Rizzo Has Work to Do on Deadline Day

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, August 15, 2011 | , , , | 0 comments »

This year's trade deadline brings a little less excitement than the previous two, when the Nats were in negotiations with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft two years running, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and all the attention that came with both.  Both were considered "once in a generation" type players, and discussions went down to the final minute with both.

Hard to imagine anyone giving Nats GM Mike Rizzo a whipped cream pie to the face during his press conference, like Stan Kasten did last season, if he is able to get first round pick Anthony Rendon under contract.

But this year's draft class is impressive in its own right.  Rendon was widely regarded as the top college hitter in the draft and "fell" to the Nats at No. 6.  Alex Meyer is a 6'9" fireballer from Kentucky and many though he had the best 1-2 combo of fastball and slider in the draft.  Brian Goodwin is a fast, defensively proficient center fielder that could develop some pop.

And the cherry on the sundae would be LHP Matt Purke, who some have said if he goes back into the draft could be the No. 1 overall pick.

The Major League draft is different from drafts for the NFL and NBA.  Amateur baseball players that haven't exhausted their eligibility can simply refuse to sign and continue their amateur career.  There's always leverage for the player, especially younger players taken later in the draft that wouldn't be signing multi-million dollar contracts. 

The other difference is that draft picks aren't inserted into a MLB lineup right away.  These players need to play professionally in the minors for an extended period of time to develop and refine their immense skill.  We've seen with Harper this season how he tore up the Low-A South Atlantic League, only to initially struggle in Double-A before getting his feet underneath him more recently.  It's a process for all prospects, even the most heralded.

So the MLB draft is more art than science, with the payout not obvious sometimes for years.  But it's still the most cost-effective way to develop prospects and stock the organization with talent.

Rizzo has his work cut out for him tonight.  All of the players left unsigned hold leverage.  But they are also old enough that players their age -- or younger -- are already completing their first year or two in professional baseball.  Failing to sign and going back to play on an amateur level only delays their professional progress another year.  Injury, attrition, a new MLB CBA...all these things could impact whether a player will retain his lofty draft status.

How will it all play out?  We'll know in a few hours.  But Rizzo, with the Lerner family's backing, has gotten the job done the last two seasons.