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Nats sign Owens to minor league deal

This has turned into an odds-and-ends sort of day. So let's go odds-first. Then I'll get to the ends.

* First of all, the Nats have signed outfielder Jerry Owens to a minor-league deal. Owens, who turns 29 in February, was actually drafted by the Expos -- a second-rounder in 2003. Over the last four seasons, he's appeared in 129 games (393 at bats) with the Chicago White Sox. His lifetime numbers: .262 AVG, 1 HR, 18 RBI, .319 OBP, .305 SLG.

* The Nats' deal with Ivan Rodriguez still isn't official -- that'll come on Thursday or Friday, when he flies to Washington to take a physical -- so for now, those in the front office are refusing to share their on-the-record thoughts. But I've spoken with enough team officials to accurately paint the following impressions -- as in, here's what the team is thinking, more or less.

The Nats believe Pudge is best-suited to play between 70 and 80 games in 2010. Certainly 121 games (his total from 2009) is too many.

Even if Jesus Flores is healthy, Pudge won't be too far in the background. He'll start two or three games every week.

Rodriguez was asked about his preferred role before signing, and seemed satisfied with what the Nats were offering.

Other clubs were offering Rodriguez single-year deals worth MORE than $3 million. But no other club was offering a two-year deal.

In the ideal world... By 2011, Rodriguez will further cede ground to Flores, taking a firmer role as a back-up. And sometime toward the end of 2011, perhaps by 2012, catching prospect Derek Norris will be ready for a spot in the big leagues.

By Chico Harlan  |  December 8, 2009; 7:53 PM ET
 
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Next: The starting pitching shopping list

Comments

Good work Chico - This gets to the heart of some of the naysayer arguments about IRod's role with the team. Thank you.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the signing of Owens - It's a minor-league deal, with a STI kicker. Welcome back to an original draftee, holding the fort in SYR in case something goes horribly wrong with the Outfield in WSH.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Seems like a deal for a player-coach. Who can help improve the play of some of the younger catchers ... not just Flores. They do seem to have at least 2 in the minors who might benefit?

Posted by: periculum | December 8, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

"Sheesh. The guy was losing horribly for a full 1.5 seasons. He was obviously doing SOMETHING wrong, even if it was just wearing the wrong shoes. Seriously. Even if he really does not think he'll do a single thing differently, LIE. Say something, anything that says you've learned something."

Here's what Acta did wrong here. He was managing bad players in 2009, or a team riddled by injuries in 2008. If he'd had the chance to manage Nyjer Morgan and that second-half bullpen, he'd have done every bit as well as Riggleman did. And if he was to tell the truth now about what he'd do differently, he'd have to say "get better players." And he's too much of a gentleman to throw his now-former players under the bus. You have to respect that.

Prediction: Riggleman will do well as manager of the Nats. Manny Acta will do better with the Indians. When Riggleman is fired or quits, Manny will still be there managing.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 8, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

"The Nats' deal with Ivan Rodriguez still isn't official -- that'll come on Thursday or Friday, when he flies to Washington to take a physical"

Yet another reason why they won't have to cut someone else from the 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft to make room for the pick they're going to trade to the Yankees. They will have to cut someone to make room for Pudge, but he won't come onto the roster until he passes the physical, which won't be until after the Rule 5 draft, which I believe is on Thursday.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 8, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

"Other clubs were offering Rodriguez single-year deals worth MORE than $3 million. But no other club was offering a two-year deal."

2 years makes a lot more sense now. Thanks.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 8, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

I keep hearing that Rodriguez might not be a good catcher for young pitchers, but what if his two starts per week were Garland and Lannan or another somewhat seasoned pitcher. This concept that the role of a mentor is purely catcher to catcher or catcher to pitcher is a little limited too. Mentors can help players at other positions too.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

This is from the Acta Q&A from the previous post:

"I think when you run from your problems you have an opportunity to show the rest of the world what you can do, and that's what we did."

Can anybody translate this into English?

