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Posted at 6:38 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Mike Rizzo on pitching, first base searches

By Adam Kilgore

Even with a first base slot to fill, pitching remains the Nationals' first priority in the eyes of General Manager Mike Rizzo. During his session with reporters, talk focused on three possibilities for the Nationals: Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb and Chien-Ming Wang.

The Nationals did not meet with Darek Braunecker, the agent for Lee, today, but Rizzo said their status as a "long shot" to sign Lee has not changed. Meanwhile, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman told New York reporters the Yankees made Lee an offer before Braunecker left the winter meetings this afternoon.

This week, the Nationals met with the agent for Webb, Jonathan Maurer. Rizzo drafted Webb when he was the scouting director for the Arizona Diamondbacks, history that makes Webb and the Nationals comfortable with one another.

Webb last pitched on opening day 2009, a layoff necessitated by major shoulder surgery. But he has worked out in front of scouts and reached the mid-80s with his fastball, which hovered at roughly 90 mph when he won the Cy Young award in 2006 and finished as the runner-up the next two years. The Nationals, after reviewing his medical information, believe Webb is healthy enough to pitch this year.

"The reports we have, the scouts that have seen him, and the medical people who do those diagnoses think he is," Rizzo said. "He's a guy that doesn't rely on power to get his outs. He's the consummate sinkerball guy. He throws a heavy ball. And when he was at his best, he throws 88-90. At one time, when we drafted him, he was at 94. He adjusted. He throttled down to get that movement on his sinker."

If the Nationals sign Webb, Rizzo said, it would not preclude them from re-signing Chien-Ming Wang, whom they non-tendered last week, making him a free agent. The Nationals gave Wang $2 million last year, and bringing him back would be another risk. But Rizzo wouldn't worry about having both Wang and Webb.

"I wouldn't call it an either/or situation," Rizzo said. "I think all these signings are part of the big puzzle. One piece here may affect a piece there, depending on what the costs are at these different positions."

Meanwhile, at first base, the Nationals are giving themselves a wealth of options even after the Cubs signed Carlos Pena to a one-year contract. Rizzo reiterated he wants Adam Dunn's replacement to come from outside the organization, but he is open to any scenario -- a long-term solution or a stop-gap, a free agent signing or a trade.

"We'll explore both options," Rizzo said. "There's planning ahead that can take into account both kinds of players. It expands our pool a little bit more."

By Adam Kilgore  | December 8, 2010; 6:38 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Scott Boras talks Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Carlos Pena, Adrian Beltre
Next: The free agent dominoes fall with Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee


Thanks AK for the updates. While we all want Nats news - and we want it NOW - it is good to see Rizzo is working hard, by all accounts the Nats braintrust has been ver active.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 8, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Pants tripping over himself as usual. We'll see.

Just saw the Carlos Mo Pena interview on Hot Stove. He looked supremely happy for a guy who had only signed a one-year deal. Even though it was for 10 million. And even though it was with the Cubs. He said that after he looked at who was out there it was a 'NO BRAINER'>

Posted by: Brue | December 8, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

He's supremely happy because he believes that he will be able to bounce back from a terrible year and get the fat, multi-year contract after this season. Also, because he only has a one year deal, he probably realizes that if the Cubbies are out of things before the trade deadline, or even after, really, he has a chance to head to a contender as the Cubs will want to land some prospects for a guy who they are only "renting" as well.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | December 8, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

If someone gave me $10 million for one year's work I would be supremely happy.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 8, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Losing Pena to the Cubbies - meh. Now, if Rizzo can lock down another LH bat with some 'pop', and further improve the overall defensive numbers, I'd say do it - NOW. A signing of either LaRoche as a FA 1B (reasonable), or Crawford as a FA LF-CF (extreme long-shot) would fill both requirements.

If Rizzo firms up the defense, the starting pitchers currently on-roster should all get a little better, given that the majority of them are pitch-to-contact, ground-ball types. I'd still like to see the team add a #1-2SP, but not at a cost of more than one of the projected starting eight; That just creates more holes that need to be filled between now & Spring Training.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Bora$ just got Pena a one-year deal for just slightly less than the final year of his Tampa Bay contract ($10M in 2011 vs $10.125M), coming off a sub-Mendoza line season. Why the hell wouldn't Pena be estatic?
If Rizzo offered even a dime over $6M, he'd have been called out as an absolute lunatic by most internet sites; But since it was the Cubbies who signed him, we'll likely read only a few dissenting voices, and more than a few will find a way to put positive spin on the signing.

I, for one, don't regret this signing one single bit. Time to move on to the next 'target' (LaRoche), and make it happen.

Posted by: BinM | December 8, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

BinM--Actually, given the Soriano history, I expect that a lot of Cubbie fans will have some bad things to say about the wisdom of that signing.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 8, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Sign Laroche, trade for Garza, sign Pavano and sign Kerry Wood and call it an off-season.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | December 8, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

BinM, I agree... a guy hits .200 and signs for 10M and not a peep. If Rizzo offered him that the boards would be abuzz about how it was another stupid financial decision and the Nats are trying to ruin MLBs pay structure.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 8, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

I know Laroche seems like the best guy out there, but his Ks worry me, and he doesn't draw that many walks. Maybe the Nats can't do any better.

And yet, I still wonder if NJ is healthy....

Morse might be as good a bet as Laroche, if the Nats didn't so badly need a left-handed bat.

Posted by: nats24 | December 8, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Idealy, the kind of first baseman, I'd like to see the Nats get would be someone like Logan Morrison or Freddie Freeman, although I don't see either Atlanta or Florida giving them up. Might be worth a try though.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | December 9, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

The Red Sox landed Carl Crawford with a seven-year, $142 million deal. Wow he got less than Werth???

Posted by: hansenjo | December 9, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

@hansenjo: Werth got 7/126...not sure if you were being sarcastic or just made a mistake...

Posted by: TimDz | December 9, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Lyle Overbay is an option at 1B, if LaRoche does not work out. Solid player that would make the club better and not cost much.

I think that they will move Willingham for ptiching of some sort (might be a bull pen arm and a prospect or something like that, maybe a back end starter with upside like Slowey, maybe even a salary dump guy like Derek Lowe, who knows) and get Hawpe or Ankiel for a platoon in LF with Morse, with Bernadina coming off the bench. And if Morgan does not come otu of the bolcks hot, Bernadina might be the guy in CF this year.

We shall see.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 9, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Sign LaRoche. Sign Webb.

Don't give up any top tier prospects at this stage.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | December 9, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

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