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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."

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Nats close homestand against Pirates day after clinch

Nats close homestand against Pirates day after clinch

Nats (90-64) vs. Pirates (77-77) at PNC Park

Saturday night was a big party in Pittsburgh as the Nationals clinched their third NL East title in the last five years. On Sunday, they have a quick turnaround with a 1:35 p.m. start to finish off their final homestand.

Rookie A.J. Cole (1-2, 4.68) will get the start as the Nats now turn their sights towards securing home field advantage in the NL Division Series. He's coming off a two-run, four-inning outing against the Marlins.

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 4.11) will pitch for the Pirates. A rookie, Glasnow has never faced the Nationals before.

The Nationals lead the Dodgers, their likely NLDS opponent, by just 1 1/2 games. They need to stay ahead of them to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. If they each finish with the same record, the Dodgers will get the tiebreaker due to their head-to-head record this season.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - A.J. Cole vs. Pirates - Tyler Glasnow

NATS

CF Ben Revere
2B Wilmer Digo
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Clint Robinson 
SS Danny Espinosa
LF Brian Goodwin
C Jose Lobaton
RHP A.J. Cole

PIRATES

TBA
RHP Tyler Glasnow

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS AND SCORES

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Dusty Baker on Nats clinching 2016 NL East title: 'I love this team'

Dusty Baker on Nats clinching 2016 NL East title: 'I love this team'

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jayson Werth's wide grin belied the fact that the Washington Nationals right fielder is an old hand at clubhouse celebrations, having played on eight division-winning teams during his 14-year big league career.

Werth's latest crown came Saturday night when the Nationals clinched their third National League East title in five years, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 behind 5 1/3 scoreless innings from rookie reliever Reynaldo Lopez.

"It's never gets old," Werth said. "Never."

Stephen Drew's two-run single capped a three-run first inning for the Nationals, who return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Their win ensured a playoff berth, and they won the division about 20 minutes later when the second-place New York Mets lost to Philadelphia.

"It's such a hard thing to accomplish," Werth said. "You spent six months trying to do it. It's why you go to spring training early, so you can do everything possible to put yourself in positon to win the division."

The Nationals won the division in Dusty Baker's first season as manager. He replaced Matt Williams, who fired following a 2015 season that began with high hopes of Washington reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Baker had been out of the game for two years after being fired by the Cincinnati Reds following the 2013 season, four days after they lost to the Pirates in the NL wild card.

"That's what I came here for," Baker said, standing in a corner of the clubhouse and watching his players celebrate. "I'm telling you -- let these young men have a great time tonight, back to work tomorrow. First step in a four-step process. This step is the hardest to get. I'm just so happy for these guys. I love them. I love this team."

Lopez (4-3) came on to the start the bottom of the fourth inning with a 6-1 lead and allowed three hits while striking out five and walking one. He was removed a runner on first and one out in the ninth inning.

"He was really impressive," Werth said. "We still have some questions about our roster going into the postseason. He's a great talent and if he pitches like he did tonight he can really help us."

Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen got one out each to end the game, and a pocket of Nationals' fans behind the visiting dugout cheered.

Joe Ross allowed one run and five hits over 2 2/3 innings in his second start since missing 2 months with right shoulder inflammation.

Drew's single came after Bryce Harper's sacrifice fly. Harper also drove in a run with a grounder during a three-run fourth that included three errors and increased the Nationals' lead to 6-1. Jayson Werth hit into a run-scoring forceout and Anthony Rendon had a sacrifice fly.

Wilson Ramos had three hits for the Nationals, and Drew and Werth added two each.