So there's news tonight from Denver that the Rockies have re-upped Jorge de la Rosa, left handed starting pitcher, to a three-year, $30-plus million contract.  The 30-year old hurler is just the latest free agent pitcher to remove himself from the market before getting into any meaningful negotiations with the Washington Nationals.

Not that I espoused signing de la Rosa.  Far from it.  But many in NatsTown are up in arms by the latest pitcher to spurn the Nationals.

GM Mike Rizzo famously went on record toward the end of last season saying a front of the rotation pitcher was his highest priority of the off-season.  He later recanted on a national radio show, saying that Cliff Lee was the only No. 1-type starter on the free agent market and he wouldn't delude himself that a pitcher who has pitched in the last two World Series -- for two different teams -- would pull on a new Curly W uniform.

But now, all the second tier starters seem to be removing themselves from the market before we even get to the Winter Meetings next week.  de la Rosa is only the most recent.

In addition, also gone are:  Javier Vazquez, Jake Westbrook, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland.  None are All-Stars, but all are more reliable starting pitcher than anyone currently under contract with the Nationals.

Notice I did not say "better", only more reliable.

Sure, Brandon Webb is still out there.  And the former Cy Young winner hasn't thrown in a game in two years.  Chien-Mien Wang, anyone?

There's always the trade market, but with Kansas City wanting "two Zack Greinkes" to place Zack Greinke, we can well assume he won't end up leading the Nats staff this year -- primarily because the Nats don't have two Zack Greinkes to trade.

As has been pointed out now repeatedly, last year's bumper crop of free agents that the Nats were able to land were decidedly disappointing.  Jason Marquis, Brian Bruney and Matt Capps were supposed to stabilize the staff; only Capps pitched well.  Ivan Rodriguez was terrible at the plate and vastly overrated behind it.  Adam Kennedy was misled, unused, became discontented and ultimately discarded.

So far under the Mike Rizzo regime, the Nats have not been able to either land -- or more likely, legitimately pursue -- quality free agents, preferring to shop in the bargain and rehabilitation bin.  Though there was a slight uptick in the final record last season, that was more a function of the normalization of the bullpen than anything else.

And we all know that bullpen arms are highly volitle and extremely unpredictable, right?  Right?

I'm on the record saying the Nats shouldn't throw money around just because they have it, and that at some point they will have to sign players to contribute to a winning team, but that now isn't really that time.  But by missing out on what little quality is available this season, the Nats could lose whatever traction they made last season record-wise.

They still have to play the 2011 season.

Anyway, the genesis of this post was all the negativity and grumbling on message boards and Twitter with the news that de la Rosa was no longer available.  It's come to this: NatsTown mired in anger and despair over losing out on a 30-year old, career 4.22 ERA lefty.

What's the Nats new marketing slogan?  Expect it?  Is that right?  Ugh.

13 comments

  1. mmtiger // November 30, 2010 at 8:41 AM  

    Do you realize that Pudge had the same fielding percentage as Yadier Molina (who won the Gold Glove last year). He had one less error and only 2 passed balls compared to Yadier's 7. Pudge also was third on the team in batting average behind only Desmond and Zimmerman out of the everyday players and led the entire league in hitting until his DL stint in June.

  2. Dave Nichols // November 30, 2010 at 9:53 AM  

    mmtiger, thanks for the reply.

    I didn't say Rodriguez was terrible defensively last season, merely overrated. i do know that his 34% caught stealing was one of the lowest of his career, well below his career average of 46%.

    for his hitting, batting average is s pretty lousy way to judge a player's worth, but i'll bite here.

    On April 22, when his average peaked, he was hitting .449/.472/.592. that covered 13 games and 53 plate appearances. FROM THAT POINT ON for the rest of the season, he hit .241/.268/.312, which is abysmal. there are pitchers who hit better than that.

    if you want to say Rodriguez had a successful season at the plate based on a bunch of empty singles over 13 games, go ahead.

  3. cass // November 30, 2010 at 10:12 AM  

    Ya know what news I'd like to hear? That Tampa agreed to a deal to retain Pena.

    I understand the market is tough out there, but I'd settle for signing the best 1st baseman on the free agent market. I think I read somewhere that he's got a friend on the team and that he's willing to play in Washington!

