Mike Rizzo on pitching, first base searches
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."
| December 8, 2010; 6:38 PM ET
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