Today the Washington Post has an article by Tom Boswell that basically rips the Nats ownership for not spending money this year. It’s a 2 pager on why they are looking like they don’t want to do what it take to win, but the whole article really is summarized by this paragraph

the Nats haven’t signed Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson… they haven’t bid on Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes… they haven’t been within a zillion miles of C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, and especially why they haven’t made a prospects-for-a-star trade such as the Reds for ace Mat Latos, it’s probably because ownership is tensing up, tightening the leash again.

Ok, I get it, everyone wants their team to be active in the offseason. If you’re not moving, you’re getting passed, right? But who are we really talking about out there? Let’s look at all of these players that the Nats “missed out on””

  • Mark Buehrle – He was pursued, and would have been signed but for the fact that he wanted a 4th year, something that is highly risky for a pitcher of his age, even with his durability. He’s also no better than a #3, so it seems like he’s not worth the risk without serious reward
  • Roy Oswalt – Is still out there, and alot of people think the Nats are in the mix. Personally, I’d love to have him if you can promise me he’ll be healthy. If not, I don’t see Washington as the team that should be going injury risk for big reward in their signing. But for one year, it’s probably alright to do, and the Nats may well end up with that.
  • Edwin Jackson – This temptress continues to be on the Nats radar, despite being moderately to terrible most of the time. He throws hard, high-90s, so people are in love with him. Those people conveniently ignore that he has a career K/BB ratio under 2, a career K/9 under 7 (and he throws 97/98!) and a career GB/FB ratio of 0.77. He’s a PROJECT, something I hoped the Nats would move past. He’s a maybe #3 or a 4 right now, unless they can fix all his issues, which 6 teams haven’t been able to do yet
  • Yu Darvish – Intriguing for sure, and of all the people mentioned, I’d probably want them to sign him the most. But keep in mind, for around $100M, the Rangers are going to get someone who has never pitched in the Majors before. That’s terrifying. Exciting, but terrifying.
  • Yoneis Cespedes – Sheesh, another guy that the Nats haven’t even tried to… oh whats that? He hasn’t even been declared as a free agent yet and nobody can bid on him? If the Lerner’s weren’t such cheapskates, they would have bought him Dominican residency months ago and already signed him.
  • CJ Wilson – I’ll admit, I like the idea of a LHP that can strike out 200 a year. But the Nats were far from the only team that was scared off by him. A two year starter, who lead the league in walks in one of them, he’s been great this year. But I think alot of teams, not just the one in DC, thought he was asking for way too much for way too long. One of those team, the Rangers, had him on the roster and chose to pay a Japanese player $50+M just to get rights to negotiate a contract. Reminds me of when a certain football team in Philly was willing to trade a certain QB that had just done some great things for them.
  • Jose Reyes – Certainly would have been a nice addition to this team. But his contract is too long for this guys. As Keith Law said, “deal includes his ages 32, 33 and 34 seasons, and given how much trouble he had with his legs in his 20s and the toll it has taken on his defense, it seems wildly optimistic to assume he’ll still be at shortstop when this contract ends, or that he’ll go through it without missing 150-200 games.” The Nats should be in the business of being wildly optimistic with their prospects, not with $106M contracts.
  • Prince Fielder – Prince may end up being a spectacular player for a long time, but it probably shouldn’t be for the Nats. They just have too many corner types right now. If you believe, as I do, that Jayson Werth can’t play CF and probably won’t be playing RF when Harper comes up, and that Anthony Rendon probably won’t be at 2B, then you’re left with Werth, Morse, and Rendon to play LF and 1B. That’s not counting Marrero (who may not develop) and LaRoche (who will probably be gone before 2013). The team isn’t looking for a 1B, and just cause Fielder can smash the ball, doesn’t mean they should sign another one.
  • Mat Latos – I would love to have traded for Mat Latos, but the Reds gave up alot for him, and alot of it was redundant for them. The only redundancy the Nats might have is catching (Norris) and mediocre pitching (Peacock, Detwiler, Milone). For a real opportunity, I’m fine with them giving up Norris. And if they want to get a pitcher, moving someone like Strasburg or Zimmermann is idiotic, because you’re not getting anyone better. So that leaves the three named above. And Boz pointed out that those guys probably not gonna win 100 games, WHICH IS WHY NOBODY’S BEATING DOWN THE DOOR TO GET THEM. I just don’t think the Nats could get a Mat Latos for Norris, Peacock and, say, Desmond or Marrero. If they could, then by all means do it (there’s still Gio Gonzalez out there, if they want to dangle those guys). The Padres got more than that for Latos, though. The Nats farm system is strong, but it’s not super deep yet, and they are using most of those guys that other teams want.

One of the issues this season was that there weren’t any truly great free agents out there. Wilson, if he had 4 seasons instead of 2 as a starter under his belt, with similar result, might have been. Reyes, without significant health issues would have been. Fielder’s weight, Oswalt’s back, Buehrle’s age… all of these things make this free agent class interesting but not spectacular. People are trying to make very good opportunities into great ones, and the Nats refused to do so.

Another issue that lead to this reaction may be that Boz, like many fans, are looking to win it all in 2012. But the Nats know better. They are looking for 2013 and beyond, when Harper is up and comfortable, and when Strasburg can actually pitch in September and October. It’s tempting to look and see the talent and go for broke right now, but if two of your best players aren’t ready, why would you sacrifice the future for the present?

I know it’s hard for everyone to wait, when we’ve been waiting so long. But this is a good team that is getting better as the clock ticks, not worse. Now is the best time to be patient, because the team isn’t 5 years away from being really good, it’s only a year. And shortcuts are great, but if they don’t get you over the hump, and will be old enough to prevent you from being a long term threat to win it all every year, for 4 or 5 years, why take that risk?

By Charlie