Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dunn declines arbitration offer

Adam Dunn declined the Nationals' arbitration offer tonight, a procedural move that doesn't prevent the free agent first baseman from re-signing with Washington but does ensure the club will get draft pick compensation if he leaves.

The Nationals had submitted the arbitration offer last week. Dunn, like all current free agents, had until 11:59 p.m. tonight to either accept or decline the offer. Had he accepted, Dunn would have returned to Washington on a one-year contract, with an independent arbitrator determining his 2011 salary.

Dunn's decision to decline the offer guarantees the Nationals compensation if he ultimately signs with another team. Because the 31-year-old is classified as a Type A free agent, the Nats will get two 2011 draft picks as compensation. They'll get a "sandwich" pick between the first two rounds, and either a first-round or a second-round pick depending on which club signs Dunn.

The market for Dunn, who has averaged 40 homers and 101 RBI each of the last seven seasons, hasn't been as strong as the free agent originally hoped. The Tigers, expected to be one of his top pursuers, elected instead to sign Victor Martinez last week. The Cubs, another

Tender decisions

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
The Nats face a tough decision with Chien-Ming Wang, who never pitched in 2010.
As everyone agonizes over another free agent pitcher coming off the market — Jorge de la Rosa has re-signed with the Rockies for perhaps as much as three years and $32 million — and awaits confirmation that Adam Dunn is turning down the Nationals' offer of arbitration — nothing more than a formality, really — let's turn our attention to another event that takes place around baseball this week: The non-tender deadline.

By Thursday night, all MLB clubs must tender contract offers to all players not yet signed for 2011 but still under team control. For the most part, this applies to anyone with less than six years of big-league service time, unless the player has already signed a long-term deal (like Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper).

The majority of these decisions are simple, especially when it comes to players with less than three years of service time who still make close to the league minimum salary. The tougher decisions tend to come with players who have more than three years but less than six years of service time: the arbitration-eligible players, who tend to earn sizable raises through that process.

The Nationals have eight arbitration-eligible players this winter: Josh Willingham, Sean Burnett, Jesus Flores, Wil Nieves, John Lannan, Michael Morse, Alberto Gonzalez and Chien-Ming Wang. By Thursday night, the club must tender their contracts (essentially saying they're

Monday, November 29, 2010

What pitcher should Nats acquire?

Javier Vazquez's signing with the Marlins yesterday depleted one more name off the list of potential Nationals pitching acquisitions, a list that is losing some of its luster.

Not that Vazquez's decision to take $7 million and move closer to home in Florida instead of coming to D.C. was a devastating blow to the Nationals' offseason plans. I don't think he would have been the difference between 75 and 85 wins in 2011.

But in a market boasting one really big fish (Cliff Lee) and plenty of less-than-inspiring alternatives, Vazquez seemed to be one of the better fallback options for a Washington club that is simply trying to stabilize its rotation while Stephen Strasburg recovers from Tommy John surgery and Jordan Zimmermann develops into a front-line starter.

So who's left for the Nationals to pursue? Let's break down the possibilities by four categories: 1) legitimate aces, 2) second-tier free agents, 3) trade targets, 4) low-risk options...

I think we all know only one free agent pitcher falls into this category: Cliff Lee. The Nationals have certainly made contact with agent Darek Braunecker and will attempt to be taken seriously by the left-hander.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vazquez signs with Marlins

Cross Javier Vazquez off the list of possible additions to the Nationals' rotation. The veteran right-hander came to terms today on a one-year deal with the Marlins, according to multiple reports out of Miami.

Vazquez is coming off a down year with the Yankees in which he went 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA over 157 innings. The 34-year-old, though, owns a career 152-149 record, a 4.26 ERA, nine seasons of at least 200 innings and five seasons of at least 200 strikeouts.

The former Expos ace has been a more successful pitcher in the National League (4.02 ERA in eight seasons) than the American League (4.65 ERA in five seasons) and as recently as 2009 went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts for the Braves.

Vazquez's deal is believed to be worth $6 million to $7 million. The Nationals made him an offer (terms unknown) in the last two weeks. Other potential free agent targets still include Cliff Lee, Jorge De La Rosa, Brandon Webb, Carl Pavano and Kevin Millwood.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving in NatsTown

Everyone has something to be thankful for this time of the year (or any time of the year, for that matter) and that certainly holds true across NatsTown.

As a matter of fact, I somehow managed to interview more than a dozen Nationals players, staff members and team officials today and got them to tell me what they're most thankful for right now. I know, I'm just that dogged of a reporter to track all these people down and get them to pour out their soul for me. (Either that, or I just made these up.)

