Photo by Eric Dearborn
Lucas Giolito has until 5 p.m. EDT to sign with the Nationals.
As is so often the case with baseball's draft, serious contract negotiations between player and club rarely takes place until the final hours before the league's imposed deadline. That deadline used to fall around Aug. 15, but the sport's latest collective bargaining agreement pushed that day up to mid-July, which has finally arrived.
Thus, by 5 p.m. EDT today, Giolito and the Nationals must come to terms on a contract and submit it to MLB headquarters or else sever their relationship. Giolito would accept his scholarship to UCLA and pitch next spring for the Bruins. The Nats would receive next summer's 17th overall draft pick as compensation.
That's an outcome neither side wants to reach, and the odds favor a deal being struck today before the deadline.
If anything, negotiations should be less complex now than they were in previous years. That's because in addition to the earlier deadline, the new CBA limits how much money each club can spend on signing bonuses for its top 10 draft picks. Teams that surpass that figure by a small amount are subject to a monetary fine. Teams that surpass the figure by a larger amount will lose future draft picks.
The Nationals, according to club sources, are not willing to incur any penalties in exchange for signing Giolito. Which means they can't offer him more than the roughly $2.8 million they have remaining from their original draft contract pool of $4.4 million.
Team officials believe that will be enough money to convince Giolito (who grew up in Southern California to a family full of actors and Hollywood producers) to sign. Mike Rizzo, who has successfully signed all six first-round and compensatory-round picks drafted by the Nationals since he took over as general manager in 2009, rarely drafts a player he doesn't believe he can sign.
Rizzo took a chance on Giolito -- who a year ago was projected to be one of the first players off the draft board but slipped to 16th due to questions about the state of his elbow -- but felt the pitcher's upside was worth the risk and had an inkling he would choose to sign instead of attending college.
Now the two sides must work out the precise terms of his contract by 5 p.m., hoping they can find common ground before MLB's deadline passes.