Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is this thing on?

So as Jon previewed the other day, the Winter Meetings were this week in Dallas. For those of you who don't know, it's a giant meeting with Major and Minor league officials, agents, players and MLB staff as far as the eye can see. For those of us who love the offseason, trades, free agent signings and hot-stove speculation, it's like a three day stay in Toys R Us for a kid. The Washington Nationals however, must have missed their invitation, it was very quiet out of the DC camp this year.

Despite rumors that they were in on Fielder, CJ Wilson, and Mark Buehrle, they came up empty. I thought Wilson was a great fit here, getting someone to balance Strasburg, and Zimmermann at the top of the rotation would have been a huge boon for the Nationals. Rumors abounded left and right about a possible trade for a CF, even targeting Adam Jones of the Orioles (which I suggested a few months back in a swap for perhaps Zimmermann, but without signing another frontline SP, that isn't going to happen.)

Now the Nats find them in the same position they were before the meetings, looking for a SP, CF, lead-off hitter and some depth. Talk emerged today about potentially shifting Werth to CF and opening up RF for Harper to start the season, but starting his clock at 19 years old could prove to be very expensive for the team down the road.

There are still a few lesser targets out there that make some sense for the Nats, Oswalt perhaps, who they have been talking to. Cespedes is still out there, and makes some sense here, however his cost has been skyrocketing with more teams getting in the mix, he could be a great gamble for the club though, especially if they don't end up signing any of the top tier FA. Paul Maholm could be a good fit here too, I think he fits better in the NL, and this could be a good home park for him. Two other guys that could make sense for SP depth are Brad Penny and Chris Young.

There are moves out there to be made, and with young talent still developing in the minors, adding without subtracting might be the best course for this season in order to give the young guys more chance to develop and see what they have. With Rendon, Harper, Cole and others getting some seasoning they are positioning themselves to contend for more than just a year or two, they just need to supplement their core with some good role players and veteran pieces and we could be seeing something really special come into play. As DC has shown numerous times recently (yeah I mean you Capitals), if you win, they will come. Once the Nats start winning they will become the trendy thing in town and the attendance and revenue will follow. Before that happens though, they need to start actually making something happen instead of just talking about it. The Angels were becoming the bridesmaids of MLB free agency always in the final talks, but never landing the prize...then they sign Wilson and Pujols within hours of each other. No one is thinking of them as 2nd place in anything anymore.

I hope Rizzo asked Santa for an alarm for Christmas this year, because he needs to wake up and make some things happen before it's too late.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kicking Off the Winter Meetings

Ted Lerner has quite a bit of money, Washington has potentially large streams of revenue, and the team appears willing to prime the pump with premier free agent talent..  The primary obligations of the team are Jayson Werth's potential train wreck of a contract and the solid contract associated with Ryan Zimmerman.  They account for 25 MM this year and 30 MM next year.  The club has a great deal of flexibility in their payroll.

However, with this flexibility the club has been largely saying no to many free agents.  Jose Reyes was not sought after.  Prince Fielder has been placed on the back burner.  Mark Buerhle has also been dropped off the radar.  I am not entirely sure where the Nats are going with this.  The team is likely only a couple moves away from the playoffs and it is not clear how they are expecting to make that movement.  The Braves are stuck in neutral, the Phillies' team is strong but the window is closing, the Mets are coming undone, and the Marlins will need a couple more pieces.  The NL East is ripe for the taking.  The Nationals are in striking distance.

Some of the improvement on the team will come from within.  Several components of the pitching staff should be able to contribute more this year.  Even if Strasburg loses a few mph, he is good enough to provide mid to top rotation value.  Werth is not as base as he was last year.  The team actually has reasonable options everywhere in the field except SS, LF, and CF.  They could also use another starting pitcher.  Those are the areas where they will need to focus their resources.

Yoenis Cespedes has been tied close to the Nationals.  This would be a great fit for them.  He is likely to be at worst serviceable in center field and that is a need.  They would also need to improve upon Bernadina as a backup center fielder in case Cespedes needs time in the minors.  Andruw Jones could be a decent plan B.  Mike Morse might be fine in left with LaRoche going back to 1B healthy.  There simply are no viable ways to improve SS unless they choose to spend big on Jimmy Rollins.  For pitchers, we will see how things shake up.

Let us hope for an interesting Winter Meeting.