As expected, the negotiations with number one pick Bryce Harper appear to be going right to the very last tick of the signing period. GM Mike Rizzo is optimistic about the signing, but that's also not expected. Things would have to be in complete disarray for him to come out and say that the signing isn't going to happen.
The reports are that Harper's "advisor", Scott Boras, is going for record numbers. Word is that Boras is asking for something close to $11 million, which would be a hefty amount of money over the highest amount of money ever given to a high school player in the draft. As long as the number stays above $10.5 million, Harper's deal would eclipse the largest draft deal ever given to a position player, a mark previously held by Mark Teixeira.
The most interesting part of these negotiations came on Monday, when last year's number one draft pick and fellow Scott Boras client Stephen Strasburg provided some harsh, unsolicited advice for Harper. "If he wants to play here, he's going to play here. He doesn't need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn't want to play here, then we don't want him here," said Strasburg, whose negotiations also came down to the final minute. "We want guys who want to play on this team. It's really important," added Strasburg.
Strasburg's remarks have been taken by some as being somewhat hypocritical. After all, just a year ago, Strasburg was stretching the Nationals to the very point that Harper has them at this year. Perhaps though, Strasburg realized where he went wrong. Had he signed quickly last season, it's likely that he would have been in the majors either to start the 2010 season or very shortly thereafter, which would have given him almost another year of service time and would have at least, given him enough time to be a super-two arbitration player. Instead, he spent enough time in the minors so that he'll have to wait three full seasons to qualify for arbitration, which means that he will be arbitration eligible following the 2013 season rather than following the 2012 season, which will likely cost him a few million dollars.
The odds are that Harper likely will sign with Washington, but it's also likely that it will come late tonight, possibly moments before the deadline.
Money isn't an issue for the Nationals. Just recently, the Nationals have signed three players for a substantial amount of money over the suggested slot and they've let it be known that they are willing to spend top money to get Harper.
Second-round pick Sammy Solis signed for $1 million. The left-hander out of the University of San Diego was slotted at $694,800, but was able to go above that to get his deal done. Solis was a relative bargain compared to fourth-rounder A.J. Cole. The high school right-hander was originally thought to be a first-round pick, but an inconsistent season dropped him to the fourth round, which seemed to offer a big hit to Cole's signing bonus. Cole could have expected to fall to $258,300 with the slot system, but instead, convinced the Nationals to give him $2 million.
Another high schooler, left-hander Robbie Ray, signed for $799,000, which came in just under the lowest number that any fourth rounder signed for this year, but Ray was a 12th rounder.
Right now, the Nationals have signed 24 of their first 26 picks. Harper is obviously one of the remaining players and Virginia Tech shortstop Tim Smalling is the other, but Smalling won't be signing with the Nationals. Smalling suffered a shoulder injury in the final game of Virginia Tech's season.