So with that, here's a list of what all the various residents of NatsTown are most thankful for this year...

Mike Rizzo: That the market for Adam Dunn may not be quite what Greg Genske thought it would be.

Adam Dunn: That there's at least one team out there willing to give him a three-year deal.

Ian Desmond: That errors aren't the only measure of defense anymore.

Danny Espinosa: That hamate bone surgery isn't a major procedure.

Mattheus outrighted to Syracuse

The Nationals outrighted right-hander Ryan Mattheus to Class AAA Syracuse today, clearing a spot on the 40-man roster in case any new players are acquired.

Mattheus, 27, missed most of 2010 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He appeared in 10 rehab games in the Gulf Coast League and with short-season Class A Vermont late in the season, allowing one earned run over 11 1/3 innings.

The California native was acquired along with right-hander Robinson Fabian from the Rockies in the July 2009 trade that sent Joe Beimel to Colorado. He'll be a non-roster invitee to big-league camp next spring.

The move leaves the Nationals with one open slot on their 40-man roster, clearing space in case they sign a free agent or add a player via trade.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Espinosa to have hand surgery

Danny Espinosa will have surgery tomorrow to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his right hand, a procedure that will sideline him six weeks but gives him ample time to recover before spring training.

Espinosa had been playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, where he was hitting .281 with two homers, eight RBI, 11 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases in 22 games. According to the Nationals, his hand began bothering him last week. Doctors concluded he needed to have the hook of the hamate (which is actually an unnecessary bone near the wrist) removed.

It's a fairly common injury and procedure, especially for the Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Derek Norris all underwent the same surgery in recent years, all ultimately returning to full strength.

Espinosa's surgery will be performed by Dr. Ken Means at the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore.

Espinosa, 23, was one of the organization's top-rated prospects when he made his big-league debut in September. Though he wound up hitting only .214 in 28 games, he impressed with six homers, 15 RBI and stellar defense, convincing team officials he should enter 2011 as their starting second baseman.

Nats offer Dunn arbitration

The Nationals have offered arbitration to Adam Dunn, according to a club source, ensuring the team will get two draft picks as compensation if the free agent first baseman signs elsewhere this winter.

The way the market is shaping up, though, Dunn may not find any suitors more enticing than the Nats.

Despite his hope of securing a long-term contract of at least four years, to date no club has been willing to meet those demands. And the list of potential matches appears to be dwindling, especially with today's news that the Tigers have signed free agent Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50 million deal.

Read my full story on this on CSNwashington.com.

Frazier, McConnell sign minor deals

The Nationals have signed outfielder/first baseman Jeff Frazier and shortstop Chris McConnell to minor-league contracts, according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy.

Frazier, 28, hit .256 with 25 homers and 73 RBI last season for Toledo, the Tigers' Class AAA affiliate. He led the International League with 73 extra-base hits and made his big-league debut in July, ultimately going 5-for-23 in nine games with Detroit.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound, right-handed-hitting Frazier was the Tigers' third round pick in the 2004 draft and seems destined to open 2011 on Class AAA Syracuse's roster, with the potential for a promotion should the Nationals need another bat at some point.

McConnell, who turns 25 in December, is a talented defensive shortstop who spent the last seven seasons in the Royals' farm system. His offensive numbers (.231 with three homers, 31 RBI and a .670 OPS last season at Class AA Northwest Arkansas) aren't spectacular, but the 2004 ninth-round pick should help shore up the Nationals' infield defense at either Syracuse or Class AA Harrisburg.

Frazier and McConnell join Tim Wood, a 28-year-old right-hander who appeared in 44 games for the Marlins the last two seasons, as free agents who have signed minor-league contracts with the Nationals so far this winter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Zim 16th, Dunn 21st in MVP vote

Joey Votto won the National League MVP award this afternoon in a landslide over Albert Pujols. Votto got a staggering 31 of 32 first-place votes by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, with Pujols getting the other one.

Hard to complain with the line of thinking displayed by my fellow scribes. You could make a legitimate case for Pujols every single year and no one would find fault with that, but Votto really was the best player in the NL this season, having led the league in on-base percentage (.424), slugging (.600) and OPS (1.024). Throw in the fact he helped lead a Reds club to its first NL Central title in 15 years (while Pujols' Cardinals finished five games back) and there's a pretty rock-solid case for Votto.

