The Nats need to sign a back-of-the-rotation starter to replace Edwin Jackson. There are about 10 of them available. They’ll get one. And they’ll probably grab a lefty reliever to replace free agents Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez. That’s not hard.
But on the big issues — re-sign free agent Adam LaRoche, sign Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton, go after star starter Zach Greinke — don’t do any of it.
Okay, make one exception. If the Nats can somehow get LaRoche to sign a two-year deal, that’d be sweet. Otherwise, know when to hold ’em.
Most years, I’m the guy who wants to spend the owner’s money. But every time I find a way to spend $50 million to $150 million of Ted Lerner’s cash in one big coup, I end up thinking it’s a stupid idea. What’s the fun in that?
So, on Sunday, I called Johnson and Mike Rizzo to help me snap out of it. Managers and general managers have been known to enjoy spending an owner’s money, too. It does wonders for job security.
Instead, Johnson said: “I’m not pushing for anything. I don’t have a wish list. There’s nothing I think we have to go hog wild about this winter. We’re going to be strong next year. If we don’t do anything, we’ll be fine.
“Our payroll might go down,” he said, half-joking.
Rizzo calls himself “the crazy guy who usually wants to sign a free agent or make a trade.” Not this time. “In past winters, we’ve jumped out quickly” with signings, he said. “This time around, we don’t have any pressing needs. We’ll probably see where the landscape is after the winter meetings.
“Davey and I like our players a lot. If money were free, we’d get Greinke, Bourn and two more closers,” said Rizzo, naming two players that, when you hear them rumored with the Nats, are probably non-starters. “But when the rubber hits the road in ’14-’15-’16, you’re going to have to pay your own players. Sometimes, you’re better with known commodities.”
A baseball offseason has a zillion moving parts. Nobody passes up an opportunity. But here’s my best guess on how the Nats’ plans may evolve:
They already have pennant-contending talent, some of it just beginning to blossom, like Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore, and other pieces, like Anthony Rendon, Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin, who tore up the Arizona Fall League, perhaps a year from bursting on the big league radar.
Why would you sign LaRoche, 33, for three or four years or Bourn, about to turn 30, or the erratic Upton for five-plus seasons at astronomical cost when you have multiple players who may have the same kind of futures? They aren’t all going to fail. Why jam up first base or center field for a baseball eternity? Someday, Ryan Zimmerman may need to play first base.
The Nats need flexibility to develop young players more than they need to add new expensive parts — all of whom have their own question marks.