Each year GM's from across the league come together and meet in one place and talk hardcore baseball, these are the Winter Meetings. It's the Black Friday of baseballs shopping season, and the springboard that leads into MLB's Hot Stove offseason.
The meetings wrapped up last week and to review the action The Nats Blog is going to get reviews from top blogs across the league. Today will be the NL East, here will be the schedule for the rest of the week:
12/16-NL Central, 12/17-NL West, 12/18-AL East, 12/19-AL Central, 12/20 AL West
Team Name: Atlanta Braves
2009 Record: 86-76
Team Needs: 1st baseman, utility infielder, outfielder, several bullpen arms
Team Moves: Extended Tim Hudson; signed Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner; released Ryan Church and Kelly Johnson; traded Rafael Soriano for Jesse Chavez
Winter Meetings Grade: C+
Evaluation: The most noteworthy aspect of the Braves' offseason so far was Frank Wren's miscalculation on Rafael Soriano, who wound up accepting arbitration after Wren had publicly predicted that he wouldn't, forcing Wren to trade Soriano for a scrap arm from the Rays. There was no room or money for Soriano after Wren had already spent $10 million on Wagner and Saito, who are aging but still intriguing, particularly outside the launching pad in Fenway. Money issues also prompted the non-tender of bench OF Ryan Church and IF Kelly Johnson, whom the team might welcome back at a lower price.
Wren and Cox have identified the team's biggest remaining need as offense, but it's not clear where that will come from: Cox has disavowed interest in Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, and the team refused to offer arbitration to 1B Adam LaRoche. The team has no serious internal options for 1B, so they'll need to fill it with a free agent or a trade. Outfield is less clear: Matt Diaz and Nate McLouth will be back, and Cox has indicated Jason Heyward will be given the chance to win the RF job in spring training, though at least one of those positions really ought to be upgraded -- Diaz isn't very good against RHP, and McLouth's CF offense and defense are both average at best. A higher offseason grade will depend on how Wren improves the offense.
New York Mets
The team he turned down? The #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, the very team getting set to face the Texas Longhorns in the BCS National Championship Game Jan. 7.
That's good news for us though, and good news for Hoods future, which appears to be much brighter on the baseball field than the grid-iron.
Hood was the Nationals seventh ranked prospect last season after a short stint in Gulf Coast League towards the end of the summer after he signed. In 25 games in the GCL Hood showed relative promise for a kid out of high-school. Destin batted .256/.333/.349 with seven extra-base hits. Hood also swiped five bags. Not bad for an 18 year old.
Hood excelled again in his second stint in the Gulf Coast League in 2009, as the athletic outfielder batted .330 with an on base percentage of .388. He also slugged an impressive .614 for an OPS of 1.001. Hood however seemed overmatched in the same year at Vermont, where the 19-year-old batted only .346/.302/.333 in 38 games for the Lake Monsters. Hood stuggled to make consistant contact, striking out 45 times in 138 at bats, and only drawing 11 walks.
For Hood, the name of the game is patience and development. At 6-2, 195, hood posses a long and strong body. He's a great athlete for a baseball player and was even clocked running a 4.4 40-yard-dash durign his high-school football days. But while Hood has all the tools to be a very succesful MLB outfielder, he has to learn to play baseball at an advanced level, and get by on more than just his tools. He will need to learn pitch selection, how to work the count, how to swing depending on the count, how to predict what pitch is going to come.
Right now, Hood is completley raw. But the Nationals are hoping that he can project to be a talented athletic outfielder who can play strong defense and hit for power, in the mold of a Torri Hunter or a Mike Cameron. Don't be surprised to see Hood slip down this list before he rises back up, as right now his talent level is graded all on potential. The results will come, just be patient.
According to ESPN.com, the Washington Nationals and Scott Olsen have agreed to a one-year deal, with a base salary of $1 million. ESPN's source says that Olsen's contract is very incentive-heavy, and could balloon to as much as $4 million if the lefty starts 33 games.
This is a good deal for the Nationals who had just non-tendered Olsen last night. Had they offered him arbitration, the left-handed starter likely would have been awarded upwards of $2.5 million. This is a much safer option for the Nats. At only $1 million the club is not harmed too badly if Olsen re-injures his throwing shoulder. If he is healthy, the Nationals are hoping he will be worth $4 million.
The report also indicates that the Nationals expect Olsen to be ready to compete for a job in spring training.
I know this is a little late, but with the reformatting of the blog and everything this got caught a little bit in the shuffle. However, the top prospects are my favorite part of writing about baseball, espessially for a team like the Nationals. Today I will talk about the top 10 overall, and over the next several days I will break down each player from 10-1, as I did last year.
