Nationals fall short in Teixeira bidding
Washington likely to shift focus to free-agent slugger Dunn
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals let it be known during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas that free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira was their No. 1 target. The team thought he could be a difference-maker for an offense that struggled this past season.
How serious were the Nationals about acquiring Teixeira? They offered the switch-hitting slugger an eight-year, $160 million contract during the Winter Meetings. A couple of weeks later the offer went up to nine years, $180 million. But the Nationals had competition for Teixeira's services from the Angels, Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees.
Teixeira agreed to terms with the Yankees on Tuesday. Washington was hoping he could join third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in anchoring the middle of its lineup. According to a Major League source, Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, told the Nationals that Texieira wanted to win now and believed the Nationals were not ready to win.
"The Lerner family definitely demonstrated their commitment to winning," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said.
"They demonstrated in the negotiations with Mark Teixeira and his agent that they were competing [with other teams] at the highest level. It shows that when unique baseball talent becomes available, our organization will be able to play with the best teams in baseball.
"We are disappointed that we were not able to sign the player. We will now turn our attention to other opportunities that will help our Major League club."
The Nationals were looking for Teixeira to replace Nick Johnson, who missed most of the 2008 season because of a right wrist injury. Johnson, who has one year left on his contract, said he understood why the Nationals were going after Teixeira.
"The man is a great player. A lot of teams would love to have him," Johnson said.
Johnson said that his wrist is a lot better and he will start hitting in the batting cage after the Christmas holiday. But while the Johnson gets better, the Nationals have another plan to improve their offense. Look for the club to make a serious offer to free-agent outfielder/first baseman Adam Dunn. If Dunn signs with the Washington, he would likely be the first baseman, replacing Johnson.
Dunn, 28, and Bowden have a history together with the Reds. Bowden selected Dunn in the second round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft. Three years later, Dunn was in the big leagues and became Cincinnati's best power hitter. In fact, Dunn has hit at least 40 home runs in five straight seasons. While he has a .247 career batting average, Dunn has a .381 on-base percentage and is versatile in the field.
Also look for Washington to go after infielder Orlando Hudson, who said recently that he has interest in the Nationals. If he were to come on board, Hudson could possibly be the leadoff hitter the club has been missing for years. He is also a Gold Glove winner at second base.
"I have interest in any Major League team that has interest in me," Hudson said in November.
"The Nationals are a good young club. They have a lot of energy. ... I would definitely be comfortable if I was over there. We'll see how things go. I don't know."
The Nationals are overloaded with outfielders. Most of them, however, could be difficult to trade because of injuries. All except Lasting Milledge, Willie Harris and Roger Bernadina ended the season dinged up.
Harris is going nowhere because of his hard work on the field. The team does not consider Milledge a center fielder -- he is better suited for left or right field -- but Josh Willingham, Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns play those positions, as well. Milledge could be trade bait before the season starts. If Bernadina is traded, the Nationals are not expected to get a big-name player for him.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.