Adrian Beltre made his first career appearance at Nationals Park this weekend, but he confirmed to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he came very close to calling that stadium home for a long time back in 2010. Beltre said that he was close to choosing the Nationals over the Rangers, with whom he signed a five-year, $80MM in 2010. He and agent Scott Boras met with the Nats’ front office at the 2010 Winter Meetings and had advanced talks. Beltre notes that the meeting took place before Washington signed his friend, Jayson Werth, to a seven-year, $126MM deal. It’s unclear if Washington could’ve afforded both, but it’s interesting to wonder how different the franchise would look and whether or not they could’ve afforded Ryan Zimmerman’s $100MM contract extension with Beltre in the fold.
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- Kilgore also examines the remarkable story of Blake Treinen, who was refused a walk-on tryout by the University of Arkansas and got his first shot at a Division I baseball program after attending a $20 pitching camp attended primarily by middle school children. Treinen, who nearly developed diabetes due to an unhealthy lifestyle in early high school, was throwing just 79 mph late in high school but worked his way up to the seventh round of the draft and now fires a 98 mph sinker for the Nationals.
- Looking ahead to the summer, the Nationals are one club that needs to make a roster upgrade via trade, opines Paul Swydan of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). The situation is a difficult one for the stagnant Nats, says Swydan, given that the club lacks obvious places to make an impact. It is hard to imagine how Washington would go about upgrading the pitching staff, and the everyday lineup does not have any spots that are truly ripe for a move. Nevertheless, Swydan argues that the team’s bench could stand to be improved. The club put a priority on bolstering its reserves in the offseason, adding Nate McLouth, Jose Lobaton, and Kevin Frandsen, but the group has struggled on the whole. Of course, things have not been helped by the fact that the loss of several regulars for long stretches has at times pressed reserves into everyday duty.
- Aside from the obvious possibility of swapping out bench pieces, it could be that the Nationals will largely need to sink or swim with the players they have. It is easy to imagine a more productive option than Denard Span in center or even the struggling Wilson Ramos at catcher, but actually getting such a player would be extremely expensive and may not even be a realistic possibility. (Looking at the center field and catcher leaderboards, it is hard to identify reasonably plausible targets that would really move the needle.) And that is even before considering how Washington would deal with the fallout of such a move, both in the present and in the future. Given the uncertainty surrounding the role of Zimmerman, who is apparently set for time in left field and both corner infield spots when he returns, it seems that versatility could be an important factor should GM Mike Rizzo choose to go after a truly impactful player. In that respect, it is worth wondering — and this is pure speculation — whether Ben Zobrist of the Rays would be a viable target, if Tampa decides to sell off veterans. He is under control next season through a bargain $7.5MM club option, and could theoretically play any number of positions depending upon how the rest of this season and the coming offseason shake out. It is worth noting here, too, that Tampa is familiar with the Nats’ system after negotiating the Lobaton deal, and has long been said to have interest in Danny Espinosa, whose role in D.C. would largely disappear were the Nats to add a player like Zobrist.
Jeff Todd wrote the latter two bullets to this post.