The Washington Nationals signed six free agents, or re-signed in three of six cases, but it was the fact that they simply "watched" an unsigned free agent that had some of the DC Faithful talking, and wondering if the Nationals could once again make the sort of splash in the international market that they did when they signed one Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez back in 2006. At the same time the team was announcing, or in some cases confirming the signings of, "...right-handed pitchers Joel Peralta, Logan Kensing and Ryan Speier, catcher Jamie Burke, infielder Pete Orr and outfielder Jerry Owens to minor league contracts," in an official team press release, reports coming out of Houston, Texas identified the Washington Nationals as one of 15 teams in attendance at a bullpen session thrown by Cuban-born left-hander Aroldis Chapman for the sake of the scouts, and in two cases, GM's, of teams the international free agent hopes to sign with this Winter.
ESPN.com's Jorge Arangure, Jr., in an article entitled, "Scouts watch Cuban lefty throw", reports that DC GM Mike Rizzo was one of those there to see the 22-year-old, 6'4'' left-hander in action. According to Mr. Arangure, Chapman's working with a slider, change, and most impressive of all, a fastball that was, "...mostly in the 92-93 mph range and topp(ed) out at 96 mph," (though his heater has hit triple digits in international competition). In addition to the article Mr. Arangure, Jr. wrote, he was tweeting about the story as it broke, and twice tweeted about the Nationals' presence at the throwing session:
• "Had two sources confirm #Nationals GM Mike Rizzo attended Chapman's workout..."
• "Rizzo was the only out of town GM to attend the workout. Wade attended but obviously he lives in Houston."
Are the Nationals serious suitors for the most coveted free agent pitcher still on the market? (Sorry, Ben Sheets). Two problems: 1) The price tag - According to Mr. Arangure, Jr., "...the only team known to have made an offer for Chapman," is the Boston Red Sox, who have had a $15.5 million dollar deal on the table for some time, but Mr. Arangure Jr. also notes that Chapman's agent, "Randy Hendricks confirmed there are offers on the table for Chapman but did not disclose details," which leads us to problem No. 2) Hendricks? Randy Hendricks? The Hendricks Bros.? Hendricks Sports Management? Any of this ring a bell? That's right, Aroldis Chapman and Aaron Crow share agents. Luckily, it will be DC GM Mike Rizzo dealing with them this time if the Nationals are actually interested.
Six Free Agents Signed:
Logan Kensing, Jamie Burke and Pete Orr we already know, and the signings of Jerry Owens and Ryan Speier were already public knowledge, but the one new name among the six free agents the Washington Nationals signed today was Joel Peralta, a 33-year-old right-hander who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Athletics back in 1996, and has since pitched for 3 Major League teams, the LA Angels, Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies, posting a combined (4-11) record with a 4.61 ERA in 221 games and 273.1 IP over which he's allowed 140 runs, 43 HR's (1.1 HR/9) and 76 walks (2.5 BB/9), while recording 213 K's (8.0 K/9) in his 5 MLB seasons.
• Washington Nationals: Official Press Release - "Nationals sign six players to minor league contracts".
• Washington Post - Chico Harlan - "Rizzo in attendance to watch Chapman."