Upon starting to read Nationals press releases post 8/15/11 signing deadline, I was ecstatic and surprised by what transpired last night. We got the first five draft picks signed for a total of about $16.5M spent.
Anthony Rendon and Alex Meyer were never in doubt in my opinion; neither was going back to school to try to marginally improve on their draft standing. (Nor was Kylin Turnbull, our 4th rounder, who got a $325k deal out of Juco). Rendon got a major league deal (i.e., an immediate spot on the 40-man roster), which probably was to be expected given his stature and his agent Scott Boras. My guess is that Boras is starting to press for 40-man spots for his marquee players more and more and fighting less and less for these massive bonuses knowing that the 40-man spot accelerates the time it takes for these prospects to reach free agency by 2-3 years or more.
Brian Godwin got a $3M deal, or $1M more than it took for Meyer to sign. Clearly the Nats had to buy him out of another year in college, where he and his counsel thought he could become a top-10 talent.
Most surprising: the signing of Matt Purke. When Purke announced he wasn’t going to pitch in the Cape Cod league, I figured right then he wasn’t going to sign. Why would he take a 3rd round money or slightly higher (somewhere between $425k and $800k) as a bonus when he got offered $6M out of high school and knows that a dominant junior season would put him in the discussion for #1 overall in 2012’s draft (and the probable $7-8M deal it would guarantee, as Gerrit Cole just got from Pittsburgh). What the public didn’t know came out in the press releases: Purke let the Nats do not only an in-depth physical but an MRI with the injected dye to highlight injuries within his shoulder. Purke also did private throwing sessions for the team. They guaranteed him a 40-man roster spot as well (also incredibly surprising), but as mentioned above probably traded bonus money for that spot.
The usage of 40-man spots as a negotiating tool leaves the Nats slightly roster hampered; we now have 7 spots (and one rule5 draftee) on the roster who have never appeared in a major league game and seem set to start 2012 in the minors (Purke, Severino, Carr, Marrero, Rendon, Harper and Corey Brown).
However, Nats fans can now salivate at the selection of upper-ceiling arms that the team will be able to select from in a few years. We can add Purke and Meyer immediately to this list: Strasburg and Zimmermann (1st and 2nd rounders) seem set to be the 1-2 for this rotation for the next several years. Sammy Solis (2nd rounder) has looked ok in Potomac in his first year. Youngsters AJ Cole (4th) and Robbie Ray (12th) have both looked fantastic in low-A. “Found money” starters Brad Meyers (5th), Tom Milone (10th) and Brad Peacock (a draft-and-follow 41st rounder) are all pitching at AAA with varying degrees of success but all well younger than their AAA counterparts. Even 2007’s high-end arms not already mentioned (Ross Detwiler 1st, Josh Smoker 2nd and Jack McGeary in the 6th) are not out of the running and all may feature at least as bullpen arms in the future.
How about a 2014 rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Purke, Peacock and some high-priced ace FA? That sounds pretty good.