The Washington Times - June 3, 2012, 03:01PM

Before Sunday’s game, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo chatted for a few minutes about preparations for Monday’s first-year player draft. The Nationals hold the No. 16 pick in an event that will be far different than past years thanks to changes in the latest collective bargaining agreement. Hard budgets for signing bonuses — with severe penalties like taxes and draft pick forfeiture for exceeding the limits — are the biggest change.

The Nationals, for instance, can spend $4,436,200 in combined bonuses for their first 10 picks, according to Baseball America. That’s a fraction of the over $16 million in bonuses the Nationals gave to four picks last year: Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin and Matt Purke.

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The draft has also been reduced to 40 rounds and teams can’t offer major league contracts to draftees (Rendon and Purke both got them last year). Bonuses beyond the first 10 rounds don’t count against the limit unless they exceed $100,000. Another noticeable change: the signing deadline has been moved up to 5 p.m. Eastern on July 13 from Aug. 15 in previous years, meaning signees could play a month or two in the minors.

How have the changes in the draft impacted your preparation?

It hasn’t impacted us one bit. We’re going to take the list that we always have, we’re going to put the board together ability-based and we’ll do our due diligence on health, makeup, signability of all of our players and we’re going to pull the trigger and take the best player available.

Will your approach in later rounds change because of signability concerns?

That all goes under the heading of doing your due diligence, of knowing who you can get and who you can sign. The constrictions that we have the amount of money we can spend wlll certainly change the way we run business from the past. But, again, it comes down to getting the right player in each of the right spots. I think now it’s more important to have a great scouting staff.

Is there a temptation to go with pitching or will you stick with best player available with the first pick?

That’s not how we do business here in baseball. That’s more conducive to football, basketball. We need to build a base, to build depth. If an impact-type player is available at a position you have depth at you still have to take that player because things change. The players that you draft aren’t going to immediately help you on the major league level. So, you need to create depth and the best way to create depth is with guys who give you the best chance to add an impact player. We’re going to draft with that in mind.

Do you enjoy this time of year?

It personally is my favorite time of year. Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday for draft people. We’ve been hard at work here in the war room for about 12 days. The scouts, the cross-checkers, the scouting directors … they’ve been on the road on a daily basis for about eight months. Tomorrow we put it all together.

How deep is this year’s draft?

It’s a talented group. There’s a lot good high school arms out there. There’s a lot of talented college players out there. We’ve got a good lineup of players who could potentially help the Nationals on the board.

Have you used a different process this year

No different. We handled the process the same as usual. We put together our board … We’re putting our board together the same way I’ve done it the last 15 years.

(Our staff) pretty much got the message they need to do their diligence this year, last year, the year before. They’re a hard working staff. We feel we have as good or better of scouting staff than anyone in baseball. To me, it’s more important now to have a top-flight scouting staff than it has been in the past.

How many prospects did you see in person?

I think I had an opinion on about 35 or 40 players in this year’s draft.

How will the signing deadline impact you?

I think it’s refreshing. It’ll get our new signs out and playing in the minor leagues this year.