Marquis eager to help Nationals improve

Marquis eager to help Nats improve

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made it official Tuesday, signing right-hander Jason Marquis to a two-year, $15 million contract.

Marquis, who will wear uniform No. 21, said he signed with Washington because the team made the necessary changes to improve in 2010. The Nationals drafted right-hander Stephen Strasburg No. 1 overall in the 2009 First-year Player Draft, signed free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez and traded for reliever Brian Bruney during the Winter Meetings.

"They are at a phase where they went out and made the improvements to become a winning team," Marquis said. "Hopefully, next year, you see it down the road with guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Cristian Guzman and Adam Dunn. The list goes on.

"I think they need a few more [people with a veteran presence], bring a winning attitude, and pass down lessons they have learned from each team they have played on. It's an exciting time, and it's something I'm proud to be a part of."

Marquis, 31, is coming off one of his best seasons, going 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA with the Rockies. He also represented Colorado in the All-Star Game.

During his 10-year career -- which has included stints with the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs and Rockies -- Marquis has won 94 games and posted a 4.48 ERA. He is a ground-ball-type pitcher and relies heavily on a sinker. Marquis has had three seasons of 200 innings or more.

Washington also signed Marquis because he is a an above-average hitting pitcher. He has a career .202 batting average with five home runs and 48 RBIs. Marquis also is considered a good baserunner.

"I've been impressed with him for years," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "Last year was a statement year, I thought. I think he put a lot of things together that he has learned over the years. He is one of the most consistent Major League starters.

"You can -- more or less -- pencil him in as a 13- to 15-game winner and a low 4.00 ERA type of guy. ... He has a chance to go seven-plus innings each and every time he goes out on the mound. It increases the success rate of your bullpen and chances to be in games for a long time.

"Marquis is a good offensive pitcher. That does keep him in games. You don't have to pinch-hit for him in a bunt situation. He is a terrific bunter."

"I think they need a few more [people with a veteran presence], bring a winning attitude, and pass down lessons they have learned from each team they have played on. It's an exciting time, and it's something I'm proud to be a part of."
-- Jason Marquis

Marquis, who met the Washington media at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, will help a staff that ranked last in the National League in ERA (5.00). He is expected to be the No. 1 starter ahead of John Lannan and be a mentor to the young rotation, which also includes Craig Stammen and J.D. Martin.

Marquis spoke to Lannan this past season and the latter indicated that he wanted to have a veteran help him and the staff. Marquis said it's asking a lot to ask a first- and second-year player like Lannan to lead a staff.

"You have to know who your teammates are -- who can be spoken to and who comes to you," Marquis said. "I have been in their shoes before. I looked up to the likes of [Greg] Maddux, [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from them, not only on the field, but off the field.

"When I'm on the field, they are going to see a guy who gives everything he has. There is no let-up. I play the game to win. Hopefully, they can feed off what I do in between starts, feed off what I do on the mound and apply it to themselves. I'm open ears and open arms."

Marquis also has a connection to team president Stan Kasten and assistant general manager Roy Clark. Both Kasten and Clark were with the Braves when they drafted Marquis in 1996.

"He was mature at an early age," Kasten said. "He would talk even though he though we had a locker room of mature people. [Now], he is willing to talk and is willing to reach out and share."

Marquis said recently being familiar with people on the Nationals is huge.

"The comfort factor with people in the organization makes the transition easier," he said. "It's nice to have familiarity."

The signing of Marquis means the Nationals will no longer try to sign free-agent right-hander Jon Garland. A baseball source said Garland was reluctant to sign with the Nationals and wanted to play for a West Coast team.

After learning about Garland's hesitance, the negotiations between Marquis and the Nationals heated up late last week. The two parties agreed to a deal on Sunday at 3 a.m. ET.

The Nationals continue to have interest in right-hander John Smoltz, but are not willing to break the bank to get him.

The source said Smoltz wants similar money to what right-hander Rich Harden signed for with the Rangers. Harden received a one-year deal worth at least $7.5 million with a mutual option worth $11.5 million in 2011.

The Nats may have to trade for a quality pitcher.

"We have a shopping list," Kasten said. "I will tell you that we have more things on our list. We are not through. We are pursuing a number of things."

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