Nationals, Harper hit deadline day

August 16, 2010

The Washington Nationals and No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper faced a deadline to get a deal done Monday.

Major League Baseball clubs had until midnight as Monday turned to Tuesday to reach agreements with players picked in June's amateur draft. If there's no contract by then, teams lose the rights to those players, who go back into next year's draft.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper is a 17-year-old power-hitting junior college catcher the Nationals want to convert to an outfielder. He's the first JUCO player taken with the top overall pick.

Harper hit .443 with 31 homers and 98 RBIs 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.

''There's a deadline for a reason, and most of the higher picks take it to the deadline,'' Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said over the weekend. ''Until they change the deadline, we're always going to work up to those deadlines, and I think this year is no different.''

The Nationals know this scenario well: They came to terms with last year's No. 1 choice - pitcher Stephen Strasburg - with about a minute or so left on the clock in August 2009, giving him a record-breaking $15.1 million, four-year contract.

Harper and Strasburg both are represented by Scott Boras.

''The whole process is silly. It needs to be changed,'' Nationals president Stan Kasten said.

Strasburg began this season in the minors, then made his big league debut June 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out 14. He is 5-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 11 starts for Washington.

After pitching Sunday, Strasburg was asked if he has any advice for Harper.

''If (Harper) wants to play here, he's going to play here,'' Strasburg said. ''He doesn't need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn't want to play here, then we don't want him here.''