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Winter Meetings preview

Dec 7, 2013, 9:00 AM EST


The Nationals have already addressed their need for another starting pitcher, trading for Doug Fister on Monday night. Then they closed out the week by bolstering their bench with the signing of Nate McLouth late Friday afternoon.

So, what’s left for Mike Rizzo and Co. to do once they arrive in Orlando on Sunday for the start of the Winter Meetings?

Not much, though there still are a few items on the Nationals’ agenda.

Though — as has been the case throughout a sport that has been overwhelmed with major news this week — they’ve made two significant acquisitions in recent days, the Nats know their roster remains far from complete.

The top priority now: Get a left-hander for the bullpen. There are several worthy candidates out there — most notably Eric O’Flaherty, J.P. Howell and Boone Logan — but they aren’t going to remain available for long. It would not be surprising if the Nationals depart Orlando on Thursday with a new lefty reliever in tow.

The Nats also have at least one more bench spot to fill, possibly as many as three. They would like to add a veteran catcher to back up Wilson Ramos, not subjecting Jhonatan Solano to those duties for a full season. They probably want to bring in another infielder to compete with Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters for a spot on the bench (though this acquisition might well have to come on a minor-league deal). And there’s still possibly one more reserve job available, depending on how the Nats feel about Tyler Moore.

Even if they don’t make any additions to the major-league roster, there still are other tasks for the Nationals to complete at the Winter Meetings. Rizzo will have the opportunity to speak with any agent or fellow GM in the game, face to face. New manager Matt Williams will have the opportunity to get involved as well, whether in the form of media interviews or inside Rizzo’s suite as team officials discuss potential transactions.

There are also a host of industry meetings for club personnel to attend, not to mention Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft (though at this point it’s tough to see the Nationals having roster space for one of those guys).

So, while there may be no blockbuster in the works, there still could be plenty of developments for the Nats at the Winter Meetings.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 7, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Mark Zuckerman: Thanks for the update. Two queries:

    (1) Any notion of what Danny Espinosa has been doing in the off-season? Resting and recuperating? Working on his hitting? Some combination of both? No surgery, right?

    (2) Do you see any realistic possibility the Nats would go into the season with the back-up for 1B listed as either Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman (or both)? Personally, I don’t see that, but there’s been some speculation here to that effect.

    • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Dec 7, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      Espinosa is a workout warrior. There’s UTube videos of his work out regimen created by one of the gyms he uses.

      See Kilgore/Wagner’s article about the medical possibilities relative to his recent spate of injuries. The post on NationalsJournal was long, well researched and objective.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    I don’t know about Werth at 1B as I’ve only seen that tossed around in here, though I’ve thought it has made sense as a possibility late in his contract ever since the day we signed him. As to Ryan Zimmerman, come on, it isn’t going to happen anytime soon, if ever. Barring another injury, I expect that we’ll see a near Gold Glove vintage Ryan Zimmerman at 3B in 2014.


    In Rizzo We Trust!

    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      I’m with you on this one, Joe. Especially the GG vintage RZ.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        I think someone unexpected will have a 1st baseman’s glove in his ST locker. I think it will be for spot duty.

  3. Theophilus T.S. - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    This article rests on a couple of assumptions, one stated and one not. Explicitly, Mark assumes that Espinosa is the backup/utility infielder. Based on last year I don’t see how anyone can make that assumption, even if he peppers the OF wall in ST, as he did last year. The unstated assumption is that Hairston is the first RH bat off the bench. Just as the point has been made that McLouth means the Nats will no long rely on “fringy” bench players the Nats can’t afford Hairston either — he’s about as fringy as a Persian rug. The only argument I can make in favor of retaining Hairston over Moore is that Hairston can serve as the mid-game injury replacement for LaRoche (I think he played a couple of innings at 1B last year) until Moore can be flown in from Syracuse.

