Sosa Gets His [Non Guaranteed] Major League Contract
[February 8th] --Nationals' general manager Jim Bowden announced late Tuesday that the team reversed its position and offered free-agent outfielder Sammy Sosa an incentive laden guaranteed major league contract.
This had been the sticking point since negotiations began in December. Sosa was unwilling to sign a minor league contract and the team was unwilling to guarantee Sosa any money after coming off his worst major league season.
So, does this offer guarantee that Sosa will play for Washington in 2006? I don't know. Adam Katz, Sosa's agent, is non-committal, saying he doesn't discuss his client's negotiations in public. All Jim Bowden would say is "You'll have to ask Sammy." Bowden also indicated he was "done" and would not, and could not, offer the free agent outfielder anything more.
If Sosa indeed does sign, he'll join an outfield that already includes Jose Guillen, Ryan Church, Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano (yeah, right), Michael Tucker and Brandon Watson. Until the Soriano situation is finalized, it's too hard to tell who'll stay, who'll go, and who'll start. My initial reaction is that an outfield of Sosa in left, Church in center and Guillen in right would be the best starting outfield, assuming that the loser of the Soriano/Vidro second-base sweepstakes would untimately end up being traded for pitching. Another possibility is that Sosa will take over as the fourth outfielder and do what Marlon Byrd did last season. However, Bowden said that Byrd could hit 20-25 homers if given a chance, yet now it seems he won't get that chance, at least in Washington.
This will either be one of the wisest moves in the history of major league baseball or it will be quickly forgotten. If you believe that Sosa's career was propped up by steroids and cork, then he certainly will have nothing to offer the Nationals in 2006. If however, as some assert, his infected toe caused him to have such a poor 2005 season, then he has the potential to help the team this season. I had an ingrown toenail my junior year in high school that made it impossible to play baseball. Every time I took a swing, I shifted my weight to relieve the pain, causing me to pop the ball up almost every time. His toe is healthy, so we'll find out fairly quickly if it was injury or old age that caused Sammy to slide backwards last season.
I hate to tell you I told you so, but I told you so. I thought that the closer we got to spring training, the more Bowden would feel pressured to change his position, and would offer Sosa a guaranteed contract close to the beginning of spring training. This contract isn't life or death. It's only for the major league minimum, and Bowden could easily jettison Sosa in May or June if he's not producing without hurting the team's payroll structure.
It's a good deal as long as Ryan Church doesn't lose his starting position.
Update: XM HomePlate 175 reported Wednesday afternoon that Sosa has indicated that he will either accept the Nationals offer or retire.