December 2010

Nationals offer LaRoche two-year deal

After missing out on Derrek Lee, who agreed to terms with the Orioles, the Nationals continue to search for a first baseman. According to a baseball source, they have offered Adam LaRoche a two-year deal.
 
Terms of the offer were not disclosed. The source said getting a deal done “has been a slow process.” Published reports indicated that LaRoche would like a three-year deal, but Washington is not willing to a go to a third year.
      
Phone messages to LaRoche and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo were not returned.  

LaRoche is a player whom the Nats have had their eyes on for several months. He is a solid defensive first baseman and is coming off the best season of his career, hitting .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the D-backs.
   
In early December, LaRoche told MLB.com that he had interest in playing for the Nationals.
   
“If we come on the same page, I would definitely have interest in playing for them,”  LaRoche said back then.  

LaRoche said he believes the Nationals are going in the right direction after signing outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract.
 
“I think it shows how serious the Nationals are about getting the organization back on track and become a contender in the National League East,” LaRoche said. “They are probably tired of watching other teams [spend money and winning]. With the ballpark [Nationals Park] and a little money to spend, they are looking to start over.”

LaRoche has played in the big leagues for seven seasons. He is best known for playing with the Braves, but he has also spent time with the Red Sox and Pirates. During those seven years, LaRoche has a .271 career hitter with 161 home runs and 569 RBIs.
  
If they are unable to sign LaRoche, the Nationals will consider Casey Kotchman, an above average defensive first baseman, but limited with the bat.

This season, Kotchman played for the Mariners and hit .217 with nine home runs and 51 RBIs. He is best known for his years with the Angels. In 2007, he hit .296 with 11 home runs and 68 RBIs.

During his seven-year career, Kotchman has made nine errors in 4,875 chances.

Greinke rejects deal to Nationals

The Nationals had a deal in place to acquire right-hander Zack Greinke, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com. However, Greinke used his no-trade clause and rejected the deal.  

Instead, the Royals traded Greinke to the Brewers for prospects. Published reports indicated that Greinke will accept the deal to Milwaukee. An official announcement is expected Monday. 

No reason was given as to why Greinke turned down the deal to Washington, but he made it clear this past season that he would like to play for a team that won on a consistent basis. The Nationals have yet to finish with a record over .500 since relocating to Washington.

“My only motivation now is winning. … When we’re 20 games out, it’s hard to get excited to come to the park,” Greinke told MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel in September.

It’s not known who the Royals would have acquired if Greinke accepted the deal to Washington. Published reports indicate that reliever Drew Stroren, infielder Danny Espinosa and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann may have been part of this deal. 
        
The Nationals have been looking for an ace pitcher this offseason, but have come up empty handed — so far. Last Sunday, it was learned that the Nationals were out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Lee ended up signing a five-deal with the Phillies.

However, the Nationals are still in the mix to acquire Carl Pavano and Brandon Webb. They could also try to trade for Rays right-hander Matt Garza, but would have to give up a lot in return. The Rays are looking for high-level prospects and bullpen help.  
  
General Mike Rizzo, who was not available for comment, said this past season that he wanted to acquire starting pitching and put players in their proper places in the rotation. For example, the Nationals don’t consider John Lannan an ace pitcher. They consider him a No 3. or 4 starter on a good team.       

Twitter Poll: Nats fans react to Werth signing

On Sunday night, I asked my Twitter followers this question: Did the Nats make the right decision signing Jayson Werth? Yes or No. Why? A lot of the followers responded to this question and the results were mostly positive. Here is what they had to say.   

@JeffSchiffman: No way. Is he going to be worth $18 million when he is 38 years old?

@jpminter: They’re loaded with talent and ready for a playoff run sometime in the next few years.

@JackoBeam: Yes. It makes them relevant and gives Ryan Zimmerman protection. It sets the tone for style of player in next five years. 

@Kenz_aFan: Yes on Werth. Signing Werth opens the door to more and possibly bigger deals, not just the smaller ones.

@eenyy820: He has great talent and he’s an awesome athlete. But it’s tough to see him being productive when he loses his bat speed when he is 38.

@UnkleWheez: It was the right decision. I’m fine with money and years. We are not only paying for Werth, but also for Respect and Attention.

@md_schmidt: The Nationals outfielders were a major letdown in 2010. Werth is an instant upgrade on the field and in the batting order.

@RickandBach: No, no, no for many reasons, but yes because at least they’re trying. 

@PeterKrafcik: No, too much money.

