Winter Meetings Recap: Washington Nationals
The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings came and went without much noise coming from the Washington Nationals front office, or from any team’s camp for that matter. Sure, there were a few grumblings involving relief pitchers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen as well as some rumors about Danny Espinosa being potential trade bait, but those were quickly dispelled.
GM Mike Rizzo had just about his entire Christmas shopping list completed before even hopping on the plane down to Florida. He had nailed down undeniably the strongest fourth starter in baseball by trading Steve Lombardozzi, Robbie Ray, and Ian Krol for Doug Fister. He also solidified his outfield by signing Nate McLouth to a 2-year, $10.75 million deal, thus giving new Manager Matt Williams the ability to get Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth some days off while maintaining a potent lineup.
Stepping off the plane in Florida, the Washington Nationals general manager had his roster all but set, save maybe a back-up catcher, another infielder, and most importantly a left-handed reliever. The key need was taken care of when the team traded their minor league player of the year outfieder Billy Burns to the Oakland Athletics for LHP Jerry Blevins. Many considered this yet another solid move by Rizzo as Blevins will come cheap for the next two seasons. It has also been argued that while Burns excelled at the A and AA level he has a long way to go to be a major league-caliber hitter.
New Manager Matt Williams laid out his plan for success this season for his new team during managerial interviews. He admitted to being extremely excited to be handed such a talented young team, but also said he wanted to make sure he emphasized the use of defensive positioning and offensive efficiency in the coming year. Improved timely hitting along with an infield that puts itself in a better place on the diamond to make plays were key parts of Williams’ teachings in Arizona. He intends to bring these lessons and wishes to D.C. in an effort to put this team over the top.
The festivities wrapped up on Thursday when three moves via the Rule 5 Draft for the Washington Nationals took place. The team lost 24-year-old catching prospect Adrian Nieto to the Chicago White Sox, but snatched up RHP Martires Arias from the New York Mets and speedy outfielder Theodis Bowe from the Cincinnati Reds. The team also designated 28-year-old OF Corey Brown for assignment. The meetings effectively wrapped up without much of a bang.