- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2009

CINCINNATI | Publicly, neither the Washington Nationals nor Stephen Strasburg’s camp having been saying much about contract negotiations for the No. 1 overall pick, which will end with or without a deal at midnight on Tuesday. But that doesnt mean things arent heating up behind the scenes.

A club source said managing principal owner Ted Lerner, team president Stan Kasten and acting general manager Mike Rizzo all flew to California last week to visit with Strasburg. Its unknown whether Strasburgs advisor, Scott Boras, was part of the meeting, or whether Strasburg has undergone the physical examination necessary to sign a major-league contract.

The 21-year-old, who many observers have called the best pitching prospect in a generation, would arguably become the highest-profile player the Nationals have landed since moving to Washington.

Boras has compared Strasburg to international signings like Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese pitcher who signed a six-year, $52 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. Its believed he is seeking a deal along those lines for Strasburg, and while most assume the final price would fall short of the $50 million mark, its expected to shatter the previous record of $10.5 million for a draft pick, given to Cubs pitcher Mark Prior in 2001.

If the Nationals do not sign Strasburg by the deadline, they would receive the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft as compensation, in addition to their regular selection, which would be the No. 1 pick if the season ended today. Strasburg could return to school, pitch in an independent league or play overseas, and would have to give the Nationals permission to take him again.

The San Diego State right-hander, who won the Golden Spikes Award as the nations best amateur player, is one of two players the Nationals took in the first 10 rounds that they havent signed.

• Ben Goessling can be reached at bgoessling@washingtontimes.com.

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