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Nats sign three, including RHP Tyler Walker

With a busy day of signings, the Washington Nationals on Monday added right-handed reliever Tyler Walker, starting pitcher Chuck James and outfielder Chris Duncan, according to a team source. James and Duncan agreed to minor league deals, and Walker has a one-year major league deal, which is pending a physical scheduled for Tuesday. Terms of Walker's contract were not immediately available.

Of the three newcomers, Walker is the most predictable investment, and he'll be counted on to fortify a bullpen that finished 2009 with a league-worst 5.04 ERA. In seven big league seasons (262 games), Walker, 33, has a 4.32 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Pitching last season for Philadelphia, Walker went 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA (35-1/3 IP). Walker is the fourth player Washington has added this offseason to its bullpen, joining Eddie Guardado, Brian Bruney and Matt Capps.

Duncan and James, meantime, have intriguing long-shot potential -- if only because of production earlier in their careers.

Duncan, 28, a 1999 first-round pick by St. Louis, hit 43 home runs from 2006 to 2007, and looked like a key member of the team's nucleus. In two seasons since, though, Duncan has hit just .237 with 11 homers in 482 at-bats. Last July St. Louis traded him to Boston in exchange for Julio Lugo. Duncan was released by the Red Sox shortly after.

James, 28, also had his best seasons in 2006 and 2007 -- before shoulder injuries derailed his career. In his first two full big league seasons with Atlanta, James went 22-14 with a 4.05 ERA. But he hasn't appeared in a big league game since August 2008. In September 2008, James underwent rotator cuff surgery, performed by orthopedist James Andrews.

By Chico Harlan  |  January 25, 2010; 6:56 PM ET
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Next: More on the new and improved front office


The more competition, the better. This should be an interesting spring.

Posted by: dand187 | January 25, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

see chico still hasn't boarded that slow boat to china.

Posted by: surly_w | January 25, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I like each addition but trust that James is not the "one more starter" that has been oft mentioned as needed. I would like to think that there's still a chance at a Garland, Sheets, or Lowry in our future.

Walker is interesting. His presence puts more pressure on Mock and Bergmann.

Duncan could help backfill Willingham if he gets traded or Dukes if he struggles.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 25, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Walker being signed to a MLB contract will bump a much younger arm from the roster (Atilano, Estrada, Mock?); I just hope this doesn't end up being another Kip Wells.

Posted by: BinM | January 25, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

It was refreshing to note that the signings of Walker and James garnered fond good wishes from Giants, Braves and Phillies fans on, and even grudging respect from a Mets fan or two. So strange to see the Nats get any respect.


Posted by: kevincostello | January 25, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Signing James & Duncan to MiLB contracts, I'm ok with both of those; They become 'plug-ins' at SYR (or lower, in James' case). But Walker makes me nervious for some reason, especially with a MLB deal. Maybe I'm just 'jumpy' about aging middle-relievers after the 2009 fiasco.

Posted by: BinM | January 25, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Nah, Rizzo is restocking Syracuse ... sticking to his promise to the 'boys from Syracuse' to field a competitive team there. Looks like he is going to do as BINM suggests: start almost all of the close to mlb ready prospects in Harrisburg.

Posted by: periculum | January 25, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I think Rizzo is filling out the roster for the Winter Caravan.

Posted by: kevincostello | January 25, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

In no way should this be considered displeasure with these signings (deargodinheaven the bullpen needed help!)...but I STILL want to see an infielder of quality and some sort of starting arm in the next few weeks.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | January 25, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Duncan, 28, a 1999 first-round pick by St. Louis, hit 43 home runs from 2006 to 2007, and looked like a key member of the team's nucleus. In two seasons since, though, Duncan has hit just .237 with 11 homers in 482 at-bats.

One word, folks: Steroids.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | January 25, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

When did I suggest (or predict) that?
If you're going to quote (or even paraphrase) someone, please give a point of reference.
Looks like he is going to do as BINM suggests: start almost all of the close to mlb ready prospects in Harrisburg.
Posted by: periculum | January 25, 2010 8:39 PM

Posted by: BinM | January 25, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Steroids in 2006? No. His 6'5" 230 pound frame (not so heavy really) is likely legit. The kid got hurt. Players get hurt every now and again.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 25, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

As a Cardinal fan living in DC I am very happy that the Nats signed Chris Duncan. The Cards were in DC the day after Chris was traded by the Cards & I yelled to Dave Duncan that I would miss Chris. As a true Cardinal fan I am very aware that without Chris there is no playoffs in 2006 and no WS Championship #10, I will never forget his contributions that year, He was hitting for average, taking his walks, and hitting for power. Chris had a sports hernia the 2nd half of 2007 that required surgery, then had to have disc surgery in his spine in 2008, he was the first Baseball player to have the spinal surgery and the two surgeries sapped him of his power. Both the minors and the majors have had steroid testing for Chris's entire career, so those comments are way out of line. Now hopefully I will get to see him play for the Nats. Remember that Jim Riggleman worked with the Cards minor leagues and knows what a healthy Chris Duncan is capable of achieving. I hope that Chris wins comeback player of the year. He is a character guy and the Nats are trying to build a good nucleolus.