@BrockTalk: I love the Nationals picking up Werth. Who cares about the salary? It’s not my money they’re using. Whatever it takes to win!

@billjanetcsu: This is great day for Nats

@JoannHutch1976: I’ll admit I wish Phillies would have signed Werth, but I’m glad he’s going to a team where he can be a leader.

@McNicollb: Not a big fan of this deal. In seven years, he barely will be walking on those creaky knees, let alone running or hitting.

@JFLANland: A good signing. Need to overpay guys to get them to play in DC right now. Add Carlos Pena and Carl Pavano next. Also give Ryan Zimmerman a  Troy Tulowitzki deal.

@TexasRangers_HQ: Great day for Washington.

@zaronow: Can there be a copout third answer? For example, “It’s too much, but the Nats had little recourse?”

@jpminter: I think it’s good. The Nationals need a veteran with a big bat to sell some tickets. They can’t rely only on No. 37 for that.

@johncarls: I don’t see how Werth is so much better than Josh Willingham. That $126 million couldn’t be used elsewhere.

@ryan_the_great: Yes on signing him but the money is a bit suspect for a 31 year old with a career batting average of .272 hitter. He has only three good years.

@mikecarlucci: A year before Strasburg is back, but Werth and Zimmerman are the core with Harper and Desmond leading the youth movement.

@junoyeopTV: Not at all

@JoannHutch1976: Yes, Yes $126 million times yes.

@wood1953: Too much length and money to a corner outfielder

@RAM0018: It puts them on the map.

@gopherballs: Signing Werth to a contract of this magnitude with the team in it’s current state was not wise.

@zwarse: Bigger crowds, a leader and playoff experience. I could go on.

@JWerthsBeard: YES

@Ryan_Gaydos: I think you know that I’ve been following baseball all year round and it just doesn’t make sense to take a big risk for a young club

@comish4lif: Probably not a good deal in years, but most definitely a necessary deal.

@CDublin: They desperately needed to do something to get out of fifth place. We had to overpay. It’s the only way a good player would come.

@LAWLandMine: Yes although I do think they paid a bit much for him. Werth is a solid talent. I’m happy to see him in a Nats uniform.

@Jeffrey_Bergin:  A legit everyday player who can create runs. Only bad if deal precludes them from extending Ryan Zimmerman and other young talent.

@Matt_B_Cole: What’s wrong with adding more talent and protecting Zim in the lineup?

@jfast3: The Nats made a great decision. 

@tbridge: While I have doubts about years six and seven of that lengthy contract, this is a solid pickup and it’s a good day.

@steveglissman: Werth is too old with only two good seasons. Adam Dunn is the same age with better production. They should have given Dunn a fourth year.

@ColinPCraft: The Nationals are in a big market and can eat contracts.

@lwb2: Great addition to team and No salary cap. Only ones that care about this deal are other GMs trying to get free agents.

@theFrap: The Nats needed a strong hitter like him. He can shape the team and hopefully turn them around.

@Edwincnelson: They have to make a stand and decide to win.

@ryscoziro: They needed to give something to their fan base, which was dejected after Dunn’s departure. 

@HendoDC: Without Dunn, they badly needed a run creator.

@thebrowncoat: Of course. The contract is too long.  They overpaid, but you have to in order to prove you’re legit players in the market. They had to show the fan base they were in this to win after Dunn’s departure. Werth is a worthy replacement.

@khillock: Does the contract include any no-trade clauses? Because for the last three years of that deal, Werth might be a DH.

@sbiel2: For an overpay like this, the Nationals have to make the playoffs by 2013. And they won’t.

@CraigMac: Overpaid? Yes. But it was necessary.

@TheNatsBlog: They needed to shell out the extra money to become relevant.

@kennygartner: This was a great way to begin replacing Dunn, and with Werth potentially a late bloomer, seven years might not be too bad.

LaRoche has interest in playing for Nationals

Free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche said Monday that he has interest in playing for the Nationals and his representative is expected to meet with the club in the next couple of days.

LaRoche is a player that Nationals have had their eyes on for several months. He is a solid defensive first baseman and is coming off the best season of his career, hitting .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the D-backs.

“In the next few days we are going to start some conversations with the Nationals,”  LaRoche said via phone. “If we come on the same page, I would definitely have interest in playing for them.”

LaRoche believes the Nationals are headed in the right direction after they agreed to terms with outfielder Jayson Werth on a seven-year, $126 million contract on Sunday.

