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The NL East's Arms Race...Can The Washington Nationals Keep Pace With The Division.

...The World Champion Phillies lost 31-year-old left fielder Pat Burrell, (who hit for a .250 AVG with 33 doubles, 33 HR's and 87 RBI's in his ninth season last season in Philadelphia), to free agency, and today, according to writer Marty Noble's article, "Phillies, Ibanez agree on three-year deal", Philly signed free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez, 36, who hit .293 in a full 162 with Seattle in '08 and collected 43 doubles, 23 HR's and 110 RBI's...The Phillies also made a below the radar deal for catcher Ronny Paulino, sending C Jason Jaramillo to the Pirates...

...Atlanta lost three starters, legendary Braves, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine and oft-injured left-hander Mike Hampton...So far this winter, they've acquired Javier Vazquez, and they've aggressively pursued free agent A.J. Burnett, while also spending several weeks in negotiations with San Diego, trying to acquire Padres' righty Jake Peavy only to come up short so far in the case of Peavy, and lose out to the Yankees in the bidding for Burnett...

...The New York Mets, having lost Billy Wagner to injury, went out and signed the best closer in baseball, Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez to close out games in the new Citi Field and then they've added Seattle's closer J.J. Putz, (along with outfielder Jeremy Reed and RHP Sean Green), as a set-up man to bridge the gap they so often failed to last season, between their starters and wins...

...Florida's continued their foolproof strategy of collecting the league's best prospects in return for arbitration-eligible players, potential free agents, or expendable, Marlins, shipping former Mets' prospect Mike Jacobs to Kansas City for closer in training Leo Nunez, and trading de facto Marlins' closer Kevin Gregg to Chicago for a pitching prospect, RHP Jose Ceda, who was ranked, according to Juan C. Rodriguez's Florida Sun Sentinel article entitled, "Marlins trade Kevin Gregg to Cubs for Double-A pitching prospect", as, "...the fourth-best prospect in the Cubs system." Mr. Rodriguez's article points to Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects list for the Chicago Cubs, written by Jim Callis, where Mr. Callis also identifies Ceda as having the "Best Fastball" in the Cubbies' system...and don't forget that the Marlins got Emilio Bonifacio for veteran outfielder Josh Willingham and reformed problem-child, 24-year-old lefty Scott Olsen in an early winter deal with Washington...

...Which brings us to the Nationals...As I just mentioned, they flipped Emilio Bonifacio, (acquired from Arizona for Jon Rauch), to Florida for Willingham and Olsen, and now they've offered an enormous contract to free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, with the stated backup plan the pursuit of OF/1B Adam Dunn...They've signed 1B prospect Matt Whitney? Picked RHP Terrell Young in the Rule 5 Draft...Signed Willie Harris...Is that it? Are the Nationals done after that? Was a power hitter the only hole in the 102-loss lineup last year? How about second base? Anderson Hernandez couldn't hang with the Mets...What makes you think he'll stick in DC? How many outfielders does the team plan on carrying? So far I count six...Wily Mo Pena, Austin Kearns, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Josh Willingham and Willie Harris...Granted the way things went last season, 4 of these guys will be injured by April and a Triple-A outfielder will be starting in left...but as has been discussed to death, there's too much money invested in Kearns and WMP to have both coming off the bench...

...and as far as I've read, Washington only has two starters who are "guaranteed" a spot in the starting rotation in '09...with the two most-often mentioned being Scott Olsen and fellow lefty John Lannan...which leaves, by my count, three spots on the mound to be filled from amongst the arms currently on the roster...a list including:

RHP Collin Balester (#3 or #4 in the '09 rotation, my guess)

RHP Tim Redding (trade bait)????(UPDATE: Redding non-tendered???")

RHP Jason Bergmann (not a fly ball pitcher)

LHP Matt Chico (injured)

LHP Ross Detwiler (green)

RHP Shawn Hill (yawns)

RHP Shairon Martis (promising)

LHP Michael O'Connor (gritty)**'s Bill Ladson's post-Winter Meetings article entitled, "Nationals Make Progress in Las Vegas", (ed. note - "Which tellingly, maybe, includes a picture of Adam Dunn, not Teixeira?") talks about the Nationals' Brass having laid, in Asst. GM Mike Rizzo's words, as quoted by Mr. Ladson:

"...some groundwork for a lot of things we could do throughout the winter," Rizzo said. "We worked extremely hard on a lot of different subjects. We feel we came out of here successful. The proof will be in the pudding from the winter until Spring Training."

...but as far as I know, outside of the offer to Teixeira, the only move, actually move, not counting talks with the Rockies, that the Nationals made during the Winter Meeting was to release of reliever Jesus "Everyday" Colome...

...though...Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin's recent Nationals Journal Post entitled, "Nationals Actively Seeking Bullpen Help", alleges that the Nationals have interest in lefty reliever Brian Fuentes, who had been expected to sign with the Mets before they made their recent moves...

Further Reading:

An article by Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman which asks, "Why Teixeira now but not Soriano then?"

Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin's feature article entitled, "Nats, O's waiting for Teixeira's call".

(ed. note - " ** - Copyrighted Complicated Rating System - Still Under Development.)

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