- Stephen Strasburg, rhp
- Derek Norris, c
- Drew Storen, rhp
- Ian Desmond, ss
- Danny Espinosa, ss
- Chris Marrero, 1b
- Jeff Kobernus, 2b
- Justin Maxwell, of
- Michael Burgess, of
- Destin Hood, of
Three of the top 10 players came from the first two rounds of last years draft, a draft many considered a historic change in the Nationals franchise. Obviously, no shocker here, Stephen Strasburg tops the list as he has been renowned as arguably the best prospect ever. Behind him is the very talented Derek Norris, who in many other systems very well may be the top prospect in their organization. Norris, 20, batted .286/.413/.513 with 23 homers last year in 126 games for Hagerstown.
New to the list in 2010 are Strasburg, the Nationals compensatory pick Drew Storen, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, second round pick Jeff Kobernus, and Justin Maxwell. This represents a big change for a Washington club that suffered a lot of trials and tribulations in 2009. For the Nationals however, change represents a good thing.
Take a look at the 2009 top 10 list:
- Jordan Zimmermann
- Ross Detwiler
- Chris Marrero
- Michael Burgess
- Jack Mcgreary
- Derek Norris
- Destin Hood
- Adrian Nieto
- J.P. Ramirez
- The artist formerly known as Esmailyn Gonzalez
Six players that were on this list are no longer ranked in the top 10. The most notable two left off the 2010 list are obviously Zimmermann and Detwiler. While clearly these two players are still prospects, as they are young, and learning, and incredibly talented, they no longer are on the list because 2009 officially counted as their rookie season. So when you read the 2010 list, keep in your mind that the Nats also have those two arms in their arsenal.
Also off the list are Mcgreary, who has now combined for a 5.15 ERA in three minor league seasons. Nieto, a Cuban catcher who batted only .227 in rookie ball last season. Ramirez, who batted only .264 in Vermont, and Esmailyn, who, well...has had some issues of his own.
The Washington Nationals made the decision today to non-tender both Scott Olsen and Mike MacDougal. As a result, neither of the Nationals pitchers will receive arbitration, and both will become free agents.
Finally for a change Washington has had the guts to get rid of players who have overachieved while on their team. For too long the Nationals have overpaid payers in order to not lose what they have, instead of being smart and shopping for the best values.
The most notable move of the two was the Nationals decision to cut their closer Mike MacDougal. no comments
The Nationals held the worlds first press conference to introduce a back up catcher today, as the club officially unveiled Ivan Rodriguez to the Washington public. Rodriguez was brought in by GM Mike Rizzo to serve as a role model and back-up catcher to the young and talented Jesus Flores.
It appeared at the press conference, however, that Rodriguez had other ideas:
"Well, I'm ready to play every day. We discussed that. I'm a player that can still play every day, and I will play every day and basically do my best for the club. I know it's hard for me to play 162 games; that's impossible for a catcher. But as long as I'm healthy, feeling great physically, I'll be in the field playing."
Rodriguez has had an illustrious career in which he has won an MVP, been an all-star 14 times, and never once served as a true back-up, and at the age of 38, he doesn't seem to want to start now.
"Again, I said that I'm ready to play. Look forward to spring training and do my job and play the game. I'm a guy that I take care of myself very well; I'm keeping myself in good shape. And I'm gonna be in spring training in February ready. Those decisions are not in my control. My control is just to go to spring training in good shape and be ready mentally and physically to play on an everyday basis."
In what was a slightly awkward press conference, Rizzo did his best to save face and make best of the situation:
"Would you expect anything different? He's a 14-time all-star. He's a very prideful guy. And he thinks his skills are at their finest, and he might be right, you never know. Like I said at the beginning, he's going to be a significant contributor to the ballclub. Now if that means 70 or 80 games or 70, 80, 90, 100 games, those are questions that will be answered throughout the course of the season. The best problem I could have all season is, 'Who of these two hot catchers are we going to play on an everyday basis?'"
To be fair, should Rodriguez earn himself the starting spot it ought to be given to him. Even at the ripe age of 38, Rodriguez can provide so much on the field that the Nationals desperately need. The catcher is the general on the field, the leader, and he sets the tone for the defense. Defense, of course, was one of the teams worst assets last season. It was an attribute that was often ignored by the previous administration (Bowden), and since the Rizzo era it has been addressed again and again. Take Nyjer Morgan for instance. Aside from the fact that he hit an incredible .351 with 24 steals in his 51 games with the Nationals, the club improved exponentially with his great defense in the middle of the field. The difference was noticeable, as the clubs record dramatically improved after the trade, and errors and runs allowed all went down. Rodriguez can provide the same kind of effect by anchoring the team as their back-stop. He could also be a quick fix to the stolen base against problem the team suffered last year, as opponents ran rampant against the Nationals in 2009.
