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.