"I think the Winter Meetings were productive, very productive," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters Thursday morning as the four-day rumor-filled affair known as the Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas wrapped up. "We were extremely busy on a lot of different facets and I think we laid a lot of foundation for discussions with other GMs and we still have our goal of doing the things that we were supposed to do," Rizzo continued, "And I think we've come a long way in really getting close to doing something very productive for the club."
What the Washington Nationals were "supposed to do" or at least publicly stated they wanted to do was add a veteran arm to the rotation and finally solve the center field and leadoff issues they've acknowledged wanting to address since the end of the 2011 campaign.
The Nationals didn't accomplish either of those goals this week, though how much if any progress they've made in any trade discussions aimed at meeting these goals is unknown. The Nats identified 32-year-old left-hander Mark Buehrle as their top target and made a pitch and an offer they seemed convinced would lure the starter to the nation's capital only to watch him sign with an NL East rival for an extra year and more money (4-years/$58M) than Washington was reportedly willing to offer. Rizzo found out about the Miami Marlins' newest starter's decision while on the air on MLB Network Radio and told the hosts the team would move on to Plan B, reassess their situation and proceed from there.
Is 34-year-old right-hander Roy Oswalt an option? He's said to want a multi-year deal. Do the Nationals want to give a 2-3-year deal to a pitcher with a history of back injuries which limited him to 23 starts and 139.0 IP in 2011. Rizzo told reporters last night that Plan B didn't necessarily mean going right after Oswalt. The Nats' general manager also declined to tell reporters if Washington would bid on Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish, explaining as quoted in Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak's 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.'" The price tag for the 25-year-old right-hander who announced his decision to enter the posting process last night is expected to climb towards $100 million.
That is, of course, an expensive risk for a pitcher who's unproven against MLB competition, though speculation about the total price tag has varied with estimates of $30-$50 million for the bid and another $50-60 million dollar contract expected after the posting fee. The high price in terms of prospects that teams like the Oakland A's are rumored to be seeking in return for 26-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez could be equally prohibitive for the Nationals or anyone else still in the market for pitchers.
"We've got several different options that we're exploring, some free agent, some via the trade routes and some international options," Rizzo explained before the Nationals left the Winter Meetings, "so we're still open for business and we're going to keep an open mind and see what fits for us."
While the majority of Federal Baseball readers accurately predicted that the Nationals' top target would be Mark Buehrle, the second-highest vote total in our most recent poll was for the Nats not adding a big-name pitcher this winter. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson has repeatedly stated his willingness to enter into the 2012 season with the pitching staff they have and when Rizzo learned about the Marlins deal with Buehrle last night he told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, "We have secondary plans in place and like I said, we like the rotation that we have. It's very young, but it's very deep and talented."
Yoenis Cespedes remains as an outfield option that the Nationals' scouts are said to be impressed with, and their scouting department also reportedly likes what they've seen from Yu Darvish. Prince Fielder's still on the market (27-years-old with on-base skills) if the Nationals choose to improve their offense with a big bat and trades for the likes of Adam Jones and B.J. Upton have come up again this week. Chatter about Jayson Werth moving to center to make room for Bryce Harper surfaced again too, with "One Nationals Person" telling CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler (@DKnobler) they were, "95 percent Bryce Harper makes team out of spring training."
For the second-straight winter, however, the Nats have (thus far) come up empty in their attempts to add a starter to the rotation, and this week they watched a divisional rival spend big to improve their roster. What is exactly is the Nationals' Plan B?