Mark Lerner talks balancing 'Phase 1' and 'Phase 2'
In introducing Jayson Werth, the Nationals reiterated their declaration that they're beginning the next step in their vision to build a winning franchise. The press conference began at 1 p.m., and the words "Phase Two" were uttered before the clock struck 1:02. The message is that the Nationals are going to start augmenting their rebuilt farm system with big-ticket free agent pieces.
The question is, why now?
"I think that we feel, in the basic form, that the farm system progress has come so far and it's at a stage where we're very comfortable right now," Nationals owner Mark Lerner said. "Yes, more has to come down the pipeline. Obviously, it's still our job to continue to build it for the long-term. We thought we were at a stage now, with the talent that's here and the talent that's coming next year, that there's enough here to make our move to the next level in free agency. We're ecstatic that Jayson decided to sign here."
Lerner also emphasized the need to continue what the Nationals would term Phase One: Stocking their farm system and constructing their team from within. He hinted at why the Nationals aren't likely to swing any huge trades this winter -- the Nationals have come a long way with their minor league system, but it is not yet deep enough for them to start shipping away youth for veterans.
For one example, Lerner said, "I don't think there's a trade that's ever asked for that doesn't include Jordan Zimmermann's name." He implied that trading Zimmermann is not something they intend to do. The Nationals have been active in seeking out possible trades, but they're adamant about not mortgaging their future.
"Nobody wants to give up our parts," Lerner said. "Anytime any team even calls, it's so tough. It's like giving away one of your children. It would take a very special trade for us to give up some of the good parts.
"We know that our window is getting ready to happen, especially with Stephen [Strasburg] coming back and the talent level there. We thought it was our moment in time to start taking ourselves to the next level. But we're not going to abandon what the number one job was, which is continuing to build the farm system. Because that's where you're going to build a consistent winner, is to build the farm system. We can't get around that."
| December 15, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
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