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Why Pudge? Why two years?

The bank of elevators leading to the guest rooms at the Indianapolis Marriott and the Starbucks that provides the fuel for bleary-eyed media members and team executives attending these winter meetings are separated by about 200 feet of marble-tiled lobby. In making that walk Tuesday morning, on my way to the media workroom where I now sit, I was stopped no fewer than three times by insider-types who all asked the same basic question: Why did the Nationals sign 38-year-old catcher Pudge Rodriguez to a two-year contract late Monday night?

Last winter, Rodriguez had to wait all the way until March 20 to scrounge up a measly one-year $1.5 million deal with the Houston Astros. A year later, after the worst offensive season of his Hall-of-Fame career (career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging), Pudge suddenly warrants a 100 percent raise and a second guaranteed year? In an off-season in which the market for backup/platoon catchers is full of supply? Something just doesn't add up.

Clearly, the Nationals decided they wanted this particular player, and clearly, the second guaranteed year was what got the deal done. But it seems highly unlikely there was another team willing to go to two years for an aging catcher with rapidly declining skills who isn't considered particularly good at game-calling. There certainly wasn't a year ago.

Perhaps Rodriguez has a resurgent season -- or two -- left in him, and perhaps he will be the wise mentor to Jesus Flores the Nationals hope he will be. Perhaps Pudge will help sell some tickets. But it seems more likely there will come a day, perhaps not so far away, when the Nationals come to regret this move.

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 8, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
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Have to agree with you Dave. This was a signing of a "name" player to help appease the masses and those that claim the Lerners are cheap. We overpaid but it's not my money, so I don't care. Hopefully this signing will show other free agents the Nats mean business.

Posted by: slopitchtom | December 8, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

It's $6M total. They wasted more than that on LoDuca plus Estrada in 2008, more than that on DYoung in 2008 and 2009, and much much more than that on Kearns in 2008 and 2009. Believe me, if Pudge has four or five good games he'll provide as much value as any of those expenditures.

$6M is chump change, Sheinin. You and others can't continually come down on the Nationals for not spending like a big market team and then turn on them whenever they do.

Posted by: section309 | December 8, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Given this is a 103 loss team, the Nats are going to have to overpay some to get anybody to come here. Pudge was by far the best of what was out there, even at 38. I would have brought Schneider back instead, but in any event, we finally have a catcher not on the DL that can catch and handle a pitching staff.

Posted by: raymitten | December 8, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I think it's the second year that a problem. I repeat: meh. Pudge, right now, probably represents an upgrade over Bard/Nieves, but it's not a huge improvement. I'm frankly more worried that the two year deal means they're concerned about Flores's career and they want an insurance policy in case they have to bridge to Norris (as a previous poster suggested, I believe).

Posted by: Section220 | December 8, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Interesting questions Dave. But we can't answer them. Try asking Rizzo, Kasten, and Riggs. At least you would get their rationale. As for their ultimate regrets, time will tell.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | December 8, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Maybe he is back on the juice.

Posted by: brothbart | December 8, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I guess on the glass half full side, the team identified catcher and relief pitchers as two of their offseason priorities, and they've gone out and acquired a catcher and a relief pitcher. Seems like a sign our beloved Nats are finally playing the game like adults: (1) identify need; (2) fill need; (3) rinse, repeat.

Posted by: Section220 | December 8, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo is trying to please Boswell? He must be thrilled with this move!

Posted by: Section314 | December 8, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Comparing to last year's market is probably not the right yardstick, as that was in the midst of the worst economic downturn in 70 years. Are the Nats overpaying? Probably, but Pudge represents a big upgrade over what the Nats had. If Flores can't make it through the year --he's coming off a serious injury and surgery, and things happen -- I'd much rather see Pudge catching and hitting than Josh Bard or Will Nieves. Those 2 guys couldn't hit, except the rare flukey times the ball hit their bat. Moreover, as was well documented on this blog, the team's ERA was over a full run higher (maybe it was 2 runs?) when they caught, instead of Flores.

Posted by: fischy | December 8, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I don't know much about his leadership abilities and history, but if he has them then that would help me accept this signing. The Nats didn't seem to have a real strong team leader last year. Pudge will have instant respect and cred. He's been on winning teams. This could prove to be a smart move. I hope so.

Posted by: Sojouner | December 8, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I've been mia for a while, but can someone tell me/explain what happened to Austin Kerns?

Posted by: gavila5 | December 8, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Pudge should be a decent player for us and fill a need for two years. Did we overpay? Yeah we did.

Perhaps we are just trying to get cozy with Boras or tossing him a softball for Strasburg or the upcoming Bryce Harper talks.

Posted by: Hondo5 | December 8, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The Nationals/Lerners are thought to be cheap owners who overpay for fringe material (Kearns, Guzman). Lets count how many future HOF players currently play for the Nationals... um, none. When you have a chance to get one, at a position as needed like catcher, who will work with Flores and the young pitching staff, why bicker over a second year? Or maybe we should have asked Guzman to switch to catcher instead of playing second base.

