Rizzo's plan is to do all the things the Nats should have done last season — sign the apparently healthy 2B Orlando Hudson, put together a legitimate bullpen out of more than spit and baling wire, and ink a veteran starting pitcher to act as a mentor to the younger members of the rotation. Rizzo wants to send a message that the Nats are a big-boy baseball team that recognizes its mistakes and is trying to put the Bowden days behind it.
So, great, Rizzo wants to actually build a team as opposed to discovering one on the bottom of his shoe, but are these the right moves?
- Orlando Hudson turned out to be healthy after failing the physical he took for the Nats in the offseason, so now they want a second bite of the apple. After an offseason where he didn't draw much interest, Hudson was a late signing by the Dodgers. He'll make up to $8m this season, a relative bargain for what he's giving LA. Pertinent questions: 1) How much of a premium is he going to want to play for a lousy team with no internal alternatives at 2B and will the Lerners pay it; 2) Hudson still looks good at 31, but how's he going to look from 32-34?
- A(nother) complete rebuilding of the bullpen, with a focus on a closer. Without rehashing the debate over whether any failed starter/reliever can be turned into a closer or if closers are sent down from Olympus, where Zeus himself teaches them how to throw his mighty thunderbolt — just don't spend a bunch of money on a "proven closer" and then try to tell me that everything's going to be great now because "Hey! We just signed a proven closer!" That kind of classic Royals-Pirates maneuver is just going to piss me off. If they're going to spend money, there are better places to do it.
- A veteran starter to fill the Livan Hernandez Chair of Innings Eating and to serve as a mentor to Lannan, Zimmermann — and hopefully Strasburg. But not just any veteran starter. Rizzo mentioned a few significant prerequisites:
We have to have a special type of veteran pitcher, who is willing to give of himself as a teacher and mentor type of guy. We have to get a team-oriented person, a person that is going to give his time and his knowledge. It's not an easy task.
We think with the additions of an Adam Dunn, a Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan, it's going to attract some veteran players. These guys know what we are doing here. It's all over the league where we are at and what we are trying to do. I think they can see this is the beginning of a good, exciting ballclub.
We want someone cheap, with no other real options, who won't mind sitting at the back of the NL East bus while we figure out what the hell we're doing and who's really running this team.
The Nats should sign a veteran starter to mentor the rotation. I thought they should have gone after Pedro back when that was an option. But Rizzo's quote makes me think they won't do much more than go after the next Odalis Perez. A few names stand out from the list of potential 2010 free agent starting pitchers, but mostly for the wrong reasons. Rather than sign a marginal pitcher or someone nearing the end of his career, the Nats should pursue someone who can be a mentor without making the fans dread seeing his name in the probable pitchers every fifth day (I'm looking at you, Ramon Ortiz): Randy Wolf. Wolf is one of the few attractive options on that free agent list (and, like Hudson, would be another case of the Nats trying to right an offseason wrong). Sign a veteran, but sign the right veteran, which means prying open the Lerners' wallet.
- Rizzo says he wants to add more speed to the lineup. Here we go again.