The Washington Nationals spent big on Jayson Werth, signed Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term extension and reportedly pursued Zack Greinke and now they're talked about in every free agent conversation.
The Washington Nationals' willingness to spend big money over the last few seasons starting with the 7-year/$126M dollar contract Jayson Werth signed in the winter of 2010; the Nats' reported pursuit of Zack Greinke and rumored extension offer of somewhere around 5-years/$90M dollars; and then the 6-year/$100M extension Ryan Zimmerman signed last Spring, has had an unfortunate side effect. The Nationals are now mentioned in every conversation about every free agent out there from Michael Bourn to Zack Greinke and now even Josh Hamilton. "Unfortunate" that is for fans who often have their hopes inflated (see: Fielder, Prince) and people trying to sort through the rumors and determine what's real and what's bunk...
"Baseball officials still see the Nationals as the favorites for Bourn," CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote last week. The 29-year-old outfielder, who turns 30 in late December, is said to be looking for a multi-year deal worth anywhere from $80-$100 million depending upon what you read, coming off a .274/.348/.391, 26 double, 10 triple, nine home run and 42 stolen base, +6.4 fWAR 2012 campaign with the Atlanta Braves in his seventh major league season. Bourn's been tied to the Nats in part because of their long-standing interest in adding an outfielder (likely a center fielder) and also because of their connection to Bourn's agent Scott Boras.
Zack Greinke rejected the Nats' advances when they talked to him about pitching in Washington back when the Kansas City Royals were shopping the Cy Young Award-winning right-hander around the league. Greinke opted to join the Brewers, but talked openly afterward about how the Nationals' pitch had impressed him. Could the right-hander sign in D.C. and join Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler in what would be one of the best rotations in baseball?
CSN Washington, the Washington Times and the Washington Post's Nats beat writers have all written about the possibility within the last week and when D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was asked about Greinke directly last night he asked reporters, including the WaPost's Adam Kilgore, a question in return, "What's not to like?" Greinke in D.C.? No one's dismissing the possibility...
And now FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal is writing that after talking to numerous sources, one destination keeps coming up in the conversation about potentional homes for Josh Hamilton. "The Nats only will pursue an outfielder if they fail to re-sign free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche and move Michael Morse from left field to first base," the bow-tied FOXSports' reporter notes, and they've been searching for a center fielder for the most part over the last few years, and would seem unlikely to add another $100M contract to the books... BUT... Mike Rizzo, "... figures to at least inquire on right-hander Zack Greinke, a pitcher he tried to obtain in a trade two years ago," Mr. Rosenthal writes, and, "... if the team has the money for Greinke, it almost certainly has the money for Hamilton."
Greinke, a nine-year MLB veteran, is coming off a (15-5) 2012 campaign with the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels in which he posted a 3.48 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 54 BB (2.29 BB/9) and 200 Ks (8.48 K/9) in 34 starts and 212.1 IP, finishing the season at +5.1 fWAR. Hamilton put up a .285/.354/.577 line with 31 doubles and 43 HRs in 148 games and 636 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers in a +4.4 fWAR season.
FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal mentions Philadelphia, Seattle and Baltimore in addition to Washington as potential destinations for Hamilton. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked openly with reporters including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak this week, about the Nats' desire to add a "qualified and impactful" starter to the rotation. The Nats' GM's description of what they're looking for and his comments about Greinke now and two years back would lead one to believe that the Nationals will at least consider the possibility. Bourn might make sense if the Nats are still looking for a center fielder/leadoff man. Hamilton? At 7-years/$175?