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Nats Not Bidding on Free Agent Pitchers

Still working on figuring out what the Nationals are doing, but in the meantime here is something they are definitely NOT doing: I am told they are completely sitting out the free-agent pitching market -- at least pitchers who would require guaranteed, big-league contracts.

That means no C.C. Sabathia, no A.J. Burnett, no Derek Lowe, no Ben Sheets -- and let's be clear: no one has linked the Nationals to any of those pitchers -- but it also apparently means no second-tier pitchers. No Paul Byrd, no Jon Garland, no Randy Wolf, no Bartolo Colon.

As in years past, the Nationals may sign a couple of veteran pitchers to non-guaranteed minor-league deals with spring training invitations and hope one or two of them pan out -- much as Odalis Perez did last spring. But they aren't looking to spend significant money on pitching.

That's not to say there isn't a need. By my count, there are only two pitchers who are guaranteed spots in the Nationals' 2009 rotation -- lefties John Lannan and Scott Olsen -- and a whole bunch of maybes (Redding, Hill, Balester, Bergmann, et al.).

And that's not to mention the bullpen, which is a whole-nother post.

(Oh, by the way, I went to get a cup of coffee at a little cafe here in the hotel. Bear in mind, this wasn't a latte or a cappuccino or a white-chocolate-cinnamon-pumpkin-spice-eggnog mochachino. This was a regular ol' cup o' joe. Price: $3.95 plus tax. I was going to get a banana, too, but I don't want to get in trouble with the bean counters at the paper.)

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 8, 2008; 2:32 PM ET
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Next: Wrapping Up Day One


Not going after any pitchers at all, huh!? But yet we're all out for a "TRUE" CF? Don't like this at all especially when a pitcher like Paul Byrd makes all the sense in the world for this team.

Posted by: Keenan1 | December 8, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Best and deepest class of FA pitchers in years, and we sit out completely.

Good idea, guys. Hey! Let's sign another outfielder!

Posted by: sbiel2 | December 8, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem sitting out the FREE AGENCY starting pitcher market, notice he didn't say anything about being done. I wouldn't mind trying to find another hidden treasure in the trash heap like Perez, but I'm also hopeful that Teixeira or no Teixeira we still trying to improve the rotation via trades. We have a few outfielders and some middle level prospects that could be packaged for another decent #2-3 type pitcher, especially if they can get a youngish arb eligible type guy like Olsen.

Posted by: estuartj | December 8, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

$31 for room service breakfast doesn't draw the ire of the bean counters?

Posted by: Zornado | December 8, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm happy they are not wasting money on FA pitchers, a risky business and extraordinarily expensive. A trade-now that's another matter. However, 20 million a year for Tex-that's an investment.
I really believe Nat fans might be pleasantly surprised by the starting pitching next year, especially if they trade for a front line starter. Relief, however-that's another question.
jca-cool! Always did enjoy your postings.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | December 8, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

How do any of these second-tier free agent pitchers fit with "The Plan" for free agents (i.e., youngsters with a big upside)?

Paul Byrd is 38. Bartolo Colon is 35. Randy Wolf is 32.

OK, Jon Garland is 29. But he's got a career 4.47 ERA and a WHIP of 1.385. Not bad, but not necessarily better than what Trader Jim can find out back by the dumpster of one of the other teams.

Also, isn't there a reasonable chance that the market for second-tier guys like this is likely to drop due to the economy? Might as well wait and see.

Posted by: TomServo | December 8, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone like Looper, or maybe Brad Penny is interested in a 1 year deal to re-establish market value.

All things considered I see no reason to go throwing money away on a SP who'll likely get hurt, and more likely be mediocre to start and rapidly decline over the life of a contract.

I agree that Teixeira is an investment; Lowe, Burnett and Sheets are little better than throwing money on the roulette table.

I think one advantage the Nats may have in the Teixeira sweepstakes is that they are all in for him and it's all or nothing.

As for pitching I have no problem with starting the year with Olsen/Redding/Lannan/Balester and someone out of the Hill/Bergman/Martis/Zimmermann group till Strasburg is up at the end of August.

