Dmitri Young, formerly of the Detroit Tigers, a career .289 hitter, with 154 HR’s and 599 RBI in 4,152 at bats in 11 Major League seasons, signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals.
Ronnie Belliard, last seen winning the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, a career .272 hitter, with 247 doubles, 80 HR’s and 439 RBI in 3,812 at bats over nine seasons in the Majors, signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals.
Signed a contract with the Washington Nationals. I just like saying it…Signed with the Nationals. I started to get this feeling back in July when the Nationals outbid several of the same old teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers…) for the services of 16 year-old Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez. In MLB.com’s Bill Ladson’s article on the signing, Nationals President Stan Kasten was quoted saying, "This is an important signing…We can now compete for the best talent in Latin America."
The Nationals are not yet in a position to compete for the best talent in the MLB Free Agent pool, as they have made it abundantly clear they are rebuilding, but as a recent, great, article by writer Aaron Fitt on Baseball America.com states, the Nationals have already begun rebuilding, "…without giving up anyone in Washington’s long term plans," acquiring pitchers like Luis Atilano, Matt Chico, Garret Mock, Emiliano Fruto, Shairon Martis, and Jhonny Nunez from the Braves, Giants, D-Backs, and Dodgers in return for players like Jose Vidro, Marlon Anderson, Mike Stanton, and Daryle Ward.
Draft picks and pitching prospects in return for aging veterans or over-priced stars. Not a bad formula? Ask me again in July…
So the franchise that is responsible for producing Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Randy Johnson, half of the current Indians, Javier Vazquez, Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Vidro, Brian Schneider, and Ryan Zimmerman is now being run by the man, Stan Kasten, who helped rebuild the Braves before their decade-plus dominance of the NL(tee hee), and Kasten has hired Tom Rizzo, the man responsible for the most recent rebuilding of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then Kasten hires a Manager best known as a talent evaluator, in Manny Acta. This finally sounds right.
As reported earlier here on DC Daily, most of the free agent pitchers the Washington Nationals offered contracts have opted to sign elsewhere, and the Baltimore Orioles finally did Nationals fans a favor by signing right handed starter Steve Trachsel to a contract in light of O’s starter Kris Benson’s upcoming surgery. The signing of the free agent Trachsel not only removes all chance of the starter landing in the red cursive "W" cap, but also ensures that Trachsel will not return to the Mets or the NL for that matter for at least one season. (NL East fans breathe sigh of relief…this may be cruel, but so is making fans watch nibbling).
As the players(Church, Zimmerman, Schneider, and several pitchers) arrive in camp for Spring Training, Manny Acta will set about attempting to do the unthinkable. A Manager with something to prove. Players who will be fighting for starts at several positions. A pitching staff full of hurlers who might be given the elusive second chance in the Majors. Is that the best possible spin that a fan can muster?
Despite the fact that the Nationals left Chad Cordero dangling in front of the Red Sox all off season, it appears the Red Sox are going to count on Joel Piniero or possibly Craig Hansen to close out the close ones, so Cordero enters Spring Training still the Nationals flat-brimmed closer. Luis Ayala is still on target for camp. Jon Rauch, Billy Wagner, Ray King, and Micah Bowie form an interesting pen, and don’t forget Emiliano Fruto who came in return for Jose Vidro from Seattle, or Zechry Zinicola who was impressive enough in the Minors last season, that the Nationals felt comfortable trading Gary Majewski(I don’t want to hear it Reds fans!).
Ryan Church? If the season started today, Church(barring a great Spring by Kory Casto, Alex Escobar, or Chris Snelling) would be in left with Nook Logan in center, and Austin Kearns in right, Ryan Zimmerman, Felipe Lopez, Cristian Guzman, and Larry Broadway around the infield. If Church isn’t outstanding when the job is his to take, I’d like to see Kory Casto given his chance, and that goes for first base as well, until Nick Johnson returns, I’d rather see Broadway given the chance over the veteran Travis Lee who was signed as insurance should Broadway fail on Capitol Street.
The pitching rotation? John Patterson is the number one starter.
2/2/07 The Nationals Signed All Of Your Former Prospects, A Few Free Agents, To Go With One Sort-of-Sure Thing, and A New Manager Who Evaluated and Cut Himself.
1/5/07 According to the Washington Nationals official website, the Nationals offer contracts to five free agent pitchers. Tony Armas and Ramon Ortiz, who were with the team in 2006, former Met Steve "The Human Rain Delay" Trachsel, former Braves starter Jorge Sosa, and former Giants prospect Jerome Williams.
1/16/07 Jorge Sosa signs a one-year deal with the New York Mets.
1/20/07 Ramon Ortiz signs a one-year, $3 million dollar deal with the Minnesota Twins.
2/1/07 Tony Armas signs a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates with a club option for the second year.
2/2/07 Washington Nationals fans really begin to wonder what the starting rotation is going to look like.
The Nationals have, so far this offseason, added pitchers Emiliano Fruto(Vidro trade), Ray King and Jason Simontacchi(FA signings), and resigned pitchers Chris Schroder, Chris Booker, and Mike Hinckley.
The Nationals new Manager Manny Acta announced, on 1/22/07, on the Nationals official website, that Mike O’Connor would not begin the season in the starting rotation, as the team allows O’Connor time to return from arthroscopic surgery on his left(throwing) arm.
While other teams chased the big-name free agents, the Nationals quietly went out and signed a legion of minor league free agents at all positions, resurrecting names that would make only the most serious fans’ ears ring when they hear the name of another lost prospect.
As for the starting rotation. Well, John Patterson is ready to go, depending on where you get your news. Apparently enough rumors about the state of Big Nasty’s forearm surfaced that Patterson recently felt it necessary to publicly state that he is indeed fully recovered from last year’s injury. Then MLB.com Washington Nationals reporter Bill Ladson quotes Washington GM Jim Bowden, who says of Patterson, "It’s one thing to throw on the side, it’s another thing to get on the
mound in a game and see how you react…I don’t think
anyone knows until you are there."
As for those who will be backing up whomever makes the starting rotation…the Nationals extended the contract of RF Austin Kearns for another three years…Nook Logan has apparently been told by new Nationals Manager Manny Acta that the center field job is his to lose…Ryan Church, Chris Snelling, Kory Casto, and Alex Escobar will be battling it out for the left field spot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see any combination of Church, Snelling, Casto, Escobar or Logan alongside Kearns, it’s wide open(IMHO)…the infield is more certain, with Ryan Zimmerman fielding the hot corner, with Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez up the middle, Nick Johnson at first(or FA signee Travis Lee or Larry Broadway until Johnson returns), with Brian Schneider behind the plate, and Mets prospect Jesus Flores in the role of Schneider’s understudy.
Luckily, Manny Acta is best known as a talent evaluator.