Nationals Sign Bryce Harper, Baseball's Top Draft Pick, Before Deadline

The Washington Nationals signed Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, shortly before last night’s deadline.

It’s the second year in a row that the Nationals signed the No. 1 pick at the deadline. Last year, they came to terms with pitcher Stephen Strasburg on a record $15.1 million deal.

Harper, 17, agreed to a five-year contract worth $9.9 million, ESPN.com reported without saying where it got the information. The deal includes a $6.25 million signing bonus.

The Nationals have a 51-67 record and are in last place in the National League East. They haven’t had a winning record since moving to Washington from Montreal for the 2005 season.

Strasburg two days ago told reporters that Harper needed to make his own decision quickly. Both Strasburg and Harper are represented by agent Scott Boras.

“If he wants to play here, he’s going to play here,” said Strasburg, who is 5-3 as a rookie. “He doesn’t need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn’t want to play here, then we don’t want him here.”

Harper, a catcher who is projected to play the outfield, passed the General Education Development test after his sophomore year so he could skip his final two years of high school to attend junior college and enter this year’s draft.

Harper earned this season’s Golden Spikes Award from USA Baseball as the nation’s top amateur player. He hit 31 home runs for the College of Southern Nevada, shattering the school’s record of 12. Harper had four home runs in one game during the team’s postseason run.

The New York Mets also signed their top draft pick, pitcher Matt Harvey, ahead of the deadline last night.

The 21-year-old Harvey, who went 8-3 with a 3.09 earned run average as a junior at the University of North Carolina, was the seventh selection in this year’s draft.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barry Rothbard in New York at brothbard@bloomberg.net

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