Posted by: garyolney | December 8, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Do the Nats also lose a draft pick by signing Pudge?

Posted by: OS94_Baba | December 8, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

When you are a team that is as terrible as the Nats you have to overpay to secure talent. Pudge might be pushing 40 but is the peprfect guy to have on the roster. Think of Pudge as another coach on the field and someone who can mentor Flores, Norris, and possibly Bryce Harper. Although I could see Bryce harper eventually playing one of the corner outfield spots. Still too early to make any predictions on him, kid just passed his GED, got a ways to go. back to Pudge, it also sends a message to the league that the Nats are willing to shell out some bucks for players. Now, if they are willing to sign Pudge for $6 million, how about offering $15 - $20 million for Chapman. He would look nice in the rotation, or as a potentially Mariano Rivera reliever/closer. I have a feeling they won't offer the money after shelling out bucks for Strasburg, but imagine by 2012 a rotation of Strasburg, Chapman, Zimmerman, Lannan, and Veteran Free Agent. Make it happen Rizzo!

Posted by: ElBigChroizo | December 8, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

This move was a good one unlike the D Young debacle at 2 years for $10 million. Talk about winning the lottery. We should have had a clause in that one that if he was overweight by so many pounds we could void the payment.

IR hopefully will not end up on IR as he has shown great durability over the years.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | December 8, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Sojouner makes a great point about the need for cred on this team. IR will call out guys when needed.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | December 8, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

There were a lot of people shaking their heads about the Dunn signing last year, as well. Why spend money when you are going to stink? The guy is a butcher in the field, etc.

We all had a lot of fun watching him and rooting for him, didn't we? We all also have talked about how much we respect Rizzo's insight. Does that only last until he does something that does not match with our own (so much more experienced and exceptional) insights?

I am excited. I hope Rizzo and his crew's due diligence will make everyone take back their complaints.


Posted by: kevincostello | December 8, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I think you could definitely make the argument that Dunn is a future hall of famer

Posted by: artvandelay2 | December 8, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I've been mia for a while, but can someone tell me/explain what happened to Austin Kerns?

Posted by: gavila5 | December 8, 2009 11:29 AM


The team purchased his departure for $1M

Posted by: NatsNut | December 8, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I realize his power numbers and average have been dropping off. Still he is Pudge and better than Bard. I just wish he walked a little. That's a sure sign of aging, when the batting eye goes and the OBP falls off to way below average.

Posted by: EdDC | December 8, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Dave - I gotta agree with glass half full crowd here:
- The Nats have to overpay for a big name to come to them - there's no other way around it. And this isn't a relatively large contract.
- They've announced that Flores is healthy which means Pudge will be a backup - they bought his leadership and mentoring - and maybe playing once or twice a week will help improve the numbers from last year.
- As an early signing, doesn't this signal to the market that the Nats are serious and willing to pay what it takes to get what they want?

Or to put it another way... what did they lose by doing this other than cash? Now if they say in January/February that they ran out of money for pitchers because of this signing then I'd go a little ballistic - but until then I'm happy to wait and be happy he's here.

Posted by: natslifer | December 8, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse


Nationals May Non-Tender Mike MacDougal
By Tim Dierkes [December 8 at 10:17am CST]
ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that he's hearing there's a good chance the Nationals non-tender reliever Mike MacDougal. The Nats acquired Brian Bruney yesterday, and will give him a chance to win the closer job.

Non-tendering MacDougal would be wise. After earning $2.65MM in 2009, his agent can argue for a decent raise on the basis of his 20 saves in 21 opportunities. Since MacDougal walked 38 and struck out 34 in his 54.3 innings, he's not a good bet to repeat his success in 2010.

Posted by: thepostischeap | December 8, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Gee whiz Sheinin - the team signs a future Hall of Famer, someone who is just two years removed from the lastest of his 13 Gold Gloves, and you're whining. Guess this is why you don't run a ballclub.

This is a terrific signing. The Nationals not only get Rodriguez for two years on the field, but if he's interested in coaching he can do that while phasing down his playing career. With possibly Harper and most certainly Flores in need of a mentor, this is really a win-win situation. They spent $8 million on Kearns last year - and though a good guy, the team didn't get the mileage out of him like they will Rodriguez.

Go Rizzo!

Posted by: dand187 | December 8, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who doesn't think that this is not a huge upgrade does not understand catching. Bard was a terrible defensive catcher and Nieves was only slightly better, at least last year. Half of what Pudge was is better than those two, plus who do you want batting with a game on the line in the bottom of the ninth? Bard, Nieves, or Pudge? What is everyone seeing in Flores defensively (in the few games he does catch) that puts him anywhere near Pudge? Flores is probably not our catcher of the future. Why does everyone care about the additional $3 million. That is nothing.

Posted by: Sonny9 | December 8, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Lastest. LOL. Sorry, that should be latest.

Posted by: dand187 | December 8, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

"I think you could definitely make the argument that Dunn is a future hall of famer."

Only if he keeps up his current pace for another 7-10 years.

Posted by: section309 | December 8, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Sonny9, I agree this is a good signing, but be careful what you say about Jesus.

