08/18/09 2:37 AM ET
Nats come to terms with top pick Strasburg
Deal with Golden Spikes winner for reported record figure
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team, but it's reportedly a four-year contract worth more than $15 million. That exceeds the previous record of $10.5 million that right-hander Mark Prior received from the Cubs after the 2001 Draft.
Acting general manager Mike Rizzo called it an emotional -- and, in the end, an exciting -- day for the organization, which feels strongly that signing Strasburg is an important step toward making the Nationals a contender in the NL East.
"He is fireballing right-hander pitcher who has a very bright future," Rizzo said. "He is the most coveted amateur player in the history of the Draft and a potential front-line starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals.
"We are proud to have him in the organization. We are happy to add him to a growing list of young starting pitchers. It's a big day for the Washington Nationals. It's a big day for the fans of Washington, D.C."
Strasburg is expected to be introduced at Nationals Park either Wednesday or Thursday, where a press conference is expected to take place on the field prior to the game.
The Nationals believe Strasburg can make an immediate impact in their rotation but have not decided if he will pitch this season. With the Minor League season nearly complete and Strasburg having not pitched since a College World Series regional on May 30, finding a place other than the big leagues to get him tuned back up could be challenging.
"We are just going to let him get his feet on the ground [in Washington]. We'll figure out a plan for him in the very near future," Rizzo said. "We have to figure out where he is at and how in shape his arm is. How much we have to ramp him up before he can start pitching competitively?"
Most valuable Draft-pick contracts
1. Stephen Strasburg, Nats | No. 1 pick, 2009 | $15.1 million
|Won 2009 Golden Spikes Award for San Diego State|
2. Mark Prior, Cubs | No. 2 pick, 2001 | $10.5 million
|Went 18-6 for Cubs in 2003. Hasn't pitched in MLB since 2006 due to shoulder injuries. Released by Padres, 2009.|
3. Mark Teixeira, Rangers | No. 5 pick, 2001 | $9.5 million
|Two-time All-Star, currently second in AL with 30 home runs.|
4. David Price, Rays | No. 1 pick, 2007 | $8.5 million
|Significant postseason contributor for Rays in 2008, has struggled with control in official rookie season.|
5. Pat Burrell, Phillies | No. 1 pick, 1998 | $8 million
|Four-time 30-home run hitter in nine seasons with Phillies, culminating in '09 title. Currently with Rays.|
6. Dustin Ackley, Mariners | No. 2 pick, 2009 | $7.5 million
|Left-handed hitter starred for the University of North Carolina.|
Rizzo did say that Strasburg will be in uniform to help him get acclimated with his team and the city.
Strasburg, 20, went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts this season at San Diego State University en route to being named the Golden Spikes Award winner. He struck out 195 batters and issued just 19 walks in 109 innings.
The day started at 9 a.m. ET with the team and Strasburg's advisor, Scott Boras, exchanging ideas and did not conclude until a deal was struck at 11:58:43 p.m. ET.
The negotiations between the two camps started to pick up more than a week ago when managing principal owner Ted Lerner, principal owner Robert Tanenbaum, team president Stan Kasten and Rizzo all went to see Strasburg in Southern California, and all four came away impressed with the right-hander. Rizzo went so far as to call Strasburg an independent thinker who wanted to start playing baseball again.
"The reason he signed is because he wants to pitch in the big leagues, and he wants to be a Washington National," Rizzo said. "He wants to win a Cy Young Award and championships in D.C. That's the reason he signed with us here. Money was a nice perk, a nice by-product for him, but he is here to pitch. He is champing at the bit to get on the mound. I think he was getting a little tired being around the house."
According to Rizzo, Strasburg was impressed that Lerner traveled to Southern California to see him.
"When a man like Ted Lerner travels cross country to meet you, that makes a huge statement," Rizzo said.
With the Strasburg deal out of the way, Rizzo said there is more work to be done to improve the ballclub. He is still looking to make trades.
"We have trade waivers going on, a lot of work to do," Rizzo said. "We are evaluating our team at all times. We'll take a few minutes tonight, but tomorrow is game day, so we are ready to go."
As great as the signing was for the organization, Kasten said it's not an experience he wants to repeat. At 43-75, the Nationals are three games behind the Royals for the worst record in baseball entering Tuesday's action.
"I never want to go through this ever again. We are planning to win every night," he said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.