In a July 21st 2010 interview with ESPN 980's The Sports Fix's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, Nats' team President Stan Kasten said he would like to see first baseman Adam Dunn in the nation's capital with the Nationals, "...for a long time." "We think Adam can be a very big part, a middle-of-the-order bat on a very successful team, so that's what we're hoping." Mr. Kasten went on to say that he still believed that Dunn could be signed to a contract this season, and in explaining why Dunn might want to stay with Washington, he explained, "[Dunn] does love it here, but why shouldn't he? He can be, 'the big guy' in the most important city in the world."
The July 31st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline passed, the Waiver Deadline too. No trade happened, a claim was reportedly placed, but nothing came of it, but no contract was signed either. "Those things are tricky," Mr. Kasten said back in March, talking about contract negotiations in general. "They're not as simple or one dimesional as you might think from just reading about it. There are a lot of factors that go into it, including figuring out the puzzle that is 2011 and beyond."
In the same interview, Mr. Kasten spoke about what was described as the Nationals' "real rotation", which, at the time, included the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, who would subsequently suffer an elbow injury and is scheduled to have Tommy John surgery today. Mr. Kasten, however, also spoke of six other starters who figured in the Nats' future:
"...we're getting Jordan Zimmermann back, we're getting Ross Detwiler back, John Lannan will be coming back, Jason Marquis is coming back, Scott Olsen is coming back, Chien-Ming Wang is coming back. We're going to have a big time rotation out of that group of people..."
Four months earlier, in the weeks before the 2010 season had started, the Nats' team President appeared on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio's Power Alley with hosts Jim Duquette and Seth Everett on a broadcast that took place live in Space Coast Stadium, the Washington Nationals' Spring home. In that interview as well, Mr. Kasten spoke about the team's desire to agree on a deal with their big middle-of-the-order bat, Adam Dunn, "He's a cleanup hitter, and they're not easy to get, there are not many guys who are going to give you 40 HR's and 100 walks and 100 RBI's," Mr. Kasten said, but, "We still have to make it work economically, you know how those things go. I don't feel any pressure to have to do something by Opening Day, I really don't think he does either, so if the fit is right, we'll get it done at the right time, I can't tell you when that will be or how much it will be, but he's a good fit here and we think he's a big part of our future."
Mr. Kasten spoke in the interview about the team that Washington had put together for the 2010 campaign, but also of what was right around the corner for the Nationals, what Mr. Kasten called in the interview the "next wave" of the Nationals' rotation:
"...as we put this team together, we're waiting for the next wave to get here, because no matter what we break camp with here in a couple weeks, we do know right around the corner is the next wave to add to our rotation with [Stephen] Strasburg coming and Jordan Zimmermann getting back and Ross Detwiler getting healthy and Chien-Ming Wang getting healthy, we think it's going to be an important transitional year for us."
Strasburg did arrive, and in the short time before his injury, the 22-year-old right-hander gave Nats fans a glimpse of one key aspect of the future Mr. Kasten spoke about. The plan for the Nats' future as far as Strasburg is concerned will be set back by a year, but the Nats' President, as quoted in a section of an article yesterday by ESPN.com's Jayson Stark entitled, "Is it time to push back trading deadline?" which was subtitled, "National reset" says Strasburg's injury, "...has not changed any of our strategies going forward." Mr. Stark starts the article by writing that the Nationals are, "...still planning for next year and beyond with the assumption that better days are closer than most people realize." Will Adam Dunn figure in that future? Mr. Stark writes that, "they'd still like to bring back Adam Dunn. But if Dunn leaves as a free agent and 'we don't have that, we have to replace it,' Kasten said." According to Mr. Stark, Mr. Kasten says the Nationals, "...plan to be "more aggressive than we've ever been" to upgrade their club," this winter.
Jordan Zimmermann's back in the rotation and just had what was arguably his best start as a National. Jason Marquis is not back to 100% following surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, but he's recently shown signs of life. Scott Olsen's a question mark for the future, but Ross Detwiler's not too far from returning from a rehab stint following surgery on his hip. Chien-Ming Wang's still working his way back. John Lannan's overcome some struggles and once again looks like he'll be a part of the Nats' rotation. With these arms, Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya, Garrett Mock, J.D. Martin, Luis Atilano, it would seem the starting rotation is not where the Nationals' will focus their attentions this winter.
Has Roger Bernadina earned his place in the Nats' 2011 outfield? Nyjer Morgan's a big question mark right now, and Justin Maxwell's 2010 campaign has to be considered a setback. Josh Wilingham will be in the mix in the OF given that he's full recovered from surgery on his left knee. Danny Espinosa may not make the team out of Spring Training, but the late look he's getting this September would lead one to believe his jump to the majors on a full-time basis isn't too far off and Adam Kennedy's a possibility as a stopgap or backup should Espinosa stick. Pudge Rodriguez is under contract for another year, and the future Hall of Fame backstop figures to be a mentor to Wilson Ramos, who steps into the role Jesus Flores was supposed to fill this season. So where exactly are the Nationals going to focus their offseason aggression? Right field? Center field, if you're one of those fans unconvinced that Bernadina or Nyjer Morgan can fill that position? First base, should the Nats' lose Dunn to free agency?
Is Mr. Kasten preparing Nats fans for a future without Adam Dunn when he entertains the possibility of Dunn departing in Mr. Stark's article? Where else is their room for the Nats to act aggresively? A free agent addition to the rotation makes little sense with the arms assembled and with Strasburg's immediate future in doubt but the expectation that he'll be back? What's step one as the Nats begin to prepare for 2011 and beyond?