The only thing missing with Flores right now is his health. He could use a little more pro seasoning in the game-calling and defensive categories, but that would come with playing more (i.e. health).

And nobody is saying he's up there defensively with Pudge necessarily. But he's young. And dude can hit. He's totally clutch. And as mentioned, team ERA was way better with him catching.

If Pudge can start long enough to get Flores 100%, I think JF is absolutely our catcher of the future.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 8, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Section220 -- Unlike our previous GM who screamed "pitching pitching pitching" and then trades pitchers for pathetic outfielders and infielders. Thanks be to Rizzo! I think he's going to work out to be the best GM in the business!


Section 309

Posted by: luv2bikva | December 8, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"I think you could definitely make the argument that Dunn is a future hall of famer."

Only if he keeps up his current pace for another 7-10 years.

Well he is only 30 years old, so another 7-10 years isn't out of the question, especially if he ends up at DH somewhere down the road.

Posted by: SpashCity | December 8, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the Michael Nylander of the Nationals.

I trust Rizzo, so I am willing to wait and see. But weren't Nieves' numbers better than Pudge's last season?

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | December 8, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

For all of you who think this was a bad deal, consider:

Pudge gets 2yrs $6M.

Lo Duca got 1yr $5M, Johnny Estrada got a 1yr $1.25M deal. Both were gone by August 1st in 2008.

So, which would you rather have? 2 years guaranteed of a future hall of famer, great teammate, good defensive player or 4 months of two loser clubhouse cancers who are now both out of baseball?

Posted by: tboss | December 8, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Half-full here also.

I am sorry to lose Will, he was a great guy but wow- IRod!

All the reasons are listed above, just count me in the "keep it coming Rizzo" group.

Go Nats!

Posted by: alm1000 | December 8, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"Only if he keeps up his current pace for another 7-10 years.

Well he is only 30 years old, so another 7-10 years isn't out of the question, especially if he ends up at DH somewhere down the road."

Not saying he can't do it, just that he HAS to do it. A 500-homer career with not much else to show for it is not going to get him into the HOF. 550? Maybe. 600 or more? Probably.

Posted by: section309 | December 8, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

NatNut, I like Flores' stick, but I'm going to take a wait and see on him becoming a better than average defensive catcher. I just think he has a long way to go to get to even Pudge's current level. It's no secret that our pitching went to crap once we traded away Schneider. The catcher's number 1 job, regarless of what level of baseball we are talking about is to make your pitcher look good and the Nats number 1 problem last year was pitching. Norris might be in the same boat. At his age he is certainly much much better than was Flores at a similar age with a bat in his hand, but it's his defense that kept him in Hagerstown all of last year. I think I trust Rizzo's actions, also, more than I trust what he is saying. I don't think they think Flores will be ready at the start of the season and I don't think they think that he can catch 100 plus games this year. Regardless, I don't see the downside on this move.

Posted by: Sonny9 | December 8, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

If they signed Pudge to be a real player for 2 years, then this is a bad signing. If they signed him to play most of the first half this season, share time with Flores the second half, then mentor him next year, this is a decent signing. Of course Pudge gives off the aura of a me first guy (just get that feeling) so that might not work at all.

Posted by: catalogbohemian | December 8, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I kind of think this signing sends a message to other free agents that the Nats are serious about trying to turn the corner. It may bode well for future signings. Not all signings by any team work out 100% of the time. Just give it time and hope it leads to better days.

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 8, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Definitely curious, Sheinin is right about that.

Why grab him so quick at such a high price? Other FA catchers who clearly had better years are Barajas, Molina and Olivo. Not sure if they were really available.

$6m/2 yrs does seem very high for a guy who slugged .384 and is 38 years old.

BUT, I do trust Rizzo. Let's see how Pudge does. Hopefully, he's watching Flores drive in 75 and grow into an All-Star.

Posted by: Avar | December 8, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Put me down on the side that say's "good move, but". Yes, you overpaid but that is hardly an indictment, sense no one knows what the budget is for this year or what the comparative cost/benefit of another catcher would be. Let's say the Nat's were also looking at signing Kendall or trading for Navaro. This is not a bad deal against those comparatives. My understanding is that he is also a good clubhouse presence. Delivering leadership - the right kind of leadership - is likely part of the equation as well.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

... since ....

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

A reason for optimism? I heard Old Leatherpants on XM's "Baseball this Morning" and he was against the deal. If Jimbo's against it, chances are the deal will work out in the Nats' favor!

Posted by: VaNat | December 8, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Count me in with the half-full crowd. $3/year million isn't outrageous for a future HOFer who can still play. Is it more than some other teams would have paid? Maybe. That's what happens when you go after a guy you want...just ask the Yankees.

Regardless, the team is identifying needs and then taking steps to fill those needs. And that's a damn sight better than tossing money at every "toolsey" guy who walks in the room, IMO.