The rest of the top 10: Carlos Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Roy Halladay, Aubrey Huff, Jayson Werth, Martin Prado and Ryan Howard.

As for the Nationals ... well, two players did get Top 10 votes but finished way back in the pack. Ryan Zimmerman finished 16th, with only eight of 32 voters including him on the ballot. And Adam Dunn

Arbitration, AFL and Upton

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Bryce Harper more than held his own in the Arizona Fall League.
This being Thanksgiving week and all, here's a smorgasbord of quick-hit Nats stuff to ponder over while you make your grocery list and prepare your strategy to walk into Best Buy at 4:30 a.m. Friday and snag a new HDTV...

There are several important dates over the course of the baseball offseason. One of them came Friday when teams had to add players to their 40-man roster to ensure they couldn't be lost in the Rule 5 draft. Another comes tomorrow, when teams must offer arbitration to Type A and Type B free agents to ensure draft-pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere.

The Nationals have only one free agent who fits either category, Adam Dunn, and it's a no-brainer they'll offer the big guy arbitration. That will ensure they get two draft picks as compensation should the Type A player leave. They'll definitely get a "sandwich" pick between the first two rounds. And they'll get either a first-round or a second-round pick depending on which team ends up signing Dunn. If the signing team owns pick 19-33, the Nats will get that club's

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harper, Solis starting AFL title game

If you need a break from college football this afternoon, MLB Network has the Arizona Fall League championship between the Scottsdale Scorpions and the Peoria Javelinas at 3 p.m. EST. And the game will feature the Nationals' top two 2010 draft picks in key roles.

Bryce Harper is in Scottsdale's starting lineup, batting seventh and playing right field. The 18-year-old No. 1 draft pick hit .343 with six extra-base hits in his nine AFL regular-season games.

And left-hander Sammy Solis, the Nats' second-round pick out of the University of San Diego, gets the starting nod for the Scorpions. Solis has pitched in six AFL games (five of them starts) and has posted a 3.80 ERA. Like all pitchers in the AFL, he'll be restricted to five innings today.

Not sure if any other Nationals prospects, including catcher Derek Norris, will be in the lineup. I'll let you know if I find out.

UPDATE AT 2:37 P.M. -- Turns out both Norris and shortstop Stephen Lombardozzi are in the lineup. Lombardozzi is leading off. Norris is batting fourth. So four of the 10 players starting for Scottsdale today (they use a DH) are Nationals prospects.

UPDATE AT 7:45 P.M. -- Congrats to the Scorpions, 2010 AFL champs thanks to a 3-2 victory today over Peoria. Plenty of Nationals contributed in the clincher. Sammy Solis was credited with the win after allowing two unearned runs over four solid innings. Bryce Harper went 1-for-4 with an RBI, as did Stephen Lombardozzi. Derek Norris was 1-for-3 with a run scored. Michael Burgess came off the bench to pinch-hit and drew a walk. And Cole Kimball recorded the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Marrero, Carr, Kimball on 40-man

The Nationals have added Chris Marrero, Adam Carr and Cole Kimball to their 40-man roster, protecting all three players from being plucked away in next month's Rule 5 draft. They have also lost pitcher Juan Jaime to the Diamondbacks on a waiver claim.

No other players were removed from the 40-man roster, which now has no open slots. If the Nats acquire any new players this offseason, they'll need to clear 40-man space for the additions.

Among the players who are now unprotected from the Rule 5 draft are pitchers Brad Peacock and Brad Meyers. (UPDATE: I mistakenly had Peacock as one of the eligible Rule 5 players. Turns out he won't be eligible until next year because although he was drafted in 2006, he didn't actually sign until 2007.)

Read my full story on CSNwashington.com.

The Willingham Conundrum

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Josh Willingham is eligible to become a free agent after next season.
Sounds like a movie title, doesn't it? Or maybe a complex physics theory.

In actuality, "The Willingham Conundrum" is the dilemma facing the Nationals over the next 12 months with regards to their veteran left fielder. If Adam Dunn's future was the biggest question mark looming over 2010, Josh Willingham's future might well become a comparable storyline in 2011.

The dilemma: Willingham is entering his final season of arbitration. He stands to make about $6 million next year through that process. He's then eligible to become a free agent next fall. Thus, the Nationals would appear to have three options with The Hammer moving forward...

