Nationals in 2011 and Winter Caravan Update

In my mind (that's scary), I sometimes draw parallels between recruiting in college basketball to free agent shopping in Major League baseball.

A good example of this is a collegiate team that has a great recruiting class one season of say five outstanding freshmen. The team improves and plays better that season after two miserable seasons.

Then in 2011, the team only has a pair of scholarships available. But they go out and get two pieces that are more precise to what they need, and they perfect the two years of recruiting so the team is even better in 2011.

Not only do the five freshmen from 2010 have experience from a season of working together, but when you add two more players, the entire team has more cohesiveness and plays even better in 2011.

The same can happen to the Nationals. The team is coming off two very rough seasons in 2008 and 2009. They have a #1 pick waiting in the wings who could get significant experience in 2010, but will make an even bigger impact after a full season of minor and major league experience.

Next year you could have Stephen Strasburg, Jason Marquis, John Lannan and Jordan Zimmerman as four of the starting five. Add Drew Storen to a revamped bullpen, and you have something pretty impressive on the pitching side. This doesn't even taken into account the other additions: Pudge, Bruney, Capps (one-year deal), Guardado, etc.

And what about signing Adam Dunn to a long term contract? How about Dunn finishing his career as a National? I know that has to be the feeling of several Major Leaguers who have done everything. A guy who has played for several teams, hit a ton of homers and now wants to be a part of something special. And I believe his defense will improve playing first base from the beginning of the season. He may not be a Gold Glove at first base, but I believe he will be able to make some plays and get the job done. We all know what he can do with the bat after 38 HRs last season (and the multiple seasons prior to that).

Are the Nats done? It would seem another starting pitcher and a second baseman would finish off the wish list. But at what price?

The mere fact that the Nats attempted to get Aroldis Chapman shows maybe a shift in mindset for the Nats front office. There could be a change in the way of thinking from "let's just get through the season" (as has been the case the past two seasons) versus this offseason where the team appears to be thinking, "hey, we have some pieces to the big puzzle starting to materialize, including #1 pick Stephen Strasburg and top ten pick Drew Storen.

With the hope of a 100 percent healthy Jordan Zimmermann returning in 2011, a legitimately competitive pitching staff is falling into line.

On another note, the Nats have told me that pitcher Jason Marquis has been added and is confirmed as part of the Nationals Winter Caravan and will take part in the weekend activities slated for January 29th through the 31st.

Here is the updated list of participants and dates:

Participating Players, Manager and Front Office Staff*

Pitcher Brian Bruney: January 29 - 31
Pitcher Tyler Clippard: January 29 - 31
First Baseman Adam Dunn: January 29 - 31
Shortstop Danny Espinosa: January 27 - 29
Pitcher John Lannan: January 29 - 31
Pitcher Jason Marquis: January 29 - 31
Outfielder Nyjer Morgan: January 29 - 31
Manager Jim Riggleman: January 27 - 31
Catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez: January 29 - 31
Pitcher Craig Stammen: January 29 - 31
Pitcher Drew Storen: January 27 - 29
Outfielder Josh Willingham: January 29 - 31
Third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman: January 29 - 31

Moderators
Nationals Television Broadcaster Rob Dibble: January 27 -31
NBC's "Meet the Press" Moderator David Gregory: January 29

*Nationals Player & Manager Schedules Are Subject to Change

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