Close Call

Contact email for any questions or comments you have: closecallbaseball@gmail.com Close Call is an all-in-one Nationals site featuring in-depth analysis of the transactions, scores, and news of our hometown heroes. It features daily updates and commentary of signings, trades, minor league call-ups, and other player contract news year-round, as well as a description of each Nats game during the regular season and (we hope!) the postseason. Most of my stats and info come from MLBTradeRumors.com, ESPN.com, Nationals.com, and MLB.com. Unless I say so, none of the photos or videos I post belong to me, and I am not breaking any of the news.

COUNTDOWN WIDGETS


2012 Regular Season Standings  Nats Stats   Questions?  

Close Call’s 2013 offseason losers

8. Nick Johnson: Retired at age 34

So, this is more of a throughout-his-career type thing, but Johnson was never able to reach his full potential. Let’s take a look at his 162-game averages for a few categories: he averaged 18 home runs/162. If he’d played full seasons in each of the 13 years since he started in ‘00, he’d have a career total of 234 (rather than the 95 he has). His 723 hits would go up to 1,833, and his 398 RBI would become 1,001. Plus, he probably wouldn’t be retiring at 34. But due to tons of injuries, the closest Nick got to a full season was playing 147 games with the ‘06 Nationals.

7. Roy Oswalt: Remains a free agent

Oswalt was one of the most consistently dominant pitchers in baseball for a number of years with Houston, and had a 3.69 ERA as recently as 2011. While ‘12 was the worst statistical year of his career, it was his first year in the AL, and he was battling an injury all season. It was also the first season he’d ever appeared regularly out of the bullpen, which can be a tough transition for an 11-year veteran. In a pitching market that’s been basically completely harvested, he’s the best option left out there who isn’t tied to draft pick compensation, and yet the only significant interest in him has been from the Mets, who want him to be their closer.

6. Dallas Braden and Armando Galarraga

Braden remains a free agent, and Galarraga signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati in January. They share some history, as Braden’s Mother’s Day perfect game in 2010 was less than a month before Galarraga’s infamous blown call game, in which umpire Jim Joyce blew a call, saying the hitter who came up with 2 outs in the 9th  while Galarraga had a perfect game going was safe at first, when really the first baseman had him out by a full step. Galarraga retired the next batter to complete the one-hitter.

Braden pitched just 3 games in ‘11 and none in ‘12 due to shoulder injuries, and was thus released by the A’s in October. He’s always shown promise and talent; he owns a career 4.16 ERA (which has gotten lower each season he’s pitched) and a 1.325 WHIP. 

Galarraga was somewhat of a random guy to throw a near-perfect game; aside from his rookie season in ‘08 when he had a 3.73 ERA, his numbers have never been particularly noteworthy, but his 3 full seasons in Detroit showed that he can be a solid back-of-the-rotation guy for a team that needs him. He’s going to have a tough time breaking into a deep Reds rotation led by Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman.

How the kind of mighty have somewhat fallen.

5. New York Yankees

Could this be the year the Yankees don’t make the playoffs? Or even, maybe, just maybe, finish last—yes, last-in the AL East???

When you’re the New York Yankees, an offseason in which your only significant moves are signing Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkliswhose ages add up to 68, is not just a loss, but it’s downright baffling. The Bronx Bombers were tied to a number of free agents and potential trade targets, but never bade that big splash. That, plus injuries to Derek Jeter (though he’s supposedly going to be ready for Opening Day), Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson, plus even more steroid allegations surrounding A-Rod—are worrisome for the team. Their superstars are aging, and they barely avoided being ousted as division champs by the resilient Orioles last year. All of the other teams in the AL East have made significant additions this offseason, and the Yanks will face some stiff competition.

4. Javier Vazquez: Remains “retired”

At 35, the 14-year veteran pitcher announced his retirement following the 4th-best season of his career in 2011. The former Expo drew significant interest from around the league, including form the Nationals, but a knee injury this offseason ended any hopes of him pitching in 2013. He’d likely have received either a well-paying last-minute contract by a team looking to round out its rotation before opening day, or an even better deal once the season starts when a team loses a pitcher to injury. However, the injury ended all of those talks, and it’s looking more and more like he won’t treat his retirement in a Favre/Jordan/Clemens-esque sense, but that he’s really done for good.

