Wire Taps: Washington Nationals - Middle Of The Order Chatter.

Josh Willingham's agent, Matt Sosnick of Sosnick Cobbe Sports, spoke to Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore earlier this week for an article entitled, "Josh Willingham hopes to bypass free agency, stay with the Nationals" in which he spoke about his client's desire to sign a long-term deal to remain in Washington, and he also appeared this week on "The Baseball Show" at Diamond Huggers.com (as MLBTraderumors.com's Luke Adams reported in an article entitled, "Sosnick On Bruce, Willingham, Nolasco, Dunn"), where he talked about each member of the middle-of-the-Nats'-order, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. The agent represents only Josh Willingham, but Mr. Sosnick started talking about the Nats in a story about the Reds' Jay Bruce, another client of his, who apparently almost became the Nats' first 1st Round pick back in 2005.

"The night before the ['05] draft I got a call from Jim Bowden," Mr. Sosnick told "The Baseball Show's" hosts, during which the then-D.C. GM informed him that the Nationals had,  "....narrowed it down to Jay [Bruce] and Ryan Zimmerman for the no.4 pick," and asked  "...what kind of deal would you make?" for the 18-year-old Beaumont, Texas born Westbrook High School outfielder, Mr. Bruce. Mr. Sosnick explained how he'd arrived at a number they'd accept to sign and how Washington's GM, who subsequently decided on the then 20-year-old University of Virginia third baseman, had told him on the morning of the draft that their decision was to go with the player who'd eventually become the Face of the Nats Franchise©, because, "...he's almost big-league-ready right now, we need a third baseman in the big leagues, [and] he's a really good defender," though Mr. Bowden believed both Zimmerman and Bruce would up being solid major leaguers.

The talk then moved to the client of Mr. Sosnick's that is on the Nationals' roster, Josh Willingham, and how his contract situation is connected to the soon-to-be-free agent Adam Dunn's future. Willingham's 2010 season ended early when the 31-year-old outfielder could no longer play through a months-old knee injury which was diagnosed as a medial meniscus tear in Willingham's left knee. "He's fine. He's 100%. He's going to come out and really have a good year next year I believe," Mr. Sosnick said, and though he may be, "A little bit older... he's the exact type of guy that if he's a free agent, he probably gets 3-years and $30 million bucks this offseason." 

"He's a guy that a lot of teams love," Mr. Sosnick said of his client, and he's the sort of player, "...a lot of guys have tried to trade for," including, according to Mr. Sosnick, (who confirms a lot of pre-Non-Waiver Trade Deadline rumors), the San Francisco Giants, who, "...tried to make a hard push for him," this past July. As ESPN.com's Buster Olney's unnamed sources amongst the league's GM's told him earlier this season in an article entitled, "GM confidential: Peer review", the new Nats' GM, Mike Rizzo is known for, "the kind of proposals that just end conversations. They're very one-sided," and Mr. Sosnick says, "...[the Nats] were asking for Jonathan Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner, and the Giants weren't interested."

With Dunn a free agent this year and Willingham set to become one next season, unless the Nats sign him to extension, the Nationals have some decisions to make. As for Dunn, Mr. Sosnicks says, "I would say he's probably going to go to the Cubs, and he'll probably get 3-years and $40 million bucks." Mike Rizzo was just extended for five years, and the Nats' rotation will likely feature, "a really strong 1-2-3," in the next few years, "...but you also have to have hitters," the agent advises, "And you see what's happened before the Giants filled in all these pieces, they were in the same spot, where you can have [Tim] Lincecum, [Jonathan] Sanchez and [Matt] Cain but if you can't score any runs or if you're the Padres and you have this great staff and you can't score runs it doesn't matter. Eventually you get beat 3-1 or 3-2 enough times where it stops your season." Are Dunn and Willingham, both of them over 30-years-old, the answer for a team that feels it will be competitive a few years down the road? And will the two aging players still be productive when that time arrives. That's what D.C. GM Mike Rizzo must decide. 

Asked if it seemed signing Willingham to extension was a "top priority" for the Nats, Mr. Sosnick said, "I don't know, I really don't," but he, "...would guess we would be within 5% probably, between 5% and 10% of what the right number is from our first conversation." 3-years, $30 million for Willingham? 3-years, $45M for Dunn? Will either of these deals actually happen? Or will Hammer play one more year and depart as a free agent or via trade while Dunn finds work elsewhere? Let's just get the World Series over with and get down to business...

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