In early November, the Nationals made a somewhat surprising move by outrighting first baseman Dmitri Young to Triple-A Syracuse. While the move doesn't get the Nationals off the hook for the $5 million that the Nationals owe him for 2009, it does send a message that the Nationals appear willing to eat perhaps his entire contract if he's not healthy when spring training rolls around. In a perfect world, Young would have chosen free agency, but that would have voided the guaranteed money that he's set to receive - notice that I didn't say "earn" - in 2009. Young is still a member of the Nationals and will have to come to camp ready to compete for a job with the big league club. Again, if the world is perfect, he'll show some progress in camp and somebody will take him off the Nationals hands, taking at least a small portion of his contract with them.
A week after dealing with Young, the Nationals dealt with division rival Florida, acquiring pitcher Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham for three young prospects - infielders Emilio Bonifacio and Jake Smolinski and right-hander P.J. Dean - which gave the Nationals a top of the rotation starter and a fairly nice bat for their already crowded outfield.
As the Winter Meetings approached, the Nationals were vowing their love for Mark Teixeira. Rumors of a ten-year, $200 million offer were being thrown around and although the initial offer was lower than that, the Nationals insisted that they would have gone higher if given the chance. When all was said and done, the Yankees signed Teixeira - their third major free agent signing of the winter - even though their offer was about $5 million less than what the Nationals had offered. "It wasn't all about the money," said Teixeira's agent Scott Boras. Then again, when you're talking about that kind of money, what's an additional $5 million, right?
The Nationals made the most of the Winter Meetings, but ultimately weren't able to come away with any major moves. They did release reliever Jesus Colome, clearing a spot for them to take right-hander Terrell Young from the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 Draft. Young was an interesting pick, considering that the Nationals held the first overall pick and there were a number of players that were generally ranked higher than Young that were available for the taking. It's not that the 23 year old Young isn't a good prospect, because he is, but it's going to be tough to hide him on the roster for a full season. He's a reliever with a career ERA of 3.60 in five minor league seasons and has good stuff. There is no doubt that with releasing Colome and the potential loss of Chad Cordero, who was non-tendered, the Nationals will have some room in the bullpen, if Young - who hasn't pitched above the High-A level - is ready to handle a major league assignment.
As the Winter Meetings ended, the Nationals signed free agent Willie Harris to a two-year, $3 million deal. The move keeps the valuable super-sub in Washington through the 2010 season and at a fair price. On that same day, the Nationals also reached agreements with Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, Scott Olson and Shawn Hill on one-year contracts. But the surprise of the day came when pitcher Tim Redding was non-tendered, making him a free agent. As a free agent, Redding is garnering a lot of attention, with reports that as many as 20 teams have contacted him about signing with them. While the Nationals didn't want to give Redding what he might have earned in arbitration, that cost wouldn't have been as high as the $2.6 million that they gave to free agent right-hander Daniel Cabrera. The move is surprising, since Redding has a lower career ERA than Cabrera, threw the same amount of innings last season and finished with a better season ERA than Cabrera. But somewhere, Redding is drooling over Cabrera's deal, since he can compare pretty favorably to the former Orioles' starter, especially considering that the Nationals were reportedly outbid by Pittsburgh, but Cabrera likes the D.C./Baltimore area and chose the Nationals.
The Nationals officially lost the Teixeira sweepstakes just before Christmas. They've responded with the signing of Cabrera and are rumored to be talking to Adam Dunn, but reports are that he's favoring signing with the Cubs. The bad news for Dunn is that while the Cubs are his first choice, he may not be theirs. They're closing in on a deal with Milton Bradley. The Nationals have also courted infielder Orlando Hudson.