Father of Rays' first pick raises issue

Father of Rays' first pick raises issue

ST. PETERSBURG -- LeVon Washington became the first first-round pick in Rays history not to sign a contract. But his father, Victor, said it would've happened if the Rays would've stayed true to an agreement made before the Draft.

In speaking to The Gainesville Sun on Tuesday, Victor said the Rays made a deal with his son, the No. 30 overall pick, before the First-Year Player Draft to grant him a signing bonus above his slot value -- estimated at $1.08 million.

"Basically, we made an agreement before the Draft," Victor told The Sun. "The agreement was that LeVon wasn't going to work out for anyone if he wasn't going to be paid above slot [value].

"The Rays agreed to this. That's why LeVon had the workout at Tropicana Field three days before the Draft. That was his only workout. He didn't work out for any other team. He hit, ran, played center field, shortstop; they really liked him."

"We do not comment on specifics of negotiations, but we definitely had every intention of signing LeVon and wish him all the best going forward," team spokesman Rick Vaughn said on Wednesday.

The Rays sent out a press release hours before the midnight ET deadline to sign Draft picks on Monday, announcing that they were not going to come to an agreement with their first two picks. Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman said in a conference call earlier Monday that the gap between LeVon and the Rays was too large and there was no time to bring him in for a physical on his surgically repaired shoulder.

"We put forth an offer that was consistent with late-round first-round picks, and if the gap between us had been small, I imagine there would've been more conversation this morning and this afternoon," Friedman said Monday. "But we never really got to a point where that was relevant."

But Victor told The Sun he was "convinced that [the Rays] didn't want to sign him," adding that Tampa Bay did not negotiate for 70 days, and when the two sides talked on Thursday before the deadline, the Rays only offered standard slot value.

LeVon, represented by Scott Boras, is academically ineligible to play at the University of Florida, The Sun wrote, and now will look to play at a junior college before possibly entering the Draft next year.

The Rays will receive an equivalent compensatory pick for 2010.

LeVon, an outfielder with a projected good combination of speed and power, hit .400 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases as a senior at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Fla. The Rays also were unable to come to an agreement with their second-round pick, shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, meaning they will receive another compensatory pick next year.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.