At midnight this morning, shortly after the San Francisco Giants poured champagne on themselves in celebration of their first world championship since 1954, the new baseball year began.
The first day after the World Series marks a kind of turning of the calendar in the baseball world, and for all intents and purposes, we're officially underway with the 2011 season. Players were able to file for free agency as of midnight, and teams have five days - instead of the usual 15 - to negotiate with them before they hit the open market.
For the Nationals, that means four players - Miguel Batista, Adam Dunn, WIllie Harris and Kevin Mench - are five days away from becoming free agents, unless they agree to deals with the Nationals before midnight on Saturday. The Nationals also have a $2 million option on second baseman Adam Kennedy, but seem likely to buy him out for $500,000 instead of bringing him back.
Dunn, obviously, is the player most of you are concerned about. General manager Mike Rizzo has professed a lack of urgency about speeding up negotiations with the first baseman through the entire season, always pointing to this window as the buffer zone in which the Nationals could get a deal done. That window is 10 days shorter than it used to be, but the Nationals have had all season to work on a deal with Dunn. Now that he's so close to free agency, I'd be surprised if he didn't at least take a look at the open market. If he ends up with the Nationals, I'd guess it would come later in the offseason if he doesn't find an offer to his liking.
What questions do you have about the Nationals as the free agency process gets started? Let me know.