NASHVILLE, Tenn. - They have a giant podium set up here in the Winter Meetings media work room at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
Attached are a few tables, and there are five long rows of chairs facing the podium, about 150 chairs in all. This set-up is here in order to give teams a platform to announce major signings, trades or news which often breaks at the Winter Meetings.
During the four days at this year’s Winter Meetings, the podium was used twice: to announce the Mets re-signing David Wright (a deal which was reached a week ago) and for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to address Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery.
That’s it. No huge Winter Meetings signings, no blockbuster trades.
The Nationals actually ended up being one of the more active teams at the Winter Meetings, reaching an agreement with veteran right-hander Dan Haren and re-signing Zach Duke to serve as a left-handed long reliever. If you factor in their trade for center fielder Denard Span last Thursday, the Nats have made more significant additions to their roster than the vast majority of teams in the last week.
“We’ve all been through meetings where nothing happens, where you have a lot of conversations and nothing happens,” assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. “So for us, on the heels of the Span trade, to come in here and get Haren signed and lay the groundwork for other potential trades, or non-trades, as these things tend to go, we feel good that we had good dialogue.
“And probably most importantly at these meetings, just getting in front of people and seeing each other and having dialogue. Whether it’s with agents, teams, media, that type of stuff, it tends to generate a lot of ideas. I think you start to see that with all the buzz and transactions during the week.”
The Nats hope to receive word today that Haren has passed his physical. That’s not a certainty, given concerns about Haren’s hip and his past back injury, but Minniti said the Nats expect to get good news from their medical staff in the not-too-distant future.
“Otherwise, we don’t enter an agreement with the guy,” Minniti joked.
Adam LaRoche remains the major question mark, just as he was when we arrived in Nashville four days ago.
The Nats aren’t budging off their two-year offer to LaRoche, while the 33-year-old continues to look for a three-year contract. The market for LaRoche isn’t all that expansive so far, with the Mariners expressing interest and the Rangers and Orioles possibly in the mix, but the waiting game continues.
“We’ve made the offer and we’ve been in touch with him the whole time and we obviously would love to have him,” Minniti said. “If things don’t work out, we have capable options. We’ll see how it plays out. You never know.
“I think the reality is you come out of these meetings and there are a lot of teams that are still going to have needs, and he could fill those needs for somebody else. So, just hang with it and stay in touch and see what happens.”
With Sean Burnett signing with the Angels, the Nats will need to look for another left-handed reliever to fill out their bullpen. J.P. Howell remains the main target they’re eyeing.
The Nats will also look to add more depth to their starting rotation. They don’t have a lot of quality starters in the high levels of their farm system at this point, and with Double-A left-hander Danny Rosenbaum being selected by the Rockies in this morning’s Rule 5 draft, the Nats now have one fewer arm they can look to as starting depth.
That’s an area that the Nats will try and address in the coming weeks and months.
“I think the challenging thing with the major league rotation that we have is recruiting guys that know they’re probably going to end up being at Triple-A at some point, barring an injury,” Minniti said. “I don’t know that we’ll sign those guys anytime soon. We’ve had negotiations and conversations with guys for the last two months or six weeks since the World Series ended. And we’ll continue to try and sign guys to be depth for us.
“They’re critical guys. You guys have seen over the years where you end up using far too many of those guys in your major league rotation, but also guys like Zach Duke that probably don’t belong there all year, but stay and end up coming up to the big leagues late in the season. So we’ll continue to try and sign those guys. Going to be a little more difficult with the rotation that we have.”
At this point, the bulk of the Nationals’ offseason needs have been addressed, although there weren’t many to begin with. That was made evident by GM Mike Rizzo’s early exit from the Winter Meetings yesterday.
The Nats will wait on word from LaRoche, they’ll field trade offers for Michael Morse and they’ll look to add a few more arms. But other than that, the 2013 roster appears to be pretty much set. Only nine weeks or so now separate us from spring training.
A quick note: I’m hanging around for the next handful of hours in case there’s more to report, but after that, I’ll be taking a few vacation days. I’m meeting up with a couple of friends and will make my first trips to Memphis and New Orleans.
I plan on visiting lots of libraries and learning how to speak French. Right.
Our fine MASNsports.com staff will have all things Nats covered in my absence, and I’ll check in with you guys when I get back.
That’s a wrap: Click here to see a video wrap-up of the Nationals’ activity at the Winter Meetings, featuring MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko and Mel Antonen.