3. Eli Whiteside

A backup catcher with 2 World Series rings, Whiteside has bounced around “faster than a beach ball at a Nickleback concert” (to quote Hot Rod) this offseason. The Giants placed him on waivers shortly following the season. Then, on November 5, the Yankees claimed him off of waivers, then put him back on waivers. On December 3, he was claimed by Toronto from the Yankees, and then by Texas from Toronto that same day. Hopefully he’s in Texas to stay for the forseeable future, but he had a crazy couple of months there. He is a serviceable defensive backup, though he’s coming off a couple of dreadful offensive years. 

2. Kyle Lohse: Remains a free agent

A 12-year veteran, the righty had by far the best season of his career at 33 years young in ‘12. He’s the lone remaining Type A free agent, and there are likely two reasons he’s still on the market: He probably has a pretty high asking price, and, more importantly, signing him would cause the signing team to lose their first-round draft pick this year. Lohse is likely somewhat overrated, due to his age and his career tendencies (his 2.86 ERA last year and 3.39 ERA in ‘11 were his two lowest, and only the second and third sub-4 ERAs of his long career). However, he’s always been a reliable innings eater (he’s averaged 28 starts per season in his career), and thus would be a good addition to any team.

It’s worth noting that, if he waits to sign with a team until after June’s draft, he’ll no longer be tied to compensation. We’ll see if he’s willing to sacrifice playing time to get a better deal with a better team. He can also be the guy out there available for contenders who lose a starter to injury.

1. Miami Marlins

Can you say fire sale? And no, I don’t mean Die Hard 4. The Marlins, less than a year after their makeover—new stadium, new players, huge payroll—basically hit the self destruct button this offseason. Here’s who they traded away: Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh JohnsonJohn BuckEmilio Bonifacioand Heath Bell. Here’s the “big names” they’ve added: Juan Pierre, Yunel Escobar, Placido Polanco, John Maine, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figginsand Jon Rauch.

The guys they traded away, aside from Buck and Bonifacio, were all previously faces of franchises. Those seven new guys’ ages average out to 33.14 years.While many of them were previously fantastic players, most of them are well over the hill; Maine hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since ‘10, and most of the other guys are at least 3 years removed from their best seasons. 

All of these trades has upset rising superstar Giancarlo Stantonwho’s probably the one remaining guy the Marlins really need to have on their side to avoid full-on riots in the streets of Miami. Owner Jeffrey Loria is one of the most hated men in Florida right now.

~Close Call~

Close Call’s 2013 offseason winners

This offseason has been as busy as any, with clear cut winners and losers among both players and teams. Close Call has identified 2 teams and 5 players each as winners and losers. This is the first of two posts, containing the winners.

Winners

8. Ryan Dempster: Signed 2-year, $26.5 million deal with Boston on December 19

As a secondary Cubs fan due to my North Side-based lineage, I’ve always been a fan of Ryan Dempster’s. After 6 relatively mediocre years to start his career in Florida and Cincinnati, Dempster put together 9 great years in the top half of Chicago’s starting rotation, amassing 67 wins in almost 1,200 innings of 3.74 ERA and 1.318 WHIP ball. He seemed to really hit his stride at Wrigley when the Cubs witched him from a closer back to a starter in ‘08, his lone All-Star selection as a Cub in a year he finished 6th in the Cy Young voting. Last year, amid  his torrid start to the season in which he was shutting down batters left and right en route to career bests in almost every relevant statistical category, the irrelevant Cubs traded him to the perennially contending Rangers for prospects. He saw a significant dip in his numbers upon his arrival to Texas, and at 35, is no spring chicken. Despite his age and a mere 12 AL starts in 15 years, he signed the lucrative deal with the Red Sox, who are looking to rebuild.

