The Washington Times - August 15, 2008, 12:46AM

august 15, 2008


At least nine Major League front offices will be in a frenzy today, as will the agents for all of the unsigned first-round picks from June’s Amateur Draft. Teams have until midnight tonight to sign their selections or lose their rights to the players, who can return to school if they have eligibility left, head to campus if they were drafted out of high school or keep their skills sharp in independent league ball and re-enter the draft next year.

Rumors are abound that, because many of the remaining players are expected to sign above-slot deals, the MLB league office has “encouraged” teams to delay the announcements until right before the deadline in hopes of limiting the effect those deal would have on other negotiations. Which unsigned picks will choose not put their signature on a contract and head back to school is anyone’s guess right now. The No. 5 pick, Buster Posey, is reportedly hammering out the final details of a $7.5 million major league deal with the Giants, and No. 8 pick Gordon Beckham recently agreed to deal with the White Sox that will pay him a $2.6 million bonus, but Posey and five other top-10 selections remain unsigned. They are:

No. 2 pick: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates (Vanderbilt)
No. 3 pick: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals (American Heritage HS)
No. 4 pick: Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles (San Diego)
No. 7 pick: Yonder Alonso, 1B, Reds (Miami)
No. 9 pick: Aaron Crow, RHP, Nationals (Missouri)

Hosmer is represented by the Scott Boras Corporation and Kansas City is a small-market team. His chances of signing are probably as good as the Iranian basketball team’s chances of winning gold in Beijing. Alvarez could also be a tough sign as he is looking for big money from yet another small-market club in the Pirates; the disparity in market size seems to be a thorn in the small-market teams’ sides when it comes to signing top talent. Matusz and Crow, by far the top college arms in the draft, are expected to get Major League contracts, although Crow’s discussions with Washington have not gone well and there is an decent shot he will not sign - especially after yesterday’s reports that he had agreed to a deal to play for an independent league team in the event that he could not reach an agreement with the Nationals. Alonso should sign, but until the ink is dry, nothing is guaranteed.

Four other first-rounders remain unsigned as of this posting:

No. 11 pick: Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers (South Carolina)
No. 20 pick: Josh Fields, RHP, Mariners (Georgia)
No. 23 pick: Allan Dykstra, 1B, Padres (Wake Forest)
No. 28 pick: Gerrit Cole, RHP, New York Yankees (UCLA)


Team USA Olympic Update

After the U.S. dropped an 8-7 thriller to Korea in their opener, they sorely needed a big performance from the squad’s lone collegian, San Diego State right-hander Steven Strasburg in their follow-up yesterday. That’s exactly what they got, as the junior-to-be tossed seven shutout innings as Team USA blanked the Netherlands 7-0. Strasburg’s 11 K’s were the third-most ever for a U.S. pitcher in Olympic competition. Matt LaPorta - the super prospect who was recently traded from the Brewers to the Indians in the CC Sabathia deal - provided all the offense Team USA would need with a three-run bomb.

The contest was marred by a pair of rain delays, and the wet weather led to a controversial ending. The Dutch had loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth against U.S. reliever Blaine Neal, and while it’s unlikely they would have made up the seven-run deficit, run differential is used as one of the top tiebreakers in determining which teams will advance to the medal round and the Dutch needed all the help they could get in that department after dropping their opener to Chinese Taipei 10-0. They protested the decision to call the game and award the victory to the U.S., but their appeal was denied.

Team USA will send Oakland A’s phenom Trevor Cahill to the mound today in a showdown with international powerhouse Cuba, which has won three of the four gold medals awarded in Olympic baseball (the U.S. took the gold at the 2000 Sydney Games). The 6’ 3”, 195-pound Cahill began the season with Class A Stockton and didn’t skip a beat after a midseason promotion to double-A Midland. For the season, the 20-year-old is 11-5 with a 2.61 ERA with 136 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings. The action kicks off at 11:30 a.m. local time (11:30 p.m. EST).

Tom Stad’s Amateur Hour runs every Friday here on National Pastime.

Be sure to check out our previous Amateur Hour columns: To sign or not to sign?, Summer on Cape Cod, USA Baseball, etc., Team USA; Cape stars, Stars shine on Cape, Olympics preview.