Posted by: js_edit | December 8, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

They need to sign/trade for Top or Mid rotation type starting pitcher, if they walk away this week with just Et Tu Bruti and Packing Pudge-Fudge thats not getting it done. Rizzo bite hard and look at Maxwell, Bernadina and Willingham decide which one is in the Plan for 2012 and let he who draws the shortest straw go to the Braves for Lowe! Do it Mike!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | December 8, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

People complain when the Nats spend money, people complain when the Nats don't spend money.

The lesson here is people complain.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 8, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Does Sirius-XM provide JimBo with a Segway?

Posted by: thepostischeap | December 8, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Definitely curious, Sheinin is right about that.

Why grab him so quick at such a high price?"

First, $3M/yr for two years is not a high price. Sure, had they held out to make this signing late in February after every other team had passed on Pudge they probably could have gotten him for less. But then again he might also have signed with another team before then. As Riggleman told Byron Kerr in a quote over on the MASN site, they've had Pudge in their sights since September. If he's the guy they wanted, it makes sense to tie him up now, even though you may overpay just a bit.

If the Yankees or Red Sox were making this move, Sheinin would be all over it. Just goes to show his and the Post's double standard when it comes to writing about Washington baseball.

Posted by: section309 | December 8, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Also, don't underestimate the impact of having a well respected catcher when trying to sign well respected pitchers...

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the others that we will likely HAVE to pay a little higher and a little longer to get the good ones for awhile.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 8, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

On paper based on last season, Pudge is a modest upgrade offensively and defensively over Nieves. The role-model stuff matters on a team this young, though, and catcher is a place where I don't mind overpaying a bit for a real pro. And the other posters are right, at this point the Nats do have to overpay a bit. I hope Nieves sticks somewhere. Bard's constant lazy fly balls to the outfield were driving me crazy.

Posted by: mw09 | December 8, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Too many quality posts competing for Post of the Day.

More news, please!

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 8, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I believe the Nat's are looking long term.

This is supposed to be a good year for drafting catchers. My suspicion is that the Nat's will dump Nieves and/or Bard now, making Pudge the primary backup this season. Then, they'll draft a catcher who, basically, won't be available until next year. When that time comes, they'll still have Pudge who can mentor the rookie who represents the future at that position.

Posted by: jcoffey858 | December 8, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

The Rangers have great catching, I would have thought Pudge would have retired, he was a shot in the arm for fans at the SEN-RANGER games, but not sure he will have the same effect on DC fans!

Posted by: bconner1 | December 8, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Joe Sheehan's (BP) thoughts:

The Nationals made a completely unnecessary two-year commitment to Ivan Rodriguez, paying $5 million above the minimum salary for those two years to a player who is no longer worth even that kind of money. The idea that he might mentor Jesus Flores is silly; Flores is already a better player than Rodriguez, is good defensively, and only an injury stood in the way of his having a big year in 2009. If the Nats are capable of limiting Rodriguez to 120 at-bats a year… well, they’re still wasting money, but at least it’s just money. If he cuts into Flores’ time, I mean even a little, they’re just going backwards. This signing is a waste of resources that doesn’t speak well of an organization that maybe I have to stop making excuses for.

The Nationals did make a decent pickup earlier in the day, acquiring Brian Bruney for what will likely be an inconsequential player to be named later. Bruney misses bats, always has, with 218 strikeouts in 221 1/3 major-league innings. He’s rarely been able to throw enough strikes to stay in a high-leverage role, which is why the Yankees have made him available. The Nats have run through a few guys like this, from Joel Hanrahan to Mike MacDougal, and now it’s Bruney’s turn. It’s not a bad play to keep trying out hard throwers who miss bats in the hopes that one of them finds his command. It worked for the Mariners last year with David Aardsma, and I suspect that it could work well for the Nats and Bruney. I like the move.

Posted by: Section220 | December 8, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

also joining in with the glass half full crowd. think this is a good move for all of the reasons per the previous posters. Like the fact that we are in early on both trades and signings, I think the FO did their homework. sad that Dave is back whining and negative about the Nats but like a previous poster said, complaints when they don't spend and complaints when they do. Its just great to be excited about baseball in December. Can't wait to see what starting pitcher(s) we come up with.

Posted by: sjm3091 | December 8, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't work... there's no salary cap to deal with and you know they didn't give him a no-trade/no-movement clause. Besides, there isn't exactly a Karl Alzner waiting at AAA Syracuse to crack the lineup that Pudge is going to block.


Sounds like the Michael Nylander of the Nationals.

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | December 8, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RicketyCricket | December 8, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or did Sheehan spend more time telling us why the Bruney move was suspect than he did explaining why he liked it?

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 8, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Experienced mentoring-type catcher = good for developing a young pitching staff. Also good for trade bait at the trading deadline in July. Also good in the clubhouse - also could possibly allow them to deal Nieves whom I like very much but he may be one piece that another team might find enough value to give us something decent in return. Also good for Flores from a learning/developing perspective. Good character guy. I think it's a good move all around. And I know you all care what I think.

Posted by: AsstGM | December 8, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

While I think Sonny9 has his strong opinion on that it is a good signing, I say save $2.6 million and go with Wil Nieves as your backup and sign Garland and Ron Villone.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 8, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

The signing of Pudge may have been partly to bring in a big name, but you need to do more research before you write an article like this. Throw your (negative) opinion of the Nationals aside and evaluate the signing.