“I think it shows how serious the Nationals are about getting the organization back on track and becoming a contender in the National League East,” LaRoche said. “They are probably tired of watching other teams [spend money and winning]. With the ballpark [Nationals Park] and a little money to spend, they are looking to start over.”

LaRoche has played in the big leagues for seven seasons. He is best known for playing with the Braves, but he has also spent time with the Red Sox and Pirates. During those seven years, LaRoche has a .271 career batting average with 161 home runs and 569 RBIs.

Twitter poll: Nats fans react to Dunn going to Sox

On Thursday, I asked my Twitter followers this question: What is your reaction to Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox? A) Happy, B) Sad. The majority of the followers were sad. Here is what they had to say

@KBar80: I’m sad about Dunn, but business is business. I just hope it improves the Nationals somehow.

@CDublin: I’m sad because the Nationals didn’t get anything for him, but on the bright side maybe they can get younger and more athletic at first base. 

@HendoDC: He brought power and an average glove at first base. He didn’t seem to be making an unreasonable demand in asking for four years, $56 million.

@AlanClaffie: Not sad, but not happy about Dunn. He seemed like a good guy to have around with a bat that’s going to be hard to replace.

@NatsEnquirer: I’m happy because I’m holding out hope for Wil Nieves to the starting first baseman for Nats in 2011.

@tbridge: That’s a big hole in the lineup with no clear replacement.

@AlanFG: I will miss the excitement of his power plus he wanted him to be here.

@JackoBeam: I’m irritated and feeling disrespected as a fan base.

@donnysamson: Beyond sad. I agree with all of Ryan Zimmerman’s quotes. Dunn is Ryan Howard, and Dunn liked playing DC. I’m so mad at front office right now. 

@CarolBrobeck: Very bummed about this. Dunn was going to set high marks this year. 

@Andy Tretler: Despite what most think, the Nationals will be a better team in the long run.

@BrandonAKrueger: The offense goes from decent to absolute garbage. I’m done following this team.

@ferretcomp: Mixed. Sad to see the hitting go, but optimistic about better defense at first base and fewer strikeouts.

@leon_saffelle: I’ll be sad if they use Dunn’s money for Carlos Pena. They must make a big move now to avoid an attendance fallout.

@JScottLewis: Horrified! But I bet you are smiling from ear to ear, you Dunn hater! I hope you get that defense you’ve been wanting!

@WesleyDennis: The Dunn move is not good. I thought he had couple good seasons left to contribute and become a  mentor.

@thebrowncoat: “The Plan” was to lose our second best hitter and upset our best hitter.  We’ve succeeded.

@ SeanMMcNally: It was a bad decision, bad talent evaluation and a bad omen for Zim in 2013.

@Kim Contreras: I’m sad because Dunn wanted to stay with the Nats. White Sox GM Kenny Williams wanted him from the start and it’s good to be wanted.

@emmi1966: I’m sad because I just don’t see Mike Rizzo’s master plan and that makes this feel like a pointless loss of a valuable slugger.

@catch108stchs: I’m happy because I have an internship with the White Sox organization this summer. 

@tylerradecki: Nats just let a great first baseman go and he wanted to be here. Rizzo needs to get to work.

@arrsdrunktweets: Happy. I’ve never seen anyone other than Dunn strike out five times in one game. He wasn’t worth the asking price.

@Reggie: I’m sad, not only because of his home run power, but while watching him, Dunn always made baseball fun.

@waflanagan: I’m sad because this means that Zimmerman is gone in three years.

@natsreportjon: All other options are ghastly, and if you’re going to continue to lose, at least make the fans happy.

@recordsANDradio: Sad to watch the Nats for years. It just got worse.

@rickyh17: Disappointed. Dunn was major part of the offense and replacing him will be difficult. Hopefully, Rizzo has a plan.

@beidenmolinaro: I’m sad because the Nats have no realistic hope of replacing what he meant at the plate, in the clubhouse and to the fans.

@comish4lif: I’m frustrated. A weak team now has yet another hole to fill.

@jypaulos: Not just sad. I’m angry. They could have signed Dunn.  

Nats tender contracts to five, agree to terms with two others

Entering Thursday, the Nationals had 10 players who were eligible for salary arbitration. Five of them — pitchers Sean Burnett, John Lannan and Doug Slaten and outfielders Michael Morse, and Josh Willingham — were tendered contracts, while catcher Jesus Flores and infielder Alberto Gonzalez agreed to terms on new deals. However, catcher Wil Nieves and right-handers Joel Peralta and Chien-Ming Wang became free agents.

