The Washington Nationals flirtation with 2B Orlando Hudson has none of the glacial majesty of the Mets pursuit of Bengie Molina, though if you consider that it arguably began more than a year ago it may qualify for the longest free agent courtship in MLB history. The quasi-public negotiations have hit all the classic marks:
- Nats suggest that their obvious second base vacancy could be filled by Cristian Guzman;
- Hudson expresses guarded interest;
- A 2-year offer at a "reasonable" rate is rumored;
- Ridiculously inflated salary demands ($9M/yr) are leaked by one side or the other;
- Nats respond, "Hey, look over there at Adam Kennedy!";
- Tony Plush escalates his O-Dawg lobbying campaign;
- Mutual interest is reiterated and deadlines are hinted at.
Hudson's acquisition would push Guzman back to shortstop, where believe it or not he's basically an average defender when he's healthy, but a Guzman-Hudson-Dunn infield would leave newly-minted Gold Glover Ryan Zimmerman with a lot of ground to cover, and Nats fans should probably prepare themselves for a summer of bloops up the middle and bleeders into short right field. That said, that defensive infield could certainly be better than the Dunn-Guzman-Desmond alternative, and having Hudson on board would give Jim Riggleman and Mike Rizzo both security and flexibility.
As to the question of what sort of contract Hudson deserves, his reported demands aren't actually too far off his projected value. Orlando's consistently been worth 2-3 wins above replacement for the last 5 seasons and there's no particular reason to expect him to hit the wall in 2010. A $9M contract would pay between $3-4.5M per win, a fair value. Of course, Hudson's almost certainly not going to get $9M (certainly not from the Nats), even in a heavily incentivized deal, so it's fair to expect some value from whatever offer he does accept.
The rumored second year? Guzman is likely gone when his contract is up. (*sob*) The organization's middle infield talent pipeline is pretty well empty until you get to Danny Espinosa and Jeff Kobernus in the low minors, well... someone's got to play second in 2011. Like the second year of the Jason Marquis deal, who exactly would the O-Dawg be blocking?