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Orlando is close to Viera

Feb 2, 2010, 12:51 PM EST

But is Orlando Hudson close to signing with the Nationals? Sounds like the O-Dog will finally make a decision before the week is up, choosing between Washington, Minnesota, Cleveland and any other surprise suitors that pop up between now and then. (UPDATE: says Seattle may now be in the mix as well.)

Rest assured, the decision surely will be a financial one. This is a guy who made $6.25 million with the Diamondbacks in 2008, then had to settle for a little more than $3.3 million last year with the Dodgers and wound up as an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner. Clearly, Hudson thinks he’s worth more than that. The question is whether any of the above teams are willing to meet his demands, or whether he’ll have to settle for the best offer on the table.

When I say “best offer,” I don’t necessarily mean the most money. In this case, the possibility of a multi-year deal could be more important than a 2010 salary. And this is where the Nats could emerge victorious.

Mike Rizzo seems pretty adamant that Hudson isn’t worth more than $3 million to $4 million per season and isn’t likely to budge on that front. But what if Rizzo is willing to give him $3 million in 2010, plus a 2011 option worth $4 million? Would that be more appealing to Hudson than, say, a $4.5 million offer from another team that covers only one year?

If you’re Hudson, length of contract might very well be more important, because at this point, you may have reason to wonder if your value will decrease even more in another year. As much as everyone loves to rave about the O-Dog as a player and as a clubhouse presence, there’s some genuine concern around the sport that the 32-year-old’s best days are already behind him. Scouts who have watched him for years say he doesn’t have the range he once did and say a lingering wrist issue has stripped away some of his power at the plate.

Given all that, the Nats are understandably reluctant to break the bank for Hudson. But they also know that if healthy and productive, Hudson would be a great fit for this team. Both in 2010 and in 2011.

It’s been kind of lost in the shuffle amid all the talk of acquiring a middle infielder this winter, but Washington’s long-term picture up the middle is even murkier than the short-term picture. Remember, Cristian Guzman is entering the final year of his contract (which many, if not most, would consider a good thing). At this moment, the Nats have no idea who their shortstop OR second baseman will be in 2011.

There are some promising young guys who could be ready to take over by next spring: Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Jeff Kobernus. Desmond dazzled during his September call-up and still could wind up as the Opening Day 2010 shortstop if the Nats don’t land Hudson or another veteran. But several club officials still question whether Desmond is ready for the job, or whether he’d be better served opening the year at Class AAA. Even if he is deemed big-league-ready, Desmond will forever be a flashy player both in the field and at the plate but hardly a model of consistency.

Espinosa lands at the other end of the spectrum. He’s a very consistent player, especially in the field, and even though he only played at Class A last season, he’s viewed by the organization as a “fast-track” guy who could be ready for a cup of coffee in D.C. this September. Having seen him first-hand myself for a couple of days in the Arizona Fall League, I’ve got to say he looks impressive. He’s got an absolute cannon of an arm and an intense work ethic that makes him a manager’s dream.

So it’s entirely possible we’ll be looking at a Desmond-Espinosa double-play combo in 2011. But what happens if one isn’t ready to make the leap a year from now? What if neither of them is ready? What do the Nats have left? Nothing.

This is where an option year on Hudson might make sense. Guarantee him one year, and then if he performs well and you’re unsure about the kids, pick up his 2011 option and keep him around. If he struggles or if you’re convinced the youngsters are ready, buyout the option year at a reduced price.

That still doesn’t resolve the potential gaping hole at shortstop once Guzman is gone, if neither Espinosa nor Desmond looks capable of taking over. But at least Rizzo would have one-half of his double-play combo in place, and potentially both pieces of the puzzle for a 2011 squad many believe could have a legitimate chance at success.

  1. MikeHarris - Feb 2, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Mark – one thing I've always wondered is how the Nats got to the point where there's such a wide gap at SS/2B. Did people not pan out? Did they draft poorly? Seems like Desmond is the only one close to major-league ready.Also, does Adam Kennedy remain a viable alternative?

  2. Nattydread - Feb 2, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    Mark — That's the best analysis I've seen of the Hudson situation so far. Thanks for this blog. If fills a huge gap.And you're right. Some of us avoided your blog on the Moonie paper on principle.

