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Willingham Avoids Arbitration

The Washington Nationals today signed outfielder Josh Willingham to a one-year, $2.95 million deal, plus up to $100,000 in incentives. The agreement allows Willingham, whose hearing had been slated for later today, to avoid arbitration. The outfielder said he expects to fly back from Phoenix -- site of all arbitration hearings -- tonight, and he will be with the team tomorrow for the first full-squad workout.

"Well, I think both parties are excited about getting it done," Willingham said. "I didn't want to take it back all the way to trial."

Had the case gone to a hearing, Willingham would have earned either $3.5 million (his offer) or $2.55 million (the team's offer). But several one-year deals in recent days, including the one-year, $3.1 million deal Los Angeles reached yesterday with Andre Ethier, gave both sides a framework.

Willingham's case had been complicated, because his numbers from 2008 were limited by a back injury. In 2008, while with the Florida Marlins, Willingham played in 102 games, hitting .254 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. For his career, Willingham has a .266 average, a .361 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage.

This was the first year in which Willingham was arbitration-eligible -- a part of the reason Florida was willing to trade the 30-year-old to Washington in November. Last season, Willingham earned $405,000.

With Willingham's case resolved, the Nationals have now reached one-year contracts with two of their three arbitration-eligible players. Washington went all the way to a hearing with Shawn Hill, but signed Scott Olsen to a one-year, $2.8 million deal on Feb. 8. The case involving Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals' final arbitration-eligible player, is scheduled for Friday. Washington has until then to work out a deal that avoids a hearing.

---

Oh, and one other thing. If you were on NJ some time in the last 18 minutes, you probably saw a mess of incomplete posts about Willingham. Apologies there -- I was trying to stretch the capabilities of the ol' BlackBerry by posting while watching BP. Evidently, that didn't work so well.

A few other nuggets from the day, while we're in Smiley intermission.

* Daniel Cabera has rejoined the team after traveling to the Dominican Republic, where his wife gave birth to a son, Daniel, yesterday. Today, Cabrera had a bullpen session. Also, a big smile.

* Adam Dunn & friends took some light batting practice today. And it was very light. One fan spotted Dunn -- shades down, hair matted up into a blond 'fro -- and shouted, "Hit one onto I-95." But Dunn had other things in mind: Just a few easy swings to warm up the muscles. He even bunted.

Fireworks to come later, evidently.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 18, 2009; 12:23 PM ET
 
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Next: Kasten: "I am angry. We've been defrauded."

Comments

Thanks for the update. Just one to go now, eh?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Chico - you wrote in your note that it's "unknown" whether this will cause visa problems. Take it from a former visa issuing officer, it absolutely can and probably will cause problems in the visa. Specifically, section 212(a) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act - "Except as otherwise provided in this Act, aliens who are inadmissible under the following paragraphs are ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted to the United States:"

and subsection 212(a)6C - Misrepresentation: "Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act is inadmissible."

I'm thinking claiming to be "Smiley Gonzalez, age 19" on your visa form when actually being "Daniel Lugo, age 23" is willfully misrepresenting a material fact.

But here's the question to ask, Chico - what name is "Smiley's" passport in, and what name was the visa issued in? Because if his passport and visa are in his real name, then he's clean from a visa standpoint, but that demands the question - did the Nats not bother to look at his passport?

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | February 18, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"Daniel Cabera has rejoined the team after traveling to the Dominican Republic, where his wife gave birth to a son, Daniel, yesterday."

Any truth to the rumor that when the kid pitched his first fit it was wild?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

And by the way - Yay for Willingham and happier news!

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | February 18, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Expect the shoe to follow shortly on a one year deal for Zimmerman.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

... maybe it's the spate of good news; maybe it's the smile-in-the-voice tone you managed to insinuate so well in this post, Chico. Whatever, I just feel a lot better about things now, than I did a day or so ago. Thx.

... and from the Smiley story, to misquote the immortal Jerry Seinfeld, "That is one magic Lugo.”

