The Clock Is Ticking And Mets Top Draft Pick Still Unsigned

An article by posted on August 17, 2009

Much has been made about the Nationals not having reached a deal with the top pick in this years Amateur Draft, Stephen Strasburg. Despite an apparent record setting bonus on the table, Strasburg on the advice of his agent Scott Boras, wants more… much, much more. Chico Harlan of the Washington Post writes,

The record-setting deal that the Washington Nationals have offered to No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg will have to grow if Strasburg is to sign, said a source who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations. The specific amount of the Nats’ current offer to Strasburg remains unknown, but it exceeds the $10.5 million awarded to Chicago’s Mark Prior in 2001, still the record for an amateur pitcher.

Another report suggests that sources close to the negotiations say the Nats have a $17 million deal on the table for pitcher Stephen Strasburg, with easily attainable incentives that could push it beyond $20 million. Wow, that’s a ton of money for someone who has never thrown a pitch in the Majors. Negotiations are expected to last all the way to tonight’s midnight deadline. Oh and one more thing, the Nationals have said that if they fail to sign Strasburg, they would draft him again next year.

Meanwhile, back at Mets camp…

The Mets have still not come to an agreement with their top draft pick Steven Matz, a lefthanded pitcher from Ward Melville High School. According to Adam Rubin of the Daily News, Mets officials are optimistic that Matz, will sign by Monday’s deadline. Matz, taken 72nd overall, may get a seven-figure bonus, double the roughly $500,000 bonuses received by players drafted around him.

What makes this case interesting is that given his age, he may not be ready to contribute for 3-5 years. Unlike some college pitchers who advanced quickly like Mike Pelfrey and Joe Smith, high school pitchers tend to take much more time to develop, hone their skills and learn their craft.

The Mets have always stuck to the slot system that was established by Bud Selig to cap salaries for amateur players selected in the draft. The Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox have never complied with the slot system and have been able to sign players like Phil Hughes, Justin Verlander, Joba Chamberlain, Jon Lester, and other top amateur talent. The Mets played by Selig’s rules and drafted players that they knew in advance would sign for the slot bonus caps.

It will be interesting to see how the Mets play this one. Will they ditch the slotting system and give Matz more than double the amount allotted for similarly drafted players?

Depending on how tonight develops, it could give us a glimpse of what to expect in the off season in terms of payroll. If they let Matz walk over $500 K, you could pretty much bet the Mets payroll will slide from the current $149 million to somewhere around $125 million. Not a good situation given all the glaring needs this team will have; catcher, leftfield, setup man, #2 starter.

If they do come to an agreement with Matz and pay him the one million plus that he wants, there may be hope that the Mets financial situation isn’t as bad as everyone has reported.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

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I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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