LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- First baseman Carlos Pena on Wednesday said the Nationals were aggressive in trying to lure him to Washington before he signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Cubs.
In fact, Pena said that Nationals manager Jim Riggleman tried his best to convince him to sign with the club, but Pena wanted to be reunited with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. The two worked together when they were with the Rangers. Pena had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2010, hitting .196 with 28 homers and 84 RBIs.
The Nationals believed that Pena could help improve their defense and provide leadership.
"I know Mr. Riggleman very well and he spoke to me and told me how interested the Nationals were in me," Pena said. "But the Cubs were out there with their right foot forward and ready to get something done. That was very comforting to me to see how much belief there is in me as a player and how much they wanted me to be part of their club."
Asked if the Nationals are ready to win, Pena said, "I think they are moving in the right direction. Obviously, the Jayson Werth signing shows a lot of desire to move forward. That's a great statement. Baseball will thrive in D.C. If the Nationals get it going, it's going to be a madhouse every single day.
"I know how it can get in Washington. I have friends that I talk to there. So I'm well aware how cool of a market it would be. To see the organization move in the right direction is exciting."
Nationals believe Winn would fit on bench
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Looking to strengthen their bench, the Nationals may show interest in outfielder Randy Winn, according to a baseball source.
Some members of the Nationals believe that Winn, 36, will accept a role off the bench. Washington had interest in Winn last year before he reached a deal with the Yankees.
This past season, Winn spent a portion of his time on the bench. He played in a combined 116 games for the Yankees and Cardinals and hit .239 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.
The Nationals most likely will not seek bench help until after the Winter Meetings come to an end.
Boras says Strasburg's spirits 'good'
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Agent Scott Boras said Wednesday that Stephen Strasburg's right elbow is getting better and that he should be ready to pitch by the middle of next season.
Strasburg went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA before having elbow reconstruction surgery in September.
"[His spirits] are good," Boras said. "Coming through the surgery and understanding that he's A-OK and listening to the doctor's comments, I think it's turned out where he's on the path of a very solid understanding of his future and where he can go and what he can do."
Boras impressed with Harper
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Agent Scott Boras said that he is impressed that one of his clients, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, was able to hit .343 in the Arizona Fall League at the age of 18.
"Wow, I mean, Bryce's performance is always stunning because you have a guy -- who should be in high school -- hitting [over .340] with some power in the Arizona Fall League, where you have a bunch of veteran Minor League players and professional athletes that are at that level," Boras said. "For Bryce, it just continues. He's playing in junior college when he should be a junior in high school, and he's playing in the Arizona Fall League when he should be a senior in high school. He's an extraordinary talent."
Harper is expected to play in Spring Training games with the Nationals next year.
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.