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 18, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Also, "He sent 1.4 million of Uncle Teddy's money down a rabbit hole," may not be accurate, since a false contract would mean the Nats could sue to get their money back. Which has variable success in overseas cases.

Posted by: Section506 | February 18, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Good news all around! Something must be horribly wrong.

Posted by: dfh123 | February 18, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Sec.506, I'm sure they could sue to get the money back, but sue whom? I'll bet "Smiley's" money is long gone. I would think that they could go after Rijos or one of the other ass clowns to get the money, IF they can show he knew or the Buscaro (sp?) since he certainly should have known. I'll bet Rijos is the only guy with enough money to make it worth going after for money. Criminal action is different.

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Meh, I'm just impressed that you can post with one of those new-fangled Blackberry thingies.

Good news about Willingham and congrats to Cabrera. Wonder whether the Sheinin family has welcomed its newest addition yet?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I think it is a good sign... Good deal Josh... Good deal, Nats.

Posted by: wigi | February 18, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

how to find MLB service time - google Cots baseball contracts and bookmark it, as it is the source for all things contracts. Cots presents service time in years and days. The decimal point isn't really a decimal point - separates years from days. 1 year = 172 days.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

How come Chico can post from his blackberry and I can't post from mine?

Hello WaPo Tech support!

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

From the "Silver Lining" department:

The whole Gonzalez/Lugo thing changes the complexion a bit on Guzman's contract... which last fall looked like a bargain, but this winter, not so much... But now we need him a little more and a little longer.

My prediction: Smiley is done... and he'll never play baseball again, because he won't be able to get into the US. So we're short one big middle infield piece.

Posted by: wigi | February 18, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Smiley's" star had faded significantly over the last year before this revelation. Not much arm and questionable range and power, likely move to 2B.

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"How come Chico can post from his blackberry and I can't post from mine?"

Get an iPhone. Then you can hit and post to any WaPo blog via Safari.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The Smiley Lugo case falls squarely on Bowden's shoulders. He's the one that chose to negociate with the buscon (think pimp) instead of the legitimate agent. He's the one that paid twice as much as anyone else had offered. He's the one that did or did not adequately research the player.

Rijo is not a member of the 'braintrust' and while his hands are certainly not clean, it's not his responsiblity to give contracts to kids. By dealing with the buscon instead of the agent, Jimbo brought all this on. It is entirely possible that Rijo, and even Jimbo himself, got a cut of Smiley's contract, in addition to the buscon, who surely took a lion's share.

At the time of the signing, the FO joked about the DR being the wild, wild west. How's laughing now? I think Bowden should be fired for this. Again, he chose to deal with a guy he had to know was crooked, and if he didn't, then his ignorance in the matter would be cause for termination.

As for Smiley Lugo, assuming he can get back into the country this season (which sounds like a long-shot, thanks to our fellow poster), the team should keep him. The money's gone, but he still has talent and the organization is still thin at middle infield. However, winning the MVP of a rookie league as a 23 year-old is not nearly as impressive. The main thing with him is that he should now be on the fast-track, instead of the pampered-prospect track. At 23, he should be major-league ready in a year or two, instead of three or four. Promote him to Potomac and then to Harrisburg if he does well.

I hold no real grudge againt Lugo. He did what he had to do to get off the island. The problem is the buscons who take advantage of the systme and the exec's that deal with them (Jimbo).

When the team breaks camp, they should have a new GM.

Posted by: sec307 | February 18, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

estaurtj,

You can't say Lugo's star was fading after he won his league's MVP and nearly the batting title too. I remember his arm and defense being questioned at the time of the signing, so the fact he'll have to move to 2B should have been no big surprize. That said, he's still a better prospect than Desmond, even now. Just not as good as we thought.