    The Nats don’t need an “immediate” platoon partner for McLouth if one of the regulars goes down. They could, for example, call up Souza or Goodwin. Just the same, shipping Hairston off to Seattle or some similar place would be addition by subtraction.

    • Jw - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      As it stands now, there is room for both Hairston and Moore on the roster. 5th OF and 6th IF. They may bring in other guys to compete with them in ST, but likely it would be on minor league deals.

  4. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    “They probably want to bring in another infielder to compete with Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters for a spot on the bench.”

    Not sure how that means I’m assuming Espinosa IS the backup/utility infielder. He’s going to compete for the job, along with Walters and probably a veteran that the Nats sign before spring training. He’s going to be one of at least three guys battling for one roster spot.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      I’ll say with 99% certainty that it won’t be Zach Walters on the OD roster unless Espi gets injured. It’s now Espi’s job unless a trade is made or a FA is signed.

  5. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    And for Eugene: No surgery for Espinosa that I’m aware of, just a regular offseason for him. And I would be very surprised if the Nats consider Werth or Zimmerman a backup first baseman, not at this point. They will go into spring training with Moore backing up LaRoche. I also wouldn’t be surprised if another bench player they add can play first base.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Thanks. And agree that another bench player should be able to cover 1B along with other duties (whether IF or OF).

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      BTW, I still think it would be a good, useful story if you or one of your colleagues could sort out what Danny Espinosa is doing. Given last year’s struggles, I don’t see it as a ‘regular offseason’ for him. He’s either got to get healthier or improve his hitting (or, more likely, both), and it might be interesting to those of us who have followed him for several seasons now to better understood how he’s going about doing that. But, as always, thanks for a great blog.

      • mauimo22 - Dec 7, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        I’d like to know this too! He must earn his way back on the team with smart plate appearances. The defense was never an issue. The Ks always were. There were so many games we needed him to drive the ball deep to advance the runner and he Ks with 3 HR swings!

        Hope Matt Wms works with a bunch of guys (Desi, Ryan, ALR) on how to shorten their swings after 2 strikes. Ray Knight is always talking about this and I agree 100%.

  6. MicheleS - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    I like the fact that all the other deals have taken the spotlight of the Nats, we had the 1st big splash with Fister this week, and then all heck broke loose, I hope there is very little pressure on the Nats going into next season. Our pressure will come form beating the Braves – who I think got worse with the loss of McCann and Huddy. Not dramatically worse, but 2 or 3 games worse. I don’t see any team getting significantly better in the NL – yet. I think a healthy Hanley is what keeps the Dodgers the elite in the NL West (unless they do something stupid and trade Kemp). I think the Cards Pitching staff keeps them on top with a dog fight with the Pirates and the Reds. A little disappointed that the Pirates haven’t really done anything yet, but maybe that young pitching is better than what they had.

    I don’t think the east is going to be a cake walk. Each team has it strengths to beat the heck out of one another on any given day, the Mets and Miami aren’t Horrible they have a few really good players that can beat you (namely that pitching on both teams and some guys named Stanton/Wright and even Grandy). The Phillies… yikes could they get any older, but the still have Lee and Hamels, I still hope the keep PapleBLOWN, he is a fun train wreck to watch.

    I would still like a lefty for the pen and I want a solid backup C. I want a really good defense backup C one who has excellent Pitch framing skills (and sorry that’s not Kurt – unless he becomes JZ’s personal catcher)

  7. Drew - Dec 7, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I’d like to see the Nats get Howell and bring Zook back to back up Ramos.

    Brown isn’t the only Nat imperiled by the McLouth deal. Speed and the ability to play passable OF defense were big parts of Kobernus’ appeal.

    McLouth checks both of those boxes. I like Kobernus’ versatility, but his infield defense doesn’t match Espinosa’s and he doesn’t have Walters’ pop.

    Kobe might be bench insurance in Syracuse.