Furthermore, at 25, if Flores isn't ready to take the helm as the everyday starting catcher, then when will he? Flores put up a disappointing .256/.296/.402 in 2008 following what was a promising rookie season. He answered with a strong .301/.371/.505 in 2009, but was only on the field, healthy, for 93 at bats. While he still has prospect status to many this will be his year to put-up or shut-up in Washington, as the Nationals have the supremely talented Derrick Norris rising through the ranks, as well as Bryce Harper waiting in the wings to be drafted.
In far less exciting, but rather interesting news, the Nationals first overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Stephen Strasburg, donated $141,000 to San Diego State baseball. Strasburg, the former San Diego State ace, signed with the Nationals for a record $15.1 million over four years. It's good to see the kid give back.
The money will go to re-surfacing the field at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
Top prospect and likely the top overall pick for next years MLB Draft, Bryce Harper, passed his GED earlier this week. Harper, 17, dropped out of high school after his sophomore season in order to attend community college this season, and become eligible for the 2010 draft.
By leaving school a year early and getting a year of college under his belt, he will become eligible for the draft after what would have been his Junior year of high school. Harper will join his brother, Bryan Harper, at the Community College of Southern Nevada. Bryan had been playing for Cal State Northridge, but transfered to play with his brother for one last year. The two shared one varsity season together at Las Vegas high school.
While leaving high school early to enter the draft may seem a vain attempt at money, in reality it was the right move for the phenom. Harper is far and away the most advanced sophomore in high school baseball, possibly ever. The competition level is just too low for him, and staying around will only hurt his development. In 38 games last season Harper batted .590 with 11 homers, this past season he hit .626 with 14 homers and 55 RBI. He also became the first sophomore in history to be named first-team All American by Baseball America.
While Harper can be jokingly referred to as the best thing since Stephen Strasburg, his hype appears well deserved as scouts and coaches who had experience with the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez at the same age say Harper is far and away better. That's pretty good praise.
Baseball Prospectus breaks down each team at the Winter Meetings in Indiana and gives reason for Nationals fans to have hope:
"It’s important to remember that the Nationals are still feeling the effects of years of being owned by MLB. You don’t recover from being a ward of the state, run without anyone deeply invested in the success of the team on or off the field, for some time. They don’t have the talent base to contend, and they’re just starting to develop a farm system, so all they can do is make constant marginal improvements. It would be good to see them trade Adam Dunn, a great hitter on a fantastic contract who should return a good price in prospects. Dunn would be an impact player for a dozen teams, and not just ones in the AL who can use him at DH."
The Washington Times praises the Nationals for changing their approach this winter:
"The Nationals' front office packed up at the conclusion of the winter meetings Thursday having generated more activity - and buzz - than any session in the past few years. Unlike 2007 - when former general manager Jim Bowden made a series of trades for reclamation projects or unproven prospects - and last year - when their futile pursuit of Mark Teixeira was the only substantive activity they generated - the Nationals gave strong signals they were ready to pursue a different course."
The Washington Post looks at the market change, especially for pitchers, so far in this off-season:
"As a whole, the market for free agent pitching is shifting significantly upward, with the deals signed by Randy Wolf (three years, $29.75 million from Milwaukee), Brad Penny (one year, $7.5 million from St. Louis) and Rich Harden (one year, $7.5 million from Texas) signaling rising prices on the remaining inventory -- both on the prime (Lackey) and sub-prime (Jon Garland, Jason Marquis, Vicente Padilla, Joel Piñeiro, et al.) markets.
A team like the Nationals, then, must either raise its offers in line with the current market, or aim a little lower.
"We're engaged with a lot of agents on a lot of pitchers," Rizzo said. "We're trying to find the best fit for us, with the best pitchers at the ability level we're looking at. I think it's going to take a little bit of time. I don't think it's going to be a real fast-moving market. But as always happens, when pitchers start [signing], there usually is a domino effect."
The Nationals are also expected to officially introduce new catcher Ivan Rodriguez. The future hall-of-famer recently signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Nationals to play mostly back-up catcher for Jesus Flores.
-The Washington Nationals selected four players in Major League Baseball's Rule 5 Draft today, but traded their first overall pick, Jamie Hoffmann, to the Yankees as the "player to be named later," in the Brian Bruney trade.
Hoffman, 25, was drafted by the Nationals out of the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. In 68 games at AAA Albuquerque Hoffmann batted .284/.360/.455 with eight homers and 48 RBI. He will likely serve as a reserve outfielder for the defending World Champions, if he is not shipped back to L.A. first.
The Nationals drafted three other players in the draft today:
- Arismendy Mota (RHP), from the Chicago White Sox in the AAA phase.
- Nicholas Moresi (OF), from the New York Mets in the AAA phase.
- Michael Wlodarczyk (LHP), from the Tampa Bay Rays in the AAA phase.