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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 12/10/2010

Nationals still in on Carl Pavano

By Adam Kilgore

While the Nationals would be reluctant to offer free agent starting pitcher Carl Pavano a multiple-year contract, they remain in touch with agent Tom O'Connell. General Manager Mike Rizzo spoke with O'Connell yesterday before leaving the winter meetings.

Pavano, who is also drawing interest from the Brewers and Twins, for whom he won 17 games with a 3.75 ERA in 221 innings last year, will wait until after the weekend to make a decision, O'Connell said.

"We're just going to reflect on the meetings and pick up where we left off Monday," O'Connell said. "There's no timetable. We're just going to continue to evaluate every opportunity."

Though Pavano's success last year will likely earn him a multiple-year deal, he could be the Nationals' best option to upgrade their rotation. Trading for Matt Garza and Zack Greinke would almost certainly require giving up shortstop Ian Desmond and probably Jordan Zimmermann, too, along with other players. Meanwhile, new bids by the Rangers and Yankees for Cliff Lee have effectively knocked the Nationals out of that sweepstakes.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 10, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
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Next: Breaking down Jayson Werth's contract


I sure hope Cliff Lee sends the Nationals a Christmas card for bumping up his offers.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | December 10, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so excited about the idea of signing Pavano. For the Twins, he's a difference maker as they are already knocking at the door of playoff success.

As the Nationals were willing to throw at least %50 million too much at Werth (to some extent in an attempt to appease Dunn fans angry about his departure), they should offer Lee an extra $50 million or more beyond what even the Yanks are willing to pay. Hey, Lerner's a billionaire. And you can't take it with you.

From what I've read from numerous of Lee's former teammates, he's ALL about the money. Where he plays and their chances of exceptional success don't seem to figure much in the equation in the way they do for most players. Overwhelm him.

Posted by: BlanketyBlank | December 10, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

OK, so we're not getting a legit starting pitcher this offseason. Too bad. But it also means that we might keep Willingham another year (or another 4 months).

We gotta ink LaRoche at this point. Without the power lefty bat, the 2011 lineup will be not much better than the 2010 lineup.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Carl Pavano means the Nats win over 70-75 games in 2011. So, I say he's Werth it.

Posted by: cr8oncsu | December 10, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The Lee thing is beginning to remind me of a classic auto auction, where two guys begin to let the testosterone overwhelm good sense. Sure, buying a 69 Boss 302 is worth a lot of $, but it ain't a 32 Dusenberg.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 10, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I think LaRoche is the more important target for the Nats.

Adding Werth and LaRoche would improve the Nats' defense substantially over the past few years. That alone will improve the pitching by quite a bit.

How many times did Nats' pitchers have to throw 20-40 extra pitches in a game because the defense botched plays? That was a big reason why so many starters couldn't get past the 5th inning.

I'm not saying that the pitching is fine the way it is. But improving the defense could be just about as effective as adding a quality starter.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | December 10, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

@noslok--The Nats said SP was their #1 priority, with a better D being the second priority. They really need SP, obviously. That said, SP is that most rare commodity, and it is looking more and more like the Nats will be "right there 'till the end" but in the end, out. So, your point becomes very well taken. We have a Dunn-sized hole at 1B, and LaRoche would help fill that, and help the pitching we do have. Hopefully we will see something there and not have the Werth signing all they have this off season. Please, please, do not return to dumpster diving!

Posted by: NatsFly | December 10, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Kevin: I agree with you on this one. Tightening the infield defense can shorten a lot of innings that became meltdowns in years past. A competent LH-1B can mean more to the Nationals than Pavano might over the course of a season or two.

Posted by: BinM | December 10, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Man, the hot stove cooled off real quick, huh?

Posted by: Sunderland | December 10, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't get why they love Desmond so much.