Pudge is one of the greatest catchers in baseball. He has been a great hitter. But more importantly has been his defensive skills and handling of pitching staffs that have put him above the rest. He took the Detroit Tigers from a record of 43-119 in 2003 to 72-90 in 2004. Their team ERA in 2003 was 5.30 and in 2004 dropped to 4.40, largely attributed to Pudge and his handling of the young pitching staff.

What does the Nationals pitching staff have? A lot of youth. How is signing Ivan Rodriguez a smart signing? He can handle the young pitchers and turn them into Justin Verlanders.

Enough said.

Posted by: drolove7 | December 8, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Signing Pudge is definitely a good move. I just don't see how Pudge at 38 is anything but an upgrade from Nieves and Bard. As for taking time from Flores, let's see if Jesus can stay healthy first. If he does, it will be a nice luxury to have more catching than needed. Then, Pudge can be effective as a mentor or trade bait. I agree signing him quickly can be an effective signal to other free agents that the Nationals are serious about improving.

Posted by: LandoverHillsBoysClub | December 8, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Good move.

Pudge knows the strengths & weaknesses of just about every veteran in the game today. He can serve as backup catcher, mentor Flores and any other rookie catcher(s) we sign, guide our pitchers on how to pitch to opposing batters and probably come in as a late-inning PH or serve as a DH in American League parks when not needed as catcher. He will also boost attendance at Nationals Park in the coming two seasons.

What's important in the near term is that the Nationals climb out of the NL East cellar. Once that happens attendance at Nationals Park will take care of itself. Signing Ivan Rodriguez helps the team in various ways and may draw as many as 500 to 1,000 extra fans to home games.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 8, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

First of all, this argument assumes that the $6 million spent on Rodriguez would diminish an offer to Garland. There's no salary cap, so there's no procedural reason for this to be the case.

Also, might the signing of Rodriguez actually help Rizzo's chances of signing Garland? It proved the Nats are willing to spend money, and it lands a noted defensive battery mate.


I say save $2.6 million and go with Wil Nieves as your backup and sign Garland and Ron Villone.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 8, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Might be good, might not be -- depends on what else the Nats do.

There are many catchers of Pudge's current caliber on the market, the Nats took the oldest one and among the most expensive (not sure how this jives with The Plan?). Maybe the guy finds his form from a couple of years back and this looks great in hindsight, but Sheinin is right, as of today this is looks like the Nats throwing money away.

Have the Nats now spent money from a budget that they have in their heads that will not allow for them to get some other more needed piece? Hope not.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 8, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

The point is that this is the way you fund a baseball team if you want to compete. Why are we worrying about saving money. If we can't sign some pitchers because they have signed Pudge then they have no business running a baseball team. This shouldn't be a money situation (and it's not our money). This doesn't block a young stud and it didn't cost us any future. I just feel that catcher was one of our bigger holes and now we have one less hole to plug. In this lineup I would not be surprised if Pudge's offensive numbers were not significantly better than last year, batting like 7th in the lineup.

Posted by: Sonny9 | December 8, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm with the skeptics. I love Pudge as much as any baseball fan. I've been a fan of his since the mid-90's. He's an outstanding clubhouse presence and a future hall-of-famer.

That said, he's nowhere near an all-star player anymore, not offensively OR defensively. (And I don't believe in "calls a good game" skill set. Catchers can't improve pitching staffs, and there are a lot of old-school players that agree.) Yes, Pudge is better than Bard or Nieves, but so are a lot of free-agents. I agree with Joe Sheenan that Flores is better than Rodriguez today.

Finally, the price is too high. No, I don't care about the Lerners' money. What bugs me about this deal is the Nats need every draft pick they can find, and now they've lost one to select a below-average back-up catcher.

Posted by: NattyFan | December 8, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The best thing the Nats can do is extend Dunn's contract. There's something to spend some money on.

Posted by: rcryan | December 8, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Shenin,If you had a problem with answering the Why Pudge? question then you probably shouldn't be covering baseball. Beyond the obvious that no one is convinced that Flores will recover from his surgery, we had the worst catching on a daily basis that I have ever seen. Pudge will throw out runners and block pitches in the dirt unlike his predecessors. Finally I have never seen a catcher injured in the way Flores was. This may well turn out to be a freak injury that needs multiple surgeries to fix. After his original surgery he was reinjured immediately and I bet his return is unlikely to his previous skill level. This is all about a bridge to Norris and the possible drafting and mentoring of Harper.

Posted by: wellscats | December 8, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

wellscats.... you are exactly right

Posted by: Sonny9 | December 8, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I both agree and disagree with everyone who cites the negatives of this deal. Sure, it's only about publicity, not making the team better, but THIS is a wonderful time for a publicity statement.

