That was quick. Before most people realized that the Washington Nationals were, according to reports, interested in oft-injured free agent right-hander Justin Duchscherer along with the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles, they were left empty-handed. Late Sunday afternoon, both SI.com's Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) and Baltimore Sun baseball writer Dan Connolly (@DanConnollySun) had reported that the Nats were one of three or four teams that remained possible destinations for the 33-year-old former Oakland A's starter/reliever. MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@washingnats) soon confirmed the Nationals' interest in Duchscherer, who'd made just five starts last season before a hip injury ended his 2010 season, but was impressive enough when on the mound and in recent bullpen sessions, that he had more than one offer on the table last night. Several hours after the intial reports the Seattle Mariners were eliminated, leaving the Nats and O's, according to the Baltimore Sun's Mr. Connolly on Twitter, "as 2 finalists for #Duchscherer," with the Nationals the favorites to land the pitcher. Four hours later Sunday night, however, SI.com's Jerry Crasnick sent the following report out via Twitter:
@jcrasnick: "Justin Duchscherer agrees to 1-year big league deal with #Orioles, pending physical. He could make up to $4.5M in salary & incentives."
According to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli on Twitter (@Britt_Ghiroli), "Duchscherer's agent Damon Lapa said it came down to Os and Nationals, both made strong offers. Orioles other moves 'absolutely' factored in." MLB.com's Bill Ladson spoke to Duchscherer's agent as well, and quoted Mr. Lapa in an article entitled, "Nationals miss out on Duchscherer", saying that both teams had, "offered the opportunity to contribute at the middle to top end of the starting rotation," but, "From [Duchscherer's] perspective, Baltimore presented the best set of factors as far as where he wants to go and pitch."
• Independent View of Nats' Organization:
Baseball America's John Manuel appeared on MLB Network Radio's "Baseball Today" with Holden Kushner (@holdenradio) and Mel Antonen Sunday afternoon, and was asked by a caller to offer his assessment of the Washington Nationals' organization heading into the seventh season since baseball returned to the nation's capital, after they've dedicated themselves to rebuilding the system and seen little progress in the organization (in the caller's opinion) aside from the top picks they've made the last few seasons:
BA's John Manuel: "I know that in 2007, when the Nationals had extra picks, we thought they had a really good draft. In fact, I believe when we did our Draft Report Cards that fall we called it the best draft...because of their depth and we liked some of the younger guys they took*. The thing is all of those guys pretty much flamed out. They took a lot of high school arms that year. I think the only guy that really worked out of that draft, was Jordan Zimmermann. Ross Detwiler's okay, he's got a chance, but other high school pitchers like Jack McGeary and Josh Smoker we were excited about did not pan out.
"One thing, it's not the same as the NFL Draft, but one thing is that when you do draft at the top of the draft every year, you're spending a ton of money on that first pick. They spent $15 million dollars, invested $15 million plus, in [Stephen] Strasburg, right around $10 million on Bryce Harper. Sometimes that makes it harder to keep spending further down the draft. I understand why teams like the Pirates last year, in 2009, take a Tony Sanchez at four overall. If you're not convinced on somebody, then try to have a deeper draft instead of tying up $6 or $7 million in one guy, try to spread their money out among four or five different players. I did like what the Nationals did in 2010 a little bit better. Even though they spent all that on [Bryce] Harper, they did have some other guys, A.J. Cole, Sammy Solis, even Robbie Ray...I'm not a huge Robbie Ray guy, but they did go a little bit deeper in that draft.
"I think [the caller's complaint] is a valid criticism and I know he works there on the network, but I didn't think Jim Bowden did a great job running that franchise. I don't think he did a great job running their scouting and player development, and that was one of the things that got him fired. Obviously the whole "Smiley" Gonzalez shenanigans and that was a joke...You know, Jim's track record in Cincinnati was bad, and when he left, the Reds have gotten better at player development, so I think that's a fair assessment of the Nationals, and I think Mike Rizzo is better scouting and player development than Jim Bowden was and you'll see better results under Mike Rizzo."
* = Radio interference mid-sentence
Mr. Rizzo, himself, said much the same recently in a press conference following the introduction of Adam LaRoche, telling the D.C. press corps he thought, "at least the last two or three drafts have been extremely important for us and impactful for us, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with Kris Klein becoming the scouting director, Roy Clark becoming Assistant GM, these guys are baseball afficionados, they know the game, they know the draft game very well, and it's a unique skill set that they have and it's no coincidence that when those guys were brought in that we've taken off."