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Posted at 4:17 PM ET, 12/15/2010

Mark Lerner talks balancing 'Phase 1' and 'Phase 2'

By Adam Kilgore

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."

By Adam Kilgore  | December 15, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
 
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Next: How Jayson Werth affects Bryce Harper

Comments

If the Nats can't, or won't, give up one of their prized pitchers to acquire a former CY winning pitcher then they've still got a long way to go in Phase 1. Is the pipeline so bare they can't replace Zimmermann? How do you think the Bosox were able to get Gonzalez.

A strong farm system has two purposes, 1) to fortify the major league roster and 1a) to use as trading chips to acquire quality players. Is the pipeline flowing or not?

Posted by: pwilly | December 15, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think the rebuilding of the farm system still does have a ways to go. For the most part, trading top prospects at this point makes little sense because we are not going to contend this year. However, I see absolutely no excuse for not signing a FA pitcher and 1B (since you failed to sign Dunn, which was a major screw up) now. The team has simply got to break out of this last place routine, and this is the year to do it. How about that for Phase 2, Mark?

Posted by: NatsFly | December 15, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"If the Nats can't, or won't, give up one of their prized pitchers to acquire a former CY winning pitcher then they've still got a long way to go in Phase 1. Is the pipeline so bare they can't replace Zimmermann?"

Yes.

It's a better system, but it's not yet a strong system. Znn's one of the premier pieces. I completely agree with you that a strong farm system has two purposes - homegrown players and trade chips, and I completely agree that the Red Sox were able to get Gonzalez because of the strength of their farm system. I just don't think we're there yet.

Posted by: Section220 | December 15, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't trade Zimmermann for Greinke straight up.... Zimmermann actually has better stuff and a higher ceiling.. I'm afraid that we'd watch him fully develop with another team and be better than the guy we traded him for... As far as Im concerned he's our "ace" for this year if we don't make a big trade... Greinke won 10 games last year - it's not like he's infallible. Any discussion of Zimmermann, Desmond, Espinosa is an absolute non starter - that's the core of our young team! Wanna trade minor leaguers? Then trade the guys that Bowden liked that don't fit the Rizzo philosophy - guys like Marrero or Burges or Hood.... All of them are built for the American league... Stick to the plan... Be patient.... Be smart. I'd rather keep Ramos due to his defense... Id part with Norris if I had to but only for a great deal... We have a lot of young pieces at other teams would kill for.... A staff in 2012 of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Mayo, detwiler, Solis etc. may be a lot better than most assume....

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | December 15, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

>"Nobody wants to give up our pants," 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 pants.

Certainly, nobody wants to give up their pants. What did I tell you -- they fall in love with their prospects - and that's the number one no-no. This dude gives old money and mentally deficient people the world over a bad name.

PANTS 2 -- IN FULL 3-D COMING TO THEATRES FOR CHRISTMAS!! IN CASE YOU DIDN'T GET ENOUGH OF PANTS 1, REVEL IN THE 360 DEGREE INCOMPETENCE OF THE BOY EMPEROR -- ALSO KNOWN AS 'DON'T TOUCH ME THERE' -- WHO IS BEING UNLEASHED ONE LAST GLORIOUS TIME ON THE UNSUSPECTING PUBLIC AFTER A LONG SABBATICAL!!!

Posted by: Brue | December 15, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me or are the nats giving up already?

Right now, their 2011 payroll us $15m under the anemic 2010 payroll.

Posted by: swanni | December 15, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Great to know they are smart enough not to trade a pitcher (JZim) who could be a true #1 or #2 guy.

This team needs to get Pavano where they don't have to trade anyone.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 15, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Harold Reynolds just said on MLB Network that the Nats are "on track to lose 100 games" in 2011.

Posted by: swanni | December 15, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Based on Lerner's comments - "we're still in phase one" -- I fear the Cliff Lee signing has changed their plans for 2011. They may postpone additional spending until Harper and Strasburg are ready.

Posted by: swanni | December 15, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

@swanni--that would be really depressing. I hope they sign Pavano and fast. Nothing wrong with continuing to stock the farm, indeed that has to be done on an ongoing basis, but we need a couple more FA in here or we will be looking at another cellar dwelling year.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 15, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

The nmber one job is not buiding the farm. Idiot. Rich idiot, getting richer despite having no clue what he is doing. Ugh.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 16, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Lerners have been solid in funding the signing of top draft picks. I hope that continues. I would not trade Znn for Greinke. We need to build a staff in quality numbers, not just trade one for one. Other members of the staff, however, should be on the block.

Posted by: JamesFan2 | December 16, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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