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Chad didn't leave them hanging

Chad didn't leave them hanging

When Major League Baseball holds its First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday teams will be looking for someone to make an impact at the big league level.

Someone like Chad Cordero, who two years ago was closing games for Cal State-Fullerton.

Today, Cordero is closing games for the Washington Nationals and he is among the National League leaders with 15 saves, including 12 in a row.

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Cordero represents everything a scouting department dreams about at draft time -- a young man who can advance to the Major League level in a hurry and a player who is anxious to sign a contract and get started on his career.

It was the Montreal Expos, now located in Washington, who made Cordero their No. 1 draft selection in 2003.

The team had two objectives in making its first selection in the draft -- identify a player who has a good chance to sign and a player who can move quickly to the Major League roster.

No one could have dreamed how well Cordero would meet the needs of the team that was then located in Montreal.

"I'll never forget when we went into the Cordero home to talk to Chad and his father," says Nationals' baseball executive Tony Siegle. "The interesting thing is that Chad had elected to do his own negotiating with the help of his father.

"We explained that we were in a position to have Chad advance quickly through our system and that the amount of money we were offering was a fair amount in relationship to the overall draft."

The offer the Expos made was for a signing bonus of $1.35 million. Siegle answered every question that the Corderos had to offer. He explained that others in the first round would be receiving more money but that there was an advantage to Cordero starting his professional career as soon as possible.

When Siegle was finished with his presentation and had fielded the questions, he asked the Corderos for their thoughts.

Ed Cordero spoke first and thanked Siegle for the way the offer was presented. He then turned to his son and asked "What do you think, son?"

"Dad, it's more money than I ever thought I would make," said the young pitcher.

The deal was done in the way that few deals are done today with first-round draft selections. There was no agent involved. There was no prolonged negotiation in which a player misses the opportunity to pitch for the remainder of the year.

"Our area scout Tony Arango did a great job in obtaining the background information on Chad," said Siegle. "And our scouting director Dana Brown did an outstanding job in making the overall evaluation along with general manager Omar Minaya."

After Cordero signed, the Expos brought him into Shea Stadium to work out in front of Minaya and manager Frank Robinson. "Chad was a little nervous that day and he had trouble with his command but we could see the fire and desire he had and we knew the ability was there."

With 30 days to go in the 2003 season, the Expos called Cordero to the Major Leagues. "Ironically, his first appearance was at Shea Stadium where he had worked out," recalled Siegle.

"This time he came into the game to face Mike Piazza with the bases loaded. He struck out Piazza and we knew we had something special."

The work of an area scout and scouting director had paid off, along with the guidance of a general manager who was willing to give a young pitcher a chance.

Cordero recorded one save in the 2003 season, had 14 last year and now is among the NL leaders with his total of 15.

In an era in which many college pitchers selected in the first round let their agents do the talking while they sit on the sideline, Chad Cordero has shown there's another way to get the job done.

Sure, he may have left some dollars on the table when he signed right away, but he now has pitched in the Major Leagues during three seasons and he is building his service time and record to the point where he will soon be among the game's highest-paid relief pitchers if he stays on track.

You can bet Major League teams will point to the experience of Chad Cordero when they attempt to sign players selected in this year's draft. And can you blame the teams?

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue," is available through SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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