7. Rafael Soriano: Signed a 2-year, $14 million deal with Washington on January 17

No man in baseball, past, present, or future, would EVER want to have to replace the great Mariano Rivera, and an equal number of people could actually accomplish that, in the eyes of Yankee fans.  In New York’s first season without Mo since before Monica Lewinsky was a household name, however, Soriano did a more than adequate job. Following a 45 save, 1.73 ERA, 0.802 WHIP season in Tampa Bay, he was brought on by the Bronx Bombers to be the eighth inning setup man for Rivera, and he was just OK (412 ERA, 39.1 IP, 1.167 WHIP in 42 appearances). However, when Mo went down with an RGIII tear ACL tear in April of this past year, Rafael stepped in and saved 42 games, while putting up a 2.26 ERA and allowing just a 1.167 WHIP. As impressive as those numbers are, Soriano was just given another big dollar deal with another reigning division champion, which already has not one, but two experienced closers on staff (Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard—whio the Nats originally acquired in a trade with the Yankees—combined for 79 saves in the past two years). Soriano turned 33 in December. 

6. Edwin Jackson: Signed a 4-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs on January 2

E-Jax, a member of the 2012 Division Champion Nationals, has bounced around a LOT in his 10 MLB seasons. He’s been on 6 different teams since ‘08, and 7 teams since his debut in ‘03. Despite his desire to sign a multi-year deal similar to this one last season, he agreed to a one-year, $11 million deal with the Nats last February, and at least maintained, if not increased, his stock as a free agent—despite some struggles in September and October. He’ll join a rebuilding Cubs team with a lot of young pitchers that will need mentoring, including former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija

5. Washington Nationals

Ok, so I’m a little biased here. But, as I’ve mentioned twice already, this team won the NL East in 2012, and this offseason they did nothing but add. Their only two notable losses are Jackson, who they replaced with Dan Haren, who is arguably an upgrade, and Michael Morse, who they traded away becasue, due to a full outfield and first base, would not have received any kind of significant playing time. They re-signed Adam LaRoche, who had team-high numbers of home runs (33), RBI (100), and walks (67), and was top three on the team in batting average (.271), OBP (.343), hits (155), and doubles (25). They added a third proven closer to their superior bullpen in Soriano, and finally acquired a true center fielder/leadoff man in Denard Span, who is under team control through 2015 on a relatively modest deal. Those additions, combined with several strategic minor league and bench additions, should put the Nats on the fast track to repeat as baseball’s best regular season team. 

4. Zack GreinkeSigned a six-year, $159 million deal with the Dodgers on December 10

Anyone who signs a deal for that kind of money should be considered a winner in all aspects of life. Combine that with early career worries about Greinke’s mental stamina, and he’s golden. Greinke burst onto the MLB’s collective radar in 2009, when he started the season with 29.2 consecutive scoreless innings, and went on to win the Cy Young award. He joins a high-expectations Dodgers team with a mammoth payroll and a ton of star power.

3. Josh Hamilton: Signed a 5-year, $133 million deal with the Angels on December 15

Hamilton’s contract was a year and $26 million less than Greinke’s. So why is he higher on the list? Several reasons: 1. He’s making $100k more per year than Greinke (which may seem like pocket change compared to the size of these deals, but hey, I’d love to even be making just that $100k this year). 2. As much uncertainty as surrounded Greinke early in his career, Hamilton had even more—and more recently. He was on the restricted list from ‘03 to ‘05 due to drug and alcohol problems, and was on 3 different teams before he played a game in the big leagues. He overcame those obstacles, however, and went on to crush 142 homers in Texas over the next 5 years, making the all star team each time, and winning the 2010 MVP award (a year in which he hit .359). Despite his heroics, however, Rangers fans were happy to see him go, as his .227 career postseason batting average in 3 years earned him cascading boos in his final game as a Ranger (in the 1-game playoff against the Orioles this year in which he went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts). Hamilton will also have plenty of lineup support, as he’ll join Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, both of whom hit 30 home runs last year (a career low for Pujols, who is sure to “bounce back” this season). Between those 3 guys, they have 13 top-5 MVP finishes, and 4 MVPs.

