Hope of signing first-rounder dwindling

Hope of signing first-rounder dwindling

WASHINGTON -- Advisor Randy Hendricks said on Thursday "it looks bleak" that pitcher Aaron Crow will sign with the Nationals, who drafted Crow as the ninth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Hendricks said that his brother, Alan, warned the Nationals before the Draft that Crow wanted a Major League contract and premier money.

"We have not backed down from that stance, and they are talking about a slotting system," Randy Hendricks said.

General manager Jim Bowden did not return an e-mail message whether the club was told beforehand what Crow was looking for.

The Nationals and the Hendricks brothers have declined to disclose the type of money Crow is looking for, but an industry source said Crow is seeking around $9 million. There has been hardly any dialogue between Alan Hendricks and the club.

The Nats have until Friday at midnight ET to sign Crow. If the two parties don't reach an agreement, Crow will play for the Fort Worth Cats of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, while the Nationals will get the 9a pick in next year's Draft. That would mean Washington would have two top-10 picks. If the season ended today, Washington would get the first overall pick because it has the worst record in baseball.

In recent weeks, the Nationals have been adamant that they will not give Crow a Major League contract and want to pay him money similar to pitcher Ross Detwiler, the team's 2007 first-round Draft pick. Detwiler received a $2.15 million signing bonus.

An industry source pointed out that the Nationals do not want to pay Crow more than what the White Sox gave shortstop Gordon Beckham, the eighth overall pick, who received a $2.6 million signing bonus or left-hander Brian Matusz, the fourth overall pick, who is close to signing a $3.1 million signing bonus and receiving a Major League contract from the Orioles.

Before Tuesday's game between the Mets and Nationals, Bowden declined to talk about the negotiations, but he spoke about the possibility of Crow not signing with the club.

"The one good thing about the way the system is now is that, worst-case scenario, we sign nine of our first 10 and we get (9a) in next year's Draft, which would be two picks in the top 10 in the country," Bowden said. "That's never happened before, that I know of, in the history of baseball, where a team's had two picks in the top 10. Our scouting department is not going to complain if we walk into next year's Draft and get two picks in the top 10."

The Nationals consider Crow a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher with competitiveness that resembles that of former big leaguer David Cone. If he signs, Crow most likely would start at Class A Potomac. The organization believes Crow could be on the fast track to the Majors.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.