Friday, December 31, 2010

Lee agrees to terms with O's

The Nationals' first base dilemma may finally be nearing its resolution.

Derrek Lee has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Orioles, according to the Baltimore Sun. Lee, 35, must still pass a physical before the deal becomes official, but that's expected to be a formality.

Which leaves Adam LaRoche as the lone first baseman of significance remaining on the free-agent market, and the Nationals as the lone remaining club looking to sign a significant first baseman. LaRoche, who hit .261 with 25 homers and 100 RBI for the Diamondbacks last season, has been seeking a three-year contract. The Nats, according to club sources, are willing to offer him a two-year deal.

LaRoche, 31, must now decide whether to accept the Nationals' offer or hold out in hopes another team needs help at first base and comes calling.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Results (yours and mine)

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the "Best (and other) Moments of 2010" poll yesterday. You all gave some fantastic answers and insight into why you chose the moments you did. Plus, a bunch of you made me laugh with your wickedly funny answers.

I've pored through all the answers, and I think I've come up with the consensus selections. So here's what the readership picked for each moment, along with my own personal choice in each category...

Readers pick: Stephen Strasburg's debut
My pick: Stephen Strasburg's debut
This one was no contest. The electricity in the ballpark that night was second-to-none. The press box was packed beyond capacity. The entire baseball world was watching on TV. And then the kid not only lived up to the hype but exceeded it by a factor of 10.

Readers pick: Opening Day
My pick: Opening Day
It was a neck-and-neck race between the Opening Day fiasco against the Phillies and Stephen Strasburg's injury, but Opening Day barely won out. It was bad enough that the Nationals laid an egg in the game. That it happened in front of a huge pro-Philly crowd that came down I-95 on chartered buses and prevented actual D.C. fans from buying tickets turned this into a moment no one around here will soon forget.

Readers pick: The Miss Iowa saga
My pick: The Miss Iowa saga
Guess we really do think alike in most cases. The moment Miguel Batista said, "Imagine if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos," I knew he had just uttered the quote of the year. I didn't know, though, that it would

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best (and other) moments of 2010

Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Was Stephen Strasburg's debut the best moment of 2010?
Everyone loves to put together "End of Year" lists around this time, and why not? It's a fun way to look at the past 12 months and recall what made this year notable.

And there were no shortage of notable developments in NatsTown in 2010. Some were positive. Some were negative. Some were funny. Some were sad. Some were promising. Some were depressing. All were memorable.

I've been thinking of a few myself this morning, but I wanted to open this up to everyone else out there for discussion. Let's break it down into the following six categories:

-- Best moment of 2010
-- Worst moment of 2010
-- Funniest moment of 2010
-- Saddest moment of 2010
-- Sentimental favorite moment of 2010
-- "What the #$%&?!" moment of 2010

Explain your picks in the comments section. I'll pore through them all and try to come up with a consensus list for each Moment of the Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Have they improved?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond should be an improved player in his second big-league season.
Yesterday's posting about the remaining market for first basemen and starting pitchers spurred a discussion about the overall improvement (or lack thereof) the Nationals have made so far this winter.

Opinions seemed to be split among those who believe this team will be better in 2011 because of the development of several young players versus those who believe the Nats will be worse because of a lack of impact additions (other than Jayson Werth) and the projected regressions of several players.

It's an interesting debate, and I wanted to continue it today with more of an analytical tone. Have the Nationals improved or gotten worse so far this winter? To me, the best way to determine that is to look at the club position-by-position and compare what it had this year versus what it will have next year.

This exercise, of course, is subjective rather than objective. It also requires some educated projecting of stats and performance. And there are still seven weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Viera, with plenty of opportunity for more roster changes between now and

Monday, December 27, 2010

What's next for Nats?

After a brief holiday respite over the weekend, the Nationals are back to work today, still trying to address two significant roster needs: a first baseman and a starting pitcher.

The market at first base hasn't really changed, aside from the fact the Padres have signed Brad Hawpe to a one-year deal. The Nats may have had some marginal interest in Hawpe, but only as a worst-case scenario if everything else fell through. With San Diego's first base situation now resolved, there really are only two more teams in the market: the Nationals and Orioles. And, as luck would have it, there are only two more significant names still out there: Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee.

Look for this one to be resolved at last in the near future. One guy signs with Baltimore; one guy signs with Washington.

The pitching market, on the other hand, remains less certain. The Nationals lost out yesterday in the Brandon Webb sweepstakes when reports surfaced he had come to terms with the Rangers on a one-year contract. Terms of the deal haven't come out yet, but it includes plenty of incentives, which is understandable since Webb essentially hasn't pitched in two years.

It's no secret that Mike Rizzo had strong interest in Webb, his former draft pick in Arizona who went on to win the Cy Young for the Diamondbacks before a shoulder injury derailed his career. Rizzo was willing to take a shot on two rehabbing starters, pairing Webb with

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pirates claim Thompson off waivers

The Nationals have lost left-hander Aaron Thompson to the Pirates on a waiver claim, a move that brings the club's 40-man roster back down to its maximum allowable number.

Thompson, 23, went a combined 5-13 with a 5.65 ERA at Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse this season. He was originally acquired by the Nationals in the July 2009 trade that sent Nick Johnson to the Marlins.

Needing to clear a spot on the 40-man roster when outfielder Rick Ankiel signed earlier this week, the Nationals placed Thompson on waivers. Had he cleared, he could have been outrighted to the minors. The Pirates, though, put in a claim and today were awarded Thompson's rights.

Thus, the Nats' 40-man roster is now at 40 players again. For those wondering whether they needed to drop another person to make room for right-hander Ryan Mattheus, a club official explained that while Mattheus did sign a major-league contract this fall, he did so before getting outrighted to Syracuse. Basically, he's a minor-leaguer not on the 40-man roster with a major-league contract.

Burnett signs 2-year extension

The Nationals have signed reliever Sean Burnett to a two-year contract with a team option for a third year, according to a source close to the left-hander.

Burnett, who was entering the second of his three arbitration seasons, will make $1.4 million in 2011 and $2.3 million in 2012. He would be eligible for free agency at that point, but the Nationals have the choice of either picking up a $3.5 million option for 2013 or paying a $250,000 buyout. Burnett could also elect to opt out of the third year, sacrificing the buyout but becoming a free agent.

The deal should become official later today once the 28-year-old passes a physical.

