Top pick Bryce Harper agrees with Nationals at deadline
WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper. Stephen Strasburg. Negotiating with super-agent Scott Boras right up until the last possible second to get a deal done.
The Washington Nationals are getting the hang of this whole sign-the-top-pick routine, something they hope not to do again.
No. 1 overall draft choice Harper and the Nationals agreed to a $9.9 million, five-year contract in the seconds before the deadline of midnight EDT Monday night — a year after coming to terms with 2009 top selection Strasburg on a record deal with a little more than a minute to go.
Harper and Strasburg are both represented by Boras.
“Suffice it to say, both sides gave up ground at the last second to get the deal done,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.
The Nationals owned the No. 1 picks in 2009 and 2010 because they finished the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the worst records in the majors.
Strasburg’s $15.1 million, four-year contract was the highest for any player out of the draft, and the right-handed pitcher made his big league debut June 8, the day after Harper was picked.
Harper’s deal is a record total for a non-pitcher signed out of the draft who had not become a free agent. Current New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira set the previous record for a major league deal for a position player, getting a $9.5 million, four-year deal from the Texas Rangers in 2001.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper is a 17-year-old power-hitting junior college catcher the Nationals plan to convert to an outfielder. He’s the first JUCO player taken with the first overall selection.
“It gives us another impact player in the system,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy who could possibly be a cornerstone in our lineup in the very near future.”
Harper hit .443 with 31 homers and 98 RBI in his first season at the College of Southern Nevada, which plays in a league that uses wood bats. He skipped his final two years of high school and got his GED, making him eligible for the 2010 amateur draft.
He already has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, touted as “baseball’s chosen one” and “the most exciting prodigy since LeBron.” He was the first non-senior to earn Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year award. And he was only the second junior college player, joining Alex Fernandez in 1990, to win the Golden Spikes Award, given to the country’s top amateur baseball player.
Rizzo said he hoped to have Harper come to Washington during the Nationals’ next homestand, which begins next Monday, and that he wants the player to report to the franchise’s rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in Florida “as soon as possible.”
Earlier Monday evening, the Nationals announced they came to terms with second-round choice Sammy Solis, a left-handed pitcher from the University of San Diego, and fourth-round pick A.J. Cole, a right-handed high school pitcher.
Harper’s contract calls for a signing bonus of $6.25 million in five equal payments of $1.25 million: 30 days after approval and each July 1 from 2011 through 2014. He receives salaries of $500,000 each in 2011 and 2012, $750,000 in 2013, $900,000 in 2014 and $1 million in 2015.
“The truth is, with a full minute to go, Mike and I both thought we were not going to have a deal,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said.
Asked what changed in that final minute, Rizzo replied: “It was both sides compromising and knowing that we were so close it would be fruitless not to get a deal done.”
While they met with reporters in a conference room at Nationals Park to discuss Harper’s signing, Kasten paused at one point and said, “There is one more thing I do have to do when we celebrate victories here.”
And with that, Kasten smacked Rizzo in the face with a whipped-cream pie.
Other draft picks
Three first-round picks failed to sign, and the teams that chose them will get extra selections as compensation in the first round of next year’s draft.
Two first-round picks received $3.2 million, four-year contracts: catcher Yasmani Grandal with Cincinnati and third baseman Zack Cox with St. Louis. Other first-round picks got minor league deals.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 pick, got a $6.5 million bonus from Pittsburgh. Shortstop Manny Machado, the No. 3 selection, received a $5.25 million bonus from Baltimore.
Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, the No. 5 pick, agreed with Cleveland at $2.65 million. The Mets agreed with right-hander Matt Harvey, the No. 7 selection, at $2,525,000.
Outfielder Gary Brown, picked 24th, agreed with San Francisco at $1.45 million. Machado, Harvey and Brown also were represented by Boras.
Three right-handed pitchers selected in the first round this year failed to sign: No. 6 Barret Loux with Arizona, No. 9 Karsten Whitson with San Diego and No. 14 Dylan Covey with Milwaukee.
Covey recently was diagnosed with diabetes, and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said that played a pivotal role in his decision not to sign.
“We were willing to sign, but he felt with the management needed and discipline involved with diabetes it was necessary to stay close to home,” Melvin said. “This was all of a sudden, unexpected, tough-luck happening.”
Brewers scouting director Bruce Seid said Covey will attend the University of San Diego instead.
Seid said Covey and his family only found out recently about his diagnosis and were understandably overwhelmed.
“It was pretty devastating,” Seid said. “No matter how much time you have, in this case, there’s a lot of time needed to determine what’s the best situation.”
Covey’s family didn’t immediately return a message from the Associated Press.
Colorado agreed with right fielder Kyle Parker, taken 26th, on a contract that allows him to quarterback Clemson this fall before reporting to spring training.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed right-hander Zach Lee, selected 28th, for $5.25 million. He already had taken snaps at quarterback in fall practice at LSU.
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