top 13: No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley (Seattle), No. 3 pick Donavan Tate (San Diego), No. 9 pick Jacob Turner (Detroit) and No. 13 pick Grant Green (Oakland). So far, none has signed.

Last season, Kansas City signed Boras client Eric Hosmer, the No. 3 pick, just five minutes before the deadline. In 2007, Baltimore signed Boras client Matt Wieters some 10 minutes before the deadline, and entered the day convinced a deal couldn't possibly happen.

Both sides involved in Strasburg negotiations have been exceedingly tight-lipped, refusing on-the-record statements. Industry observers, though, have speculated that the Nationals already have made a significant offer, and for now, are leaving it on the table. When Mike Rizzo, Washington's acting general manager, was asked recently about dealings with Boras, he simply smiled and wagged his finger, imitating the no-no of an NBA shot-blocker.

Eckstein Suspended

Hitting coach Rick Eckstein, ejected from Tuesday night's game after arguing a call at third base when Nyjer Morgan was thrown out on an attempted steal, served a one-game suspension and was fined an undisclosed amount on Wednesday. Eckstein was tossed from the game for a comment from the dugout, but still came onto the field, and eventually had to be restrained by interim manager Jim Riggleman.

Zimmermann Surgery Is Set

A third opinion from Los Angeles-based orthopedist Lewis Yocum confirmed the assumption that rookie pitcher Jordan Zimmermann will need reconstructive elbow surgery. Yocum will perform the ligament-replacement procedure next Wednesday.

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