"The Nationals will no longer pursue free agent Orlando Hudson."
General manager Jim Bowden declined to give a reason why Hudson will not be a member of the team.
Months ago, in an e-mail to members of the Boston media sent by Red Sox principal owner John Henry, he explained the club's position on free agent slugger Mark Teixeira: "We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him. After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."
You tell me, how are these two different? I'll give you a hint: this is the difference between the reputation of a two-time World Series champion ownership group and that of a bad ownership group. Nothing John Henry could have said would make the media believe that the Red Sox were not intent on signing Mark Teixeira. Admittedly, they didn't sign this particular slugger, but it wasn't for lack of trying. They just didn't get picked. When the Nationals say they aren't going after a 31-year-old, switch-hitting, great-fielding second baseman, everyone crosses them off the list. Even though he would fit a need, and every major MLB writer has been linking Hudson with the Nationals all winter.
Why is one group believed while the other is not? That's because championship ownerships make it happen. They do whatever is in the best interest of the team. Or at least, what they believe is in the best interest of the club. So when a Teixeira hits the market and the Red Sox have a need for him, everyone knows the Sox are going to go for it, regardless of the fronts or smokescreens they try to put up.
Bad ownerships sit on the sidelines and says the market's shriveled. Right now, the Nationals have the reputation of a bad ownership group. When I heard that Jim Bowden said something to the effect of having a huge board of 100 free agents at NatsFest, my first reaction was 'Why? So the Nats can chart all the other teams they end up signing with?'
Here's to hoping that on that big board, the name of Orlando Hudson ends the winter with a "Nats" next to it. For those of you who think O-Dog is better served on some other team, let me list the other options at second for the Nationals: Ronnie Belliard, Anderson Hernandez, Willie Harris and Alberto Gonzalez.
Trust me, I love Ronnie Belliard as much as the next person. As a matter of fact, I almost love Ronnie Belliard as much as he loves himself. Seriously. Watch him take batting practice. He has the most misplaced swagger of any person since Ja Rule. He thinks he's the greatest second baseman in the world. He may well be the greatest second baseman on the Nationals, but that is not good enough, even if Bowden said he's in the best shape of his Nationals career (which is not an accomplishment.)
Anderson Hernandez lit it up for a month, but there is a reason the Mets traded him as the player to be named later for Luis Ayala. He's just not very good, and at 26, he's not going to get that much better. Willie Harris would be one of the best bench players in the National League, but when he's starting, it shows the lack of depth on the major league level of the organization. He's much more useful as a bench player who fills in more than ably at pretty much any position in case of an injury.
Alberto Gonzalez made up those go-go Nats that won six out of seven after the team released Felipe Lopez and Paul Lo Duca. (Did anyone else call their other NL East fan friends and go on a rant about how the Nats just dropped the dead weight on their team and they were seriously coming for blood now? No? Okay. Well, I did.) After that, though, Gonzalez did nothing.
Orlando Hudson is just what the Nationals need. He's a three-time Gold Glove winner, and while those days are probably over for him, he is still way above average as a fielder. He'll sport a .350 OBP for the next three years, and be the kind of switch-hitting presence at the top of the lineup that the Nationals could use. While it is certainly more painful on owners to spend money on players in this horrible market, it's also much easier to get a high quality player at a relative discount. Remember when the Nationals signed Cristian Guzman to a $16 million, two-year contract? The 'breakout' year that Guzman enjoyed last year is a typical year for Orlando Hudson. And to think, Hudson could be inked for a similar amount, even though he is a vastly better fielder.
Look at the Adam Dunn signing. The Nationals signed him in spite of themselves. They put an offer out there, and when he finally gave up all hope in topping (or even matching) their modest 10 million a year offer, he signed with them. For $10 million a year, the Nationals got one of the most prolific power hitters in baseball. Instantly, they gained some small measure of credibility in the baseball world, along with a little protection for Ryan Zimmerman. It was not pretty, but it got the job done for the Nationals.
Here's the cool thing about ownership reputations: they can change on just a few big signings. When agents know a team's willing to pay out, they'll funnel their biggest free agents to them. That's where the dominos begin to fall. Fans start to engage in the team. Players start to get excited about showing up to the ballpark. Wins start piling up. So while ownership might think the ball is in Orlando Hudson's court to sign with them, they're mistaken. Teddy Lerner, the Nats need you to make it happen.