I was eager to read MLB.com's Bill Ladson's latest article entitled, "Nats interested in free agent Lackey", to see if the Nationals were seriously pursuing 31-year-old free agent pitcher John Lackey until I got to the second paragraph which listed the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and New York Mets as the other teams who have expressed an interest in acquiring the services of the (possibly) former LA Angels' starter. DC GM Mike Rizzo explains in the article that in order to draw a top-notch free agent to DC:
"'You have to show the veteran pitcher what the plan is, our plan for success, how we are built to perform at this level at this given time.
'We have to have a special type of veteran pitcher, who is willing to give of himself as a teacher and mentor type of guy. We have to get a team-oriented person, a person that is going to give his time and his knowledge. It's not an easy task.'"
Nationals' Manager Jim Riggleman responded to a similar question, (which I asked), about attracting free agents during a conference call with DC area internet writers last week, by explaining that a team can also appeal to prospective players by offering them a position that might not be available elsewhere. On XM's Inside Pitch this afternoon, Kevin Kennedy's co-host Casey Stern addressed such thinking when talking about where free agent reliever Mike Gonzalez might end up:
"(The Nationals) know they need one, (a closer), Mike MacDougal was doing it, the cagey vet over the course of the stretch of the season, Gonzalez knows the National League East, he pitched there, all that's a fit, but I'll be honest, I saw Gonzalez's name and I'm like, man, would a team like the Yankees overpay him to set up, where he could even get possibly double the money that he would get to close from a team like the Nationals..."
Mr. Rizzo, back in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, explains that the, "...additions of an Adam Dunn, a Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan, it's going to attract some veteran players." But even with Dunn, Willingham and Morgan (for a short time) in the lineup, the Nationals lost over 100 games last year for the second-straight season, I'm having a hard time imagining that any of the top free agent pitchers on the market are going to settle for less in DC. The Nationals' front office has drawn all sorts of talented people in this offseason, but I still think they're going to have to produce on the field before the players start to consider joining what is for two years running now, baseball's worst team...
(ed. note - "DC GM Mike Rizzo had John Lackey on a list of potential targets as far back as early September, telling Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell, in an article entitled, "Time to Make the Most of This Horror Show", that the Nationals were looking at:
"'...Jason Marquis, Randy Wolf, John Lackey, Cliff Lee, Jon Garland, Kevin Millwood, Tim Hudson, Brad Penny, Joel Piñeiro, Braden Looper, Jarrod Washburn, Brandon Webb, Brett Myers (and) John Smoltz...'"
...and promising that though, "Some of them may have club options that are going to be picked up...We're going to get one of them." You have to love Mr. Rizzo's confidence, and if it's not Lackey, there are still 13 other arms on that list...The Nationals just have to find the pitching equivalent of Adam Dunn, a free agent who expected more out of the market, and will accept the best offer on the table...")