2. Toronto Blue Jays

Speaking of star-studded teams, these guys take the cake. Here’s what they’ve done significantly this offseason (so far): Signed outfielder Melky Cabrera to a 2-year deal. Acquired R.A. Dickey from the Mets. And oh yeah, acquired Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyesand Emilio Bonifacio (and John Buck, who they traded away in the Dickey deal) from Miami. 3 of those guys are former faces of franchises, and for good reason. Buerhle, Dickey, and Johnson, when healthy, are all ace-caliber pitchers, and Jose Reyes is a fantastic shortstop with MVP potential each year. Combine those with several other good acquisitions and signings (including inking former Nat and clubhouse favorite Mark DeRosa to a minor league deal), and that makes Toronto a force to be reckoned with in the coming year

1. Melky Cabrera: Signed a 2-year, $16 million deal with Toronto on November 19

Melky has had a very up-and-down career. Early on, the outfielder was touted as a future star with the Yankees, playing well in limited time in his first couple of seasons wearing pinstripes. However, his numbers fell in the next two years, and after a season with the Braves, he started hitting well again with the cellar-dwelling Royals in ‘11, batting .305 with 18 homers. Then, KC traded him to San Francisco last offseason, and he emerged early in 2012 as an MVP favorite, tearing it up with a .346 average and a .906 OPS in 113 games. However, in mid-August, Cabrera was found guilty of PED use for the first time, and had to incur the mandatory 50-game suspension (his last game before the suspension kicked in was, coincidentally, August 14 against the Nationals). Many were speculating whether Cabrera would receive interest from any team at all following the suspension, and if he did, how likely he would be to get a big league deal—let alone with a contender. The Jays, however, believed in him enough to sign him very shortly after the World Series ended, to an 8-figure deal.

Check back soon for Close Call’s offseason losers.

~Close Call~

Strasburg back to form in second Spring Training start; Rendon tearing it up

Healthy and ready to go, Stephen Strasburg figures to be the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in 2013, without an innings limit hanging over his head. Stras had a less-than-stellar Spring Training debut, allowing a two-run homer in his first of two innings in which he struck out one. Last night, however, he looked like his old self again, fanning 6 in three innings, giving up 3 hits, 2 walks and a run in a 10-inning, 4-4 tie with the Mets last night.

Anthony Rendon recorded two RBI in a 1-for-2 night, hitting a run-scoring double and a run-scoring force out. The 2011 sixth overall draft pick has played well in his 5 Spring Training games; he’s now 5-for-11 (.455) with two doubles and a home run, as well as 5 RBI and just one strikeout. 

After 6 Spring Training games, the Nationals are 1-3-2.

~Close Call~

Baseball quote of the day

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." -Ted Williams

A look at what other former Nats have done this offseason

Yesterday, we took a look at where former Nats have gone via free agency this offseason. Here’s a glimpse at other transactions involving ex-Nationals:

Traded

Joel Hanrahan: The Pirates sent the closer, along with second baseman Brock Holt, to the Red Sox for RHPs Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel, utility IF Ivan De Jesusand outfielder Jerry Sands. The Nationals traded Hanrahan, who had disappointed in the Washington bullpen (but has saved 76 games the past 2 seasons with Pittsburgh), to the Pirates along with former uber-prospect Lastings Milledge for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan. When that deal was made, the headlines were about Milledge and Morgan, but neither of them currently has a job in MLB (Millege has been a free agent since September of 2011, and appeared in just 2 games for the White Sox in ‘11; and Morgan just signed a deal with a Japanese team because nobody in MLB gave him a big league contract). Meanwhile, Burnett just signed a lucrative 2-year deal with the Angels, and Hanrahan got a big paycheck from Boston after the December trade.

A.J. Cole: The RHP returned to the Nats organization in a 3-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle, while bringing, along with Cole, righty reliever Blake Treinen, and a player TBNL to DC from Oakland, who received catcher John Jaso from the Mariners. Cole was originally sent to Oakland bvy the Nats last offseason in the package that landed us Gio Gonzalez

Brad Peacock: Another pitcher involved in the Gio deal, Peacock was traded with left fielder/first baseman Chris Carter and catcher Max Stassi from Oakland to the Astros for SS Jed Lowrie and RHP Fernando Rodriguez.

Emilio Bonifacio: As part of Miami’s fire sale this past offseason, the speedy utility man was sent by the Marlins with catcher John Buck, pitchers Mark Buehrle (L) and Josh Johnson (R), and shortstop Jose Reyes (together taking over $150 off of Miami’s payroll) to Blue Jays forshortstop Yunel Escobar, catcher Jeff Mathis,  RHPs Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani, LHP Justin Nicolino, centerfielder Jake Marisnickand utility infielder Adeiny HechavarriaBonifacio was originally acquired by the Nats from Arizona midseason in ‘08 for now-Marlin Jon Rauch, and the team then traded Emilio following that season to Miami with 2 minor leaguers for Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen.

