Two weeks into the 2010 season, the Nationals have a 7-6 record, their best start in recent memory. Coming off two back-to-back 100 loss seasons, it's important to get off to a good start in April, even if the Nats won't be in playoff contention (and I don't think they will). General Manager Mike Rizzo kept the young core of the team and added veteran players to provide experience and leadership. Let's take a look at how Rizzo's offseason acquisitions are doing so far:
Marquis is a "game changer," at least according to the first Nationals program of 2010. His game sure is changing, but not in a way any of us would like. Entering his 11th season, his career ERA sits at 4.57, but he's pitched just 8.1 innings in three starts, compiling a 20.52 ERA. He's working out some mechanical issues, but the Nationals have shown that they aren't putting up with garbage this season after sending down to the minors following one bad start. Marquis has earned a longer leash, but he better get his act together if he doesn't want to become the highest paid player starting in AAA.
Ivan Rodriguez -- 2 years/$6 million
The best signing of this young season, Rizzo signed Rodriguez to mentor for his young pitching staff and to shore up the Nats defense, not to swing a hot bat. Turns out he leads the National League in batting average (.450) and is slugging .625 so far, while having played in ten of thirteen games -- not bad for a 38-year-old catcher. He's a classy guy and is a lot of fun to watch, if his health holds up. Rodriguez won't lead the NL for much longer, but his career average is still a solid .300 and the experience he brings to the team is invaluable.
Matt Capps -- 1 year/$3.5 million
I thought this was a risky signing, considering that Capps had an awful 2009 in Pittsburgh. Thankfully, Rizzo has once again shown why he's the general manager and I'm a writer -- Capps currently leads the majors with six saves while posting a 1.23 ERA. His WHIP is a bit dangerous at 1.64, but he has managed to get the job done every time his number has been called. He's going to blow a few this year, but overall, another good signing by Rizzo.
Chien-Ming Wang -- 1 year/$2 million
I'm a huge fan of this signing. Wang's rehab has progressed well, so we can expect to see him sometime in May. Wang won 19 games in 2006 and 2007, and while he dealt with injury in 2008 and 2009, a bounce back would make this one of the best signings by Rizzo. If he doesn't, well, $2 million is not a huge loss.
Scott Olsen -- 1 year/$1 million
Another good signing, for largely the same reasons as Chien-Ming Wang. His 2009 season was cut short by a tear in his labrum so the Nats really didn't get to see much from him. He has potential, though, so consider 2010 another audition for Olsen.
Livan Hernandez -- signed to a minor league contract, up to $900,000 in 2010
One of the last moves, Rizzo was betting nobody else would take a chance on him. At 35 years old, he's no spring chicken, but his stats speak for themselves: two starts, two wins (one complete game shutout) and a 0.00 ERA through 16 innings. He's just the kind of veteran the Nats need, along with Pudge, to lead the staff out of the 100-loss abyss.
Adam Kennedy -- 1 year/$1.25 million, $2 million club option in 2011
Kennedy doesn't bring a lot of offense to the table, but his value lies in his ability to play almost anywhere in the field. He's played first, second and third in 2010 but is also able to play in the outfield. His defense is solid, having committed just 111 errors in the twelve seasons since 1999. $1.25 million isn't a bad price to pay for what he offers, and the 2011 option gives the Nats some wiggle room depending on who is called up this season.
Other than Jason Marquis, Mike Rizzo's offseason acquisitions have performed at or above their expected level. I've been very impressed by what the team has put together, though they're going to have to continue to perform at this level if they want to be respected.