Burnett has become a vital member of the back end of the Nationals' bullpen since his acquisition from the Pirates as part of the June 2009 trade that also brought Nyjer Morgan to D.C. in exchange for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. He has established himself as manager

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chico outrighted to Class AAA

Rest easy, Matt Chico fans: The left-hander will remain with the Nationals organization after all.

Chico, who was designated for assignment earlier this week, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Syracuse, the club announced today.

Though the Nationals only announced the DFA move last night, Chico must have been placed on waivers earlier in the week after the team signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang. Players must remain on waivers for 72 hours, with other clubs having the right to claim them. If no claim is made, the player remains his original team's property and is outrighted to the minors.

Chico will be invited to big-league camp next spring, though his chances of making the Nationals' Opening Day rotation are slim at best.

Baseball America's Top 10 prospects

Every winter, Baseball America ranks the top 10 prospects from every organization. These rankings obviously aren't the end-all, be-all, but BA is pretty much considered the authority when it comes to the minor leagues and amateur baseball, so their words do carry some weight.

The Nationals' top 10 was released this morning, and to no one's surprise the name at the top of the list is Bryce Harper. I would suspect Harper will also wind up as BA's No. 1 prospect in baseball when those rankings come out later this winter.

Here's the full Nats top 10...

1. Bryce Harper
2. Derek Norris
3. Danny Espinosa
4. A.J. Cole
5. Wilson Ramos
6. Sammy Solis
7. Cole Kimball
8. Eury Perez

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chico DFA'd

The Nationals have designated left-hander Matt Chico for assignment, clearing one spot on their 40-man roster needed after last week's signing of Chien-Ming Wang.

Chico, who pitched in one big-league game this year, has seven days to either clear waivers and be outrighted to Class AAA Syracuse, be traded to another club or released.

The 27-year-old went 7-9 with a 4.63 ERA as a rookie in 2007, leading the Nationals' pitching staff with 31 starts and 167 innings pitched. But he opened the following season 0-6 with a 6.19 ERA, earning a demotion to the minors. He later informed team officials his left elbow was in pain; he wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the rest of that season, plus the majority of 2009.

Chico made a full recovery from the injury and pitched well last season, posting a 3.62 ERA in 26 combined starts between Syracuse and Class AA Harrisburg. But his standing on the Nationals' pitching

Plenty of money still to spend

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jayson Werth got a huge contract, but he's only making $10 million in 2011.
The Nationals front office has stated pretty clearly for several months that now is the time to start adding high-priced acquisitions, whether via free agency or trades. The organization is willing and able to increase payroll, and already this winter we've seen the Nats sign Jayson Werth to the 14th-largest contract in baseball history while making legitimate offers to either sign or trade for high-salary pitchers like Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke.

There's no questioning the Lerner family's willingness to spend money on players this offseason. That doesn't, however, mean they actually will spend more money on players in 2011 than they have in the past.

In fact, it's entirely possible the Nationals' Opening Day payroll in 2011 won't surpass last year's $66.2 million total and actually could come up short of it.

How is that possible? Let's look at a few reasons how...

1) Though the total value of Werth's seven-year contract is a staggering $126 million, his 2011 salary is a relatively meager $10 million. Werth's salary doesn't reach the $20 million figure until 2014.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Strasburg rehab update

Stephen Strasburg just held a brief conference call with beat writers to update everyone on his rehab from Tommy John surgery. No major news to report here; he's basically right on schedule with things.

Strasburg continues to go through plenty of strength and conditioning workouts, with an emphasis on building up his shoulder so as not to overcompensate as he returns from the elbow injury. He's scheduled to be examined by orthopedist Lewis Yocum (who performed the surgery on September 3) shortly after Christmas. Assuming he gets the green light from Yocum, Strasburg hopes to begin throwing for the first time sometime in late January at his home in San Diego. He will then report to spring training in Viera, Fla., with all the other pitchers and catchers in mid-February.

Here are some of the highlights from Strasburg's conference call...

Q: How is the rehab going and do you know when you'll be able to start throwing?
"It's going great right now. I've been making big strides with just total body strength. I'm going to go see [Dr.] Yocum right after the Christmas holiday, and he should give me a better indication of when I'm allowed to start throwing. I'm a little out of three months from surgery. Everything feels great. I'm just waiting for them to tell me

Nats sign Rick Ankiel

Updated at 11:58 a.m.

The Nationals have signed outfielder Rick Ankiel to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, a club source confirmed this morning.

Ankiel, the former Cardinals phenom whose pitching career flamed out nearly a decade ago, has resurrected himself as an outfielder and in 2008 hit 25 homers with 71 RBI for St. Louis. He struggled this season, though, hitting just .232 with six homers and 34 RBI in 74 combined games with the Royals and Braves.

The 31-year-old, however, is a gifted defensive player with a strong arm and could challenge either center fielder Nyjer Morgan or left fielder Roger Bernadina for playing time next spring.

Ankiel's contract, which won't become official until he takes a physical, includes $1.25 million in performance bonuses.

A second-round pick in the 1997 draft, Ankiel sped through the Cardinals' farm system and made his big-league debut two years later at 19. The left-hander went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA in 30 starts in 2000

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Greinke to Brewers, vetoes Nats?

Zack Greinke is now a Brewer, though perhaps only after coming very close to becoming a National.

The Royals agreed this morning to trade their ace right-hander (plus shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and $2 million) to Milwaukee for four players: center fielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, right-hander Jake Odorizzi and a pitcher-to-be-named (believed to be Jeremy Jeffress). That ends months of speculation about Greinke trade rumors, and whether the Nationals could find a way to land the 27-year-old former Cy Young Award winner.

The Nats most certainly made a legitimate effort to acquire Greinke. And, according to's Jon Heyman, they were even close to striking a deal that would have sent Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and others to Kansas City. Greinke, though, vetoed that potential deal, as was his right since the Nationals were one of 15 clubs in his no-trade clause.

That, of course, was a major reason why Greinke-to-D.C. was always a long shot. After seven seasons toiling away for a Royals club that surpassed 70 wins only once, Greinke wanted a chance to contend now. Whether Milwaukee has the talent now to overtake the Reds and Cardinals in the NL Central remains to be seen. But the Brewers have a better chance of winning in 2011 and 2012 than the Nationals, at least in Greinke's mind, so that's why he'll be wearing blue and gold on

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wang, Antonelli & the GIBBYs

Good Saturday morning to you, NatsTown. Hope everyone is staying warm and dreaming wonderful thoughts of pitchers and catchers reporting to sunny Viera in less than two months' time.

