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GUILLEN AND BOWDEN AND BALDELLI AND DUKES AND ....

[November 28th] -- Jose Guillen.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!

Not since Frau Blucher has a name caused so much angst and fear.

Blucher!

Naaaaaaay!!!!!!

But of course, that's a horse of a different color.

Okay. I'll stop.

The Kansas City Royals are denying they are close to signing embattled Mariners and former National, Angel, Athletic, Red, Devil Ray, Diamondback and Pirate outfielder Jose Guillen. That means they are indeed close to signing him; they probably don't want the other team in the hunt - the Orioles - to get panicky and up the ante.

It's a good sign that the Nationals are no longer in a position to have to sign road-kill like Jose Guillen. Guillen, who has averaged .274-21-86 over a full season, must now try to spin a bad temperament along with a possible steroids suspension. The only teams willing to take a chance on someone like him are organizations that have no hope of drawing real free agents (Royals) or organizations that are just plain stupid (Orioles).

That said, I still see Jose Guillen as "the one that got away." I really believed that Guillen was going to be the centerpiece around which the Nationals were going to be built. The team quickly found out, however, that while Guillen was a good teammate when his team was winning (50-31 first half), he was the devil incarnate when his team lost (30-51 second half).

I have little doubt that Austin Kearns will thrive in the new park, providing a consistent .275-22-80 and solid defense in right. Jose Guillen, on the other hand, will continue to perplex his current team. and keep a lookout for his "next" new team. Kearns is the right guy at this stage in the Nationals' evolution.

No news is .....: Does the lack of any substantive news coming from the Nationals cause you any concern so close to the winter meetings? I guess the quiet can be taken to mean that the Nationals aren't planning any major moves this off season, meaning that the team intends to fill their needs from within.

I don't think that's the case, however.

It's been my experience that an abundance of rumors usually signals a lack of moves during the winter. I think what we're seeing - or hearing - is the calm before the storm. Perhaps Jim Bowden is so busy talking trade that he doesn't have any time to spread rumors. GM's are good at leaking trade rumors to the press to give the impression that they are busy trying to better their team. How come no deals were completed, Jim? Gee, he says, the other GM's were just asking too much.

This is just speculation mind you, but I really believe that the Nationals are going to pull off a major trade, perhaps more than one, between now and Spring Training. Look for Jimbo to package Ryan Church and/or Chad Cordero and perhaps one of the team's young guns at Vermont for a big-time pitcher and a lower level prospect. If he is able to pull this off, he isn't going to be able to trade for an established power hitter. That's why I think our next center fielder is going to come from Tampa Bay, though I don't know if it's going to be Rocco Baldelli or Elijah Dukes. A healthy Baldelli will replace Ryan Church's numbers save a lower OBP and a higher batting average. He won't cost much but neither will he make the team better. Dukes is the wild-card. He'll cost more, but also has a much higher upside than Baldelli. If he pans out - and stays out of jail - Dukes could eventually team up with Wily Mo Pena and Ryan Zimmerman as a very potent 3-4-5 heart-of-the-lineup. They could combine for 110 homers and 300 RBI's for the next decade.

Of course, Dukes and Pena could also never reach their potential and combine for 40 homers and 150 RBI's, not nearly enough production to help the Nationals.

The Nationals know they need to do something spectacular as they prepare to move into their new stadium. I think Bowden is going to the winter meetings ready to make two or three major trades but won't come home without at least making some kind of splash.

No, it won't be Johan Santana, but I won't be surprised if it's someone almost as good.

Of course, if I'm wrong I'll simply delete this post and hope your memory is as bad as mine.

NOTE: I just read Barry Svurluga's blog over at the Post and he's thinking that Cordero/Rauch is more likely to be traded than Church, though he's still a possibility as well.

19 Signings and oh my, that's a lot of paperwork: In their annual "Let's waive a bunch of minor league stiffs and then sign a bunch more" move, the Nationals signed 19 players over the past week or so. Some are names we've heard before, but most are minor league vagabonds trying one more time to make it to the bigs.

Each year, the Nationals sign a slugger and then releases him at the end of the year only to sign another before releasing him as well. First it was Mike Vento. Last year, it was Mike Restovich. Now, meet your newest minor league slugger, Luis Jimenez.

Jimenez, 26, is a 6'4", 200 lb leftie from Hugo Chavezville. Signed by the Athletics as an undrafted free agent in 1999, he's been productive throughout his career, mostly at the 'AA' level. Based on a 500 at-bat season, he's averaged .286-22-85 with a .370 OBP.

I'm curious as to where the Nationals plan on playing the first baseman. Certainly, Josh Whitesell, who has come off of two very successful seasons at 'AA' Harrisburg, will be the Columbus Clippers starting first baseman now that Larry Broadway has been set free. That would suggest that Jimenez will return to 'AA' for a third season. Whitesell's offensive numbers are similar to Jimenez' save his outstanding .425 OBP. They are the same age. Neither are considered true prospects. The Nats seems to have duplicated Whitesell here.

None of the Potomac first baseman, Steve Mortimer, Logan Sorensen or Brett McMillan, seem ready to tackle the Eastern League in 2008. Why would Jimenez sign with Washington knowing that his path to 'AAA' is blocked and that the team has no internal first baseman to play at Harrisburg?

Perhaps the Nationals may be looking to trade Whitesell this off-season?

Lots of questions. We'll have the answers soon enough.


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