Today is the last official day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, and the Washington Nationals haven't been quite the story that many expected. The Winter Meetings this year were supposed to be a continuation of the Nationals Phase Two, which included Jayson Werth's 7-year, $126 million deal this time last year. So far, it's been anything but.
From the beginning, the Nationals weren't shy about making Mark Buehrle their top target, despite the non-DC media's attempt to make CJ Wilson their #1 guy. Well, neither of those things worked out. Buehrle was signed by the Miami Marlins to a 4-year, $58 million deal; Wilson was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a 5-year, $77.5 million deal. The Nats were never serious about Wilson and weren't willing to give Buehrle the 4th year, so they came away with nothing.
It's still early in the day in Dallas, where the Winter Meetings are being held, but time is running out to make a big splash for the Nationals, and there aren't many guys left that fit the Nats plan. It seems more likely that Jayson Werth could be the team's Opening Day Center Fielder with Bryce Harper as the team's Right Fielder if you believe this tweet by Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com: "One Nationals person: 95 percent Bryce Harper makes team out of spring training."
Yes, there's still a lot of offseason left, and yes, there are still trade possibilities out there, but the Nationals are running out of time to make the big splash they wanted to going into 2012. While a rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Wang, Detwiler could be worse, it also could have been a lot better with Buehrle. Now, the sweepstakes goes to waiting for Yoennis Cespedes to become available as a free agent CF, which, if you ask me, will be a huge gamble for a ton of money.
I believe that GM Mike Rizzo has done a great job in his current role, but l also believe that it was crucial for the team to ride the momentum from the outstanding September 2011 into next season. It looks like that opportunity may be passing them by.
Head to iTunes or back here tomorrow morning to listen to a special Winter Meetings episode of Nats Talk On The Go. It should be an interesting one.