The Washington Nationals and 3B Ryan Zimmerman reached agreement on a 6 year, $100 million contract extension with a full no trade clause on Sunday February 26th. The deal includes a full no trade clause but he can be traded in the next two years under his old deal which expires after the 2013 season, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo states he has no intention of trading the 3B in that window . This signing assures Zimmerman, the team’s 1st round pick in 2005, will spend the rest of his career in a Nationals uniform. Zimmerman has appeared in 845 games for the franchise hitting .288 while clubbing 128 homers with 498 rbi. A team leader and face of the organization, this move can be viewed as nothing but positive. “Since I’ve arrived here in 2006, he is the epitome of a lead-by-example guy,” said general manager Mike Rizzo on why he wanted to sign Zimmerman long term. “If I said it once, I said it a million times to the other younger players: ‘Just watch the way he prepares.’
With players set to report by February 25(Pitchers and Catchers on Feb 20th), the 2012 Washington Nationals enter the season with their most talented roster since moving the District of Columbia in 2005. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson enters camp at the helm for his first full season and the team hopes to ride the momentum they mustered in the 2011 season’s 2nd half to post a 80-82 record into contending status in 2012. Lets look at the areas the team will focus on in camp.
1-Outfield- The key to the entire outfield focuses on 2 players-rookie sensation Bryce Harper and 1B Adam Laroche. First, Harper. The 1 overall pick in 2010 draft can play any of the 3 outfield positions and will be given every opportunity to make the big club out of spring training. Harper hit .389 in 13 games last spring and was equally outstanding in the minors and Arizona Fall League. Ideally, with a great camp, he is your everyday right fielder. Laroche, who hit 25 homers and drove in 100 runs in 2010, is returning from major shoulder surgery that limited him to 43 games in 2011, Reports have him healthy and ready for the season, if he is good to go, 1B-OF Michael Morse(.303,31 homers, 95 rbi, team high .910 OPS) can be penciled into the left field position after taking over at 1b when Laroche went under the knife. OF Jayson Werth will start regardless of the OF alignment but whether it is in center or right is almost solely dependent on Harper’s performance. The team has resigned Rick Ankiel, who has a cannon arm and great defensive instincts in center, to join returning veteran Roger Bernadina in the competition. Long time major leaguer Mike Cameron, who at one time was the top defensive centerfielder in the game, also will be in camp as a non-roster invitee. This group and how it is aligned will go a long way in determining the success or failure of the 2012 Washington Nationals.
2- Starting rotation- Like the Outfield position, their is depth and talent present and camp(as well as health) will go along way in determining how the 5 spots are selected. I think 4 of the spots are guaranteed to be filled by righties Edwin Jackson, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman with trade acquisition Gio Gonzalez the lone southpaw. Lefties John Lannan(mentioned frequently in trade rumors) and Ross Detwiler will battle veteran right hander Chien-Ming Wang most likely for the 5th spot. But do not discount the fact that Wang, Zimmerman and Strasburg have all battled injury in recent years. Look for Johnson, who is outstanding at utilizing young pitchers, to find creative ways to maximize this talented group. Lannan’s future might also be tied into the outfield competition. If Harper does not make the big club, Washington might look to make a move to solidify the centerfield position.
The Washington Nationals continue there highly productive 2011-2012 offseason, adding two veteran pitchers to supplement both the bullpen and rotation over the last 7 days. All star relief pitcher RHP Brad Lidge was signed to a 1 year deal January 26th and will provide veteran leadership(Won a World Series with Philadelphia in 2008 when he did not blow a save the ENTIRE season). The 35 year old will help ease the load on both setup man RHP Tyler Clippard and closer RHP Drew Storen but has battled arm injuries the past 2 seasons. Lidge was limited to 25 games in 2011, going 0-2 with a 1.40 ERA and 23 Ks over 19.1 innings. For his career, he boasts the highest strikeout rate over 9 innings(12) of any major league pitcher who has thrown at least 500 innings.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo added another solid starting pitcher February 2nd to an already talented group when Washington finalized a 1 year deal with RHSP Edwin Jackson, who went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA after splitting time with the Chicago White Sox and the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The innings eater reached double digit wins for the 4th straight season(22 other pitchers can make this claim) and also threw over 200 innings for the fourth straight season. Over the past 4 seasons, Jackson is one of 20 starters to average 12 wins and 200 wins. This signing was important for a couple of reasons Rizzo pointed out when the signing was announced. While the Nationals have 7 starting pitchers after the Jackson signing, several of them have battled health issues and will be on pitch counts and/or inning limits. RHP Jordan Zimmerman(Shutdown just over 160 innings in 2011 after missing most of 2009 and 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery) ,Chien Mien-Wang(Has not pitched a full ML season since 2007) , and Stephen Strasburg(Will be on a 160 inning limit in 2012 after coming back in September of 2011 after late 2010 Tommy John surgery) as well as LHP Ross Detwiller(Hip surgery in 2010) have all missed time with injury issues over the past 2-3 years with various arm ailments so the team is wise to stockpile arms. The Jackson signing gives them insurance, stability and reliability. Rizzo felt the team had “an innings shortage” citing stats showing 6 of the 8 2011 ML playoff teams featured 2 starting pitchers each who topped 200 innings.
