We are now about 54 hours from Monday night's deadline for all draft picks to sign, and though the Nationals haven't locked up any of their four remaining unsigned top picks (first-rounder Bryce Harper, second-rounder Sammy Solis, fourth-rounder A.J. Cole and 12th-rounder Robbie Ray) yet, they perhaps are making progress with at least one of those guys.
Ray, a high school left-hander from Tennessee, was at Nationals Park today, wearing a personalized Nats jersey and cap and meeting members of the ownership group, the front office, coaches and players. Ray, who has committed to Arkansas, hasn't signed yet, but it's clear the Nationals are putting the full-court press on him.
"We brought Robbie and his family in here today to show them our 'campus,' if you will," Mike Rizzo said. "He's got a full-ride to the University of Arkansas, which is a very good baseball school and a good institution. We wanted to show him what we're all about.
"He was a 12th-round pick because he had a full commitment to a university. We see his ability as being great ability, a left-handed pitcher that our scouts just love. Instead of just letting him go to school and blowing it off, we're making every effort to impress him with our organization and show him what professional baseball can mean to him down the road and to give him an alternative to think about rather than just going to the University of Arkansas."
As for the big fish in the pond, Harper, there's still little reason to believe any substantive negotiations will heat up until the final hours Monday night. Rizzo, of course, has been to this rodeo before. This is the third time he's been directly involved with the signing of the No. 1 overall pick, having previously gone through this with Stephen Strasburg and Justin Upton.
Does that experience make the process any easier or leave Rizzo any calmer as the deadline approaches?
"No, it's not easier, it's not less-anxious," he said with a laugh. "It's a player that we really want in the organization, and the talks and the negotiations are always difficult and they're always unique. This is a unique situation, just like Stephen was in a unique situation, just like when I signed Justin Upton it was a unique situation. We're battling through it. We don't make a big public display of it. But suffice to say, we're working hard at it."