Couple of quick-hit items to pass along as you enjoy your coffee and morning paper. (Does anyone out there still read the paper? Please assure me someone does. I may not be in the newspaper business anymore, but I still believe in the importance of the printed daily word.)

Anyways, here's what's going on...

Wang contract incentives
Details of Chien-Ming Wang's contract have emerged. According to the Taipai Times, Wang's $1 million base salary can be bolstered in a number of ways with various incentives that could bring the total value of the deal up to $5 million.

If Wang is on the Nationals' 25-man roster more than 30 days in 2011, he'll receive $250,000. If he's on the roster more than 60 days, he'll receive another $250,000. And if he's on the roster more than 90 days, he'll receive yet another $250,000 bonus.

Also, Wang will earn $100,000 upon making his 10th start of the season, with another $100,000 due for each subsequent start through No. 19. He would receive $150,000 apiece for his 20th and 21st starts, and $200,000 for his 22nd start. If he can make it to start No. 23, he'll earn another $300,000 bonus, with $300,000 more offered up

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gaudin signs minor-league deal

The Nationals have signed veteran right-hander Chad Gaudin to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Gaudin, who will be 28 on Opening Day, has pitched for six major-league clubs in eight years, most recently the Yankees. He went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 30 relief appearances for New York this season; he did not pitch in the postseason.

He has experience out of the rotation as well, starting 75 big-league games in his career, including 34 in 2007 with the Athletics (when he won 11 games).

For his entire career, Gaudin owns a 35-39 record and 4.61 ERA with the Devil Rays, Blue Jays, A's, Cubs, Padres and Yankees.

"Athleticism" and the new Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Josh Willingham's trade opens the door for Roger Bernadina to start in left field.
If it wasn't clear before, it certainly became obvious yesterday when Mike Rizzo traded Josh Willingham to the Oakland A's. The Nationals' general manager is remodeling his roster to include more guys who fit his description of the perfect ballplayer: Well-rounded players who not only produce at the plate but also in the field and on the bases.

One of Rizzo's buzzwords this winter has been "athleticism." It's one of the primary traits he looks for in his players. And those who don't have it are getting shipped out in short order.

Adam Dunn didn't fit the mold, so he's now DH'ing on the South Side of Chicago. Josh Willingham didn't fit it either, so he's now the starting left fielder in the East Bay.

What remains is a Nationals roster that is much more to Rizzo's liking. Just about every member of the projected Opening Day lineup (aside from the empty space at first base and Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate) possesses "athleticism." They have good range in the field. They have the ability to lay out to catch a ball hit just on the cusp of

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wang re-signs for $1 million

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuermann
Chien-Ming Wang returns after appearing in two Florida instructional league games.
Chien-Ming Wang made $2 million from the Nationals last year without ever appearing in a game. The Nats are willing to give the Taiwanese right-hander another $1 million to make another attempt to return in 2011.

The Nationals re-signed Wang this evening to a one-year contract. He'll earn $1 million in base salary, with incentives that could bump the total value of the deal up to $5 million based on the number of starts he makes next season.

It's a similar contract to the one the Nats gave Wang in February, when they hoped the former 19-game winner with the Yankees would rediscover his past form following major shoulder surgery.

Wang, though, never did make it all the way back from his July 2009 procedure. He remained at the team's spring training facility in Viera all summer on a slow rehab program which finally culminated with a pair of one-inning appearances in the Florida instructional league this fall.

The Nationals saw enough out of Wang in those two appearances to take another shot on him, though first they non-tendered him in November to avoid having to go through an arbitration process that

Rizzo, Beane, Willingham speak

Read my full story on the trade on

The Nationals and A's each just had dueling conference calls a little while ago. I was in on the Nats' call with Mike Rizzo, who had some interesting things to say about today's trade and why it was made. My colleague John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, was on the A's call with Billy Beane and Josh Willingham and was kind enough to share what both men said.
Here you go...

On Henry Rodriguez (top left)
"He's a guy we've scouted a lot lately. We see a big physical, big-armed guy, with two plus-plus pitches, 23 years old, and a guy we feel can fit comfortably in our bullpen, now and for years to come. We foresee him down the road as the possibility of a guy who can pitch at the back end of the game, either set up Storen in the eighth inning or pitch in the ninth inning. It's just an attractive alternative, another 23-year-old power arm that adds to our depth at that position, and a guy we think has big upside. He's been scouted a lot lately. His numbers are trending positively, as far as the walk numbers are going. The walk numbers are going down, the strikeouts are going up. He's getting much more acclimated to the

Willingham dealt to A's [updated]

Updated at 4:03 p.m.

The Nationals have finalized a trade that will send left fielder Josh Willingham to the Athletics for reliever Henry Rodriguez and minor-league outfielder Corey Brown, both teams formally announced late this afternoon.

Willingham, who hit .268 with 16 homers and 56 RBI in 114 games this season before undergoing knee surgery in August, was due to become a free agent at the end of the 2011 season, and the Nationals had not shown interest in re-signing him to an extension. Several teams inquired about the 31-year-old's availability at last week's Winter Meetings in Orlando, including the A's and Red Sox.

As currently constructed, the Nationals will likely use a combination of Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse in left field. Team officials have long believed Bernadina, who hit .246 with 11 homers and 47 RBI in 134 games as a rookie, is best suited defensively to play left field. Morse, who hit .289 with 15 homers and 41 RBI in 98 games, could

Who's on first?

The Nationals have a right fielder (one who will cost them $126 million over the next seven years). They've got one of the best third basemen in the game. They've got a pair of young middle infielders who can grow together.

The Nats have both a veteran and two young catchers who can share the workload behind the plate. They've got a solid left fielder who could be traded (but a couple of backup options in case that happens). And they've got a center fielder who is going to get a chance to prove last year was an anomaly.

So what's still missing from this puzzle? Oh yeah, a first baseman.

Plain and simple, the Nationals don't have one. (For those still clamoring for Michael Morse, general manager Mike Rizzo made it clear once again yesterday that everyone's favorite part-time player is still "a backup plan" in case another first baseman isn't acquired.) Which means Rizzo essentially has three remaining options: Sign either Adam LaRoche or Derrek Lee or attempt to trade for a first baseman.