    Ya know, someone should start counting down the days until Opening Day 2012...

  4. Dave Nichols // November 30, 2010 at 10:16 AM  

    Cass: you're right. the team won't say it, but they just aren't going to put money into 2011 after losing Strasburg for the year. it's as simple as that.

  5. cass // November 30, 2010 at 11:03 AM  

    At least the team and I have something in common! ;-)

  6. bdrube // November 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM  

    Dispiriting is the word I would use to describe this off season so far.

    If the Nats really don't want to put money in the team for 2011 as you say, how about they knock 40% off the cost my season tickets? That's what other businesses have to do when they have a crappy, unwanted product: lower the price of it, already.

  7. Section 138 // November 30, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

    Let's not forget Pudge's insistence on murdering the GDP%. He grounded into 25 double plays this year in 451 plate appearances. He was second in the NL by one to Pablo Pandaval who hit into 26 in 616 plate appearances.
    Baseball-reference even has percentages, which makes me want to marry that website, yet again.
    Pudge got up to the plate w/a runner on 1st and less than 2 outs 88 times. He managed to hit into a DP 25 times, which is a 28% failure rate.
    Pablo? 137 opportunities, 26 actual GDP. 19%.
    (I will also admit bias towards Ivan as Carlton Fisk was my favorite player growing up. There is only one "Pudge", imho, and it's Fiskey.)

  8. Dave Nichols // November 30, 2010 at 1:26 PM  

    Sec. 138, thanks for the input. Ivan was disappointing any way you slice it, unless you're only slicing off the first 13 games of the season!

  9. Anonymous // November 30, 2010 at 3:02 PM  

    "Ivan was disappointing any way you slice it"

    Depends what standard you are using to evaluate him. Recall why he was signed - they needed an experienced catcher to mentor Flores and take some of the load off him as he came back from surgery and worked his way back to being the starting catcher. Who else was available that could have filled that role? (And if you say Brian Schneider, you reveal yourself to be nothing but a hypocrite in your bashing of Pudge.) Pudge was a definite upgrade over Bard and Nieves, and had he been limited to performing the role he was signed to fill his output would have been more than satisfactory. Unfortunately, though, Flores never even made it to the starting gate and Pudge was asked to do more than what he signed up for. That's not his fault. It's also not his fault that everyone insists on putting "future Hall of Famer" in front of his name every time they say it. In no way is he overrated. He is what he is, and he gave them what they paid him for. Don't go making him out to be Brett Favre.

  10. Dave Nichols // November 30, 2010 at 3:38 PM  

    Anon, thanks for the comment.

    I'm not making Rodriguez out to be anything more than a disappointment on the field. it's not his fault, he was just as bad the previous season for Houston.

    it's also not his fault that Flores couldn't return to the field in 2010.

    fyi, it's total fallacy that Pudge was an upgrade over Nieves/Bard. .290 OBP over 400-plus at bats is as damamging as it gets.

  11. mmtiger // November 30, 2010 at 6:22 PM  

    If playing close to gold glove defense is disappointing well you have me there. Pudge is and always will be a contact hitter, I watched him his years with the Tigers, Leyland used him in hit & runs successfully and often because of it. Put it to a hypothetical vote Nieves or Pudge, hmmm... wonder what the results would be.

  12. raymitten // December 1, 2010 at 8:16 AM  

    Action isn't always a good thing. Milledge for Schnieder and Church was action. Was that a good idea?

    De La Rosa has pitched over 130 innings only once in his career. I'm not disappointed that the Nats didn't break the bank for him.

    Jon Garland was pursued last off season. He turned the Nats down because he wanted to pitch on the west coast. Rizzo can't do anything about that.

    Vasquez wanted to be as close to Puerto Rico as possible. Florida is closer than Washington. Rizzo can't do anything about that, either.

    Lets wait and see what happens. Some of the best moves are those that you don't make. If Rizzo signs Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche instead of Adam Dunn, its going to a be a move. But its not going to make me happy.

  13. Anonymous // December 3, 2010 at 12:33 PM  

    Dave,
    I agree that Pudge was disappointing, but what did you expect? Many pundits said the Nats overpaid him and should not have given him a two-year deal. I think he did exactly what you expected. Batted horribly and was adequate behind-the-plate.