  3. NatsGirl - Feb 2, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    It seems like the Nats have had a poor penchant for offering "over the hill" players long contracts with ridiculous player options in the past (read: Dmitri Young and Austin Kearns) just to get them on the roster. Is there any concern that this could happen with Hudson, and we could end up paying him to ride the bench–or worse (a la Kearns), or was that kind of signing really more of a Bowden legacy?

  4. Let Teddy Win - Feb 2, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Amen to @Nattydread and @NatsGirl (who was kind enough to mention only a few of them). On the flip side, given how thin the Nats are in the entire infield (god help us if Zimmerman misses many games), overpaying a bit for a 2-year deal seems a relatively small price.

  5. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    I started off really wanting O-Dog, but lately have been coming around to NatsGirl's view that maybe he is just declining fast, and we'll regret this commitment. I would be fine with a 1 year deal, but maybe we should see if the Rox would trade Barmes for one of the young #5 hopefuls like JD Martin. Good fielder, younger and some pop in his bat.Wallyball

  6. An Briosca Mor - Feb 2, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    Rizzo gave a two year deal to Jason Marquis. He gave a two year deal to Pudge. Giving a two year deal to Hudson makes just as much if not more sense. It makes sense for Hudson too. You've got to figure he doesn't want to be doing the FA dance again next year, for the third year in a row.What's happening now with all these other suitors for Hudson all of a sudden showing up is nothing more than his agent's attempt to find out the maximum amount any team would pay him for one year. Once that number's determined, Hudson's agent and Rizzo can then work out the parameters of the two year deal that Hudson will accept. His agent is familiar with the drill, he did the same thing for Dunn last year.

  7. JayB - Feb 2, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Mark,I understand you don't like to speak critically of Acta. I understand you do not think he has any blame to share for his record here but….Comments like this keep popping up….Zimm Says about last years defense, "I think it was pushed under the rug last year, it is unacceptable and we are ready to work harder to improve it" Rizzo said in the Public Session at Natsfest that he found the teams fundemetals poor and work ethic spotty…..I will ask you again, what was your view of Acta's Spring Training and what would you expect to change with Riggs running Spring Training. Something produced baseball players who did not know basic plays and cut offs….I do not buy it was all the players. You could take a high school team and teach them better fundementals than the Nats showed in April and May.

  8. An Briosca Mor - Feb 2, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    Looks like whatever trial pack of medication JayB was on over the weekend has now worn off. The kinder and gentler JayB is gone, alas.JayB, Acta is gone and he's not coming back. What's the use now of rehashing his tenure over and over and over again? What will it take to get you to quit beating this dead horse?

  9. Bob L. Head - Feb 2, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    Jon Morosi at Fox Sports says the Nats are "keeping track of Kris Benson's progress." Let's not go there please.

  10. Craig - Feb 2, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    I have no doubt in my mind that Rizzo will make this deal happen at 2yrs/$8 mill. Ever since he has taken over the team he has valued quality people who happen to be quality players. From all reports Hudson is that kind of person that will show up to work and do his job and keep a good attitude in the clubhouse (IE the exact opposite of Felipe Lopez). His veteran presence at the top of the order and on the field can only be a good thing. Imagine his influence on Nyjer Morgan, Elijah Dukes, Bernadina, Espinosa and Desmond. One thing is for sure though, the Nats lineup is all classy individuals now, not retreads trying to hang-on to their former prestige. Lets make it happen Rizzo!!!

  11. JayB - Feb 2, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    When our Franchise Player and GM both point out that things need to change to produce a better defense and thus a better team then it is not a dead horse it is a Issue that must be addressed….So I ask again…Mark, what was your reflection on Acta Spring Trainings and what do you expect to be done differently by Riggs to address Defense and Fundamentals?

  12. Wally - Feb 2, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    MarkIf you are suggesting that Espinoza is more of Rizzo's answer at SS and maybe only 1 year behind Desmond developmentally, is there any thought to switching Desmond to 2b now to let him learn the position in AAA, while finding 1-2 year stop gaps at the MLB level for MI? In general, as you imply, I find it hard to believe that he will give Desmond a full shot anywhere until he demonstrates in AAA that he has become noticeably less erratic defensively.