Let's deal with the last scenario first. A trade seems increasingly unlikely, based on the way Rizzo was talking yesterday following the Jayson Werth press conference. For one thing, trades cost players in return, and the Nats aren't really looking to fill one roster hole by

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"I hate to lose. I'm here to win."

Jayson Werth spent the last four seasons playing in as successful an environment as you can find in baseball: as one piece of a Phillies roster loaded with All-Stars that played in front of sellout crowds every night and won four straight division titles, with a World Series crown thrown in for good measure.

The curly W cap and jersey he donned today for the first time is associated with none of that. The Nationals have never posted a winning record since arriving in Washington six years ago. They've often played in front of half-empty stadiums. And the roster, while featuring a handful of elite players, hasn't been awash with the kind of talent the Phillies have boasted in recent seasons.

Werth understands the challenge now staring him in the face. And he embraces it.

"I've been in the postseason a lot the last couple of years," he said. "That's what it's all about. That's what you play for. That's what you work out for. That's what you get to spring training early for. I hate to lose. I'm here to win."

Read my full story on Werth's arrival in D.C. on

Highlights from Jayson Werth

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jayson Werth donned a Nats cap and jersey today for the first time.
Jayson Werth's introductory press conference (along with several follow-up, smaller sessions with reporters talking to Werth, Mike Rizzo, Jim Riggleman and others) has concluded. I'm going back through the tape right now and will be updating this with some of the highlights from all of the interested parties.

Here we go...

Q: What intrigued you about Washington, and how do you expect to help this team win?
"One thing I saw with the Nationals the past few years playing them is just the grittiness they have, a will to win. Although they've had some rough seasons the past few years, they have some talent. It's very young and unpolished. That's one thing I look forward to helping along the way. I've always been a big fan of the underdog, and I think this situation in Washington is one going forward that the city and fans will come with love for us and come out and see us on a nightly basis."

Q: Do you feel any undue pressure signing such a long-term contract, one of the largest in MLB history?
"Any time you go on the field and you play for a team, there's going to be pressure. I'm coming to this team and this city to get involved with something much greater than what what you've seen here before. The Lerners are on board, Mike's on board, Jim's on board. We're all going in the same direction. I don't foresee any undue pressure. I just want

Werth press conference today

The Jayson Werth signing was completed 10 days ago, but at long last this afternoon, we'll finally get to see the Nationals' new $126 million right fielder in a curly W cap and jersey.

Werth will formally be introduced during a 1 p.m. press conference at Nationals Park. If you're near a television, you can watch the proceedings live on Comcast SportsNet. If you're stuck at work, never fear: will be streaming the event live online.

If you didn't know already, Werth will be wearing the same uniform No. 28 he wore in Philadelphia. The man who used to wear that number, Michael Morse, is switching to No. 38.

Also, if you didn't know, Werth's trademark beard is no more. He was spotted at the Wizards/Lakers game last night with a clean-shaven face, aside from a small soul patch. Clearly, this guy isn't happy about this unfortunate development.

I'll be at today's press conference, of course, and will provide details (and hopefully photos) later, so please check back for that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nats sign veteran hitter Stairs

The Nationals have signed Matt Stairs to a minor-league contract, bringing aboard a veteran slugger who will most likely serve as their top left-handed pinch-hitter in 2011.

Stairs, who turns 43 in February, is baseball's all-time leader with 23 pinch-hit home runs. He's played for 12 different major-league clubs over the last 19 seasons in a career that began way back in 1992 with the Montreal Expos.

A first baseman and corner outfielder in his younger days, Stairs has been limited to DH and pinch-hitting duties in recent years. He hit .232 with six homers and 16 RBI in 78 games (111 plate appearances) for the Padres this season, with 57 of those plate appearances coming as a pinch-hitter.

The deal is not for guaranteed money, so if Stairs doesn't make the Opening Day roster, it won't cost the Nationals anything.

A native of New Brunswick, Stairs is 25 years older than one of the players he'll play alongside next spring: Bryce Harper, who is set to participate in big-league camp at age 18.

The NL East just got even tougher

Wait, Cliff Lee signed with ... the Phillies? For only five years?

That kind of came out of nowhere, huh? (Not that anyone saw Jayson Werth coming to Washington for seven years, of course.)

Still, the news that broke early this morning was quite a punch to the gut. For the Yankees, who assumed their money would trump all else. For the Rangers, who thought they had a good chance of keeping Lee. And, of course, for the Nationals, who never honestly believed they were going to land the top prize on the free agent market but also never thought they'd lose out to their NL East nemesis.

It's one thing to lose the Cliff Lee Derby. It's quite another to lose it to those reviled Phillies, who have ruled this division for four years now and show no signs of surrendering their place anytime soon.

Honestly, how are the Nationals (or the Braves, Marlins or Mets) supposed to compete with a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? Any one of those four pitchers would start Opening Day for probably 20 other major-league clubs. Never mind the All-Star lineup of Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Embarrassing Nats moments

Photo capture of MASN broadcast
Adam Dunn's misspelled jersey qualified as a truly embarrassing moment.
Watching the final moments of yesterday's Redskins game -- I presume there's no one out there who hasn't seen it -- I couldn't help but think about all the embarrassing moments that franchise has experienced in the last decade or so.

The list is epic, ranging from Dan Turk's botched snap in the 1999 playoffs, to Marty Schottenheimer beginning his lone season as coach 0-5, to Steve Spurrier's "5 and 11, not very good" team in 2003, to Joe Gibbs getting penalized for calling two consecutive timeouts, to Jim Zorn calling for two consecutive fake field goals, to Albert Haynesworth getting suspended for four games, to yesterday's trainwreck of an extra-point attempt.

I also couldn't help but think of a handful of embarrassing moments in Nationals history, though I'm not sure any one moment tops yesterday's follies at FedEx Field. Off the top of my head, here are my candidates for "Most Embarrassing Moment in Nationals History." I'm not talking about the most crushing losses or the most lopsided games. I'm talking about legitimately embarrassing moments after which all you could do was pick your jaw up off the floor, shake your head and perhaps even chuckle a bit at your team's misfortune.

Here's what I came up with...

