And it would appear from today's Washington Post that the team really wants us fans to believe that they are ready to spend $200 million on a baseball player, namely Mark Teixeira.
Count me among the skeptics who doubt that this pursuit is real. It's just hard to believe that a team that let a top ten draft pick walk over $700k is now ready to spend nearly 300 times that much on a first baseman.
But also count me among the people who will be heartened if this pursuit turns out to be real.
Not because I think Mark Teixeira would necessarily be the best signing for this team. As I said in my off-season preview posts, a healthy Nick Johnson is nearly as good an offensive player as Tex, and with Marrero down on the farm, there's no reason why we need to make some huge play for a superstar first baseman now. We need a better plan B than Kory Casto, but we don't need to spend $200 million on a long-term deal. I would have rather seen the team spend FA bucks on a corner OF (like Dunn) and a second-tier starting pitcher (like Derek Lowe), although the Willingham-Olsen trade throws that idea into some flux.
But, having said that, I don't think Tex would be a bad move by any stretch. I think if he's earning $20 million a year for 10 years that he'll be basically a sound investment for at least half that time. He'll still probably be a crippling albatross for the last 2-3 years of a contract like that, but in free agency that's not too bad.
More importantly for me it would at least for the time being ease the creeping sense of hopelessness about the team's unwillingness to spend. As frequent readers here know all too well, I never really minded that the team didn't play in the free agent classes of 2006 and 2007. If you look at the biggest signings those years, it's like a roll call of busts signed by the worst GMs in baseball: Zito and Rowand signed by Sabean; Silva signed by Bavasi; Andruw Jones, Schmidt and Pierre signed by Colletti... The best-run teams mostly sat out the last couple years, because the options were lousy. Walking away from these guys is cheap-smart, and that's fine with me.
But low-balling Ryan Zimmerman, failing to sign high draft picks like Aaron Crow and Sean Black, and the lack of international free agents--these are cheap-dumb moves that, if this is how the team is going to be run, makes me wonder whether it's worth the time and money to follow this franchise at all.
So although I think the team's overtures to Tex are mostly a PR sham, I hope it isn't. Signing Tex won't make the Nationals a winner any time soon, but it'll at least give fans (including me) some badly needed hope.