Six Nats players tendered contracts
The Nationals have tendered contracts to outfielder Josh Willingham, catchers Jesus Flores and Wil Nieves and pitchers Jason Bergmann, Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett on Saturday night.
The Nationals had an 11:59 p.m. ET deadline Saturday to make a decision on all six players, who are arbitration eligible.
Earlier in the day, Washington decided it would not be tendering 2010 contracts to pitchers Mike MacDougal and Scott Olsen.
Of all the players coming back, the biggest surprise is Nieves. It was believed that he would be non-tendered after the Nationals signed catcher Ivan Rodriguez to a two-year $6 million, but they decided to keep Nieves because they feel he has been a valuable player — offensively and defensively — off the bench the last two years and can be insurance in case Jesus Flores is not ready for Spring Training.
Flores had surgery on his right shoulder and right elbow, and the team announced as recently as Friday that Flores would be ready for Spring Training.
“I can only go by what the medical people tell me. They say Jesus should be 100 percent ready to participate in Spring Training,” Rizzo said on Friday. “We take them at their word, but we all know that shoulders are very difficult to predict.”
As for Willingham, he is coming off a productive season in 2009. He started the year on the bench, but became a regular in June and hit .260 with 24 home runs and 61 RBIs. Willingham has been mentioned in trade rumors recently. Teams such as the Mets and Braves have interest in acquiring his services.
Bergmann showed improvement after the All-Star break, going 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA as a reliever. Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman often talked about wanting Bergmann back for the 2010 season.
“In my heart of hearts, I’ve been in this organization a long time. I love people that I play with and play for. I would like to stick around for a long time,” Bergmann said on Wednesday.
Bruney, who was acquired from the Yankees this past week, will compete for the closer’s role durinmg Spring Training.
Burnett was a quality reliever for the Nationals, who acquired him and center fielder Nyjer Morgan in a trade that sent outfielder Lastings Milledge and right-hander Joel Hanrahan to the Pirates in late June. In 33 games for Washington, Burnett went 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA.