- Winter Preview----Washington Nationals:
Is it possible to fast forward to 2012?
What they need: Top to bottom pitching; a second baseman; a corner outfield power bat; influential, leader-type veterans.
Free agents: C Josh Bard; RHP Livan Hernandez; OF Austin Kearns; LHP Ron Villone; 1B Dmitri Young
Despite having a poor year at the plate for the Nats, Bard can hit. His best chance to get semi-regular playing time is to return to Washington.
Hernandez, Kearns and Young are all gone.
Villone is a journeyman who had the good fortune to be born left-handed and still has use out of the bullpen. A better team will invite him to camp on a minor league contract and he's got a good chance of making that team. He won't be back.
Players available via trade: 1B/OF Adam Dunn; RHP Jason Bergmann; SS Cristian Guzman; OF Elijah Dukes; RHP Saul Rivera; LHP Scott Olsen; OF Josh Willingham
Dunn's attractive on the trade market because: A) he's got one year remaining on his contract at $12 million; B) an interested team knows exactly what they're getting without fail; and C) he wouldn't cost that much in terms of players.
Unless someone bowls them over with an offer of exactly what they want (young pitching; a young bat with power potential) the Nats would be smart to wait until the free agent dust settles into January before stepping up their efforts to move Dunn. I think he'll be traded this winter.
Bergmann's arbitration-eligible and I've always loved his arm. They'll get a moderately useful minor leaguer for him.
Guzman is making $8 million and, like Dunn, any team interested will pretty much know what they're getting----respectable defense; occasional pop. They could conceivably move Guzman to second base. His future is bleak in Washington with the emergence of Ian Desmond, but that contract is hard to move unless they take back a Luis Castillo-type deal from the Mets. It's not that bad an idea for either side.
I'm in the minority, but I think Dukes is salvageable. He's got MVP talent and his anti-social behaviors (fights, arrests, etc) make him toxic. He needs guidance more than anything. If I were a team with nothing to lose like the Padres, Royals or even the Mets I'd be willing to roll the dice on Dukes after speaking to him and making sure he's willing to try and behave appropriately. There were nopublic issues with him last season.
Rivera had an atrocious year and wound up back in the minors in 2009, but he's been a historically durable and solid reliever. Someone will take him off the Nats hands; he's arbitration-eligible and might get non-tendered.
Another super-talent who's got off-field issues, Olsen is probably going to get non-tendered. Maybe the Yankees and the one manager who was able to handle Olsen----Joe Girardi----should take a chance. There was a classic clip of Girardi yanking Olsen down the runway steps of the Marlins dugout by his neck and screaming in his face. That's what Olsen needs.
Willingham is an underappreciated power bat by the public, but smart inside baseball people know how good he is. He won't come cheaply, but he's arbitration-eligible and the Nats have so many other holes, they'd be stupid to hold onto Willingham if they get a solid offer of multiple minor leaguers. He wants out of Washington and he'll probably be dealt.
Non-tender candidates: LHP Matt Chico; RHP Logan Kensing; C Wil Nieves
Chico is a soft-tossing lefty who'd be better-served to start throwing sidearm and try to be come a Tony Fossas/Mike Myers-specialist out of the bullpen.
Kensing throws hard and showed some usefulness for the Marlins before getting to Washington. He's arbitration-eligible.
If the Nationals go to arbitration with Wil Nieves, someone needs to be fired.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: OF Garret Anderson (Braves); 1B Adam LaRoche (Braves); RHP Rafael Soriano (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); 1B Chad Tracy (Diamondbacks); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); INF/OF Melvin Mora (Orioles); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Kevin Gregg (Cubs); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); OF Reed Johnson (Cubs); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); RHP Kiko Calero (Marlins); 1B/OF Ross Gload (Marlins); RHP Doug Brocail (Astros); 2B Orlando Hudson (Dodgers); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); OF Mike Cameron (Brewers); RHP Braden Looper (Brewers); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); OF Randy Winn (Giants); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); INF/OF Mark DeRosa (Cardinals); OF Marlon Byrd (Rangers); 1B/OF Kevin Millar (Blue Jays)
Aside from players like Nady, Tracy and Baez (guys coming off injuries and in need of jobs); players who have some use but few options (Mora; Anderson; Millar), it's hard to see the Nats getting any "name" players unless teams fill their holes elsewhere and said players (the Garlands and Marquis of the world) fall to the Nats.
There are "attitude" guys like Brocail who would add to any clubhouse, especially a young and influential group like the Nats. Dye isn't going to Washington; nor is Hudson; but both players, along with Anderson would be very positive influences on Dukes.
The Nats are going to have to wait and sift through the remnants after the free agent chips start to fall.
