Nationals’ shopping list not finished by Christmas

Normally, I’m opposed to the kitschy holiday-themed blog post, but I’ll make an exception this morning - since this actually has some news value.

Tomorrow, of course, is Christmas Day, and it’s understood among many players in baseball that free agents want to find a new home by then. There’s something about being able to spend the holidays with family, worry-free and celebrating a new job, that strikes a chord for many players, as it would for any of us. So in the days before Christmas, there is usually a flurry of activity as agents finalize deals with teams.

But for some players, the ability to play the market and create leverage trumps any holiday peace-of-mind. And it so happens that a few players the Nationals are pursuing are in that boat.

Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee, the top two first basemen left on the market, seem to be slow-playing the free agent process. LaRoche, in particular, appears to be in no hurry to find a new team, and he’s sitting on a reported three-year offer from the Orioles, as well as interest from several other teams. Lee is seeking $8-$10 million, and might make more sense for the Nationals, who seem to be looking for a short-term solution at first. I’m just playing a hunch on this, and I have no hard-and-fast information to back it up, but I wonder if the Nationals are looking for a stop-gap solution at first for this year so they can make a run at Prince Fielder next year.

And if LaRoche and Lee are milking their leverage on the first base market, Carl Pavano and Brandon Webb certainly seem to be doing that on the pitching market. After Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies, Pavano found himself in the enviable position of being the best pitcher left on a free agent market filled with more buyers than sellers. He’s seeking a three-year deal, and though the Brewers’ trade for Zack Greinke took a possible suitor off the market, Pavano still has enough possible destinations to drag the process out.

And Webb, who is coming back from injury, is believed to be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of the $10 million deal Ben Sheets got from Oakland after returning from injury last year. He still has multiple teams interested in him, and should be healthier than Sheets was last year. But there’s always a significant risk with a pitcher coming off shoulder surgery, and the Nationals have enough dicey pitching options that I’m not sure they’d spend $10 million on another one. Now, the price on Webb could come down, and for a one-year deal, the Nationals might take a chance on Webb for a slightly more modest figure. At this point, though, he has no reason to start giving in.

So we wait on a few key items as Christmas arrives. I’ll keep you updated on as many developments as the news dictates and my internet connection allows. I’m in Minneapolis at the moment, heading to Wisconsin today to visit both sets of my grandparents. If anything breaks, technology should be fine today in Eau Claire, Wisc., but tomorrow, it’s off to Stratford, population 1,515 (and a Marawood Conference rival of Jordan Zimmerman’s Auburndale High School). And the only thing harder to find there than a cell tower is a skyscraper.

So, for the most part, the blog will go dark for a couple days, barring any news developments. But as I sign off, please accept my warmest wishes for a merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year. Enjoy the silly stories and backyard football games with family - those memories are as precious as anything you’ll find under your tree. Talk to you this weekend.