With a stunning third place finish in the NL East in the regular season, the Washington Nationals are clearly on the rise, only looking up at the Phillies and Braves. But what happens when one of those teams (the Phillies), release two former All-Stars that still have left in the tank? You seize the opportunity and sign them both before anyone else does.
Starting pitcher Roy Oswalt and former closer Brad Lidge both got their 2012 options declined by Philadelphia today, allowing them to sign elsewhere once teams are eligible to talk to free agents in early November. It’s been known that the Lerner family, who owns the team, are one of the wealthiest in all of baseball and have the money to shell out. The problem is that Washington D.C. isn’t an attractive landing spot for players looking for a new team, thus forcing the team to overpay for guys like Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Whatever this team needs to do to get these two fellas in uniform, they should do it.
I’m aware that both hurlers are on the downswing of their careers, but it’s an improvement on what the team already has. The rotation needs a veteran presence around the younger pitchers since it looks like Livan Hernandez will not be retained. The bullpen would be helped by a guy that’s been at the highest of highs and lowest of lows, a guy that closed out a World Series game and someone who allowed a back-breaking homer in the playoffs. Both also have something to prove after sub-par, injury-riddled seasons and wouldn’t it be nice if they could shove it to their former team with a division rival? It would bolster the roster and the pitchers’ knowledge of the Phils would immensely help out this team. It could work out, but there are other options which I find less attractive.
There are a few big fish in the free agent pond and the Nats would make crucial errors by even going after any of them. Yankees lefty C.C. Sabathia could do what Alex Rodriguez did and opt out of a contract with the pinstripes in search of more money. It’s more likely the Nationals sign me than they sign Sabathia, so throw that and a potential 7-year, $175M deal out the window. Another southpaw, C.J. Wilson, is considered the prize pitcher of this class and he’d probably command something right below John Lackey and A.J. Burnett, which didn’t turn out well in either case. Finally, Mets shortstop José Reyes is always one slip in the bathtub away from going on the disabled list.
The difference here is that neither Oswalt nor Lidge would command deals longer than two years, lowering the financial risk down the road and not be tied up to a couple of horrible contracts. It’s not even known if Roy Oswalt, 34, will pitch next year, as he’s flirted with retirement over the past couple of years due to family time and an aching back. Lidge still has something left in the tank and could be a 7th/8th inning guy when Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard can’t go. Both Oswalt and Lidge could get one-year deals, the former with an option and the latter with an incentive-loaded contract, costing the team no more than $20M in my estimation.
The Nats aren’t that far off from contending in this division, as shown by winning the season series against Philadelphia, and the Phillies and Braves are going to see their stars go soon. It seems like such a cliché statement, but one team has to win this division every season, so why not Washington? Sign two guys that have been to the playoffs, played in big games, and been through the rigors of tough seasons. The team and their fans will not be disappointed.