Here’s a brief update on the Nationals that departed the team through free agency have signed (if anywhere). They’re listed alphabetically.
OF Rick Ankiel-Unsigned. Last year, Ankiel hit .239/.296 and had 9 home runs in 122 games, most of them in center field. The former pitcher’s incredible arm makes him a valuable defensive asset, and he can hit for power.
RHP Todd Coffey-Unsigned. The durable and enthusiastic reliever is perhaps best known for sprinting onto the field every time he’s called on. A fan favorite, the 31-year-old redbeard earned a 3.62/1.257 in 69 appearances in DC last year, and was thus a major part of the Nats’ bullpen success. Coffey is probably the most likely man on this list to return to Washington next season.
IF Alex Cora-Unsigned. The veteran utilityman hit .224/.287 in 91 games for the Nationals in 2011. Cora made spot starts here and there (he started about a third of his games) and mostly played off the bench. The 14-year veteran is a versatile option for a team looking for bench help.
OF Jonny Gomes-The Oakland Athletics signed Gomes earlier this week. Details on the deal have yet to be released. The mohawk-sporting outfielder, acquired from Cincinnati at the trade deadline last year, played 43 games in a Nationals uniform in 2011, hitting .204/.299 with 3 home runs.
IF/OF Jerry Hairston, Jr.*-The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Hairston to a 2-year, $6 million deal. Last year, before being dealt to the Brewers midway through the season for minor league outfielder Erik Komatsu (who in 4 years at Single- and Double-A has developed a .302/.389 with 24 homers), the versatile 35-year-old hit .268/.342 with 4HRs for the Nats. Hairston is a good veteran presence who can play virtually any position and can come up clutch in crucial situations. He’s a 14-year veteran.
SP Livan Hernandez-Unsigned. Hernandez, 36, defied age expectations last year and pitched to a 4.47 ERA, just 8 points above his career average. The World Series MVP from 1997 (his rookie year with the Marlins, a year in which he had a career-best 3.18 regular season ERA) was an All-Star two straight years for the Expos/Nationals in ‘04 and ‘05, both years in which he led the league in starts, innings pitched, and batters faced. In his second tour of duty with the Nats, which started when Washington picked him up following his release by the Mets in August of ‘09, Livo pitched to a 4.17 ERA in 70 starts. He owns a career 174-176 record, and has had his best years with the Nationals’ franchise; in 7 seasons with the Nats/Expos, he has a 3.98/1.349 in 197 games. He’s also thrown 50 complete games in his career, and averaged just over 6 innings per start last year. The workhorse has made just one relief appearance in his career, his first ever MLB appearance, and should be a reliable fourth or fifth starting pitcher for any team that wants him. Look for the Nationals to add Hernandez to their coaching staff when he eventually does retire from playing.
SP Jason Marquis*-The Minnesota Twins signed Marquis to a 1-year, $3 million deal. Marquis, who the Nationals signed to a 2-year deal following his 15-win All-Star season with Colorado in ‘09, had a shaky start to 2010, then missed a majority of the year due to injury. His performance for the Nats was much better last year, netting an 8-5 record and a 3.95/1.417 (The high WHIP is not out of the ordinary for the righty, whose career WHIP is 1.434, while his career ERA is 4.55) before being traded to Arizona on July 30 for minor league utility infielder Zach Walters. Marquis, when he’s healthy, has proven to be a very solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher who can pitch every 5 days and eat up innings. That 2009 season in Colorado was perhaps the best in his career, and because the injury affected his 2010 performance, it is safe to say that even at 33, Marquis is still very much in his prime.
OF Laynce Nix-The Philadelphia Phillies signed Nix to a 2-year, $2.5 million deal. Fresh off a surprisingly good season with the Nationals, Nix has now proven that he can hit for power; in 124 games last year, he hit 16 homers, both of which are career highs. Look for him to compete for the Phillies’ third outfield spot this year.
C Ivan Rodriguez-Unsigned. Pudge, a 21-year veteran, is a mere 156 hits away from 3,000—and has the most hits ever by a catcher. A 14-time All-Star, 13-time gold glover, 7-time silver slugger, and 1-time MVP, the future hall of famer owns a career .296/.334, 311 home runs (7th all time by a catcher), and 572 doubles (the most by any catcher in MLB history by 89). It has been an incredible honor to have Pudge in a Nats uniform for the last two years, in which he hit .255/.291, 25 doubles, 6 homers, and 133 hits), but it looks like his time in DC may be over; he will not get the consistent playing time he’ll need to amass those hits, and the Nationals have already secured their starting and backup catchers for hte near future (Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores, respectively). It appears as though we’ll be wishing Pudge happy trails, and as a Nationals fan, I am honored to have been able to witness a part of his career as a member of my own team. The best of luck to you, Pudge.
