Giolito signs for 2.925 million

783758.png

Giolito signs for 2.925 million

MIAMI -- No stranger to down-to-the-wire negotiations with draft picks, the Nationals agreed to contract terms with first rounder Lucas Giolito less than one minute before today's 5 p.m. deadline, giving the young right-hander 2.925 million and thus subjecting themselves to a tax for exceeding Major League Baseball's new draft pool cap.

How close to the deadline did the Nationals get before finalizing the deal?

"Dangerously close," general manager Mike Rizzo said prior to tonight's second-half opener at Marlins Park.

Giolito, who turns 18 on Saturday, told the Los Angeles Times he agreed to the deal with only 30 seconds to spare.

As is typically the case, the drawn-out negotiations were over dollar figures. The Nationals felt all along Giolito wanted to sign with them but wanted to receive more than the approximately 2.8 million the club had remaining from its pool of 4.4 million for its top 10 draft choices.

Per MLB's new collectively bargained rules, any club that exceeds its draft pool limit up to 5 percent is subject to a 75 percent tax. Any club that exceeds that number by 5 percent to 10 percent is subject both to the 75 percent tax and the loss of a future draft pick.

In the end, the Nationals were willing to pay the tax (which in this case equates to roughly 75,000) but not to lose a future pick. The final figure they agreed upon with Giolito brought their total spending to roughly 2.5 percent above the cap.

"We thought that the amount of money we spent on this particular pick was a value to us," Rizzo said. "And we felt that we wanted this player in the system. We thought for his value and his upside, this was a good, fair number for both sides."

A top prospect at North Hollywood's Harvard-Westlake School whose fastball reached triple digits, Giolito was at one point projected to go high in the first round of this year's draft. But concerns about his throwing elbow -- he sprained the ulnar collateral ligament -- lowered his draft stock and he fell to the Nationals at No. 16.

Nationals team doctors examined Giolito and came away convinced the elbow was not enough of a concern to detract them from drafting the pitcher. He'll now report to the club's spring training complex in Viera, Fla., and begin a rehab program before team officials decide whether he'll pitch in any minor-league games this season.

"We're going to assess that when he gets down to Florida," Rizzo said. "We do know he's throwing loss-toss. He's throwing off flat ground. His arm strength is good. But he hasn't climbed on a mound and thrown off a mound yet."

With Giolito under contract, the Nationals wound up signing their top 14 picks from this year's draft and 23 of their top 24 picks. (The lone exception: outfielder Brandon Smith, their 15th round pick.)

In the end, Rizzo was most pleased with the Giolito signing.

"He was the coup of our draft," the GM said. "We thought he was a big-time prospect that fell to us at 16. To get a guy that we had so far up the board at 16, and then to get him signed, we feel really good about it."

Despite hot streak, Anthony Rendon gets the night off versus Cardinals

nats_fall_to_cards_6-2refframe_1.jpg

Despite hot streak, Anthony Rendon gets the night off versus Cardinals

Though Dusty Baker had already made the call earlier in the week to sit Anthony Rendon for Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, his third baseman's recent torrid stretch at the plate nearly gave the Nats' skipper second thoughts. 

"I hate to give a guy a day off when they're getting hits and starting to look good," Baker said before Saturday's game. 

Still, he stayed true to his word, giving Rendon the day off and tapping Stephen Drew to take over at the hot corner. 

"I told him [earlier] he'd be out Saturday. I said 'Give me all you got until your day off on Saturday,'" the manager said. "And he did." 

Rendon's hot streak has been a much-needed sigh of relief for the offense, as his previous struggles were reaching the point where Nats fans might have wondered if he'd ever reclaim his 2014 form. That guy —the then 24-year-old who finished fifth in National League MVP voting and was once nicknamed "Tony Two-bags" — had been missing for the last season-plus as he battled either injury or inconsistency. 

But since Rendon was dropped to sixth in the batting order, the almost 26-year-old has slowly started to resemble what he was two seasons ago. In the last 10 games, he's raised his average from .237 to .262 thanks to six multi-hit efforts that included four doubles, a home run and a triple. Baker noted that Rendon had been making great contact all along, and part of his breakout is simply getting those hits to drop. 

"He's kinda been our hard-luck guy," Baker said. 

Rendon had played all 49 of Washington's games prior to Saturday, prompting Baker to describe the day off as "much needed." And when he returns, the Nats have to hope he can continue to be a presence in a lineup that desperately needs someone other than Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy to produce consistently. 

"He's looking good," Baker said. "He's looking real good."

Nats tap Gonzalez as they hope to rebound vs. Cardinals

nats_fall_to_cards_6-2refframe_1.jpg

Nats tap Gonzalez as they hope to rebound vs. Cardinals

Nats (29-20) vs. Cardinals (25-24) at Nationals Park

The Nationals are looking to bounce back a day after dropping Friday night's game to the Cardinals —their first loss to the Red Birds all season. After Max Scherzer's uneven outing, Washington will send lefty Gio Gonzalez to the mound to face a St. Louis offense that has had trouble with southpaws. The Cards have a slashline of .240/.322/.390 against left-handed pitchers on the season, so it will be up to Gonzalez to keep that trend going against an otherwise hot-hitting lineup. It could help that he has his personal catcher in Jose Lobaton back in the lineup after Wilson Ramos held those duties in Monday's 7-1 loss to the New York Mets. 

Another wrinkle in Saturday's lineup is that Anthony Rendon will have the night off, a decision he made earlier in the week despite the third baseman's recent hot streak. In Rendon's absence, Stephen Drew will take over at the hot corner.

Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter will return to St.Louis' lineup after going on paternity leave for the first two games of this series. 

First pitch: 7:15 p.m.
TV: FOX
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Cardinals - Adam Wainwright

NATS

CF Ben Revere 

LF Jayson Werth 

RF Bryce Harper 

2B Daniel Murphy 

1B Ryan Zimmerman 

3B Stephen Drew 

SS Danny Espinosa 

C Jose Lobaton 

LHP Gio Gonzalez 

CARDINALS

1B Matt Carpenter 

SS Aledmys Diaz 

LF Matt Holiday 

RF Stephen Piscotty 

CF Randal Grichuk 

C Yadier Molina 

2B Jedd Gyroko 

3B Greg Garcia 

RHP Adam Wainwright

 

Follow along with GameView here

NL East: Mets trade for first baseman to help with Duda's absence

brycecuttingglovesrefframe_1.jpg

NL East: Mets trade for first baseman to help with Duda's absence

The New York Mets have acquired some help at first base by bringing in 10-year MLB veteran James Loney in a trade with the San Diego Padres. The return has not been reported yet.

Loney himself hinted at the news on Twitter before ESPN confirmed the story. What a time to be alive.

Loney, 32, played the previous three seasons for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has yet to appear in the big leagues this season after signing a free agent deal with San Diego in April.

The former first round pick is a solid hitter with a .285 lifetime average and has always been known for his defense. Last season he hit .280 with four homers and 32 RBI in 104 games for the Rays.

Duda is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. He could be out for a long time, so Loney at least gives the Mets some insurance behind Eric Campbell, who is filling in at first but is hitting just .182 this season.