Despite their desire to make a big splash at the meetings, the Washington Nationals were no where to be found on Day 1 of the MLB Winter Meetings. Unless you count conflicting rumors flying off the handle about the teams interest in CJ Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Prince Fielder, and even Albert Pujols. Here's what we know about the Nats after one day of negotiating.
The Nationals have absolutely no interest in CJ Wilson. Unless they have enough interest to offer him a 6-year deal. It all depends on who you believe, really. The Washington Nationals beat writers believe that Mark Buehrle is the top starting pitching target for the organization, and that there is no truth to the rumor started by @InjuryReport and supported by MLB Network Radio's Jim Duquette that the Nationals offered Wilson a large contract, which included a 6th season. To Wilson's credit, he tweeted on Monday night: "Seriously laughing at all these rumors people start...it seems like unnamed sources are just reporters with itchy twitter fingers". You can decide for yourself who to believe on this topic...
Mark Buehrle is the Nationals top target this week. Period. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported, GM Mike Rizzo would be content going into the 2012 season with Jayson Werth as the team's starting center fielder, leaving right field open for competition for Bryce Harper, among others.
Other than that, there wasn't a whole lot of news for NatsTown on Monday. However, one thing is clear. The Nationals and the rest of the NL East cannot allow the Miami Marlins to get many more wins this week, especially big name ones. The Marlins signed Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, two huge free agent signings, to long-term, big-money deals, and if you believe Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the team has offered a 10-year deal to Albert Pujols. The NL East is already the toughest division in baseball, and the Marlins are trying to make it tougher. The Nats have to make a splash soon, or they may lose interest as one of the more interesting teams in the off-season.
I must object to the last sentence of this posting. The Nats absolutely do not need to make a splash soon or even at all if this means sinking their future into overpriced free agents like the Marlins are doing. The Marlins are proposing ten years to Albert Pujols- they would be paying $30m a season to a 41-year old in 2021. This is crazy and one has to be very skeptical that their business model can create enough revenue in Florida to sustain this kind of payroll. Overpaying on big free agents is not the way to go: it is not how Washington made progress over the last two years and if the right players are not available at the right prices Rizzo would be quite right to simply believe in what we've got already, that is, a farm system with as much young talent as any team in baseball right now.