Posted by: estuartj | December 8, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm OK with the Nats not diving headlong into the pitchers market for a big name, but they have to sign a Type B or take a flyer on someone going into Spring Training (Pedro, Pavano, Prior). Dave is right; too many questions on our roster now. If Tex is playing first and your starting pitcher is Lavale Speigner, that is problematic.

Posted by: ArlingtonNatsFan | December 8, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Agree - don't chase the FA SP. When was the last one that made an impact?

Agree on being a proving ground for Penny or Prior-types or hitting the scrap heap for a Weaver or Odalis-type.

Posted by: goexpos2 | December 8, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

After the smoke clears, there will be competent pitchers available at a reasonable - if not significantly discounted - price. Looper comes to mind, but there will be others.

Sheinin alludes to the mess that is the Nats bullpen, and that's just more reason to shore up the rotation, I think. A solid number three starter may allow Washington to move someone like Bergmann or Hill to the pen, like they did with Hanrahan.

Bowden should save his money this week Teixeira (not to mention the $31 breakfasts and $4 coffees).

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 8, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I don't mind holding back and picking through the leftovers among the pitchers come this Spring. Remember, some here pounded the Nats mercilessly for not taking a flyer on Kyle Lohse, who was around in the spring. There are always a few Odalises and Lohses at that point.

Redding probably should be added to the Olsen / Lannan list. Also, the FO seems to want to give Zimmermann every shot to make the club out of the spring, and Balester probably makes the team regardless. So we are talking depth signings rather than chasing the second tier at this time.

I think Dave had a post a while back pointing out the folly of chasing the non-elite pitchers. Lowe and Meche, and maybe one other, I think were the only ones out of the classes of 04 - 06 that received multiyear contracts and really panned out.

See Dave - we remember your posts!

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 8, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

While I personally hold onto the belief that the Nationals' need to bring in a veteran SP who can teach the staff how to win, I'm o.k. with the current rotation (Olsen, Redding, Lannan, & two from the Hill/Bergmann/Balestar/Clippard/Atilano combo). A trade might fill that need before ST ends (I hope).
Regarding the bullpen, both Sheinin (WaPo) & Ladson ( have recently commented on needs, particularly set-up men. What are these guys (Rivera, Shell, Hinckley), chopped liver?

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

@jca - Lowe in particular seems to be getting better with age (switching to the NL didn't hurt either); He'd have been a wonderful #1SP for the Nationals', but is looking for too many years to fit here.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse

@JiM - Bergmann clearly has the "stuff" to be a #3SP. What he needs is a hypnotist / sports psychologist to get him to believe it, and not get frustrated when his defense lets him down, or doesn't have his "best" on the mound; Pitchers like Redding & Lannan can do that, but Bergmann can't seem to get through it.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, Jimbo already got an arm through a salary dump, and if the economy is affecting some teams the way it's portrayed, then he can deal for more arms if teams want to dump another salary.

Posted by: Brue | December 8, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Shoulda stayed at the Paris, across the street and half the cost.
Heck, I live in Henderson, y'all can crash on my couch if the Post is worried about the expense account getting blown out.
But yeah, what everyone else said, FA pitchers may be off the board, but I'm sure (at leats I hope) that JB has his eyes on some guys he might be able to get in a deal. Spring training is more interesting when there are spots available, I'll grant, but for all of our sanity's sake, I think 2 spots is the max. Any more than that is heartburn-inducing.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | December 8, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm not letting anyone off the hook for hollerin' to pick up Livan, either.


Remember, some here pounded the Nats mercilessly for not taking a flyer on Kyle Lohse, who was around in the spring.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 8, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Don't I know it! Look, I'm a member of the Jason Bergmann fan club. But the biggest impediment to Bergmann making the rotation is Bergmann.

And I'm not sure the FO is willing to wait much longer for him to sort it out.


Bergmann clearly has the "stuff" to be a #3SP. What he needs is a hypnotist / sports psychologist to get him to believe it, and not get frustrated when his defense lets him down, or doesn't have his "best" on the mound

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 8, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

There is no need for a Paul Byrd, Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, and, please no, Bartolo Colon. That being said the Nats definitely need a frontline stater. Lannan really isnt much more than a #3. Zimmermann could be a potential #2 but he isn't there yet. Olsen is a #4. Hill, Balester, Bergmann, Martis at this point should not be relied upon more than a fifth starter. Stratsburg might be the answer, but right now we should be considering Ben Sheets. Due to health he might come on the cheep or for less years and would go a long way to relieving a lot of presser on the Nats many young starters.

