• January: In a late '09 interview with Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio host Jim Bowden transcribed by Washington Post D.C. Sports Bog writer Dan Steinberg for an article entitled, "Jim Bowden interviews Stan Kasten", former Nats' team President Stan Kasten told the Nats' former GM when asked if he foresaw, "...a day that the [Washington] Nationals' payroll will be competitive with Atlanta (and) Philadelphia," that, "...unlike a lot of cities that try to build from the ground up," the Washington Nationals are, "...not gonna be like a lot of those other cities who really have limitations on revenue. I think we're a big revenue market ultimately. We're not maybe New York or L.A., but I think we're on that tier right below it, certainly enough to compete with anybody, and I do foresee the day that happens."
The Nationals started the year by surprising most of the baseball world with their pursuit of an international free agent, then-21-year-old Cuban-born left-hander Aroldis Chapman. Talking Baseball's Ed Randall responded to a listener's question at the time about whether or not the Nats were pursuing the triple-digit-fastball throwing phenom by saying that he hadn't, "heard anything about Washington's interest in him." But Mr. Randall explained that he understood why, "...the prospect of having two guys like [Stephen Strasburg and Chapman] in a perfect world of course, at the top of their rotation is really intriguing."
The caller and Mr. Randall noted (as I had mentioned several times throughout the Winter) what I described then as, Rizzo's front office's, "...increasingly familiar quiet public stance on any negotiations (with) or offers," to free agents, international or domestic. "The fact is," Mr. Randall said, "...that the organization seems to finally be getting out of its own way." The Angels, Marlins, Red Sox and Blue Jays were all mentioned as potential suitors for Chapman, who eventually signed with the Cincinnati Reds for 6-years/$30.25 million dollars, but in the wake of the agreement reports emerged that the Washington Nationals had been in it til the end:
• "'We had the second-highest offer on the table,' Rizzo said at one point during our conversation. He paused and added, 'We thought it was first.'" - Source: DC GM Mike Rizzo in Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's additions to Dave Sheinin's original post.
• "The #Nationals offered Aroldis Chapman a five-year, $25 million contract. The team was not willing to go a sixth year." - Source: MLB.com's Bill Ladson via Twitter.
"The Reds would not have been one of the teams I predicted. Frankly, I think they did a great job. " - Source: Nationals' team President Stan Kasten in an article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson entitled, "Nats were in Chapman race until end".
The Washington Nationals missed out on Chapman, but as Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told Washington Post writers Chico Harlan and Thomas Boswell in a co-authored Nationals Journal Post quoted above entitled, "Nats were 'in it to the end' with Chapman [Updated]", it was the, "the front office -- not the Lerners -- drew the line on how much Washington was willing to offer,":
"At a certain price point, the risk-reward wasn't worth it," Rizzo said. "We went up to a price point I was comfortable with, and at the end of the day we fell a bit short."
That was a line (and line of reasoning) Nats fans would hear again as the year came to a close and one of the nation's capital's favorite Nats was allowed to leave via free agency. Back in January 2010, Team President Stan Kasten told WaPost writer Thomas Boswell that the Nationals were willing to compete and spend if necessary for the best available talent, but, "'There's a limit to what you can spend for an [professionally] unproven pitcher,' said Kasten, 'But, as has been the case for quite a while now, whether it has been Teixeira -- or Adam Dunn, Jason Marquis, Pudge Rodriguez and Matt Capps, whom we did sign -- we are competitive [with anybody].'"
The Nationals have spent the last year-plus providing examples their willingness to spend, inking Bryce Harper to the largest contract ever given to a position player in the draft a year after signing Stephen Strasburg to the biggest deal ever given to a pitcher. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's front office's reputation for leak-proof negotiations was further established when the entire baseball world guessed wrong on what the Nats would do with Adam Dunn at the Trade Deadline, and it was cemented with the out-of-nowhere (and out-of-their-minds?) 7-year/$126 million dollar offer to Jayson Werth which brought the former Philadelphia Phillies' outfielder to Washington. The attempt to trade for former Kansas City Royals' ace Zack Greinke, however, called into question Washington's appeal for the top talent in the league when the 27-year-old right-hander used the partial no-trade clause in his contract to block a proposed deal with the Nats that would have sent a package of top prospects to Kansas City. It might take a little longer for Washington to change their reputation, or as the plan has been from the beginning, they'll continue to change it from within first and draw the talent that way. In Rizzo We Trust.
(ed. note - "Aroldis Chapman debuted on August 31st. in 15 appearances and 13.1 IP, the left-hander walked 5 (3.4 BB/9) and K'd 19 (12.8 K/9) after having struck out 125 (11.8 K/9) and walked 52 (4.9 K/9) in 39 games and 95.2 IP at Class-AAA Louisville in the Reds' system, where the 22-going-on-23-year-old lefty gave up 77 H and 46 R, 38 ER.")