When January passed the baton to February 12 hours ago, it meant one thing to most of us who follow baseball: Pitchers and catchers report this month.
As I sit there and type those words, I'm met with a rush of optimism that rolls around this time every year. The Hot Stove thing is fun for a while, but by this point, it needs to be cleaned off and put away. There's only so many times I can write the words "believed to be" or "according to a source" before I get an urge to see real baseball again.
And we'll get that in less than three weeks, when Nationals pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Fla., on Feb. 19. But until then, there are a few more things the Nationals are looking at, and I wanted to outline them here for you. Consider it part of the cleansing process from this overly long portion of the year:
- First, the topic on everyone's mind -- and on everyone's lips at Sunday's NatsFest -- was the possibility of signing Orlando Hudson. Many players were prompted to bring it up by reporters' questions, but there wasn't one who didn't want the second baseman in a Nationals uniform. At this point in his career, Hudson may be trading on name recognition more than anything else; many believe his defense has regressed some, and his lingering wrist injury is a concern. Still, there are plenty of indications the Nationals are the most active pursuers of Hudson, to the point they may end up offering significantly more than any remaining suitor. The esteemed Joe Christensen had this to say about the possibility of the Twins signing Hudson; in his blog post, he says he can't see Minnesota spending $3 million to get the second baseman. If the Nationals make an offer in that range -- and I suspect they already have -- it could well get the job done.
- The Nationals would still like to add another veteran pitcher, but general manager Mike Rizzo sounded less than excited about what's left on the market at this point. I don't think the Nationals are inclined to overpay for a Jarrod Washburn or a Chien-Ming Wang; they got into that game last year with Daniel Cabrera, and it burned them. The point isn't whether the remaining options are better than Cabrera, who was gone by May after getting a $2.6 million deal last season; it's whether they're better than the Nationals' young pitchers by enough to command a seven-figure deal and steal developmental time from a prospect. "There's nobody I believe is out there in the pitching market that is a difference-maker, to go out and be really aggressive and go after," Rizzo said on Sunday. Don't discount the chance of Miguel Batista making a bid for a rotation spot.
- Talks about an extension for Adam Dunn are in very rudimentary stages, though Rizzo has plenty of reasons to call Dunn's agent, Greg Genske these days--he also represents Hudson. I think this deal eventually gets done, but it could happen in spring training or even the first few weeks of the season, as Ryan Zimmerman's deal did last year. The important thing to keep an eye on is if it stretches into June or July without a deal. At that point, Dunn's name will start popping up in trade rumors if the Nationals are sellers and a team like the Red Sox needs a big bat, and he'll be close enough to free agency that the impetus to get a deal done will weaken considerably. But I think there's enough interest on both sides to get something done -- maybe a three-year deal? -- before trade talk rolls around.
That's all of what's on my list to be watching between now and the reporting date. If you've got other things, as always, leave them in the comments section and we'll kick them around there.