DALLAS - The Nationals haven't spoken today with the representatives for free agent Mark Buehrle, but Washington general manager Mike Rizzo believes his team is still firmly in the running for the veteran left-hander. More conversations between the two sides could be forthcoming tonight.
"My sense is that, from the rumor mills, that he's narrowed it down to a select number of teams," Rizzo said of Buehrle. "No one's contacted me with that information. From my meeting with him, I don't think he wants this to be a long, drawn-out process. I think he wants to get comfortable with a team, be treated fairly and make a decision and get on with the offseason and his preparation for spring training."
According to various media reports, the Nationals may be in a group of teams bidding for Buehrle that includes the Rangers, Marlins, Mets and Twins.
But after visiting Buehrle in his St. Louis home just before Thanksgiving, Rizzo thinks the Nationals have forged a connection with their quarry.
"I think there was a connection there," Rizzo said. "I went in there and really gave him a presentation of what we're all about - what we're trying to do now, what we're trying to do in the future, what part does he play in it, how his family will be impacted, how we take care of players' families and wives, security, all of that. It was a well-rounded presentation that kind of showed all the facets of not only the baseball team (but) our chance to win, his position in there, not only as a top-of-the-rotation guy but as a mentor to our young staff."
Rizzo thinks Buehrle was interested before the presentation and that the Nationals' talk with him only reinforced the positive vibe. Unlike in past years, there wasn't as much need to look far into the future to see the coveted player playing a role on a team bent on contention.
"We're beyond the point where we apologize for not being very good and (for) rebuilding. We're a solid team," Rizzo said. "We have a chance to compete and we get that point across. We do it by what our reputation is amongst the players - and as you know, the players, they talk a lot, so we have a good reputation out there."
Rizzo also confirmed that the Nationals have had discussions with left-hander C.J. Wilson, who is considered the top free agent pitcher available this winter.
"C.J. Wilson is an extremely talented, young left-handed pitcher who, on any team he plays on is going to immediately improve the ballclub," Rizzo said. "We're in the business to improve out club, we'd like to improve our rotation and he's one of the guys we've spoken to. I'm not going to comment beyond that, but he's one of the handful of starting pitchers that we've reached out to and talked to."
Wilson is angling for a salary of $120 million spread over six years, and Rizzo told MASNsports.com in an exclusive interview that signing a pitcher to such a long-term deal carries substantial amounts of risk.
"The risks are enormous, enormous risks going multi-years with any pitcher. ... (Wilson) is young and has a fresh arm, being a starting pitcher for only two years, but the risks with pitchers in general are great and going long-term that far out are immensely troublesome."