I expected the Nationals to enter and exit Baseball's Winter Meetings without so much of a whimper. I knew that they would be "making an offer" to Cliff Lee, I just wasn't sure that it would be serious enough to even be mentioned by major news outlets. I figured it was a token offer, much like the one to Mark Texeira a few years ago, but wouldn't get any attention because Lee doesn't share the home town connection.
Little did I know that the Nationals would arguably shape the Winter Meetings more than any other club. The contract they signed Jayson Werth to totally turned the rest of the market on it's head. The Nationals aren't supposed to be the team that does that. They are supposed to sit on their hands, and watch as the teams that everyone considers contenders add the best talent.
But they took a leap.
They overpaid for Jayson Werth, they'll be the first to admit that. But they did so to change their culture and how people look at them. They aren't the Florida Marlins. They won't just act as a farm system for bigger teams to steal young talent that has become too expensive. They want to be one of those bigger teams.
They can't get there over night. Jayson Werth isn't going to take them to the World Series by himself. But in the aftermath of his signing, people had to consider the Nationals a legitimate threat to sign Cliff Lee.
I hesitated for a moment before writing the word threat, but I feel like that captures their Winter Meetings perfectly. They threatened the big clubs, and established their own new identity. People aren't happy with them, but at least they are being talked about, and that's more than you can see for most of the teams in baseball.
Today's must-reads from around the SB Nation network:
- Hogs Haven dedicates a full story to how much Ma'ake Kemoeatu stinks (I use nice words).
- Federal Baseball runs the down the whole Cliff Lee saga.
- Casual Hoya previews the game against the Temple Owls.