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What's ahead for the Nats?

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It’s been a pretty quiet month since the Nationals wrapped up their 2009 regular season.

Aside from some key front-office hirings, what news have these guys really made since Oct. 4? Not much.

Look for things to start perking up, though, in the next few days. The GM meetings are currently taking place in Chicago, so don’t expect anything big until those wrap up tomorrow. But among the likely stories to develop very soon…

MANAGERIAL HIRING

This is finally getting closer to fruition. The Nats have met with anyone they wanted to meet. Now it’s just time to make a decision.

All signs continue to point toward Jim Riggleman retaining the job on a permanent basis (as we reported last week), for a variety of reasons. He was well-respected by players and club officials after taking over for Manny Acta at the All-Star break. He is a safe choice for an organization that is trying to establish some continuity after two years of upheaval. And yes, he’s affordable.

As for other rumored finalists (ie. Bobby Valentine), it’s hard to envision. Not only would Valentine cost significantly more, his personality and managerial style don’t seem to mesh with those of GM Mike Rizzo, president Stan Kasten and the Lerner family. Valentine’s first priority is Valentine, not all that unlike Jim Bowden. On top of all that, the guy hasn’t managed in America in seven years, and he admittedly isn’t up to speed on a lot of major league players and clubs (something that didn’t help his cause in trying to land the Indians job). Not saying it would be impossible for Valentine to wind up in D.C. Just saying it’s pretty unlikely.

GOLD GLOVE ANNOUNCEMENT

The American League Gold Glove winners will be announced today, with the National League winners announced tomorrow. Which means tomorrow could be a very big day for Ryan Zimmerman, the odds-on favorite to win the award among NL third basemen. This would be Zim’s first career Gold Glove, and it would be a big deal for the 25-year-old. He’s always prided himself on being a great defensive player, and this award would mean a ton to him because of its significance and the fact it’s voted on by managers and coaches (an ultimate sign of respect).

FREE AGENCY BEGINS

Teams can begin signing free agents 15 days after the end of the World Series, so Nov. 19 is the date to remember this year. There won’t be a flood of signings, not like in the NFL (where Dan Snyder has Redskins One gassed up and on the tarmac at 12:01 a.m. the day free agency begins) but the Hot Stove League will heat up considerably after that.

The Nats will have some money to spend. They’ve shed some sizeable contracts off the books since the end of the season. Dmitri Young is gone. Austin Kearns is also gone after the club made the no-brainer decision not to pick up his $10 million option and instead enact a $1 million buyout. Throw in Nick Johnson, who was traded to the Marlins July 31, and that’s $18.5 million from last year’s payroll no longer on the books. Surely the Nats can find a better way to spend that money, perhaps on a veteran starting pitcher.

- Mark Zuckerman

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Mark Zuckerman

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