LHP Doug Slaten-The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Slaten to a minor league deal. Slaten, 31, started 2011 off strong, but missed a good portion of the year due to injury. He ended the season with a 4.41/2.143. The lefty has been a decent option out of the bullpen the last two seasons, netting a 3.47/1.544 in that time since being claimed off of waivers from Arizona after the 2009 offseason.
SP Chien-Ming Wang-The Nationals re-signed Wang to a 1-year, $4 million deal. Wang, 31, was a low-risk, high-reward signing by the Nationals before the 2010 season; formerly an ace for the Yankees, the Japanese righty went down to Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2009 season, and didn’t pitch again until this past July 29th. Considering the time he’d missed, Wang had a pretty strong 2011; he notched a 4.04/1.238 and won 4 of his 11 starts—including one in which he allowed his first hit in the 6th inning. The Nats will probably put some sort of innings limit on Wang this season, though it shouldn’t be as extreme of a limit as Stephen Strasburg's will be. Look for Wang to anchor the end of the rotation (he and John Lannan will almost certainly ne the 4th and 5th starters) for a good part of the season. Wang is a decently experienced veteran who rounds out a young rotation with a lot of knowledge of the game.
*-Did not finish the season with the Nationals
Other former Nats who are/were free agents this offseason:
RHP Luis Ayala-Unsigned. According to MLBTradeRumors, Ayala has drawn interested from the Angels, Orioles, Yankees, Rays, Mets, Red Sox, and Blue Jays this offseason. Ayala pitched for the Expos/Nats from 2003 to 2008 until he was dealt in ‘08 to the Mets for Anderson Hernandez. Coincidentally, Hernandez was dealt right back to the Mets the next season.
C Josh Bard-The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Bard to a minor league deal. Bard Played for the Nats in 2009, and most recently played for the Mariners.
RHP Miguel Batista-The New York Mets signed Batista to a minor league deal. Batista played for the Expos from ‘98-‘00, and then for the Nationals in 2011. The most memorable part of the 17-year veteran’s brief stint in DC was perhaps the time when he was put in to start as a last-minute replacement for Stephen Strasburg (this was Strasburg’s incredible rookie season), and after the game (in which he was lightly booed by DC fans), he was quoted as saying: “Imagine if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos.” Batista later apologized to Miss Iowa and the two met for a photo opp. He most recently played for the Mets last year.
RHP Matt Capps-The Minnesota Twins re-signed Capps to a 1-year, $4.75 million deal. The closer was the Nationals’ only All-Star in 2010, and was dealt to the Twins that year for minor league righty Joe Testa (who had a 1.42 ERA last year in the minors) and now-starting catcher Wilson Ramos. Capps has been with the Twins since that trade, and had a 4.25/1.203 last year. Capps’ departure in ‘10 made way for 2009 10th overall draft pick Drew Storen (that was the year the Nats also drafted Strasburg first overall) to move into the closer’s spot.
OF Endy Chavez-The Baltimore Orioles signed Chavez to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. Endy, the man with the perfect first name for someone who often comes off the bench to finish games, spent 2002-middle of ‘05 with the Expos and Nats before being traded to Philadelphia for Marlon Byrd. Chavez most recently pitched with Texas in ‘11 after spending ‘10 in the minors.
IF/OF Willie Harris-The Cincinnati Reds signed Captain Clutch to a minor league deal. The journeyman utility player played from 2008-2010 with Washington and spent last year with the Mets. His low career numbers (in his best season, he hit .270/.349) cover up his tendency to get very big hits in important situations.
OF Austin Kearns-The Miami Marlins inked Kearns to a minor league deal. The 31-year-old played from 2006-‘09 with the Nats after coming over from the Reds in an 8-player deal in the middle of ‘06. My favorite memory of Kearns in a Nats uniform was on May 12 of 2007, when he hit the Nationals’ first ever inside-the-park home run—a game in which Ryan Zimmerman also hit a walk-off grand slam home run with two stikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. That game was against none other than Marlins. Kearns also received a DUI last year. He most recently played for the Indians last year.
