Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ready to wheel and deal in Dallas

US Presswire file photo
Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo hope to be busy at this week's Winter Meetings.
With every general manager, every manager, every front-office executive and every agent in the business gathered in one massive hotel for four full days, it's nearly impossible for baseball's Winter Meetings to come and go without producing major news.

No one ever knows for sure which players will sign, or which teams will be most active, at the annual meetings. But by the time the participants scatter Thursday morning following the Rule 5 draft, at least a handful of predominant storylines will have emerged.

And if history holds true, the Nationals are likely to find themselves somewhere in the middle of it all.

It was at the 2005 Winter Meetings at the same Anatole Hotel in Dallas where ex-GM Jim Bowden acquired Alfonso Soriano from the Rangers. It was at the 2007 meetings in Nashville where Bowden traded for Elijah Dukes days after getting Lastings Milledge from the Mets. It was at the 2009 meetings in Indianapolis where Mike Rizzo convinced future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez to sign a two-year deal with the Nationals. And it was at last year's meetings where Rizzo doled out $126 million to Jayson Werth, sending reverberations throughout Walt Disney World.

Whether Rizzo has a similarly bold move up his sleeve this week remains to be seen. But if we are to believe all the chatter that has spread in the months leading up to this year's meetings, it does appear the Nationals' name is going to come up a whole lot in connection with some big-name talent.

Rizzo hasn't disguised his desire to land a veteran starting pitcher, someone who can be penciled in for 200 quality innings while also offering guidance to young aces Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. But there are plenty of other suitors for the three free agent starters who fit that description -- Mark Buehrle, C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt -- so it may still take some time for the pitching market to play itself out.

Rizzo also has made it clear he's seeking a center fielder, someone who ideally could lead off and reach base at a high clip but above all else hold down a position that has been in flux since the day the Nationals arrived in town. An astounding 28 different men have played center field for the Nats over the last seven seasons. Knowing that, Rizzo would like the 29th man at that position to actually stick around for a while.

Unfortunately, there aren't any real viable center field options in free agency. So Rizzo may have to get creative, whether in the form of an international signing such as Cuba's Yoenis Cespedes or a trade for an existing big leaguer such as Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton.

Trade talks figure to be plentiful this week for the Nationals, who for the first time actually have the organizational depth to deal young players from a position of strength (such as pitcher, catcher or middle infielder) in order to acquire something they still lack.

Don't be surprised if you hear John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Jesus Flores or Ian Desmond's name crop up the next few days in trade rumors. That doesn't mean Rizzo is actively seeking to move any of that bunch, but any of them could help bring that center fielder or veteran starter the Nationals covet so much.

Will Rizzo have pulled off a major deal by the time the meetings end Thursday morning? Not even he knows that answer yet.

But deal or no deal, it's probably safe to assume the Nationals -- as has almost always been the case -- will be among the most active teams at this year's Winter Meetings.

27 comments:

UnkleWheez said...

I am so ready for the action to begin.

Joe Seamhead said...

Make two or three key moves and we're going to Disneyland! Can't you just about taste it? GYFNG!

sjm308 said...

I really do get excited about all the possibilities during the winter. Next to the anticipation of opening day and a new season, its a terrific time. What I also love is that we here have discussed, ranted, used stats and talked from the heart about various moves but the great thing is, Rizzo has his lists and plans and while 29 teams are also in the mix, he definitely has his plan and we kinda have to trust that he will do what he thinks is best for our club.

This has to be a crazy time for him, he needs to fill his bench, try and get that CF, maybe add to the pitching staff and also listen to offers for some of our young prospects. I also wonder if he tries to stay in contact with players like Pudge and Livan to see what offers they have.

I will just sit back, continue to read NI (even the rants) and look forward to the makeup of our 2012 playoff bound Nationals!!!

AndesAngle said...

Bring it on! I hope they stick to the plan for a CF or starting pitcher. It is fun watching this team grow.

NatStat said...

So Bill Ladson has been quoted as saying that Rizzo turned down a Detweiler for Bourne trade last summer.

Any credence to such a proposed trade????

If true, it seems hard to believe that Rizzo actually nixed a deal for a CF for a guy having mixed results, toiling in the minors at the time.

Sunderland said...

I guess people noticed that the Dodgers signed LHP Chris Capuano to 2 years for $10M. Capuano had a very good 2005, a decent 2006, and stunk in 2007, with the Brewers losing every single game he started from mid-May until the end of the season, an 0 for 22 streak where Capuano took the loss 12 times. He had his second TJ surgery and missed all of 2008 and 2009 and most of 2010. He threw 186 innings last year for the Mets, to a 4.55 ERA.
I'm not sure what my point is, but it's either "I'm OK with Lannan at the back end of our rotation" or it's "if this guys is worth $10M, there's no way Rizzo is signing any of the better free agent SP's".
We went into last offseason looking for an SP and did not get one. I expect the same this year.

Gonat said...

Mark Zuckerman said...An astounding 28 different men have played center field for the Nats over the last seven seasons. Knowing that, Rizzo would like the 29th man at that position to actually stick around for a while.
____________________________________________

Guess what, 2012 is a leap year and February 29th is right in the beginning of Spring Training so the 29th man would be very fitting to occur in '12.

NatsLady said...

Staying in a baseball mood with Three Nights in August, which details a Cards/Cubs series from the perspective of Tony LaRussa. Overwritten (too many images and metaphors) but quite interesting.

Here is the current info on Kuroda. Nats are not mentioned as possibilities (yet).

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/967203-sources-kuroda-in-play-for-red-sox

sm13 said...

I bet Rizzo spends a lot of time talking with his counterparts in Tampa Bay. A blockbuster trade involving both BJ Upton and James Shields might be the best of all worlds for the Nats. A combination of young arms (Detweiller, Millone, Peacock?), a major league-ready catcher (Flores?), and a position prospect or two (Norris, Moore, Lombo) might be a package that few others could beat.

Go Rizzo -- bring home a winning deal or two!! Oh, and while you're at it, sign Ryan Z!!

Gonat said...

sm13, its better in my opinion to not do a blockbuster deal with Tampa as they can do BJ Upton in 1 deal and get that deal straight.

Still better to get a FA pitcher where you don't have to give up prospects. I love what Shields did last year but to give up 4 prospects for him vs. getting Buehrle without giving up current prospects makes more sense.

Anonymous said...

Re: Detwiler, what I read was the price for Bourn was "Detwiler, among others." So still assuming this is accurate, it would have been a multi-player deal. Can't jump on Rizzo at all without knowing the whole package.

heyref3 said...

It seems like our minor league system is getting so good that we can't protect everyone on the 40 man roster. And then we have the young studs in Single A to replace our guys that are close to MLB ready. Trading quantity for quality sounds like the way to go. A trade for SP with a reasonable salary won't handcuff us like signing C.J. Wilson. Or trading for a big-time CF that fits the team. And of course signing Zimm should be priority number #1. Sign him now for 5-6 years for Tulo or Braun money or else he is going to ask for Kemp or more money for 7-8 years when we finally sign him in the future.

Bill Stoneman said...

Peacock is a keeper. I don't want a Expo's Colon deal anytime soon.

baseballswami said...

Seems like the bench players are usually guys that are still unsigned late in the off season. They are given a minor league contract and a chance to go to spring training. I would not mind re-signing a healthy Laynce Nix or Rick Ankiel, especially if we don't sign another outfielder. Even though Johnson has said he wants a powerful bench, I still think we need defensive versatility and speed there also. Go team Rizzo!!!!!!!

Unkyd said...

Gonat said...
sm13, its better in my opinion to not do a blockbuster deal with Tampa as they can do BJ Upton in 1 deal and get that deal straight.

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It seems like our minor league system is getting so good that we can't protect everyone on the 40 man roster. And then we have the young studs in Single A to replace our guys that are close to MLB ready. Trading quantity for quality sounds like the way to go. A trade for SP with a reasonable salary won't handcuff us like signing C.J. Wilson.
--------------------------

I'd hate to see 1/2 dozen prospects leave, for a couple of (even really good) players, at this point... There's talent in our system, sure, but it's not really flush, yet, and the new rules will slow down that kind of aquisition for us (not to mention that we hope to be picking nowhere near the top of the draft, from here
out...!). I don't advocate sitting on all our prospects, just let's not be tossing handfuls of them at pretty faces, without an eye cast at four years hence...

Gonat said...

Buehrle wants a no trade clause. If I was Rizzo I would give it in a 3 year deal. Get that deal done which then sets up more options for CF.

Notes above on the good Farm System, only make trades to move up not move out.

baseballswami said...

Agreed on the farm system - we may not be able to sign everyone we want from now on because of the caps. If you blow a lot of money on a Strassi-type player then your bank is busted. I think Rizzo has shown that he doesn't give away too much. Drew Storen is still here, isn't he?