An interesting sidebar to the Jackson signing is a potential trade of LHSP John Lannan, who has 30+ starts in 3 of his 4 full major league seasons. With the signing of Jackson, the team now features 7 potential starting pitchers- LHs Detwiller, Gio G0nzalez and Lannan as well as RHs Strasburg, Zimmerman and Wang. Lannan recently was lost his arbitration case and will be paid $5 million in 2012. The team has needs in the outfield with a center fielder who can also bat leadoff topping the wish list. The Boston Red Sox are in DIRE need of a starting pitcher and will not resign star CF Jacoby Ellsbury long term(Bad relationship with team’s front office,medical staff and his agent, Scott Boras). Why not piece together a deal built around Lannan and some prospects? Minnesota Twins CF (and PEST) Denard Span’s name has been linked to the Nationals for the past 18 months or so as well.
GONZO SIGNS LONG TERM: Washington and newly acquired LHSP Gio Gonzalez agreed to a 5 year/$42 million deal last week. The contract features club options for 2017 and 2018 that could put the total value of the pact at $65 million. Gonzalez was an All Star last season with an awful Oakland A’s team when he went 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts.
Bryce Harper has been showing up as high as one and as low as three on prospect lists and MLB.com choose him as number two behind just Matt Moore. Harper is a masher and as an eighteen year old, he dominated the SALY league with a .977 OPS then jumped up to Double-A where he struggled at times but that’s understandable considering his age.
The big question now is what happens. I find it unlikely that they’ll rush him up to the big league team but I’m curious as to whether he starts at Double-A or they bump him all the way up to Triple-A. My guess is where he starts won’t be where he ends up though and this kid is going to be fun to watch in 2012 wherever he ends up.
Kevin Goldstein released his top eleven Nationals’ prospects and of course whenever you see one of these lists, you think Bryce Harper. He should make his major league debut with the Nationals at some point in 2012 but I think he starts at Triple-A to start the season like Goldstein mentions.
Number two and another five star guy is the Nats 2011 first round pick, Anthony Rendon. He’s a college guy so he could be on the fast track but he signed too late to play in 2011. It looks like he could finish 2012 at the Double-A level which means a 2013 debut isn’t out of the question.
Matt Purke is third and he’s the top pitching prospect. He was the Nationals third round pick in 2011 and he’s a lefty out of college as well. The one downer is, he struggled in the Arizona Fall League. Brian Goodwin (OF) and Alex Meyer (RHP) round out the top five.
The Nationals shored up their outfielder by signing Michael Morse to a two year, $10.5 million contract. Morse came over in the Ryan Langerhans trade with the Nationals and after showing some pop in limited time with the team in 2010, he broke out in 2011 and belted 31 home runs while hitting .303. He strikeouts out a lot (about three times for every walk) but he makes up for it with the high batting average.
He played more then half of his games at first base last year and you wonder if this is them giving up on signing Prince Fielder. This also means they avoid arbitration with Morse and have him locked up for two more years. The dollar amount may seem a little high but if he can do what he did last year, it’ll be a bargain.
