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Winter Meetings storylines

Dec 6, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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Executives, managers, coaches, scouts, trainers, traveling secretaries, PR reps, agents, equipment reps, broadcasters, writers and pretty much anybody else associated with the sport of baseball all are making their way to Nashville today for this year’s Winter Meetings, which officially commence Monday morning.

This is the third time the gargantuan Gaylord Opryland Resort has hosted the event in the last nine years. Perhaps I’ll actually have figured out how to navigate my way through the place this time around after two previous failed attempts, though I doubt it.

(Side note: Next year’s Winter Meetings are actually coming to Washington for the first time, or more specifically, National Harbor.)

The Nationals have a track record for making news while in Nashville. In 2007, they traded for Elijah Dukes. In 2012, they signed Dan Haren, while Davey Johnson issued his “World Series or Bust” proclamation. Hmm, looking back on things, the Nats don’t exactly have a strong track record for wise decision-making while at the Opryland.

There’s no way to know for sure what will transpire over these next four days, but here are a few storylines that bear watching…

The No. 1 available free agent at the Nationals’ No. 1 position of need appears to be getting close to making a decision. And, according to various reports over the last few days, that decision likely is going to come down to the Nationals or the Orioles.

O’Day blossomed into one of baseball’s best setup men the last four seasons in Baltimore, capped by his All-Star campaign in 2015. And he’d be a welcome addition to a Nats bullpen in need of an overhaul.

Here’s the key question: Are the Nationals (or the Orioles or anybody else) willing to offer O’Day the 4-year contract he reportedly seeks? The sense here is that the Nats won’t go that far. They just haven’t shown any inclination in the past to make that kind of long-term commitment to a reliever, especially one who’s already 33.

Ultimately, Mike Rizzo and Co. may hold out hope that O’Day is more interested in coming to D.C. (where his wife, Elizabeth Prann, works as a reporter for Fox News) than in taking a potential 4-year offer elsewhere. Whatever his decision is, it figures to come sometime soon.

If bullpen help is No. 1 on the Nationals’ winter shopping list, a left-handed bat (preferably one versatile enough to play multiple positions) would follow close behind as a strong No. 2. And nobody fits that description better than a guy Rizzo has coveted for awhile: Zobrist.

The trouble, as always, is that pretty much every team in baseball covets Zobrist, who can play second base, the corner outfield positions and corner infield positions, is a switch-hitter, a popular clubhouse guy and all-around fine ballplayer. So there’s a lot of competition for him.

The Mets have already declared their willingness to give the 35-year-old Zobrist a 4-year deal. Would the Nationals match that offer in an attempt to sign with them instead of their division rivals? They may get an opportunity to make a first-hand pitch this week: Zobrist lives in Nashville, so he could be the rare player who actually appears at the Winter Meetings for face-to-face talks.

Perhaps the most fascinating decisions facing the Nationals this winter involve the potential shopping around of those three veterans. There’s a different reason to consider trading each of them — Storen because he and the organization appear to have lost all trust in one another, Papelbon because he choked Bryce Harper and arguably played a major role in destroying the 2015 season, Escobar because he’s coming off a career year and the club has internal options to replace him — but none is going to be a simple transaction.

Everybody in baseball knows the deal with Storen and Papelbon, severely reducing their values. Rizzo has said he would only trade either if given a real baseball offer. Whether that happens, and whether he’s been bluffing, remains to be seen.

Escobar could be a bit easier to deal, with plenty of clubs intrigued by a versatile infielder coming off a season in which he hit .314 and under contract for a respectable $7 million in 2016 (with a $7 million option for 2017).

We don’t know if a trade involving any of these three will go down this week, but it’s safe to say their names will come up a lot.

  1. Sven - Dec 6, 2015 at 6:03 AM

    Another side note to trading drew Storen :
    Would Rizzo table another 3 team deal
    In his career welcoming in Duquette
    And the birds. No nats/ birds deal in nats
    Short history . Storen and Brett O key
    Pieces ???

  2. trfwans - Dec 6, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    Neither Storen nor Papelbon will be traded until Rizzo has first acquired their replacement(s). That may not be true for Escobar, since replacements for him are already in house in various stages of readiness.

    • unkyd59 - Dec 6, 2015 at 9:09 AM

      Nonsense. He’ll trade them both before breakfast tomorrow, if he gets what he’s looking for. That was a clown comment, bro…

  3. letsallbaseball - Dec 6, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    O’Day back to Baltimore…

    • unkyd59 - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:07 AM

      I’m ok with that… Four years is a long time… Bring on the meetings!!!

    • veejh - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:12 AM

      Dayum. I bet Rizzo wasn’t willing to go 4 years.

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        That’s exactly what it sounds like. From Dan Connolly of Baltimore Sun:

        “Source: ODay was expected to agree with the Nats on Friday but Orioles came in with an 11th hour fourth year. And that got it done.”

        O’Day for three years would have been stellar.

      • veejh - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        No need to handcuff our team by signing players for longer than they’ll be effective. We already have the Werth albatross, and I’m sure Scherzer’s contract won’t look so hot for years 6 and 7.

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:31 AM

        Agreed. Same with Zobrist. I’d bank on one good to very good year, one acceptable year, and then be afraid of what ever comes after that. You get both O’Day and Zobrist for four years, and four years from now you might be in a pretty bad situation.

      • Doc - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        Long term contracts are the bane of baseball.

        So with Zobrist and O’Day, the Nats would have a 39 yr. old 2B guy and a 37-38 yr. old relief pitcher to go along with their 39 yr. old starting pitcher in Scherzer and 38 yr. old 1B guy in Zimmerman. Of course our 39 yr. old LF JDub would be 45 at that point and long gone by then, helping to keep the team younger! LOL

        We could beat the recent Phillies in the category of slow-moving has-beens..

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 6, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        haha halfway through your comment I was thinking “sounds just like our pals up in Philly”. Yeah that is not a dream scenario.

    • trfwans - Dec 6, 2015 at 11:07 AM

      So much for that “free agents don’t sign back with their old team” meme. Also that “the O’s are always in on free agents but never sign them” meme.

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 6, 2015 at 11:14 AM

        “Memes” aren’t unbreakable rules, are they?

        Besides, the Orioles signed the great Ubaldo Jimenez to an amazing contract just a couple years ago.

  4. water47 - Dec 6, 2015 at 6:50 PM

    How about going after Henderson Alvarez? Hehas a ton of upside. Granted there are red flags as the team that had him non-tendered him and they should no his injury status. But, it may have been a money issue. Kinda, building for next two years.

  5. knoxvillenat - Dec 6, 2015 at 7:33 PM

    Mark, if you can find your way out of the hotel grab a cab and get yourself downtown to Music Row on Broadway. Take in the action at B.B. King’s, Tootsies and The Stage on Broadway or one of the many other music venues in Nashville it is well worth the time and most places don’t have a cover charge!





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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