Rebuilding in the Nation’s Capital

At 343-466, the revival of baseball in Washington D.C. has not gone as planned since the relocation of the Montreal Expos in 2005. Two straight 59 win seasons certainly signal a rebuilding era ahead for a team that in 2005 held a playoff spot for 38 games in June and July and was within 4.5 games in August.

Former GM Jim Bowden didn’t put the Nationals in a position to win, as acquisitions such as Lastings Milledge (which was not necessarily a bad deal, but a poor result), Austin Kearns, Emilio Bonifacio, and Wily Mo Pena combined with poor prospect development (outside of Ryan Zimmerman, of course) to result in some very poor teams on the field in the nation’s capital.

The quality of the new leadership in Washington, captained by Mike Rizzo, remains to be seen. One thing is for sure. Come 2011, he will not be able to make the excuse that he was hamstrung by the signings of the previous regime.

The Washington Nationals should be expected to field a payroll of approximately 60 million dollars once again, after actually increasing their payroll 6 million dollars over the 2008 team. This offseason, $14.35 million will come off the books in the form of Dmitri Young, Nick Johnson, Joe Beimel (who was traded to the Rockies at the deadline), Wil Ledezma, Josh Bard, and Julian Tavarez.

Certainly, that is not enough to allow the Nationals to spend their way into contention. In 2010, however, a veritable flurry of contracts will expire. In fact, the only non-arbitration, non-minimum contract dollars the Nationals have committed in 2011 are to Ryan Zimmerman. This time, it’s 22.5 million dollars, via Adam Dunn, Cristian Guzman, Austin Kearns, and Willie Harris.

By 2011, the Nationals will be free of all the moves made in the Jim Bowden era. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper (we assume) will be in the organization and possibly even in the majors. Jordan Zimmermann showed potential before his injury and Ryan Zimmerman is one of the best players in the majors. Nyjer Morgan is a tremendous fielder, and Ian Desmond is a bright spot as a SS prospect. Now what remains to be seen is if Mike Rizzo can put a competitive team around these core players.

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JCA

Kearns will also be bought out this year, so that’s more money off the books in 2010.