Sports

Picking Splinters: D.C. Money Mailbag

With so many questions facing the D.C. area’s sports teams at the moment, I thought it would be a good time to dive back into the Magic Mailbag. Let’s get to it.

Mike,

What in tarnation is going on out at Redskins park? Does Donovan McNabb’s five-year contract extension feel like a $78.5 million apology after benching him in the final two minutes against the Lions?

Joe G.

Actually, Joe, it feels like a $3.75 million apology. According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that’s the only money actually guaranteed to McNabb through the extension. The Redskins will have a decision this offseason revolving around a $10 million option for their QB. If they pay it, McNabb is locked in for the 2011 season with a $2.5 million base salary. If the Redskins cut him, McNabb can sign elsewhere but Washington only owes him that $3.75M figure.

On his radio show this week, McNabb said a potential work stoppage necessitated some of the language in his contract, but that he fully expects to be back for 2011 and beyond. I actually don’t think it’s too farfetched that McNabb will be taking the Skins’ snaps next season. But I think I have a better chance of being behind center in 2012 than Donovan McNabb.

First, in order for McNabb to remain at QB he has to win. And, as that 59-28 shellacking by the Eagles reminds us, the Redskins have a lot of trouble doing that. This team should probably be 6-3, but instead sits at 4-5 after bad losses to the Rams, Texans and Lions. That latter loss brings me to my next point: McNabb must also maintain the faith of a coach that yanked him from a game when it counted most.

I just fail to see how a QB who gets pulled in the last two minutes of a game is suddenly the long-term solution at a key position. McNabb is a great QB and has been a definite upgrade this season. But this deal feels more about making things right and showing him some respect after an asinine coaching decision than making a smart, solid investment in the Redskins’ future.

Hume,

Did I read these rumors right? Are the Nationals actually prepared to spend this offseason? Do we actually have a fighting chance at Cliff Lee? Should I actually get my hopes up?

Ryan Z.

Yes and no, Ryan. The Nats have publicly acknowledged speaking with Cliff Lee’s agent and have also stated that they are very interested in upgrading a Stephen Strasburg-less staff via free agency. Do I think they actually have a chance to ink Lee? Not at all.

Two factors make me think any potential offer to Lee won’t produce a contract. First, the competition for the Cy Young contender is fierce. The Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies and Rangers have all shown at least some level of interest. Those are some of the biggest-spending teams in baseball. The Nats’ owners have said since purchasing this team that they expect to be able to spend with the best of them, but to this point we haven’t seen that reality.

Second, I feel like we’ve seen this act before with Mark Teixeira. The Nats swooped in, claimed they threw down a huge offer, then got one-upped by the Yankees. The result? A well-received sentiment of “hey, they tried,” from the fan base and – for us conspiracy theorists – maybe even a discount on Stephen Strasburg. (Teixeira and Strasburg are both repped by Scott Boras.)

This time around, I expect more of the same. “Hey guys, we tried, but did you see what the Yankees actually spent?!?!”

I’d love a pitcher like Lee to anchor a staff with Strasburg in 2012, but other arms will emerge on the market by then. And I’m not sure pursuing a bat to replace Adam Dunn, presumably bound for the Chicago White Sox, isn’t a better play this offseason. The Nats need a lot of help and this is far from a great free-agent class. In the end, I doubt they’ll break the bank on anyone, even Lee.