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Wire Taps: Washington Nationals' 2011 Roster Not What They'd Planned, But...

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If the redundancies that exist on the current Nats' roster which have led to the backstop battle for a spot behind Pudge Rodriguez and the all-out brawl for spots in the Washington Nationals' 2011 bullpen are the result of D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's plans for adding an ace falling through this winter, as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell suggests this morning in an article entitled, "Spring training: Washington Nationals' wait for a winning team shouldn't last much longer", then the only flaw in the Nats' front office's plan was not yet producing an abundance of top-end pitching that could have potentially been part of a deal but instead would have been left behind to battle it out this Spring along with the relief corps and catchers when the Royals' Zack Greinke, and teams like the Rays with Matt Garza, passed on rumored deals the Nats pursued in attempting to bring a top of the rotation arm to the nation's capital.

It's hard not to be impressed with Wilson Ramos, a seemingly healthy Jesus Flores and one of the top (hitting) catching prospects in baseball Derek Norris on the depth chart behind the plate even if they're blocked by a past-his-prime future Hall of Fame catcher whose value as a leader might now be losing out to the problems caused by his lack of offensive production, and the Nationals, "...have an almost nutty number of high-strikeout arms in their bullpen," as the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell writes, and, "...200 mph of fastballs still sitting down in Venezuela waiting for visas," as the Nats' GM adds in the article, along with two highly-regarded young shortstops in Ian Desmond, 25, and Danny Espinosa, 23, and out of position at second because of Desmond, at the major league level, one of whom was likely to have been included in any potential deal this winter. But...

With Stephen Strasburg, who was supposed to be heading into his first full season as the Nats' own Walter "Big Train" Johnson at the top of the rotation, reduced to rehabbing and playing games of catch with the Nats' head athletic trainer (ed. note - "No offense, Mr. Kuntz."), the Nationals are left with what the Washington Post writer fairly accurately describes as a, "...a jumble of credible fourth and fifth starters, plus Jordan Zimmermann, who may be better than that?" So the season, in Mr. Boswell's estimation at least, instead of a step forward becomes another chance to evaluate the talent they have, padded as it is with pieces (Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Rodriguez) who are not likely to be part of the franchise's first competitive teams. 

"With a half-dozen young players with the ability to become building blocks," Mr. Boswell writes, "...the Nats need to foster a homegrown foundation before adding more fancy high-priced additions." Zack Greinke was probably right in his assessment of the Nationals' organization, when he, "...rejected [the] Nats but accepted Brewers [because] he [believed] Milwaukee can win sooner," as SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) wrote on the Twitter this winter, (at least in the short-tem, though long-term I don't know about Milwaukee and Greinke will have to recover from a "down-year" and see what he gets in free agency or from the Brewers before we know if he was right to turn down what was reportedly a nice (5-year/$90 acc. to reports) extension offer from the Nats), just like Mark Teixeira was right when he turned down what was reportedly the biggest offer on the market from the Nationals to sign with the Yankees in the winter before the 2009 season. 

When the Nats' GM pondered the difficulty of adding a top-of-the-rotation arm earlier this winter in an article by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore entitled, "The Nationals' search for a top starter won't be easy", he admitted that the Nationals might just have to wait til 2012 when Strasburg would be back and in place as he was supposed to be this season at the top of the rotation along with Jordan Zimmermann. Who will fill out the rest of the rotation? John Lannan? Yunesky Maya? Sammy Solis? Ross Detwiler? Garrett Mock? A free agent from the 2012 class who likes the idea of pitching alongside those pitchers?

If 2011 is about sorting these issues out and seeing if a team built on "defense, speed and athleticism" is capable of improving enough to make the nation's capital an attractive destination for future impact, elite-level additions, then at least the redundancies that exist on the roster will ensure that the Nationals field the best possible team from the talent they've assembled. I mean it's not like Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman's going to rely on the veterans on the roster at the expense of the growth of the team's young talent. [Ignores reports of Livan on Opening Day and Pudge as the starting catcher accepting that Opening Day is almost ceremonial and Pudge will be outplayed by Flores and Ramos...]