  13. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 2, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    OK, answering questions in bulk…MikeHarris: SS/2B was basically ignored in the organizational lower levels from about 2005-07. That's one reason Bowden felt he had to re-up Guzman. Since then, they've seen Desmond develop and drafted Espinosa and Kobernus. They also thought they had 2B of the future in Bonifacio and A.Hernandez. How did those work out?Wally: I think there's absolutely a possibility Desmond plays some at 2B this year (either at AAA or in the bigs). An Espinosa/Desmond SS/2B is something that has been discussed within the front office.JayB: I'll keep it short, and then let's move on: Every team stresses fundamentals in spring training. Find me a team that doesn't say they're stressing fundamentals in spring training. What I believed happened last year: The Nats came out of the shoot losing every single night, often in crushing fashion (thanks to the bullpen or the defense). Eventually, guys just started accepting the losing, became complacent and probably lost focus in the field and in the clubhouse. Acta's biggest fault was an inability to hold them accountable when it happened. He came to accept the losing himself, and that's why he was fired. The changing of the guard woke some guys up, and Riggleman did a better job demanding accountability from his players, which is why they started playing better in the second half (it also helped that the bullpen was totally overhauled).

  14. An Briosca Mor - Feb 2, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    I would say that if someone is interested in how Riggleman intends to improve the defense at ST the proper question is "what is Riggleman going to do at ST to improve the defense?" The only reason to ask what he'll do different from Acta would be to bash Acta. Which is what you're doing, JayB. Quit beating the dead horse of saying you're not beating a dead horse. If you want to bash Acta, I'm sure the Plain Dealer has a blog.

  15. Nats fan in NJ - Feb 2, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    Mark – Thanks a ton for this site! I'm looking forward to visiting it daily and wish you all the best in your new endeavors.

  16. An Briosca Mor - Feb 2, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    Re Mike Harris's question about why is 2B/SS such a sinkhole: Don't forget two huge mistakes made by Bowden. He gave Jamie Carroll away for nothing, and he traded for Felipe Lopez.

  17. An Briosca Mor - Feb 2, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    And to compound Bowden's error with Lopez, one of the guys he traded away for him was Brendan Harris.

  18. MikeHarris - Feb 2, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    also thought they had 2B of the future in Bonifacio and A.Hernandez. How did those work out?I just jumped off my roof. I'll bill you for damage to my head. Fortunately, there's not much left to damage.ABM raises a good point, too, but somebody should have been ready by now regardless.Of course, I'm a guy who was happy when Junior Spivey joined the team. What do I know about 2Bmen?

  19. JayB - Feb 2, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Riggleman has said repeatedly that he really changed nothing from Acta. That is just BS as we all know but it does tie Acta to Riggleman and thus the question still stands….Mark what do you expect from this year's spring training compared to the past 3 with respect to fundamentals and defense.

  20. JayB - Feb 2, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Mike, I remember those days too….I though Junior was a big step up….he was gone just a few months later…..How Jimbo keep the job is still an amazing book waiting to be written. Mark Lerner must really be a dope.

  21. An Briosca Mor - Feb 2, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Well, Bonifacio did turn out to be an okay lottery ticket since they turned him over for Willingham and Olsen. Kind of like getting three or four matching numbers on your Pick 5, I guess.

  22. MikeHarris - Feb 2, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    Wasn't Deivi Cruz on this team for a while, too? Jeez, what's left of my head just exploded.

  23. JayB - Feb 2, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    You know we really have made some progress over the years….sure Lopez and Guzman were major wastes of money but Deivi Cruz and Will Cordero… we sucked…..

  24. JMW4th - Feb 2, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    Jayb, you are overly obsessed with Manny Acta.the Acta era is over. He is gone, not coming back.riggleman and Rizzo say things need to change, and things ARE changing. the only thing not changing is your obsession with Manny's spring training should really let it go.Unless you are an Indians fan, you really need to find a new talking point.

  25. JayB - Feb 2, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    Like Rizzo said "when I see a clean 9 innings of good baseball more often than not", I will be happy and Rizzo "will know he has made progress". Rizzo's comments at Fanfest are clear enough to know what he though of last spring training effort. I just want to know Riggleman knows that what he is saying about Acta's time here makes him look clueless in his bosses eye.

  26. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    So Riggleman is clueless in his boss's eye. I guess that must be why Rizzo hired him, huh JayB?





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