Wire Taps: Washington Nationals' Franchise History - Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn.

"Sign Adam Dunn!" the 2003 version. Montreal Expos fans salute their big middle-of-the-order-bat Vladimir Guerrero in his last at bat in front of the hometown Olympic Stadium fans.

For months now or almost a year actually, since Adam Dunn first talked about his distaste for two-year deals because of the way they inherently led to questions, discussions and speculation about trades and free agency that the 30-year-old middle-of-the-Nats'-order slugger would rather not entertain, a familiar narrative for fans of this franchise has played out in the press with rumors and intrigue emerging from, most believe, the Nats' front office and the soon-to-be free agent first baseman/future DH's camp as both sides attempt to establish the 38-40 HR-a-year threat's value since the Nats couldn't work out a trade at either the Non-Waiver or Waiver deadlines, and once the 2-year/$22M dollar contract with Washington expires Dunn becomes a free agent after another big offensive year. But Dunn's story, with recent rumors describing a rift amongst the Nats' executives over what to do with their big bat, is nothing compared to what took place in the winter of 2003, when the Montreal Expos' home grown superstar Vladimir Guerrero was allowed to walk away from the franchise. (ed. note - "Don't worry, this eventually involves the Nationals, just wait til the next paragraph.")

San Francisco Chronicle writer John Shea wrote back in May of 2003, in an article entitled, "Will Giants chase Guerrero? / Alou might give them edge if they bid for coveted free agent", as Guerrero was just picking up steam on his way to a .330/.426/.586 season, that there were reasons why the cash-strapped franchise might not be able to keep the 28-year-old outfielder, who, "would have to turn away from the comfort of the Expos," for the Giants to get an opportunity to sign him since the first international franchise in the majors, "...might stay another year in Montreal or relocate, perhaps to Washington D.C., where new owners would be obligated to re-sign Guerrero to avoid a public-relations nightmare with their new fan base."

Mr. Shea's colleague at the San Francisco Chronicle, Bruce Jenkins, one-upped Mr. Shea in the conspiracy-game eight months after the initial speculation about the Expos' outfielder's destination and a month before Guerrero would sign with the Anaheim Angels, writing in an article entitled, "Texas' Hicks can trigger falling of dominoes", about how the Rangers' owner could steer the prize free agent to Baltimore since Major League Baseball wanted Guerrero out of Montreal, which would leave the team, "...penniless, hopeless and thus a really wonderful puppet for its owners -- Major League Baseball," who could then (This isn't a blog either? Did blogs exist in 2004?) steer Guerrero to Baltimore, to "appease", "...Orioles owner Peter Angelos [who] has been a major roadblock in baseball's plan to move the Expos to the Washington, D.C." Whatever machinations occurred to bring about the desired result, Vladimir Guerrero did walk away from Montreal, and when he signed with the Anaheim Angels, the Expos/Nationals, who hadn't offered the perennial All-Star arbitration claiming his back was a concern (considering what he would be awarded), received no compensation, unlike when the next big-middle-of-the-order bat, Alfonso Soriano, departed for Chicago. 

Throughout the Dunn discussions, the two draft picks the Nats received in the '07 Draft as compensation for Soriano signing with Chicago have been held up as an example of how letting Dunn walk would be acceptable if the Nationals could get the equivalent of the two players they drafted with the so-called Soriano picks. (ed. note - "No one really calls them that.") In an article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson from October 2006 entitled, "Soriano, Armas file for free agency", the then-team President Stan Kasten explained the Nats' decision to let Soriano become a free agent after they had failed to find an adequate return at that year's deadline and decided against trading their 40-40-40 outfielder (HR's, SB, 2B): 

"'We love Alfonso, and we are certainly going to continue to explore having him back, but we have always known that if we didn't have him back, we would have two very, very important picks,' team president Stan Kasten said early this week. 'We need to build up our [farm] system. Either way, we feel very comfortable.'"

Sound familiar? D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, in an early August interview when asked if they had to sign Dunn once they had failed to trade him, that the Nats, "...like Adam Dunn. We like him around here. But the worst-case scenario is, we get two first-round draft picks for him. And that's very exciting to me. Being a scouting guy and an ex-scout, that's very exciting to me." When Soriano eventually signed with the Cubs for 8-years/$136 million, MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote, in another article entitled, "Nationals to move on without Soriano", that the left fielder had, "...wanted to stay with the Nationals because of the friendships he made and how comfortable he was in Washington," just like Guerrero had wanted to remain comfortable in Montreal.

"'We wish Alfonso nothing but the best,'" then-D.C.-GM Jim Bowden told Mr. Ladson, "'But signing Alfonso to that contract would not help the long-term future of the franchise.'" Instead the Nats used the picks they received as compensation to select left-hander Josh Smoker with the 31st pick of the 1st Round and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann with the 67th pick in the 2nd Round, and as Mr. Ladson wrote then, Kory Casto or Ryan Church (Michael Morse) could replace Soriano (Adam Dunn) in left (at first). Five days after the 2010 World Series ends, the Nationals lose the right to exclusively negotiate with Dunn. Whether or not they've already made the decision to keep him or let him walk, who knows? But it's nothing new for this franchise. Which, after the death of the Expos and the move from Montreal to the nation's capital promised a new beginning, is kind of sad.

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