• FBb Tasseography: The Washington Nationals started the winter, as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained it, in search of a veteran addition to their starting rotation who could mentor and serve as an example for young starters like Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. The Nats' general manager described their ideal target to the D.C. press corps as a, "good leader type of guy that's thrown a lot of innings, that has shown that he can win in the big leagues and [can] really lead our staff, not just by having the best stuff on the staff but by showing how to be a professional and how to be a winner and how to pitch 200 innings in a season many, many times in your career." The nation's capital's baseball writers and the Nationals themselves identified 32-year-old left-hander Mark Buehrle early as the Nats' top target. The Nationals traveled to Buehrle's home in St. Louis to make their pitch, but during the Winter Meetings, the 11-year veteran signed with the Miami Marlins for an extra year and more money than Washington was willing to offer.
Roy Oswalt seemed a likely backup option, but earlier this week MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote that the 34-year-old right-hander is still looking for a multi-year deal and, "The Nationals only want to give Oswalt a one-year deal loaded with incentives because he had problems with his back last year, and made only 23 starts." As the Winter Meetings ended last week, the Nats' general manager said that having missed out on Buehrle, he and his front office would reassess their needs and proceed from there. In a Q&A with fans published at the Nationals' official "Curly-W" blog this morning, Rizzo was again asked what the team's top priority was this winter and the description of the pitcher Washington's GM said he was after had changed some:
"We certainly would like to upgrade our rotation with an arm that could fit in with Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann and give us a real potent top three guys in the rotation – to go along with Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone. We like to have great depth and versatility there. So that’s our number one priority."
Top of the rotation arm? A 3 to Strasburg and Zimmermann's 1 and 2? Rizzo doesn't say anything about whether he'd find that pitcher through a trade, free agency or possibily the posting system. The A's Gio Gonzalez would surely fit that description, though the cost in prospects for the lefty could be prohibitive. The Nats have expressed interest in Matt Garza before. Yu Darvish? Could Rizzo be talking about the 25-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander?
In the article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson quoted above entitled, "Nationals still showing interest in Darvish", the Nats beat writer quoted a source who said, "The Nationals continue to express interest in Yu Darvish," but the source wasn't sure the Nationals would submit a bid. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, in an article entitled, "Japan star pitcher Yu Darvish: the Washington Nationals weigh the financial risk", quoted, "a scout who has watched Darvish for years, including twice this season," who predicted success for Darvish in MLB. Are they confident enough in the right-hander's ability to make the transition to MLB and pitch alongside Strasburg and Zimmermann to go all in on the posting fee and outbid the rest of the league?
At the end of the Winter Meetings, D.C. GM was asked if getting involved in the posting process was the Nats' Plan B after missing out on Buehrle, but Rizzo declined to comment, telling reporters including Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak as quoted in an article entitled, "Japanese standout pitcher Yu Darvish may be an expensive alternative for Nationals", that, "'Strategically, it doesn’t benefit us to announce if we’re going to bid or not. We’ve scouted him. We like him. We recognize his ability levels.'"
New Red Sox' GM Ben Cherington, in explaining that Boston probably wouldn't get involved in the bidding, told reporters in a Winter Meetings Q&A that his scouts thought the right-hander was a top of the rotation-type arm, "Certainly if a team is going to be posting and trying to sign [Darvish]," the Sox' GM told reporters, "it's going to be part of the front end of the rotation and we feel pretty good about that part of our team." The Sox are still mentioned as a potential destination. So are the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, in spite of comments to the contrary on the part of several of those team's front offices. LA Dodgers' bench coach Trey Hillman, who managed Darvish in Japan, told USA Today baseball writer Paul White that the right-hander would be a no. 1 starter wherever he lands:
"'He's a No. 1,' Hillman says. 'The only reason he wouldn't be called a No. 1 on a lot of (major league) teams is they wouldn't want to hurt their current No. 1s' feelings.'"
FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi put the Nationals on a list of five teams with interest in Darvish in an article yesterday entitled, "Darvish is next big MLB mystery." Yahoo!Sports.com's Jeff Passan wrote this morning, in an article entitled, "Darvish bidding process is cloak-and-dagger affair", that Toronto and Texas were the frontrunners for Darvish according to baseball officials he spoke to, though he said, "... one believes [the Nats] will place the high bid." Will Mike Rizzo and the Nationals go for Yu Darvish? One way or another the guessing game ends soon...
• The deadline to submit bids is now two hours away...Who will win the bidding? Will the Washington Nationals take an expensive chance on Yu Darvish?