I see no reason why his being a future HOFer is relevant, if it's not based on his time in Washington. But if he gets other GMs to say "hey, the Nationals are serious, and maybe a little bit gullible" and starts the phone in Rizzo's office ringing.... GOOD. Pudge will have done the team a better service than hitting .320

Posted by: Section506 | December 8, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

A piece on the MASN site has some words from Mark Lerner.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 8, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Seems like Pudge is trending downward with no respite. He's gonna expect to play, making that kind of money - which sends the wrong message if Flores is going to be on the field if he's healthy. You know he's not going to put up with sitting on the bench all year, whereas if he had just signed for one year, it would be implicit that he's a backup. But now they're telling him that he's a starter. What is the plan here? If Flores is the now, and he can get healthy this year, why do you need Rodriguez and his ego for another year? He's almost 40, and he's been catching in the bigs since he was 19. He's lucky he can walk.

Posted by: Brue | December 8, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Pudge is 38 and his game is in decline. He had to beg for a MLB deal last year and no one is knocking his door down this year, until the Nats came flying in with an extra year. This is not a build the franchise move, nor is it a get the best guy available move. It is likely about HOPING Pudge can play for 2 years and get his 3,000th hit in DC -- sell some tickets. The fact is that Pudge has not been an elite defender for years and he does not really have some glittering reputation as a game caller or mentor or the like. Maybe he plays great -- I sure hope that he does -- but "why Pudge?" is certainly a very good question and "why two years?" is the question everyone in baseball is asking right now.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 8, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The Nats are spending too much money? Really? REALLY?!?!

Posted by: Kev29 | December 8, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Pudge? Awesome! It's 1999, right? Right? Oh wait...

I agree with Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus. Pretty much a pointless use of money. But it seems to be all about reaching for that covetted 4th place spot for Rizzo, as it has been from the start. He doesn't seem to get where the Nats are in their development cycle.

Look at it this way. That 6M is the difference between signing a league-average starter and an elite one two years from now - when the Nats are actually contending. 2010 is a building year. You don't build around future HOF catchers having their farewell tour of the league.

Fun to see Pudge, and maybe it will get me out to an extra game. So maybe not a total unforced error here. But I'd rather have seen them save the cash for later.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 8, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm conflicted. I like the fact that we seem to have a road map for the offseason and are following it.

We need to shore up the bullpen, and getting Bruney for a Rule V pick seems like a good deal. On the other hand, there are concerns about his elbow, and rumors that we might non-tender MacDougal to save money. I'm OK with the elbow issue on the grounds that the price was low, but losing MacDougal would put us right back where we started, minus the Rule V pick. So let's hope we don't go there.

Similarly, on Pudge, my initial reaction was positive -- we need a catcher, he's the biggest name out there, and so what if we overpay in order to acquire a future hall of famer while appeasing Boras and sending a message to other free agents. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that he's hit a wall at age 38 (.280 OBP last year) and that this will ultimately (soon?) be regarded as a bad contract a la Lo Duca, Dmitri, etc. Count me in the glass half full crowd as long as we don't try to save $5-6m somewhere else. We need to do the opposite (e.g. trade for an arb-eligible player like Nolasco where the Fish don't want to pay the increased salary).

Also, the Braves just DFA'd Ryan Church. Is Nook Logan still available?

Posted by: BobLHead | December 8, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Suggestion for Mike Rizzo. Print this out on a note card and carry it around in your pocket for easy reference. Might help you keep things straight.


–verb (used with object)
1. to repair, esp. to dismantle and reassemble with new parts: to rebuild an old car.

[Contrast with...]


1. a small piece of material used to mend a tear or break, to cover a hole, or to strengthen a weak place: patches at the elbows of a sports jacket.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 8, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Logan, and of memorable radio calls (Who was speaking of calls, you might ask? Hey, I might answer, I'm trying to segue here.) Anyway, as I was saying, if you haven't already done so, you might want to follow the link to the team site and play the team's holiday greetings card. It has audio of Slowes' call of the J-Max walk-off. Yeah, I've played it a few times already. ;-) It warmed my heart on this cold day.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 8, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Main Entry: whinge

Pronunciation: \ˈhwinj, ˈwinj\

Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): whinged; whing·ing or whinge·ing

Etymology: Middle English *whingen, from Old English hwinsian; akin to Old High German winsōn to moan
Date: 12th century

British : to complain fretfully : whine

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 8, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day, I would have signed that "Merriam-Webster's Dictionary." :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 8, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

My view: Nothing wrong with patching in the process of rebuilding, that's what we've done far to little of over the past few years.

Posted by: BobLHead | December 8, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

More tweeting by Ben Goessling from the Winter Meetings:

"Continuing to hear more along the Pudge-is-not-a-mentor track. Haven't talked to anybody who wasn't puzzled by the move."

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 8, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

so we maybe overpaid by ~2% of our team payroll for the next 2 years - wow. This after dumping Belli, Kearns, Meat, etc. money. At least they are spending! Now go get a Garland, trade for Nolasco, get O Dog and trade Guzman!!!

Posted by: goexpos2 | December 8, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1a1 - cool, I never knew of the Aussie version. Still a weird move.

