MIAMI — Minutes before Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline to sign draft picks, the Washington Nationals agreed to terms with first-round selection Lucas Giolito.
“It was dangerously close to the deadline,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said at Marlins Park.
At one point Friday, Rizzo didn’t believe a deal would be completed with the right-handed pitcher.
“In the end,” Rizzo said, “cooler heads prevailed.”
Projected as a top-three pick before an elbow injury curtailed his season at Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, Calif., Giolito slipped to the Nationals at No. 16 and signed for a reported $2.925 million.
The slot for the No. 16 pick was $2.125 million, thanks to Major League Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement that overhauled the draft. But the Nationals saved $687,700 of their bonus pool on the nine picks after Giolito, according to Baseball America, and could offer up to $3,034,510 without forfeiting a draft pick.
Because the Nationals exceeded their pool by $112,300 to sign Giolito, they pay a 75 percent tax of $84,225. Exceeding the pool by more than five percent meant paying the tax plus losing next year’s first-round pick.
Rizzo didn’t believe the new rules, which also did away with giving draft picks Major League contracts and moved up the signing deadline, impacted the extended negotiations with Giolito.
Giolito gives the Nationals another young, power arm to join top prospects Alex Meyer and Matt Purke, both picked in last year’s draft. Standing 6-foot-6 with a fastball clocked at 100 miles per hour and a hard curveball, Giolito’s rise to the top of the draft ended when he sprained a ligament in his right elbow.
Giolito’s finished the season with a 9-1 record and 78 strikeouts over 70.1 innings.
“I’ve had some of the best doctors around treat me,” Giolito said last month after he was selected. “I’m feeling really good. I’m confident this issue is behind me.”
Now Giolito will report to the Nationals’ facility in Viera, Fla., according to Rizzo, and continue his rehabilitation. Rizzo wouldn’t commit to Giolito pitching in a minor league game this season, particularly since he hasn’t been throwing off a mound.
“He was the coup of our draft,” Rizzo said.