It's a secondary story right now - a massive (and not unwelcome) departure from what we've been used to around here - but the negotiating period for the 2009 draft closes tonight at 11 p.m. Central in most cases (the Rangers' supplemental first-rounder, Tanner Scheppers, being a key exception).
There has been a methodical series of optimistic reports since Draft Day regarding the Rangers' chances of signing top pick Matt Purke, the lefthander from Spring Klein High School, but last night ESPN's Keith Law ran this note:
"The Rangers are not optimistic about signing first-rounder Matt Purke, who will probably head to TCU and reenter the draft in 2011 as a draft-eligible sophomore. The two sides are still more than a million dollars apart."
Now, there are still plenty of reasons to believe that this will get done, in much the same vein as last year's 11th-hour deal with first-rounder Justin Smoak that had hit reported snags in the final days.
One, Purke is advised by SSG (Select Sports Group), a Houston-based agency owned in part by Nolan Ryan's business partner Don Sanders.
Two, Purke reportedly held off from attending freshman orientation at TCU yesterday, ensuring that he wouldn't shut talks with the Rangers down (reporting to college would extinguish his eligibility to sign) - though orientation evidently continues today, and Purke is in town.
Three, part of the reason Purke has been in town is so that he could submit to a club physical over the weekend. Purke (who reportedly met with Ryan) passed his physical, getting that step out of the way as the two sides go into today's effort to finalize a deal.
The bigger, more immediate story tonight is Tommy Hunter-Francisco Liriano, of course, as Texas comes off a series with Boston that was one pitch away from a Rangers sweep and nonetheless ended with the Rangers atop the Wild Card standings, but the Purke situation is big. Consider this two-month period in 2007:
May 20, 2007: Rangers sign Derek Holland for fourth-round money 50 weeks after taking him in the 25th round - and one week before his negotiating window would have slammed shut and he would have transferred from Wallace State-Hanceville Community College to Arizona State University
June 7, 2007: Rangers draft Julio Borbon in supplemental first round (35th overall)
July 31, 2007: Rangers acquire Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz from Atlanta in the Mark Teixeira trade
That was just two years ago. The addition of those 18-, 19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds - a juco pick, a college pick, a Class A teenager, and a rookie-level teenager - to the system were, in some cases, praised immediately, and in others, mentioned nowhere but a local minor league newsletter or two.
That's not to say those moves were overlooked, or dismissed. But even the most homeriffic, Rangers-centric among us couldn't have imagined that, as soon as Saturday night, August 15, 2009, that quartet would key what some are calling this club's biggest win in five years.
The player development train doesn't slow down, not even for a pennant race, and today is a really big day on both fronts.
We'll keep you posted with Purke-related news flashes today and tonight, as warranted.