Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Updated: August 20, 1:27 AM ET
Draft not perfect, but three teams got exactly what they wanted

ESPN.com

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

It came to down to the very last minute, but the Nationals got their man in Stephen Strasburg.

By Peter Gammons, ESPN

Stephen Strasburg was so important to the Washington Nationals franchise that in the waning hours of their negotiations with Scott Boras, they had 22 people in their "war room."

The Nationals had started out the day at $12.5 million, and listened to a Boras proposal that would have landed Strasburg seven years and $25 million. In the end, right before midnight, the two sides agreed on the deal that some calculate at less than $16 million for four years and others would figure at $19.1 million for four.

North Carolina center fielder Dustin Ackley ended up with $7.5 million with a chance to be $9.5 million from the Mariners in the second position in the draft. The Padres got their man, outfielder Donavan Tate, at more than $6 million.

So, when the dust finally settled, the three teams with the worst records in baseball got the players they wanted. Oh, it cost them more than $30 million to sign them with Boras at the wheel of the negotiations, but the Nationals, Mariners and Padres got the three players they believed were the three best players in the draft. No slot picks. No Matt Bush. No Bryan Bullington.

Nationals fans know they got the best pitcher available. Mariners fans know they got a potential franchise player.

Of course, in the next few months, most of the owners and general managers will be in Bud Selig's ear begging him, his guy, Rob Manfred, and incoming union chief Michael Weiner to negotiate some sort of slotting system, under the guise that the revenues saved will go to established major league players. And that August deadline?

"After seeing all the deals that got done [Monday]," said one GM, "I'm convinced the deadline ups the prices." Added one prominent agent, "the deadline really helped the players."

But for all the dire predictions that six to 10 first-round selections would not sign, when the signing period ended, only three players did not sign. One is Kansas City's Aaron Crow, who did not sign last summer when the Nats took him and has until the spring to sign with the Royals. Left-handed pitcher Matt Purke, the 14th pick by the Rangers, and OF Levon Washington, by Tampa Bay, didn't sign either. The Rays failed to sign either of their first two picks. (Shortstop Kenny Diekroeger did not sign, either.)

Cleveland's pick, North Carolina RHP Alex White, changed his mind at 11:55 p.m. Monday and signed for $2.25 million. Oakland GM Billy Beane, whose war room consisted of himself, made his move on USC shortstop Grant Green at 11:45 p.m. and signed him at $2.75 million.

In the end, Boras held the gun, as did most of the agents. Talent is talent, and clubs will pay to get it because revenue sharing works and it's cheaper in terms of value to give Strasburg $19.1 million for four years than Jarrod Washburn $36 million for three.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Aug. 17 | Aug. 16 | Aug. 13 | Aug. 12 | Aug. 11

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Prince Fielder, MIL32OhlendorfTop 2: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Jason Bay, BOS26CampTop 5: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Dan Uggla, FLA22NorrisTop 4: 0-0, 2 Outs. None on.
Carlos Lee, HOU20NolascoBot 1: 0-0, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Adam LaRoche, ATL18PerezTop 3: 2-2, 1 Out. None on.
David Ortiz, BOS18RomeroTop 4: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Diamondbacks at Phillies, 7 ET

This has the potential to be one of the season's best pitching matchups. Dan Haren is fifth in the majors in ERA (2.50). Cliff Lee is 12th at 2.86, though that number drops to 1.13 if only taking into account his three starts since joining the Phillies. Haren has always been a strikeout pitcher; he is fourth in the NL in strikeouts (161). Lee's whiffs have increased since arriving in the NL; he had struck out eight or more twice in 25 starts with Cleveland. He's done it in each of his past two starts with Philly.

Red Sox at Blue Jays, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Roy Halladay tossed a complete-game six-hitter earlier this year in beating the Red Sox. It was one of his five complete games this season, which ties him for the major league lead with Kansas City's Zack Greinke. Clay Buchholz would just like some help in this start; the Red Sox haven't scored in either of his past two outings.

Cardinals at Dodgers, 10 p.m. ET

The Dan Haren-Cliff Lee matchup isn't the only one pitting two pitchers with ERAs below 3.00. Adam Wainwright (2.62 ERA) hasn't allowed more than two runs in an outing since June 26. Clayton Kershaw's ERA has dropped from 2.95 to 2.91 over his past five starts, yet he's 0-2 during that span.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Fernando Vina, Steve Phillips

12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Fernando Vina, Steve Phillips

BBTN MINUTE: DAN HAREN VS. CLIFF LEE

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at just how good Minnesota's Joe Mauer has been during a hot month that can be kind of cruel to catchers because of the heat. Mauer is hitting .485 in August, which could be historically good if he can maintain this pace:

Best BA in August
Primary Position Catcher (Since 1961)

Player Year Team BA
Jason Varitek 2004 Red Sox .449
Brad Ausmus 1995 Padres .424
Jason Kendall 1996 Pirates .413
Bill Fahey 1979 Padres .408
Sandy Alomar Jr. 1993 Indians .405

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Ricky NolascoRicky Nolasco lasted 3 1/3 innings in his previous start, giving up eight hits and 10 runs in a 14-6 loss against Houston. So, naturally, he followed that up with a complete-game, 10-strikeout performance against the same Astros, this time winning 6-2.
WORST
Derek Lowe• Atlanta held a 4-0 lead heading into the fourth inning against the Mets. By the time the inning was over, the Braves were down 8-4. Derek Lowe gave up all eight runs -- and nine hits -- in the inning. The 9-6 loss snapped a string of five consecutive winning decisions for Lowe.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Rich Harden

Rich Harden will take the mound for the Cubs on Wednesday. He's better off that the start is at San Diego instead of at Wrigley Field. Harden owns a 2.28 ERA on the road; he carries a rather large 6.31 at home. Still, Harden has continued to mystify hitters with his stuff.

Harden is among baseball's leaders at getting batters to swing and miss, as well as inducing swings on pitches out of the strike zone; in 12 starts this season, he's gotten hitters to swing and miss on at least 15 pitches, tops in the majors. Detroit's Justin Verlander is second, and he has done it nine times.

Rich Harden (2009)
MLB rank
Miss pct. 33.0 2nd
Chase pct. 31.8 4th
Miss pct./non-fastball 49.7 6th

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Tristan Cockcroft examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Cockcroft ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes