Whatever Happened To The Washington Nationals' "Flat-Brimmed Closer" Chad Cordero?

When pressed, mostly by propriety, DC GM Jim Bowden apologized for having announced that the Nationals would non-tender reliever Chad Cordero on a local DC radio show months earlier than such decisions are expected and before anyone had bothered to tell the former 1st Round pick, who, until he was injured, had been the Nationals' tight-rope-walking closer for most of three seasons and had been with the franchise for six years in which he'd gone (20-14) with a 2.78 ERA and 128 saves. In an email to the Washington Post's Nationals' beat reporter Chico Harlan, which is quoted in a "Nationals Journal" post entitled, "Cordero's future with Washington", from 7/24/08, Mr. Bowden says that he had finally taken a moment to inform Cordero's agent Larry Reynolds of the reasoning behind his prematurely delivered decision:

"'We have let his agent Larry Reynolds know that we can't commit 5-7 million to Chad after his surgery, but we are interested in a low base [salary] with incentives in case he is healthy.'"

Cordero had signed a 1-year $6.2 million dollar deal before the '08 campaign to avoid arbitration after he'd gone through the process the previous Spring and found that it had distracted from his preparation, as he explained to MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Cordero agrees to terms with Nats":

"'I told my agent that I wanted to get everything done,' Cordero said. 'I didn't want to go through all that process. I want to go into Spring Training ready, and I didn't want to worry about that. The arbitration process was an ongoing thing. It took longer than I anticipated.'"

An anonymous "baseball source" told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in another article entitled, "Cordero's agent upset with GM's timing", after Mr. Bowden's "accidental" disclosure:

"...that Cordero is so angry by the early announcement that he plans not to re-sign with the Nationals next year."

After Cordero talked to the Nationals' GM personally, he told Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman, in an article entitled, "Cordero not as annoyed after Bowden's call", that Mr. Bowden's apology had gone a long way towards repairing the damage the GM's gaffe had done:

"'This is just one little incident. I've never had any problems with anybody on the team or any of the front-office people. It just was one incident that made me upset. So I'm not going to hold that against the franchise or anything.

“Shoot, this franchise gave me my opportunity to be able to come up here. They drafted me...so I'm real thankful for what the organization has allowed me to do.'”

Mr. Zuckerman notes, earlier in the article, that if the Nationals offered Cordero arbitration, he'd be eligible for a minimum $4.96 million dollar deal which he says, is, "...far more than the organization wants to spend on a pitcher coming back from major surgery," and that does make sense, especially considering that Cordero was able to win his previous arbitration outing against the team before the '07 season, "...getting a raise to $4.15 million from $525,000," according to an uncredited Los Angeles Times' article from 2/22/07 entitled, "Washington's Cordero wins arbitration hearing", which continues:

"The Nationals argued for a $3.65-million salary for the right-hander, who was 7-4 with a 3.19 earned-run average and 29 saves last season. Cordero led the majors with a franchise-record 47 saves in 2005 for Washington."

So there's no way a struggling franchise that is desperate to land a power-hitter and a front-line starter is going to pay Cordero $4.96 M, or maybe more if they went to arbitration with Cordero's #'s so far, but should the Nationals offer Cordero the "low base [salary] (deal) with incentives" that Mr. Bowden mentioned to Cordero and his agent? Having traded away Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala, and with "Wild" Joel Hanrahan as yet unproven as a closer, would it be a wise investment in case Cordero can recover? Should Cordero accept that sort of deal with his #'s so far as a professional? Does he have any other choice after the way he looked on the mound in '08? 

 

The extent of Cordero's injuries? Back in Mark Zuckerman's article, "Cordero not as annoyed after Bowden's call", Mr. Zuckerman writes that:

"Cordero faces a long recovery from his surgery, even though it proved not to be as serious as originally feared. After learning from orthopedist Lewis Yocum that he had torn both his labrum and biceps and had a bone spur in the back of his shoulder, Cordero figured he would be out as much as 18 months.

 

"Yocum, though, insisted the injury wasn't as bad as it could have been and told the 26-year-old he could be fully healed in time for spring training."

The last time Cordero met with the Nationals, during the team's July trip to Dodger Stadium, near Cordero's LA home, MLB.com's Bill Ladson, quoting "several sources close to Cordero", wrote, in an article entitled, "Cordero visits with Nationals in LA" that:

"Cordero insisted that he will not be back with the Nationals if Bowden remains the general manager. One person close to Cordero said that team president Stan Kasten has to be the one to convince Cordero to stay."

The problem with that, is that Bowden's still here, and doesn't look to be going anywhere soon, and quite simply, according to another anonymous source, this one referred to simply as "one person" by Mr. Ladson:

"Chad is not considered a Jim guy. He wasn't drafted by Jim."

Remember who did draft Chad Cordero? It supposedly took some convincing, but the current Mets' GM Omar Minaya selected Cordero with the Expos' 1st Round pick 20th overall in 2003, and as Mr. Ladson continued in his article, quoting the same anonymous opinions:

"Those same sources believe that Cordero will have a job next season. Some have said that Cordero wouldn't mind being reunited with Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who drafted Cordero in 2003. If that were the case, Cordero would not be a closer. The job belongs to left-hander Billy Wagner."

Wagner's not going to be the Mets' closer anymore? Who here thinks the Mets won't throw a few million towards Cordero if they think he can come back and give them anything out of the bullpen with the way their relievers have struggled the last two seasons? The Mets don't care, it'll just be $1-2 million out of an estimated $140-150 million dollar payroll. Unless GM Jim Bowden wants to see Cordero painting corners for the Mets next season and in the years that follow, maybe he might just want to consider having the Team President give the DC franchise's Second All-Time and the Nationals' All-Time save leader a minimum deal after he becomes a free agent? 

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