Faced with a chorus of criticism for the 7-year/$126M dollar contract they gave to former Philadelphia Phillies' outfielder Jayson Werth on Sunday before the Winter Meetings even began, the Washington Nationals shrugged it off and went about their business today. Reports from various sources in Orlando, Florida said the Nats were at one point or another discussing the acquisition of LA Dodgers' first baseman James Loney, talking about trading Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Josh Willingham, and thinking about signing the top free agent pitcher on the market Cliff Lee, former Twins' starter Carl Pavano, Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche. NY Mets' GM Sandy Alderson fired off the best line of the day Sunday, joking with reporters including ESPN New York's Adam Rubin (as quoted in an article entitled, "Alderson: Werth that money?") that he thought the Nats' deal with Werth, "'...makes some of our contracts look pretty good,' Alderson said. 'That's a long time and a lot of money. I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.'" [Zing! Good one, Sandy.]
Presented with the Mets' General Manager's quote tonight on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, the Nats' GM said simply, "I don't react to any of the comments. We feel comfortable with the decision we made, we just adore Jayson Werth as a player as a person, as a teammate." Host Karl Ravech then injected that it had to be love rather than adore at that price. "He's a terrific player," Rizzo continued, "and to get an elite player to come to Washington, we felt that this was a contract that we felt comfortable with, you pay a lot of money for the good players in the league and we certainly payed a lot of money for Jayson because we believe he's one of the elite players in the game."
Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) quoted the D.C. GM on Twitter this afternoon responding more directly to the criticism of the Werth deal, saying, "'I'm not going to apologize for signing Jayson Werth. We're a better ball club today than we were yesterday.'"
Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman in an interview on the MLB Network's Hot Stove show tonight was asked about the Nationals' search for a starter, with Carl Pavano in particular brought up as a possibility. "I don't know about that really," Mr. Riggleman said, "I know that he's a fine pitcher and he's done some great things in the last couple years. We need some help in our starting staff, but if we don't find it there or we're comfortable with what we have there, then maybe we'll strengthen what we think is already our strength which is our bullpen." As the day came to a close, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) reported on Twitter that the, "The Washington Nationals are on Carl Pavano 'pretty hard,' according to a baseball source," but MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article today entitled, "Nationals like Loney, but trade unlikely", reported that it "appeared unlikely" the Nats would sign the 34-year-old right-hander as they were reportedly, "reluctant to give the righty a multiyear deal."
The Nationals are also reportedly willing to discuss deals for their starting shortstop Ian Desmond and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, but not willing to deal both for Dodgers' first baseman James Loney even if it would provide the team with a player to replace Adam Dunn in D.C. MLB.com's Mr. Ladson wrote on Twitter today (@washingnats) that though LA asked for both he doesn't think it's going to happen. Mr. Ladson's been reporting for a while now that his sources were telling him Willingham would be moved before the 2010 season starts, and reports today had both the Orioles and Red Sox interested in the Nats' left fielder.
Baltimore Sun writer Dan Connolly, in an article entitled, "Orioles' first base options: Willingham?", wrote this afternoon that, "The Orioles have had internal discussions about the 31-year-old outfielder," Josh Willingham as they've discussed possible options to fill a need at first base. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) reported on Twitter tonight that he'd, "Heard that the Red Sox are one of the teams that have inquired with the Nats about Josh Willingham," and in a follow-up Nationals Journal article on the reports entitled, "The Nationals' first base options and how it affects Josh Willingham", the WaPost writer suggests that with Werth already signed, adding Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche, who remain the Nats' top targets, might free the Nats up to move Willingham.
Pena, LaRoche, or Loney for first? Pavano if he doesn't want a 3-year deal? Cliff Lee, who met with the Nats today reportedly, if he doesn't sign with NY or Texas as expected? Trading Willingham for a starter or reliever? After making a splash with Sunday's signing of Werth, the Nats were everywhere on the first day of the Winter Meetings. No deals were made but their name was mentioned and the deal with Werth discussed everywhere you turned. Phase Two is in effect in Orlando. What will the Nationals' and D.C. GM Mike Rizzo do next?