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Rizzo explains Nats draft strategy for tonight

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Rizzo explains Nats draft strategy for tonight

Mike Rizzo has been a part of five amateur drafts with the Nationals -- two as assistant general manager, three as GM -- and each time he sat down in the club's war room on draft day, he had a pretty good idea whose name ultimately would be called.

Such is life when you're always among the first 10 selections in baseball's annual draft.

Tonight, when Rizzo and his team of scouts and front-office executives gather in that same war room at Nationals Park, there will be only one consensus among this group of hardened baseball men: They'll have no idea what player they're going to wind up taking with the No. 16 pick.

"It's a lot less clear the type of player we're going to get," Rizzo said. "Picking in the middle of the pack, you put together a list, and the next guy on the top of the list is the guy you're going to take. It's hard to plan."

The Nationals will happily deal with this dilemma, because it means the franchise is finally making progress at the big-league level. After going 80-81 last season, they finished in the top half of the sport for the first time since relocating from Montreal. Thus, their first draft pick has never before come so late in the first round.

So don't expect any Stephen Strasburgs or Bryce Harpers to be available around 8:30 p.m. tonight when the Nationals are finally on the clock. They might not even find any Ryan Zimmermans, Drew Storens or Ross Detwilers.
HISTORY OF NATS 1ST ROUND PICKS
2005: Ryan Zimmerman (4)
2006: Chris Marrero (15), Colton Willems (22)
2007: Ross Detwiler (6), Josh Smoker (31), Michael Burgess (49)
2008: Aaron Crow (9)
2009: Stephen Strasburg (1), Drew Storen (10)
2010: Bryce Harper (1)
2011: Anthony Rendon (6), Alex Meyer (23), Brian Goodwin (34)
-Did not sign
What the Nationals will find is at least one player rated by their scouts as one of the 16 best in the country this summer. And no matter what available player is left at the top of their board when the time comes, they'll draft him. No exceptions.

"We're going to take it as we always have," Rizzo said. "We're going to put the board together ability-based, and we'll do our due diligence on the health, makeup and signability of all the players. We're going to pull the trigger and take the best player available."

The process for creating that draft board may not have changed at all, but the process of signing those players has changed dramatically in the last year. After watching draft signing bonuses skyrocket over the last decade -- with the Nationals among the biggest culprits -- owners and players instituted significant changes in the new collective bargaining agreement that was signed over the winter.

Teams are no longer free to spend as much as they want on draft picks, not without incurring some stiff penalties. MLB has set a cap on what all 30 clubs may spend on the first 10 rounds. The Nationals' limit: 4.4 million, significantly less than they paid to any of their last three first-round picks (Anthony Rendon got 6 million last year, Harper got 6.25 million in 2010, Strasburg for 7.5 million in 2009).

If a team exceeds its cap, it faces penalties including taxes up to 100 percent and the loss of future draft picks.

Teams also are no longer allowed to offer major-league contracts to draft picks, as the Nationals did with all three of those aforementioned picks (plus left-hander Matt Purke).

As a result of all these changes, the Nationals no longer have the ability to entice high school prospects to forgo their college commitments and instead accept above-slot signing bonuses to turn pro.

"That all goes under the heading of doing your due diligence, of knowing who you can get and who you can sign," Rizzo said. "The constrictions that we have, the amount of money we can spend, will certainly change the way we run business from the past. But, again, it comes down to getting the right player in each of the right spots."

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

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He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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