Baseball wastes no time transitioning from the postseason to the offseason. Nearly 150 players filed for free agency yesterday, a mere formality that allows those players to begin negotiating with all clubs on Thursday.
Unlike the NFL, the NBA and NHL, there typically isn't a mad rush of signings the moment free agency begins. Truth be told, the market really won't start heating up until the days leading into the Dec. 5-8 winter meetings in Dallas.
So there's time for teams to contemplate which, if any, of their departing free agents they might want to attempt to re-sign. And there's time for those players to gauge how much interest there is from other clubs before deciding whether to return to their 2011 homes.
The Nationals do face some interesting decisions among their eight players who became free agents yesterday: right-handers Chien-Ming Wang, Livan Hernandez and Todd Coffey, catcher Ivan Rodriguez, infielder Alex Cora and outfielders Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Jonny Gomes.
Out of the entire group, Wang is most likely to return to Washington. The Taiwanese right-hander has been in discussions on a new contract for weeks, and though general manager Mike Rizzo indicated Wednesday the two sides weren't yet close to a deal, it still appears likely Wang will be back.
The others present varied dilemmas.
The Nationals love the presence Hernandez, Rodriguez and Cora bring to the clubhouse, but there simply may not be roster space anymore for a trio of veterans whose on-field production has waned.
Coffey enjoyed a nice season out of the bullpen. But again, this appears to be a position of strength and depth for the Nationals, who may not feel the need to re-sign the big right-hander (who made 1.35 million this year).
The three outfielders, I believe, present the most intriguing questions. Ankiel, Nix and Gomes all contributed in various ways this season. All three were well-liked in the clubhouse. And any one of the three could seemingly contribute to a Nationals squad that believes it can ascend to contender status in 2012. But there's no way there's room for all of them, and there probably isn't even room for two of the three.
What do you think? Which, if any, of the Nationals' eight free agents would you bring back next season?