Ian might be a nice player some day, maybe even a very good one or even elite, for all we know, but the odds are against that happening, especially as a SS. He might hit well (but not likely for much power as he has yet to really show it in 7 pro campaigns), but he has never looked like a SS -- people can gush over his range all they want, I am sure Carl Crawford could get to a lot of balls at short that most guys can't too, but he is not a SS and Desmond likely isn't either at the end of the day. He's not likely to become a MLB caliber SS at age 27; and it is not like they recently switched him from some other position or anything, he's had hundreds of games at SS under his belt. And he has just not been good at it at any level along the way.

The Nats cannot project the guy as being a star by any means, and even if they could, SP is the glaring need and Ace quality pitching is harder to find in any event.

If it comes down to the club not getting Garza or Grienke over Ian Desmond, they are nuts.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 10, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I was actually surprised with the emergence of Espinosa that they didn't or haven't moved Desmond to 2B or even CF. Espinosa has shown throughout his brief professional and college career to be an above average to really good SS.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | December 10, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I am somewhat skeptical on Pavano.

@dfh21- Well we have no idea, what the Royals or Rays are asking from the Nats.

Posted by: Cartaldo | December 10, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Pants is up to his old tricks, leaking interest in players. He's being Pants in a vacuum. Just him and his leaks.

This thing about having a better defense doesn't speak to the number of times the pitchers threw pitches in the wrong location when the defense was shaded to play a certain way. That's the other part of 'good defense' you need. If your pitchers can't hit their spots, it's rare that the defense can do much about it, they'll eventually get mauled because the field is so big. You're just talking about the right side anyway, you'll still have Desmond and Willingham on the left side. Looks like Pants already has people making excuses for him not picking up any decent pitching. But there's still time, right? It'll be January soon and 9/10 of the good pitching will be gone. Go Pants Go!!!

Posted by: Brue | December 10, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

I am beginning to fall into the category that believes acquiring a very good starting pitcher this year might be to costly and am now thinking that since they're really not going to contend this coming season perhaps strengthening the defense and bullpen might be the best path to take. Competent starting pitchers might be more apt to look at the Nats with a healty Strasburg and a more seasoned Zimmermann ready for the 2012 campaign. Up the anti for LaRoche I think is the prudent move at this time.

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 10, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

In general dfh, I agree with you, with the critical point being he is 27 years old with 7 years of pro ball as a SS.

In my world, Desmond would have played winter ball in centerfield, and with his speed, athleticism and arm, I wouldn't be surprised if he was really good.

But I do appreciate Desmond's attitude and leadership attributes. With Zim being so calm, we need someone like Desi. And I think his bat might be better in 2011. Hitting in the 8 hole hurt him.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 10, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

rted would anyone suggest Desmond for CF a position to the best of my knowledge he hasn't played now if we think he's not a major league caliber shortstop (and the jury's still out) how do we project him to play CF? I saw on an earlier blog that the Nyjer bashing has started already can we at least wait until the first pitch is thrown.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 10, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

"I saw on an earlier blog that the Nyjer bashing has started already can we at least wait until the first pitch is thrown."

Or the first tantrum, whichever comes first.

Posted by: nunof1 | December 10, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

dfh & others: I am no fan of Ian Desmond at any position. He makes some plays, botches others. No consistency. You could say the same about our CF Nyjer. So up the middle we have two unpredictable players who can make all kinds of ghastly errors (and mistakes that will not be scored as errors) all the while Rizzo's preaching defense and praising both men.

Go figure.

Posted by: JohnRDC | December 10, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

about desmond, most major league shortstops in there rookie season make a lot of errors. I think you will see desi improve markedly this season

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 10, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

>would anyone suggest Desmond for CF a position to the best of my knowledge he hasn't played now if we think he's not a major league caliber shortstop (and the jury's still out) how do we project him to play CF? I saw on an earlier blog that the Nyjer bashing has started already can we at least wait until the first pitch is thrown.

Posted by: dargregmag

Morgan will be long forgotten when the kid shows up. I suggested Harper in CF to Boswell in his chat. Opening Day. Then you have Willingham, Harper and Werth, and you have power at each outfield position. That's the goal for the outfield, imo. Werth and Harper have enough speed, and they both have cannons for arms, which makes up for a lack of footspeed.