IF Adam Kennedy-The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Kennedy to a 1-year, $800 thousand deal. Kennedy, who also received a DUI around the same time as Kearns, split second base time with Alberto Gonzalez and Christian Guzman in 2010 for the Nationals. The 13-year veteran spent last season with the Mariners.
IF Felipe Lopez-Unsigned. Felipe, a true journeyman who has played for 8 teams (11 different stints) and been involved in 3 different trades, turns 32 in May and hit a career-low .206/.247 last year with Tampa Bay and Milwaukee. He’s played the majority of his games at shortstop, but in recent years has been spending more time at second and third bases. Lopez came over in the same trade that brought Kearns to town in mid-2006, and was with the team until they released him during the ‘08 season.
RHP Mike MacDougal-The Los Angeles Dodgers re-signed MacDougal to a 1-year, $1 million deal. Mike Mack, a 9-year, 5-team veteran, closed 40 games and got 20 saves for the Nats in ‘09 after they picked him up as a free agent in early May. The 24-year-old righty pitched for the Dodgers last year, putting up a 2.05/1.456 in 69 games. The high WHIP shows the fact that he tends to give up a lot of inherited runs.
SP Scott Olsen-The Chicago White Sox signed Olsen to a minor league deal. Olsen spent all of last season, in which he was under contract with the Pirates, injured. He last pitched with the Nats in 2009 and 2010, netting in that time a 5.76/1.587.
OF/DH Wily Mo Pena-The Softbank Hawks (Japan) signed Pena to a 2-year, $5 million deal. Wily Mo has had an up-and-down career in the MLB; he blasted 26 homers in just 110 games (that’s on pace for 38 home runs in a full season) with the ‘04 Reds, but hit just .205/.243 with 2 homers in 64 games in ‘08 for the Nats, and then spent the entirety of ‘09 and ‘10 in the minors. Last year, in 30 games with the D’Backs and Mariners, hit .204/.250 with 7 homers (a big improvement), and should hopefully find his place with the Hawks. Pena turned 30 last week.
CF Corey Patterson-Unsigned. The former super-prospect was a bust with the Cubs (he hit .252/.293 with 70 HRs in 6 seasons with Chicago), and never quite hit his stride in the MLB. Patterson has made a career as a bench player; in the half-season he spent in ‘09 with the Nats, he made just 5 appearances, striking out 6 times, hitting 2 singles, and getting caught stealing twice in 15 plate appearances (that’s a .133 average). It is possible that Patterson, who hit .239/.273 with 6 HRs last year with the Blue Jays and Cardinals, has reached the end of his career.
RHP Jon Rauch-The New York Mets signed Rauch to a 1-year, $3.5 million deal. Rauch, the tallest player (6’10”) in MLB history, and one of my personal favorite Nationals, spent the middle of 2004-the middle of 2008 with the Expos/Nationals—in that span, his highest ERA of any year was .361 (in 2007), and his highest WHIP was 1.248 (in ‘06). He was traded to Arizona in ‘08 for then-prospect Emilio Bonifacio (who the Nats flipped along with 2 minor leaguers to the Marlins the following offseason for Josh Willingham, whose big contract this offseason is detailed below, and Scott Olsen, whose deal is mentioned above). Rauch spent last year in Toronto, getting a .485/1.346 and 11 saves in 53 games.
C Brian Schneider-The Philadelphia Phillies have re-signed Schneider to a 1-year, $800 thousand deal. The 12-year veteran spent his first 8 years with the Expos/Nationals, hitting .252/.323, until he was traded to the Mets in ‘07 with outfielder Ryan Church for then-prospect Lastings Milledge (who was later traded with Joel Hanrahan to the Pirates for Sean Burnett and the short-tempered now-Brewer Nyjer Morgan in ‘09). He’s been with Philadelphia since ‘10.
OF Josh Willingham-The Minnesota Twins signed Willingham to a 3-year, $21 million deal. The Hammer, who came to the Nats in the aforementioned Bonifacio trade, hit .263/.377 with 40 homers in 247 games from 2009-2010 with the Nats, was traded to Oakland after the ‘10 season for Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez. Willingham finally got a deal whose size matches his consistent power numbers; a deal that was a long time coming for him. He hit 29 homers in 136 games for the A’s last year.