Whitesell Returns; Nats Add Bruntlett

Just released from the Nationals

The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with first baseman Josh Whitesell and infielder Eric Bruntlett on 2010 minor-league contracts that include invitations to big league Spring Training. Nationals Senior Vice President & General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Whitesell returns to the Nationals after two seasons in the Diamondbacks organization, including 46 major league games in 2009. He seems destined for Syracuse in 2010.

Bruntlett is an interesting signing. He has spent the past two seasons in the utility role for the Phillies. He can handle any spot but CA so it wouldn’t shock me to see him make the 25-man in 2010

  1. #1 by Pilchard - December 28th, 2009 at 14:01

    Do the Nats have room for both Bruntlett and Willie Harris?

  2. #2 by Todd Boss - December 28th, 2009 at 14:05

    I remember being so irritated w/ the Nationals over the Whitesell waiver pickup. I can’t remember the exact timing or details (since it was 2 yrs ago) but they tried to sneak him through waivers, then non-tendered a couple guys a few days later. Just ridiculous roster management.

    Bruntlett seems to be competing with AGonzalez, Morse and Harris for a utility spot. Based on his numbers last year (a frighteningly low OPS+ of 22) i can’t see him winning a roster spot on our 25-man.

    Who is the next guy off the 40-man roster, when we announce the Capps deal? I think its either English or Estrada.

  3. #3 by Brian Oliver - December 28th, 2009 at 14:07

    I figure it’s one or the other

  4. #4 by Todd Boss - December 28th, 2009 at 14:41

    Another transactional oddity that i’m wondering about:

    per nats.com the franchise “assigned” Pete Orr to the Washington Nationals on 12/15/09. But he was also non-tendered and assigned to Syracuse in november?

    So, does this mean he’s back on the 40man? But that can’t be b/c then we’d be over the limit this whole time.

  5. #5 by Paul - December 28th, 2009 at 15:41

    I like these signings. Low risk and address our organizational need for depth in the infield so we don’t have to rush the real prospects.

    Does anyone think that Alberto Gonzalez will make the opening day roster this coming year (or even be in our system for that matter)?

    That guy was consistently terrible last year. His fielding was poor and his hitting was inconsistent and uninspiring. Between Desmond, Guzman, Harris, Bruntlett and Orr (and Orlando Hudson, if my dreams come true) there seems to be no need for Gonzo. I would rather give anyone playing time but him.

  6. #6 by Pilchard - December 28th, 2009 at 15:54

    According to the Nats website, Orr is not on the Nats 40 man roster. The infielders listed on the roster are:

    • Desmond
    • Dunn
    • Gonzalez
    • Guzman
    • Morse
    • Zimm

    Harris is listed as an OF.

  7. #7 by Positively Half St. - December 28th, 2009 at 16:12

    I remember being frustrated by the Whitesell fiasco, as well. However, although he started out pretty well, his overall MLB stats don’t indicate that we missed much in those ywo years.

    I think that the 40-man roster logjam will sort itself out. I can’t imagine Mike Rizzo going the rest of the distance without another trade. The first was only sending away a Rule 5 pick, I realize, but I still think something is going to give.

  8. #8 by Pilchard - December 28th, 2009 at 17:19

    I agree that Nats did not lose much when Whitesell went to Arizona (or he would not be available to comeback as a minor league FA two years later).

  9. #9 by AndrewStebbins - December 28th, 2009 at 17:38

    I figure Bruntlett beats out Gonzalez as the 25th man.

  10. #10 by markfd - December 28th, 2009 at 18:25

    Well with these signings we got our AAA 1B for 2010 and likely be one of our two utility IFs at Nats Park along with Morse. I think Gonzalez will be gone by Opening Day and Willie will have to outplay J-MAX and Rog for the #4 OF spot.

  11. #11 by phil dunn - December 28th, 2009 at 20:29

    Wow, a .194 hitter and a .171 hitter–just what we need. What would it take to sign a player hitting above the Mendoza line?

  12. #12 by Brian Oliver - December 28th, 2009 at 21:33

    phil – Most likely minor league depth

  13. #13 by Jane - December 29th, 2009 at 07:24

    Welcome back, Josh Whitesell!!!!!!!!!!