He's Stengel, without the world championships.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 8, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Alumni News: Ryan Church has been DFA'd by the Braves. Do we need a fifth outfielder...again?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 8, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Re the confusing Acta quote, my guess would be transcription error. Stick the word don't in front of run, and it makes perfect sense.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 8, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

As much sense as anything Manny sez, anyhow. Early 2010 Tribe prediction:
61-and-101.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 8, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

No way. Boras may be saying other teams were offering more money for one year to IRod, but I do not buy that. MORE than $3M? No. With that kind of spending on a backup catacher, I can only hope this means the Nats are going to throw open the vault and get some real every day players too. I will not hold me breath. 38 year old part time catcher gets $6M 2 yr deal? Pudge had better party like it's 1999 in DC or Rizzo really looks like bad on this deal.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

That was my guess as well.

---

Re the confusing Acta quote, my guess would be transcription error. Stick the word don't in front of run, and it makes perfect sense.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 8, 2009 11:25 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 9, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Suggested holiday reading for Manny Acta: Earl Weaver's book, "It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts."

Gotta love Sheinin's criticism of the Nats for overspending on Pudge. He spends the last two years, when he deigns to consider the Nats at all, gleefully joining in the snarkfest that has won them the title of Official Laughingstock of Baseball. (OK, I'll admit the Nats did most of the heavy lifting themselves on that one.) But then to act shocked--shocked!--that the Nats would have to overspend to get a player who would undoubtedly like to be with a contender! Just wondering, did Evil Dave take the same position on the signing of Dunn? And if so would he revise his opinion now?

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | December 9, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

What contender would want Pudge is the question. Not the Mets, the Phils already got Schneider to be their back-up - 5 yrs younger and at half the money. No need in the Bronx or for the Sox, nor LAA or the Dodgers nor Cards or Cubs, etc. Pudge was most realisitcly looking at the Royals for a one year deal. There were few places where Pudge was going to be able to play much less get handsomely paid. Sheinin is right on this one.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Who cares if they overpaid a bit for Pudge? They targeted the guy they wanted, and paid what they had to in order to get him. Bottom line: THEY GOT HIM. If it hadn't turned out that way and some other team snagged him with word that the Nats lost out in the bidding, you same guys would be screaming bloody murder. Sheinin too. You know you would.

Even if they get only 80 good games out of Pudge this year and end up eating the second year of the deal, for their $6M they'll still have gottem more than they got out of the Dmitri Young, Kearns or Cabrera deals. Even if they get nothing, they're still out only $6M. For all you who have been screaming about payroll, that's nothing but chump change and you know it.

Posted by: section309 | December 9, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

FYI - ESPN has a profile of Stephen Strasburg in their NEXT feature at http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/insider/news/story?id=4705018&addata=2009_insdr_mod_mlb_xxx_xxx

Posted by: luxetveritas | December 9, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I've always been a fan of Schneider, but if we're going to compare the two, I believe that Rodriguez has the following on his resume:

AL MVP, x 1
NLCS MVP, x 1
Silver Slugger, x 7
Gold Glove, x 13
All-Star, x 14
World Series, x 2 (WS championship in '03)

Schneider has...um...

Granted, neither is the player that he once was, but still...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 9, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, Are we really interested in anything Manny Acta has to say? i could care less he's in Cleveland now and that's in let me see.............. oh yeah Ohio, good, let's talk about what we're doing here in DC any word on Nyjer and his hand?how about Flores and his shoulder? and if we could get Adrian Gonzalez would you be willing to jetison Adam Dunn if we didn't have to give up the farm?

Posted by: dargregmag | December 9, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Anyone see the Acta interview last night on MLB-Live? The guy is classic, he is in so much deniel in regards to his failure that he makes Zorn look like a victim of circumstance.

