Nats, Strasburg beat deadline

NEW YORK -- Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals agreed to a record contract just before Monday's midnight deadline, a four-year deal that will pay the hard-throwing right-hander slightly more than $15.1 million.

The San Diego State pitcher was selected first by the last-place Nationals in June and set the mark for the most money guaranteed to a drafted player. That's been held since 2001 by pitcher Mark Prior, who received a $10.5 million, five-year contract after he was selected with the second pick, behind Joe Mauer.

"It feels awesome. I got a little nervous there for a while that it might not happen, but I feel very blessed," Strasburg told ESPN's Pedro Gomez. "I'm not sure of the plan right now. They said they'd bring me up for the media. They said to take my time to get ready. It's an amazing feeling. I really wasn't sure if it was going to happen, but I'm glad it did."

Strasburg was among 16 of 32 first-round picks without announced agreements heading into the final day. Only three first-round picks apparently failed to sign, and the deadline didn't apply to one of them.

Scott Boras represented six of the unsigned first-round picks, including Strasburg and the second, third, ninth, 13th and 30th selections.

In addition to Strasburg, he negotiated a $9.5 million five-year contract for Dustin Ackley, a North Carolina center fielder taken by No. 2 Seattle; a $3.25 million signing bonus for Donavan Tate, a center fielder from Cartersville High School in Georgia selected No. 3 by San Diego; a $5.5 million, six-year contract for Jacob Turner, a right-hander from Westminster Christian Academy in Missouri taken by No. 9 Detroit; and a $2.75 million signing bonus for Grant Green, a Southern Cal shortstop drafted No. 13 by Oakland.

Tate had planned to play football and baseball at North Carolina.

Strasburg will receive a $7.5 million signing bonus with $2.5 million paid 15 days after approval of the contract, $2.5 million paid in January 2010 and another $2.5 million paid in January 2011.

He is scheduled to receive a $400,000 salary in 2009, but that is prorated to approximately $100,000. He then will get a $2 million salary in 2010, $2.5 million in 2011 and $3 million in 2012.

"He's chomping at the bit to get out on the mound. He's ultra-, ultra-competitive," acting Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said, "and I think he was getting a little tired of sitting around the house."

The last-place team and the hard-throwing right-hander faced a deadline of midnight on Monday night to come to an agreement. And, according to Nationals president Stan Kasten, they resolved everything without much time to spare -- "11:58 and 43 seconds," he said.

"People thought it would take to the last minute," Kasten said, smiling. "We didn't even need that last minute."

At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and with a fastball that can reach 100 mph, Strasburg is projected to be precisely the sort of ace the Nationals have lacked since moving from Montreal to the nation's capital before the 2005 season.

He went 13-1 last season, leading Division I pitchers in ERA (1.35) and strikeouts (195 in 109 innings), and won the Golden Spikes award for the top U.S. amateur baseball player.

In part because of a lackluster starting rotation, Washington is on pace for a second consecutive 100-loss season.

The expectation is that Strasburg will join third baseman Ryan Zimmerman as one of the primary faces of a franchise that is heading to its fourth last-place NL East finish in five seasons.

In many ways, the Nationals needed to sign Strasburg -- and not just because of what he offers as a pitcher. That is certainly important, of course, particularly when you consider that the five pitchers currently holding spots in Washington's starting rotation are a combined 16-23 with a 4.52 ERA this season.

The Nationals also hope Strasburg can help boost interest in the team. Since opening their $600 million-plus stadium for the 2008 season, the Nationals have struggled to attract fans: They are averaging about 23,100 spectators this season, worse than all but two NL clubs.

Whatever the PR benefit to the signing, the Nationals are most excited about his pitching talent.

"He's got the skill set that all front-of-the-rotation starting pitchers have. He's a big, physical guy. He throws extremely hard. He's got a solid repertoire of pitches and he throws them all for strikes," Rizzo said.

"Barring injury," the acting GM added, "this kid should have a long, illustrious career."

Tampa Bay failed to agree with another Boras client, LeVon Washington, a second baseman from Buchholz High School in Florida taken by Tampa Bay with the 30th pick.

"We are disappointed that LeVon has chosen not to sign with the Rays. We offered him a bonus consistent with late first-round picks," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Immediately following the draft, he seemed eager to sign but it has not materialized. We wish LeVon great success with his baseball career."

Among other picks, Zack Wheeler, a right-hander from East Paulding High in Georgia selected sixth by San Francisco, agreed at $3.3 million. Cincinnati and Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake, the No. 8 pick, agreed at $2.27 million and Colorado gave $3.9 million to the No. 11 pick, Tyler Matzek, a left-hander from Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Cleveland agreed at $2.25 million with the 15th pick, North Carolina right-hander Alex White, and Florida settled at $1.7 million with Chad James, a left-hander from Yukon High School in Oklahoma selected with the 18th pick.

St. Louis agreed at $2,875,000 with Shelby Miller, a right-hander from Brownwood High School in Texas taken with the 19th pick. Minnesota agreed with the 22nd pick, Missouri right-hander Kyle Gibson, at $1.85 million. And the Yankees gave a $2.2 million deal to the 29th pick, Slade Heathcott, a center fielder from Texas High School in Texarkana.

Texas failed to sign Matt Purke, a left-hander from Klein High School in Texas. Purke was the 14th overall pick in June.

Right-hander Aaron Crow, selected 12th by Kansas City, was not subject to the deadline because he exhausted his college eligibility. He was among just two first-round picks who failed to sign last year, when he was drafted ninth by the Nationals. Right-hander Gerrit Cole, taken by the Yankees with the 28th pick in 2008, decided to attend UCLA.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.