The Nationals and OF Austin Kearns agreed on a three-year contract extension, worth $16.5 million. There is a club option for the 2010 season that would pay the 26-year old $10 million.
Kearns was acquired via a trade back in July with the Reds and in 63 games with the Nats he batted .250 and belted 8 home runs. In 4.5 seasons in Cincinnati, Kearns never lived up to their high expectations. He is a player with a good amount of power, but he has yet to hit more than 24 home runs or drive in 86 rbi's in a full season. Maybe he needed a change of scenario, but wherever he goes there will always be a great amount of pressure put on his shoulders to perform.
Team president Stan Kasten said ''we are eager to invest in long-term building blocks'' and Kearns will definitely be part of the long-term project that Washington has in mind. When you look at the Nationals roster, they have a plethora of young players.
Their infield consists of the reigning NL Rookie of the year Ryan Zimmerman, shortstop Cristian Guzman who has not played in the big leagues since 2005, second basemen Felipe Lopez who came over from the Reds with Kearns and first basemen Nick Johnson who in my estimation is turning into one of the best first basemen in the NL. Catcher Brian Schneider won't scare you offensively, but he calls a good game from behind the plate.
The real conflict for the Nationals is their starting pitching. This will be the major reason why the Nats don't reach the playoffs this season. Their ace John Patterson is a solid young pitcher, but he only played in eight games last season. Fourth and fifth starters Michael O'Connor and Shawn Hill combined to pitch in 27 games last season. Both men combined only won four games.
Jerome Williams and Tim Redding, who can be called the veterans of the staff because they have 11 years of big league service between them, are not that impressive either. Redding didn't pitch last year and Williams did not muster up a win last season. Redding has also not won a game since 2004 when he pitched for the Astros.
It's a serious problem to have such a shaky starting rotation when you are hoping to compete in the NL East. It's unfortunate because they have one of the best closers in baseball in Chad Cordero. It will be another long season for the Washington Nationals, but many young players will gain valuable playing experience.