 

Remain free agents

RHP Todd Coffey

OF Willie Harris

RHP Livan Hernandez

IF Adam Kennedy

RHP Chien-Ming Wang

RHP Kip Wells

Retired

Nick JohnsonWhen healthy, the first baseman was an offensive force; he averaged 18 home runs per 162 games over his career. He played his best ball over his 6 and a half years with the Expos/Nationals organization, but injuries limited him severely throughout his career. In his career, which lasted from 2000-12, he missed three full seasons, and managed to play over 100 games just 4 times.

My favorite memories of #24 were when he’d return from an injury by coming in to pinch-hit, which happened at least 2 or 3 times, and the jumbotron would show the TV series 24’s intro and play the beeping that went along with it, and then would say “24: JUST IN TIME!” The fan favorite was missed once he left DC in ‘09, and we wish him the best of luck in the future.

Brian Schneider: Brian was another fan favorite during his time in DC. Originally drafted by the Expos in ‘05, Schneider served as Montreal’s and then Washington’s backstop from 2000-07 (sometimes as the starter, sometimes as the backup). While he didn’t have the best offensive numbers, his defense was above average, and from all accounts was a great clubhouse presence. Nats fans’ love for Brian hopefully was not hurt too much due to his spending the last 5 years with the Mets and Phillies.

Brad Lidge: Lidge is best known around baseball for his 2008 season, in which he was a perfect 41-for-41 in regular season saves and 7-for-7 in saves in the post season. 

The following season, however, he took a fall from greatness, recording a 7.21 ERA, blowing 11 saves and earning an 0-8 record—Phillies fans were not too fond of him after that. 

After he left the Phillies, he came to DC last season, but injuries kept him out after 7 games in April until June, and in 4 games in June, Lidge pitched 2.1 innings and allowed 6 runs. He was released on June 25.

 

Other news

Pudge Rodriguez was hired by the Rangers as special assistant to the GM. I wrote about Pudge on Friday.

Randy St. Claire, the former Nationals pitching coach, was hired as a minor league pitching coach for the Mets.

Pat Listach, Washington’s former third base coach, was signed as the Dodgers’ minor league infield coordinator.

Jim Riggleman, the former Nationals manager who quit in the midst of a huge winning streak in 2011 because he wasn’t being given an extension, was hired as a Reds minor league coach.

The Dodgers named Josh Bard, a former catcher for the Nats, player personnel special assistant

Pat Corrales, the former bench coach for the Nationals and one-time acting manager (after Manny Acta was fired), was hired, also by the Dodgers, as special assistant to the GM.

~Close Call~

Baseball quote of the day

"People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." -Rogers Hornsby

A look at where free agent former Nats ended up this past offseason

11 Nationals from last season’s organization joined different teams via free agency this offseason. Here’s a look at each, along with the team they signed with and the deal they signed:

Edwin Jackson: Cubs, 4 years, $52 million

E-Jax was the highest-profile player to leave the Nationals this year, and he achieved the payday he’s been waiting on for a number of years. Since 2008, Jackson has been on seven different ballclubs (although he never suited up for the Blue Jays; he was traded twice on the same day in 2011; both trades involving former Nats. He was traded with Mark Teahen to the Blue Jays, and then later that day, was traded along with Corey Patterson to the Cardinals). Jackson turned down at least one multiyear deal last offseason to ink a one-year contract with the Nationals, and gave up on his quest for a 5-year, $60 million deal before ‘12. The simple math shows that the wait paid off, as he earned $11 million with Washington this year.

 

Sean BurnettAngels, 2 years, $8 million

Sean originally came to DC in the 2009 Nyjer Morgan trade with Pittsburgh that sent Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge to the Pirates. The lefty had three and a half fantastic years in DC out of the bullpen, posting a 2.81 ERA  and a 1.21 WHIP in 245 innings in that time (compared to his previous career totals of 4.54 ERA and 1.506 WHIP in Pittsburgh). 