BobLHead - the point about patching is that it *increases* your chances of being respectable in the short term at the expense of decreasing your chances of being dominant in the long term.

It's a matter of goals, I guess. To me there is little materially different between 3rd/4th place and last, but if you have the chance to build a winner two years from now, you don't waste the resources being "respectable" for a fixed time-limited window. Rizzo seems focussed on the latter. Maybe it's a job security thing.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 8, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

According to Steinberg, Jim Bowden actually just said this on his Sirius radio show:

"Following in the footsteps of Paul LoDuca and Dmitri Young, another bad [signing] by the Nationals."

Steinbog promises he has a transcript forthcoming.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 8, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

This signing is a POSITIVE move. Having a veteran future HOF catcher working with a pitching staff that is very young is a strong move. It shows a true commitment by the organization to help develop the young pitchers, even if they have to pay a premium.

To look at his offensive numbers or length of contract and critize is being short sighted. This organization will have to pay more or more years to get players in. Why would Pudge want to be here for a year and start over again next year. This move won't excite the Rotissere baseball fans, but who cares.

Posted by: DCsportfan3433 | December 8, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

So apparently CoverageIsLacking doesn't like Pudge. Does that mean he's not going to complain if the Post fails to write about him?

Posted by: section309 | December 8, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

This was purely a publicity move designed to show both the fanbase and their key player (Zimmerman) that the team wants to compete. Pudge is a future HOF catcher, but two years for $6M? They could have signed him for one year, but probably knew he would wait until spring training to sign with a team that has a better chance to win. Only reason I could see him signing here was the 2nd year.

IF Flores is healthy, he'll play 70% of the time which means that Pudge won't play much. At this point in his career, he would have been better in the AL where he could at least DH at times. I think people will look back on this signing much the way the O's fans looked at the Sosa trade. It sounded good at the time, but it really was just a publicity stunt to sell tickets for a team that is hurting at the gate.

Posted by: wizfan89 | December 8, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

CiL's comment wasn't about Pudge, it was about Bowden, who seems willing to criticize the Nats for moves he made as their GM.

B202, it's not a job security thing, it's a ticket selling thing. I agree that excessive patching can deter development, but Flores is still a question mark at catcher and Norris is supposedly two years away, so a two-year deal for Pudge is fine under the circumstances.

Posted by: BobLHead | December 8, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

These negatives from folks like Sheehan (who talked to "some baseball guys") all goes along with the unsubstantiated rumors that float around. Also, as much as I like Baseball Perspective, they are stats oriented and not MDs, nor do they play MDs on TV. Wellscats has it absolutely right. As I pointed out, earlier, no matter whether you think of Flores as the catcher of the future or not, the injury (and that is what it was) creates a very big unknown. At least with Pudge, the Nats go into the 2010 season with a legitimate (if on the down side of the hill)first string Major League catcher. that cannot really be said of Bard or Nieves. Both are good guys and excellent back up catchers, but not serious, first string, major league backstops.

Bottom line...the most likely scenario is that it provides something that the Nats were sorely missing.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 8, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

So if you believe that Rizzo and company know what they are doing and you believe Pudge is not a mentor, and you believe that the deal does not make financial sense for a backup, then do you believe that the Nats really think that Flores will be ready by spring? Do you believe that the Nats still view Flores as the catcher of the future? I don't know what to believe, except this: The Nats made a list of catchers who were available by free agency or trade and did a cost/benefit analysis before making a decision. Maybe they value Pudge too highly, but they have a catcher now.

In two years it seems more likely that Norris will be the starting catcher than Flores will. So maybe the thought here is not mentor Flores, but solve catcher for two years until Norris is ready.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they overpaid a little. But remember, we're talking about a possible Hall of Fame catcher who's had success everywhere he's gone. He can be a great mentor to all the young pitchers on the staff and, indeed, the entire team. Just by showing them his championship ring, he'll get their attention.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | December 8, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Pudge's .245/.279/.388 in 121 games/448 PA last year was better than Brian Schneider's .218/.292/.335 in 59 games/194 PA. Where were Sheinin and all these other "experts" saying "Why Schneider? Why two years?" when the Phillies signed him? If the Nats had landed Schneider instead of Pudge, would they be saying that? I think not. Stupid "experts."

Posted by: section309 | December 8, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Let me join the glass half full crowd. Actually much more than half full. Catcher was a real weak spot in our lineup last year. Pudge is definitely an improvement defensively and offensively over Bard/Nieves, and even offensively if he returns to 2008 form. And having had labrum surgery myself, I'm skeptical that Flores will be anywhere near 100% by Opening Day. In that scenario, I'd much rather have Pudge than any of the other options, including that other good field, no hit, declining skills candidate, Brian Schneider.

Sure, it's a two year contract for more money that we might have paid a another replacement catcher, but really, who cares? It's not like $6 million is a Texiera-like sum that will break the bank or have a signficant impact on what we are willing to pay other players. Frankly, I'm surprised they could convince a player of his pedigree to come to our last place team. But they did, and maybe that will convince a few other guys with multiple options that this is a good spot for them to play. As for regretting it later, that's always a risk. But if Pudge plays up to expectations I don't think there will be any regrets. At least we won't be playing him at 1st base and in left field trying to find takers like we did with PLoD in 2008.