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      I disagree about Kobernus playing a passable OF. He took horrible routes to the ball and never demonstrated that he had enough of a ML arm to play for a contender. He hit AAA pitching and stole a lot of bases. Other than that, he’s a guy that really doesn’t excel at any position. There’s a reason that he was taken from the Nats in the Rule 5 last year and then tossed back.

  8. Sonny G 10 - Dec 7, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    I guess I fall too much in love with our minor league prospects, so I worry about losing someone in the Rule 5 draft. That got me to thinking, “can a team remove some of their veteran players, like Desmond. off the 40 man roster in order to protect our minor league prospects, and then put them back on after the rule 5 draft?” There must be some rule against doing that or some penalty or everybody would be doing it.

    • Jw - Dec 7, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      To get Desi off the 40 man, they’d have to put him on waivers. He’d be claimed in a heartbeat.

      • Sonny G 10 - Dec 7, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        Thanks for the answer. I knew there must be a good reason not to do things like that.

    • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Dec 7, 2013 at 8:36 PM

      The guy you just might see removed before Thursday would be Corey Brown. The McLouth signing pretty much sends him back to AAA yet again. He deserves better. You have to assume Rizzo will send him to a team like Houston and Bo Porter who could use him … if he is traded for minor league talent then a slot would open up for the rule 5 draft.

  9. scnatsfan - Dec 7, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    I think Brown gets traded here, even if it is just for another player who will never be a factor; think when Ballystar and his moustache got moved for Perry although the return will be much worse. Probably to the A’s too.

    I don’t get the hate for Hairston, he will be fine.

    For Espinosa and Moore, time to show you belong or resign yourself to being players who got their shot and couldn’t cut it, at least in DC. Hopefully both step up.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      I don’t think anyone hates him. He was a killer for the Mets but just can’t hit RHPs and his .000 BA was an issue in those situations for the Nats. In key situations managers bring in a RHP to face him and neutralize him. The opposition has a 7 man bullpen vs a 4 man bench (+ the catcher). Dangerous burning bench players so Davey would leave him in.

      He is a slightly better RH version of Matt Stairs last year. Very one dimensional player and there’s much better upgrades out there for the $2 million the Nats paid. His arm is weak and his defensive range is below average.

      That’s not hate, thats my opinion supported by a lot of stats.

      • Joe Seamhead - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        Ghost, we may not always agree, but I agree 100% on your Hairston analysis. But though he is signed, Rizzo has shown before that if I guy doesn’t cut it, he’ll cut the guy, salary and all. Hairston did look better the last month of the season, but I never quite understood that whole move of signing him to begin with.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        Joe, it wouldn’t be a fun discussion if we all agreed. I had a very strong opinion on Espi in June 2011 and Henry Rodriguez as I swam against the many people that told me I was wrong. I had a similar negative opinion for years of Detwiler starting. I thought the Stairs signing made no sense and the resign of Tracy in 2012 was poor.

        I wish I was wrong on those and Det in July 2012 showed he could be a starter but fell back in the abyss. On the good side I had Rendon pegged from the day he was drafted as a 2nd baseman and Desi in late 2011 as a future star.

        I make my observations and back them with stats and Hairston just wasn’t good. It’s up to him to become better. I just call them as I see them.

  10. hantiaolang - Dec 7, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    While I much prefer the idea of signing a lefty FA like O’Flaherty (I’ve had a man-crush on him for years) or Howell, what are the chances that Rizzo may be considering a trade package that includes Espi to someone like the Yankees for their young lefty reliever Cesar Cabral and possibly one of their surplus catching prospects?

    I don’t know much about Cabral – like how high the Yanks are on him – except that he may be a little Henry-esque in the amount of walks he gives up, but he throws hard and is only 24. I know Mark wrote that the Nats plan to give Espi a shot at making the roster and competing for the 2B job – and he IS a major league talent despite the considerable hitting woes – but I can’t help feeling like the Nats are looking to move him in exchange for . . . someone. Just speculating and will gladly defer to the many posters here who are more knowledgeable than I am.

