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Tampa Bay Rays fail to sign their top two draft picks

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays couldn't reach an agreement with their top two draft picks by Monday's midnight deadline, but they were very different situations.

They never got to the point where they exchanged monetary figures with second-round pick SS Kenny Diekroeger, who kept his long-standing commitment to Stanford. But with first-rounder OF LeVon Washington (chosen 30th overall), the gap between what the Rays were offering and what Washington wanted was too big to overcome.

While Diekroeger going to Stanford was no surprise, Washington, 18, was adamant when he was drafted that he wanted to sign. But even as conversations picked up between the Rays and agent Scott Boras this past week, they didn't move enough to where they could bring in Washington and his surgically repaired shoulder for the necessary physical in time.

The Rays will receive compensatory picks for both players in the 2010 draft following the 30th and 78th selections.

"They're very separate cases," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "In LeVon's situation, we put forth an offer that was consistent with late first-round picks, and if the gap between us had been small I imagine there would have been more conversations this morning and this afternoon, but we never really got to the point where that was relevant. … When we got to noon today, it became pretty clear to us that this was going to be a situation we weren't going to be able to resolve."

Washington did not return calls and text messages from the Times. But David Banes, his coach at Gainesville Buchholz, said he was somewhat surprised how the process turned out. Washington is believed to be going to junior college.

"I was surprised in talking to LeVon early, right after he was drafted; he said he wanted to sign,'' Banes said. "I was not surprised when I knew who his agent is."

Diekroeger, 18, attended Menlo High School in Atherton, Calif., where he hit .586 (34-for-58) with four homers.

Friedman said the Rays knew it would be an uphill battle to sign Diekroeger but felt it was worth the risk of getting a "first-round talent." Scouting director R.J. Harrison said they tried a "sales job" on Diekroeger and had no regrets: "I think we would do it again on this pick," he said.

"It was a tough decision for him, and he spent the better part of the summer debating it," his father, Kenneth Sr., said. "But in the end, he decided he wanted to go to school and defer any potential professional career. The Rays handled everything with the utmost class and made it a very difficult decision because we won't know if he'll have a chance to be part of such a first-class organization again."

The Rays have signed 32 of their 50 selections, including 15 of their first 19. While Friedman said there is a certain level of frustration and disappointment in not getting everyone signed, he was excited with their draft overall, especially the likes of CF Todd Glaesmann, C Luke Bailey, 1B Jeff Malm and LHP Kevin James, all of whom the Rays reportedly paid higher bonuses than average for their draft position.

"We feel like we came away with four of the top 60-70 players in the country, and we only had one pick in that time period," Friedman said. "So we were very aggressive in the players we liked a lot that slipped a little bit due to signability, and our scouts did a tremendous job of continuing to scout them and work the process."

Miscellany: 2B Akinori Iwamura continued his rehab with Triple-A Durham on Monday, going 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI as DH.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays fail to sign their top two draft picks 08/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 7:35am]
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