More on Pudge
For the Nationals, this has started off as a relatively quiet Day II at the winter meetings --only when you push aside the considerable analysis devoted to last night's signing of Pudge Rodriguez. Two years, $6 million? For a guy who probably wouldn't have found a multi-year deal from any other club?
Those in Washington's front office that I spoke with earlier today admitted that the team's offer with a second year was the difference-maker. And I kept hearing this refrain: At least for now, the Nationals need to pay a premium (almost like a tax) to attract the free agents they want. And then, most importantly, there's the matter of what Rodriguez will mean as a player. The free agent market is flooded with respectable second-tier catchers, but the Nationals believed Pudge to be better-suited than any of them to handle everyday duties, if necessary. Clearly, this signing suggests that the Nats aren't entirely sure of Jesus Flores' health, much as they're hopeful for him to be ready come February. The Nats would rather go through a season getting 300 ABs from Rodriguez than from, say, Brad Ausmus or Rod Barajas.
A few other musings ...
* To add some perspective on the market for Pudge, Sheinin heard from a Royals source that Kansas City, another team interested in the catcher, was discussing a one-year deal between $800,000 and $1 million. The contract, like the one Rodriguez had last year, would have been heavily laden with performance incentives.
* For a few minutes, I discussed Rodriguez with Jack McKeon, who managed the catcher in 2003 with Florida, where the pair won a World Series. McKeon called Rodriguez one of his favorite players of all-time.
"What a leader he was," McKeon said. "He not only leads by example, but he was really positive with the Latin players. He's a guy that took charge. He took charge of that  club. Good guy, comes to play, unselfish, does all the little things. He's a winner. I heard about the move and I couldn't wait to see Rizzo to say, 'Damn, you got one of my favorite guys!'"
Later in our discussion, McKeon explained Rodriguez's value in relation to the young pitchers he can potentially help.
Speaking about the Nationals, McKeon said, "You're probably going to get a half a year quicker development from those young guys and that's where he'll really pay off. That's where you'll really like him."
* Manny Acta was hanging out in the Marriott lobby for quite a while around lunchtime today. Later this afternoon, he'll formally address the media.
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