This is what Stan Kasten told to the assembled members of the Natmosphere on "Blogger Day." I don't want the Nationals to have the top pick either, because that means they're once again the worst team in baseball.
But at the time, the group was asking about the Strasburg contract negotiations, and the implication of Stan's remark was that he didn't want the top pick because he didn't want to deal with the top pick's contract demands. (Let me stress that this was implied, not explicitly stated, and I'm raising it as a jumping off point for the following discussion, not to jump on Stan.)
The emerging reality however is that the 2010 top pick may be the easiest #1 to sign in a decade or more. The reason is that the owners increasingly are making noise that one of their top priorities in the negotiation of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement will be getting a hard cap on the bonuses paid to draftees under the First Year Player Draft (a.k.a. the "Rule 4 Draft").
Seeing that writing on the wall is what a lot of observers believe pushed the 16-year-old Bryce Harper to skip his senior year of high school, take the G.E.D., and enroll in junior college, thereby making himself eligible for the 2010 draft. If a new system is implemented with a hard cap or slotting system, any top pick--especially one as highly touted as Harper--is virtually guaranteed to get less money.
What that means for a team like the Nationals, currently 3.5 games "ahead" of the Royals in the Harper Sweepstakes, is that, should they get the top pick and draft Harper, they'll have a stronger negotiating hand than any team has had since the current system was created.
Currently, a drafted player had two choices: take what's offered, or go back into the draft next year. If you're Bryce Harper, the choice could be: take what's offered, or take the hard slot in 2011. The Nationals would only need to outbid the anticipated slot bonus, which could be set unilaterally by Bud Selig.
How likely is this to happen? Right now, it's pretty likely. Remember, the Player's Union doesn't represent amateurs. They represent current major leaguers. The only reason the Union has any say over the draft at all is because of the compensation picks for type A and B free agents. The compensation picks were first implemented in order to depress free agent values, and other than that the Union has no control and frankly no interest in how the draft works.
So if the owners offer the union a deal that eliminates compensation picks, the players almost surely will take it, and the owners will be left with a free hand to do whatever they want with the draft. It's possible that some aspiring lawyer would challenge a hard slotting system as illegal collusion, but aside from that, the owners could do whatever.
The owners don't want to give up those compensation picks. They'll first try to negotiate a deal that let's them have their cake and eat it too.
But if that's where things are heading, the Nationals could have the opportunity to draft Bryce Harper and sign him for peanuts. That's a negotiation that Stan Kasten would be more than happy to do.