And so it begins: Boras starts to over-sell Strasburg

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Stephen Strasburg and agent Scott Boras held a media conference call
this afternoon and Boras predictably explained to all the reporters on
the line that Strasburg is “a different breed of cat” and worthy of a
mold-breaking signing bonus. Here’s more from the agent who’s never met
a player he couldn’t over-sell:

I don’t think you need me to say it, but obviously Stephen falls
into that class of players really not associated with the inherent
[risk] elements of the draft. They are just players who happen to be
available, whether that be through free agent or posting means. They
just have extraordinary ability. The idea of an extraordinary player
receiving a substantial bonus high above other draft picks has happened
before with Ben McDonald, Mark Teixeira, J.D. Drew.

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. The reality of it is,
if you look at the players who have gotten $5 million or more, since
1998, and evaluate all of them, you can see the scouting system of
major league baseball is extraordinary. They don’t give out that money
unless those players are very good. Every one of them has made the
major leagues. The risk factor are extremely low. Frankly, the risk
factors are zero.

Boras can spin it however he wants and he’ll no doubt try to do just
that between now and the mid-August signing deadline, but the reality
is that even the greatest talents in draft history have a relatively
spotty track record of success as long as you’re not defining “success”
by simply making the big leagues. And no one but Boras is doing that,
least of all the Nationals.

He brought up Ben McDonald as an example of “an extraordinary player
receiving a substantial bonus high above other draft picks” and that’s
certainly true. McDonald was considered one of the greatest college
pitchers of all time when he was the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft …
and he won all of 78 games in the majors. Not exactly the greatest
example to show that “the risk factors are zero.”

Along with McDonald, the other pitchers who’ve gone No. 1 overall
during the past 25 years are Andy Benes, Brien Taylor, Paul Wilson,
Kris Benson, Matt Anderson, Bryan Bullington, Luke Hochevar, and David
Price. If anything that list highlights the incredible amount of risk
involved in selecting a pitcher with the top pick, as Benes is the only
one to even make an All-Star team and even he finished with a modest
155-139 career record.

Boras would no doubt argue that Strasburg is more than just another
pitcher picked No. 1 overall, which is fair. Of course, Mark Prior was
the last guy to get tagged as the greatest college pitcher of all time
before Strasburg came around, received a record-breaking $10.5 million
to sign after the Cubs made him the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft, and
has won 42 games as a big leaguer. Any conversation about “zero risk”
in handing a huge amount of money to a great college pitcher can pretty
much end right there.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.