Nationals' President Meets With A. Jones
Though Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten has spent much of his time with the club explaining why he believes signing expensive free agents should be the last step in a rebuilding process, Kasten himself met with former Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones recently at Jones's Atlanta home, a source with knowledge of the situation said yesterday.
The contact with Jones, believed to be extremely preliminary, means the Nationals have at least touched base with all three top center fielders on the market. The agents for Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand confirmed initial contact from Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden last week.
The bidding for Jones, one of baseball's premier talents who is coming off a sub-par season, is likely to be fierce, in part because of Jones's status as a five-time all-star and in part because agent Scott Boras is known for commanding top dollar for his clients. Jones, 30, has 368 homers in just more than 11 seasons, but in 2007 he hit .222, a career low for a full season, as he battled injuries.
Kasten was pres ident of the Braves when Jones signed a six-year, $75 million contract in 2001. That deal was negotiated through Jones's father and without Boras.
Most sources with intimate knowledge of the Nationals still believe that the team is more likely to try to improve through trades, and that the club's emphasis remains on scouting and player development. Still, Kasten has pledged to "talk to everyone," and Bowden said in an interview last week that the club is "open-minded" to all possibilities.
Neither Kasten nor Bowden -- the latter of whom is at the general managers' meetings in Orlando -- returned messages last night.
In keeping with the idea of at least making contact with free agents, the Nationals have also inquired about Livan Hernandez, the right-hander who threw the first pitch when baseball returned to Washington in 2005 but was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. They have made similar preliminary contact with the representatives for other starting pitchers coming off injuries, including Jason Jennings (elbow surgery in August) and former Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon, who made just 29 appearances in 2006 and '07 because of shoulder and elbow problems.
-- Barry Svrluga