Crow Is A Cat, Not A Nat

With only a few grains of sand remaining in the draft signing hour glass, Aaron Crow heads off to Fort Worth and talks appear to be dead. Why is all of this good news?

To hear Aaron Crow talk, you would think that he has wound up exactly where he wanted to be all along. The right-hander signed a deal with the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association and will join their team immediately after the signing deadline passes, provided he doesn't sign with the Nationals. "I have an aunt and uncle who live down here [Ft. Worth]. I'm looking forward to spending some time with them," Crow told the Star-Telegram after signing the deal.

Yes, nothing beats pitching in front of your aunt and uncle for minimum wage, while risking an injury that could sink your draft position for 2009.

It's all a posturing move and it's been done before. The Fort Worth Cats are somewhat swarmy in how they operate. They've won the last two (which are also the first two) championships in the American Association and they have a long and proud history of using first round picks to gain publicity. Luke Hochevar signed with the Cats - who were part of a different league before joining the AA - in 2005 after the Dodgers drafted him in the fifth round and wound up being the number one overall pick in the 2006 draft rather than signing with the Dodgers. Max Scherzer was the 11th overall pick in 2006 and signed with the Cats, but then inked a deal with Arizona just before the deadline.

Crow's agent, Randy Hendricks, is doing more posturing on behalf of his client. "Our real focus is on Aaron pitching for the Cats and entering the draft next season," Hendricks told the Star-Telegram. Hendricks said that he had talked to Jim Bowden on Wednesday, but that the two sides agreed there was nothing further to discuss, leading Crow to sign with Fort Worth.

So, let's bottom line this thing. Is Aaron Crow going to sign with the Nationals or not? It doesn't sound good, which means he'll probably sign. Crow will do himself no favors pitching in the American Association because it's a risky endeavor at best. Let's face it, the facilities aren't as good as they would be in the Nationals organization and neither is the training or coaching staff. Even if nothing bad happens health-wise and even if he pitches well, Crow isn't likely to improve his draft position very much considering that there were only eight players selected ahead of him, which means he won't improve his financial situation very much. He originally was asking for between $8 million and $10 million as part of a major league contract to sign with the Nationals. God Bless him! Just once I want to go into someone's office and ask for that kind of contract. He knew he wasn't going to get it, but no harm in asking and no harm in setting the bar high.

While the money demands have come down, Hendricks is reportedly still demanding that the Nationals give Crow a major league contract and he still wants way over the slot money that a ninth overall pick deserves. In other words, he wants more than Ryan Zimmerman got and he wants more than Chad Cordero got. He also wants more than the $2.15 million that Ross Detwiler got last year for being the sixth overall pick in the draft. The irony is that had he come in with a more reasonable request, he could have possibly signed for slightly over slot money and could be nudging his way toward pitching in the majors (like Cordero and Detwiler did just months after being drafted) rather than hanging out with his aunt and uncle in Fort Worth.

So, why is all of this good news? First, most deals get done when things look undoable. That bodes well for fans hoping to see Crow signed. Second, if he doesn't sign, the Nationals could conceivably have two picks in the top ten next June. In other words, they have some leverage in all of this as well, because they don't walk away empty handed if these negotiations don't go anywhere.

Oh, and as for the job that Hendricks is doing for his client. Once Crow officially hired Hendricks, his college career was over. If he really wanted to improve his stock for next year's draft, Crow would have not hired Hendricks, returned to Missouri for his senior season and took his chances there on moving up in the draft.

Say "hi" to the family for us, Aaron.

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