Posted by: Aworldtraveler | January 25, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Walker is not a retread, he has had three straight quality seasons in various roles. The Nats still have a few pitchers on the 40 man who should be able to out-righted without trouble - and frankly even if they were claimed it would only hasten by a matter of months the process of exposing them. By opening day there will be numerous players that flow on and off the 40 man.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 25, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey there everyone - we've just decided to take the kids on a spring training/Disney trip and I thought I'd ask the group for pointers on the best experience. My six year old really wants to meet Dunn and my wife says that our daughter wants to meet Zim (but it's unclear who that's really for). We're going to the first full squad game on 3/5 game in Orlando vs. the Braves but haven't bought tickets yet. Anyone been there before? Will the Nats be in the 3rd base dugout? Is the BP schedule the same where we'll be last up? Any other spring training things they do that might be good opportunities to meet and greet?

Can't wait for one more quality starting pitcher and some warm weather.

Posted by: natslifer | January 25, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

When did I suggest (or predict) that?
If you're going to quote (or even paraphrase) someone, please give a point of reference.

I suppose I could do a lookup ... I know that there is a mechanism on the Redskins Insider side ... I think its sufficient to say it was one of those times when I said I thought Storen, Espinosa and Thompson would appear on the starting roster this Spring ... I think your response basically was that they would start 'em off in Harrisburg and let them work there way to the bigs.

Posted by: periculum | January 25, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

How does Walker's signing impact the 40-man roster? Anybody know?

Posted by: Juan-John | January 25, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Mea Culpa: I guess I'm wrong about the reasons for Duncan's decline. It's just on the surface, it looks like a PLoD-like fall...

I hope the guy still has something in the tank, at least for SYR...

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | January 25, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

RE: Spring Training

My only advice would be to catch a home game in Viera and get there a little early if you want autographs. Sometimes the regulars don't always travel for the road games. That said, this is Riggleman's first ST, so who knows what he'll do. But most guys are pretty approachable during the spring, so if they travel to Orlando, you should have no problem getting next to them.

Posted by: sec307 | January 26, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

I believe Duncan had a herniated disk in his neck and subsequently had a fairly new procedure to have a metal disk put in to stabalize it. It had been a career threatening injurry but he has recovered. Last year he was hitting fairly well in the first month and then took a rapid decline - which is usually a sign of injurry. If he is now healthy the Nats have signed a 6-5 lefty hitting 1B/LF type who hits righties well and lefties not so much. He batted .333 in 12 pinch hit appearances last year. While he is not exactly what you would call a defensive replacement, he could spot start for Dukes/Willingham and perhaps provide pinch hitting services. (Interesting aside, Chris's brother Shelly is trying out for Manny Acta's Indians)

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 26, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I live a little north of Viera (Titusville) and have been going there since I moved down here. The Nats are in the 1st base dugout. The best time to meet and greet is actually the weekends in February because they are working out then. Its pretty cool to be able to stand 5 feet from an MLB pitcher when he's throwing a side. But anyway, not sure about BP order but get there early cause after about the third inning, all of the good position players will be golfing so early in the schedule.

The staff in Viera is awesome. At the workouts, they actually go out of their way to make sure all of the kids get a baseball. If anyone that you are looking for is hurt or not quite ready for games, it might behoove you to head over to the practice fields and see if they are over working out with the minor leaguers. I got Nick Johnson a couple years ago that way. He was standing over there in street clothes and my son went over and asked him to sign. He was really good about it. Anyway, enjoy.

Posted by: matt141 | January 26, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

BTW, one of the comments left on the MLBTR web site indicated that Duncan was signed over a week ago and slammed the Washington beat writers for their failure to uncover this little nugget. Perhaps the Washington beat writers are hiding behind this "Rizzo does not talk" excuse a little too much. I can't imagine Rizzo was hiding this information very hard - I mean you can't build a nuclear bomb with this data.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 26, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

I hope this signing of Duncan kills the Mike Jacobs talk. I see both Duncan and Jacobs as signs that Willingham is about to be dealt. Duncan can compete with Maxwell and Bernadina for LF if/when the Hammer is dealt. But Duncan will keep Dunn at 1B, where as Jacobs would not.

