DALLAS - Mike Rizzo told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the Nationals had pretty much made their best and final offer to free agent Mark Buehrle and that the team was awaiting an answer from the left-hander.
The Nationals didn't have to wait long for a response: Buehrle has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $58 million deal to join the Miami Marlins. That gives the Marlins three high-profile, big-money free agents - closer Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes and Buehrle - along with new manager Ozzie Guillen to open their new ballpark in Little Havana.
Through a team spokesman, Rizzo said he wouldn't comment on what he considers a rumor because no formal announcement of the agreement between the Marlins and Buehrle has been announced.
Less than an hour after Rizzo expressed confidence that the Nationals had done enough to lure Buehrle to Washington, it appears Washington's offer wasn't as sufficient as he thought.
The Nationals have made an offer to free agent Mark Buehrle - believed to be three years for between $42-45 million - and they're waiting to see if the veteran left-hander is willing to come to Washington to serve as a staff leader and mentor.
"I feel good about it," Rizzo said. "I feel good about how we presented it. I feel good about the fit and the opportunity. I had good dialogue with Mark and his people. We feel good about ourselves. I think we're at a point now where it's an ongoing negotiation."
The Nationals spoke last night and again today with Buehrle's agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports. It's not known whether Buehrle has been in Dallas and participated in the discussions, or whether his representatives were able to secure the no-trade protection he sought in a contract.
As Buehrle narrowed his choices down to the Nationals and Marlins earlier Wednesday, it was thought that the Marlins' efforts to add free agent lefty C.J. Wilson to their collection of high-dollar signings during the Winter Meetings would play in Washington's favor. The Marlins were trying to lure Wilson, who now might be an option for the Nats.
It's a disappointing turn for the Nationals, who discussed multiple options over the past several days in their war room on the fifth floor of the Hilton Anatole, becoming more and more comfortable that they've done enough to lure their primary target.
"Mark was our Plan A free agent," Rizzo said. "We liked his fit for us. He's the main free agent acquisition target we've had and we'll see where that leads us."
Rizzo said there have been no further talks with Bob Garber, the agent for both Wilson and right-hander Roy Oswalt, mainly because the Nationals were confident they'd done enough to land Buehrle.
"Mark is our free agent target," Rizzo said before Miami's deal with Buehrle began to leak out.
The Marlins are now out on Wilson, who was hoping to snag a contract worth $120 million for six years. Now, the Nationals, who were earlier this week linked to the lefty, may reopen talks.