Hector Carrasco, the Washington Nationals' versatile veteran right-hander, officially filed for free agency yesterday, the last of eight eligible Nationals to file.
Carrasco, who pitched in the Japanese League in 2004, was originally signed on a lark by the Nationals before spring training, and he became one of the team's most valuable pitchers, going 5-4 with a 2.04 ERA. He learned a change-up under the tutelage of pitching coach Randy St. Claire and became, at first, an essential part of the Nationals' bullpen, then, when injuries devastated the staff, an effective fill-in starter. He went 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA in five emergency starts despite the fact that he had started only once in 557 previous major league appearances.
Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden has already made a contract offer to Carrasco, who turned 36 on Oct. 22. Carrasco's success in both roles could make him a valuable commodity on the free agent market this winter. Bowden and Manager Frank Robinson have said they would consider Carrasco for a fifth starter's role should they be able to re-sign him. He is 35-46 with a 3.94 ERA in parts of 10 major league seasons with six major league teams.
The Nationals' other free agents are pitchers Tony Armas Jr., Joey Eischen and Esteban Loaiza; pinch hitter Carlos Baerga; catcher Gary Bennett; infielder Deivi Cruz; and outfielder Preston Wilson. Of those players, the only one the Nationals are likely to pursue aggressively is Loaiza.
In other news, the Nationals denied a report from Japan that former major league manager Bobby Valentine had been contacted by Washington about its managerial position, currently held by Robinson. "Absolutely not true," team president Tony Tavares said. Bowden has said that he wants Major League Baseball to name a new owner before deciding on Robinson's fate.
Tavares also said that the Los Angeles Dodgers, seeking a replacement for fired general manager Paul DePodesta, had not contacted him for permission to speak with Bowden, who signed a six-month extension with the Nationals last week.
-- Barry Svrluga