Many pundits labeled the Rays’ selection of LeVon Washington in the 2009 draft a typical Tampa Bay pick. Athletic, fast, and with raw baseball skills, Washington hailed from a local high school and held a commitment to the University of Florida. Making the pick a bit more interesting for the conspiracy theorists was a slight hint of nepotism stemming from Washington’s shared bloodline to area legend and team employee Fred McGriff. Soon the 30th selection in the draft would be shown on the team’s local broadcast and announce his desire to quickly sign with the Rays and begin his professional baseball career.
Washington never signed with the team, though. Advisor Scott Boras and the Rays played hardball throughout the summer and (eventually) through the signing deadline. Even after Washington was ruled academically ineligible to play for the Gators he chose against signing; instead he would attend a local junior college by the name of Chipola. Meanwhile the Rays were awarded pick 30B (or in normal person land: pick 31) in the 2010 draft as compensation for failing to sign him. The move reeked of boldness from Washington’s camp since he was fresh off labrum surgery and had to bank on his ability, not only to raise his stock, but to not get injured once again.
At Chipola, Washington would bat .327/.429/.578 with eight homers, 24 walks, and 20 strikeouts. Keith Law and Baseball America alike ranked Washington in the 60s heading into the draft and earlier today the Cleveland Indians popped him with pick number 55. That Washington nearly doubled his pick number brought a smirk and knowing chuckle from those who felt he overplayed his hand by passing on the Rays’ offer, a reported $1.1 million. Yet, Jon Heyman reported (and later rescinded to an extent) that Washington and the Indians were nearing an agreement worth $1.55 million.
It would appear that Washington and Boras made the correct decision from a raw dollars perspective, but of course, things are rarely that simple. Using the time value of money formula and estimating a 10% interest rate (for simplicity’s sake), Washington could’ve placed the entirety of that $1.1 million into a bank last year and have it be worth $1.21 million today. The flip side is that Washington’s new deal necessitated a signing value of at least $1.41 million last year to equal the amount he may receive soon. That he gained $340 thousand likely constitutes a victory in the Washington household.
There is at least one drawback though and that is with Washington’s free agency eligibility. Since Washington missed a matter of months in development time rather than years – as he would if he were a member of the Gators right now – there’s probably not too much concern about a delay in free agency qualifying. And why should there be? He’s not even guaranteed an appearance in the show. Forget trying to guarantee a full season worth of playing time and don’t even think about six years of service time in the majors. That’s something that won’t be a factor for at least seven years and given the bust rate of even the best prep and collegiate draftees, it likely won’t ever come into play here.
This analysis can get a whole lot more intricate by examining and implementing other factors. Like say, tuition and insurance costs or potential tax ramifications. Surely Boras and Washington’s family went through those and found this a worthwhile risk 10 months ago, and you know what? They look right if this proposed deal goes down.
As for the Rays, they used that 31st pick on a prep catcher from Indiana named Justin O’Conner. Who knows how he’ll turn out; still, the early word is he’s going to sign relatively quickly which would be a welcomed sight following last year’s debacle when the team failed to sign its first and second round selections.
(Note: Jonathan Mayo has since posted an outright refusal from the Indians on the proximity of a deal, writing that the Indians say they haven’t even contacted Washington.)