Financial Strings Tie GM's Hands

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 21, 2006

At a time when his team is playing poorly and could be in need of a shake-up, Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden sent outfielder Ryan Church to the minors Friday night because, quite simply, that's the only roster move he could make given the contract status of each player. Church and catcher Wiki Gonzalez are the only players who have options remaining, meaning they can be sent down without exposing them to other teams.

The other options to make changes include trades and releasing players. Bowden said yesterday that the trade market hasn't yet heated up and that financial considerations make it difficult to release players.

"Is the financial part a factor? Absolutely it's a factor," Bowden said. "Has it been a part of our discussions? Yes."

If the Nationals were to release a player currently on the major league roster, they would be responsible for paying the player until or unless another franchise signed him. So though Bowden believes there are several players in the minors who are, as he put it, "knocking on the door," he can't simply release veterans because it would essentially be adding to the payroll.

"We have certain players we may want to change, and they don't have an option, so your choices become either you trade a player," Bowden said, "and if you're having trade discussions and you haven't been able to make a trade yet, you don't just release [a player] when maybe a week later you can get a player that can help your organization."

Bowden did not say which, if any, players would be considered for release if the club was able to do so. Relievers Felix Rodriguez and Joey Eischen have battled season-long problems, and pitchers Bill Bray, Saul Rivera, Shawn Hill and Santiago Ramirez are all candidates to be called up.

"We're not under a time crunch," Bowden said. "It doesn't have to be done today or tomorrow or the next day." . . .

Bowden said right-hander John Patterson, on the disabled list with a strained forearm, won't be ready to pitch in the majors until "the first 10 days of June," pushing him back from a June 1 return.

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