Posted by: woodmaniquin | December 8, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse

The Nats must be waiting for Felix Hernandez to become a free agent after 2011. No major league deals? Really? Pedro or Prior or Penny on an incentive based one year deal is a no go? Huh.

Bowden must be thrilled with new acquisitions Preston Larrison and JD Martin. Either one could be the next Redding! Who needs a #1/2 starter when you can have ten #5 starters. Yippee!

With that said, I think its a good move by the team. Too much risk involved with the expensive and either injury prone or old pitchers. Lowe could be a grandpa by the time the Nats are contenders.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 8, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, so the days of cheap casino food are over?

Anyway, here you go:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 8, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

@JiM - Nice to know there is somebody else in Bergmann's corner. Agreed, ST 2009 is the make-or-break point for our boy.

@woodmaniquin - While I agree with your "no need" list & need for a frontline #1SP, I quibble with your current staff rating. IMO, Lannan & Olsen would both rate as a #2-3SP on the bulk of MLB staffs, and Redding is a #4, along with Hill (if healthy) & Bergmann (if the stars are aligned). The rest of the lot are scrapping for the #5 slot or a LR position in the bullpen.
Regarding J.Zimm, I believe the pundits at BA projected him as a #3, with possible #2SP potential.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

@LDO - Waiting for "the King" in 2011; LOL! He'll probably be three surgeries deep & out of baseball by then.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1a: I don't remember that casino food was ever cheap (except for buffets or high-roller comps) - you had to go off the strip for the real bargains. Lived in Utah for 30 years, been to Vegas a few times; Just my two-cents worth.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Per MLB Trade Rumors: "Rehabbing closer Chad Cordero will arrive at the Bellagio tonight, according to's Bill Ladson. He and his agent plan to meet with the Mets, Cardinals, Rangers, Tigers, and D'Backs, but not the Nationals."

Buena suerte, mi amigo.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 8, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

LDO - Unsaid by Ladson was that Cordero would be unable to shake the hand of anyone he was introduced to at the Bellagio, since he cannot yet fully extend his arm.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Its all left handed high-fives for Cordero

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 8, 2008 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Too bad he's right-handed, eh?

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

If anyone needs any questions answered as to whether to believe what GMs say, even at meetings, let's look:

1. reports that the Padres are only negotiating with and will only negotiate with the Cubs for Peavy. Further, it would need to be done by the end of the meetings.

2. WaPo (business section) reports that the Tribune Co. (owners of the Chicago Cubs) are about to go Chapter 11.

Will someone make a significant deal with a company that may or may not own the team next year? Bet is another suitor comes along, S.D. will do a deal.

Posted by: Catcher50 | December 8, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

The team is not part of the bankruptcy filing.

The restrictions imposed are based on Peavy's partial no-trade clause. Peavy doesn't want the AL or to play in the northeast thereby setting potential teams to mostly the NL Central and NL West.

Wouldn't surprise me to see Peavy in LA or Atlanta, but the hold up doesn't appear to be related to new Cubs ownership.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 8, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

I take that back.

"Jayson Stark gives his take on the Peavy-Cubs situation. He says Hendry is dealing with restrictions due to the team's ownership situation, despite his comments"

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 8, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

oooh! ooh! Oooh! Can we pleeeeeeease get Bortolo Colon?!?! I'll give you Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee, plus two others for him!!!

Posted by: Section506 | December 8, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

How can you:
a) admit that you are staying at Bellagio and then
b) be upset about the price of sundries.
Trust me, the eye in the sky is rolling about how cheap you are too. Now go throw a hunge down on black and make everyone feel better.

Posted by: hoya93 | December 9, 2008 2:38 AM | Report abuse

BinM, I don't know about Lost Wages but you used to be able to get cheap food at casinos in the Lake Tahoe/Reno area (I never really got into the gambling but made some trips to the area years ago).

In other news, what with all this talk of lefties and free agents, I've been waiting for a one-armed bandit quip to surface. You guys must be off of your game. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 9, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

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