Messing with veteran free agents, whether fielders of pitchers, is obviously a risky investment for a rebuilding franchise. Take for example catcher Paul Lo Duca, who signed with the Washington Nationals for 1-year and $5 million dollars, only to suffer a knee injury that required surgery and will keep him out of action through the entirety of Spring Training. If Lo Duca suffers any sort of setback, the time he spends out of the lineup could increase by weeks or months, or not too infrequently an entire season, after which he's again a free agent...
And I know that trading for veterans is just as big a risk, clearly remembering the year that Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez spent on the Montreal Expos' DL after having been acquired in a three-way trade with the Yankees, who sent El Duque to the White Sox who then passed Hernandez on to the Expos along with reliever Rocky Biddle and IF/OF Jeff Liefer, in return for Bartolo Colon and Minor league infielder Jorge Nunez, only to have El Duque then leave via free agency and return to the Yankees the following season.
But when you haven't signed or traded for any new veteran pitching talent, and there is a pitcher who averages well-over 200 innings on the mound per season over 12 MLB campaigns, who flat-out states that he would like to return to your franchise, where he has compiled a (50-33) record with the team over four seasons with 19 complete games, and when he can provide leadership based upon years on the hill and actual playoff experience, (which would prove invaluable to anyone of the starting pitchers currently on the Nationals' roster who have exactly 0.0 IP of postseason experience combined), maybe it's time to sign a veteran free agent pitcher, who goes by the name of Livan Hernandez.
Once known as Mr. National Himself, Livan Hernandez's first go-round with the franchise began with the trade that brought him to Montreal from San Francisco in an otherwise inconsequential deal. Livan led the Expos' and then the Nationals' pitching staffs in wins in each of his three complete seasons on the roster, even starting Washington's first game as a new franchise on the road in Philadelphia on April 4, 2005.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as far back as November 7, 2007, wrote an article entitled, "Glavine and Hernandez show interest", about the mutual interest between the Nationals and Livan Hernandez (who had been rumored all winter to be headed for New York before the Mets dealt for Johan Santana solving all their pitching needs). Mr. Ladson quoted Hernandez at the time, who spoke about his past in DC, saying:
"Every time I go back and play in Washington, the fans are
great. It's amazing. I have a lot of memories there. I
pitched the first game for the Nationals. It's a great city
and they have real baseball fans."
...and at washington.nationals.mlb.com, Bill Ladson, once again mentioned Livan Hernandez's name in response to a question about the possibility of the Nationals signing the right-hander in his 2/4/08 article, "Mailbag: What to do with Johnson", where Mr. Ladson stated:
"Right now, there is no chance of Hernandez coming to the
Nationals. But if he is still unsigned and lowers his price
when Spring Training starts, Hernandez could be a
member of the Nationals."
...and now Bill Ladson is back, just 8 days before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training with another article over at washington.nationals.mlb.com titled, rather bluntly, "Livan wants to lead Nats staff" with Mr. Ladson writing:
"Hernandez, 32, indicated that he wants to play where he
is happy and he enjoyed his time with the Nationals/Expos
for three-plus years."
...Mr. Ladson quotes Mr. National Himself Livan Hernandez, who, having obviously read the conditions Mr. Ladson laid out in his previously referenced article, ""Mailbag: What to do with Johnson?", enticingly states:
"I would love to go to Washington. There are things to do
over there. Maybe the [Nationals'] budget [is low]. I'm
willing to work with anything."
Now by "anything" Livan Hernandez probably means $5-$6 million a year, and I imagine the Nationals are not going to give him more than a year, but $5-$6 Million for double-digit wins and 200+ innings on a team with what can politely be called an injury-prone pitching staff, is starting to sound like a good investment and really, a bargain...
*Livan Hernandez Links*
mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Glavine and Hernandez show interest", at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Mailbag: What to do with Johnson?" at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Livan wants to lead Nats staff", at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
Box Score of the first Washington Nationals' game featuring Livan Hernandez, at baseball-reference.com: