Livan Hernandez #61 and Ivan Rodriguez #7 may have played their last games for the Washington Nationals this past September. Both are now free agents who aren't considered likely to return to the nation's capital. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
• Arbitration Offers: MLB teams had until midnight on Wednesday (the 23rd) to offer arbitration to their free agents. There were no compensatory picks tied to any of the Washington Nationals' free agents: Livan Hernandez, Pudge Rodriguez, Rick Ankiel, Jonny Gomes, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora or Laynce Nix. Decisions made by other teams that will or could affect the Nationals' plans this winter? The Philadelphia Phillies declined to offer 34-year-old right-hander Roy Oswalt arbitration after they'd previously declined his option for the 2012 season, so the team that takes a chance on the balky-backed right-hander won't have to give the Phillies any compensatory picks.
Oswalt is rumored to be second on the list of veteran pitchers the Nats want to add as a stabilizing, reliable force in their relatively-young rotation. The Chicago White Sox offered free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle arbitration. The 32-year-old left-hander is reportedly the Nationals' top target. Buehrle was a Type-B free agent in this, the last year of the Elias Rankings playing a role in free agency, so he wasn't going to cost the team that signed him picks anyway, but the Sox did have to offer arbitration, which Buehrle's expected to decline, in order to get compensatory picks.
• Speaking of Buehrle:
Washington Nationals' closer Drew Storen was asked about the possibility of the Nats landing Buehrle during an interview on MLB Network Radio this past Tuesday. The 24-year-old, Brownsburg, Indiana-born '09 1st Round pick told hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern he'd welcome the opportunity to learn from the veteran starter. "Obviously, I would love to have a guy like Buehrle added to the pitching staff," Storen said, "He's a veteran guy that's a proven winner and he's there year in and year out."
"I think he could really help out some guys on our pitching staff," Storen said, "Including myself. I'm always excited to be around veteran guys and kind of picking their brain as to how they go about their business, so obviously he would be a great addition to our team." Storen was also asked about recent comments by D.C. GM Mike Rizzo in a Nationals Journal story by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in which the Nats' general manager shot down rumors of the Nats' interest in acquiring potential closers (Ryan Madson) by explaining that, "'We have a big closer already.'"
"Like I said when the trade deadline went this year, I want to be in D.C.," Storen said when asked about the quotes from the Nats' GM, "I signed up to be here for the long haul to see this thing turn over, so I was very relieved to read that and I know things can change, but my heart's in D.C. and that's where I want to be."
Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos made his 2011 Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional debut with the Tigres de Aragua this past Tuesday, going 0 for 5 with 2 K's as the Tigres' DH. On Wednesday night Ramos was 3 for 5 with an RBI and 2 K's and the right-handed hitting and throwing catcher was 1 for 4 on Thursday. Stats obviously don't matter much for the catcher whose return to the field after a harrowing kidnapping ordeal is the big story, but Ramos is down there playing in his home country to stay in shape and work on his swing. The 24-year-old catcher has been the DH for the Tigres in all three games thus far.
With Pudge Rodriguez likely to find a new home via free agency and the top backstop prospect in the Nats' organization, Derek Norris likely to move up to Triple-A Syracuse after spending the entire 2011 season at Double-A Harrisburg, Jesus Flores' return to form could be an important storyline going forward. The 27-year-old '06 Rule 5 pick finally returned to the field this season after two years spent recovering from shoulder injuries. After going 1 for 4 Thursday night, Flores has a .381/.415/.603 slash with 10 doubles, six HR's and 27 RBI's in 33 games and 126 at bats for the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional's Navegantes del Magallanes. Last year in Venezuela, Flores posted a .322/.365/.460 line with six doubles, two HR's and 16 RBI's in 25 games and 87 at bats.
If Flores can come back healthy enough to serve as Ramos' backup, he could provide the Nats with a strong backstop tandem and increase his value should the Nats decide to trade one of their catchers down the line.