WHAT TO DO ABOUT DUNN?
I wrote yesterday about how the Nats are on the fence with free agent first baseman Adam Dunn and how he can start entertaining offers from any club after midnight Saturday night.
Let me say this: I think the Nats have no intention of signing Adam Dunn, unless he fails to garner a four-year offer elsewhere and he lands in their laps much as he did two years ago, hat in hand. If they did, he'd already be under contract and NatsTown could be worried about something else right now. But let me add: If Dunn really wanted to stay in D.C. as he has proclaimed all along, he could be signed already as well.
This was inevitable. Dunn's camp knows this is his last chance to lock up a big money, mulit-year contract. There was no way they weren't going to free agency once they learned (very early on this year) that the Nats would not go to four years under any scenario.
And once Stephen Strasburg got hurt, the Nats' need to invest heavily in players that could be part of a contending team in 2011 went right down the drain. Without Strasburg, the Nationals simply need too many players to compete, especially at starting pitcher.
If Strasburg had finished last season healthy, the team could have probably convinced themselves that they just needed to plug in a bona fide Major League starter in right field (coughJaysonWerthcough) and find a platoon partner for Nyjer Morgan in center (hell-o Cody Ross) and they could field a .500 team in 2011 and really compete in 2012.
Now? They'll be patching together a pitching staff all season long, just like every year since they arrived in 2005. It would be financially foolish to throw money at a select one or two free agents knowing that your team isn't going to compete anyway. They'd be better off looking for younger, cheaper talent that can grow with the the rest of the core players in the franchise.
Because with the state of the team right now, the Nats would have to re-sign Dunn, AND sign Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth just to have that shot at being a .500 team in 2011. Then, next off-season they'll have to pay or replace Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan and probably bring in another pitcher to truly be a contending team.
So watch this off-season as the Nats bring in another innings-eating starting pitcher and Carlos Pena (or Aubrey Huff) to play first base. Maybe they'll upgrade a couple spots on the bench. But if they don't spend the money it would take to re-sign Dunn in the first place and pocket it instead, don't say I didn't warn you.
NEW THIRD BASE COACH HIRED
The Nats brought in Bo Porter, fromerly Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach, as their new third base coach, replacing Pat Listach at the position. Listach left the Nats to take the bench coach job with the Chicago Cubs.
Porter was a candidate for at least one managerial position this off-season. He has extensive experience as a third base coach, having manned the position with the Florida Marlins and the D-backs before graduating to the bench last season after their mangerial shake-up.
Porter also will coach the outfielders and base runners, and has worked with Josh Willingham when both were with the Marlins.
"Bo was at the top of the list of the people that I had in mind," Riggleman told The Washington Post's Nationals Insider. "Definitely, I think it's a great hire."
BUILDING A WINNER?
We saw with the recently concluded World Series how the San Francisco Giants caught lightning in a bottle and won on the strength of three really terrific arms (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner), a young phenom (Buster Posey) and a few veterans contributing at the right time. Don't think all of baseball didn't see it and want to emulate their "formula", especially the Nationals.
Bottom line though is the Giants were extremely fortunate that the cast of postion players they surrounded their young and extremely talented pitching staff with came through when needed, because other than Posey, there probably isn't a single hitter on the Giants you'd take over their counterpart on the Nationals. And that's pretty damning.
Congratulations to them, of course. They have the hardware and no one can take their names off this year's trophy. But I'll be shocked if the Giants are much better than .500 next season, even with that great pitching.
SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE SET
The Washington Nationals released their 2011 spring training schedule yesterday, some four weeks earlier than last year. Awesome, gives more time to plan for our annual trek for Florida for springtime baseball. Looking at the list of opponents though, it's hard to not to lament the Dodgers and Orioles exodus from Florida's east coast, with L.A. moving to Arizona and the O's off to Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast.
The Nats have 30 spring training games scheduled this season, against just seven teams. Worse, three of the seven are division opponents (New York Mets (seven games), Atlanta Braves (four games) and Florida (soon to be Miami) Marlins (four games)). As if it isn't bad enough we nave to sit though 19 Marlins games a year?