I think that Desmond's maximum value is at 2B. Poor man's Uggla, maybe better over time. He doesn't have enough straight pop to start in the outfield, and he can be a decent second baseman without much effort. If they're gonna keep him, they should forget about Desmond's occasional spectacular play and flip flop him and Espinosa in the field. He's sure handed, relaxed and got a great arm. From what I understand he had played minimal 2B before last year, and he was almost perfect there. No idea yet what he'll hit, but he can play a kickass SS imo. I mean, you have teams looking at guys like Jason Bartlett.

Posted by: Brue | December 10, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

coked-- You're right, a lot of young SS's struggle when they get the call. But Desmond made a lot of errors every place he's been and a lot of infielders play better once they get to the bigs -- fields are perfectly groomed, better lighting.

I hope he gets it together, but it is not a good bet at this point. He's been healthy, he's had every chance to fix the glove over the years and scouts can love him for his size and athleticism and basbeall instincts and the like, but if he cannot make the outs, he's not so shiny after all. We'll see. I think it is 50/50 right now whether he's a Nat come the Spring.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 10, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I like Desmond. He's got a great arm, very good range and could develop into a .300 hitter with some pop. He's also a team leader. If it weren't for the errors, people would be touting him as one of the best young players on the team. I think we should give him a chance to get those errors down. If he has as many next year, then we can start to complain, but there's a reason why almost every other team in the league wants him when we talk trades.

Posted by: DavidandDonald1 | December 10, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

I'd like Desmond a lot more if he were 22.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | December 10, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Our 2011 rotation will feature Zimmermann, Lannan, Livo, Marquis, and, in the 5 hole, Atilano/Detweiler/Maya/?

Anybody who thinks better D can help these guys to 81 wins just doesn't get it.

Posted by: howjensen | December 10, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Personal viewpoints, shotgun style...

- Pavano would be a nice addition on a two-year contract at $8.5M per; Any longer (or more) than that, and I fear he'd get complacent. If it looks like he's got an offer for much more than that, turn to either Wang or Webb as an alternative.

- Good everyday defense in the field supports the entire pitching staff, unless they are prone to the long ball. Signing a 'plus' glove at 1B becomes critical when a staff is constructed of groundball-inducing pitchers. Zimmerman is the real deal at 3B, and Espinosa looks like it at either 2B or SS; Desmond, I'm not so sure about as an IF, but ultimately see him in CF (most likely on another team). Morse, given his history in the IF (SS-3B) could probably become a fair-to-good 1B, given the opportunity, but would be another RH bat in a lineup currently dominated by RH bats.

- The team needs a LH-bat with 20+HR power somewhere in the everyday lineup, and 1B is an open window right now. LaRoche meets both the LH-bat & 1B 'plus' glove criteria - Possibly offer an initial 2yr+/$15.5M contract & go from there.

- Look to possibly adding another veteran bullpen arm after the 1st of the year to 'stabilize' the younger arms in the bullpen; Slaten is currently the only guy out there over 30yo.

- Willingham, Desmond, JZimm & Clippard probably hold the highest trade value on the 40-man right now; Moving any of them (outside of Willingham) creates another 'hole' that would need to be filled before 2011 begins; Enter here at your own risk.

IMHO, the biggest current needs are a LH/SH-hitting 1B w/some power, & a #1-3SP on a 1-2yr contract. Secondary needs include an experienced LR-MR for the bullpen & another LH/SH-hitting bench player (preferably an IF).

Posted by: BinM | December 10, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse


How good is this rotation? If they sign Laroche and keep Willingham I think with the vastly improved defense and deeper line up I think this rotation could go .500

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | December 10, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Anybody thinking dumpin Nyjer, Bernie in center, Hammer in left,Mike M @ first, Werth in rt

Posted by: reef55 | December 10, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Given that all of our starters pitch to contact with the exception of J. Zimmermann, better fielding will be a tonic for them, and allow us to get much closer to .500 than otherwise. Whether we get to .500 will depend upon signing LaRoche, the rate of injuries, etc.