Posted by: Section222 | December 8, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

FTR, Schneider $2.75 M over 2 years age 33. Still, Schneider was never a HOF candidate and by the time he left the Nats I was ready to gauge my eyes out if I had to watch him ground into another double play.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Good point 309, but Schneider is 5 years younger and he can actually play very good D. AND he's a missing piece on a first place club. The Nats are supposedly building the club for the future, so this move puzzles me.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

... gouge ...

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It's not the money, it's the fact that they signed him for two years. Who's going to be the starting catcher, and will Pudge accept a backup role all year? We don't even know what the team told him about his role. They could merely be doing the 'let's wait and see what happens when Flores gets healthy' as a cop-out to making a decision between the two. Why does everyone assume he's automatically a backup? What it seems like they're saying is that they're fed up with waiting around for Flores and seem to think that Pudge is still starting catcher material - which he isn't.

Posted by: Brue | December 8, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Pudge is a leader, a mentor, and a class guy. All qualities that this young team needs.

Posted by: AWWNats | December 8, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Pudge has that "eye of the tiger" piece that few on the current roster seem to have. Schneider never had it.

Posted by: AWWNats | December 8, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Well, I for one look forward to IR calling pitches, if only to see how it affects Dibble's scratched record routine of criticizing each and every pitch selection, even contradicting himself from inning to inning just to make a point.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | December 8, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Thing is, you're trying to convince a guy to just keep a seat warm for Flores, then Norris.

You don't get a Rod Barajas then, and with nothing much but garbage, you identify I-Rod as your target.

Clearly the Nats overpaid a little but its worth it for his ability to mentor a young staff and provide a little pop. .247 and 10HR still ain't bad.

If the Nats payroll was already 70 million, I might be a little cheaper, but don't really care when its mid-40's.

Posted by: CJArlington | December 8, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Pudge is a leader, a mentor, and a class guy. All qualities that this young team needs."

Wrong. What it needs is an infusion of talent. An over-the-hill, overpaid, ex-steroid suspect, is using up a roster spot. This guy'll last til mid-summer then jump to another team.

Posted by: shoveit | December 8, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I let out a loud spontaneous "Whoo Hoo!" when I heard that the Nats signed Pudge. He's been one of my favorite players for years. I know we're only getting a shadow of what he once was, but I remember when the Cardinals signed an over the hill Roger Maris. He didn't play like a HOFer, but he was still great to have on the team.

Posted by: twinbrook | December 8, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

After his original surgery he was reinjured immediately and I bet his return is unlikely to his previous skill level.

Posted by: wellscats | December 8, 2009 1:55 PM

Jesus didn't have a "first" surgery. He was injured and put on the DL and re-habbed. He probably came back too soon, tore his labrum and THEN had surgery. Only one.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 8, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

This was purely a publicity move designed to show both the fanbase and their key player (Zimmerman) that the team wants to compete.
Posted by: wizfan89 | December 8, 2009 3:00 PM

c'mon, purely publicity? $6M on publicity? You gotta give a little more credit to Rizzo and his team of 17 top new executives. And I'm not being sarcastic either. He's got smart guys who know players and know what they need.

You may not agree with the signing, but I promise it's not pure publicity.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 8, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Steve Strauss thinks it's a great move. That's good enough for me. Ain't the Bud Light cold.

Posted by: Monty2 | December 8, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

This is really going to screw up our salary cap situation just like Michal Nylander did for the Caps. Oh wait, no it's not. $3M per year is absolutely nothing in baseball terms. Utility infielders make this much.

Posted by: ouvan59 | December 8, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

$3 million a year?

Geez, relax folks. Flores is coming back from injury and Rodriguez may need to start the season for the Nationals.

This team paid Kearns EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS to bat .220 last year in right field.

This is a team under Bowden that paid FIVE MILLION DOLLARS to Dmitri Young.


Posted by: leopard09 | December 8, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

If this signing does nothing but rid us of MASN's "wil nieves. who? wil nieves!" ads, it was well worth the $6 mil.

Posted by: DCPowerGator | December 8, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

>You may not agree with the signing, but I promise it's not pure publicity.

Posted by: NatsNut

If it's one year, you're right, but two years is ridiculous and has nothing to do with the baseball itself.

Posted by: Brue | December 8, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

The Blind Faith DESPERATION of Nats fans is a Riot..whenever this club does anything....Slaten who?/BFD.// .444 lifetime Retread Riggleman/BFD.// Bruney who?/BFD..// .245 2hr /13 rbi in 2009 Rodriguez /BFD

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | December 8, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

"You and others can't continually come down on the Nationals for not spending like a big market team and then turn on them whenever they do."

Well said, section309!

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | December 8, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Pudge has always had the ability to keep his pitchers calm and collected. He can see the complete game unfold as well as the best of them. What a deal!

Posted by: DarioPizza | December 9, 2009 2:31 AM | Report abuse

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