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Break’s over

Jan 6, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

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If you’re having a difficult time remembering the Nationals’ most-recent roster transaction, don’t feel bad. It’s been 18 days since the Nats traded Corey Brown to the Athletics for cash considerations, and it’s not like that was an earth-shattering move to begin with.

The Nationals, like most MLB clubs, essentially took two weeks off for the holidays. That makes the final week of December and the first week of January perhaps the deadest time of the year in baseball.

The good news: Winter Break is over. Kids are returning to school. Offices are re-opening. And the MLB teams are back in business, beginning the home stretch of the offseason.

What’s on the Nationals’ agenda for the roughly 38 days that remain until the start of spring training? (FYI: They haven’t yet announced the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers, but it should be right around Feb. 13, give or take a couple of days.)

There are still a few roster tweaks that could take place, particularly on the bench and possibly in the bullpen. Mike Rizzo has said he’s content with the roster he currently has, but that doesn’t mean the general manager wouldn’t make another addition or two if the opportunity arose.

Two positions that could be bolstered: catcher and infielder. While the Nats are willing to show up in Viera with Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon and Chris Snyder battling to be Wilson Ramos’ backup, Rizzo would add another veteran if the price was right. And while he appears committed to giving Danny Espinosa a shot at winning a spot on the Opening Day bench, Rizzo also could look to bring in another veteran infielder (likely on a minor-league deal) as an insurance policy.

A bullpen move appears less likely, with no fewer than 11 pitchers already in the mix for seven jobs (Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf, Ryan Mattheus, Xavier Cedeno, Christian Garcia and Erik Davis). But never assume Rizzo is done tinkering, or that he wouldn’t consider bolstering what already looks like an overstocked relief corps. (Remember last January’s out-of-nowhere Soriano signing?)

Truth be told, Rizzo and the rest of the Nationals front office will probably spend more time over the next month trying to sign guys already on the roster than free agents. There are nine unsigned players on the 40-man roster eligible for arbitration: Storen, Clippard, Blevins, Ramos, Ian Desmond, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Ross Detwiler.

Those nine players will file for arbitration on Jan. 14; three days later, both sides will officially exchange offers. Some undoubtedly will agree to terms without much haggling, but don’t be surprised if several hearings are scheduled considering how accomplished some of these players are and how willing the Nationals have been to go to arbitration in the past.

And, of course, there’s always the possibility one or more of those players will not only agree to a salary for 2014 but for seasons beyond. The Nationals would love to lock up Zimmermann and Desmond to long-term contracts, recognizing each stalwart is only two years away from free agency.

This is the exact situation Ryan Zimmerman found himself in two winters ago; he wound up signing a $100 million extension after spring training began. It’s not unreasonable to think the Nats could work something out with either Zimmermann or Desmond in the next two months. In a perfect world, they’d strike a deal with each.

  1. nats1924 - Jan 6, 2014 at 7:44 AM

    Im one of the biggest JZim fans but I say we go after tanaka hard w a $150 type deal and then trade JZim for multiple prospects.

    Of course, I believe we will extend Desi w some sort of team friendly deal.

    • knoxvillenat - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      Disagree completely on going all in on Tanaka. Why would you take the risk of throwing big bucks on the unknown Tanaka instead of the well known Zimmermann? Tanaka could possibly be another Darvish but he could also be another Dice K and we don’t need a Dice K. Sign JZ for a 4-5 year deal at market if need be.

      Agree on Desmond, would like to see him locked up for another 5 years or so on a fair contract to both sides.

      • nats1924 - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:10 AM

        I’m all in on extending JZim. From what I’ve read over the last 10-12 months it seems JZim wants to test free agency. In that case, trade him cause it’ll send a message to the stras’s, bharps, etc. that, if your not willing to negotiate for extensions then we’ll make your career a journeyman one and keep our future bright w ons of prospects

      • jd - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:11 AM


        The devil is in the details. You say give JZim 4-5 at market value. What does that mean? Matt Cain got 5 for $112.5 mil. Are you willing to give JZimm $22 mil a year?

      • knoxvillenat - Jan 6, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        Would I give JZimm $22M for 5 years? No but then I don’t think that is a true market value for him based on his career so far. I would think 4-5 years ar $17 to $18 million is more market in my opinion. But then again I’m not Rizzo or Ted Lerner nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:03 PM

        I don’t see why JZ will accept a 4-5 year deal. He is about to enter his age 28 season. If he were a FA, 6-7 year deal is more likely for him I would think.

      • jd - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        The reason he should accept a 4 – 5 year deal is that he’s 2 years away from free agency. There are inherent risks in waiting for free agency such as injury or a drop in performance.If Matt Cain would be a free agent today he wouldn’t get the contract he got a couple of years ago when he was not yet a free agent.

  2. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    It’s insanity to pay $100MM+ for some guy who (A) already has seven years on his tires; (B) has never thrown a major league pitch. How many championships has Darvish produced? At the rate players are leaving Texas, how many is he likely to produce in the next 2-3 years.

  3. nats1924 - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    FYI, I do like JZim a lot. He’s been my favorite ever since I heard the story of him pitching w his mouth wired shut in a snow storm…..but, I understand and don’t blame players receiving market dollar for their talent.

    So, since being a Nats fan I want to make sure we’re a strong team for years to come.

    Not to change the subject, this could all be a moot point if Selig finally made a decision on our tv contract and let the Nats receive market value on tv revenue (see Phillies)

    • TimDz - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      Selig’s gonna retire with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders lifted, saying, “what could I have done?”

  4. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 6, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    Apart from the fact Angelos is a slimy bastard, the reason the Nats aren’t receiving “market” for their TV rights is that MASN can’t afford to pay the kind of fees other teams are receiving. Any look at their programming, advertising packages (lots of low cost “per inquiry” ads) shows undeniably they aren’t generating revenue to pay much more — if anything — than they are currently paying. Subtract the Os or the Nats and I doubt MASN would generate even a “1” share of market TV households. This is, of course, MASN’s fault, because apart from the Nats/Os they have nothing that’s going to bring more than 2-3,000 sets of eyeballs per hour to that channel. But absent a major overhaul by a company (e.g., Comcast, Fox) that knows what they’re doing there’s no golden stream of revenue to generate the kind of fees everyone is clamoring for. You can’t get blood out of a turnip without replacing it with a radically different type of turnip.

    To repeat, also, what someone else said a few days ago, the 25 (or was it 20?) year deal the Phillies got from Comcast, over the length of the contract, doesn’t look nearly so plush. The market for cable rights in Philthadelphia is very restricted as Comcast already owns everything. And Comcast is wary of fractionalization of its market by various wireless services. All in all, I think that’s a very Comcast-friendly — not team friendly — deal.

  5. Section 222 - Jan 6, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Please do correct me if I’m wrong but the MASN deal isn’t just waiting for Selig to “make a decision,” is it? I thought the dispute was in arbitration.

    • Jw - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      The arbitrators threw up their hands and dumped it back in Selig’s lap over a year ago. And they weren’t arbitrators in the traditional sense. It was a committee of three owners.

  6. scnatsfan - Jan 6, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    I know Leon is tearing up winter ball but I still hope to see someone other then Snyder as our big FA signing behind the dish

    • Doc - Jan 6, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      Sandy Leon is the guy, scnatsfan. Think I’ll check out his more recent Winter stats.

      According to Lucroy, Leon is the best defensive catcher with the Nats. I’m kinda thinking that that’s the reason that Rizzo hasn’t pursued any FA’s. Leon also going on 25 (I think???) so it’s time that he found at least a backup role.

  7. Section 222 - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Welcome back Mike. Hope you had a nice break. Now get to work! :-)

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Sec. 222 — Arbitration failed; arbitrators failed to arbitrate. So the decision has been bucked to Selig. If the problem was merely setting a market price then the arbitrators would have reached a decision. My surmise that is they decided the market price was, say, $250MM over five years, and Angelos said, “Look at my books! If I pay them that kind of money either or both (A) the O’s get no money; (B) MASN goes into a loss.”

  9. water47 - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Theo –

    That is definitely a big part of the issue. And, the actual deal has a key point that Pete inserted to protect himself. I believe it states that whatever the Nats get paid the O’s must also be payed. As such, he backstops his investment by either 1) getting tons for the O’s (whether the deserve it or not) and/or 2) He can state MASN cannot afford such high valuations as it will be doubled.

    Then again, he is getting tons of upside so far and still is able to claim he is a small market/low revenue team and get the league mandated competitive balance and compensation for his woes.

    Quite a conundrum for Mr. Angelos.

    As to the implications that the Lerners are either sitting on their hands/sideline, it would think they are playing the long game. What can they do now? Push are out-going Commish to do something? Not likely. One thing that I think might happen is for they Lerners may push for a change when Angelos sells the O’s. They would have a vote on the his sale and they may be building alliances to affect a change then.

  10. natsguy - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    The MASN deal is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. If something is not done the NATs will be hamstrung forever in competing with other teams like the Dodgers or Mets etc… The problem needs to be acknowledged by us the fans and protested. Go to the MASN site and flood their blogs with questions.

    The best thing that could happen to Baltimore Washington baseball is for Angelos to retire, sell, or die. I am ambivalent about which.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    Angelos will never sell the Orioles, and his spawn are deeply embedded in the organization so even retirement means nothing. The best thing to hope is he croaks and the family has to sell assets to pay the estate taxes. (The Jack Kent Cooke solution; boy did that work out well.) I think we can only hope that some experienced cable sports network makes an offer for MASN that Angelos can’t refuse and shows the world how to make the present deal work for both teams with only a few structural changes. Just to be difficult I would prefer that this White Knight not be Comcast because, among other reasons, they keep insisting that Washington-Baltimore is a single market and (A) it isn’t and (B) I truly could give a FF what is going on in Baltimore.

    • NatsLady - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      Whether Comcast or not, it seems to me that with the affluence and sports interest of this market some company would make a hard-to-resist offer for rights to the Nats/Os/Ravens, and develop better programming for the off-season(s). That company might be willing to split the teams, but there is no incentive for Angelos to do so, nor to invest in MASN programming.

      Spring of 2013 might have been the best moment, after all three teams had just been in the playoffs and fans were ready for repeats.

    • naterialguy - Jan 7, 2014 at 12:23 AM

      bring back HTS

  12. David Proctor - Jan 6, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Since 2011, JZimm is 6th in the NL in ERA and 7th in WAR (despite being held to 160 innings in 2011). JZimm said he has a specific number in mind and I have a feeling that number is a nice round 100M. Would I give him 5/100? Yes.

    But Desmond remains a bigger priority, in my mind. If we have to pass on JZimm to sign Desi, so be it. Ideally, we’d sign both.

    • NatsLady - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      Agree. I don’t see a quality shortstop in the system. (Of course, Desi didn’t seem to be a quality shortstop for quite a while, so you don’t know.)

      As regards JZimm, he put up a fight last year, to the point where I thought he’d go to arbitration (he thought it “might be fun”), so heaven knows what he will ask for in arbitration, not to mention an extension. I get the feeling he would like the risk of waiting for free agency being as how he’s already had TJ.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Do you think Nationals should be open to the idea of trading JZ if we are getting an elite pitching prospect (that takes over his spot in rotation) such as Walker?

    • David Proctor - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      I don’t think there’s any chance JZ will get traded this year. They’ll try to extend him and try to make a run with him. Next offseason? Yes, I’d trade him for that return. The problem is that you won’t get that type of return for 1 season. The Tigers ran into that problem with Max Scherzer, and Scherzer was coming off a Cy Young win.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 6, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Yeah, I doubt that he will be traded either this off-season. I guess I should stop with the hypothetical. 😛

  14. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 6, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    jd, if he is not thinking team discount on money, I doubt he would give away 2 years away. I agree with others that he is very likely to test FA waters.

  15. veejh - Jan 6, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    I still wouldn’t mind seeing O’Flaherty on our roster on a 1 Yr deal for around $4M.

  16. Section 222 - Jan 6, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    I don’t want JZnn or Desi to sign team friendly deals. I just want them to sign. The Nats should, and can afford to, pay them what they are worth.

    Having said that, if he doesn’t sign, I would not trade JZnn for prospects this year. Not because trading him might not be the smart thing to do for the long term but because I want the Nats to go all the way this year, and we are more likey to accomplish that goal with him in the rotation.

    • veejh - Jan 6, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      I he doesn’t get signed in the remainder of the offseason, he doesn’t move this year….period. No way we trade away a key piece to winning the WS.

    • JayB - Jan 6, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      Yea that we can win any time 2012 feeling is closing fast is it not……God I had Davey, Storen, Danny and Rizzo for being so arrogant, selfish or just a choker… pick who is who

      • Section 222 - Jan 6, 2014 at 5:52 PM

        Folks probably aren’t coming back, so I’m just leaving this for you JayB, but if you like beating your head against the wall, this Nationals Journal post will make you want to do that. I was watching Game 5 from the Infield Gallery on the 1st base side. When Molina took off for second, we all started screaming at him. Of course, Storen couldn’t hear us and he was in such a trance he probably couldn’t hear anyone. But what I had forgotten until I saw this post is that the game WOULD HAVE BEEN OVER had he just stepped off and lobbed the ball to Desi at 2nd. My oh my that hurts.

  17. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 6, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    You HAD to remind us, didn’t you?!

    • JayB - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:52 PM

      whoa….that hurts….I had missed that post somehow…..and yes I was on the Right side of the lower bowl for that game….and it was amazing to see…….This team will never live that game down. Davey saying it did not matter and nobody did anything wrong and it is just baseball is JUST SO DISINGENUOUS…You know I think Davey was an overall Plus for Nats…but from that day forward…..he did nothing but hurt there development.





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