Manny drop the stupid Joe Pesci "gangsta" fedora, spit out the gum and stop speaking Stengeleze! Got a mad as hell Tribe fan in my office, the guy is actually distraught over the thought of "Stone-Face" plying the dugout steps at the Jake in 2010 and to think we endured it for three years!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | December 9, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

What the Nats need more than anything else is front-line starters and relievers. But beyond having to pay any above-average player over the market rate to join the worst team in baseball, with a still miserable farm system, I fear the Nats face a second obstacle: their horrid defence. Why could any good pitcher want to play with Christian Guzman at 2nd base, having trouble going to his left, and Adam Dunn at first, having trouble ranging to his right. How could Rizzo even contemplate Guzman as a viable solution at second? Plus Ian Desmond, a shortstop with great range but prone to wild throws. Plus a left-fielder, Willingham, with little range and a right fielder, Dukes, inclined to bonehead errors. Won't the Nats have to land someone like Orlando Hudson, at the very least, for 2nd base to persuade any above average pitchers to sign with Washington?

Posted by: mx_heinrich | December 9, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Not to mention that Schneider, although five years younger, has actually been worse offensively than Pudge in every single one of the last five years. Not to mention that Pudge has played 122 games more than Schneider in that timeframe as well. If you didn't know their ages and just looked at their numbers, Schneider would be the one that you'd say is over the hill now with nothing left in the tank, not Pudge.

Posted by: section309 | December 9, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Comparing the Pudge contract to other bad contracts makes no sense -- is someone actually making the hey, the Nats have spent poorly before so why not do it agin argument, really?

I too am glad the wallet has cracked open but if they do not spend money on pieces they really need -- a $6M 38 yr old backup catcher was not really a need folks -- then this signing is questionable. If the budget gets blown on a part-time guy with midling defensive skills and who will hit in the 7th or 8th spot in the order, then this is a bad deal.

But if this means the Nats are really chasing talent, really ready to pay market and above money for high caliber MLB players that can help the club win now, then great, I am all for that.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Pudge needs Flores more than the other way around.

If Flores comes back healthy and performs well, an over the hill Pudge is probably a fine backup - even if a little expensive. And let's grant the mentor thing.

But if Pudge has to take the starting role, will his limitations be a problem?

Pudge's resume is impressive, but how relevant is it now? Yogi Berra has a great resume.

Posted by: KenNat | December 9, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

At first I thought the pudge move was crazy, but I have seen the light. This guy is a winner no matter where he goes. He need a mentality shift in this organization and having a guy around who knows how to win will be a big asset even if he on plays 50-60 games all year.

ESPN radio this morning thought the move would be brilliant as well, comparing his move to DC to his move to florida prior to their second world series run.

Posted by: Tom8 | December 9, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little late on this, but count me in on the Pudge-to-D.C. camp. I agree with Natsfan1a1, Section309 and others in calling out Shenin for this deal. This criticism seems to emanate from a handful of baseball writers at the meetings who aren't as familiar with the Nats' doings as most of us. We need:
1. Insurance in case Kid Flores isn't ready.
2. A backup in any case.
3. A mentor to Flores, et al.
4. Somebody who knows how to win.
Pudge is all that. So it took a two-year deal to get him. So what? This is a franchise that wasted $8 million on AK, and $5 million on DaMeat, not to mention the throw-away contracts on PLoD and other stiffs. Rizzo targeted this guy, and got him. And he got the Lerners to open up their checkbooks a wee bit. It's a sound deal. Congrats, Mike.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 9, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Not to mention Kansas City's Plan B for a backup catcher(as they were the other team believed to have tendered an offer to or at least demonstrate significant interes in Pudge) is now Jason Kendall.

I'm not sure how you could argue against Pudge over Jason Kendall seven days a week. Even with Pudge's power falling off, he's a far better shot than Jason Kendall (at least he was a long-time starter) or any of the other career backups on the market. As many have said, $3M/year should not be make or break for this team.

Posted by: faNATic | December 9, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

If $3M per year is not going to make or break the team, then the Nats had better put the rest of the wallet where their mouth is and get some players that the club really needs, high pricetags be damned.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

It may be a while before the next post. I'm guessing that Chico and Boom Boom are in line for the Annual Manager's Luncheon, which begins at noon and features free food for the media hordes, according to Phil Wood over on the MASN site. hmmm, lunch isn't a bad idea, now that I think of it...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 9, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

dfh, I beg to differ. A solid backup catcher *was* a need for the Nats and a significant one at that, unless you wanted to endure another year of Nieves/Bard at that spot. Flores's return is not certain. I think this was a great move, and as I've said before, I really do not care how much they had to pay to get him -- the Lerners have plenty of money, and we should be happy that it looks like they are going to spend some of it to get us out of the cellar. It is inconceivable that this signing will make it harder for them to part with the cash necessary to upgrade the pitching staff. They know how bad even the suggestion of that excuse would look.

