Mailbag: Evaluating the signing of Fick

Mailbag: Evaluating the signing of Fick

With Spring Training starting next month, a lot of baseball fans want to know about the Nationals and their chance of getting better in the National League East.

Here are some answers to your questions. Keep those e-mails coming. Thanks a bunch.

Do you think the signing of Robert Fick was a good move? He said he feels he can get at least 300 at-bats this year.
-- Jason D., Tustin, Calif.

I think it was a good move because, at the moment, the bench is very thin. It's hard to say if he will get 300 at-bats. I think most of his playing time will be at first base and the outfield. For now, the Nationals are committed to have Jesus Flores as the backup catcher.

I am happy to hear the Nationals selected Flores from the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft. He has a lot of tools and could become a solid everyday catcher. Yet, he still needs time to develop, and if he doesn't stay on the roster, the Nationals have to send him back. Do you think general manager Jim Bowden and manager Manny Acta will find a way to keep him? What does this mean for guys like Brandon Harper and Brian Schneider?
-- Brian C., Potomac, Md.

There's no question in my mind the Nationals will keep Flores on the roster because of his upside. By acquiring Flores, it only hurts Harper, who was taken off the 40-man roster. In my opinion, Harper did a very good job in limited action, but he is not part of the long-term future.

Ryan Church does need work on hitting the curveball. But don't all players have a weakness? The reason he did not play was Frank Robinson just did not like him. Let the new manager judge him. Church has the tools.
-- David, Lompoc, Calif.

Blaming Robinson is totally wrong. When Church was in the Minor Leagues, it was Robinson who called Church on a regular basis to see how he was doing and check if he was improving his game. Church revealed this story. There is no question in my mind Robinson was in Church's corner.

Everybody wants to talk about Church. What about Cristian Guzman? He has been a waste of money for the Nats. Should we get Ian Desmond ready for a call-up?
-- Kyle W., Richmond, Va.

Guzman is one of the top question marks on the team because of his poor season in 2005 and missing all of 2006 with a shoulder injury. It's too early to say who will be Guzman's backup. However, it will not be Desmond, because he has so much to prove in the Minor Leagues.

Have a question about the Nationals?
Bill LadsonE-mail your query to Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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In spite of your reporting that Acta will give Church a shot at starting in the outfield, you continue to exclude him from your projected starting lineup. It seems clear that you have a low opinion of Church, regardless of what others think, including the new manager. Do you have some clairvoyant capabilities that the rest of us don't have? Just curious.
-- Jerry S., Los Olivos, Calif.

I do not have a low opinion of Church. In fact, I think the world of him. Church was one of the few players on the 2006 Nationals who acknowledged that there was a problem on the team and that he wasn't performing up to his capabilities. Church never was in denial. At the same time, I will be very surprised if Church is a member of the Nationals in 2007. I believe he will be traded before the start of the regular season.

Is Tomo Ohka the answer for the Nationals? I thought they would pursue a starter more like Joel Pineiro or Chris Reitsma.
-- Josh, Columbia, Md.

I don't think Ohka is the answer. I see him more as a stopgap, while the young pitchers, such as Matt Chico and Collin Balester, continue to develop in the Minors. That being said, I would rather have Ohka over Pineiro or Reitsma.

Would the Nats have any interest in trading for Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras?
-- Tim P., Springfield, Va.

Tim, that's a great question because the Nationals had interest in Taveras last year. I think Washington would have to give up a lot for him, so I have to say that it's a very slim chance he will be in a Nationals uniform.

With Sammy Sosa poised for a comeback and the Nats lacking power hitters, are they likely to make him another offer, like last year?
-- Steve H., Odenton. Md.

Not a chance. The Nationals are committed to allowing players such as Kory Casto and Alex Escobar to fight for the left-field job.

With the need for backup middle infielders, any chance we could see the return of Jamey Carroll, who was recently tendered an offer by the Rockies?
-- Dani H., Washington, D.C.

There is no chance of that happening because Carroll signed a well-deserved two-year contract. He is one of the most fundamentally sound players I ever covered, and he is missed in Washington -- big time.

Now that Jose Vidro has been traded, is there anyone remaining on the roster with a no-trade clause? And do you think the Vidro trade drives team president Stan Kasten's message home even further about not giving players no-trade clauses?
-- John L., Arlington, Va.

There is no one else on the roster with a no-trade clause. I don't think it sends any kind of message in terms of no-trade clauses. The message I received was that Vidro's skills are in decline and he was no longer in the Nationals' plans.

A comment about a possible Chad Cordero trade:

While I could not have imagined saying this a year ago, I think if the Nationals can get two top pitching prospects or a big-league starter for Cordero, they should do it. You need starters to get you leads before a closer comes into play. Cordero regressed last year, and there is no promise he will maintain dominance as hitters figure him out.
-- Rob B., Gaithersburg, Md.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.