Nationals sign Ivan Rodriguez to head-scratcher of a two-year deal

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Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Nationals and Ivan Rodriguez have agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract. To which I say … huh?
Rodriguez is not without value despite declining significantly in recent years, but committing to him for two seasons seems crazy given that he’s 38 years old and hit .249/.280/.384 in 2009. He managed just a one-year, $1.5 million deal as a free agent last offseason and had arguably the worst season of his career, so suddenly now he’s worth four times as much for twice long?
And then there’s the fact that the Nationals have a good young catcher in Jesus Flores, who despite being a question mark for the start of 2010 thanks to shoulder surgery is a superior player and still just 25 years old. Between the unlikelihood that they’ll be anywhere close to contenders in 2010 or perhaps even 2011 and Flores’ presence Washington seems like one of the least sensible destinations for Rodriguez.
Perhaps the Nationals still have faith in Flores as the long-term answer behind the plate and are merely bringing Rodriguez in to be a backup, in which case the question becomes why a non-contender needs to pay $3 million per season for a 38-year-old backup catcher. And if instead they’re planning to hand Rodriguez the starting job while either benching or trading Flores … well, I’ll give general manager Mike Rizzo the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s not completely crazy. For now at least.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.