Posted by: sec307 | February 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

well maybe the fact we've had such little exposure down there is a good thing now. maybe even intentional, to back away slowly.

maybe we should just ignore the international draft. the whole thing is a sham anyhow.

pick them up as a free agent if we really want someone that bad. or trade for them once they are here and checked out.


i like our offense... i think zimmerman does too. if i was him i'd thank the nats for improving the players around me. because my numbers are gonna get me paid at the end of the year.


so if odalis perez and smiley lugo are the big losses this offseason i still think we did alright.

Posted by: longterm | February 18, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"The problem is the buscons who take advantage of the systme and the exec's that deal with them (Jimbo)."

Don't know why you automatically assume that Bowden was the one who cut this deal. Did Bowden go to the DR before this kid was signed? Does Bowden even speak Spanish? Does the buscone even speak English? Rijo is the one with the Dominican connections, so it's quite plausible that he presented this deal to Bowden as a fait accompli pending Bowden's sign off, and Bowden trusted his employee and did just that. Bowden may only be guilty here of one thing, namely hiring the wrong guy in Jose Rijo and trusting in him to do a good job. Would you fire a manager only because he hired a bad staff person? God help any of you out there who are in management or supervisory positions yourself then.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

i'm with nunof1 on this one.

"Would you fire a manager only because he hired a bad staff person? God help any of you out there who are in management or supervisory positions yourself then."

Posted by: longterm | February 18, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

h'lo,

... does anyone know of a URL which provides the full list of who's in camp? (I mean of who will be in camp once everyone arrives?)

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 18, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Since Jim Bowden was the General Manager of the Washington Nationals at the time of the signing, I think it's safe to say he was in charge of cutting the deal. Jim Bowden was the one who proudly announced the signing as a sign of things to come.

Are you suggesting that Jimbo had no knowledge that the kid had two agents - one a real agent and the other a criminal, and then proceeded to ok the deal (worked out in secret by Rijo, according to you) and then to promote it while having little to no knowledge of the situation?

That's crazy talk.

Posted by: sec307 | February 18, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Jimbo dealt with the buscon so that he could beat the Rangers to the punch. The question I'm sure the FBI is asking is how much of the extra $700K Rijo and Bowden pocketed - another reason to deal with the buscon instead of the agent.

To put the blame on Rijo here makes no sense. HE IS NOT THE GM! Bowden does the deals, plain and simple. He knew it was a shady deal at the time, otherwise he'd have dealt with the real agent.

Rijo is no doubt involved, but to suggest it was not Bowden who worked out all the terms means you don't understand his job.

Do you think Rijo does all of the spanish-speaking players' deals? Of course not. That's not his job - IT'S BOWDEN'S.

Posted by: sec307 | February 18, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Are you suggesting that Jimbo had no knowledge that the kid had two agents - one a real agent and the other a criminal, and then proceeded to ok the deal (worked out in secret by Rijo, according to you) and then to promote it while having little to no knowledge of the situation?

**********

If by "in secret" you mean "in Spanish," then yes.

If Rijo (mistakenly or knowingly) told Jim the kid was legit, who was Jim supposed to ask for verification?

Posted by: SpigL917 | February 18, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"Since Jim Bowden was the General Manager of the Washington Nationals at the time of the signing, I think it's safe to say he was in charge of cutting the deal."

Approving it, yes. Negotiating it, not necessarily. If the GM is the one who has to cut every deal the organization makes, then why does he need any assistant GMs? People can't on the one hand say it's bad if the Lerners micromanage every little expense but it's also bad if their GM doesn't micromanage every detail of every transaction the organization makes. At some point you have to presume that responsibility is delegated and that people do their jobs in a professional manner. At least until proven otherwise, anyway.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

did bowden negotiate? i think most of the time he does not. i really have no idea on this one, but they were trying to make it a landmark signing.

still, i blame MLB for this messed up system they have in place and dominican's are just trying to get paid like any other investment banker/steroid user out there. it's a mess.

