Blogging the Offseason: Washington Nationals

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blogging the Offseason is a 30 team series in which I ask a blogging representative from each MLB team a series of ten questions about their desires and thoughts surrounding the offseason. Check out all of them here.

Today's NL team is the Washington Nationals and our guest is Ed from the Nats Blog, Federal Baseball.

1. You mentioned you were in Arizona for the Arizona Fall League, were you there simply to suffice the man crush you have on Stephen Strasburg? Was the day they signed him the single greatest day in Nats history thus far?
Strasburg, Drew Storen, a closer out of Stanford that Washington drafted with the second 1st round pick the Nationals made in '09; Danny Espinosa the first or second (depending on the source) ranked shorstop in the Nationals' organization; Chris Marrero, the Nationals' second 1st round pick in 2007, and the Nats' top-ranked 1st base prospect; as well as pitchers like Jeff Mandel and Josh Wilkie, who had good minor league seasons in 2009, or Sean Rooney, a talented catcher in the DC system, there were more than a few reasons to check out the Nats' prospects in action in the Arizona Fall League, but yes Strasburg was the draw, and aside from the fact that injuries kept him out of the two nationally-televised AFL games he did not disappoint. I don't know if the day Washington signed Strasburg was the "single greatest day" in the team's history, but it was another step towards legitimacy when it comes to signing the best available draft picks and free agents, when just a few years ago in Montreal they were drafting and pursuing "signable" talent that was not necessarily the best available...

2. Do the Nats have Bryce Harper's jersey already made? Do you think there's a chance they go in another direction? Have you started printing out Battery t-shirts with Harper on one side and Strasburg on the other?
DC GM Mike Rizzo and some in his front office are on record saying that Bryce Harper's in no way set himself apart from the pack the way Stephen Strasburg did last season in terms of being the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in the country, but you know they'll be watching closely. The media has yet to descend on Harper the way they had on Strasburg at this point last season, (though he's already gotten some ridiculous exposure from Sports Illustrated), so his game hasn't yet been picked apart the way it will by the time the draft comes around, so I think there is a definite possibility that the Nationals go in another direction if a college or top high school pitcher, with a 17-year-old, who knows when he'd actually be ready for major league no to the battery t-shirts...I already bought my Strasburg name and # t-shirt though...had to replace the Lastings Milledge shirt...

3. The Nats were kind of surprise players in the free agent market last year with their Dunn acquisition. Will they make any noise this offseason? Perhaps a pitcher to fortify their rotation?
The Nationals have made their intentions known, in terms of signing top-tier free agent talent. They've stated in the press that they're interested in John Lackey and relievers Mike Gonzalez and Billy Wagner, and they're also in the market for a middle infielder and a veteran catcher, but the problem isn't the Nationals' interest in spending on free agents, right now, it's all about convincing players that the organization is moving in a direction that it will pay to be a part of...which, after back-to-back 100-loss seasons isn't an easy I think they might have to trade for the talent they want at this point...

I wasn't surprised at all about Adam Dunn signing with Washington, in fact I predicted it months in advance, you can check, but not because I had inside information or foresight, Dunn stated clearly that he still wanted to be an everyday player as opposed to being a DH, and the Nationals were the only team offering that opportunity. Combine that with the relationship Dunn had with Jim Bowden and Austin Kearns from their Reds days, and it was fairly predictable...

4. The Nats had a bit of a clutter in the outfield last year with too many bodies and not enough roles. What is the Nats starting outfield come game 1? And will the likes of Dukes, Willingham and others continue to fight each other for PT.
2010 DC Starting OF = Josh Willingham in left, Nyjer Morgan in center and Elijah Dukes in right, barring drastic, unforseen changes to the roster, and i think the Nationals are probably going to go young with players like Roger Bernandina and Justin Maxwell working their way in and out of the lineup and backing up along with Willie Harris...The outfield is not nearly as cluttered heading into Spring Training this season, now that Dunn's moved to first and Milledge was shipped to Pittsburgh...No one knew what Jim Bowden was thinking heading into the season last year, and the Nationals continued to play people out of position in the OF for most of the season, with Dukes seeing time in center when he's built for right and Willingham moving from left to right (where he'd rarely played) until the trade of Nick Johnson opened up first for Dunn and set the outfield straight.

