NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Today marks Day 3 of the baseball Winter Meetings, the last full day we’ll have here in Nashville.
I’m starting to get a little misty. I’ll miss this place so.
Sunlight, sleep and athletic activity are all overrated, anyway.
Tomorrow’s action consists mostly of the Rule 5 draft and some minor wrap-up stuff, leaving the next 24 hours or so as the main chance for teams to improve their rosters before heading back home. Obviously, it’s possible deals get done as teams make their way out of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, but today is really the last shot for face-to-face meetings with other GMs and agents in Nashville.
Since I’ve mentioned the Rule 5 draft, I’ll also mention that the Nationals don’t expect to select a player when their pick comes around tomorrow. After all, they have enough trouble making room on their 40-man roster for all the worthy players currently within their own organization. They don’t really have space for anyone from the outside.
So what do the Nationals have left to accomplish before leaving town? General manager Mike Rizzo didn’t single out any specific needs during his session with reporters yesterday evening, but there are two areas which will have to be addressed eventually - first base and left-handed bullpen help.
The Nats are still waiting on Adam LaRoche to decide whether he’ll be returning to D.C. for the next couple seasons. The offers are on the table at this point and both sides know where things stand. The Nationals have presented LaRoche with a two-year contract and will not budge off of it. LaRoche is still searching for a three-year deal, but the market for his services still doesn’t appear very deep.
The Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner in 2012 has received interest from the Mariners, and the Rangers could loom as an option, as well, especially if they don’t end up re-signing Josh Hamilton. There don’t appear to be many other teams in the mix for LaRoche, however, and even if the Mariners offer three years, I’m not sure LaRoche would take it. He wants to finish his career playing meaningful games, not helping a team try and get back above .500.
If LaRoche re-signs, Michael Morse then will almost certainly be traded to avoid a logjam at first base. Rizzo has gotten plenty of calls on Morse, adding yesterday that a few teams have been heavily interested in the power-hitting first baseman/left fielder.
One would think that the Nats shouldn’t have much trouble getting decent value in return for Morse given his offensive production, reasonable 2013 salary and the lack of proven run-producers available on the market.
In addition, the Nats will continue to look for another left-hander to add to their bullpen. Manager Davey Johnson said yesterday that he’d like to have another lefty reliever to complement Zach Duke, and with Sean Burnett no longer much of an option to return, the Nationals will have to turn elsewhere.
I mentioned yesterday that J.P. Howell is one name to keep an eye on. Howell would certainly be a good fit for the Nats; he posted a 3.04 ERA in 2012, can get both left- and right-handed hitters out and is able to work either in short stints or a full inning late in a game.
The 29-year-old told MLB.com that he’d be interested in playing for the Nats, and he likely is telling the complete truth, but really, he’d be pretty silly to say otherwise. Free agents don’t go around poo-pooing potential suitors in a public forum. That ain’t smart business.
Outside of LaRoche and a lefty reliever, the Nats don’t have many other areas which must be addressed. That could allow Rizzo to focus on trying to replace the minor league prospects which the Nats have surrendered the last two winters in order to acquire Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span. Morse could potentially be a ticket to help Rizzo accomplish that.
“We’re never going to stop trying to upgrade the ballclub,” Rizzo said yesterday. “If we see something that’s advantageous to us either on the major league level or to build our depth in the farm system to replenish some prospects that we’ve used in trades, those are all things that we’re trying to do.
“You never really rest in this job. You’re always trying to put into place our global strategy, so there’s still a lot of business and a lot of things to think about.”
The Nats have already had a fairly active last week, adding Span, re-signing Duke and agreeing to terms with right-handed starter Dan Haren. We’ll see if they have anything else up their sleeves before we pack up the laptops and head out of Nashville.