The Nationals are nearing a deal with first-round pick Mason Denaburg, according to people familiar with the situation. Denaburg was in Washington for his physical Monday, though as of early afternoon, he had not signed a deal.
Denaburg is a high school right-hander with a high-90s fastball who fell to the Nationals at 27th overall after injury trouble plagued him during his senior season at Merritt Island High School in Florida — not far from the Nationals’ old spring training complex in Viera. Nationals officials watched Denaburg before and after the biceps tendinitis that cost him part of the spring. Another former first-round pick who fell because of some untimely biceps tendinitis, Max Scherzer, issued his stamp of approval on the pick.
Scott Boras represents Denaburg, just as he represented Nationals 2017 first rounder Seth Romero, their 2014 first-rounder Erick Fedde, their 2011 first-rounders Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin, their 2010 first-rounder Bryce Harper, and their 2009 first-rounder Stephen Strasburg. In nearly every case, Boras and Rizzo pushed the outer limits of the time allotted them, in some cases approaching the absolute deadline to sign those players before they would have to return to school. The deadline to sign drafted players is 5 p.m. Friday. Boras and Rizzo are making things almost boring this time around.
The terms of Denaburg’s deal were not immediately available, though the value assigned to that 27th overall slot was $2,472,700. According to MLB’s log of signing bonuses for this year’s draft, the Nationals have not saved enough from their pool money (the money they have available to sign their 1st through 10th round picks) to leap high over slot for the right-hander, though because he fell, and because many projected him to be a Friday night starter in the SEC if he didn’t go pro, Denaburg had some leverage with which to negotiate.
Regardless, the deal seems to be all but done, as the sides would not move to the point of getting a physical done if they didn’t have a deal nearly set. Denaburg was the only one of the Nationals’ first 10 picks left unsigned, and is likely to be the most important player in a pitching-heavy class the Nationals hope will reload their system after years of dealing away pitching talent have left them with fewer surefire big league hurlers than they would like.
While Denaburg is closing in on a deal, the Nationals signed 17 teenage free agents from Latin America on Tuesday, the first day of the international signing period. Of the 17 players, 12 are from the Dominican Republic, three hail from Venezuela, and two are from Panama. The Nationals were limited to signing bonuses of $300,000 or less because they overspent previously.
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