  14. #14 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 10:40

    40 Man Roster is needs a major renovation. SP and MI are still a Rizzo admitted problem….one place I am return to from this past fall’s postings….RF….Dukes has still failed to return to Licey Winter Ball….I understand his Dad died and all……yet Rizzo made it clear he needs to learn to recognize a braking ball before it is 2 feet out of the Strike Zone…..If Dukes is not in Viera with Rick E. or back in WB by Jan 2 then Rizzo needs to add RF to his list of top moves needed. Maxwell, Harris, Move Josh, Roger B, and the rest are Jimbo type solutions…..hope a pray and accept 100 loses….so over that approach….Rizzo will decide to trade Dukes (something I expect he wants to anyway) if he is not working on this next week.

  15. #15 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 10:44

    Oh and Dukes had only 10 AB’s in his first WB trip this past fall…….

  16. #16 by Berndaddy - December 29th, 2009 at 11:07

    JayB, Licey didn’t want Dukes back. He left them in a lurch and they didn’t want him back.

    “De igual manera, los Tigres desistieron de traer de vuelta al jardinero norteamericano Elijah Dukes, quien partió hacia los Estados Unidos por la muerte de su padre, pero dejó plantado al Licey en varias oportunidades.

    “Ya al Licey no le interesa tener de vuelta a Elijah Dukes”, informó Busto.”

    See it’s all right there for you…

  17. #17 by Berndaddy - December 29th, 2009 at 11:10

    I didn’t get this info. Ed at Federal Baseball had it. We all had a crack at the translation.

  18. #18 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 11:33

    Boy that helps the Dukes rep……if we had a reporter in this town…..there is a story in this…..Rizzo says he must work on his recognition this winter….he does not get it done……now what?

  19. #19 by Berndaddy - December 29th, 2009 at 11:56

    How about a nice game of chess?

  20. #20 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 12:01

    If I understand how Rizzo works….”i just got tired of watching him”….Dukes will not be on the 25 man roster and likely on in the organization by June. Rizzo has no tolerance for Milledge, Dukes types and Winter Ball was his only way on the team if you read between the lines correctly.

  21. #21 by Marcus - December 29th, 2009 at 12:43

    Dukes would’ve been there if not for his father passing…I think Rizzo thinking more rationally has realized this and is not counting it against him.

    Plus Dukes supported Riggleman this summer and Riggleman has said he expects a big year from Dukes in 2010.


  22. #22 by joNAThan - December 29th, 2009 at 14:38

    Dukes’ dad passed, cut him a break. It seems (not that my Spanish is up to par!) that Licey did not provide him with an opportunity to return, so he did not go back. Big deal. There is no need to interpret this as some indicator that Dukes is back to being a bad guy.

  23. #23 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 14:49

    Dukes has not shown he is coachable…..Riggleman can say what he wants, he clearly has no real influence (Riggs talkes up everyone from Ron V to Manny Acta..when have you ever heard RIgs say anthing bad about anyone….Rizzo is the one who makes that call and Dukes has show year after year he just does not learn….how many times was he picked off first base…they look like caught stealing if you go to stats….how many missed cut off men…..how many strikes 3’s on breaking balls two feet outside?

    I think Rizzo was clear….he needs to go work on things in the winter and prove he has learned something…..I understand the Dad died……Josh W. brother died and he missed 10 days…..but that is not the issue…the issue is that Dukes has to prove to Rizzo in the 60 days that he is willing do things the right way not his own way…….no matter the reason for his absence from assigned work this winter……it is still going to count against him making the 25 man roster I believe. At that point I think Rizzo cuts the risk and Dukes is done as a Nat.

    Is this how I want it or how I would do it….no but I can see Rizzo doing it this way…

  24. #24 by Sue Dinem - December 29th, 2009 at 15:01

    Suffice it to say, neither Jim Riggleman nor Will Rogers has met JayB

  25. #25 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 15:23

    Sue I think we have established you watch a lot of MiLB….I have seen Dukes for two years well over 100 games most in person……so has Rizzo….I just think Rizzo has proven once you prove you to him you are uncoachable or can not repeat a skill……just like Daniel C. and Lastings…..you are done….Dukes had to prove something this winter and time is running out….it is not personal…it is baseball to Rizzo. It may be acceptable in Milb to miss a cut off man so bad you hit the top of the backstop but not in the Bigs…time after time…

  26. #26 by Ric - December 29th, 2009 at 16:06

    It is bad enough that Elijah Dukes’ father passed away, but the circumstances were amazingly frustrating and tragic. Dukes has been without a father all these years, his father sent to prison for killing a drug dealer who wouldn’t leave Dukes’ mother alone. The man is finally released from prison and Dukes and the rest of his family are excited to see him and (hopefully) start to live a normal life with him. Then within a few days, terminal cancer is discovered. Dukes rushes home to spend a few days with his father, who he hasn’t seen outside of prison for essentially his entire young adult and adult life, before he passes. Think about the disappointment and frustration that he must have felt.

