A report last night from St. Louis by MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom in an article entitled, "Start of free agency pushed back a day", explained MLB Commisioner Bud Selig's announcement that the start of the five-day period in which teams can negotiate exclusively with their own players who are set to become free agents had been pushed back to Saturday night/Sunday morning at 12:01 am, "Because of ongoing collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement." Normally, the clock would have begun at 12:01 am Saturday morning, just hours after the St. Louis Cardinals' game seven win over the Texas Rangers in the World Series had officially ended the 2011 season. During the five-day period that starts after the stroke of midnight on Sunday, "Other teams can make contact, but are not allowed to tender formal offers. Under the altered guidelines, that five-day period will end at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday."
Reports out of New York, from ESPNNewYork's Andrew Marchand, have the New York Yankees and the representatives for 31-year-old left-hander CC Sabathia discussing a deal that would extend Sabathia's stay in New York. The ESPN writer suggests that if Sabathia did opt out of the 4 years and $92 million remaining on his deal, "Up-and-coming teams like the Washington Nationals or the Toronto Blue Jays could make a high offer, but Sabathia has shown no willingness to want to play in either place." SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) wrote on the Twitter that, "folks seem to think the nationals are going to make big play for cj wilson. $75-80M is best guess."
It was around this time last year that reports surfaced from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick in an article entitled, "Nationals lurking in Cliff Lee sweepstakes", which said that though the, "...Texas Rangers and New York Yankees are the obvious frontrunners for marquee free agent starter Cliff Lee,":
"...sources say the Washington Nationals are a potential sleeper team in the competition to land Lee. 'They're going to step up and try to get a top free agent,' one baseball insider said. 'They'd like to make a splash.'"
If the Nationals were to pursue the soon-to-be free agent left-hander C.J. Wilson, they would do so knowing they'd surrender their 2012 1st Round pick, 16th overall, as compensation to the Rangers should the 30-going-on-31-year-old '01 5th Round pick leave the organization that drafted and developed him over the last decade. The Nats' GM told reporters this week that losing their 1st Round pick if the Nats sign a Type-A Free agent, "... would be part of the discussion when we discuss free agents. I think it does have an impact because you lose the 16th player in the draft and that's important."
The Nationals are expected to make an announcement about the manager for the 2012 season in the next few days, with Davey Johnson expected to return. "We just have to stay away from announcing anything until after the World Series," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained earlier this week. After that they have decisons to make about outfielders Rick Ankiel, Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix, infielder Alex Cora, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and pitchers Livan Hernandez, Todd Coffey and Chien-Ming Wang all of whom will be free to negotiate with the rest of the league next Thursday should they not agree on deals that keep them in the nation's capital.
Rizzo confirmed that the team had been discussing a deal to bring Chien-Ming Wang back to D.C., though he said clearly, "I wouldn't describe it as imminent or close, but we're still communicating and we still have a mutual interest for Chien-Ming to sign with the Nationals." As for the other free agents, the Nats' GM explained that decisions would be made on their futures, "When we get a manager, when our coaching staff is on board, we'll discuss it with them and see which direction we want to go, not only with those two, but with the rest of the ballclub and how to construct the roster."
While Nats fans are waiting for the Hot Stove to start and for all the decisions the Nationals have to consider to play out there is the Taiwan Series this week, which the MLB Network will be broadcasting. Five games with Nats 2011 MVP Michael Morse, left-hander Ross Detwiler and right-hander Collin Balester part of the MLB squad and Chien-Ming Wang pitching for the Taiwanese All-Stars. The Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars All-Star Game is next Saturday as well, and if there are any Nats' prospects participating, Nationals fans can watch that on the MLB Network too. The 2011 season's over. The 2011/12 Hot Stove season starts at midnight.