Winter Meetings Notebook

Nats remain in mix to sign Pavano

Carl Pavano, age 34,
Carl Pavano, age 34, (Charlie Neibergall)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. - After twice meeting with Carl Pavano's representative this week, the Washington Nationals "are still in the mix" to sign the veteran right-hander, agent Tom O'Connell said Wednesday morning. Pavano, who will turn 35 in January, arrived Tuesday at the winter meetings here, a relatively short drive from his Florida home. Last season, Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA in 221 innings for the Minnesota Twins.

After Cliff Lee, whom the Nationals are also still vying for, Pavano is the clear-cut best free agent starting pitcher available. The Nationals are also pursuing possible trades to upgrade their rotation. Their top priority should they make a trade, even over the Royals' Zack Greinke, is Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The asking price for Garza, who is 27 and under team control through the 2014 season, would not be cheap. With a good chance the Rays trade Jason Bartlett, it would almost certainly include shortstop Ian Desmond, an emerging team leader whom the Nationals have described as their shortstop for the next decade. It would be difficult for the Nationals to pull the trigger on any trade that includes Desmond.

Multiple options at 1B

The name most frequently connected to the Nationals' vacancy at first base came off the market late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning when Chicago Cubs signed free agent Carlos Pena to a contract reportedly worth $10 million for one season.

With Pena no longer an option, the Nationals' most likely target at first becomes Adam LaRoche, who last season hit .261/.320/.468 (average/on-base/slugging) with 25 home runs. LaRoche, like Pena, is left-handed, which has become important to the Nationals after Jayson Werth's addition gave them three right-handed, middle-of-the-order bats (with Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman) but no power lefties.

While LaRoche appears to be the Nationals' most likely option to replace Adam Dunn, they also have a secondary plan in place. If the Nationals miss out on LaRoche, they would move toward a less-expensive left-handed option, such as Brad Hawpe, to set up a platoon at first base with Michael Morse.

If the Nationals don't get LaRoche, it would also enhance the possibility they keep Willingham, who is available in a trade. Since Hawpe, for example, is coming off a down year (.245/.338/.419 with nine home runs) and Morse has never played a full major league season, the Nationals would want to keep Willingham to maintain a more established threat in the middle of their lineup. Even with that plan in mind, the best bet remains LaRoche becoming a National. . . .

Agent Scott Boras, who represents seven players on the Nationals' 40-man roster, said Stephen Strasburg is a month and a half into his rehab from Tommy John surgery out in San Diego, and everything is going well. Strasburg's spirits are "good," Boras said.

Crawford, Red Sox agree

A person familiar with the negotiations tells the Associated Press that outfielder Carl Crawford has reached a preliminary agreement with the Boston Red Sox on a $142 million, seven-year contract.

The agreement is subject to Crawford passing a physical, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final. . . .

The New York Yankees have made their first formal contract offer to pitcher Cliff Lee, a six-year proposal worth nearly $140 million. . . .

Free agent slugger Jack Cust and the Mariners agreed to a one-year contract, giving Seattle a veteran designated hitter heading into 2011. A person with knowledge of the deal told the Associated Press that the sides were finalizing details of a contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Cust still must take a physical before a formal announcement is made. . . .

Outfielder Jeff Francoeur reached agreement with the Kansas City Royals on a one-year contract for $2.5 million. The deal includes a mutual option for $4 million in 2012 and is subject to a physical. . . .

Paul Konerko has decided to stay with the Chicago White Sox, agreeing to a $37.5 million, three-year contract. The first baseman, a four-time all-star, gets $12 million in each of the next two seasons and $13.5 million in 2013 under the agreement. In the final year, $7 million will be deferred and paid annually in $1 million installments from 2014 to '20.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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