    In my book, Dukes made the right decision. This situation says nothing about “coachability” or his maturity. Who knows what he is doing right now to prepare for the 2010 baseball season. Licey isn’t the only place to practice. Maybe he is working out in Viera or elsewhere. In any event, I don’t think for one minute that Dukes will be cut. Worst case, he will serve as the fourth outfielder who can play all three outfield positions.

    I could see an argument for looking at a free agent (not too promising) or trade possibility for starting RF. But it would not be based on Dukes’ character.

  27. #27 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 16:55

    I agree the Father events are not coaching issues or character issues….the issues with coaching are over two years in Nats Park……Character issues…..who knows but the history is not good and what seven kids out of wedlock and his displays in NYC….I just think Rizzo told him he had to learn to do the baseball things right this winter and prove it in Spring Training…..I do not see him cut but DFA into AAA and then traded in June when he has some good stats.

  28. #28 by Sue Dinem - December 29th, 2009 at 17:11

    JayB – Ric correctly inferred what I meant; that you wouldn’t was a given, even if I used small words. Nice attempt to backpedal, but the “10-day” reference was as insensitive as it was ignorant, if not racist.

  29. #29 by JayB - December 29th, 2009 at 17:12

    Insensitive yes….but still fact… Racist….you have no clue Sue.

  30. #30 by Berndaddy - December 29th, 2009 at 17:24

    Everyone deserves a chance. I put the comments up about Dukes not to condemn him but to point out it wasn’t he who didn’t want to play it was Licey who didn’t want him back. Dukes should be given a chance to play at ST and with his tools lets hope he’ll tear it up and be the RFd’r the Nats need.

  31. #31 by Mark L - December 29th, 2009 at 19:00

    Reading the above posts makes me realize how anxious we all are for spring training. I’m sure someone other than George Will knows exactly how many days before pitchers and catchers report, but I don’t. I look forward to pos. 1/2 street’s call to ‘let’s play two’.

  32. #32 by BinM - December 29th, 2009 at 19:40

    Feb. 18, 2010 – 52 days & counting down.

  33. #33 by BinM - December 29th, 2009 at 19:54

    Pilchard: Orr apparently accepted the contract w/SYR, hence the ‘assignment’; haven’t checked to see if he got a NRI (non-roster Invitee) out of it.

    The Bruntlett & Whitesell signings are AAA roster fills, imo. Bruntlett (barring a trade) will have to outplay AGonz & maybe Harris in Viera to earn a roster spot, and Whitesell might push Marrero to remove some of the ‘clank’ from his glove & footwork at 1B.

  34. #34 by Mark L - December 29th, 2009 at 20:04

    Thanks BinM. I’m reminded of this great column written by Thom Loverro in the Times 4-5 years ago “In praise of seamheads”. And I think that was even before Brian started this great site. Wonder how he would write it now?

  35. #35 by Jeff E. - December 29th, 2009 at 23:06

    Bruntlett one of the best amateur players to come out of W. lafayette/Lafayette amateur program. I never knew that ex-po farmhand, Boi Rodrieguez came out of there. Eric B has a WS ring, a great red beard to go with nats red and a scrappy style Phil Garner and Charlie manuel liked. I still think Nats should sign Edgar baez to lend some RH sock to SYR OF mix.

  36. #36 by Sue Dinem - December 30th, 2009 at 08:48

    By my calcs, Baez, et al aren’t eligible to start anywhere until Memorial Day weekend. Assuming Rizzo doesn’t cut them the first day he’s allowed to — and I think that’s a very real possibility — Baez might be worth a look at after he plays himself into shape at GCL (pity the indys start so late, otherwise it’d be worth exploring a “lending”).

    @JayB – You calling me clueless is like Peter Dinklage calling me short. Happy New Year!

  37. #37 by VladiHondo - December 30th, 2009 at 09:50

    Mark L :

    . . . in the Times 4-5 years ago “In praise of seamheads”. And I think that was even before Brian started this great site.

