Stephen Strasburg and agent Scott Boras held a media conference call this afternoon and Boras predictably explained to all the reporters on the line that Strasburg is "a different breed of cat" and worthy of a mold-breaking signing bonus. Here's more from the agent who's never met a player he couldn't over-sell:
I don't think you need me to say it, but obviously Stephen falls into that class of players really not associated with the inherent [risk] elements of the draft. They are just players who happen to be available, whether that be through free agent or posting means. They just have extraordinary ability. The idea of an extraordinary player receiving a substantial bonus high above other draft picks has happened before with Ben McDonald, Mark Teixeira, J.D. Drew.
It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. The reality of it is, if you look at the players who have gotten $5 million or more, since 1998, and evaluate all of them, you can see the scouting system of major league baseball is extraordinary. They don't give out that money unless those players are very good. Every one of them has made the major leagues. The risk factor are extremely low. Frankly, the risk factors are zero.
Boras can spin it however he wants and he'll no doubt try to do just that between now and the mid-August signing deadline, but the reality is that even the greatest talents in draft history have a relatively spotty track record of success as long as you're not defining "success" by simply making the big leagues. And no one but Boras is doing that, least of all the Nationals.
He brought up Ben McDonald as an example of "an extraordinary player receiving a substantial bonus high above other draft picks" and that's certainly true. McDonald was considered one of the greatest college pitchers of all time when he was the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft ... and he won all of 78 games in the majors. Not exactly the greatest example to show that "the risk factors are zero."
Along with McDonald, the other pitchers who've gone No. 1 overall during the past 25 years are Andy Benes, Brien Taylor, Paul Wilson, Kris Benson, Matt Anderson, Bryan Bullington, Luke Hochevar, and David Price. If anything that list highlights the incredible amount of risk involved in selecting a pitcher with the top pick, as Benes is the only one to even make an All-Star team and even he finished with a modest 155-139 career record.
Boras would no doubt argue that Strasburg is more than just another pitcher picked No. 1 overall, which is fair. Of course, Mark Prior was the last guy to get tagged as the greatest college pitcher of all time before Strasburg came around, received a record-breaking $10.5 million to sign after the Cubs made him the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft, and has won 42 games as a big leaguer. Any conversation about "zero risk" in handing a huge amount of money to a great college pitcher can pretty much end right there.