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Washington Nationals Buy Out Austin Kearns...5 Others Become Free Agents.

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In early 2007, when then-DC GM Jim Bowden signed right fielder Austin Kearns to a 3-year/$17.5 million dollar deal with a $10 million dollar club option for a fourth year or a $1 million dollar buyout, Kearns told Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga, as quoted in an 2/2/07 article entitled, "Kearns to Have an Extended Stay With Nats", that he decided to sign an extension to stay in the nation's capital because he liked the direction the team was headed:

"'I got to see how close this is to getting it to where they want it to go,' Kearns said at an afternoon news conference at the downtown offices of the Lerner family, which owns the Nationals. 'I really do think it's closer than what people expect because I think there's a lot of pieces of the puzzle that are already here on the field, and pieces that are here off the field. It excited me.'"

(cont.)...

In explaining the signing, Mr. Bowden, who had been the General Manager in Cincinnati when the Reds made Kearns their 1st Round pick in 1998, told MLB.com's Washington Nationals writer Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Nationals, Kearns agree on extension", that Austin Kearns was, "...a complete player. He is like...Ryan Zimmerman,":

"...Austin can play the game from both sides. He is really special. He is just 26 years old. His best years are ahead of him. Philosophically as a general manager, I always like buying free-agent years. I don't like a player going on the market or going on the last year of his contract. I like assets if you can get them at the right numbers and the right deal."

Kearns, who'd been acquired by Washington in a deal with Cincinnati the previous July that also brought SS Felipe Lopez and RHP Ryan Wagner to DC in exchange for pitchers Bill Bray, Gary Majewski and Daryl Thompson and infielders Royce Clayton and Brendan Harris, had hit .264 with a .363 OBP, 33 doubles, 24 HR's and 86 RBI's the previous season in 87 games with the Reds and 63 with the Nationals, and was coming off a 1-year/$1.85M dollar deal with Cincinnati when he agreed to the extension with the Nationals whose team President Stan Kasten labeled the outfielder "a long-term building block", in Mr. Ladson's article while then-manager Manny Acta called the move, "...a step in the right direction." 

Three years, 51 doubles, 26 HR's and 123 RBI's later, the Nationals have excercised that club option for a $1 million dollar buyout of the oft-injured outfielder, who played all but one game in 2007 hitting .266 with 35 of the doubles, 16 of the HR's and 74 of the total RBI's he'd collect in his time with Washington, before appearing in just 166 games total in the final two years of his deal, missing time with elbow, foot and, this year, thumb problems/issues/injuries which severely decreased his offensive contributions and ultimately made the 29-year-old outfielder expendable. 

MLB.com's Bill Ladson announced the Nationals' decision to cut ties with Kearns this afternoon in an article entitled, "Trio of Nats complete free agent group", where Mr. Ladson also reported that Ron Villone, Dmitri Young, Josh Bard and Livan Hernandez would become free agents, finally removing from the payroll two of the more burdensome contracts (Kearns' and Young's) that the Former DC GM signed players to during his tenure. 

Back in September, Washington Post writer Tom Boswell estimated, in a Q&A with readers entitled, "Ask Boswell: Nats, Orioles, Redskins and More", that all the contracts coming off the Nationals' books this winter would total around $31.5 million dollars, and "With (the) Strasburg, Zim and Dunn deals added back in for '10," Mr. Boswell wrote, "...their payroll obligations for next year (would) stand at an incredibly low $40 million or slightly more," leaving the Nationals with at least $20 million to spend on free agents if they were to return to 2009's total payroll, or close to $40 million dollars if they were to increase the payroll to the league-average $80 million dollars. 

?'s For The DC Faithful...The bullpen, the infield, the rotation...the new manager? Where will the Nationals start? What will the Nationals' 2010 payroll be? $40, $60, $80M? Are any of these free agents coming back? Not even Villone?