1. Sign him to a contract extension.

2. Let him walk as a free agent and receive draft-pick compensation.

3. Trade him, either this winter or next summer, to perhaps get more in return.

Which option makes the most sense for the Nats? I'm not sure anyone really knows at this point. I do know there's no chance of a long-term extension this winter. It just wouldn't behoove the Nationals to make

Thursday, November 18, 2010

40-man maintenance

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Chico could get dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for younger prospects.
It's that time of the year when baseball clubs start adding and removing guys from their 40-man roster, doing some housekeeping work in advance of the Winter Meetings. If a player is going to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, he must be added to the 40-man roster by Saturday.

Which players are fair game to be plucked away by other organizations in the Rule 5 draft? Anyone who signed at age 19 or older and has spent three full seasons in the organization, and anyone who signed at age 18 or younger and has spent four full seasons in the organization. Essentially, this means any players who were drafted out of college in 2007 and any players who were drafted out of high school (or signed out of Latin American countries) in 2006.

In the Nationals' case, some of those players are already on the 40-man roster. Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann were each drafted out of college in 2007 but reached the majors quickly and thus were added to the 40-man long before they were required.

But there are plenty of other guys who have been in their farm system the last three or four years who have yet to reach the majors but are now eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time. I count 15 such

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Exploring all options

Baseball's GM meetings opened yesterday in Orlando with a flurry of activity. The Marlins traded Dan Uggla to the Braves for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn, then signed catcher John Buck to a three-year contract. The Cardinals re-signed Jake Westbrook to a two-year deal. The Mets conducted a second round of interviews with managerial candidates. GMs held formal discussions about adding an extra wild-card team from each league to the 2012 postseason.

And the Nationals ... well, Mike Rizzo was there, talking to plenty of agents, fellow GMs and reporters about a number of topics. No actual moves were made, but this was only day one of the unofficial beginning of the Hot Stove League. Let's not just assume the Nats are sitting this winter out because they haven't done anything yet.

Indeed, all the evidence to date suggests Rizzo will be quite busy this offseason. The Nationals have been linked to just about every prominent name on either the free agent or trade market so far if you believe every rumor that's been published. You probably shouldn't, because the plausibility of the Nats being in serious contention for every prominent available player is low. If they actually acquired every guy they "have interest in" they'd wind up with a $250 million payroll and an 12-man starting rotation.

What you should take from all this is that the Nationals legitimately are exploring every possible option out there. They want to re-sign Adam Dunn, but they're also talking to Carlos Pena, Paul Konerko and other first basemen. They want to add a front-line starter but they

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Comparing present to past

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn's career to this point is comparable to borderline Hall of Famers.
Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal made a really interesting point in an article posted last night. In questioning Scott Boras for comparing Adrian Beltre to Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Paul Molitor (a ridiculous comparison, by the way) Rosenthal pointed out that another top free agent does compare favorably to one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Carl Crawford, through age 28, has put up incredibly similar offensive numbers to none other than Roberto Clemente. It's not a perfect comparison tool, because it only takes into account offense, and obviously Clemente was perhaps the greatest defensive right fielder of all-time. But it's not a bad method for putting a current player's performance in context.

And you can do this with any player in baseball history thanks to baseball-reference.com's "Similarity Score," which uses a formula developed by Bill James to make some pretty accurate comparisons.

Now, the fun part: To whom do members of the Nationals most favorably compare?

Let's start with the man drawing the most attention this offseason, Adam Dunn, who at age 30 has hit 354 homers with a .250 batting average, .381 on-base percentage, .521 slugging percentage and .902

Monday, November 15, 2010

No ROY votes for Strasburg

Had voting for the National League Rookie of the Year award taken place on August 20, Stephen Strasburg might well have won.

Of course, the actual voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America took place right at the conclusion of the regular season, well after Strasburg had undergone Tommy John surgery. Thus, the Nats' young pitching stud fell back in the pack to a deep and talented rookie class that included Buster Posey and Jason Heyward, among others.

Way back in the pack.

The BBWAA just revealed the balloting for both the NL and AL awards. Posey, with 129 points, beat out Heyward (107) to win the NL award. Seven other players received votes: Jaime Garcia, Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, Starlin Castro, Ike Davis, Jose Tabata and Jonny Venters.

You'll notice Strasburg's name appears nowhere on that list. Thus, in the end, he wasn't even considered one of the top nine NL rookies this season. While I'm a little surprised at that, I'm not completely shocked. Writers only list three players per ballot, so Strasburg would

Harper, catchers impressing

Time for another update on Nationals currently playing fall or winter ball across the western hemisphere. MLB.com has a nice function that allows you to check the stats for every player from one organization on one page. You might want to bookmark this page, which has updates on 28 players from all levels of the Nats' organization.

