Rizzo not done upgrading Nationals
GM talks to Lee's agent, considers deals for starting pitchers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A day before the Winter Meetings started, the Nationals made a splash by agreeing to terms with free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth on a seven-year, $126 million contract.
A day later, general manager Mike Rizzo heard some negative feedback, but he doesn't seem to care what outsiders think of his new transaction.
"There isn't any negative reaction from me," Rizzo said. "I'm satisfied with the deal. I'm glad we have Jayson Werth. I can understand some of the comments. We are taking care of ourselves. We are trying to build something special here. We thought this player exemplified what we are trying to do. I don't apologize for signing Jayson Werth. I'm glad we have him in the fold. We are a better ballclub today than we were yesterday."
The Nationals were quiet during the first day of the Meetings, but they kept busy. They are still looking for starting pitching and a first baseman. Earlier in the day, reports surfaced that the Nationals expressed interest in Dodgers first baseman James Loney, but it seems unlikely that a deal will get done because Los Angeles wants too much in return. A baseball source said the Dodgers wanted shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in return.
Although they didn't get anything done Monday, Rizzo believes he could make a significant trade.
"We have a lot of things going on," Rizzo said. "Sometimes, they take a life of their own. We are honing in on specific needs and specific trading partners, so we have been at it all day and we will continue late into the night."
Rizzo also revealed that that he met with Cliff Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, even though the GM said Sunday that it's a long shot for the Nationals to acquire Lee's services.
Braunecker told the Washington Post that the Nationals are not out of the Lee sweepstakes, and pointed out that the pitcher and Werth are friends. The two were teammates with the Phillies in 2009.
If the Nationals don't get Lee, Rizzo feels he has the players to get a different starting pitcher. A baseball source already said that every healthy player on the Washington roster, with the exception of Werth and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, are being considered for trade discussions.
Of the players available, Josh Willingham is the most likely person to be dealt. There is no doubt that the Nationals would want pitching in return. The team is looking to trade Willingham before he becomes a free agent after the 2011 season.
"We have a terrific up-and-coming farm system," Rizzo said. "We have young, talented Major League-caliber players already in the big leagues -- up the middle of the field [in Desmond at shortstop and second baseman Danny Espinosa]. So we have a lot to offer teams. It depends on how much and who it is. They will be the determining factors to improve the club.
"What are the terms of the contract? How much money are you taking on? How many prospects do you have to give up for them? Those are all the questions that goes into these decisions. Those are some of the discussions we are having internally and with other teams."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.