The Nationals held their annual Hot Stove Luncheon for season ticket-holders today, and while such events aren't known for their newsmaking value, this one actually delivered some: Adam Dunn and the Nationals have begun preliminary talks on a contract extension.
The subject was first broached by a fan's question, after which Dunn stood, began leading his own round of applause and did a deadpan staredown of owner Mark Lerner. But afterward, general manager Mike Rizzo said he and Dunn had talked about an extension on Friday morning.
"It was the first time Adam and I sat down and discussed concepts," Rizzo said. "Obviously, we don't talk any kind of finances with the player. We talked with his representative. But we just wanted to get the groundwork done on, 'Here's what we're thinking; what are you thinking?' It was just a very conversational thing that was going on."
Dunn, who will make $12 million this season in the last year of a two-year contract, has come up occasionally in trade rumors, in large part because conventional wisdom says the Nationals won't keep him after this year or he won't want to stay with a team that could be several years away from contention. But that doesn't appear to be the case; Dunn said today he wants to stay with the Nationals and is hoping an extension gets done.
"It's something I want to do," he said.
He added the talks are "at stage zero," and neither he nor Rizzo gave a timetable of when a deal might be completed. But it appears both parties are working toward making an extension happen.
--The other big news of the day came from Dunn again, who said he thinks the Nationals are former teammate Orlando Hudson's top choice. The free agent second baseman is in discussions with the Nationals about a contract, and Dunn, who shares an agent with Hudson, "From his point, this is where he wants to be," Dunn said. Rizzo said again the Nationals have talked with Hudson and "several other options" (probably including Orlando Cabrera and Adam Kennedy), and added the Nationals have had trade talks about middle infielders with a number of teams. Chalk it up to bargaining rhetoric, but Rizzo sounded content to wait negotiations out. "If it's the right player and the right fit at the right price, we'll get it done," Rizzo said.
--Manager Jim RIggleman said Cristian Guzman could end up back at shortstop, mentioning again the bunions on Guzman's feet he felt limited the shortstop at the end of last season. "I think we'll see a healthier Cristian Guzman in spring training, and that may allow him to continue to play shortstop," Riggleman said.
--In his one at-length mention of Stephen Strasburg, Rizzo said the prized right-hander "has to put in his apprenticeship in the minor leagues, and his talent will dictate where he goes from there." So in other words, don't expect Strasburg to make the Opening Day roster unless something extraordinary happens. Drew Storen, however, is possibly a different story; Riggleman said he is "ahead of the curve," and will get a chance to compete for a spot. Hmm...think there was a subtle message about signing a contract on time there?
--Team president Stan Kasten got a couple questions on the payroll, and said he believes the Washington market is big enough to put the Nationals in the group of high-revenue clubs, or possibly "right below the New Yorks or the LAs."
--Riggleman talked at length about Mark McGwire's steroids admission, and admitted he was "naive" on steroids when managing Sammy Sosa in 1998. Kasten said he could say "with reliable certainty, we do not have players taking steroids in this game." He admitted he could not say the same about HGH, but praised the players' union for being committed to testing for HGH once such measures are more reliable. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said the most unfortunate aspect of the steroid era is that any athletic feat is now questioned almost out-of-hand, and mentioned the reaction he heard while watching sprinter Usain Bolt set world records.
Plenty of other subjects were discussed today, but probably more than are prudent to touch on here. So let's do this: If you weren't there, and you have a question about something, leave it in the comments, and I'll relay what was said about it.