Let's start, of course, with Bryce Harper, who continues to make the most of his limited opportunities in the Arizona Fall League. The 18-year-old outfielder has played in eight games for the Scottsdale Scorpions and is hitting .323 (10-for-31) with two doubles, two triples, a homer, six RBI, four walks and 10 strikeouts. That equates to a .400 on-base percentage a .613 slugging percentage and a robust 1.013 OPS.

It's tough to make any real significant judgments off the stats from eight games, but clearly Harper has shown he can handle the level of competition. He's been a little overanxious at the plate, leading to that hefty strikeout rate. But he's flashed his immense power and by all accounts has looked solid in right field, especially in the throwing department.

Harper probably has only two more games to play in Arizona. This is the final week of the AFL season, so he'll play Wednesday. And barring an epic collapse, Scottsdale will be playing in the AFL championship on Saturday (2:30 p.m. EST on MLB Network). I'm not

Friday, November 12, 2010

From NatsTown to oblivion, revisited

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Elijah Dukes is one of 13 2009 Nats who didn't play in the majors this season.
Way back on February 2, when this site was only two days old and had far fewer visitors than it does today, I wrote about the staggering list of players who after leaving the Nationals never played for another big-league club again.

At the time, I came up with 61 guys who played their final major-league game wearing a Nats uniform between 2005-08. The correct number is actually 59, because I forgot that Paul Lo Duca played a few games for the Marlins in 2008 and Chad Cordero resurfaced with the Mariners this year.

The conclusion I drew back then was that the Nationals, desperate to fill out rosters, were forced to play way too many past-their-prime veterans or unqualified rookies who probably shouldn't have been there in the first place. As the franchise improved over time, the hope would be that fewer of those kind of players are needed.

So, have things gotten better for the Nats in this department? No, not really.

An analysis of the Nationals' 2009 roster reveals 13 more players who didn't appear in a major-league game this season. That's the same

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zimmerman wins Silver Slugger

Read an updated version with quotes from Zimmerman on CSNwashington.com

Managers and coaches didn't believe Ryan Zimmerman was the National League's best defensive third baseman this season, but they did believe he was the NL's best offensive player at the hot corner.

Zimmerman won the Silver Slugger award this evening, the second straight year the Nationals' star has been honored as his position's best offensive performer.

Zimmerman set career highs in batting average (.307), on-base percentage (.388) and OPS (.899) while also hitting 25 homers with 85 RBI. Those power numbers were down from his 2009 totals of 33 homers and 106 RBI, but that was in part because the 26-year-old missed 20 games with a variety of minor injuries.

Zimmerman beat out a deep class of fellow NL third basemen including David Wright, Mark Reynolds, Scott Rolen and Casey McGehee.

This award comes one day after Zimmerman (generally regarded as the best defensive third baseman in the NL) lost out to Rolen for the Gold Glove award, also voted on by the league's managers and coaches.

Bisenius becomes free agent

So much for the Joe Bisenius Experiment. The Nationals secured outright waivers on the reliever, who then elected to become a free agent.

Thus ends Bisenius' short-lived stint with the Nats. The 28-year-old right-hander, signed to a minor-league contract early in the season after a tryout with an independent team in his hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, pitched well enough at three levels of the Nationals' farm system (posting a 3.05 ERA) to earn a September call-up.

The hard-throwing reliever, though, didn't offer up much in five big-league appearances. He allowed six runs (five earned) and six hits in 4 2/3 innings, walking six while striking out five.

Bisenius (who had pitched the previous six years in the Phillies' system) may have been deemed expendable because of the late-season emergence of Collin Balester, a similar hard-throwing right-hander who after fizzling out as a starter reinvented himself as a reliever and wound up posting a 1.35 ERA in 11 September appearances to put himself in the mix for a job in 2011.

Zim's plea to re-sign Dunn

Ryan Zimmerman has been lobbying the Nationals to re-sign Adam Dunn for months. That's nothing new.

But each time the Nats' No. 3 hitter talks about their now-free agent No. 4 hitter, his message seems to get stronger. And last night after participating in the club's new uniform unveiling at Nationals Park, he made his strongest plea yet to bring Dunn back in 2011 and beyond.

"We've got to get Adam," Zimmerman said when asked what he'd most like to see the Nationals do this winter. "The presence he has in this lineup, the presence he has in the clubhouse, the consistency you get out of him ... if you take him out of the middle of the lineup, it's going to be hard to replace him. It's going to do a lot to our team."