Via trade: RHP Jeremy Accardo (Blue Jays); INF/OF Brandon Inge (Tigers); 1B Paul Konerko (White Sox); OF David DeJesus (Royals); RHP Gil Meche (Royals); 1B Jack Cust (Athletics); 2B Dan Uggla (Marlins); RHP Matt Lindstrom (Marlins); RHP Jason Motte (Cardinals); 2B Luis Castillo (Mets); OF Aaron Rowand (Giants); RHP Chris Young (Padres)
No big names here. But the Nats can deal Dunn and bring in a similar and cheaper player like Cust, they'd save some money. If the Giants are interested in a swap of contracts and get a Dunn type of player, they can deal Rowand to the Nats for Dunn and Guzman.
Castillo would fill the Nats' second base hole and they can get a contract like Guzman's off the team. Meche can be had for nothing and, if he's healthy, is a good influence on the young pitchers and can still pitch.
The Padres will move Chris Young and if he's healthy, could be a 15-game winner if he improves his durability.
In short, most players wouldn't choose to go to the Nats if they have other options, but mutually advantageous deals can yield big returns. That's where the Nats should focus their efforts as they rebuild. They have some good players.
- The Pedro Martinez situation is getting sad:
After his performances in the playoffs and World Series, it's not as if Pedro Martinez is pulling a Steve Carlton and embarrassing himself by hanging on long after his sell-by date----Pedro can still pitch; but what's the cost in terms of stature?
I'm of the opinion that if a player still wants to play, it's no one's business to tell him to retire; but Pedro's annual proclamations of his own availability strikes a tone of desperation. He did it last year with the Mets and now he's doing it with the Phillies. It's similar to a guy telling a moderately interested girl who can take him or leave him that he's ready for a date at anytime, anyplace. All that does is make her less intrigued and plants the seed for ill treatment.
Does Pedro need to announce that he still wants to pitch?
That he's able to still pitch?
While he may not have the stamina to be counted on over the course of a long season, Pedro proved he still has the guile and savvy to get hitters out, so why the open recruitment of suitors with the almost-embarrassing pronouncements to the Phillies and anyone else who'll listen that "I'm here!!! And I wanna pitch for you and you alone----or anyone else who calls with an offer."
Add in that Pedro still wants to be paid moderately well and won't accept a minor league/incentive-laden deal and you'll likely see a situation almost identical to 2009 when he signed in August. It's not such a bad idea for Pedro or the interested clubs to see where they are in July/August; but everyone knows Pedro can still pitch and wants to pitch. He doesn't need to broadcast it.
Pleading for a job is unnecessary and unbecoming for a pitcher of his stature.
- The Prince's Hall of Fame votes, yes or no:
If I had a vote in the Hall of Fame balloting, here are my picks and non-picks of this year's candidates:
Roberto Alomar--Yes. No debate.
Harold Baines--No. He kind of hung around as a stat-compiler and was a very good player for a long time. Never dominant and lost in the shuffle, if he'd won one MVP and played the field a little more, he'd be in.
Bert Blyleven--If Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry are in, Blyleven should be in. I'd have Tommy John in before Blyleven, but can they elect him already so we don't have to hear about it anymore?
Andre Dawson--Yes. I don't want to hear about his low on base percentage. The man did his job as instructed. His job was to drive in runs and that's what he did.
Andres Galarraga--No. Possibly a PED guy and had his numbers bolstered by playing in Colorado to reignite up a fading career.
Barry Larkin--I have a problem with the "automatic" nature that people attach to Larkin while ignoring Alan Trammell, who I think was a better player. Let Larkin wait a couple of years.
Edgar Martinez--Yes. He was relatively unknown for most of his career, but during his heyday, opposing pitchers and managers feared him as much if not more than Ken Griffey Jr. There was no way to pitch to him. So what if he was primarily a DH?
Don Mattingly--The same standards that let Kirby Puckett get in could be applied to Mattingly. Puckett's career was cut short by glaucoma; Mattingly's by his back. But he's not getting in and I don't think I'd vote for him.
Fred McGriff--Yes. There shouldn't be a question. Crime Dog played clean and put up numbers year-after-year.He was a good guy and a better fielder than given credit for too.
Mark McGwire--No. I've said in past years that I'd vote for him but his preposterous, cringeworthy instances of uttering non-denials regarding his PED usage have annoyed me to the point that I wouldn't vote for him under any circumstances.
Jack Morris--Yes. Morris was a winner and post-season ace.
Dale Murphy--No. Almost, but not quite. A Bobby Bonds-type who had the ability, but doesn't cut it for the Hall of Fame.
Dave Parker--No. In the same boat as Murphy.
Tim Raines--Not yet. I need to consider Raines for a couple of years. I know the stat zombie argument that he's better than Lou Brock and Dawson, blah blah blah. I don't really think Raines belongs in the Hall but I can be convinced as I was with Blyleven.
Lee Smith--If you let Smith in, you have to let John Franco and Jeff Reardon in and none are Hall of Famers. They accumulated saves and were mostly pretty good, but were never even dominant at doing their own jobs.
Alan Trammell--Yes. Trammell's a Hall of Famer. He was a great fielder who played wonderfully in big games. If he'd won the MVP he deserved in 1987, would he have already been elected?