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A hearty good morning to everyone in NatsTown, where the sun is finally out but the snow is showing no signs of melting. Viera can't come soon enough.
Several news tidbits to share at this hour...
-- No new developments, really, in the Chien-Ming Wang story. I know there are some reports out there (mostly stemming from a Chinese newspaper, I believe) that say it's a done deal and he's signed with the Nationals for $2 million plus incentives. But I've been told by multiple sources that it's not done yet. It certainly appears to be moving in a positive direction from Washington's standpoint, but it's not done and probably won't be for several more days.
-- It's getting close to arbitration time, with hearings scheduled to take place next week in the Tampa area for the Nats' two yet-unsigned arbitration-eligible players: relievers Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett. While last-minute settlements often take place in these cases -- remember last year when Jim Bowden worked out deals with Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham after both had already flown to Arizona for their hearings? -- it does not appear that will be the case this year. A source familiar with the Nats' two cases this spring said GM Mike Rizzo is committed to taking both Bruney and Burnett to hearings and not settling in advance. Bruney, whose hearing is scheduled for Tuesday (Feb. 16), is asking for $1.85 million. The Nats are offering $1.5 million. Burnett, whose hearing is scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 18) is asking for $925,000. The Nats are offering $775,000.
-- Even if the Nationals wind up signing Wang, they're still looking for more veteran pitching help. Indeed, they've had discussions with the agent for right-hander Kris Benson within the last two days, according to a source familiar with the talks. Benson, of course, is the former No. 1 overall draft pick of the Pirates back in 1996 whose career has been derailed by injuries (and the exploits of his attention-seeking wife, Anna). He pitched only 22 1/3 innings last season for the Rangers, and prior to that, last pitched in the majors in 2006 for the Orioles. So obviously any deal with the Nats would be non-guaranteed and incentive-laden. If nothing else, the source said, Benson could serve some purpose as a mentor for Stephen Strasburg, having been through just about everything Strasburg could now face as a fellow No. 1 pick.
-- It's also the time of year for all players with less than three years of big-league service time to agree to contract terms, and the Nationals have begun this process. They've agreed with outfielder Elijah Dukes on a one-year, $444,000 deal. It's a modest raise for Dukes, who last season made $411,500, and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next winter.