Between fielding a poor team with thin talent and... well, that's enough of a problem in itself, baseball's Washington Nationals face the following problems going into Spring Training:
- Despite narrowly avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a one year, $3.325 million contract, the Nationals' relations with star 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman may be strained and could affect the possibility of retaining the team's best hitter over the long term.
- GM Jim Bowden's being investigated for suspicion of skimming signing bonuses from prospects. Smooth move, Jim.
- Veteran starting pitcher Odalis Perez, the Opening Day starting pitcher from last season and arguably the best pitcher of a crappy bunch, is threatening a contract holdout. If he refuses to report, the Nats' Opening Day starter in 2009 projects to be middling lefthander John Lannan, he of 15 losses and ~3.5 walks plus per 9 innings in 2008, not to mention 23 HR in 182 innings pitching mostly in pitchers parks.
- Investigative journalism has discovered that top prospect Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez is not only four years older than previously thought, but Esmailyn Gonzalez is not his real name: that would be Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, part of the coverup of the Dominican's actual age. Someone may well go to jail as a result of the fradulent transaction spearheaded by agent and former major league pitcher Jose Rijo.
- The Nats' top offseason acquisition: plodding 1B/DH/strikeout machine Adam Dunn. This signing came despite having talented but injury prone 1B Nick Johnson and expensive and troublesome but powerful 1B Dmitri Young on the payroll. Both come with baggage that make trading them difficult, and GM Jim Bowden now faces the difficulty of trying to deal one or both of them instead of letting both pricey, talented sluggers ride the pine or embarrass themselves in the outfield every day.
- Meanwhile, the team's best hope is owning the 1st pick in the draft after compiling MLB's worst regular season record (59-102) in 2008. It's doubtful even Stephen Strasburg, the San Diego State ace pitcher projected to be this year's number 1 draft pick, can save this tattered bunch.
Would Montreal be willing to take the Nats back if the Nats ownership asked nicely?