Posted by: longterm | February 18, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

natscan, there's spring training invite info and roster at this old post:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal/2009/01/nats_invite_63_to_spring_train.html

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

If you can believe what Rijo says, it is MLB that is responsible for verifying the ages and names of Latin players. If that's true, then all the Nationals may be guilty of is overpaying for a player that MLB told them was 16 year old Esmailyn Gonzales.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Did I mention that many of the Bog posts have pics, including a current one of Da Meat Hook?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to say: Natscan, yay!!!

Posted by: Section506 | February 18, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

307,
Even before this "Gonzalez" stock was dropping fast, sure he won the batting title and MVP, but even if he was how old he said he was he accomplished that after repeating GCL and he's played 4 seasons of pro-ball (2DSL, 2GCL). A lot of people were expecting a more agressive assignment for him (likely Hagerstown, but maybe Potomac). He's a unique case because he had been signed so "young", but the blush was definetly off the rose from what I had read.

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I can't fathom how Bowden escapes this with his job, other than the Lerners being idiots.

How many times do the Nationals have to be embarassed before the Lerners get a clue?

They gave this guy 1.4m when the next highest bid was 700k.

They dealt with a scammer instead of dealing with his agent.

Bowden and Rijo were specifically implicated by name and investigated, in the DR scam that the Government is investigated. There were not any other specific names among Major League front offices mentioned, except Bowden and Rijo.

Connect the dots here.

This, combined with Bowden's bad moves, and non-moves and other extracurricular embarrassments(such as the DUI), outweigh any of the good moves that he's made.

Enough embarrassment. Can we please have this organization run like a competent entity for once?

Send Bowden and Rijo packing.

Posted by: MrMadison | February 18, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Heads up Nats fans ... Brett Haber from WUSA9 is in Viera this week and he traditionally provides some great behind the scenes video blogs from spring training. Already some good stuff on there. Check it out at ...

http://www.wusa9.com/sports/springtraining/videos_chat_springtraining.aspx

Posted by: dlombardo1 | February 18, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

... thanx natsfan1a1, that's what I was looking for. And hey, right back atcha, Section506!!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 18, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

The best thing that could happen to this team is for Bowden and Rijo to move on so that the "Kick Me" sign can be removed. This latest revelation may be the smoking gun that the feds need to make their case. It's time for "Buscone Bowden" to hit the bricks and take his "JimBoys" with their Cincinnati connections with him.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 18, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

BTW - congrats to Wiillingham. Seems like a fair deal for both him and the team.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

My pleasure, natscan.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a huge fan of Jimbo and this Smiley situation is messy, but I just saw an article in the Miami Herald saying that the Marlins aren't even sure that Emilio Bonifacio is going to make the roster. The article says that scouts are pessimistic that he will ever be able to hit. Now I know that the Marlins were dumping salary, but Jimbo flat out took the Marlins in that trade! Let's pause just for a moment to enjoy that fact before we return to our regularly scheduled moaning and groaning about our GM.

Posted by: reverendnat | February 18, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Hooray for Willingham! This is good news.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

reverendnat,

... you're right about Jim B, and that's what makes this (and his other past indiscretions) so maddening. He does have a sharp baseball mind. But I reluctantly agree with the others who find fault with him. The fact is there will come a time when his baseball prowess may not be enough to overcome his other failings. The question is: will this current little problem with the feds and their legal niceties be that time?

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 18, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Anyone not visit the Sports Bog yet is crazy. It's not just news, it's bloggy stuff!!

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm always wary of Steinberg, because he thinks he's smarter than he is and we don't hold bloggers to the same standards of commenters, but the bog is a must read this week.

Posted by: Section506 | February 18, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Fourthed (somewhere behind NatsNut, nf1a, and 506, as well as potentially others), but the Bog is providing the kind of want-to-know things that you'd always hoped to learn about players and their quirks. Getting to know what makes them tick on and off the field is fantastic. This makes me hopeful that perhaps Steinbog will get a chance (read: feel the desire to?) to check in at the clubhouse much more frequently this season.