Posted by: Section222 | December 9, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

What will happen at the Managers Luncheon, aside from Chico criticizing the food while Sheinin scarfs down seconds and thirds on everything?

Posted by: section309 | December 9, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

And is Loverro there? Any chance of him and Sheinin getting into a fight over the last piece of pie?

Posted by: section309 | December 9, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Just one point I'd add to the Pudge debate. His agent is Scott Boras.

I can't help but be a little suspicious that this deal was a little valentine to Scott to help us with this year's draft.

Posted by: baltova1 | December 9, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Guess who Flores's agent is? Scott Boras.

Your conspiracy theories are overblown. I'd say Boras represents a substantial percentage of MLB players. If not a majority, a significant plurality anyway.

Posted by: section309 | December 9, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Did other folks get the really nice holiday e-card from the Nats? I don't think it was for being a season ticketholder--I think it was for being on the the MLB e-list. Very nicely done--I won't say more so that the content will be a good surprise for anyone who gets it.

Posted by: Section109 | December 9, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I've been thinking (this is always a dangerous thing because I never know how it'll end up), but what if the Nats decide not to dip into the FA pool and decide instead to venture into trades? For me, the #1 goal is to get a SP. #2 would be to get a solid MI (and get rid of Guzman).

So what could do they do? I suggest look to a team that wants to shed payroll and take one or more of their higher-paid players in exchange for Guzman. My suggestion:

Talk to the Reds (hey Bowden's no longer here so Rizzo is allowed to talk to them). They've talked about wanting to jettison either Harang or Arroyo (or both) as well as Brandon Phillips. So, see if they're up for this ... they give us Harang ($12.5M owed in '10) and Phillips ($6.75M) and we give them a package of Guzman ($8M) plus one or two of our many, many #5 starters (Martis, Mock, Balester) and one or two lower-level minor leaguers.

The Reds would shed about $10M off their 2010 payroll and upwards of about $13M off of the 2011 payroll (Harang as a $2M buyout in '11 and Phillips would be due to make $11M). Sure they'll have Guzman at $8M, but this season would be Guz's last and he doesn't have any club/player options for 2011 so once this season's done, the Reds would be free and clear of him.

The Nats would still need to sign at least one more FA starter, but they wouldn't need to break the bank and could sign a Smoltz or Livo or even take a flier on one-year deals with guys like Bedard or Sheets.

The Nats could then trot out this lineup:

C - Flores
1B - Dunn
2B - Phillips
3B - Zimmerman
SS - Desmond
LF - Willingham
CF - Morgan
RF - Dukes

SP's: Harang, Lannan, Smoltz, Bedard, Martin (with Strasburg coming in around June).

Posted by: erocks33 | December 9, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

sec109, I did receive and enjoy the e-card (I'm not a STH). I've watched it several times now. :-)

Also, Chico has proved my lunch line theory wrong, because there's a new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 9, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

sec222, did you really mean to say that something was inconcevible as a roadblock to the Lernes spendind cash? To the Lerners not spening, really?? Catcher was a need, but 2 years of a 38 year old used to be great player at above market coin was not something anyone expected. Rizzo may know something we don't, but there has been a floood of starting quality catchers on the market -- arguably less of a premium on FA catchers this year than with respect to any other position. The Lerners have stop-gapped their way along now for 3 years and they pulled yet another odd move with this sigining. It is not a future of the club move, and it is not a get the best guy available move. After this move, the Lerners had better be taking risks with their checkbooks this winter -- if they are ready to overpay by Millions for a part time catcher, they should certainly be willing to do so for front-end SP's. My guess is they will not be willing to do so. Hope I am wrong.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Woah, sorry for my very lousing typing skills above. Ouch.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

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