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."