Giolito signs for 2.925 million

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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."

Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

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Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out nine including seven of eight in one stretch and the Washington Nationals got home runs from Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa in a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Taylor's second leadoff homer of the year ended a 22-inning scoreless drought for the Nationals. Espinosa's first of the season was a two-run shot that capped a four-run fourth against Mike Leake (0-3).

Strasburg (4-0) gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings with one walk. He has 29 strikeouts in 22 1-3 innings his last three outings. Jonathan Papelbon earned his eighth save in nine chances for Washington, which is 5-0 in Strasburg's starts.

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer off Blake Treinen in the eighth for St. Louis, who are 18-9 against Washington the last five seasons.

Leake, who got a five-year, $80 million free agent deal, gave up five runs in seven innings and has a 5.83 ERA.

Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth had an RBI apiece in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

C Wilson Ramos (bereavement list) could return this weekend after leaving following the death of his grandfather. Manager Dusty Baker said the team would be patient, adding "death has no season."

UP NEXT

Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.24) is holding opponents to a .198 average, among the league's best. Joe Ross (2-0, 0.54) was among just five NL starters to not allow a homer, with a minimum of 20 innings.

RELATED: NATS SEE TOUGH ROAD TRIP AS GOOD TEST FOR WHERE THEY'RE AT

Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

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Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

Nats (14-7) vs. Cardinals (12-10) at Busch Stadium

The Nationals will look to bounce back after getting swept by the Phillies as they head to St. Louis for a series with the Cardinals.

Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17) will take the mound for Washington looking to continue his impressive start to the 2016 season. Strasburg has never started a season 4-0.

The Cardinals will turn to Mike Leake who has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts this saeson.

First pitch: 8:15 p.m.
TV: MASN 2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stepehen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

CARDINALS

3B Matt Carpenter
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Jeed Gyorko
SS Aledmys Diaz
C Eric Fryer
RHP Mike Leake

Follow along with GameView here.

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

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USA Today Sports Images

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

There is a significant contrast in the quality of teams the Nationals have faced thus far this season through 21 games and the caliber of clubs they are about to see on their upcoming 10-game road trip. It's a major scheduling quirk and as of Friday morning, the Nats are standing right on the middle of it.

Behind them is the second-easiest schedule in baseball to this point based on opponents win percentage. And up ahead are three teams that finished among the four best records in baseball last season. The worst team they will play coming up on this road swing based on their 2015 regular season record is the Kansas City Royals. They led the American League with 95 wins and later won the World Series.

The trip begins in St. Louis against a Cardinals team that led baseball with 100 wins last season. And the journey closes with the Chicago Cubs, a 97-win team that reached the NL Championship Series.

It's an unusually difficult road trip, to say the least.

“It’s one of the tougher trips I think I’ve probably ever been on," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.

"There are three or four times on the schedule where you say, 'Hey this is going to be a heck of a road trip,'" manager Dusty Baker said. "It's going to be a test."

The Cardinals and Cubs boast the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball right now. The Cards have a +48 run differential and the Cubs - who have the best record in baseball at 16-5 - are +74. 

The Cubs and Royals rank in the top 10 in MLB in team ERA, the Cubs are second only to the Nats in baseball in the category. The Royals have the seventh-best bullpen ERA and everyone knows they can play defense.

All three teams will present challenges and, if you ask some members of the Nats, that could be a good thing.

"This is going to be a test to see -- a barometer to see how good we are right now," Baker said. "We're not full-forces yet, we haven't been and we've done pretty well, because Ben Revere, one of our igniters, is getting ready… but it's going to be exciting."

"You enjoy the challenge," Zimmerman added. "I think you get to see what we’re really made of. Go out and play three really, really good teams and I think the guys in here are excited for it.”

The Nationals are going to learn a lot about themselves over the next 10 days, that's for sure.