Though there are a number of established first basemen on the open market -- including Carlos Pena, Paul Konerko and Aubrey Huff -- Zimmerman believes none are as sure of a thing as Dunn.

"You can get a guy who might have a great season, or he might hit 15 home runs and drive in 60," he said. "The thing you know with Adam is, he's going to hit close to 40 home runs, he's going to drive in close

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New uniforms unveiled [updated]

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Desmond, Clippard, Storen, Zimmermann, Lannan and Zimmerman in the new jerseys.
Updated at 8:21 p.m.

The Nationals debuted their new look tonight, showing off four jerseys for the 2011 season that feature plenty of familiar styles but one big surprise: The word "Nationals" doesn't appear prominently anywhere.

The new home white jersey, which used to include a block "Nationals" across the front, now boasts a red curly W logo on the left breast, with red block numbers on the lower right and red and blue piping down the plackets around the buttons.

All gold has also been removed from the uniforms, leaving the colors simply as red, white and blue.

The road gray uniform is virtually unchanged, aside from a new logo on the left sleeve featuring the curly W inside a circle with the words "Washington Nationals" around it. That's the club's new primary logo, replacing the block "Nationals" atop a baseball that had served as the

No Gold Glove for Zimmerman

Read the updated story with quotes from Zimmerman on CSNwashington.com

Ryan Zimmerman came up short in his bid to win a second straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award this afternoon, losing out to Reds third baseman Scott Rolen in a vote of National League managers and coaches.

Zimmerman, who won the award last season for the first time, appeared to be favored to earn the nod again, but he faced a deep field of fellow third basemen that included Rolen, the Phillies' Placido Polanco, the Mets' David Wright and the Padres' Chase Headley.

Rolen earned his eighth career Gold Glove, though his first since 2006. The 35-year-old enjoyed a stellar comeback season in Cincinnati, committing only eight errors while posting a .977 fielding percentage. Zimmerman committed 17 errors with a .951 fielding percentage.

Zimmerman, though, had a better case through advanced fielding metrics. He bested Rolen in Ultimate Zone Rating (13.9 to 10.6) though Headley led all NL third basemen in that category with a rating

Eventful day ahead

After something of a lull the last few weeks, NatsTown springs back to life today. Plenty going on over the next 36 hours, including...

-- The NL Gold Glove awards will be announced at 3:30 p.m., with Ryan Zimmerman trying to hold off Chase Headley and Placido Polanco and retain his title for a second year.

-- The Nats are unveiling their new uniforms at 6:45 p.m. in an invitation-only "fashion show" at Nationals Park. Scheduled runway models include Zimmerman, Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, John Lannan and Drew Storen. (It's really a shame, by the way, that Miss Iowa Miguel Batista isn't taking advantage of this golden opportunity to prove once and for all he can walk in high heels.)

-- The Silver Slugger awards, meanwhile, will be unveiled tomorrow at 6 p.m. in a live broadcast on MLB Network. Zimmerman is trying to retail his crown in that department as well.

I'll have coverage of all of those events, including photos from tonight's uniform unveiling, so please check back later on for that.

In the meantime, Baseball America has put together a comprehensive list of the 533 players who became six-year, minor-league free agents this week. It's worth perusing the full list just to get a sense of who's

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Will Zim's glove be golden again?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Zimmerman seeks his second straight Gold Glove award.
Major League Baseball reveals this year's Gold Glove award winners this week (AL winners are announced later today, NL winners tomorrow) which means a member of the Nationals will actually be in the discussion for a major award.

Might as well enjoy it while you can, because you won't be hearing much about the Nats over the next two weeks as the other big awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year) are handed out.

This, however, is an opportunity for the Nationals' one truly established star to earn some due recognition as one of the game's best. Ryan Zimmerman nabbed his first Gold Glove a year ago. Can he make it two in a row?

Conventional wisdom says he probably will. Not because he was the clear-cut best defensive third baseman in the NL this season -- the Padres' Chase Headley actually beat out Zim in UZR (16.5 to 13.9) and committed fewer errors (13 to 17) -- but because this award is based way more on reputation than actual statistical performance.

The Gold Gloves are awarded based on the votes of managers and coaches from each league. Which is a perfectly valid method for honoring the game's best defensive players. These guys see everyone

Monday, November 8, 2010

Catching up on things

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn is now a free agent and free to sign with anyone.
Back home in D.C., catching up on what's been going on in NatsTown the last few days...

