- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2005

Pitching was the Nationals’ strongest department in their first season in Washington, and it didn’t take long for other teams to start raiding it.

Right-hander Esteban Loaiza agreed yesterday to a three-year deal worth $21.375million with the Oakland Athletics — an offer Nationals general manager Jim Bowden couldn’t match. As compensation, Washington will get the No.22 pick in next year’s draft.

“I’m glad he won 12 games for us, and he would have won more with better run support, but we couldn’t afford $21.3million,” said Bowden, who recently signed a six-month extension but also is being considered by the Boston Red Sox for their GM position.

Loaiza, 33, was 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA, struck out 173 and walked just 55 in 217 innings for the Nationals. After June1, he went 11-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 starts.

Loaiza will be joining his seventh club in an 11-year major league career. He also played for Pittsburgh, Texas, Toronto, the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees.



His departure is a critical loss for the Nationals’ rotation, which had appeared strong again for next season. Ace Livan Hernandez went 15-10, and fellow right-hander John Patterson was 9-7 with a stellar 3.13 ERA after a dazzling second half.

Bowden acknowledged the Nationals will be forced to look at free agents to fill the hole. They would love to add a left-handed starter to complement Hernandez and Patterson, but there is little out there affordable under their $50 million payroll while Major League Baseball owns the club.

Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett is high on the Nationals’ offseason shopping list, but it’s doubtful any high-profile free agents will opt to sign with the Nationals until the club is sold.

Loaiza certainly will be missed. He was a huge clubhouse presence, and his 12 wins last season were the second most of his career. He won 21 games for the White Sox in 2003.

Loaiza has a 112-99 career record with a 4.60 ERA over 334 games and 297 starts. His victory total ranks second in major league history among Mexican-born pitchers, behind only Fernando Valenzuela’s 173.

Loaiza joins a team that has almost its entire roster returning from last season, when the A’s failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year. Oakland had a 91-win season in 2004 and 88 victories this year.

After a slow start by its young rotation, Oakland pitched well down the stretch thanks to impressive performances by rookie Joe Blanton and Dan Haren.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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