Nationals feel productive despite lack of deals
Rizzo lays groundwork at Meetings, won't be rushed to action
DALLAS -- For the first time since moving to Washington, the Nationals were unable to make a trade or sign a free agent of significance at the Winter Meetings. The goal was to acquire a veteran starting pitcher, center fielder, leadoff hitter and a few bench players, but they didn't have much success.
By the end of the Meetings, the Nats came to the conclusion that they were not going to rush to get a leadoff hitter. They are confident that Ian Desmond can be that leadoff hitter after hitting .281 in 50 games at the top of the lineup.
"We are still open for business, and we are going to keep an open mind to what fits for us," general manager Mike Rizzo said.
Deals done: None. The Nationals' top priority was to sign a starting pitcher. They thought they had a chance to sign left-hander Mark Buehrle, but money turned out to be the reason Buehrle decided to join the Marlins.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Nats picked catcher Beau Seabury of the Rockies in the Triple-A phase and right-hander Matthew Buschmann of the Padres in the Double-A phase. Seabury will be a backup player in the Minor Leagues, while Buschmann will be a swing man. In the Major League phase of the Draft, the Nationals lost outfielder Erik Komatsu to the Cardinals and right-hander Brad Meyers to the Yankees.
Goals accomplished: None
Unfinished business: The Nats are still looking for a veteran starting pitcher, center fielder and a few bench players. Rizzo believes he laid the groundwork to get what he wants.
Rizzo declined to say if the Nationals would bid for Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish, who is expected to be a free agent next week. It's not a secret that Washington has scouted Darvish numerous times this past season.
"He has the complete package," Rizzo said. "He is a physical guy with stuff. He knows how to pitch. He has had success in a substantially high level of competition."
Rizzo also said that the team has interest in free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt and Athletics left-hander Gio Gonzalez. It would not be a surprise if the Nats were interested in Cubs right-hander Matt Garza. In order to make a trade for Gonzalez and Garza, Rizzo has to give up a lot of quality players.
Rizzo said he would be frustrated if he didn't get that center fielder he needed. The Nationals still have interest in Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, Denard Span of the Twins and B.J. Upton of the Rays.
If they are unable to acquire a center fielder, the Nats are seriously thinking about putting Jayson Werth out there and making Bryce Harper the starting right fielder.
In an email to MLB.com and the Washington Post, Werth said he doesn't care what position he plays in the outfield.
"Whatever [number] is by my name on the lineup card, that's where I'll play. I'm comfortable playing all three," Werth said.
Manager Davey Johnson wants veteran bench players, but most likely will have to deal with youth. They have already spoken to Mark DeRosa and are considering bringing back Willie Harris.
GM's bottom line: "I think the Winter Meetings were very productive. We were extremely busy on a lot of different facets. We laid a lot of foundation for discussions with other GMs. We still have our goal of doing the things we were supposed to do. We have come a long way and we are close to doing something very productive for the club. ... We are not going to be rushed into anything or forced into anything, but if a deal is out there where we feel comfortable, we are certainly going to pull the trigger." -- Rizzo
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.