Sean Burnett became a free agent after he declined the $3.5M option included in the two-year extension the 30-year-old reliever signed with the Washington Nationals in December of 2010. The left-hander had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow after the 2012 season ended and he hit free agency looking for a multi-year deal after putting up a 2.38 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 1.91 BB/9 and 9.05 K/9 over 70 games and 56.2 IP in which he was worth +1.1 fWAR in his sixth major league season. Burnett signed a 2-year/$8M dollar deal with the LA Angels in the first week of December.
In an interview on MLB Network Radio last week, Burnett said he would have preferred to stay with the Washington Nationals he had pitched for since 2009, but when it became clear he wasn't going to return to the nation's capital he said he wanted to find a new team that could contend in 2013. "I was looking forward to staying in D.C. if that was possible," Burnett explained, "and then you know as the process, as the free agent process played itself out, talking to my family, I [got] that little bit of taste of the playoffs last year in Washington [and] I wanted to go to a contender. I just had so much fun, and playing meaningful games late in the year was awesome." Burnett was introduced in LA along with three other new pitchers the Angels added: Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Ryan Madson.
The Nationals non-tendered 30-year-old left-hander Tom Gorzelanny after a 2012 campaign in which the eight-year MLB veteran earned $3M while putting up a 2.88 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 3.75 BB/9 and 7.75 K/9 in 45 games and 72.0 IP over which he was worth +0.2 fWAR working in a long-relief role for the NL East Champions. In explaining the decision to non-tender the veteran reliever who was potentially due a raise in arbitration to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore earlier this winter, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo explained that, "For the amount of money we would have to pay for the role we’re asking him to do, we didn’t think that made sense to us."
The Nationals talked to Gorzelanny about returning, but couldn't reach a deal before they had to make a decision. The reliever reportedly, as Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt wrote this morning, signed a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers though the financial details have not yet been released*. The Nats are still in the market for a left-handed reliever (having already signed Bill Bray and Zach Duke) with free agent J.P. Howell mentioned often as a target. The deals for Burnett and Gorzelanny likely eliminate two teams who were competition in the market for left-handed relievers.
(ed. note - " * = FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi is reporting that sources are telling him, "Tom Gorzelanny's deal with #Brewers will be worth close to $6MM over two years.")
Edwin Jackson was worth +2.7 fWAR in 2012, going (10-11) with a 4.03 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 2.75 BB/9 and 7.97 K/9 while pitching for Washington on a 1-year/$11M dollar deal. E-Jax was allowed to become a free agent for whom the Nationals will receive no compensation in the form of a draft pick since they decided against making a qualifying offer which would have paid the 10-year MLB $13.3M dollars in 2013 had he accepted it. According to a report on Twitter this morning by ESPN.com's Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN), the right-handed starter is close to signing a 4-year/$52M dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs.
The Nationals did make a qualifying offer to first baseman Adam LaRoche after his .271/.343/.510, 35 double, 33 HR, +3.8 fWAR season in D.C., though the nine-year veteran turned it and the $10M dollar option included his contract down after a bounce-back 2012 campaign in the second year of the 2-year/$16M dollar deal he signed with Washington in 2011. Since they made a qualifying offer, the Nationals will receive a compensatory pick in next June's draft should LaRoche sign elsewhere and under the new rules of the CBA the team that signs him will forfeit their 1st Round pick provided it's not a team in the top 10. ESPN.com's Mr. Olney wrote Wednesday that LaRoche, ".. has been sitting on a two-year offer," from the Nationals for weeks, and, "... the fact that he would cost a top draft pick is really hurting him."
Baltimore Sun writer Dan Connolly said much the same in a report earlier this week in which he wrote that the Orioles were interested in signing the 33-year-old infielder to the sort of multi-year deal he was after but were hesitant to part with their 1st Round pick (no.24) since doing so, "... would run counter to executive vice president Dan Duquette’s plan of rebuilding from the draft." The Texas Rangers are also believed to be interested in LaRoche's services. They would forfeit the 25th pick in the 2013 Draft if they did.
The Nationals were willing to take the risk that their Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winning first baseman would accept the 1-year/$13M dollar qualifying offer knowing he was after a multi-year deal and their decision to make the offer and force potential suitors to part with a draft pick could potentially make it more likely that he returns to the nation's capital on the two-year deal they're willing to give him.