Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Several clubs have expressed interest in Roger Bernadina, but the Nats still like the outfielder.
-- Lee is by no means the only pitcher they've been pursuing here. Mike Rizzo acknowledged he's spoken "a couple times" with Tom O'Connell, the agent for Carl Pavano. Pavano remains a potential target of the Nats, though there are plenty of teams in the running for him and I get the sense Rizzo is nowhere close to as willing to put together a long-term offer for the soon-to-be 35-year-old as he is for Lee.
-- The Nationals certainly remain interested in Brandon Webb, the one-time NL Cy Young Award winner who was drafted by Rizzo when the latter was the Diamondbacks' scouting director in 2000, but there's a growing perception around the sport that Webb is nowhere close to being ready to pitch after major shoulder surgery. A source from another club that is looking at Webb said he'd be stunned if the right-hander pitches at full strength this spring or appears in a major-league game early next season. His fastball was clocked in the low-to-mid 80s this fall. Sounds an awful lot like the condition Chien-Ming Wang was in one year ago, and we saw how that all worked out.
-- As far as the pitching trade front goes, the Nationals have at the very least inquired to the Royals about Zack Greinke and the Rays about Matt Garza. Perhaps not surprisingly, they've learned both clubs are asking for a whole lot in return for those right-handers, especially Kansas City, which wants four or five players in a deal for Greinke. Tough to imagine the Nats (or any club, for that matter) meeting that incredibly high asking price.
-- The Nationals are very much in the market for a late-inning reliever. Their ideal acquisition would be someone who has some closing experience but isn't a full-fledged closer. The idea is to bring a veteran on board who could pitch the ninth inning if Drew Storen isn't ready to handle the job but ultimately would slide into a setup role if Storen does step up at some point this season. Lot of guys out there who fit that description, including Octavio Dotel, Brian Fuentes, Kevin Gregg, Bobby Jenks, Rafael Soriano, Kerry Wood, Kyle Farnsworth and Aaron Heilman. With so many relievers still unsigned, I would imagine the Nats won't make this move for quite some time.
-- Several teams have inquired about Josh Willingham, including the Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners and A's. Rizzo is asking for something significant in return, probably a young pitcher, and other GMs are so far balking at that price. Willingham, though, isn't the only Nationals outfielder other teams have expressed interest in. They've gotten inquiries on both Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse, according to major-league sources, and while Rizzo isn't particularly eager to move either guy, he'll certainly listen to offers. One team that could have legitimate interest in Morse, ironically enough, is Philadelphia. The Phillies need a possible short-term replacement for Jayson Werth in case rookie Domonic Brown isn't ready yet. Who better to fill that role than a guy plenty of observers have likened to a younger version of Werth? All that said, I believe the Nats will keep both Bernadina and Morse. If Willingham stays, they'll serve as bench players. If Willingham is traded, Bernadina will become the primary left fielder (Rizzo and Jim Riggleman love his athleticism there) with Morse working his way into the lineup at several positions (left field, first base) and serving as Riggleman's top bat off the bench.
-- Fans of sabermetrics and advanced stats may want to skip over this item, because you're not going to like it. Rizzo was asked today what stat he looks at most when evaluating potential pitching acquisitions. His answer: Wins. "Who's a winning pitcher, and how did they get to that win?" Rizzo said. "Obviously, there's different parameters and different metrics that we use. It's not the end-all and be-all; we saw this year's American League Cy Young [Felix Hernandez, who had a 13-12 record]. That's important, because to win a lot of games you have to pitch a lot of innings and be effective at doing it." It's at this point that I will relay Cliff Lee's record this season: 12-9.
-- Two days after my seemingly innocent tease about the Nationals working on another out-of-nowhere deal, I finally got a team official to respond. In a word: No. In two words: No way. In three words: Never even discussed. That's why I never revealed the player's name, because despite the rumblings I was hearing from multiple people, it just sounded too bizarre to be true. Turns out it was. I did, however, get a kick out of all the crazy theories you guys threw out there.