    Not sure it was “before” Brian started the site! I know it’s over 4 years old. This is the story he did that got me initially reading NFA, I got that same style Expos jersey! (Oct. 27, 2005)


  38. #38 by Brian Oliver - December 30th, 2009 at 09:55

    VH – Memories. I was shocked when I got a reply from Shawn responding to an interview request from a blog.

    Hard to imagine I’ve been doing this for 4 and a half years

  39. #39 by VladiHondo - December 30th, 2009 at 10:26


    Found the initial posting from 8 July 2005 – https://natsfarm.com/2005/07/08/yet-another-nats-blog/ . In looking back you were “at odds” with Boz and “lapdog” Ladson – it was quite funny.

    So many blogs have fallen by the wayside, we miss Chris and Basil!

  40. #40 by e - December 30th, 2009 at 10:37

    Wow, JayB, you are being insensitive. A couple of weeks after his father died, and you want Dukes to head back to a foreign country and try to play ball for the remaining 2 weeks of their season? As I read the report (I am half Spanish), it wasn’t Licey that didn’t want Dukes back, it was that Dukes didn’t want to go back. And I completely agree with his decision. All I know is that when my father passed away, I was a complete mess for a lot longer than 2 weeks.

    And as for your claim that Dukes is uncoachable, you and I must have been watching two different Dukes at the end of the summer. Once he came back from his demotion in August, I witnessed a more patient Dukes at the plate. His slash line of .257/.366/.368 in those games was much better than before the demotion (sure his slugging was low, but I think that was because he was trying to be more patient and make better contact). He had 28 walks to only 27 strikeouts in 171 AB’s (he also knocked in 28 runs during these two months).

    Not too shabby for someone that before the demotion was hitting .244/.308/.415 with 30 RBI’s in 193 AB’s, with 18 walks to 47 strikeouts. I don’t know what your defintion of “uncoachable” is, but it seems to me that he did learn something while in AAA and listened and learned from Riggs once he came back.

    Cut the man some slack.

  41. #41 by SpringfieldFan - December 30th, 2009 at 11:28

    I agree, e. I haven’t been the biggest Dukes fan, but I was impressed with the changes he’d made when he came back. I hope it was a sign of more growth to come.

  42. #42 by JayB - December 30th, 2009 at 12:17

    RF is not a position for .368 Slugging….yes he did try to modify his hitting you are right…..In the field and on the bases he continued to be a mess….I am just pointing out that he needed to work this winter and he did not….not a value judgment just facts….that will come back to hit him hard on cut down day in my view. Rizzo is not a guy who cares about reasons for lack of production. If he is still trying to cut down SO and take walks instead of driving balls then he is of little use to RIzzo in RF.

  43. #43 by PeeJayDee - December 30th, 2009 at 12:54

    Okay, JayB. We get the message: you don’t like Dukes. This is the same opinion you’ve expressed in the Post blog. As Rizzo and Riggleman will determine who’s on the field when the season starts, perhaps you could send an email to them with your recommendations. Otherwise, it’s time to move on.

  44. #44 by JayB - December 30th, 2009 at 16:20

    I think Dukes is one of the best talents I have seen in person. He has all the physical tools. I would love to see him get it right. My point has been that time has run out on him from a Rizzo perspective. He had to prove something this winter and it did not happen.

  45. #45 by catocony - December 30th, 2009 at 17:25

    JayB, what did he have to prove? You’re really beating a dead horse here, the guy’s father died and under miserable circumstances. I would think it odd if he had stayed with Licey, or had immediately gone back. It’s the Dominican League, I mean, who really cares? It wasn’t like he left the Yankees in the middle of October with a pennant and World Series on the line, it’s winter ball. He can get time in elsewhere this winter or in Viera. It wasn’t like he was injured for a lot of the season and really needs winter ball to get his at-bats up so he’s not behind in spring training.

    I really think you’re over-reading this. From what I’ve heard, Dukes has been ok to good in the clubhouse. The stupidity with the little league outing and being late for pre-game last spring, that was stupid of the organization to make a fuss over it and if it hadn’t happened a week or whatever after Milledge was demoted for being a late-arriving doofus, no one would have thought anything of it.

    Bottom line, Dukes is one of the best athletes on the Nats and certainly one of the three best outfielders in the entire organization. If they decide to cut him he’ll end up employed on another Major League team the next day. It would be entirely the Nats loss not to stick with him. If they want to trade him, fine, but saying he’s uncoachable is pretty foolish.

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