April 21, 2005
The Nationals led the Braves 1-0 at RFK Stadium, where a steady rain had turned the infield into a mess. The umpiring crew decided to try to finish this one without calling for the tarp. Chad Cordero, as only

Friday, December 10, 2010

2011 minor-league staffs

The Nationals' new minor-league coaching staffs feature some familiar names, some guys promoted from lower levels and some guys who are rejoining the organization after having spent the last few years elsewhere.

Randy Knorr takes over as manager at Class AAA Syracuse, getting a bump up from Class AA Harrisburg, where he spent last season. Tony Beasley, the Nationals' third base coach in 2006 who held that job with the Pirates the last three years, returns to the organization and will manage at Harrisburg.

One-time Nats catcher Matt LeCroy (whose performance behind the plate famously reduced Frank Robinson to tears) has been promoted from the manager at low-Class A Hagerstown to high-Class A Potomac. He's replaced in Hagerstown by former Red Sox first baseman/DH Brian Daubach.

Gary Cathcart, who managed last year at Potomac, will now be at Auburn (the Nats' new short-season Class A affiliate in the New York-Penn League). Bobby Williams returns to the organization as

The Nats' current depth chart

Back home safe and sound in good old Northern Virginia (man, it's freezing here) after a hectic week at the Winter Meetings. Nothing new to report (yet) on either Cliff Lee or Adam LaRoche. The only news I know of that will definitely be announced today involves the Nationals' minor-league coaching staffs. Sounds like former Nats third base coach Tony Beasley is rejoining the organization as manager at Class AA Harrisburg.

So as we wait for that announcement and perhaps some other developments on the free agency front, I thought this would be a good time to run through the Nationals' depth chart at each position, see where things stand and where things still need improvement...

Ivan Rodriguez
Wilson Ramos
Jesus Flores
Status: This is pretty much set. Pudge obviously make the club out of spring training (barring something unforeseen there). The other spot goes to either Ramos or Flores, which much depending on Flores' health (he did homer and double last night in Venezuela).

Michael Morse
Status: Totally up in the air. Mike Rizzo made it clear this week he will address this vacancy from outside the organization. He's not comfortable making Morse the everyday first baseman. LaRoche is

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wrapping up the meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- And so the Winter Meetings have come to a close after four days spent tracking down lots of rumors but only three actual roster alterations: Jayson Werth and the two Rule 5 picks.

Make no mistake, though: The Nationals were very much front-and-center at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, beginning with the Werth blockbuster and continuing with rumors about the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, the search for a first baseman, the trade market for Zack Greinke and the trade market for Josh Willingham.

This was the fifth Winter Meetings I've covered as a Nats beat writer (missed the 2008 and 2009 events) and this was by far the most involved and visible this franchise has been at one of these things. The only other move that remotely compared to this was the Alfonso Soriano trade, which came late one night at the 2005 meetings in Dallas. And that was merely one surprising trade in an otherwise uneventful week for the Nationals, who remained well on the periphery everywhere else.

Perhaps the most significant thing the Nats did here this week wasn't simply signing Werth. As big as that was, the more significant development to me was that this franchise stepped up and made it clear it intends to compete with all the big boys on just about every

Nats take two pitchers in Rule 5

Updated at 12:15 p.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals selected a pair of right-handers in this morning's Rule 5 draft, swiping hard-throwing reliever Elvin Ramirez away from the Mets and sinkerball starter Brian Broderick away from the Cardinals.

Ramirez, 23, was 4-4 with a 4.16 ERA in 52 combined relief appearances between Class A St. Lucie and Class AA Binghamton last season. Signed in 2006 by New York out of the Dominican Republic, he was a starter in his first four minor-league seasons but was converted to a reliever this year.

With an impressive arsenal that includes a fastball clocked in the upper 90s and a power slider, Ramirez has often struggled with his command in the minors and last season issued 5.5 walks per nine innings. Nationals scouts saw his command significantly improve while pitching this winter in the Dominican Republic; he's posted a 26-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 appearances for the Gigantes del Cibao.

"The latter portion of the minor-league season and then this winter, he's taken it to a different level," GM Mike Rizzo said. "He's a big-arm guy, a big power guy that we hope helps us in the bullpen this year. ... If he did throw enough strikes, his stuff is as good as anybody

Eckstein donates kidney

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For those who didn't hear the news last night, Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein did an incredibly courageous thing: He donated one of his kidneys to his older brother Ken.

The procedure was performed yesterday, and according to the Nats, both Rick and Ken Eckstein are doing well.

This is the second transplant Ken Eckstein, who suffers from kidney disease, has received in his lifetime. The disease runs in the family, with the Eckstein's father and two sisters also having received transplants.

Rick Eckstein expects to be in the hospital for a couple of days before getting back to work. He has an elaborate coaching setup at his Orlando home, including a vast collection of video clips of decades worth of ballplayers' swings, and invites members of the Nationals to work with him throughout the offseason. He should be 100 percent recovered for the start of spring training.

In other news as we prepare for this morning's Rule 5 draft (which begins at 9 a.m.)...

-- Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox late last night, agreeing to a seven-year, $142 million contract. No word whether the dynamic

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lots of talk, no action ... yet

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals made the biggest splash of the offseason (the $126 million Jayson Werth signing) before many MLB executives had even arrived for the start of the Winter Meetings.

In the 72 hours since that blockbuster move, though, the Nationals' roster has remained unchanged. Despite plenty of talks with a host of agents and other team officials, they haven't been able to acquire the pitcher, first baseman or other role players they still covet.

Mike Rizzo isn't worried. Even if he leaves the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort tomorrow morning without any more acquisitions, the Nats GM believes the work done here will lead to something in the weeks to come.

"I don't want to put a time frame on a deal, because it doesn't really matter to me when it gets done," Rizzo said this afternoon. "You lay a lot of foundations here in trades and talks with agents about free agents. You never want to put yourself into a time crunch, because you never know when the deal will come."

Read my full story -- with an update on the pursuits of Cliff Lee and Adam LaRoche -- on

Rizzo on 1B, Lee, Wang, Webb

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Rizzo's just-completed media session featured questions and answers on the pursuit of a first baseman, the status of the search for a front-line pitcher, thoughts on the possibility of signing either Chien-Ming Wang or Brandon Webb (or even both right-handers) and even a little bit about Michael Morse's projected role.

Here's the transcript...

On losing out on Carlos Pena to the Cubs: "He was just one of many options that we were thinking of. I know our name was attached to him quite a bit, but he was just one of many guys we were thinking."

