For fans of the Washington Nationals, Santa Claus wore a suit and tie this year instead of his traditional red and white garb. DC GM Mike Rizzo targeted and signed the third free agent of the offseason in the wee small hours of the morning on Christmas Eve so the DC Faithful went into the holiday weekend knowing they'd be watching another press conference before the new year, and most likely reading another round of positive reports when new closer (option) Matt Capps is introduced to the nation's capital just as starter Jason Marquis and catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez have been in the last few weeks.
Capps, a 26-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates' closer who was non-tendered two weeks ago today, becomes the fourth addition to the DC bullpen this winter, along with left-handers Doug Slaten and Eddie Guardado and right-hander Brian Bruney. Having also added Marquis to the starting rotation, and brought in Rodriguez as insurance behind the plate, the DC GM told Sirius/XM MLB Home Plate hosts Rob Dibble and Jody McDonald in an interview on their show, "The Show", that the Nationals weren't done improving their roster:
"...we're not finished yet, we still have a lot of moves to do to get to where we want to be as a franchise, but we're certainly looking towards 2010, but I also always have an eye toward 2010 and beyond, so we're going to be active in the market, be it the free agent market, the trade market, waiver claims, any which way that we can acquire the talent that brings us to become a viable championship type of organization and franchise, we're going to do it..."
Another starting pitcher...a middle infielder? Maybe an international free agent?
In the most recent edition of MLB.com's Bill Ladson's "Inbox: How much will Pudge play in '10", Mr. Ladson says he has, "...to believe the Nationals are serious," about signing international free agent Aroldis Chapman, a 21-year-old Cuban-born left-hander who'll cost the Nationals nothing but (a substantial amount of) cash, but will give the team two young promise-filled starters along with '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg. As for veteran starters, Mr. Ladson says, "The (John) Smoltz buzz hasn't gone away," referring to rumors of the Nationals' interest in the former Atlanta Braves' right-hander, but Mr. Ladson thinks that Washington should, "...try to convince Jon Garland to come on board." Both starters have been linked to the Nationals this winter, and both are still available as December comes to an end, but the biggest question remaining for Washington has to do with who'll be playing up the middle defensively when the season starts.
As of now, the Nationals seem willing to go into the 2010 campaign with rookie infielder Ian Desmond at short and Cristian Guzman switching over to second, but Mr. Ladson writes, as he has for weeks, that he, "...still find(s) it hard to believe that Guzman will play second base,":
"I still think Orlando Hudson has a chance to come to Washington. We'll see."
A day after publishing the latest edition of his "Inbox", Mr. Ladson took to his Twitter feed to update the oft-rumored interest in Hudson on the Nationals' part:
"The Nationals still have interest in 2B Orlando Hudson. If they sign Hudson, Cristian Guzman most likely will go back to shortstop."
Signing Hudson would guarantee that the Nationals would start Ian Desmond in the minors since Guzman's $8M dollar salary this season makes him virtually untradeable. John Smoltz wants to play somewhere where he'll have a chance to win late in his Hall-of-Fame-career, but his name keeps coming up in discussions of the Nationals' search for another starter. Jon Garland reportedly wants to pitch for a team on the West Coast. Aroldis Chapman is sure to draw interest from all of the big-spending teams in baseball...Can Mike Rizzo's roll continue? Can he convince another starter to believe in the direction he's leading the organization? Can Rizzo convince the Nationals' owners to spend the money it will take to bring in Chapman? In his first winter at the helm, Rizzo's off to a good start, and while the moves likely won't turn the Nationals into contenders next season, the new DC GM has already clearly changed the way players think about committing to Washington. What will Rizzo do next?
In Rizzo We Trust.