Dunn becomes a free agent
Adam Dunn was free to begin negotiating with any major-league club at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, so the Nationals now have no leverage over anyone else in attempting to re-sign the big slugger. I don't think anyone actually believed the two sides would come to a deal prior to Sunday. From the moment the Nats opted not to trade Dunn at the July 31 deadline, it was clear he would test the open market and see what's out there.

Does this mean there's zero chance Dunn re-signs with the Nationals? No. I still believe he'd come back if the Nats make an offer commensurate with others that are out there. What are other clubs going to offer? We have to wait and see, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's less money (and years) out there than Dunn and agent Greg Genske believe there is.

The conventional wisdom all along has been that Dunn is seeking a four-year deal. Is there a team willing to give a suspect first baseman who turns 31 tomorrow a four-year deal? I'm not so sure, especially when it comes to National League clubs.

There's been a lot of talk about the Cubs going hard after Dunn, but this is an organization already saddled with a bunch of bad contracts (hello, Alfonso Soriano) and a new owner who has suggested payroll

Thursday, November 4, 2010

News and discussion of the week

Since I won't be around the rest of the week, I won't be able to pass along any Nats-related news or opinion. But I know there's still plenty going on, and I wanted to make sure all of you have the opportunity to relay and discuss any developments that arise.

Please use the comments section of this thread for any and all Nats talk until I return...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A life worth celebrating

Mildred Zuckerman was hardly an expert on sports, but she tried her best to keep up to date so she could carry a conversation with her oldest grandson and feign as though she knew what she was talking about.

She would make sure to check the various standings in the sports section on a regular basis, note how my favorite teams were doing. She'd try to be aware if a big game was going to be on TV so she could at least tune in for a moment and see the score. She didn't know a cleanup hitter from a cleanup crew, but she never let on lest I be embarrassed by my grandmother's lack of sports knowledge.

Truth is, the woman we all knew as Bubbee (a Yiddish word for grandmother) had a lot more connection to sports than most of her contemporaries. Start with the fact she grew up on Gerard Avenue in the Bronx, one block from Yankee Stadium, and watched games from the roof of her building. This was during the 1920s and '30s, when guys named Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Bill Dickey not only played in the Bronx but were regulars around the neighborhood, including at my great-grandfather's lunch counter.

Bubbee probably didn't have a lot of time for sports growing up, though, not with greater responsibilities at hand. She graduated high school at 16, a real math whiz who surely could have gone to college

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nats hire Porter as 3B coach

Updated at 7:35 p.m.

In searching for a new third base coach, the Nationals turned to a man they already felt like they knew, even though he'd never previously worked for the organization.

Bo Porter, who was hired today to take the position vacated this week by Pat Listach, played for the Cubs in 1999 when Jim Riggleman was manager. He also interviewed with general manager Mike Rizzo last fall when the Nationals were still searching for a full-time manager.

"When the possibility came about where they were going to have a vacancy ... this just happened to be a perfect fit," he said.

Porter, 38, served as the Marlins' third base coach from 2007-09, then joined the Diamondbacks' staff last season. After beginning the year as third base coach, he was promoted to bench coach when manager A.J. Hinch was fired and replaced by Kirk Gibson.

Gibson elected to bring in former Tigers teammate and Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell as his permanent bench coach with the Diamondbacks. Listach, who had been the Nationals' third base coach

Spring training schedule out

The champagne hasn't even been cleaned out of the visitors' clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and already we're ready to talk about spring training.

The Nationals just released their 2011 Grapefruit League schedule. No real surprises; the slate features all the usual suspects. For the second straight year, the Nats are scheduled to play the Yankees both in Viera and in Tampa. Last year, the home game was rained out, so if this one is played it will represent the first appearance by the Pinstripers at Space Coast Stadium since 2000.

Here's the full schedule...

February 28 vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie (1:10 p.m.)
March 1 vs. Mets in Viera (1:05 p.m.)
March 2 vs. Marlins in Viera (1:05 p.m.)
March 3 vs. Cardinals in Jupiter (TBD)
March 4 vs. Braves in Viera (1:05 p.m.)
March 5 vs. Yankees in Tampa (TBD)
March 6 vs. Braves in Viera (1:05 p.m.)

One season following another

And so the 2010 baseball season has ended, with a World Series champion few saw coming. (I will point out this humble scribe picked the Giants to win the NL West back on Opening Day and picked the Giants to beat the Rangers in seven games. I probably also need to point out this same humble scribe picked the Phillies to beat those same Giants in the NLCS. Eh, nobody's perfect.)