Are you looking for a long-term or a stop-gap solution at first base? "We'll explore both options. There's planning ahead that can take into account both kinds of players. It expands our pool a little bit more."

With a lot of first basemen off the table now, do you feel like you need to resolve this soon? "I don't want to ever feel rushed to do a deal. When you feel rushed to do a deal, you make a deal that you may not have wanted to do. We're going to look at all our options, and we feel that there's still a lot of good options out there. We'll see where it takes us."

Do you have a sense what the timetable for Cliff Lee to make a decision is? "I don't really know where he's at in regards to getting a deal done soon. It wouldn't surprise me if it went beyond the

No Lee deal likely soon

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If you were hoping for an imminent resolution to the Cliff Lee saga, you're not going to get it.

Darek Braunecker, the free agent left-hander's agent, left the Winter Meetings this afternoon with no deal in place for his client. The odds of a contract coming together before this event wraps up tomorrow seem remote at best.

Braunecker met with several clubs in person, including the Nationals twice, this week at the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort. The Yankees, Rangers, Angels and perhaps another team or two spoke with Braunecker, who is seeking a mammoth contract for the 32-year-old hurler.

Despite several reports of at least one club offering Braunecker a seven-year deal -- and speculation the Nationals could be that club -- Nats executives have adamantly denied it. GM Mike Rizzo is seriously interested in Lee and will make (if he hasn't already) a competitive offer, but it won't be for seven years.

Boras on Strasburg, Pena, Harper

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There's really nothing quite like big media scrum around Scott Boras. Reporters fire off questions about more than a dozen players who are represented by Boras, who doesn't even have to pause and think before he responds with a detailed (and usually glowing) analysis of the market for said player.

And since the Nationals have so many ties to Boras now -- Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ivan Rodriguez, Jesus Flores, Danny Espinosa and Alberto Gonzalez -- are all represented by him, as a reporter you have no choice but to wedge yourself into the scrum when Boras speaks at the Winter Meetings and glean whatever nuggets you can get out of him.

So, here's what the super agent had to say about some Nats-related matters just a few minutes ago...

On Stephen Strasburg: "His spirits are high. Coming through the surgery and understanding that he's A-OK and listening to the doctors comment, I think it's turned out where he's on the path of a very solid understanding of his future and where he can go."

On Strasburg's mechanics and whether he'll need to change them post-surgery: "I think we're going to leave the mechanics to the Washington Nationals. There's a lot of things that are said. But we've been through the Tommy John situation with a whole host of pitchers

Pena to Cubs, Nats want LaRoche

Updated at 10:10 a.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cubs came to terms with Carlos Pena on a one-year contract early this morning, taking one of the Nationals' top first base targets off the market and putting pressure on them to now sign Adam LaRoche.

Pena, whose name had been linked to the Nationals since last summer, will get a one-year, $10 million contract from Chicago, which is banking on the 32-year-old rebounding from a decidedly down season in which he hit just .196 with 28 homers for the Rays. The deal is still contingent upon Pena passing a physical.

Since allowing Adam Dunn to leave for a four-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox, the Nationals have been in search of a replacement at first base. They prefer a left-handed hitter with strong defensive skills, someone who could break up a suddenly right-handed heavy lineup of Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Josh Willingham.

Pena and LaRoche best fit that bill, so the Nats will now make a strong push to sign LaRoche. The 31-year-old has been a fairly consistent player during his seven-season career and has hit 25

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pavano, Webb, relievers and trades

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Several clubs have expressed interest in Roger Bernadina, but the Nats still like the outfielder.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- We interrupt today's never-ending string of Cliff Lee rumors to discuss other actual moves being discussed by the Nationals at the Winter Meetings...

-- Lee is by no means the only pitcher they've been pursuing here. Mike Rizzo acknowledged he's spoken "a couple times" with Tom O'Connell, the agent for Carl Pavano. Pavano remains a potential target of the Nats, though there are plenty of teams in the running for him and I get the sense Rizzo is nowhere close to as willing to put together a long-term offer for the soon-to-be 35-year-old as he is for Lee.

-- The Nationals certainly remain interested in Brandon Webb, the one-time NL Cy Young Award winner who was drafted by Rizzo when the latter was the Diamondbacks' scouting director in 2000, but there's a growing perception around the sport that Webb is nowhere close to being ready to pitch after major shoulder surgery. A source from another club that is looking at Webb said he'd be stunned if the

Nats meet again with Lee's agent

Updated at 4:50 p.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- How serious are the Nationals about attempting to lure Cliff Lee to D.C.? Enough to meet in person with the pitcher's agent for the second time this week at the Winter Meetings.

General manager Mike Rizzo met with agent Darek Braunecker this afternoon at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, according to major-league sources familiar with the meeting.

Rizzo, while confirming his strong interest in acquiring Lee, doesn't sound particular confident he'll actually land the prized left-hander.

"I still think we're a real long shot to acquire the player," he said.

It's not known if the Nationals have made a formal offer yet for Lee, who is seeking a mammoth contract that could reach seven years. The Nationals, according to multiple club sources, are adamant that they won't make a seven-year offer to the 32-year-old Lee.

The Nationals, though, haven't disguised their legitimate interest in Lee, far and away the top pitcher on the market. And they've shown a willingness in the past to outbid other clubs for top-tier free agents,

Nats want Lee, but not for 7 years

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals are seriously interested in signing Cliff Lee. Just not serious enough to give the prized free agent pitcher a seven-year contract.

While the Nationals will likely make a formal contract offer to Lee in the coming days, club sources said they will not include a seventh year in that offer, despite speculation around Disney's Swan and Dolphin Resort this morning to the contrary.

The Nationals' interest in Lee has never waned. He's been atop their wish list of potential pitching acquisitions this winter. But general manager Mike Rizzo has felt along his team faced long odds to land the 32-year-old lefty, who is also being heavily courted by the Yankees as well as the Rangers club he helped lead to the World Series in October.

Read my full story on

Another 7-year contract offer?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Day 2 of the Winter Meetings gets underway, here are some Tuesday morning goodies to munch on with your breakfast...