Tom GorzelannyBrewers, 2 years, $6 million

Gorzelanny, a former starter (and, like Burnett, a former Pirate), was converted into a full-time long reliever by the Nationals in 2012, following the trade with the Cubs that brought him to DC for 3 prospects in the 2011 winter. After faltering in his 7 years as a starter, putting up a 4.57 ERA in that time, Gorzo enjoyed tremendous success as a lefty long reliever last year, attaining a 2.88 ERA in 45 appearances (one start, in the team’s second-to-last regular season game, a start in which he went 4 innings and allowed 1 run on 4 hits) with a 1.319 WHIP. 

Mike Gonzalez: Brewers, 1 year, $2.25 million

Gonzalez, the veteran journeyman, is the third lefty reliever who’s also a former National and Pirate on this list. This year with the Nats, Gonzalez had his best year since 2009, posting a 3.03 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 47 games—interestingly enough, he didn’t earn a single decision in those 47 games, finishing with a 0-0 record. He’ll join Gorzelanny in the Milwaukee bullpen. 

Gonzalez was involved in the 2007 trade that brought Adam LaRoche, who the Nationals re-signed earlier this offseason, to the Pirates (a trade that sent Mike to the Braves).

John Lannan: Phillies, 1 year, $2.5 million

Lannan had 6 great years with the Nationals. An 11th round draft pick in 2005, he went on to be their opening day starter in 2009 and 2010. He was always reliable for 30-plus starts, and kept his ERA low. A victim of an overcrowded rotation, Lannan spent the majority of 2012 (a season in which he earned $5 million) with Triple-A Syracuse; he made just 6 big league starts last year, but, with the exception of a 3.2-inning, 6-run affair against the Dodgers in September, all of them were great starts. I know I’m going to miss seeing Lannan in a Nationals uniform, but with one of the strongest and deepest pitching rotations in baseball, the Nationals couldn’t afford to keep him.

Mark DeRosa: Blue Jays, 1 year, $750,000

A friend to all in the clubhouse and a fan favorite, Mark has seen his numbers decline at age 38, but he remains a valuable clubhouse presence; few 38-year-olds would be able to get a big league deal following a season in which they hit .188 in 48 games, let alone with a team like Toronto, which is a favorite to win the AL East this year. 

Jesus FloresDodgers, minor league deal

Flores was once the catcher of the future for the Nationals. He saw that career path derailed, however, after a stress fracture 29 games into the ‘09 season cost him the rest of 2009 and all of ‘10. Flores returned as a third-string catcher in 2011, behind Pudge Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos. Since then, he’s seen limited playing time (113 games in the last two years), and despite the fans’ and organization’s fondness of him, there was just no more room left for him on the team.

Rick Ankiel: Astros, minor league deal

Ankiel was a fan favorite during his time in DC, despite only playing in 190 games over 2 years and having lackluster offensive numbers. Rick’s story is one of the more interesting baseball stories ever. A top pitching prospect when he was called up by the Cardinals in late 1999, he had a fantastic 2000 campaign that almost won him the Rookie of the Year award. The next year, however, his ERA jumped from 3.50 to 7.13, and a combination of injuries led him never to be the same pitcher again. Many have speculated that the pressure “just got to him” and caused the break down. Regardless of the reason, Ankiel spent the following 5 years recovering from the mental and physical injuries (appearing in a total of just 5 games, all in ‘04), and returned to the Cardinals’ major-league squad in ‘07, this time as an outfielder. In 47 games, he hit .285 and crushed 11 home runs, combined with the arm that made him such a highly regarded pitcher giving him a huge edge as an outfielder. His offensive output has dwindled over the years, but he makes up for it with his superior fielding. Some of my best memories of the ‘11 and ‘12 Nats are times when he gunned out runners at home from deep center field.

Xavier NadyRoyals, minor league deal

Nady, yet another former Pirate, has signed with his 10th team. He offers power off the bench, and had his best year in 2008, the year he was traded from Pittsburgh to the Yankees, when he hit .305 with 25 homers in 148 games. He joins a Royals team that has made some splashes in the trade market and free agency this offseason on the pitching front. 

