Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baseball Digest: Washington Hopes For Nationals Holiday | Baseball Digest

Baseball Digest: Washington Hopes For Nationals Holiday | Baseball Digest

If you are among the growing number of Washington Nationals fans, you have to be pleased with the direction the team is taking. Yes, they did overpay for free agent Jayson Werth (7 yrs, $126M), but they landed a marquis star to help bring along the youngsters.

And what a group of youngsters the Nationals have. Though he’ll sit out this season after last year’s Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg is the number one pitching prospect in all of baseball. Teenage phenom Bryce Harper signed with the team after skipping out of high school early and playing JUCO ball. Drew Storen is another top pitching prospect that may be one of the dominant closers of the future. Catcher Derek Norris could have a big impact in the majors very soon. Speedy infielder Danny Espinosa has some of the best hands in baseball. The Nats also drafted and signed one of the most highly toutEd High school pitchers in the country, A.J. Cole, this past Summer.

The Nationals have been very active this winter as well looking into every free agent available and talking with a number of other teams about trades. The latest rumors had them communicating with the Cleveland Indians as to the availability of pitcher Fausto Carmona and outfielder Grady Sizemore. In additon to signing Werth the team also acquired steady left-hander Tom Gorzelanny from the Cubs, dealt Josh Willingham for hard throwing prospect Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown, signed 1st baseman Adam LaRoche, outfielder Rick Ankiel and utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. The team also brought back former two time 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang in the hopes he can return to his pre-shoulder surgery form.

With the powerhouse Phillies well ahead of everyone in the NL East, the Nationals aren’t expected to win a division title any time soon, but they have the talent to compete much quicker than anyone expected.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

Mike Napoli didn’t stay with the Toronto Blue Jays for very long. Acquired as part of a deal that sent Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angels, Napoli was dealt today to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. With the Blue Jays wanting rookie J.P. Arencibia to see a lot of playing time, I can understand why the team would not want a minus defender like Napoli as his backup. However dealing him for an average reliever, something Toronto seemingly likes to accumulate, doesn’t make a lot of sense. With Yorvit Torrealba starting in Texas and Matt Treanor as his back up, the power hitting Napoli should see time at DH, which means Vladimiar Guerrero won’t be returning to Texas.

ESPN contributor Amanda Rykoff tweeted from a WFAN/Mike Francesa-Brian Cashman breakfast interview that Cashman said he could see Derek Jeter playing centerfield in the future ( ala Robin Yount). Jeter had earlier mentioned that positional change was never discussed during the negotations of his new contract.

Teams continue to add depth in their minor league systems; two of the latest additions- the Rangers signed catcher Robinson Diaz and the Yankees added former Rangers’ pitcher Warren Madrigal.

The Cubs signed pitcher Todd Wellmeyer after he was non-tendered by the Giants.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark spoke with several baseball execs who are confident that the Cards will be able to re-sign Albert Pujols.

Detroit News beat writer Tom Gage reported that the Tigers are willing to bring back Jeremy Bonderman with a minor league deal.

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