When the Washington Nationals drafted College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper and immediately announced they would turn him into an outfielder, Nats' Director of Scouting Kris Kline told reporters in a post-selection press conference that the then-17-year-old slugger reminded him of a mix of two players, one a one-time Montreal Expos' prospect who ended up having quite a successful career in the majors and the other another 1st Round pick (though 5th overall to Harper's no.1):
Kris Kline: "For me...I don't like to place expectations on guys, but when you see players you compare them to different guys that you've seen over the years, and the more players you see the larger your database is, but for me, he looks, if he's in right field, it's maybe a cross between a Larry Walker-type guy, a little bit of J.D. Drew the way his hands work through the zone..."
According to newly-signed free agent bench-bat, Matt Stairs, the Nats already have a Larry-Walker-type right fielder on the roster...
In a section of Boston Globe.com writer Nick Cafardo's weekly Sunday column Baseball Notes, this week entitled, "Papelbon is all business, and so are the Sox," which is subtitled, "Journeyman eager to keep on swinging", the 42-year-old Stairs, (another former Montreal Expo along with Walker) who's seen his share of prospects over the course of his 18-year-MLB career, says that before Bryce Harper ever arrives in D.C., the Nats have, in his former Phillies' teammate Jayson Werth, the kind of player who'll help change the Nationals' fortunes:
"Stairs reunites with former Phillies teammate Jayson Werth, who he says 'is one of the few five-tool athletes out there. The last one I saw before Jayson was Larry Walker. Jayson can do just about everything on the baseball field. He’s a game-changer. Very committed to the game.'’’
• Though the Nats lost out on the Zack Greinke trade front when the 27-year-old former Cy Young award-winner reportedly rejected a trade to the nation's capital and was dealt to Milwaukee, the Boston Globe's Mr. Cafardo says Washington may have inked a starter who will make a difference in 2010 earlier this week, when the Nationals' re-signed former NY Yankees' sinker-baller Chien-Ming Wang to a one-year/$1M dollar incentive-based deal.
NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman found an article in the Taipei Times entitled, "Wang signs a new one-year contract with Nationals", that he wrote about yesterday in a post entitled, "Wang, Antonelli & the GIBBYs", which breaks down Wang's deal with Washington (which could earn the right-hander up to $4M more if he can make it back to the mound):
"Wang will be paid US$250,000 if he stays on the 25-man roster for more than 30 days, a further US$250,000 if he stays for 30 more days, and an additional US$250,000 if he stays for another 30 days after that, according to the contract.
"The incentives will be based on how many games Wang appears in as a starting pitcher. He will earn an extra US$100,000 for between 10 and 19 games, US$150,000 for between 20 and 21 games, US$200,000 for his 22nd starting job and US$300,000 for between 23 and 27 games.
"Wang will receive as much as US$600,000 if he wins any MLB award, including US$200,000 for the Comeback Player of the Year award."
According to Mr. Cafardo, that last clause might not be as much of a stretch for the pitcher to reach as some who waited as Wang rehabbed for the entire 2010 season on a 1-year/$2M dollar deal with the Nats and wondered if he'd ever return, might believe:
"He won 19 games twice for the Yankees and then suffered foot, hip, and shoulder injuries. He had capsule repair on his throwing shoulder by Dr. James Andrews and has come back to what is described as '95 percent' by one baseball official."
As Mr. Cafardo writes and the Taipei Times' article pointed out, Wang, who had other offers from other teams around the league, decided to return to the Nats because he, "...felt loyalty to Washington for covering his medical expenses," last season. As Wang's agent said in the Taipei Times' article, "'Wang has expressed gratitude to the Nationals for its recognition and confidence in his ability.'"
"At the instructional league his stuff was called "filthy’’ by those in the Nationals organization," Mr. Cafardo continues. The pitcher told the Taipei Times' reporter that, "...he should be able to return in April or May next year."
The Nats, of course, can't count on Chien-Ming Wang being the solution to the problems with their rotation caused by Stephen Strasburg's elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery, but their options are severly limited with Cliff Lee, Greinke and others now off the market. The Nats have been tied by rumors/anonymous sources to former Twins' starter Carl Pavano, but as the Boston Globe's Mr. Cafardo points out, any team looking to add the soon-to-be-35-year-old right-hander, "...needs to pony up a three-year deal in the $36 million range. That could be Washington, Minnesota, Texas, or Milwaukee."
Probably not Milwaukee now, Mr. Cafardo clearly wrote this before the Royals/Brewers trade went down. What other options remain? Brandon Webb, who's coming off a shoulder injury which has cost him the last two seasons? Matt Garza from the Rays, whose GM told TampaBay.com writer Marc Tompkin in an article this weekend entitled, "Rays - still - not looking to deal a starter", that having too many starters is not a problem that really concerns him? The market's not as flush as it once was, and the Nats have already made several attempts to add a starter. They still need a first baseman, and they could use another outfielder who can challenge those on the roster for playing time. Nats' skipper Jim Riggleman has hinted that a relief arm would be a welcome addition. The Nats cut a lot of payroll this winter, and thus have a lot of money to spend, but you can't always buy your way out of problems, sometimes you just have to wait...but for the first baseman, really don't wait too much longer, Nats.