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Can The Washington Nationals Afford To Be Patient This Winter?

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Worst Case Scenario --

According to an ESPNChicago.com article entitled, "Capps admits preliminary Cubs talks", free agent reliever Matt Capps told "Talking Baseball" hosts Bruce Levin and Jonathan Hood this past Saturday that he'd had "preliminary talks" with the Chicago Cubs, though in the reliever's own words, as quoted in the article, "There's just as good a chance of me being a Cub as being anybody else." You can never underestimate, however, the importance that family plays in decisions professional athletes make, and as is noted in the article, for Capps, there is, "...a comfort factor for his family in coming to Chicago, as his wife and (former Pirates teammates and current-Cubs) (John) Grabow's and (Tom) Gorzelanny's wives are good friends." Suppose Capps announces tomorrow that he's signed with the Cubs?

What if Washington wakes up to the news the Yankees have signed Jon Garland? What if Jason Marquis was really just saying what he thought the Nationals wanted to hear to force the New York Mets' hand? Marquis said all the right things about Washington, telling MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Marquis interested in Nationals", that he'd learned from veterans in the past and was looking to pass that knowledge on to the next generation of starters on Washington's roster, while praising the moves the Nationals had made so far this offseason as showing that they're, "...headed in the right direction and making the moves that (are) necessary to get themselves back to being a winning organization." A veteran pitcher to mentor the Nationals' young starters, who can help the Nationals turn the corner toward respectability...that's just what they're looking for.

Capps too might just have been telling the Nationals exactly what they wanted to hear in another article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, this one entitled, "Nationals a finalist to acquire Capps", where he was quoted stating that he, "...already like(s) the moves (the Nationals) already made in trying to be competitive next year and beyond," and Capps even goes the team-player route in stating that of course he'd be willing to set up instead of close if that's what the team asked:

"'If it's better suited for me to set up for the team in the seventh inning or eighth inning, that's what I'll do,' Capps said. 'If they sign me and tell me they want me to play shortstop, I'll play shortstop. I want to win. I want to be in an environment [where winning is important]. All signs are looking good with what they are trying to do so far.'"

(ed. note - "Capps' agent has said elsewhere that he'd be willing set up for a contender.")

In addition to the Nationals, the Mets, Yankees and Cubs are all said to be interested in Capps. The Milwaukee Brewers reportedly had interest in Garland if they couldn't reach an agreement with Randy Wolf, but since they did the Nationals are the only team that has been linked to the free agent right-hander. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote Friday that the Nationals were making a "serious run" at Garland in an article entitled, "Sources: Nats eye Garland", where he also wrote that if the team and pitcher failed to agree on a deal, Washington had interest in both Jason Marquis and free agent lefty Doug Davis. With the prize pitcher of the free agent market, John Lackey, joining the Red Sox, every team in the majors looking for pitching is looking at these same names. 

A free agent closer? According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal's article on the market for relievers entitled, "Too many closers, not enough jobs", though Washington is one of only three teams in the market for relief with an open closer's job, "The Nationals...are rebuilding. Closers are luxury items for such teams; other needs," (like maybe starting pitching and middle infield help?), "..are more pressing." 

So far this winter, Washington's added a reliever with control issues and a veteran catcher whose statistical output declined significantly last season and brought back a starter coming off shoulder surgery...? They're in the market for starters and closers...middle infielders...outfielders (if you believe some reports), but so far they've yet to make many changes (other than subtractions) to a team that finished 2009 with a 59-103 record. What if they miss out on Capps, Garland and Marquis? Is Doug Davis going to turn the Nationals around? Does Livan Hernandez have anything left? What about John Smoltz? Those are the only other two names the Nationals have been linked to...What if the Nationals wait too long?