Javier Vazquez, Brandon Webb, Carlos Pena. The three MLB free agents have been tied to the Washington Nationals via rumor and anonymous source throughout the final months of the season and eary this Fall. Vazquez, 34 and coming off another tough run in New York where he experienced a significant loss of velocity and was left off the postseason roster after struggling all season, was said at one time to be on the Nats' radar, but was removed when he signed what is reportedly a one-year deal worth $7M dollars with the Florida Marlins Sunday afternoon.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson had reported via Twitter (@washingnats) last Sunday that the Nationals, "...could make an offer to Vazquez as early as next week." In light of the reports that the one-time Montreal Expos' draft pick signed with Washington's division rivals, (who've already added infielder Omar Infante, catcher John Buck, reliever Mike Dunn and now starter Javier Vazquez), MLB.com's Mr. Ladson reports in an article this week entitled, "Former Nats target Vazquez signs with Marlins", that his sources aren't saying whether or not, "...the Nationals made a fair offer to Vazquez." But they are saying that the team intends to talk to another free agent arm on the market when they get to the Winter Meetings...
Brandon Webb, (whose ties to D.C. GM Mike Rizzo from both men's time in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization have been recounted in every article on the team's interest in the recovering right-hander that has been published in the last few months), is still a target for the Nationals, with MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in another article today entitled, "Nationals to talk Webb deal at Winter Meetings", reporting that, "The Nationals are still strong candidates to acquire Brandon Webb's services, according to a baseball source." Earlier this week, however, another team in the market for starters expressed interest as well.
The Chicago Cubs are one of four, five, or six teams (depending on where you're getting your news) considering taking a chance on the one-time Cy Young Award winner, whose sinking fastball and groundball inducing have been put on hold since a shoulder injury and subsequent shoulder surgery shelved him after just one start in 2009. Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse (@ed_price) was the first reporter to mention the Cubs' interest in Webb this weekend, with FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal (@ken_rosenthal) later confirming he'd heard the same. In Mr. Price's article following up on the Cubs' interest entitled, "Cubs Have Interest in Brandon Webb", he reports simply that a, "...source said the Cubs have been in talks with Webb's agent, Jonathan Maurer." D.C. GM Mike Rizzo expressed interest in Webb during a brief conversation with reporters a few weeks back after the Nats' new jersey unveiling:
Mike Rizzo: "Brandon Webb is one of many people that we're talking to and talking about and looking into. I do have a great relationship with him. I've known him since he was a junior at the University of Kentucky, so we go way back and the guy's won a Cy Young and a couple of second in Cy Young, so he's an accomplished pitcher."
In MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article mentioned above entitled, "Nationals to talk Webb deal at Winter Meetings", Mr. Ladson writes that, "Talks between the two parties are not expected to heat up until the Baseball Winter Meetings," which are just a week away now, and with Webb, two-years-removed from his last regular action the Nats might be able to wait as the free agent starter searches for the best deal available for a 31-year-old one-time ace, but with the search for a first baseman and middle-of-the-order bat, the Nats might want to speed up the process.
Carlos Pena, long-rumored to be the Nats' first choice for a replacement at first and in the middle of their order if the Nationals don't bring back Adam Dunn, has also come up in articles discussing the Cubs' attempts to replace stalwart first baseman Derrek Lee, whose trade to Atlanta ended a 7-year-stay in Chicago. FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi wrote on Twitter (@JonMorosi) Sunday afternoon that the, "Cubs are showing interest in an excellent defensive 1B," while noting in an article on the reports entitled, "Carlos Peña could fit on North Side", that while Chicago has also, "...shown interest in free agent Lance Berkman," a "a major league source" says they're interested in the 32-year-old former Tampa Bay Rays' first baseman as well.
Mr. Morosi reasons that, "Hitter-friendly Wrigley Field would be a favorable landing spot for Peña, particularly if he plans to reestablish his value over a short-term deal," a path which, the FOXSports.com writer points out, Scott Boras' clients have tried before coming off down years. It was Mr. Morosi who reported last week in an article entitled, "Martinez deal has larger implications", that sources were telling him, "...the Washington Nationals aren’t pursuing [Adam Dunn] with much vigor any longer," while ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote in an article entitled, "An important offseason for the Rangers", that, "Some team officials that have talked about Carlos Pena view the Washington Nationals as being the club most enthusiastic about acquiring the first baseman."
The Winter Meeting are just a week away. A starter. A first baseman with a middle-of-the-order-worthy bat. The Washington Nationals are hardly the only team looking for these things. They've all-but allowed Adam Dunn to walk and now missed out on one of the pitchers they'd identified early as a target. How long can they wait to address their obvious needs?