That sound you hear is either the Nats screwing up the most important thing in the history of their franchise or Scott Boras screwing up Stephen Strasburg's career. Hard to tell which it is, really. Tom Boswell, who caught up with Strasburg in St. Louis yesterday, has the scoop:
Strasburg said that "I haven't heard from the Nationals" since he was drafted, other than receiving a minor league contract -- a technicality that prevents him from becoming a free agent . . . Strasburg seemed a bit perplexed by the lack of communication since the signing deadline is Aug. 17 and many other Nats draft picks are already under contract.
Accordng to Nats' president Stan Kasten, however, acting GM Mike Rizzo has been in "frequent contact" with Scott Boras. Which suggests either (a) that contact has been highly superficial, to the point where Boras isn't even telling Stasburg about it; or (b) there have been substantive talks and that Boras, in violation of just about any ethical rule you can think of, isn't keeping his client in the loop. When it comes to that guy your guess is as good as mine.
As Boswell notes, any team dealing with Boras and a high pick can expect him to make a big public show of it being insulted by the first offer, thus the caution. If I'm running the Nats, however, I try to short circuit all of that. I pick a number which I will truly not go beyond in signing Strasburg -- no lowballing, no gamesmanship -- just a number that I can tolerate as an owner but which I will not pay a penny beyond. Then I offer it. Politely, of course, with respect and all of that, while making clear -- in writing -- just how generous it is in light of every other deal every other draftee has ever signed. If he takes it, great. I have improved my team and signed the guy I wanted to sign at a price I know I can tolerate.
And if he doesn't take it? Well, in that case you can be assured that Boras will be talking through one of his favorite sock puppets all about it, publicly slamming the Nats. In response I would release the writing, note that we thought it was a fair offer, and wish Strasburg the best of luck and health in the Independent Leagues. If he doesn't blow out his elbow, I draft him again next year with my compensation pick.
Maybe such an approach will cause the Nats to overpay by a couple of million. But if they do it right they will not be paying more than they feel good judgment requires, they will circumvent a stupid and pointless Boras negotiation, they will show the fans that they aren't being pennywise and pound foolish and, best of all, they stand a pretty good chance of getting Stephen Strasburg signed and pitching before the end of the summer.
Take Boras' power away from him, Rizzo. Make him an offer he can, but shouldn't, refuse.