From The Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Wrapping Up the Winter Meetings

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Hello, everybody.

As you likely know by now, Orlando served as a productive (and warm) backdrop for our club as MLB’s Winter Meetings concluded yesterday.

Mike Rizzo was able to add a pair of players – outfielder Nate McLouth and left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins – during our stay at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel.

  • Left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins comes to the Nationals after parts of seven seasons in Oakland.

    Left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins comes to the Nationals after parts of seven seasons in Oakland.

    Blevins was attained from the Athletics on Wednesday in exchange for speedy outfielder Billy Burns. I will discuss Burns in a moment, but Blevins’ arrival fills an obvious void and better balances our bullpen equation. What’s distinctive about Blevins is his 6-foot-7 height, which is practically unheard of among left-handed relievers. For a while, at least, he will have the element of surprise at his disposal, as only 20.1 of his 267.0 big league innings have come against NL competition.

  • Blevins joins a bullpen that suddenly contains a pair of former Dayton Flyers. Blevins was college teammates with Craig Stammen for two seasons at Dayton.
  • On Thursday, we were finally able to officially acknowledge the Nate McLouth signing, which goes a long way toward providing the quality and experienced big league depth that we lacked last season, especially in the outfield. Nate is widely-regarded as a regular outfielder (500+ at-bats for the ’13 Oriole club that won 85 games) and we are fortunate to be able to plug him into a fourth outfielder slot. But Nate shouldn’t get too comfortable in our dugout. I know Matt Williams has visions of regular rest for his starting eight. He talked about this often while in Orlando.
  • Going back to the Blevins deal, I think it is worth acknowledging that this was a scouting AND player development success story. The player we dealt, Burns, is reported to be as fast as anyone in baseball and he gets on base at a .421 (OBP) career clip. He was our 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, so the acquisition cost for Blevins was real. This was not an easy deal for Mike to make. But the back story is what intrigues me. Burns signed with us as a 32nd-round selection in 2011 and did not begin pinch hitting until joining the professional ranks (he hit strictly right handed during his collegiate career at Mercer University). It is not often that 32nd-round picks are named players of the year, and can be dealt to acquire big league talent. Job well done.
  • Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper share a laugh at last year's NatsFest.

    Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper share a laugh at last year’s NatsFest.

    We will host NatsFest on Saturday, January 25, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Tickets are already on sale and in demand. In one day, we’ve already surpassed our total sales from the 2013 event, and we hope you can again join us. Last year’s event was fantastic and it really kicks off the baseball season. I enjoy seeing fans and players to begin the baseball dialogue that warms our baseball souls.

  • I enjoyed getting to know Mark Weidemaier, our new defensive coordinator/advance coach, while in Orlando. It will be interesting to see the impact of this new position, but I can tell you that Matt will have quite a bit of solid information at his finger tips thanks to the efforts of Mark and his staff. Our game has changed quite a bit in a short time.

So, another Winter Meetings are in the books and we are staring at less than two months until pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Fla. It is coming fast, so don’t wait too long to make your travel plans to join us in Viera for Spring Training. I cannot wait.

I hope everyone enjoys a safe holiday season.

Mark

2 Comments

natsfest was absolutely awesome last year! i hope i get to go again this year!

Good info; I liked to hear the background story. Agree job well done by Mike this offseason. But didn’t you mean that Burns didn’t start SWITCH hitting until he turned pro?

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