5. Outside of John Lannan I have no idea who will be in your rotation come opening day. Please fill me in.
John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Collin Balester, J.D. Martin, Craig Stammen, Stephen Strasburg, Shairon Martis, Scott Olsen (if they bring him back), Garrett Mock...I'm pretty sure that unless the Nationals sign or trade for a starting pitcher, or two, which they really should, these are the pitchers the Nationals will be choosing from come Spring Training...Lannan you say you know, Detwiler, a 23-year-old lefty, was the Nationals' No. 1 pick in 2007, taken 6th overall, who was impressive enough toward the end of last season to earn serious consideration for the rotation; Collin Balester's an Expos' draft pick, a tall, wiry, right-hander who is one of those guys that everyone claims has the best stuff you've ever seen, though he's yet to put it together on the mound in the majors; J.D. Martin and Craig Stammen are two hard-throwing sinker-ballers who fit the mold of what DC GM Mike Rizzo likes in a pitcher, as is Mock, a hard-throwing righty Rizzo brought over from Arizona when he left the D-Backs for DC...Olsen, I'm sure you're familiar with from the Marlins, and he's supposedly 100% recovered from shoulder issues that shut him down last season. Olsen could give the Nationals another lefty who can throw strikes and keep them in games...Martis is a wild card, a former Giants' prospect, who made the rotation last Spring but struggled after a strong start and was eventually sent down, so I don't know what to expect from him, if he can throw strikes he's like a young Livan Hernandez, but he wasn't throwing strikes before he was sent to Triple-A...and he was getting hit hard...As for choosing a starting rotation, it will depend on what each of these pitchers does in Spring Training...

6. Do most Nats fans pay attention to Expos moves of the past or do they kind of view the team in a more expansion-esque role? For instance, if Omar Minaya didn't get playoff chase drunk the Nats could theoretically have Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore on their roster. Do most Nat fans know this?
No one in Washington seems to care much for the team's Montreal past, and who can blame them, the Texas Rangers had little connection to the Senators team DC lost, and the Twins, though they took the Senators' stars, had no connection to Washington once they it's tough for people like myself who followed Montreal for their entire lives to watch the history disappear, but I understand why the average DC fan wouldn't care about Tim Raines, Andre Dawson or Gary Carter or the god-awful deal that brought Big Bart Colon to Montreal...they honor the Expos' statistical accomplishments as far as Franchise records, but there's no visible sign of the Expos left even five years after Montreal...

7. You've convinced your owner to spend like the Yankees, which three free agents are you bringing to DC?
The Nationals desperately need a veteran catcher who can contribute on an everyday basis until Jesus Flores can prove that he can stay looking at the list of available catchers, I'd go for Bengie Molina or Pudge Rodriguez, veterans who could be legit starters if Flores was injured, but are a bit older and could move into a part-time/mentor role if Flores is healthy and teach the Nats' young backstop as they finish up their playing days...The Nationals need middle infielders, and since Orlando Cabrera's contract is such that it wouldn't require the Nats to give up a draft pick in return, I'd sign him to play short while Ian Desmond started full-time in Triple-A so he was ready to come up when Cristian Guzman's contract expires after this season...or possibly sign Mark DeRosa, ( the Nationals have reportedly contacted DeRosa's agent) just because he's solid wherever he plays...and then for pitching...outside of John Lackey, I don't see many other FA pitchers who make sense for Washington...I'd bolster the bullpen though with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez...That doesn't really sound like Yankee thinking now that I look back at it...but that's about it for free agents, it's not the strongest class ever...I'd save the money for next season...

8. Which Nats prospect, outside of Strasburg, are you most looking forward to in 2010?
Drew Storen, the Nationals' second 1st Round pick in 2009, taken 10th overall. Storen's a right-handed reliever out of Stanford, who tore through the Nationals' system after signing last year, and seems like he was built to be a closer. He just finished the Arizona Fall League with two wins, (2-0), 4 saves (which led the AFL) and a 0.66 ERA in 12 games and 13.2 IP in which he gave up just 3 walks while striking out 13 and allowing 16 hits and just 1 ER, (3 runs overall)...I think he'll be in the bullpen on Opening Day and wouldn't be surprised if he was an important part of the staff by the end of the season...what role will depend on who comes back from last season and which players the Nationals sign for the pen...

9. I'm giving you the option to cut players without any salary repercussions, which Nats do you part way with?
Not too many, the Nationals have finally rid themselves of the contracts that Jim Bowden burdened them with during his time at the helm, (read: Austin Kearns, Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard, Wily Mo Pena) and the team is full of relatively young players. Cristian Guzman is definitely not worth the $8 million he'll be making this season, so he'd probably be the most logical choice to part ways with...I hate singling out a particular player, but I could live happily without ever seeing Logan Kensing pitch in a Nationals uniform again...Sorry not more on this front, but I like where DC GM Mike Rizzo has the team right now...they could use some upgrades, but they've pretty much cleared away the detritus..

10. Final Question, you've got a crystal ball, the Nats will make the playoffs in __2012_____.

Posted by Simon at 10:10 AM   Digg! submit to reddit BallHype: hype it up!


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