You know that I don't think the Nats should have signed Prince Fielder. Or more accurately, they shouldn't have matched or beaten that contract that he got in order to bring him to Washington. The only way you commit to a contract that has that much potential wasted money on the back end is if you are sure the player can make a playoff difference NOW. For the Tigers, Prince can. The Nats, though, have too much variability in their expected performance to feel sure that they are just one player and one season away. Another year will help whittle down the problem areas further (one hopes) so they can go into next off-season with laser focus and get the pieces they really need (assuming it all hasn't come down like a house of cards. Unlikely but still not outside the realm of possibility. I give it... 15% chance? Something like that. So before you say I'm being negative that's an 85% chance they are still on the playoff track come 2013.)
One of the things the Nats
could use next year is one more arm to make the rotation one of the
best in baseball. (especially since the free agent bats are going to be
slim pickings) Next offseason looks like a fantastic one for free agent pitching. Cain, Greinke, Hamels are all currently slated to be free agents. These are potential top of the order starters who will be under 30 in 2013. But if they do get into free agency they are going to be pricey. It starts with 5 for 85 (Weaver's extension) and goes up from there (for Cain and Hamels at least, we have to see how Greinke does this season for him to be up there). If anyone gets signed (Grienke was talking extension, Cain seems to be the Giants priority over Lincecum...) the price for the remaining guy gets that much higher.
The Nats have show real reluctance in paying the market price for free agent pitching. While rumors had the Nats going well over 20 million for Prince at a reasonable contract length, the Nats essentially lowballed Mark Buehrle. Rizzo seems to have a sense that competitive teams don't have to overpay for free agents even though that is disproven every off-season. Based on all this can you really see the Nats giving out the Sabathia like deal that they'll need to, to get a Hamels or Cain?
By not ridiculously overpaying for Prince the Nats have set the fanbase up to expect them to ridiculously overpay for a young arm next offseason. Of course that's right now. Maybe the rotation will bust out and Detwiler will become a stud while Purke and Meyer cruise through the minors, leaving the Nats with no need for that last arm. Maybe. But if this doesn't happen and if there is any faltering with the Strasburg, ZNN, Gio triumvirate the Nats fans will expect that type of big move. I still don't trust that they will make it.
Once is a mistake, twice is a pattern. The Werth deal sets the precedent but does not by itself create a new normal. The Lerners need to come through with that next big deal to make me believe they are willing to pay, and coming in second with big money doesn't count. Continually offering just enough to NOT get the deal done does not make one a big spender, it makes them as effectively cheap as the guy that doesn't even bother to put out deals. No, they have to actually pull the trigger. Will they? We'll may find out in 11 months or so.