-- If the Nationals truly are serious about making their second gargantuan splash of the offseason by signing Cliff Lee, they may need only to inform the left-hander they're willing to give him a seven-year contract.'s Ken Rosenthal reported last night that at least one big-league club is willing to offer Lee a seven-year deal. And the Yankees, he reported, are not that club. This may all just be posturing on the part of agent Darek Braunecker, who told reporters yesterday that the Nationals are by no means out of the running for Lee. It's entirely possible Braunecker is using the Nats as leverage to try to convince the Yankees, Rangers or someone else to up the ante. But as we saw on Sunday with Jayson Werth, the notion of the Nationals blowing the rest of the competition out of the water with a massive contract offer is not out of the question. Does that mean there's a realistic chance Lee ends up in D.C.? I still don't think so. But if the Nats want to find out for sure whether the best pitcher on the market is willing to join them, they may need merely to make the kind of outrageous offer that already landed Werth this week.

-- That said, I still believe the Nationals' best hope of acquiring a front-line starting pitcher is via trade. It would cost a bundle (multiple players from a variety of positions) but Mike Rizzo suggested

Monday, December 6, 2010

Teams interested in Willingham

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals' signing of Jayson Werth to a massive, $126 million contract could have a profound domino effect on the club's overall plan for the rest of the offseason. It opens the door for other prominent free agents to take the Nationals seriously after previously considering the perennial last-place club an afterthought.

It could also open the door for the Nationals to deal away one of their established, everyday players.

Werth's signing creates a logjam of sorts in Washington's outfield, and Josh Willingham could wind up as the odd man out. Several clubs have expressed interest in acquiring the 31-year-old, and general manager Mike Rizzo is amenable to making a deal if he gets the right package in return.

"I guess with the addition of an outfielder, it would make another outfielder a little bit more comfortable to move, if you get the right deal," Rizzo said on the first official day of the Winter Meetings. "But Josh Willingham is not just any outfielder. He's a good, productive player, and a guy that we're going to have to get the right deal in return to move him."

Read my full story, including the names of several teams interested in Willingham, on

Rizzo on Werth, Willingham, pitching

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Rizzo wrapped up his daily media session a little while ago. Here are some of the highlights from the Nationals' GM...

Responding to the negative reaction around baseball to the Jayson Werth contract: "There's no negative reaction from me. I'm satisfied with the deal. I'm glad we got Jayson Werth. I can understand some of the comments. We're taking care of ourselves. We're trying to build something special here. We thought this player exemplified what we were trying to do. I don't apologize for signing Jayson Werth. I'm glad we have him in the fold. We're a better ballclub today than we were yesterday."

On what happens once Bryce Harper is ready to take over in right field: "There's plenty of outfield spots for Bryce Harper to play and Jayson Werth. The good thing about Jayson is he does have versatility. Certainly, at the beginning of this contract, he can play center field if we need him to. And Bryce Harper, his athletic ability, he can play anywhere on the field, also. Down the road, we hope we have that problem in the very near future, where we have to decide where Bryce Harper is going to move Jayson Werth to. We'll be better for it."

Could Werth wind up at first base way down the road? "I'll put it this way: I see Jayson Werth towards the end of this contract being able to play one of the corner outfield positions. He's a terrific athlete. Keeps himself in great physical condition. From some of the left

Lunchtime tidbits

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Some lunchtime tidbits for you from the Winter Meetings...

-- The Jayson Werth signing continues to be the biggest topic of discussion here at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. I stopped counting how many people have approached me so far today and before saying anything else asked me something along the lines of: "What the #$%^ are the Nationals doing?" There's definitely a feeling among executives from other clubs that this is going to have major ramifications on the rest of the baseball world, and not in a good way. The price on a bunch of other guys has gone up considerably, starting with Carl Crawford. One exec I talked to also said he thinks the Adrian Gonzalez-to-Boston trade was temporarily killed yesterday as a direct result of the Werth contract.

-- The Nationals, as I suggested earlier this morning, are most certainly not finished. The consensus around here is that they wouldn't have done the Werth deal if they weren't also planning more significant moves. There's definitely some chatter here about Josh Willingham, and there are definitely teams interested in the outfielder. I think any trade the Nationals pull off that lands a pitcher would almost have to include Willingham as part of the package.

-- Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche continue to be the two most likely targets at first base, but it's also not out of the question that the Nats could acquire a replacement there via trade. One name to keep

More on Jayson Werth

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the shock of the Jayson Werth signing begins to wear off, plenty of thoughts come to mind. Here's what I was pondering last night, presented in bullet-by-bullet form for your early morning consideration while I make my way to the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort for the official start of the Winter Meetings (despite what yesterday's events suggested)...

-- The Nationals are by no means done adding to their 2011 roster. I am completely convinced of that. The Werth contract would make zero sense as a stand-alone move. He's not the kind of player who can lift a last-place club all by himself and carry it on his back to the precipice of contention. I really believe this is just the first of several big moves to come from Mike Rizzo and Co. "We're not finished," Rizzo said yesterday. "We understand that we've got holes to fill. We're going to be aggressive and do what we can to address those. ... As we've shown here, when there's a player that we target, that really fits what we're trying to do, we're going to go after him and acquire him."

-- What else should we expect? Let's start at first base, which remains vacated since Adam Dunn's departure. I don't see the Nats moving Josh Willingham or Michael Morse in from the outfield. Rizzo clearly wants an above-average defensive player, and he almost certainly wants a left-handed bat to break up what is suddenly a really right-

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Making a (very costly) statement

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It's a rare day indeed when the Washington Nationals make a move that shakes up the entire baseball world.

This is a franchise that for the better part of six years has existed on the periphery of the major leagues, content to build its franchise through draft picks and second-tier acquisitions, leaving the headlines to its counterparts in New York and Boston and Chicago and Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

So when word came down this afternoon that the Nationals (yes, the Nationals) had signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million (yes, seven years and $126 million) contract, the sound echoing through the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort where the winter meetings are about to convene was the jaw of every member of the baseball world dropping to the floor in unison.

So much for the Nationals staying on the periphery while everyone else makes news.

Read my full analysis of the Werth signing on

Nats sign Werth for 7 years [updated]

ORLANDO -- Boy, did I pick the wrong time to be on an airplane.

I just landed in Orlando, turned on my BlackBerry and was greeted with a flood of emails, including a formal press release from the Nationals announcing they've signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year contract.

Obviously, more to come...

UPDATE AT 5:41 P.M. -- The contract is for a staggering seven years and $126 million, far and away the largest deal in Nationals or Expos history. Werth, who will turn 32 in May, is now signed with Washington through the 2017 season.