  11. unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    I’m back!! I’ve been away for a few months, “cleansing”, if you will… Glad to be back in “check on the boys several times a day” mode! Would someone be so kind as to post the link for the Drinks owed/NI Glossary? I see some notations I don’t recognize (+1?)… I could have sworn I had the page bookmarked….. Thanks! Nice “seeing ” y’all again!!!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 7, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Unky D, Welkome Back!

      The NIDO+ is still at
      which needs updating. I don’t think “+1” is there, since it is Interwebz Standardspeak for “Me too” or “LIKE”.

      • unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Thanks sofa… Context showed me that, but even though I spend a lot of time in Facebook, I hadn’t seen it, and thought is might be specific to here… with an amusing backstory (of course).

        Two things that have been taking up my time: fantasy football (only one league, composed of mostly high school friends), and re-reading (4th time!) the Aubrey/Maturin books, by Patrick O’Brian (it would shock me to learn that I am not among a few other aficionados of the series, here). Excellent head-clearing stuff… I’m fairly champing at the bit for pitchers and catchers…. Is there a count down clock at the top of the page, yet?


    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 7, 2013 at 6:00 PM

      Welcome back Unky D. I finally started taking guitar lessons.

      • unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:08 PM


        That’s great, Sonny! What’s your favorite piece to play, so far?

      • Sonny G 10 - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:58 PM

        Not playing pieces yet. Trying to get used to forming the major cords. Its been around 50 years since I tried to play. Just had one lesson so far, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. Teacher was impressed with my 1968-69 mint condition Telecaster.

  12. DaveB - Dec 7, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    With all the hoopla around Seattle’s signing of Cano it made me reminisce to a year ago … I bet everyone can guess who this was …

    “You want a prediction? I’ll give you one. Espinosa is going to make people forget who Cano even is in a very short time. Mark my words. Sheesh. DO YOUR HOMEWORK FOOL!”

    For those that want to check their work:
    … taken for a comment at 12:18

    • letswin3 - Dec 7, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Although I understand completely why Mr “P” can no longer show his face around here, I still miss him. He stirred-up the analytic juices of so many of you who have the analytical licks to challenge his often outrageous suggestions. And by reading your logical arguments (he even had some good arguments from time-to-time), I learned so much more about the nuances of a game that I seem to appreciate more all the time. He was rude, unmovable and sometimes crude too, but he sure was entertaining. Oh, and Danny hasn’t quite yet made me forget who Cano is.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        Good ole Mr. P and his rants. Rarely right. He was attacking Laddie. Where is Laddie Blah Blah? If anyone knows let’s get him back!!!!

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      Dave, I don’t need to look back to see who wrote that. And trust me, it wasn’t NatsJack.

    • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Dec 7, 2013 at 8:43 PM

      You never know. Espinosa is still only 26 years old. Cano will be 30. Other players have resurrected their careers after disastrous seasons due to injury and stubbornness. One player named Jayson Werth comes to mind. And then there’s recent acquisition Nate McLouth.

    • Candide - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      It’s NOT at 12:18; it’s at 12:28, MORON!!! DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!

      Sorry… got carried away a little…

      • DaveB - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:08 PM


  13. BombsOverNatsTown - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    So Hairston for lefties, McLouth for righties, Espi up the middle. Need a backup C (Suzuki?), guy who can play both corners (Reynolds?) and a LHRP or two. Sound about right?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      Reynolds is expensive which is why I never considered him. He’s the type you pick up on July 31 or an August waiver claim.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        …if that (i.e., an August addition).

      • BombsOverNatsTown - Dec 7, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        I guess I’m not sold on LaRoche finding “it” again. Reynolds would give you a platoon opportunity, albeit at a premium price. I find it’s easier to spend Mr. Lerner’s money than it is my own.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Bombs, I’m with you. ALR is my biggest concen going into 2014. Many feel he will be at a .775 OPS in 2014 which is an improvement but passable. Anything above that is icing on the cake. Let’s keep our expectations low and hope for the best.

