There had been a lot of skepticism about TCU left-hander Matt Purke’s enthusiasm to return to school in hopes of a bigger deal, and possibly a top selection, in next year’s draft.
After all, figures such as $6 million and $4 million had been connected to his name in the 2009 draft when he tried to work out a contract with the Texas Rangers.
Nationals executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo never got the sense that Purke wanted to return to TCU. This was especially evident when Purke visited the Nationals right before the All-Star break for a medical check-up.
Purke had come in with questions about the status of his left shoulder after suffering through bursitis for a good portion of the college season.
“We had to do the medical on him,” Rizzo said. “We brought him into town. He was so open and honest about what he had went through.”
Rizzo said Purke allowed the doctors to have full access and check everything, including a rare step that few draftees consent to when checking on an injury.
“You know, not many draft choices allow you to do an MRI arthrogram and shoot dye into their bodies,” Rizzo said. “(It was important) for us to get a clear evaluation of his status. Then, after that, we evaluated him pitching on two occasions.”
Rizzo confirmed Purke, a third-round pick, received a major league deal and it was less than the reported $4.4 million given to Trevor Bauer. Rizzo also said the deal with Purke was actually close to being finalized as early as Saturday night into Sunday morning. It was the other three selections at the top of the Nationals’ draft board that came down to the wire.
Rizzo believed Purke saw something in the Nationals and wanted to play here.
“I think he saw a good fit here in Washington,” Rizzo said. “I think he saw an aggressive GM that has done it before. He wasn’t worried about going in the third round because he knew if it worked out we would be aggressive in trying to sign him.
“He wanted to prove he was healthy for us so he could play for us. I think that this solidifies where we are at in the industry. These guys wanted to come here. We had no ties to him whatsoever other than the fact he knows that we develop players. We develop them well. We have a system that is second to none. We are the talk of the industry right now.”
Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said that Purke, Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin and Alex Meyer represent some the best amateur players he has ever seen in one draft.
“It is the best draft I have ever been a part of, as far as the number of impact players that we are bringing into the system at once,” Clark said. “Just to give you an example of the top four guys, (director of scouting) Kris Kline and I both saw all four and both of us had all four evaluated as first-round picks.”