According to report from Washington Nationals beat writer and MLB.com contributor Bill Ladson, top free agent 1B Prince Fielder and super agent Scott Boras visited DC recently to meet with Nationals ownership. A report The January 2nd edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lists the Nationals as the front runner for Fielder and Ladson’s story adds fuel to the fire. The 27 year old batted .299/.415/.566 with 38 home runs and 120 rbi in 162 games in 2011 and would supply Washington an elite clean up bat. Since 2007 when he hit 50 homers, he clubbed 34,46,32 and 38 in 2011 while driving in 102,141,83 and 120. Fielder also gets on base with 100+ walks the past 3 seasons. The Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs are also said to be involved in the bidding for the slugger. The Nationals have already had a great offseason, if they were able to secure Prince Fielder, they would be a major contender for both the National League and World Title. Washington has become one of the more up and coming organizations in the game under the leadership of GM Mike Rizzo and Skipper Davey Johnson and this move would create shock waves throughout the baseball world.
The Washington Nationals added major pieces to both the pitching staff and everyday lineup as we approach the Holiday break with two separate moves December 22. The first move added LHSP Gio Gonzalez(16-12,3.12 ERA, 197 Ks in 202 innings) from the Oakland A’s for 3 top level pitching prospects and as well as the Nationals #1 ranked minor league catcher. Washington forfeits their #3,#4 and #9th ranked prospects from the most recent list published by Baseball America(Dated November 14-27,2011). #3 RHP Brad Peacock was 15-3 in a split AA-AAA season before going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 12 major league innings. He projects as a #2 starter if things continue to progress. #4 RHP A.J. Cole(4-7,4.04 in 20 games at Low A)finished his first pro season in 2011 and is probably 2-3 years away from contributing at the major level. C Derek Norris is ranked #9 after hitting .210 with 20 home runs and 46 rbi at AA, the Nats can afford to trade catching with Wilson Ramos set to be a fixture behind home plate for years to come. The 4th player in the Gonzalez trade is LHP Tom Milone(1-0,3.81 in 5 starts) and is some that caught my eye. Once again, the Nationals have a deep farm system and solid major league product, so a player like Milone can be put in a deal for proper value.
In a move that will not draw as much as attention as the Gonzalez trade but could prove to be just as vital, Washington signed INF-OF Mark DeRosa. The 36 year old veteran can play both corner infield spots, 2nd base as well as some occasional spot play in the outfield. He has battled injuries the past two years but is a pro’s pro, very solid across the board and a very good offensive player. This type of guy can be very useful in the National League and he has experience playing for Nationals skipper Davey Johnson in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. This signing became more of a priority with the news that 1B Chris Marrero would not be ready to open the start of the 2012 season after he tore his left hamstring while playing winter ball.
Overall, this was a GREAT, not good day for the Nationals. They potentially have an excellent pitching staff top to bottom with Gonzalez joining RHs Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Chien-Ming Wang and LHs John Lannan and Ross Detwiller in what might be the deepest rotation in the National League East. When you slot this group with the strong 8-9th inning combination of set up man Tyler Clippard and closer Drew Storen, pitching should not be an issue. DeRosa is a veteran bat and clubhouse leader who can play 2-3 days a week while getting 30+ pinch hitting appearances. Position players wise, Washington could still use an everyday center fielder (who ideally bats leadoff) and with their abundance of major league ready pitching, they could make a trade(B.J. Upton? Denard Spann?).
The Nationals are loaded at the top and they have some top notch talent in their system. John Sickels posted his top 20 Nationals prospects and what a list it is. Of course topping the list is Bryce Harper who’s been showing up at either number one or two as far as prospects anywhere. The question is, does he make his debut this year after only one plus whatever he plays this year in the minors.
Number two is Anthony Rendon. This guy plays third base and Sickels talks about his shoulder problem. Number three is A.J. Cole, who’s also the top pitching prospect. Rounding out the top five is Brad Peacock (RHP) and Brian Goodwin (OF). The B’s go seven deep though and the B-’s go down to 13. A lot of depth.
The Washington Nationals are due for a good season. The 2011 MLB season was their best yet, finishing 3rd in the NL East. With Strasburg back for another year and some potential changes in the current roster, the Nationals are ready to make 2012 their year. Big games on the Washington Nationals 2012 MLB schedule include:
>> Phillies @ Nationals | May 4 – 6 | July 31 – August 2 | October 1 – 3
>> Mets @ Nationals | June 5 – 7 | June 17 – 19 | August 17 – 19
>> Braves @ Nationals | June 1 – 3 | July 20 – 22 | August 20 – 22
>> Yankees @ Nationals | June 15 – 17
>> Cubs @ Nationals | September 3 – 6
>> Rockies @ Nationals | July 6 – 8
The full 2012 schedule is up, so check it out and get to a game. The Washington Nationals might just have a great year ahead of them. Game on!
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