The Nationals did not offer contracts to Spivey or reliever T.J. Tucker, though Tucker (who is still recovering from major elbow surgery) has signed a minor league deal to remain with the organization. . . .
Carroll's return was less certain because it appeared he was getting squeezed out of a job this winter with the acquisitions of Soriano, Marlon Anderson and Damian Jackson.
The popular infielder, though, has long been one of manager Frank Robinson's favorite players and according to club sources has been offered a one-year contract worth about $600,000 to return for his fourth full season with the franchise.
I thought Carroll was a goner. For one thing, Jim Bowden brought in Damian Jackson (former Red!) to handle a utility infielder role; for another, Marlon Anderson and now Alfonso Soriano can play second base, which is where Carroll saw much time last season in place of a gimpy Jose Vidro. Beyond that, I suspected (wrongly, as it appears) that Bodes would bring in a veteran non-roster invitee to fill the twenty-fifth slot on the active roster---maybe an extra veteran utility man like Mike Mordecai or an extra down-on-his-luck veteran righty pinch-hitter like Brian Jordan.
Instead, it would seem that Carroll, who quickly established himself as a favorite in the Natosphere and within the larger fanbase despite a generally anemic offensive performance, himself will seal the active roster as the twenty-fifth man. Assuming so (and assuming an eleven-man pitching staff), here would be the Nats' bench:
- Marlon Byrd
- Marlon Anderson
- Damian Jackson
- Robert Fick
- Winner of back-up catcher derby
- Jamey Carroll
In other tender-related news, the Nats non-tendered elbow surgery recoveree T.J. Tucker but signed him to a minor league contract, which not only retains Tucker's services but also opens up a slot on the forty-man roster for now. In addition, Tony Armas rejected the Nats' arbitration offer on Monday, but it is thought that the two sides would agree to an incentive-laden deal by the January 8 deadline; otherwise, Armas would be ineligible to agree to terms with the Nats until May 1, effectively ending his tenure with the franchise.
[UDPATE] The Associated Press has published the complete list of non-tender free agents, including two other Nats: perenially injured Alex Escobar and Japan-bound Rick Short.
It's tough to be incredibly sanguine about the Nats picking off a gem or two from this non-tender list, as the pickings are rather slim. Keeping in mind that the Nats are most interested in acquiring starting rotation and bullpen depth, here are the most interesting or noteworthy non-tenders:
--> Josh Fogg, starting pitcher (Pirates): Maybe the biggest name on the list, Fogg has regressed since a promising 2002 debut. Neither his traditional pitching line nor his peripheral stats (e.g., his strikeout rate) heralds tremendous success, or perhaps even competence, in the future.
--> Wade Miller, starting pitcher (Red Sox): Another big name, Miller has a far better track record than Fogg, but is coming off two injury years and is no certainty of being healthy in 2006. Miller underwent labrum surgery in late September and can't be reasonably considered the type of pitcher in which the Nats would risk a guaranteed contract.
--> Ryan Franklin, starting pitcher (Mariners): Another name baseball fans recognize, Franklin would probably just as soon defer his notoriety, which was gained after he was suspended for violating the league's drug policy in August. Franklin is durable, if nothing else, having average 200 innings pitched the past three seasons. For this reason, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that Franklin could be a hot free agent commodity if non-tendered. (Franklin became disposable when the Mariners signed Jarrod Washburn.) This might mean that Franklin, believe it or not, could be priced out of the Nats' plans; given that he's almost entirely mediocre, this might not be an unwelcome development. I suspect we can do better.
--> Dewon Brazelton, starting pitcher (Padres): The third pick in the 2001 draft, Brazelton's performance fell apart last season, and the Devil Rays traded him to San Diego for another failed prospect, Sean Burroughs. Brazelton is a project for a team with the ability to take on one, or at least to hide him. For what it's worth, the Padres will attempt to sign Brazelton to a minor league deal. At any rate, while he's interesting, Brazelton wouldn't be filling the fourth or fifth starters' spots in Washington.
--> Lance Carter, relief pitcher (Devil Rays): A 2003 Scott Cooper all-star, Carter is a wholly unimpressive pitcher whose strikeout rate has reached dangerous and ridiculous lows (fewer than four punch-outs per nine innings in '05). The Nats already have better options out of the bullpen. [NOTE: Carter has apparently re-signed with the Devil Rays.]
--> Jim Brower, relief pitcher (Braves): Brower is a veteran workhorse reliever---sort of the equivalent of an innings-eating starter---and the type of guy who can and has clocked in for 90-100 innings out of the bullpen. He had a horrendous first half of the '05 season with the Giants and, while he stabilized somewhat, wasn't tremendously better after the Braves picked him up. (The Braves actually waived Brower but brought him back again, in time to place him on the postseason roster.) Brower's walk rate ticked up a bit, and his homer rate rose a bit more. That said, his strikeout rate actually rose, rather than tanked, and he looked fine in five scoreless postseason innings for the Braves. I wouldn't object if the Nats were to give Brower a go; he could be a prime bounce-back candidate.
--> Ramon Ortiz, starting pitcher (Reds): There's a pretty decent chance that the Nats will express interest in Ortiz, since he'll be inexpensive and there will be optimism that a pitchers' park like RFK will contain Ortiz's taterific ways. I wouldn't go for that: his strikeout rate has dipped to a near-untenable level, and even if he were to use RFK to his advantage, Ortiz would still have to pitch about half his games on the road. And he's surrendered homers everywhere he's been.
--> Dan Kolb, relief pitcher (Braves): Uh, yeah!
Other names of note: Eddy Rodriguez, Orioles reliever (decent at times in '04 MLB debut); Chad Bradford, Red Sox reliever (recovering from injury, killed by lefties); Willie Harris, White Sox utility man (more second basemen! more! more!; Shawn Camp, Royals reliever (decent in '04); Joe Borowski, Devil Rays reliever (former Proven Closer(tm)); Trever Miller, Devil Rays reliever (viable LOOGY complement to Eischen should the Nats not bring back Mike Stanton or place trust in Bill Bray); Wes Obermuller, Braves reliever (had one win in '05: May 17 vs. Nats); Jose Acevedo, Rockies swingman (homer prone but nifty K/BB ratios---RFK candidate?); Jason Phillips, Dodgers catcher, Miguel Olivo, Mariners catcher (yet more back-up catcher options?); and Endy Chavez, Phillies outfielder/inning-ender (ha ha!).