Letting Nieves and Wang walk was not a surprise, for the Nationals are loaded with catchers, which made Nieves expendable, and Wang pitched in 24 games in the past three seasons.

However, letting Peralta get away was a surprise. Peralta had the best season of his career, posting a 2.02 ERA in 39 games. He allowed one run in his final 15 innings. General manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t available for comment.

Terms were not disclosed on Gonzalez and Flores. Gonzalez  is a valuable player off the bench, but his attitude must change when it comes to playing time. He was often upset when taken out of games.

Flores enters the 2011 season as the No. 3 catcher. It didn’t help that he missed most of the past two years because of a right shoulder injury. The Nationals haven’t ruled out Flores starting next season in the Minor Leagues.

Burnett, Lannan, Morse, Slaten and Willingham will have a hearing sometime in February unless they agree to terms with the club.

Of the five players, Willingham appears to the one person who could be traded before the 2011 season gets underway. Willingham is a free agent after the ’11 season and it is believed the Nationals want young players in return for the right-handed hitting slugger.

Zimmerman eyes Tulowitzki-type contract

A few days after Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $134 million, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday he would love to sign a similar extension with the Nationals.

However, Zimmerman, who has three years left on a five-year, $45 million contract, said he wants to make sure the Nationals are winning on a consistent basis before considering such a deal. He was not happy that former teammate Adam Dunn agreed to terms with the White Sox.

“[Signing an extension] is something I would want,” Zimmerman said. “I made it clear that I wouldn’t mind playing in Washington for the rest of my career. Obviously, we need to do something to prove that we are going to try win championships here for the next 10 years. I have no doubt that the front office will do that. It’s one of the reasons I signed the first deal. It’s one reason I would sign a deal like Tulo signed.”

Zimmerman, 26, and Tulowitzki were selected fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and have become close friends over the years.

“I’m really happy for Tulo,” Zimmerman said. “We have known each other since college. We played on Team USA together, we were drafted the same year and we are pretty close friends. He is recognized as the best shortstop the last two years.

“It’s funny the deal happened. As soon as it happened, people ask me if it’s going to happen to me. We has similar careers, the numbers are almost identical for our careers. If you ask me if I would take a similar deal, I would say 99.9 percent that I would take that deal.”           

Zimmerman sad to see Dunn leave Nationals

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday that he is happy for first baseman Adam Dunn, who agreed to a four-year deal with the White Sox. However, Zimmerman acknowledged that he is concerned about the Nationals. How are they going replace Dunn in the lineup?

It was Dunn who protected Zimmermann in the lineup. Zimmerman will be the first to say that he was able to win the Silver Slugger Award the last two seasons because Dunn was hitting behind him in the lineup.

“I’m very concerned. I think these are supposed to be the years we take a step forward and become more competitive,” Zimmerman said via phone. “We are supposed to be becoming a team that goes out and gets more free agents. To not be able to sign the best free agent that was on your team to begin with is tough. … It’s going to be hard to replace someone [like Dunn] that is in the middle of the order. I hope — just like everyone hopes – that the front office has a plan in place in the next week or two when all this stuff goes on. Hopefully, this will all makes sense.”

While no one questioned Dunn’s ability as a hitter, there were questions about his defense. People in the Nationals’ front office believed he was a defensive liability, but Zimmermann argues that that Dunn was better than what people believed. Zimmerman indicated that Dunn improved at first base by the second half of the 2010 season.

“Adam is the most one of the most underrated players in the game,” Zimmerman said. “Defensively, I think a lot of people think back to when he was in the outfield. He will be the first to tell you that he wasn’t a very good outfielder. He moved to first. I think the second half of last year he started to get better.

“My biggest comparison is Ryan Howard, who I love to death, but Ryan Howard had one more error than Adam Dunn last year, You never hear anyone talk about Ryan Howard’s defense. If you put Adam Dunn in the Phillies lineup, his offense is going to be as good as his. All of a sudden, you have the same player and Ryan Howard makes $25 million a year.”

Zimmerman is aware that the Nationals have a plan in place, trying to replace Dunn with free agents such as Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche. They could even trade for a first baseman like James Loney. But Zimmerman still wonders if it was worth letting Dunn sign with the White Sox.

“I think myself, including the fans and a lot of other people, are wondering and hoping that the plan is there,” Zimmerman said. “If it’s not there, this is something we are going to look back on and think, ‘Why didn’t we take care of [Dunn]?’ “:
                       

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