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Nats, Crow: No deal

- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Washington Nationals did not come to an agreement with first-round pick Aaron Crow on Friday night, failing to sign the Missouri pitcher as an MLB deadline for teams to negotiate with their draft picks passed.

It marks the first time the Nationals have not signed their first-round pick. Crow will re-enter the draft next year, while Washington will get a compensatory pick in the first round in addition to its usual first-rounder.

Crow and Gerrit Cole, who went 28th to the Yankees, were the only two first-rounders not to sign. General manager Jim Bowden said Crows advisors, Randy and Alan Hendricks, told the team before the draft they were seeking a major league contract and a premium signing bonus, or a payout well above the MLB slot recommendation of roughly $2.1 million. But Bowden said Crows camp did not make their first offer until Aug. 12, and that was for a total package of $9 million.

That offer did not change until 11:40 tonight, when they moved dramatically to $4.4 million, Bowden said.

"We stepped up and went to $3.5 million. Unfortunately, we just couldnt get it done," he said. "We wish him nothing but success and good luck."

The Nationals did sign 11th rounder Marcus Jones and 15th-rounder J.P. Ramirez, two outfielders for whom signability was known to be an issue. Bowden said Washington gave Ramirez a seven-figure signing bonus.

Talks with Crow plodded along, with Bowden expressing disappointment with Crow on multiple occasions. Crow signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats on Wednesday night, with the intention of playing there if he didn't sign with Washington, and as late as 9:45 p.m. on Friday night, Crow's advisor Randy Hendricks said there was nothing new to report in negotiations.

"What they told us was the same as what every player we were giving consideration for the first pick (told us), which was a major-league contract, and in his case, they said they want an out-of-box deal," Bowden said. "We gave them a major-league contract in this process, and we gave them an out-of-box deal in this process but I can tell you, the only time we got a figure for the player was on August 12, and that was $9 million on August 12."

On Friday, team president Stan Kasten expressed support for Bowden and the rest of the Nationals front office in the process, saying the teams track record in the draft speaks for itself.

"There are probably lots of things you can criticize us for. I don't think the drafting and signing of guys is one of those things," Kasten said. "If anything, we have a record, two years ago, last year, of doing well in our drafting, doing well in the signing decisions we've made, both the guys to sign and the guys not to sign."

There is precedent for Nationals draft picks getting some of the trappings of major-league life before they're ready, even if the team is reluctant to hand out major-league deals.

Washington gave Ross Detwiler, its first-rounder last season, a $2.15 million bonus, called him up to the majors for a start before the end of last season and invited him to big-league camp this spring.

Josh smoker, a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds last year, was in the Nationals major league camp this year at age 19. The Orioles reportedly signed their first-round pick, University of San Diego pitcher Brian Matusz, to a major-league deal with a $3.2 million bonus and $2.825 million in major-league salary. The left-hander was the fourth player taken and the only pitcher selected before Crow.

"We went above and beyond our budget, we went above and beyond the market," Bowden said. "We went north of (Matuszs) offer to get a deal done, and weren't able to get it done. We offered our pitcher more than anybody in this draft. We wanted to sign the player."

Bowden said he thinks the Nationals will be able to sign two first-rounders next year, adding "we've signed players at very competitive prices, and we were able to do that here."

Guzman sits again Shortstop Cristian Guzman missed his second straight game after a lingering left thumb injury, and while Acta said he hasn't re-aggravated a ailment that's been bothering him since last month, it is a situation the team will likely be monitoring for the rest of the season.

"We're going to give him a couple more days to let the thumb calm down," Acta said. "It's still bothering him, and he just came to a point where he felt he couldn't continue to go like that. I'm not anticipating that a couple of days is just going to completely take care of it."