Posted by: bertbkatz | December 10, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that the fans here can go on and on about Desmond, but not one corrects dfh about his age. No, he's not 22, but he's not 27 either. He's 25, and there's a big difference between that and 27 in baseball years.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | December 10, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Would be a solid pickup for the health risk is quite real

If healthy, very solid 3rd option

If not, another Wing waste

Posted by: Bious | December 10, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I say give Pavano three years, sign Webb for a year with an option year, sign LaRoche and fill the roster out. They do that and I'm happy. Pavano will never start a playoff game for the Nats but will hold the fort until we get there, giving quality starts to make the team competitive. Keep Desmond, the idea of Desmond and Espinosa patrollong the middle IF for the next 4 years makes me smile. And I don't smile alot.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 11, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't trade Desmond and Zimmermann for either of those guys in a million years. Zimmermann is likely to be worth more all by himself -- jeesh, give the guy a chance to recover from his Tommy John surgery before dumping him, fer crissakes!

Posted by: FergusonFoont | December 11, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Some people seem to believe the Nats will either get a starting pitcher OR a first baseman. Why wouldn't they get both? I'd give Pavano a two-year deal, if the price is reasonable. I'd also sign LaRoche for 1B.

As for bashing Nyjer already, why not? The real issue isn't bashing Nyjer, it's replacing him. The last piece of the puzzle for '11 will be improving in the leadoff spot.

And, Brue, you're nuts if you think Harper's going to ever play CF in the big leagues, and he's not going to start the season with the Nats. Curb your fanboy crushes. The kid'll be great but we won't see him until '12.

Posted by: baltova1 | December 11, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I agree with baltova. Get Pavano and LaRoche. The Nats may even have to overpay a bit. But that ends up being the corrective or "loser's tax" that comes with past mistakes. I also agree with those of you who aren't big Desmond fans. If he and Willingham were part of a package that brought us more pitching, that would be a positive development. It would also have the advantage of creating a leftfield platoon of Bernandina and Morse (thus getting Morse more AB's). All of the arguments for and against Desmond are sound. It comes down to a choice. I just think Espinosa can play a better SS and Willingham and Desmond can get us more pitching. That seems to be the direction the Nats are taking. Just my opinion, not the Gospel.

Posted by: fpcsteve | December 11, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I actually think they can get Derrick Lee, i think if they talk to his agent they may be able to talk him down, Lee's not coming back here to the A-T-L as the Braves have decided to cast their lot with home grown Freddie Freeman.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 11, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

>I actually think they can get Derrick Lee, i think if they talk to his agent they may be able to talk him down, Lee's not coming back here to the A-T-L as the Braves have decided to cast their lot with home grown Freddie Freeman.

Posted by: dargregmag

Is that Freaky Freddie Freeman? The man is a freak! Boz says Lee is washed up, lost his bat speed and I believe him. All I'm hoping for is that LaRoche signs with someone else and Pants has to make a trade or put Morse at 1B. Hell, they could put Harper at 1B. Problem solved. Or they could put him in the outfield. Center, left, right, who cares, he can play them all. Another problem solved. Either way, if he's on the roster, he saves them a signing they may regret that might create a backlog (in contract years). What if they sign LaRoche, in all his mediocrity, and they decide to go after another first baseman next year and they're stuck with him? Make a trade, Pants - show us what you got! Phase 2 Pants!!! Phase 2!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Brue | December 11, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I would trade Desmond and Zimmermann for Garza now. No telling what will happen with either Desmond or Zimm. Better to get something young and proven and Grienke is fairly young, too. We've GOT to get at least ONE #1 starting pitcher. I would hope they will sign the lefty LaRoche and also Pavano.

Posted by: shred11 | December 13, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

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