      • BombsOverNatsTown - Dec 7, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        I’m worried about ALR and Werth (age related). If Harp doesn’t progress significantly and Z doesn’t get hot early, may be a struggle coming out if the gate. Excited for 120-140 games of Ramos though…maybe that offsets the aging vets.

      • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Dec 7, 2013 at 8:32 PM

        There still is both Tyler Moore and Matt Skole. We won’t know what either of those will look like until spring training and perhaps through some minor league reps.

  14. letswin3 - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Mr Zuckerman. It’s about time for you and the remainder of the media to press the Nats for the reporting date for pitchers and catchers. That piece of info is only needed because of the groundswell of demand from fans for the traditional “Countdown Clock” on this page ….. my mail carrier asked me for that date yesterday, and I had to admit that I didn’t know. I just Googled it and learned that it is TBA ….what, they are spending time on insignificant stuff like Tigers pitcher trades and O’s outfieilder FA signings when they should be scheduling reporting dates? Just jokin, but my mail guy did ask me yesterday. And thanks for all the great research and writing that you provide.

    • unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      NIDO has a very bold announcement stating that February 10, 2014 is pitchers and catchers….

  15. pchuck69 - Dec 7, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Is Mark going to Orlando?

    • natsjackinfl - Dec 7, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      He said he’d be there. I’ll try and hook up with him on Monday or Tuesday afternoon when I’m roaming the lobby around the MLB set.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        Jack, Gonat will be there as well. Wish I was there. Love the Winter Meetings. I was talking to Matt’s agent at Paragon Sports and Joe said that Matt Williams will be there at the meetings also.

        I haven’t always liked Rizzo’s moves but this year he is doing great. Fister and McLouth were great moves.

        Roch Kubatko on the Os beat said that they were never going to pay $5 million a year for McLouth.

      • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Dec 7, 2013 at 8:30 PM

        Kubatko also reported that the O’s talked to Detroit about Fister … I guess DD has become a dartboard for O’s fans … not unexpected given that his team was built by McPhail and all he has done is watch it slowly disintegrate …

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:08 AM

        Cayucosbaseball, yes, Duquette is watching and there’s nothing he can do about it as the guy above him is still pulling the strings. They remind me of the Rangers of the early 2000’s with all that offense and no pitching. One starter under a 4.00 ERA won’t do it. They can’t turn the prospects into Aces quick enough and they won’t spend the money to acquire a true Ace.

  16. jfmii - Dec 7, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Reblogged this on jimmaroneydotcom and commented:
    Never done this before. Am I commenting on the “Winter Meetings preview”?

  17. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 7, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    FWIW, the NIDO+ (still at ) has a clock set to Feb. 10, just a guesstimate on my part.

    • unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      Newky Brown, there, Sofa!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 7, 2013 at 5:52 PM

        Nuh-uh, not for synchrosimilar posts in a dead heat. Timestamps are both 2:44, and they’re replies to different items, so there’s no way to know who’s first.

        But if I see you, I’ll probably get the first round anyway. : )

    • natsjackinfl - Dec 7, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      The first Spring Training game is Feb 28th. Backup 10 – 12 days for pitchers and catchers and you’ll be at Feb. 16th or 18th so I can split it and say February 17th. Main squad should be February 22nd or 23rd.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 7, 2013 at 6:45 PM

        FWIW, last year, the P&C date was Feb. 12, a Tuesday. The corresponding Tuesday in 2014 would be Feb. 11. Feb. 18, then, would be the following Tuesday.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 7, 2013 at 7:21 PM

        Sec3, it was earlier in 2013 due to the WBC.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:25 AM

        Good point. I forgot about that. Thanks.

  18. unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    HaHa… Fair enough, Sofa… :)





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