Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo held a conference call with beat reporters in which he discussed Nationals players under contract for 2012 and impending free agents that they'll attempt to bring back. Thanks to Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington, who has the nuggets from the conference call, we can take a look at what the general manager had to say:
On negotiations with Chien-Ming Wang:
"I wouldn't describe it as imminent or close," Rizzo said. "But we're still communicating and we still have a mutual interest for Chien-Ming to sign with the Nationals."
Wang is a free agent five days after the conclusion of the World Series, but both parties are on the same page here. I'd expect Wang to back in Washington.
Rizzo said he had some preliminary talks with Livan Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez right after the season, but both players wanted to wait until later this winter before discussing their options for 2012. Each veteran will become a free agent in the next week, and it doesn't appear the Nationals view either player as a key piece to their roster moving forward.
Certainly neither are key pieces for the Nationals moving forward, with Wilson Ramos irrefutably better than Ivan Rodriguez at this point in his career. Hernandez isn't getting younger either, but has expressed an interest to stay with the team in any role.
On the Nationals first base situation:
Adam LaRoche, who had surgery in June to repair a left shoulder tear, began a throwing program last week. Rizzo continues to speak about the LaRoche (who is under contract for $8 million in 2012) as his starting first baseman, despite the presence of Michael Morse and Chris Marrero on the roster and big names like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder about to hit the free-agent market. "His rehab is going great," Rizzo said of LaRoche. "He started throwing just last week. He will be on a throwing program and building up to prepare for spring training. He should be full-go for spring training. That's the word I got, not only from Adam, but from our medical staff."
It appears the Nationals won't be pursuing the top players of this free agent class in sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, because they see Adam LaRoche as the starting first baseman. Which would also mean they'll stick Michael Morse in left field, who is well below-average defensively in the outfield.
On signing a Type A free agent:
Rizzo acknowledged he'll take into consideration the fact the Nationals will lose their first-round pick in next summer's draft if they sign a Type A free agent. Because the Nationals finished with the 15th-best record in the majors, their top 2012 draft pick is not protected. "I think it will be part of our decision process," Rizzo said, "and it does have an impact on us."
If the Nationals sign a Type A free agent, they would lose their first round draft pick to the team who lost their player. In addition to having LaRoche and Morse, this is all the more reason for the Nationals not to sign Fielder or Pujols.