While the offseason is all about new additions and tweaking a roster, it's also a time to reflect upon players who move on to a new team. Several ex-Nationals have recently lined up new jobs for 2011.
Catcher Wil Nieves, non-tendered by the Nats earlier this month, signed a $775,000 deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and will compete in a crowded field to back up Jonathan Lucroy. Nieves' main competition for the gig will be holdover George Kottaras.
The 33-year-old Nieves played three seasons with Washington after spending parts of four campaigns with the Padres and New York Yankees, joining the Nats in one of those nondescript agate transactions as a free agent in January 2008 . He hit .244 with all five of his major league homers - who could forget his walkoff game-winner off the Cubs' Bob Howry, his first major league homer, on April 25, 2008? - and 62 RBIs in 199 games as a National.
Most off all, Nieves will be remembered for always being ready - and the club's penchant for injured catchers made his presence serendipitous. He was a good handler of pitchers and went out of his way to make sure that his status as a backup catcher didn't inhibit his ability to forge relationships, particularly with the younger arms. And, from a media perspective, Nieves was always available and gracious with him time. I'm not sure there was a friendlier player in the clubhouse.
Left-hander Scott Olsen's career in a Nationals uniform wasn't as memorable and his departure could have been predicted when he openly sulked about being moved to the bullpen late last season. Now's he's the problem of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who signed him as a free agent last Friday after he was non-tendered by the Nats.
Olsen came to Washington from Florida in the November 2008 deal that also brought Josh Willingham, but never came close to fulfilling the promise he flashed in successive seasons with double-digit wins in 2006 and 2007. Shoulder surgery short-circuited Olsen's debut season in D.C. after a 2-4 record and 6.03 ERA in 11 starts. The Nats non-tendered him last December, re-signed him a day later and were rewarded in 2010 with a 4-8 record and 5.56 ERA in 17 games, all but two of them starts. He was troubled with elbow problems, spent time on the disabled lists and had to pitch out of the bullpen in September.
Those two relief stints were impressive - Olsen picked up a win, allowed a run on three hits in six innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Well, impressive to everyone but Olsen. When asked about his performance out of the bullpen, Olsen said tersely, "I'm not a reliever." His fate was sealed with those comments.
At least Olsen lasted longer than Brian Bruney, one of general manager Mike Rizzo's first offseason acquisitions last December. The Nats sent a player to be named (minor league pitcher Jamie Hoffman) to the Yankees to get the 28-year-old Bruney, who had gone 12-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 153 games over three seasons. The Nationals thought they were getting a reliable arm, but Bruney never panned out, going 1-2 with a 7.64 ERA in 19 games before being released May 25.
Bruney signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in June and lasted three weeks at Triple-A Nashville. He then hooked on with Mets in July, pitched with their Triple-A Buffalo club and was released Nov. 6. Proving that power arms and past statistics are enough to generate some interest, the White Sox signed Bruney as a free agent Dec. 5.