Tuesday, February 16, 2010
10 New Guys
One Former League Leader in Wins--who was also second in the Cy Young Award balloting the same season.
Two Former World Series Champions; one of whom a Former MVP.
One Former League Leader in Stolen Bases.
One Former Saves Leader.
Nine of the 10 top free agents signed by Our Washington Nationals this off-season have playoff experience with at least one of their former teams. Many of those are not late in their careers--trying just to hang on in the game of baseball for one more season.
That's 10 New Guys.
There is a big difference in the quality of non-roster and off-season pickups in Washington's camp for Spring Training 2010 as compared to the first five seasons since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005. In those years past, Washington's Viera Roster has been a revolving door --guys named Jason Simontacchi, Alex Cintron, Wily Mo Pena, Mike Bascik and Damian Jackson come to mind. But only these following players actually had impact: Esteban Loaiza pitched a terrific inaugural season in a Nationals uniform, so did Hector Carrasco. Vinny Castilla broke down after a strong start. Marlon Anderson, Daryle Ward & Ramon Oritz had their moments in 2006--but none were really keepers. Dmitri Young became an All-Star in 2007, then health problems got in his way. Ronnie Belliard became a reliable role player for three seasons. And Joe Beimel was dependable out of the bullpen in 2009--while Adam Dunn became a force at the plate.
That's it--10 total guys over the past five seasons who enjoyed some success in a Washington Uniform as a free agent. Except for Dunn last year, Our General Manager's Free Agent Crop for 2010 has better overall credentials and better skills than those that preceded this group--giving Mike Rizzo a better chance of finding more than one useful part for this season and beyond.
Depth is going to make a difference.
Chien-Ming Wang (reportedly signed today) is that former league leader in wins for The New York Yankees in 2006 (and second that same season in The Cy Young Balloting). Sure, he's coming off two injury filled seasons, but he's only 30 years old in March and has the history to be a top starter in pressure games.
Until Jesus Flores is 100% healthy, Pudge Rodriguez is going to start behind the plate. He's a significant upgrade at catcher compared to what was available after Flores went down in 2009. You can't underestimate his presence on this entire ball club. Ivan is, of course, the former American League Most Valuable Player, multiple time Gold Glove Winner and World Series Champion with The Florida Marlins.
Eric Bruntlett holds a World Series Ring with The Philadelphia Phillies, too. At 32 years of age (in March), Bruntlett could provide a wealth of experience all over the field and in the clubhouse--much like what Belliard did from 2007 until 2009.
Starter Jason Marquis has been to the playoffs every single season of his Major League Career, including pitching in The 2005 World Series.
Miguel Batista, Eddie Guardado and Ryan Speier have all pitched in the playoffs as well; Speier--for The Colorado Rockies in 2007 World Series. Matt Capps is the only top free agent signed by Washington that has never appeared in the playoffs, yet Capps has greater long-term potential with this team than any of the former three mentioned.
Outfielder Chris Duncan started his Major League career strong in 2006--before a neck injury and confidence issues dragged him down.
And Centerfielder Willy Taveras has speed, can run the bases and play a decent centerfield. He just can't seem to draw a walk or get on base often enough--but he's a player with Major League credentials that could come in handy during a long, long season. He's only 28.
Understanding that Rodriguez, Marquis and Capps are the only sure bets to make the Opening Day 2010 Roster for Our Washington Nationals out of these 10 new guys--the Wang, Bruntlett, Batista, Guardado, Speier, Duncan and Taveras signings have raised the profile of this upcoming February & March Camp for Our Washington Nationals. Justin Maxwell, Roger Bernadina, Alberto Gonzalez, Mike Morse, Wil Nieves, J.D. Martin and Shairon Martis (just to name a few) are not just going to be handed jobs anymore. Those players on the cusp will have to earn every rightful roster spot.
That's a good thing because during this upcoming Spring Training--roster maneuvering will be a daily highlight. Mike Rizzo has gathered a crop of free agent and non-roster players that could actually produce this season--by pushing others. Players that can help stabilize our franchise in 2010-- while our team attempts to turn in a positive direction for years to come. Remember, and this is important. Not a single veteran signed this off-season will take away the potential of any young player in Washington's System.
If Maxwell or Bernadina can play? They will make the team.
If Ross Detwiler shows his stuff? He's on the Opening Day roster.
Unlike in the previous five seasons, for 2010, youngsters like Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and Derek Norris can be developed to their full potential--without being rushed anymore. Mr. Rizzo is making D.C's Big League Club competitive for the short term--without taking away any of our youth's future.
Yes, these 10 new guys can make a difference--whether or not only a few actually wear a uniform for Our Washington Nationals during the upcoming regular season.
Photo Credit--David Phillips (AP)