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The NL East Is Changing...When Will The Washington Nationals...?

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Saying Goodbye to John Smoltz...

John Smoltz was (21-12) in 41 starts and 68 overall appearances against the Montreal/Washington franchise in his 20-year career with the Atlanta Braves, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP in 310.1 IP against the Expos/Nationals in which he struck out 270 batters while holding the various collections of players to a .215 AVG, 88 ER's and 16 HR's...oh, and 17 of his 154 career saves came against Montreal...and 4 of his 53 complete games...So, Good Luck in Boston, Mr. Smoltz...(Smoltz signed with the Red Sox today), though Washington might see the 41-year-old right-hander in mid-June, (he'll be 42 then), when the Nationals visit Fenway Park for a three game series...

The Changing Face Of The NL East...

Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin runs down all the changes that have taken place in the NL East this winter in an article entitled, "Rough Winter For NL East", and determines that the Washington Nationals, in his opinion, have had the best offseason in terms of improving their roster, (though he only gives them a "C" grade), going so far as to write that, "...in the context of the rest of the NL East, the Nationals are having an absolutely fabulous winter."

This echoes Washington Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten's comments in another Washington Post article, this one by Thomas Boswell entitled, "Nats Go All In", where Mr. Kasten proclaimed, "We've had a terrific offseason", while pointing to the trade that brought in Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen and the signing of free agent pitcher Daniel Cabrera as ways in which the Nationals had improved. 

Josh Willingham, according to his baseball-reference.com 162-game average, is good for a .266 AVG, 32 doubles, 25 HR's, 85 RBI's, a .361 OBP and a .472 SLG every year, though he missed nearly two months with a flare up of back problems last season, which he's reportedly completely recovered from as he heads toward Spring Training with Washington. Scott Olsen, who came over with Willingham from Florida in the trade that sent Emilio Bonifacio, infield prospect Jake Smolinski and pitcher P.J. Dean to the Marlins, should replace Tim Redding's 10 wins from last season, and Olsen, even when he turns 25 this Monday, will be 6 years younger than Redding, who turns 31 in May. Daniel Cabrera, the only other new addition to the DC roster thus far this winter, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in his first season, but he's a combined (36-51) since his (12-8) debut in 2004, and Washington was only able to add him because Baltimore finally gave up waiting for him to reach his long-rumored potential...

Will the three new Nationals make a 102-loss team a contender? Doubtful. Will Washington add anyone else? Even after MLB.com's Bill Ladson's reported yesterday, in an article entitled, "Nats unlikely to sign top free agents", that sources had said the Nationals were out of the free agent market, Washington Post writer Chico Harlan was still telling readers, "The Washington Nationals have not stopped pursuing Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson," in a Washington Post article entitled, "For Nats, Prices Must Come Down", where Mr. Harlan writes:

"For now, Dunn and Hudson are asking for contracts larger than the Nationals anticipated and are willing to pay."

If Washington doesn't sign Dunn or Hudson, and Willingham, Olsen and Cabrera are the only veteran players added to DC's 102-loss roster, how many of you would say that the Nationals have had the best offseason in the NL East? Better than adding the "best closer in baseball" and a legit closer as a set-up man? Better than replacing a .250 AVG, 33 doubles, 33 HR's and 86 RBI's with a .293 AVG, 43 doubles, 23 HR's and 110 RBI's on a World-Series-winning roster? Has Washington gotten better this winter? Better than the Braves?...If Atlanta gets Derek Lowe in addition to adding Javier Vazquez? Better than Florida even?

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE...Playoff Update...

The Tigres del Licey improved to 7-4 with a 10-6 win over Gigantes del Cibao Friday night as Jesus Flores debuted with Licey, joining Daniel Cabrera, Anderson Hernandez, Jorge Sosa and Ronnie Belliard as Nationals on the Tigres' roster in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. Flores was 0 for 1, striking out in his only plate appearance. Hernandez was 1 for 4 with 3 runs scored. Ronnie Belliard finished 2 for 3 with 1 run scored and 1 RBI, his fourth of the postseason. Jorge Sosa earned his second W, (2-0) of the DWL Playoffs with 5.0 IP over which he allowed 5 hits, 2 walks and 2 ER.