Cesar IzturisReds, minor league deal

Cesar is now joining his 9th MLB team, one of which was—you guessed it—Pittsburgh. The Nationals selected the utility infielder off of waivers from the Brewers last season in early August, and he played in just 5 games, with only 4 plate appearances (he had a single and a double). Fun fact: in 2006, he was traded from the Dodgers to the Cubs for future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux.

Mark Teahen: Diamondbacks, minor league deal

Teahan did not reach the big league team with the Nationals last year. If he makes the team in Arizona, Teahen will likely serve as a bench player with occasional power hitting, as he has in recent years. As mentioned above, he was part of a 2011 trade that also involved Edwin Jackson.

And here’s a quick run-down of where other players formerly in the Nationals organization have ended up through free agency this winter:

Jonny Gomes: Red Sox, 2 years, $10 million

Joel PeraltaRays, 2 years, $6 million

Jason Marquis: Padres, 1 year, $3 million

Jerome WilliamsAngels, 1 year, $2 million

Chad DurbinPhillies, 1 year, $1.1 million

Jon Rauch: Marlins, 1 year, $1 million

Wil NievesDiamondbacks, 1 year, $800,000

Collin Balester-Rangers, minor league deal

Miguel Batista: Rockies, minor league deal

Brian Bixler: Mets, minor league deal

Bill Bray: Nationals, minor league deal

Marlon ByrdMets, minor league deal

Matt CappsIndians, minor league deal

Endy ChavezRoyals, minor league deal

Chad Cordero: Angels, minor league deal

Armando GalarragaReds, minor league deal

Chad GaudinGiants, minor league deal

Alberto Gonzalez Cubs minor league deal

Anderson Hernandez: Pirates, minor league deal

Austin KearnsMarlins, minor league deal

Ryan Langerhans: Blue Jays, minor league deal

J.D. Martin: Rays, minor league deal

Garrett Mock: Diamondbacks, minor league deal

Pete Orr: Phillies, minor league deal

Corey Patterson: Mets, minor league deal

Shawn HillTigers, minor league deal

Nyjer Morgan: Japan

~Close Call~

Baseball quote of the day

"There’s no crying in baseball." -A League of Their Own

Baseball quote of the day

"Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."

-Yogi Berra

Nationals Have Pitching Depth

The Nationals, who were the subject of rumors surrounding the top remaining free agent Kyle Lohse and the “retired” Javier Vazquez, now have the starting pitching depth they need. Early last month, the team signed Ross Ohlendorf, a righty, to a minor league deal. Ohlendorf enjoyed a breakout season in 2009, in which he started 29 games and had a 3.92 ERA for Pittsburgh. Those numbers, plus an 11-10 record, likely led him to win his arbitration case after 2010, despite having a 1-11 record (and a 4.07 ERA for a Pirates team that won just 57 games) in ‘10. Since then, however, he has struggled with injuries, and in the past two seasons he’s played in a combined 22 games, 4 of them out of the ‘pen. Ohlendorf has a very high ceiling when healthy, and given that he is entering the season healthy, he’s a great low-risk, high-reward signing. 

The team also signed Chris R. Young to a minor league deal last week (not to be confused with Chris B. Young, about whom the Nats were involved in trade talks related to Adam Dunn and the White Sox in 2010). Young, who, in 9 years, has only had a 5-plus ERA once (5.21 in 2009, a year in which he started just 14 games) has also struggled with injuries, and hasn’t played a full season since ‘07. He did, however, start 20 games and post a 4.15 ERA last year, and with the right amount of playing time and the lack of injuries, is a very good 4th or 5th starter.

Ohlendorf and Young both have ties to former Nationals; Young and former Nats outfielder/pinch hitter Terrmel Sledge were both traded along with then-prospect Adrian Gonzalez from Texas to San Diego in January of 2006. And Ohlendorf was sent along with former Nationals utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez (not to be confused with this guy) by the Diamondbacks for Yankees pitcher, Big Unit, Randy Johnson

These two experienced starters, along with (injured) prospect Christian Garcia, give Washington a surplus of pitching once again; never a bad problem to have. Last season, John Lannan shone in six spot starts here and there for various reasons, 

Now that the team is complete, it seems the only thing they can do is provide backups to the backups. Davey Johnson is going to have some tough decisions to make come April 1.

~Close Call