What We're Hearing

Sometimes, quiet is good. Some of the best deals are the ones that seemingly come from nowhere and with no warning. So, maybe all of the silence around the Nationals lately isn't so bad after all.

Arbitration could be tough for the Nationals. With Shawn Hill, Scott Olson, Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman all on the docket for arbitration hearings, the Nationals face a pretty big gap in what they would like to pay and what they may have to pay. For those four players, the Nationals are offering $8.3-million, while those four players are seeking a total of $11.775-million.

You can figure that the Nationals aren't likely to sweep in arbitration, nor are they apt to be swept. They stand just about $1-million apart with Willingham and Olson and just over one-million with Zimmerman. The gap with Hill is just $225-thousand.

Had Zimmerman stayed healthy last season, he and the Nationals could potentially be talking about a long-term deal. Instead, the Nationals will take the cautious approach with Zimmerman and aren't likely to sign him long-term right now. After all, Zimmerman is under team control through the 2011 season, after which he can file for free agency if he doesn't have a deal in place.

Willingham and Olson are in much the same position in that both are also under team control through the 2011 season.

Speaking of money, is it really possible that the Nationals will either trade or release Nick Johnson and be stuck with a huge portion of his deal? Why not? The Nationals have limped through Johnson's contract, always hoping that he would stay healthy and actually earn the money that they were paying him. Instead, just when it looks like he's going to stay healthy - and sometimes before - he is out again. Much the same can be said for Dmitri Young.

Between Johnson and Young, the Nationals are out $10.5-million this season. Since they're on the hook for that money anyway, wouldn't it make sense to just cut them loose if they think there is a player who they can get more out of? Some teams take the approach that if you're paying a player a lot of money, you must keep him in the lineup. While the Los Angeles Dodgers are stuck with a big tab, ditching Andruw Jones was the right move and the Nationals may take the same approach with Johnson and/or Young.

There have been some rumors that the Oakland A's are asking about Johnson. From another team's perspective, it makes sense, because the Nationals may be interested in eating a huge chunk of his contract, meaning that you wouldn't have to pay too much of his salary if you trade for him. The downside is that the more of the contract that the Nationals absorb, the better the player they'll want in exchange. That's where the hold up in this potential deal comes in. The A's and Nationals haven't been able to get together on how much the A's will pay either in terms of Johnson's contract or another player. Plus, the A's are also pursuing Orlando Cabrera, which could change how much of Johnson's contract they would be willing to take on.

Publicly, the Nationals don't appear to be chasing any of the bigger names still out there in free agency. With the market the way it is, that's a good approach. Unbelievably, Dunn still wants four years and something in the neighborhood of $56-million, which he just isn't likely to get. Once his price officially falls, perhaps Jim Bowden can play on his relationship with Dunn to get him to play in Washington.

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