The Winter Meetings are all done, and the Nationals, of course, are happy with the progress they made. That’s the predictable thing to say publicly, but in their case, how productive a week this was won’t be determined for some time.
They landed reliever Brian Bruney and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, addressing a couple of problem spots, but there are questions about Rodriguez’s age and Bruney’s consistency. The Nationals spoke to agents for a handful of starting pitchers, only to watch the price on the second tier of hurlers behind John Lackey rise considerably, especially when the Brewers signed Randy Wolf for $29.75 million over three years. And they didn’t land a middle infielder to shore up their defense there.
Now, there’s plenty of time between now and spring training, but the Nats’ activity this week only qualifies as a start.
“We came here with a checklist of things to try to accomplish over the course of the offseason,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We’re far from finished, but we think this was a good starting point and we feel good about it.”
The final activity of the Winter Meetings was this morning’s Rule 5 draft, during which the Nationals used the first pick on Dodgers Class AA outfielder Jamie Hoffmann and traded him to the Yankees to complete the Bruney deal. The Yankees were prepared to have the Nationals select their own reliever, left-hander Zach Kroenke, and send him back to New York, but a source familiar with discussions said the Yankees decided late last night to take an outfielder they could use as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, a la Brett Gardner.
To make the pick, the Nationals released reliever Zack Segovia.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the Rule 5 activity:
Additions (all in the Class AAA phase): Chicago White Sox right-hander Arismendy Mota (who is likely to be traded to the Chicago Cubs), Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Michael Wlodarczyk and Houston Astros outfield Nicholas Moresi.
Departures: Class AAA reliever Zech Zinicola (to Toronto in major-league phase), Class AA right-hander Ruben de la Rosa (to Toronto in Class AAA phase), Class AA right-hander Terrence Engles (to Seattle in Class AAA phase), and Class A right-hander Johan Figuereo (to the Mets in Class AA phase).
Zinicola, once the Nats’ closer of the future, has struggled most of the last two seasons. But Dana Brown, the former Nats’ scouting direcctor who is now a Toronto special assistant, wanted to bring back Zinicola after drafting him in 2006.
So what’s next? The Nats will introduce Rodriguez at a press conference at 1 p.m. tomorrow, and must decide by midnight on Saturday whether to tender contracts to their remaining unsigned players for 2010. Left-hander Scott Olsen is the biggest name to watch there; as the price for veteran free agent help escalates, Olsen could be a bargain if he’s healthy. He’ll make at least $2.24 million in arbitration, and is coming off shoulder surgery. But he made 30 starts every season from 2006-08, and if he’s back to that level, he’ll be a much cheaper innings-eater than a Garland, Pineiro, Padilla or Marquis.
I’ll probably also try to put together a live chat for tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned for details on that.