A busy Thursday in NatsTown started with SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) on Twitter confirming reports that the Nationals were interested in former Cubs' first baseman Derrek Lee, with Mr. Heyman writing that "the #nationals, whose gm mike rizzo loves defense, are very much in on d. lee." FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal(@ Ken_Rosenthal) followed that up with a report via Twitter which had the, "[Oakland] A's in serious discussions to get [Josh] Willingham from #Nationals." As A's GM Billy Beane confirmed in a teleconference after the trade went down, Oakland had inquired about Willingham's availability previously, before they went ahead and made a trade with Kansas City for outfielder David DeJesus.
FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal reasoned in an article following up on the initial report entitled, "A's in talks with Nats for Willingham", that the Nationals' motivation in dealing the 31-year-old Willingham was "...to clear payroll for other moves," with targets such as Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, Adam LaRoche and D. Lee mentioned as possibilities, but that's all speculation, the fact that the Nats were in the process of dealing Willingham was soon confirmed, and though the names were withheld at first, Mr. Rosenthal knew the Nats, "would receive two minor leaguers from the A’s."
In a teleconference this afternoon with members of the D.C. press corps, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo rejected the talk about clearing payroll, however, telling reporters including Nats Insider.com's Mark Zuckerman, (who transcribed the comments in a post entitled, "Rizzo, Beane, Willingham speak"), that it wasn't the motivation behind the moves, or as he put it, "'The decision to trade Josh was not based on his salary or on money whatsoever." Rizzo said the Nats spent a lot of time scouting the two players they acquired from Oakland, right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez, a 23-year-old late-inning option who's reportedly reached triple digits with his fastball while struggling with control, who Rizzo said would likely start the 2011 season in the Nats' pen (and not just cause he has no options, though he doesn't) and '07 1st Round pick (compensation round, actually) Corey Brown, a 25-year-old outfielder, who's posted a .272/.359/.497 slash line with 83 doubles, 21 triples, 65 HR's, 243 RBI's and 48 stolen bases in 390 games over four minor-league seasons in the A's system, and is headed for Triple-A where he struggled last season in 41 games.
(ed. note - "Federal Baseball.com's commenters provide everything you wanted to know about Brown and Rodriguez HERE in the comments section from the original trade post, which includes several detailed scouting reports.")
Having traded the Hammer, who made $4.6M last season and was headed for arbitration, (though he said recently through his agent that he'd like to sign an extension to remain in D.C.), the Nationals moved on to negotiations with Chien-Ming Wang, the one-time Yankees' right-hander who signed a 1-year/$2M dollar deal last winter, agreeing on a deal this time around with a "$1M base," that provides a, "Chance to earn a total of $5 million, including incentives," as FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, who was on top of his game today reported via Twitter (@Ken_Rosenthal).
The Nats' GM is still looking for starting pitching and a first baseman according to various reports. Barring any other moves he suggested that a platoon of Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse in left could replace the production they'd previously received from the position. Left-handed hitting free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche was reportedly close to a deal with the Orioles earlier today, but an Orioles source told MLB.com writer Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) that they were, "very interested in LaRoche," but, "Not closing in on a deal yet," with the 31-year-old 7-year vet, who's reportedly looking for a three-year deal. According to SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman), D.Lee is, "...telling teams he'd consider 1 yr bids after thumb injury opening day spoiled last yr (.774 OPs lowest since '90s)."
While the Nats can sign a free agent first baseman, their options when it comes to starters appear to be limited to the trade market, and a report tonight by FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi made that possibility even more difficult as he revealed, in an article entitled, "Details on Greinke’s no-trade clause", that Washington is one of 15 teams on 27-year-old Royals' right-hander Zack Greinke's no-trade list, meaning the former Cy Young award winner can block a deal to the Nats if he doesn't want to play in the nation's capital. Tampa Bay Rays' right-hander Matt Garza has no such clause in his contract, however, and as Mr. Morosi writes, the Nats have shown interest in both starters this winter.
In an article by Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell entitled, "It's hot stove time, and it's not too early to worry about the Nationals", before the Winter Meetings began, Mr. Boswell wrote that "The Nats' best hope for a reasonably constructive winter is Rizzo's history of thinking outside the box and running silent until he's ready to act." No one in baseball saw the Jayson Werth deal coming. The Willingham deal was a little more predictable, with several beat writers in D.C. aware something was in the works. Rizzo's next move? Do the Nats trade Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann as part of a package for a starter? Do they sign LaRoche or Lee, or trade for a 1B? Would Zack Greinke accept a trade to Washington? What will he Rizzo next? The D.C. GM's got the entire baseball world wondering...