--Today, Tim Dierkes reports that "Nationals owner Ted Lerner 'has spent extensive time' with Scott Boras, presumably in regard to Mark Teixeira." Boy, talk about an odd couple. What do you suppose they're doing? Palling around like Obama and Bill Ayers? Sharing a milkshake with two straws? Maybe a few lines together at the bowling alley?
--This week the lowly Giants signed Edgar Renteria. That leaves just Rafael Furcal and Orlando Cabrera among shortstops worth a dang in free agency. This are so dire that an honest-to-god contender, the Cardinals, traded for yucky Khalil Greene to "address" their shortstop needs (that means I guess that FLop will be backing up the ol' Spicoli lookalike, BTW--talk about indignity of indignities...). What I'm getting at is that I still hope that this team is shopping a certain all-star shortstop who could fill the needs of several contenders, including the Red Sox, White Sox, Rays, and others.
--I kind of wish the Nationals had made this signing. Yes, he's another ex-Red, but Russell Branyan would have been a good low-risk, high-reward four-corners guy who would either fit in on the 25-man as a back up Nick Johnson or provide honest-to-god pop as an every day first-baseman if Nick doesn't hold up. He's cheap, versatile, has massive left-handed power and upside, and he probably would have had as good a chance to get at bats here as anywhere (except maybe Seattle). He does probably make more sense for an AL team like Seattle because he ain't a whole lot with the glove, but still, I saw this one and thought, "hmm... good idea, Jack Z."
--The Braves have acquired Javier Vazquez "for one good prospect, a wild-card arm, and some filler," a Keith Law summary I agree with. And now they are rumored to be on the verge of signing A.J. Burnett, which would give them by my count an opening day rotation of Burnett, Vazquez, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrgens, and Jorge Campillo, with John Smoltz possibly in the mix as well. Zoinks. The Braves methinks are back, my friends. And the Nationals may have one dilly of a time scoring runs against this group.
--I had to laugh at the by now thoroughly discussed Jerry Crasnik column at ESPN.com, which euphemistically diagnosed our problem as a "lack of identity." (Um, I think we have an identity--we're the team that's hopelessly awful and completely vanilla uninteresting that noone cares about.) Otherwise, there's really very little new there, other than some new names like Zack Greinke (I can't see why the Royals would be interested in moving him, but he's a talented guy with a ton of upside who could be great if the price was right, though golly Jim really looooooves guys with personal problems), James Loney (if Ned Colletti wants to dump another talented young guy, we should be ready, but I can't ), and Joey Votto (with Pedro Alvarez--oops, Yonder Alonso I meant, tx Ct. Lance--in the fold, he's probably available and would move Jim one step closer to completing his mint set of former Reds properties).
--Going into the off-season, I liked Adam Dunn for the Nationals as a LF or plan B for Nick at 1B, and I like it even more now that he's not been offered arbitration and will no longer cost us a pick. The aforementioned Jerry Crasnik column speculated that Dunn could get less then 3 years and $36 million, which I would do in a heartbeat. That certainly would raise questions about what we do with all those outfielders, but since Dunn would be better than any of them (other than maybe Dukes), that's no reason not to do it. We could move one or two of the lesser guys if that's what it required.
--The D'Backs are still looking for a 2B and are talking to Ramon Vazquez. Yes, that Ramon Vazquez. I'd still like to see Ronnie playing for a contender and get some young blood in return.
--Bill Ladson has a story about the Nationals' needs going into the Winter Meetings that has some eyebrow-raisers about the starting rotation. I know, remember the source, but I was surprised to see him writing that Lannan and Olsen are the only Nationals with solid spots in the rotation at this point (wither Redding?). He also flatly labels Odalis Perez "gone." (The more I think about it, the more I wish they'd offered him arbitration. There's just no reason to let him walk, and if you want him back we could have had him on perfectly good terms via arb, assuming Perez accepted.) And Ladson repeats that the team "expects (Jordan) Zimmermann to be in the rotation in 2009." At the end of the season, I kind of thought the rotation situation was as settled as any time since 2005. But at this point it's starting to look a lot more like the mosh of 2006.
--In a post about the free agent market and the effects of the down economy, Peter Gammons gives us this:
"The other thing is that teams are moving away from the base offensive statistics," says another GM. "They are pouring through defensive studies and seeing that below-average defenders like Ramirez and Burrell in the field depreciate their offensive numbers because of what they give up."Bowden is famous for feeding blind quotes to Gammons, but you can bet this didn't come from him. Hopefully Jim reads it and considers the implications for guys like Willingham, Pena, etc. (And yes, I realize Adam Dunn, whom I just boosted, would fall squarely in this camp. My point isn't that these guys are always bad to have; you just shouldn't grossly overvalue them by discounting their defense, which has been Jim's tendency for years going back to Cincy.)