Market slow to develop for Nats free agents

Market slow to develop for Nats free agents
December 14, 2012, 8:45 am
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We've spent plenty of time already this offseason trying to figure out when and with whom Adam LaRoche will sign. (The latest on that front: With Josh Hamilton now a Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim, the Rangers have renewed interest in LaRoche, and according to a source close to that organization might be willing to offer a three-year contract.)

LaRoche, though, is far from the only Nationals free agent who has yet to sign this winter. In fact, the only ones who have to date are Sean Burnett (Angels) and Zach Duke (re-signed with the Nats).

That leaves a lengthy list of prominent 2012 Nationals who currently don't have employment for 2013, including Edwin Jackson, Michael Gonzalez, John Lannan, Jesus Flores, Tom Gorzelanny and Mark DeRosa.

Jackson is the biggest name of the bunch, but the veteran right-hander may find himself in a spot not all that unlike the one he was in last winter, seeking a long-term contract but perhaps finding lukewarm interest from potential suitors.

Jackson entered last offseason believing he could land a four-year deal. He wound up settling for one year and $11 million from the Nationals. Thirty-one starts, 10 wins, 11 losses and a 4.03 ERA later, Jackson is again looking for a long-term commitment from someone but has yet to find one.

There were a handful of reports out last night regarding Jackson, suggesting both the Rangers and Padres are interested in acquiring his services.'s Ken Rosenthal suggested Jackson could be seeking a four- or five-year contract worth $12 million to $13 million per season.

Is there really a club out there willing to make that kind of commitment to a 29-year-old with a career 40-41 record, 4.40 ERA and 1.438 WHIP? Sure sounds unlikely, and Jackson may once again have to settle for far less than he hoped.

From that list of free agents, Gonzalez is the only one with more than a sliver of odds of returning to Washington. The Nationals desperately need another left-hander in their bullpen, and they'd happily bring Gonzalez back at the right price. Their No. 1 target, however, appears to be J.P. Howell, formerly of the Rays, so Gonzalez may have to wait and see how that situation plays out before any calls come his way.

Then there are the three players the Nationals elected to "non-tender" two weeks ago at the league-imposed deadline. All are now free agents, and all remain unsigned.

Lannan will draw the most interest out of that group, with plenty of pitching-starved clubs willing to take a chance on the 28-year-old lefty who spent most of 2012 at Class AAA Syracuse. There should be at least a few suitors for Gorzelanny, with the Brewers among the clubs in need of left-handed relief.

Flores faces a tougher road ahead, having been unable to recapture the form he displayed in 2008 and early 2009 that had the Nationals thinking they had their long-term catching answer. The 28-year-old simply isn't the same player since suffering a major shoulder injury, and he struggled when asked to play on an everyday basis last summer after teammate Wilson Ramos tore his ACL.

Finally there's DeRosa, a wildly popular teammate and seasoned veteran who offers plenty in the form of leadership. But the soon-to-be 38-year-old utilityman hasn't made it through a full season healthy since 2009, and he wasn't much of a force at the plate last season when he was on the Nationals' active roster.