Posted by: faNATic | February 18, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

You know, somewhere cockroache scientists are marveling 'You know after the nuclear apocalypse only Jim Bowden will have survived'.

Why have we not fired this guy yet?

Posted by: soundbloke | February 18, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

wasn't there supposed to be a news conference today? Has it happened? What's going on???

Posted by: erocks33 | February 18, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Gonzalez/Lugo isn't necessarily done in the US. Other players have been discovered with falsified/borrowed documents and allowed to continue their baseball careers. Ian Snell of the Pirates is one example, he was signed as Ian Oquendo and was discovered after things tightened up post 9/11.

As for the poster looking for the full list of people in camp try nationals.mlb.com - they have a roster page with the 40 man roster and a second list full of the NRIs (Non-Roster Invitees).

Posted by: comish4lif | February 18, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean that Gonzalez/Lugo is truly the player to be named later?

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 18, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Photo Gallery. LOVE picture number 5. It's ADORABLE.

http://tinyurl.com/dzoxps

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link, NatsNut. Picture number 1 is pretty cute, too.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"You know, somewhere cockroache scientists are marveling 'You know after the nuclear apocalypse only Jim Bowden will have survived'.

Posted by: soundbloke | February 18, 2009 4:10 PM

on NFA ealier today;

"estuartj | 18-Feb-09 at 11:12 am | Permalink

If there is a nuclear war, the only two things to survive will be cockroaches and Jim Bowden"

Stop stealing my stuff!

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

You mean like Tejada had been checked out?

-----

pick them up as a free agent if we really want someone that bad. or trade for them once they are here and checked out.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 18, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Fair enough, reverend. But don't forget that Bowden traded Rauch for Boni. So maybe he was taken there.

Rauch for Olsen and Willingham? I'd still take it.

-----

The article says that scouts are pessimistic that he will ever be able to hit. Now I know that the Marlins were dumping salary, but Jimbo flat out took the Marlins in that trade!

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 18, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Pretty good, leetee. Or perhaps the player to be renamed later?

This kind of sucks, because whathisname was theoretically our top MI prospect and we're shallow there. A 23-year old in rookie ball is simply not a prospect (for comparison, Zimmerman just turned 24 in September). On the other hand, the dude's chances of making it were probably pretty slim anyway. Let's hope the draft yields some MI and CF prospects for once.

Posted by: BobLHead | February 18, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, belated query based on Chico's Sunday story about Rick Eckstein:
What the devil is Eckstein screwing around with Johnson's swing for? He's the most productive hitter we've got (when healthy). Why isn't Eckstein working with all the Nats' deadheads who are making stupid mistakes in the batter's box over and over? We've got plenty of those (including some who `benefited' from Eckstein's fine coaching while they were on Nats minor league teams).
Among the reasons Whitey Herzog was the smartest manager of modern times was that when he saw Willie McGee's ludicrous, awkward swings, he told all his coaches to stay away from McGee. Bad habits or not, McGee was among the team's most productive hitters, and Herzog didn't care how he did it and wasn't going to mess with it.

Posted by: dubious | February 18, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Someone needs to talk Detwiler into super sizing it every once in a while.

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Photo Gallery. LOVE picture number 5. It's ADORABLE.

http://tinyurl.com/dzoxps

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 18, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

dubious, I hear you but that's what's so remarkable. Anyone can come in a try to fix a hack. But Eckstein's either got a massive pair or he's onto something if he's talking about fixing NICK JOHNSON'S swing.

I say wait to see the results before we say anything.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Plus, just imagine a BETTER Nick Johnson. Yikes.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Bog's got a partial recitation of Kasten's comments on the Lugo fiasco.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/02/stan_kasten_and_the_player_to.html

For what it's worth, it's also official (via Stan)... Lugo IS the PTBNL.

Posted by: faNATic | February 18, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Chico's also got it in the new post now.

Posted by: faNATic | February 18, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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