When eligible players were allowed to file for free agency yesterday afternoon, all eight eligible Nationals players did so. And while that's a mere formality, it does kick off the team's window of exclusive negotiating rights with those eight players.
The Nationals can re-sign any of their free agents until 12:01 a.m. Thursday, at which point the players can sign with other teams. The team doesn't have the kinds of significant decisions it had to make last year, when Adam Dunn was a free agent, but there are a couple players on the list that might wind up back in Washington next season.
Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, of course, is at the top of that list. The team has been negotiating with Wang's agent, Alan Nero, on a deal for the 2012 season. And while the two sides aren't close on a deal yet, both are interested in the pitcher returning to the Nationals next season.
After that, there's not much certainty of any player returning. Right-hander Livan Hernandez has said he wants to come back, and would do so as a reliever. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez has said he would prefer to stay in Washington, as well, though he would probably need a place where he could play more to continue his quest for 3,000 hits. Rick Ankiel could be back as a fourth outfielder, and the Nationals could wind up offering Jonny Gomes arbitration to cash in on a potential compensation pick if he leaves in free agency.
But the odds of any of those players returning, as well as Alex Cora, Todd Coffey or Laynce Nix, are 50-50 at best. The Nationals are mostly looking at a list of backups, and in the case of the outfielders (Ankiel, Nix and Gomes), they probably don't need to bring back more than one player. Hernandez could be on the market until this winter, as he was before the 2010 season, and it seems unlikely Cora would be back when the Nationals have younger players like Steve Lombardozzi who could get time in the middle infield.
The team's big priority amongst its free agents is re-signing Wang, and the guess here is that will happen sometime this winter, even if it's not this week.
Which free agents would you like to see the Nationals bring back? Let us know in the comments section.
Update: The official ranklings by the Elias Sports Bureau are out, and none of the Nationals' pending free agents are ranked as Type A or Type B free agents. That means the Nationals won't receive a draft pick in return for a free agent signing with another club.