DALLAS — Free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle has whittled his options down to a final five teams and the Nationals are one of them, according to a source familiar with the decision making process.
That’s good news for the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo who has made Buehrle his top free agent target this offseason and felt a “connection” with the veteran pitcher when he visited him at his home in St. Louis just before Thanksgiving.
“I think there was a connection there,” Rizzo said Tuesday. “I went in there and really gave him a presentation of what we’re all about. What we’re trying to do now, what we’re trying to do in the future, what part does he play in it, how his family would be impacted… all those factors came into it. It was a well-rounded presentation that kind of showed all the facets of not only the baseball team and our chance to win but his position in there as a top of the rotation guy and as a mentor to our young staff.
“I thought at the beginning there was a lot of interest (from Buehrle’s side) and I thought when we left there was a great interest in the Washington Nationals.”
Buehrle has been one of the most sought after free agents on the market this offseason with no fewer than 14 teams reportedly interested in the left-hander’s services. The fact that he’s cut the list down to five seems to indicate that he’s getting closer to a decision and the Nationals reportedly join the Miami Marlins in that mix — though their offer to Buehrle could be impacted by the decision of Albert Pujols.
By mid-afternoon, Rizzo hadn’t spoken with Buehrle’s reps but he’d heard through the grapevine that he’d cut his list down to five contenders and had the feeling from their meeting that it wouldn’t be a very drawn-out process.
“I think he wants to get comfortable with it, be treated fairly, make a decision and get on with the offseason and his preparation for spring training,” Rizzo said.
There are reports that Buehrle is seeking a four-year deal and would like a no-trade clause to be included in that but his representation has been mum on the topic and the pitcher’s requests.
Rizzo’s confidence alone in the meeting represented a significant step for the Nationals as an organization — the feeling that they’re going in there with plenty to offer a free agent and no longer have to “apologize for not being very good and that we’re rebuilding.”
“I think we’re a solid team,” Rizzo said. “We have a chance to compete and we get that point across and we do it by what our reputation is amongst the players and the players, they talk a lot. We’ve got a good reputation out there as a good place to be and, you know, every free agent knows some player on every team… I think those conversations were all positive.
“It’s an easier presentation to put together (than it had been in the past), I know that. It’s much more to the point of: “Here we are, here’s how we’re going to win and here’s what you’re going to do to help us get there.” We can base that on facts and names and not just concepts and philosophies.”