Monday, December 05, 2005

Sizllin' Stove!

Barry Svrluga checks in from Dallas and has a happy funbag o' news.

1) The Nationals budget for next season will be at least $60 million. It ain't the Yankees, but it's an improvement. When I did my roster projections last week, I was banking on a $55 million budget. We're in luck. That extra $5 million will be a big help.

The Nats have about $14 million for another starting pitcher and a reliever. Even in this crazy market, that's more than enough.

2) Jim Bowden has officially made an offer to AJ Burnett. It's believed to be 4-years, $40 million dollars, roughly equal to the Cardinals offer. The Blue Jays have a 5/$55 offer out there, and claim they won't go any higher than that.

Here's the scuttlebutt: Burnett's wife is from Bowie. AJ grew up in Arkansas, and is, presumably a Cardinals fan. Reportedly AJ's wife isn't enamored with the idea of Canada, but their new pitching coach was AJ's in Florida, and they have an excellent relationship.

The Cardinals are apparently working on some sort of option, and Barry's article indicates that the Nats might be working on a vesting option for a fifth year, which would vest if he stays healthy. I had read somewhere (without actual confirmation, so take it for what it is) that Bowden has been precluded from guaranteeing a fifth year on any contract (perhaps for insurance reasons; that only covers three years). If we go for that fifth year, we've got a good chance of landing him. 5/55 would probably get it done.

The more I think about Burnett, the more I like the idea. He's an extreme groundball pitcher who strikes batters out with an overpowering fastball. That's a rare combination, and one that's typical fared well in the majors. While he's experienced some post-surgery elbow tenderness, Tommy John surgery usually takes, and improves the player's arm. There's the off-the-field trouble to contend with, too. But I really think he can break out performance wise and have some Kevin Brown-type (remember when he was good?) seasons. (and if he flames out, forget I mentioned it.)

3) Bowden is meeting with Scott Boras tonight. Boras represents Millwood, Washburn, Rogers and Weaver. The Nationals haven't really been connected to any of those names previously. It's safe to assume that Bowden is showing interest in at least one of them now!

4) Bowden is looking at Javier Vazquez. As a reformed Yankee fan, I'm still holding a bit of a grudge with the guy. While I think he's a pretty good pitcher, I don't like the idea of paying him $24 million over the next two seasons to pitch slightly better than league average. He's durable, and he strikes out batters, and many of his MANY homers would be eaten up by RFK's gaps, but that's too much to pay. For 2/24, you could make an offer to Burnett, who's a superior pitcher. It's probably not the right fit.... unless Bowden could unload the UNGODLY Jose Vidro contract on them.

5) The Brad Wilkerson merry-go-round keeps spinnging. Barry reports that the Nats are still talking with Florida about Juan Pierre. NY seems willing to wait Florida out, and they're probably trying to drum up some interest. There have been rumors floating for weeks that the Cubs are interested in Wilkerson, including speculation that Corey Patterson could be involved!?!?! (Patterson = Wilkerson - Talent).

Barry reports the latest: That Toronto seems interested in him. Toronto has been shopping everyone's favorite poet (non-Poffo category), Miguel Batista, and Dave Bush. Either (or both!) would be passable options in the rotation, but if we're looking at Toronto, set our sights a bit higher on Vernon Wells, whom Toronto had shown a willingness to shop around a few months ago, and who could probably be had. Take a look at the Similar Batters list for Wells. Wow!

6) The Nationals are looking at John Flaherty as the backup C. Flaherty stunk on ice last year, but some of that could just be a sample size issue. (or it could be that he's 93 years old) Here, Flaherty would only have to face lefties, thanks to the strenth Brian Schneider's recessive genes. Over the last three seasons, he's hit .258/ .308/ .402 against lefties. That won't win you a pennant, but if that's the backup catcher, you're not getting killed.

7) The Nationals might bring Joey Eischen back. With the market for relievers going crazy the way it has been, this might not be the worst idea. Who knows how much he'll get on the open market though. It'd be better to go with no lefty (or to give Bill Bray a shot) than to pay him $1.5 million next season.

_____

The St. Louis Cardinals inched one step closer to the pennant today, by signing both Deivi Cruz and Gary Bennett as free agents. I know that if I was running a team, the one thing I'd want to copy from the National's successful run at mediocrity would be their bench.

Deivi is a type-C free agent, but as this is not his first go'round with free agency, the Nationals won't receive a draft pick, which would've been a sandwich pick between the second and third rounds anyway. The loss of Cruz, in and of itself, is more than enough compensation. Yes, I've used that joke before. (And yes, 'joke' should probably be in scare quotes.)

4 Comments:

  • Rocket Bill sez:

    "The Nationals have told John Flaherty that they are going in a different direction regarding their backup catching position. Though Bowden wouldn't say who the backup catcher is, a source said that the Nationals are trying to sign Todd Pratt, one of the top reserve backstops in the game. Pratt, who played last season with the Phillies, is perhaps best known for his game-winning homer in the 1999 National League Division Series while with the Mets."

    By Blogger WeatherMike, at 12/06/2005 12:37 AM  

  • Yep.... I was writing that one up as you were writing this one. Who knew that Bill Ladson could write actual useful content? :)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 12/06/2005 12:42 AM  

  • Which Vernon Wells similar batters excite you? Jay Payton? Shea Hillenbrand?

    By Blogger Yuda, at 12/06/2005 1:18 AM  

  • You need to look at the similar batters by age. If you just look at the similar batters list, you'll find mediocre players because it will be a list of players with incomplete careers.

    His similar by age list has Bobby Murcer, Andrew Dawson, Billy Williams, Ellis Burks, Reggie Smith, Carlos Beltran, Garry Sheffield, Vic Wertz.

    It's nothing but All-Stars and near Hall of Famers.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 12/06/2005 7:21 AM  

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