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12/15/07 Is Mark Prior A Good Fit For The Nationals?

     MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported yesterday, in his washington.nationals.mlb.com article entitled, "Source says Nats eyeing Prior, Jennings", that the Nationals were in the preliminary stages of interest in the services of free agent pitchers Mark Prior and Jason Jennings.

      Jason Jenning's name has been bandied about for weeks now, but it was the Chicago Cubs non-tendering of Mark Prior that has teams across MLB scrambling to check the medical reports of the twenty-seven year old right-hander who has, so far in his career, amassed a (42-29) record with a 3.51 ERA over five injury-riddled Major League seasons out of Wrigley.

     The Cubs seem to have decided they couldn't wait for Prior to get healthy, or at least not at the salary he was due to make, in the hopes that he would once again become the staff ace who pitched in 211.1 innings during the '03 season and posted an (18-6) record with a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts of what was his second season in the bigs.  

     2004 started with Mark Prior on the DL for two months with what AP Sports Writer Rick Gano describes, in his game recap from 6/4/04 at yahoosports.com of the Cubs 2-1 loss to the Pirates, as, "...Achilles tendon and elbow soreness." Prior finished '04 (6-4) in 21 starts over which he put up an elevated 4.02 ERA in 118.2 innings.

     2005 didn't go much better for Mark Prior. After being struck on the elbow by a line drive off the Rockies' Brad Hawpe's bat on May 31st, which resulted in a fractured bone in his pitching arm, Prior missed a month, and returned on June 26th to pitch a one-hit shutout of the cross-town rival White Sox. Prior finished out the '05 season, going (11-7) in 27 starts with a 3.67 ERA in 166.2 innings.

     The '06 season didn't start for Prior until June 19th after he missed the first two months with a strained right shoulder, and over the next two months, Prior was (1-6) in 9 starts with a bloated 7.21 ERA in 43.2 innings of work. After his ninth start the year on August 10th of '06, Prior went on the DL with right elbow tendinitis that ended his season.

     Prior, at 26, finally underwent surgery on his right shoulder after injuring it again in April of '07, and after rehab, it was thought that Prior would be back in 2008. But as the Winter months go by, there is still no definitive word on when Prior could return.

     Mark Prior, "made $3.575 million in 2007," according to mlb.com's Carrie Muskat's article, "Cubs bid farewell to Prior, retain Cotts", at chicago.cubs.mlb.com, and, according to the article, Prior was, "arbitration-eligible..." and due to become, "...a free agent after the 2008 season." The Cubs, therefore decided to make Prior a free agent immediately and possibly negotiate along with the rest of the Major League teams.

     When the Nationals first brought up Jason Jennings, his name was linked with Livan Hernandez and Bartolo Colon as potential veteran arms targeted for a one-year deal. Jennings, 28, made $5.5 million in '07 pitching for the Astros in 18 games with a (2-9) record and 6.45 ERA. Hernandez, 32, pitched for the D-Backs for $7.0 million, going (11-11) with a 4.93 ERA in 33 starts, and his last two seasons in DC, Livan made $8 million a year, while last year Colon made just 18 starts in which he went (6-8) with a 6.34 ERA for a cool $16 million...

     Are any of these starters a better deal than Mark Prior? Jason Jennings could probably be had for less, since he's coming off surgery, and there's no way Colon gets anywhere close to $16 million, right?... So what is Prior worth? Livan Hernandez reportedly wants more than a one year deal? The Nationals are going to pay John Patterson, who has struggled with injuries nearly as much as Prior, a salary of $850,000 in '08...RUMOR has it Prior turned down a one-year incentive-laded deal with an option for a second year?...Is a two-year deal at $3.5-$4 million for Prior completely ridiculous?...

*Mark Prior/Nationals Links*

mlb.com's Carrie Muskat's article, "Cubs bid farewell to Prior, retain Cotts" at chicago.cubs.mlb.com:

http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071213&content_id=2324734&vkey=news_chc&a mp;fext=.jsp&c_id=chc

mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Source says Nats eyeing Prior, Jennings", at washington.nationals.mlb.com:

http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071214&content_id=2326982&vkey=ne ws_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was

AP Sports Writer Rick Gano's "Game Recap" of the 6/4/04 Pittsburgh Pirates vs Chicago Cubs game:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=240604116

Mark Prior's career stats at the baseballcube.com:

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/P/mark-prior.shtml