Prospects for the Nationals, 2009
Saturday's Washington Post reviewed the team's pitching staff, which has experienced rapid turnover in every year since 2005, when the Nats began playing in D.C. From 2005 to 2007, the Nats managed to field decent pitchers, partly offsetting their lack of offensive power, but in 2008 the pitching just collapsed. Attracting a top-notch pitcher should have been a higher priority for the front office than seems to be the case, thus far. Last year's first-string pitcher, Tim Redding, was traded to the Mets during the off-season, and John Lannan will apparently inherit that spot. Others who are likely to join the starting rotation include Jason Bergman, Daniel Cabrera (formerly an Oriole), and Scott Olsen (formerly a Marlin). Otherwise, it's a wide-open free-for-all. Shawn Hill and Matt Chico are returning to the Nationals this year, but their health remains a big question mark, while Odalis Perez has a minor-league contract. Among the relative newbies vying for a spot on the starting rotation are Collin Ballester and Jordan Zimmerman. (He's from Canada, and is not Ryan's brother.) The bullpen includes a few Nat veterans, but not Jon Rauch (now with the D-Backs) or Chad Cordero, who was the team's star closer in 2005 but is still a free agent. (See my Washington Nationals background page, updated for the 2009 preseason.)
The addition of Adam Dunn to the Washington Nationals greatly boosts their prospects for the 2009 season. How many other players have hit 40 or more home runs in five straight seasons? (Don't ask me.) With regard to getting Dunn signed (and the megabucks Mark Teixera bid), WaPo columnist Thomas Boswell compliments the Lerners for making a statement about their commitment to winning, though they still "aren't off the hook." Dunn is mediocre defensively, but has played left field, so perhaps they can keep Nick Johnson on the team. Nick has said he is not prepared to play in a reserve role, and I don't blame him.
FACT CHECK: On Wednesday I wrote that the Nats had signed Dunn to a "two-year $10 million contract." Actually, it was $10 million per year.
More ballpark photos
I have added four "new" photos of U.S. Cellular Field (taken last summer, actually) that were graciously submitted to me by John Minor. It was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies that were perfect for taking pictures, as you can see:
Many thanks, John! More of his photos are still to come...