Eugene in Oregon said...

In negotiations theory, there's a concept called 'best alternative to a negotiated agreement' (BATNA for short), which basically says that as you enter a negotiation you need to understand what your best option is if the agreement you're seeking can't be achieved. That 'best alternative' may be a different agreement or it may well be to do nothing and stick with the status quo. But if the status quo is completely unacceptable, you know going in that you've got to make a deal, even if the deal is painful. Understanding well and fully those sorts of options/alternatives (and whether you can just walk away) is the fundament element of preparing for any negotiation.

In the case of acquiring a starting pitcher on the free agent market, my impression is that the Nats' BATNA really is to do nothing if they can't get one of the big three (Buehrle, Oswalt, or Wilson) on a reasonable contract. Sticking with Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Wang, and Detwiller (with Peacock and Millone in the wings) would seem to be a much better alternative than trying to get one of the (few and over-prised) lesser options. As such, that leaves the Nats in a fairly strong negotiating position, in that they don't have to make a dumb offer (i.e., too many years, too many dollars) and can walk away if the numbers become outrageous. The Nats' position would be much stronger if there were no other suitors, of course, but the free agent market is more like a multilateral than bilateral negotiation.

In the case of the additional bat (whether lead-off or not, whether CF or not), the Nats' going-on position is pretty much the complete opposite. Given the 2011 Nats' poor offense (measured mainly in terms of runs scored, or -- more precisely -- the lack thereof), the Nats really have to find a good hitter to complement Morse, Zimmerman, Werth (we hope), LaRoche (we similarly hope), and Ramos or they risk regressing. In that negotiation, particularly since it will probably be a trade, the other sides know that the Nats are close to desperate for that offensive player. And the other sides will make demands accordingly, knowing that Mr. Rizzo will likely have to sacrifice more than he wants. But he has little choice, unless he's truly convinced that Mr. Harper will be available early in the season.

Apart from an early-Harper scenario, the one thing that would help Mr. Rizzo is seeking a bat would be signing one of those 'big three' veteran starting pitchers, because then he could trade away one of his existing SPs without (too much) worry.

So, the bottom line is that if you want the Nats to be able to trade for the best possible new bat (call it CF or lead-off hitter if you so desire), you need to be rooting for them to first acquire Buerhle, Oswalt, or Wilson.

Of course, all bets are off if this year's 'December surprise' happens to be named Pujols or Fielder.

Anonymous said...

Season ticker holder here. Really excited for upcoming season. Adding starting pitcher would be great. I don't see the need for the center field/lo but that's not my job. WHAT I AM CONCERNED ABOUT - In all this chatter about what to add/deal I have not heard anything about Zimbo's contract. What's up with that.

Joe Seamhead said...

Sometimes I can't help but crack up on some of the suggestions on NI that suggests trading Peacock. I see no situation where he would be traded. Johnson has made it clear that he loves him. Untouchable.Of course, now that I've said that, I guess that we'll trade him tomorrow. No, I honestly think DJ sees Brad as a mainstay of the rotation for the foreseeable future.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Laynce Nix inks a two year deal with the Phillies! NOOOOOOOO! #failRizzo!!!

markfd said...

For the 5 offseason in a row, the Nats need a CF and a starting pitcher...please do what you promised this time!

Unkyd said...

Harper: please, let there be no wailing, over lost BENCH candidates... They're BENCH players.... It'll be taken care of....

Joe Seamhead said...

Unkyd, I agree. Nix was an "ok" bench guy for us but the chance him of making our roster next year was pretty slim. He may end up being their fill in first baseman until Howard recovers. I see it as another pretty weak move by Philly, and certainly not as a Rizzo "fail."

Anonymous said...

Harper: please, let there be no wailing, over lost BENCH candidates... They're BENCH players.... It'll be taken care of....

Actually there's a good possibility that Harper himself will be a bench player as he finishes his player development under Davey Johnson and MLB coaches tutelage. He makes a pretty decent hairy chested guy on the bench and someone who is far more agile and faster than Nix. Corey Brown might just make it ... as likely will Roger Bernadina.

Anonymous said...

For the 5 offseason in a row, the Nats need a CF and a starting pitcher...please do what you promised this time!

CF Jayson Werth
LF Michael Morse
RF Bryce Harper
1B Prince Fielder

Let's stop the bellyaching shall we?

Anonymous said...

Jim Bowden: Nationals not just chasing Buehrle and Wilson...they are at least talking to Fielder AND Pujols as well...put your seat belts on

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