Less than 24 hours after Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell recommended that the Washington Nationals needed to support their general manager as he tries to add a starter and an outfield bat to the team this Winter in an article entitled, "Nationals have more cash coming in, but refuse to spend it", the Nats made a deal for one of the two parts D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said he believes could turn the Nationals into a contender sooner rather than later.
The Nationals couldn't just stand by while players signed elswhere around the league, the WaPost writer suggested, and if the Nats' owners weren't willing to spend on free agents (in spite of an expected increase in tv revenue) they had to trust the man who helped stockpile pitching depth in the organization to deal it for what he felt the Nationals needed. "In baseball," Mr. Boswell wrote, "no pitfall is more common than becoming infatuated with your own young, unproven, inexpensive players," like Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, who are nice prospects, the WaPost writer said, but as yet unproven at the major league level.
By the end of the day only one of those three pitchers, 25-year-old '07 1st Rounder Ross Detwiler, remained on the Nationals' roster...
Peacock, the 23-year-old 2011 Nats' Minor League Player of the Year, Milone, 24, who dominated at Triple-A Syracuse and debuted in Washington in September after three strong years in the Nationals' system, Derek Norris, 22, and Washington's top backstop prospect and 19-year-old 2010 4th Round pick A.J. Cole were dealt to Oakland on Thursday in a deal for 26-year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez.
While the Nationals didn't acquire a proven veteran like Roy Oswalt or Mark Buehrle, two examples of veteran pitchers the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell mentioned, they did make a deal for a pitcher in Gonzalez who has two strong seasons on his resume, is arbitration-eligible for the first time this year and under team control for four more seasons. In 2010, Gonzalez was (15-9) with a 3.23 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 92 BB (4.13 BB/9) and 171 K's (7.67 K/9) in 33 starts and 200.2 IP. The lefty followed that up with a 2011 campaign in which he was (16-12) with a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 91 BB (4.05 BB/9) and 197 K's (8.78 K/9) in 32 games and 202.0 IP.
"When your GM, in two years, has taken your pitching staff from the 28th-best ERA in baseball (5.00) to seventh-best (3.58)," you let him acquire the starter he tells you he needs to go with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and you listen, the WaPost's Mr. Boswell advised, "If your baseball people say: 'We finally have the prospects to trade for a key piece,'" and you say yes and let them make the deal. The Nationals, Mike Rizzo and his front office made the deal they wanted to today.
So what about that outfield bat? Do the Nationals now make the trade for B.J. Upton they've been unable to make for two years? Do they attempt to sign Yoenis Cespedes when he finally becomes available? What about all the rumors that say the Nats are quietly pursuing Prince Fielder, whose list of suitors seems to dwindle every day? Do the Nationals really believe Jayson Werth can play center? Do they really think Bryce Harper's ready for the majors? Do they think a full season of an improved Werth, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and healthy years for Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche will be enough to turn the Nats into contenders? Does the acqusition of Gonzalez today officially signify that the Nationals' front office believes the Nats can compete this season? The Nats' GM's said the goal is to add a prototypical center fielder, a leadoff guy with a high on base percentage.
As the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell wrote yesterday, "... until you make your first moves, you can’t get to the rest of the puzzle." The Nationals' signings of Mark DeRosa (pending a physical) and Mike Cameron gave them some of the bench options they've wanted to add this winter. They have the pitcher to place atop the rotation with Strasburg and Zimmermann as a strong 1-2-3. Can the Nationals now find the bat they need and see if they can compete? Twenty-four hours ago NatsTown was waiting for Mike Rizzo and the Nats to do something. it's now all about what they are going to do next?