Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo met with reporters in the Nationals’ clubhouse after the team’s 3-2 win over the Mets today, to debrief the team’s activity - or lack of it - at the 4 p.m. trade deadline.
After shipping out two veterans (utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. and pitcher Jason Marquis) yesterday, the Nationals stood pat on Sunday, though Rizzo said they were engaged with one team toward the deadline until the price got to a point they couldn’t live with. (He didn’t mention specifics, but it’s probably safe to assume he was referring to talks with the Twins about Denard Span.)
Instead, the Nationals will have to continue their search for a center fielder and leadoff hitter; that could come later this year in a deal where players clear waivers, or it could come after the season. Rizzo did lay out, though, some parameters for what the Nationals are looking for.
He wasn’t interested in getting a center fielder who wasn’t under club control for more than a year - which effectively took the Astros’ Michael Bourn and the Rays’ B.J. Upton, both free agents after 2012, out of the discussion. Span was attractive to the Nationals in part because of his contract, which runs through 2014 with a team option for 2015, but in talking about his negotiations toward the deadline, Rizzo said the team he was talking to had “demands of certain players. We just didn’t feel good about doing that.”
It’s well-known at this point, though, that the Nationals are in the market for a center fielder. They haven’t been able to find an answer at that position since coming to Washington, and in many cases, they’ve tried to put their center fielder in the leadoff spot with mediocre results.
They could solve that need internally, but from Rizzo’s comments on Sunday, it seems clear Roger Bernadina isn’t high on the team’s list of options for the position. The Nationals sent him to Triple-A Syracuse on Friday, and many in the organization believe he is better-suited as a corner outfielder or possibly a fourth outfielder than as an everyday center fielder.
And when he discussed internal options at the position, Rizzo said most of the Nationals’ choices are at least a year away.
“We’re always trying to develop our own,” Rizzo said. “We have several players in the pipeline. They’re not immediate answers right now, but we feel we have future answers at the position. That was one of the reasons I didn’t feel like a short-term approach to the position. We’ve got guys in the system that will be fine everyday center fielders in the future, but they’re going to be down the road a year or two. For us to bridge the gap for a one-year plan didn’t work for me, for the players you have to give up and the money that has to be spent.”
Corey Brown is at Triple-A Syracuse, though he’s struggled all season, and Erik Komatsu - who came to the team from the Brewers in the Hairston trade - will go to Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals could also look at Destin Hood and Eury Perez further down the road, and there’s a possibility Bryce Harper could play the position.
In the end on Sunday, though, the Nationals didn’t land a center fielder because of what they’d have to give up. He said closer Drew Storen was one of the first names mentioned in just about every phone call the Nationals took, and while the idea of trading him wasn’t necessarily prohibitive, the Nationals couldn’t settle on a price they felt was fair for the 23-year-old.
The Twins were believed to want other pieces in return for Span, and when the price got higher than what Rizzo could stomach, the Nationals backed away.
“We felt we couldn’t come to a deal where we were getting back enough for what we were giving up - the quality of players, the youth of the players, the control of the players, the contract of the players, it wasn’t enough in return for us to be satisfied to make the deal,” Rizzo said.