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Posted at 12:38 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

'Tis the season of change

By Ryan Korby

By signing Jayson Werth, the Washington Nationals have proven that this offseason will be anything but boring for their fans. If the Nats had signed a first base replacement for Adam Dunn first or a starting pitcher to bolster the rotation, many fans would probably wonder if the Nationals were done with their major offseason moves. The order of this signing is actually important, because it finally gives Nationals fans assurances that their team's owner isn't a real-life version Rachel Phelps, the owner from Major League. With long-awaited proof that the Lerners will spend on free agents, their personas could be changing from that of the tight-fisted, profit-at-all costs misers to shrewd, value investors.

As a baseball move, the Werth signing points to more moves to come. General Manager Mike Rizzo was very clear at the beginning of the offseason that the team's needs were starting pitching, first base, and a corner outfielder. It felt like getting a premium outfielder would be a nice thing to have, but Rizzo's rhetoric ratcheted up the need for the other two positions. Now with the outfield taken care of, Rizzo has not backed off his desire for a starting pitcher and a Dunn replacement. For the first time, it feels like the Nationals may exit the offseason with all of their advertised needs met.

Signing Werth also makes me think that the Nats probably aren't done shuffling their outfield. Right now, you have a pretty crowded outfield of Werth, Willingham, Morgan, Morse, and Bernadina. I'd love to see the Nats head into Opening Day with that type of depth, which would mean not having to watch Willie Harris/Willy Taveras types patrol the outfield during the dog days of summer. If Morgan starts in centerfield that means you also would have two players capable of starting (Morse and Bernadina) not playing starter's innings. I think the Nats will look at this one of two ways. They'll keep those five outfielders, knowing that they'll need all five when the inevitable injury pops up or to mitigate potential ineffectiveness. Rizzo might also look at it as an opportunity to reallocate resources, either through a trade or position change (Willingham or Morse at first base?). Based purely on offseason chatter, I'm expecting Washington to move Willingham in order to shore up the starting pitching.

We'll see whether the moves pan out, but it's exciting to see the Nats get aggressive this offseason. Washington still seems like a long shot to land Cliff Lee, but imagine if they got Lee and signed Carlos Pena at a bargain rate. The team would look completely different heading into 2011 and beyond. Those changes might be improbable, but not impossible given the Werth deal. That's the biggest thing that signing Werth delivered, hope for more.

By Ryan Korby  | December 7, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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Comments

Werth's signing is a colossal waste of money, both in terms of how much less he's likely to be worth than his salary toward the tail end of the contract, and just by the very fact that he'll be drawing $18M next year while the Nats are still building a base of talent. Imagine how much better the Nats could be in 2012 (when Strasburg is back) having that extra $18 to add yet another star pitcher for the rotation.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: as a General Manager, Mike Rizzo makes a great scouting director. The guy is simply miscast in this role. He is zigging when he should be zagging. Sigh.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 7, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Let the hot stove get cooled before you throw Rizzo under the bus. How the hell do you know if he is miscasted. He had to spend some money to get baseball's attention. It is not your money so sit back and see what else they can do. We also have young pitching still maturing. Go get us a few players more Rizzo. That a boy!!!!

Posted by: ballgame21 | December 7, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Don't spend and they get blasted.
Spend and they get blasted. Crazy fans here in Washington.

This team was a mess when we got it from Montreal. No farm talent, big name players traded. That can not be built back in five years. They are doing a great job and it will show down the road. We have a baseball team in Washington, Enjoy it folks!!

Posted by: ballgame21 | December 7, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

@B202 is an idiot.

Fans were throwing out their season ticket renewals in droves! The numbers are already way down from 2005.

And then there's the strategic aspect of the signing. Now Boston can't afford Crawford. They apparently have inquired about Willingham.

Now, suddenly, Boston and more to the point the Yankees aren't iin that room by themselves. Everyone and I mean everyone in baseball is waiting on the Nationals next move.

You can't trade for these "budget" guys for nothing. 18 million dollar top of the rotation starters DON'T EXIST dude? Not on this planet in 2010? You have to either draft and develop them yourself or trade for them. And you have to give something to get something.

Its a good think YOU aren't GM the team would go 0-162

Posted by: periculum | December 7, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I went to college in and still reside near Sacramento. When I was in school the Kings were like the Nationals, made up of aged veterans, marginal players with limited options or draft picks/stars-in-the-making sure to bounce at their first opportunity. While Jayson Werth is probably more valuable, he's very similar in class to Vlade Divac when he signed with the Kings... he's not a superstar, but he's a good, consistent player with interest from a lot of teams.

Mitch Richmond was miserable after he was traded by Golden State. He stayed, with big contracts, and he was a fan favorite for good reason. But it's not the same as a free agent who "chooses" your town.

Vlade changed everything. The Kings became an option for a lot of players. Yes the Nats overpaid Werth, and seven years is a huge gamble. But that's simply what they had to do. It's the only way the franchise is going to change the culture and perception from around the league. You Washington fans have to realize that any all-star caliber free agent offered a reasonable, competitive contract by the Nationals, at this point, isn't even going to stop and look. He's going to move on to the next offer without thinking twice.

Adam Dunn said all the right things while he was with the Nationals. Where is he now? Long gone. Washington ownership understands exactly where they are and what they need to do to change their status in major league baseball - which isn't nearly as hard or time-consuming as it was 20 years ago - and Nationals fans should be thrilled about it.

Posted by: SLRscribe | December 7, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

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