Seth Romero passed his physical, signed his deal, and is now a Washington National, according to a person familiar with the situation. Romero will get a signing bonus worth $2.8 million, slightly more than the $2,530,400 assigned to his 25th overall slot, and becomes the last of the Nationals’ first 10 draft picks to sign. Under General Manager Mike Rizzo, the Nationals pride themselves on using picks only on players they believe they can sign. This season, they went 10 for 10 with their bonus-round picks.
There will be no midnight madness this time around, as there was when fellow Scott Boras clients Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg signed their deals. There will be no last-minute questions, as there were with Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin, or final-day uncertainty, as with 2014 first-rounder Erick Fedde. This time, Boras and Rizzo got the deal done with a workday’s worth of time to spare, a rather uneventful end to a somewhat eventful draft season for the Nationals.
Romero, 21, had a troubled college career at the University of Houston, and was dismissed as a junior this spring for what the Houston Chronicle reported was a long list of transgressions including poor conditioning, a failed drug test, and an altercation with a teammate. He was considered a top 20, perhaps even top 10, talent before this season, and that he fell out of the top 15 picks made him a classic Nationals value grab at 25th overall. That the Nationals went over slot value to pay him is not surprising given that previous top-15 projection. That they reached a bit is somewhat surprising given that Romero’s main source of leverage was that he could go play independent ball for a year and then reenter the draft — something that is hardly leverage at all.
Regardless, the Nationals signed him, and can now send him off to join their system. Though some inside and outside the Nationals organization consider Romero’s stuff big league ready, his trajectory might begin with a rather low slope, given that he has not pitched in an actual game since May 7. Romero was working out at the Boras facility in Southern California to prepare for the draft, but the Nationals tend to move players whose seasons ended long before the draft more slowly than those who played until within a week of their signing.
If they are slow to ease Romero into his professional career, they might not be slow once he settles in. Some around baseball, including the author, have wondered whether the Nationals chose Romero with an eye on getting him to the big leagues as soon as this season, perhaps to add September spark to their struggling bullpen.
But while Nationals Scouting Director Kris Kline said he thinks Romero’s stuff could play in the majors right now, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals have never drafted a pitcher and moved him all the way to the majors in the same season. Koda Glover was the fastest mover in recent memory, and finished his first professional half season in Class A ball. Rizzo was adamant the Nationals would not rush Romero. He also did not rule anything out.
Whatever his future, Romero’s present is now firmly in the hands of the Nationals, who will have no deadline theatrics this afternoon. As of the time Romero signed, five first-rounders still did not have deals. By the historical standards of Rizzo and Boras, then, they finished this one downright early.