He hit .296 with 27 homers, 85 RBI and a league-leading 46 doubles last season with the Phillies and drew interest from some of the biggest spenders in baseball, including the Red Sox and Tigers. Those teams, though, weren't willing to offer more than a five-year deal. The Nats, clearly, blew those offers out of the water.

As for Werth's position on the field, it sounds like he'll be penciled in for right field. He's considered a strong defensive outfielder and has even played 104 games in center field in his career. For the moment,

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trade vs. draft picks

I don't want to harp on the Adam Dunn story forever, and we'll certainly start moving on to other topics soon -- the Winter Meetings begin Monday, after all -- but I did want to touch on one more aspect of this whole thing while it's still fresh on everyone's minds.

A lot of people have been wondering the last two days why the Nationals didn't simply trade Dunn in July instead of letting him walk as a free agent now and getting the two draft picks as compensation. Many fans are suggesting Mike Rizzo blew it by not dealing Dunn to the White Sox at the trade deadline in exchange for promising young pitcher Daniel Hudson.

Well, that's probably not a fair criticism, because as best as I can tell, the White Sox never offered a Hudson-for-Dunn trade.

I happened to have MLB Network on yesterday afternoon during their marathon showing of "The Club," a show about the White Sox's front office and clubhouse. I hadn't previously seen much of the show during the season, and perhaps some of you did, but I was most interested in the episode that centered around the July 31 trade deadline. MLB's cameras were right there in the conference room with

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rizzo statement on Dunn

Mike Rizzo isn't scheduled to speak to media members until Monday at the Winter Meetings, but the Nationals general manager did just release a statement about Adam Dunn.

Here it is...

"The Washington Nationals wish Adam Dunn and his family the best of luck and good will in Chicago. Adam contributed much to the Nationals and to the Washington, D.C. community. He will be missed, but will remain an important figure in the early history of this franchise and will always be a part of the Nationals baseball family."

Are Nats Dunn without Adam?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Who can fill Adam Dunn's large shoes for the Nationals? No one.
Much as lots of people tried to cling to some faint glimmer of hope, realistically, everyone knew this day was coming. It perhaps came a bit sooner than most expected, before the baseball world gathers in Orlando for the Winter Meetings. But once a couple of prominent free agent dominoes started falling in the last week, the spending spree was on and it was only a matter of time before Adam Dunn's turn came.

So sometime this afternoon, Dunn will stand before a bank of reporters, cameras and microphones on Chicago's South Side and don a White Sox jersey and cap for the first time. Back here in Washington, everyone will sit back and watch and wonder why that press conference is taking place at U.S. Cellular Field instead of Nationals Park.

Why? Because both Adam Dunn and the Washington Nationals stayed true to their word. Each side may have said all the right things publicly to suggest they wanted this marriage to continue, but privately each side also was adamant it would have to happen on their

Wang, Nieves, Peralta non-tendered

The Nationals elected not to tender 2011 contracts to pitchers Chien-Ming Wang, Joel Peralta and catcher Wil Nieves before tonight's deadline, instantly making all three players free agents. They did, however, come to terms on one-year contracts with Jesus Flores and Alberto Gonzalez, avoiding arbitration with each player.

All major league clubs were required to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players before midnight, moves that essentially confirm those players will return next season.

The Nationals tendered contracts to their five other arbitration-eligible players: outfielders Josh Willingham and Michael Morse and pitchers John Lannan, Sean Burnett and Doug Slaten. The two sides have until January 18 to either come to terms on their own or exchange arbitration figures to an independent panel that will rule on their cases in February.

Despite being cut loose by the Nationals tonight, both Wang and Nieves could return on smaller, non-guaranteed contracts. Had they gone to arbitration, Wang would have been assured of making at least $1.6 million in 2011, with Nieves assured of making at least

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dunn will sign with White Sox

Nationals fans (and players) who pleaded with club management to bring back Adam Dunn in 2011 won't get their Christmas wish. The free agent first baseman has agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The contract won't be official until Dunn passes a physical tomorrow, but he's effectively a member of the White Sox, a club that made a strong push to acquire him before the July 31 trade deadline but couldn't pull off a deal with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.

Because the Nats offered Dunn (a Type A free agent) arbitration last week, they'll be compensated with two 2011 draft picks. They'll get Chicago's first-round pick (23rd overall) as well as a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds.

Read my full story, with updates to come, at

Strasburg's effect on this offseason

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats' offseason needs would look a lot different if Stephen Strasburg was healthy.
It seems as though the Nationals' 2010-11 offseason ultimately will be judged on two issues: Did they re-sign Adam Dunn (or at least acquire someone else of equal or greater value), and did they acquire a front-line pitcher to anchor a shaky starting rotation?

We've addressed the Dunn issue plenty, and I'm sure we'll be addressing it more in the weeks to come. And we've addressed the pitching issue, though it occurs to me there's another angle to this whole thing that hasn't been addressed head-on.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if Stephen Strasburg was healthy and prepared to start on Opening Day 2011.

Your first reaction to that statement might be, "Well, duh," but it's worth pointing out. The impact of Strasburg's torn elbow ligament cannot be understated.

Put a healthy Strasburg in the Nationals' 2011 rotation, and here's what you've got: 1) Strasburg, 2) Jordan Zimmermann, 3) Livan Hernandez, 4) John Lannan, 5) Jason Marquis. And you've still got Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler and a bunch of others trying to squeeze

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What teams are in running for Dunn?

Nearly one month into the offseason, the market for free agent Adam Dunn remains unclear. The Nationals have had a three-year offer on the table since midsummer, but Dunn has been seeking a four-year deal. To date, no club has acknowledged making a four-year offer to the 31-year-old slugger.

Complicating matters is Dunn's stated desire not to be a designated hitter at this stage of his career. Most American League general managers view him as a below-average first baseman and left fielder and would sign him only if he served primarily as a DH.

After a quiet November, the Dunn Derby may be about to get into full swing. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Athletics met with Dunn at his Houston home yesterday, throwing their name into the mix. (UPDATE AT 4:34 P.M. -- The Chronicle now says that report was false and the A's did not meet with Dunn yesterday.) Several more clubs figure to speak to Dunn's agent, Greg Genske, at next week's Winter Meetings in Orlando.

Which teams are legitimately suitors for Dunn, and which ones don't really make sense? Read my article at to find out.