Towards the end of a discussion of international free agent success stories and busts, Talking Baseball's Ed Randall took a call from a Washington Nationals fan in New Jersey, (I swear it wasn't me), who wanted to know whether or not the Nationals were in fact legitimate contenders in the race to sign Cuban-born left-handed free agent Aroldis Chapman. The caller's reasoning: The team will be competitive in 2011 and contending in 2012 when Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan and Shairon Martis could form an impressive pitching staff. Throw in Chapman...?
"I've not heard anything about Washington's interest in him," Mr. Randall responded, "but certainly, I'm presuming you're a Nationals' fan, and the prospect of having two guys like that, (Strasburg and Chapman) in a perfect world of course, at the top of their rotation is really intriguing."
The caller, citing what I described last week as the DC GM Mike Rizzo's Front Office's, "...increasingly familiar quiet public stance on any negotiations (with) or offers," to free agents, international or domestic, wonders if the Nationals might not be at work pursuing the 21-year-old left-hander behind the scenes, and jokes (somewhat awkwardly considering the circumstances of the show's being broadcast on XM Radio) about Mr. Randall's colleague on XM's MLB Home Plate, Jim Bowden's tenure as the GM in DC, noting the tremendous change in the perception of the organization and what they've been able to accomplish under Mr. Rizzo.
"We have to mention this," Mr. Randall responds, "and this is not really a defense of Bowden. The fact is that the organization seems to finally be getting out of its own way." "They really had left uncovered, the gold mine of talent that exists in Latin America, in Central America," Mr. Randall continues, "...and now they seem to be spending money to do that, hiring scouts, hiring advisors like Davey Johnson, there was a lot of chaos there, when Jim (Bowden) was there, and even though we now work together on this channel, the fact remains that Rizzo, apparently, is being given assets that were not available to Jim."
"Baseball went through tremendous expense and time to get that franchise back to Washington, D.C. from Montreal," Mr. Randall explains, and he assures the fan, who thinks that the Nationals are finally heading in the right direction, that, "...everybody in baseball at its highest council wants to see the Washington Nationals competitive, because to this point in time they've been an embarrassment."
"They've got, I think, the most underrated third baseman in baseball in the kid Zimmerman," Mr. Randall continues, commenting on the DC franchise's talent,"...we saw Jordan Zimmermann pitch in New York against the Mets on a Sunday before he got hurt and he threw really well. Detwiler's coming, and it's an intriguing thought to imagine Aroldis Chapman joining Strasburg at the top of the rotation. They've signed Jason Marquis, they've brought in 'Everday' Eddie Guardado, a lot of very interesting moves by the Washington Nationals, they've been very active this offseason, which they owe to fans like yourself."
The Washington Nationals signed the Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, to a long-term deal this season, signed No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg to a record-setting contract, and they have the No.1 overall pick in 2010 to look forward to, so can they still afford to sign Aroldis Chapman? Do they owe it to their fans to try?