I also think that the Hudson negotiations will go down like Dunn last year. We're basically just waiting him out while he realizes nobody else will top our offer. He's young enough that a two-year deal would work, then Espinosa takes over in the MI come '12.

Posted by: sec307 | January 26, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Walker was hurt in '06 and '07, but each of the past 2 years has pitched a little over 50 innings in the majors and minors. At 33, you might expect a bit of injury risk, but otherwise, he's a solid performer.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 26, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

There may effectively be NO beat writers for the nats right now. Times sports is gone, Chico is packing his bags for Asia. Pretty sad stuff really.

I am surprised that the City Paper has not struck a deal with some high energy, low cost baseball fantatic kid to cover the beat.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 26, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Welcome Tyler Walker, this bullpen appears to already have improved leaps and bounds from last season. I am looking for to having a stable bullpen full of veterans as opposed to whichever player is on the Syracuse shuttle. As for Duncan, could be a good signing if we have a trade or outfield related injury. Regarding James, I feel bad for whoever gets their growth stunted by giving him a minor league spot in the rotation.

Posted by: markfd | January 26, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

BTW, whats the deal with the Nats and their AAA team in Syracuse. That contract ends this year right? Did the Chiefs say that we needed to field a good team "or else"?

Posted by: alex35332 | January 26, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

As a Nats fan in Philly, I got a good look at Tyler Walker last year. He mostly came in when the Phils were losing and did an admirable job making sure the opposing team's lead didn't inflate. It would be nice to have a guy like that on the Nats. I feel like a lot of games were lost because the Nats came back, but the bullpen couldn't hold down the fort. Good, non-sexy, signing.

Posted by: drobins7 | January 26, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Exciting developments! These are good front office additions that will improve the quality of the Nats' low-budget moves.

The Nats are good at getting under-slot talent in the draft. They are good at resisting the temptations to "pay too much" for high-ceiling international kids. They refuse to sign expensive free agents (only two expensive free agents under the Lerners, and none more than $20 million in four years of the Lerners--how many franchises can beat that?). And they refuse to take in salaries in trades--none of the players traded for under the Lerners has made an average MLB-level salary. Not one.

Under the Lerners, the Nats are building the front office so that the team can be respectable over time on a low budget. These are all positive moves, if we favor the small market approach to team-building. The Nats have to make the best use of their very limited resources. These additions will enable that to happen.

Posted by: EdDC | January 26, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

dc is in no way a small market and the ticket prices reflect that, it's about time the payroll does too

Posted by: bford1kb | January 26, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, both Sheets and Garland are off the market, that doesn't leave too much out there in the way of starting pitching. If Rizzo is still looking for that extra arm, he'd better get a move on...or a couple of moves on so to speak...

Posted by: bromisky | January 26, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

@ worldtraveler

I'd rather the nats assemble a solid pitching staff than ribosomes


Posted by: cotelloer | January 27, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....been waiting for a new post with some sorta explanation for Garland-at under 5mil- and Sheets at 10m-being somplace OTHER than the NATsion. WE STILL NEED ARMS!!!! And while I've been duly impressed with the work the Rizz has done up til now...well, Stan, Mark, Ted et al.....the stench of the past few years is only a windshift away, and these two moves (that we DIDN'T make) are starting me thinking on the same old same old path. Look-I gotta believe-until proven otherwise-that the owners here STILL don't get it-or enough of it, at any rate. This is a pretty sophisticated market, as evidenced by the comments on this site, and near-misses and good starts just ain't enough to convince a fan base that has already watched one of the all-time great opportunities in sports/fan building get WASTED! And whatever spin the Rizz puts on it(absent any other real moves) it still is starting to look like the slow Lerners are acting penuriously.....(i choose to believe that the Rizz would have got one of those guys if he had a free hand...again, absent any upcoming moves of consequence.And we're only talking pitching here-never mind Orlando, etc.)
So, gang...what's your take?
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo2 | January 27, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Zendo2 good point about needing arms. At the Major league level you can never have enough arms. I would really like to see someone do an analysis of the Nats budget to see how much money they could be spending this year. Sheets and Garland were one year deals, meaning that 2/5 of the starting 5 could have been locked for 1 year while younger arms learn at AAA instead of learning at the MLB level I know some fans argue that we should give youngsters experience, but why give the experience at the MLB level instead of AAA? If the front office can get better arms at reasonable prices from the FA market they should do so, we deserve the best team that can be put on the field each year. The second we bring rookies up we start burning up the club controlled salary time of valuable commodities.

Posted by: Aworldtraveler | January 28, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

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