Posted on: December 22, 2011 6:29 pm
Now that the on-the-move Nationals have snagged ace pitcher Gio Gonzalez in a prospect-heavy deal with Oakland, they've got a rotation that puts them squarely on the launching pad in the NL East and brings with it one obvious reaction.
For that, I turn to the Twitter account of one Bryce Harper, who exuberantly tweeted Thursday afternoon: "Now all we need to do is get Prince! hah."
Can you imagine?
The Nationals at least are camped on Prince Fielder's front doorstep, one of a number of clubs talking with the slugging first baseman as the winter shopping season hurtles toward its next big target. And the Nationals do have a very good relationship with Fielder's representative, Scott Boras -- see Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth, among others.
Maybe that's far-fetched dreaming. After all, Werth is only headed into Year Two of that $126 million deal. And though the Nationals are located near U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., the printing presses that spit out currency are not located in Nationals Park. Would the Lerners have dough -- and, more importantly, the guts -- to roll with both Werth and Fielder?
Of course, after watching the long, torturous slog that brought them from Montreal to rat-infested RFK Stadium to present day, it's hard to believe that the Nationals are finally on the threshold of playing with the big boys in the NL East. But they are.
In Gonzalez, Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, they not only have a very good front three in their rotation, but they have a trio of young arms they can control for the next several years.
Even without Gonzalez and, essentially, Strasburg last year, the Nationals' 3.58 ERA ranked seventh in the majors.
Ryan Zimmerman is a Gold Glove third baseman and team leader, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond are very solid in the middle of the infield, Wilson Ramos is the good, young catcher so many teams would love to have and Michael Morse, who can play first base or left field, is a monstrously strong young man who became a legitimate power threat in 2011. And people are dying to see whether Harper will make the club out of camp this spring.
Philadelphia is Philadelphia, Atlanta remains a force and the Marlins have spent more money than the Yankees this winter. The entire NL East will be playing at a higher level (well, everybody but the Mets).
For the Nationals to become kings of the divison, it just might take a Prince.
Failing that? The Nationals -- 80-81 last year, and 21 1/2 games behind the Phillies -- are moving from rebuilding to intriguing, and quickly.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:18 pm
DALLAS -- The Diamondbacks are discussing a contract extension with Joe Saunders in talks that could either tie the left-hander to the Arizona rotation for a couple of more seasons ... or land him squarely on the trade block.
With young starters such as Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker close to ready, and young lefties David Holmberg and Patrick Corbin on the way, the Diamondbacks are internally discussing the merits of a two- or three-year extension to Saunders.
He's worked 200 or more innings in each of the past three seasons and, as such, provides shelter for a young staff growing into its future. But he's also arbitration-eligible and due a big raise from the $5.5 million he earned in 2011. Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA for the NL West champion Diamondbacks last summer.
If the Diamondbacks decide to go with their young pitching, the Diamondbacks could seize on a weak free agent market and perhaps deal Saunders as early as this week. The slow dance continues on the free agent market with Mark Buehrle (who is being pursued by more than a dozen clubs) and C.J. Wilson.
Beyond them and maybe Edwin Jackson, the best alternatives for clubs looking to acquire starting pitching this winter appears to be on the trade market, where Oakland is receiving hits on Gio Gonzalez, the White Sox are fielding inquiries on John Danks and Houston is shopping Wandy Rodriguez.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:06 am
PHOENIX -- It seems like, at 27, Oakland lefty Dallas Braden is just coming into his own. But on this talented and young -- emphasis on young -- staff, Braden is the graybeard.
There's All-Star Trevor Cahill (23), who was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA over 30 starts last year.
There's Brett Anderson (23), who was 7-6 with a 2.80 ERA over 19 starts last year.
There's Gio Gonzalez (25), who was 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA over 33 starts last year.
"I love watching these dudes," Braden says. "I'm excited to be a part of this staff.
"I'm the first guy Cahill ran into in his professional career. I've been taping his shoes together and putting baby powder in his pants [for years], and now look at him."
Braden and Cahill first bumped into each other in 2006, when Braden was rehabbing following shoulder surgery and Cahill had just signed after the Athletics had picked him second in the '06 draft.
"He was all of 18," Braden says.
So of course Braden messed with him.
"Tied his shoes together, baby powder in his pants, eyeblack in his hat, Icy Hot in his sliding pants and shoes," Braden says. "You name it, he wore it.
"Now look at him. He's an All Star, and damn near a Cy Young winner. You talk about people high ceilings ... you tune in three out of every five days to watch the A's playing because when those three guys take the mound [Cahill, Anderson, Gonzalez], they may do something special."
Sunblock Day? The rain has moved on, but temps early Tuesday were in the low 50s. You'll need the sunblock by Wednesday, though, when we're supposed to climb back into the 70s in the Phoenix area.
Likes: Go Butler. ... Old Town Scottsdale. ... The predicted return of the sun to the desert valley. ... Home in a couple of days. ... Home in time for my daughter's play this weekend. ... NCAA tourney games back on Thursday for four more days. ... Opening day next week. ... Final roster decisions starting to arrive. ... www.Segerfile.com for all your Bob Seger news as his new tour lifts off Saturday.
Dislikes: I've loved Bob Seger forever, and I'm thrilled he and the Silver Bullet Band are going back on tour (opening March 26 in Toledo, Ohio). But I'm sorry, I'm not thrilled with the first song I've heard from a new disc coming out this summer. Look, Tom Waits' Downtown Train is a great song, but Rod Stewart did it 20 years ago. Seger always has had an affinity for a well-chosen cover, but he could have been far more creative here. Plus, that's the second song he's covered off of Waits' Rain Dogs, following New Coat of Paint. Bob, at least choose from a different Waits album. ... Aw, my Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central boys' hoops team was bounced in the quarterfinals of the Michigan tournament Tuesday night, 48-45 by Schoolcraft. But the Falcons still made it further in the state tourney than they ever have. Well done, fellas.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Working all day for a mean little guy
-- Fountains of Wayne, Hey Julie