So how did San Francisco do it? Well, they managed to draft and develop four top-notch starting pitchers: Tim Lincecum (first round, 2006), Matt Cain (first round, 2002), Jonathan Sanchez (27th round, 2004), Madison Bumgarner (first round, 2007). They managed to draft and develop a top-notch catcher: Buster Posey (first round, 2008). They managed to unearth a diamond in the rough and develop him into one of the game's best closers: Brian Wilson (24th round, 2003).

And then they managed to make some incredibly shrewd acquisitions in the last two years as they sensed their time coming: Edgar Renteria (December 2008 free agent), Andres Torres (January 2009 free agent), Freddy Sanchez (July 2009 trade), Aubrey Huff (January 2010 free agent), Pat Burrell (May 2010 free agent), Javier Lopez (July 2010 trade), Cody Ross (August 2010 waiver claim).

They fielded one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and a lineup lacking anyone who hit 30 homers or drove in 90 runs. They boasted a rock-solid defense that committed only 73 errors during the regular season.

And they had a manager who figured out how to use every one of those parts to his team's advantage, mixing and matching lineups and getting contributions out of just about everyone on the roster.

That's how you win a World Series.

Couple other thoughts on this first true day of the offseason...

-- Bud Selig says he wants to add to two more teams to the postseason and thinks the change could be made by 2012. Am I the

Monday, November 1, 2010

WS Game 5: Giants at Rangers

Photo courtesy Texas Rangers
Will the Giants win it all, or will the Rangers keep the series going?
What began on cloverleafs of practice fields across Florida and Arizona towns nearly nine months ago could come to an end tonight. Yep, the baseball season could be over by night's conclusion if the Giants can win Game 5 and in the process capture their first World Series championship since the franchise landed in San Francisco in 1958.

But for all that to happen, the Giants will have to do something that seemed impossible one week ago: Beat Cliff Lee twice in a row. The Rangers obviously have their backs against the wall, down three games to one, but there's no one they'd rather have on the mound in this situation than their ace left-hander. Lee may have been terrible in Game 1, but something tells me he's going to bounce back with a strong performance tonight.

That doesn't necessarily mean Texas is a lock, because the Giants are still sending Tim Lincecum to the mound. And something tells me "The Freak" will be motivated to be the guy who delivers San Francisco a championship. Should be another fantastic matchup. Plenty of thoughts and analysis to come...

        THE 106th WORLD SERIES — GAME 5
         Where: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
      Gametime: 7:57 p.m.
     TV: Fox Radio: WTNT-570 AM
     Weather: Partly cloudy, 71 degrees
RF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
C Buster Posey
LF Cody Ross

Listach leaving for Cubs bench

Pat Listach, the Nationals' third base coach the last two seasons, is leaving the organization to become bench coach of the Cubs.

An official announcement won't be made until after the conclusion of the World Series, but a source with knowledge of the decision confirmed Listach's departure.

Listach has close ties both to the Cubs organization (he served as a manager in their minor-league system from 2006-08) and to new Chicago manager Mike Quade (who preceded him as skipper at Class AAA Iowa). The 43-year-old former AL Rookie of the Year now will function as Quade's right-hand man in the dugout at Wrigley Field.

Listach has aspirations of becoming a major-league manager and interviewed for the Brewers' vacant position last month. He's currently managing a Puerto Rican winter league team that features a roster including Nats prospects Danny Espinosa and Chris Marrero.

The Nationals will begin searching for what will be their fifth third base coach in seven years. Listach followed Dave Huppert (2005),

Coach vs. QB, manager vs. player

File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan and Jim Riggleman butted heads before this season's bench-clearing brawl.
So Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb aren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye right now, huh? Rex Grossman gave the Redskins a better chance of winning in the final two minutes yesterday against one of the lowliest franchises in the NFL than the quarterback with six Pro Bowl appearances and a 96-53-1 career record as a starter?

Weren't these kind of controversies in Redskins Land supposed to disappear now that accomplished, sane people were in charge of the organization? Guess not.

Quarterback controversies, of course, are nothing new. Certainly not in this town, where the last QB who had actual job security might have been Sammy Baugh.

Coach vs. player controversies also are nothing new in the sports world. They happen every year in every town in every sport. They've even happened plenty of times in NatsTown over the last six years.

If you've forgotten these classic Nationals manager/player butting of heads, here's a refresher course...

You can be forgiven if you have no memory of this one. Honestly, how many of you even remember that John Halama pitched for the Nationals? But the journeyman left-hander did, and he actually started three games, including one on September 7 against the Marlins at RFK