No, that's not a concession. Chico's questions today on the Nats' Strategy for the Future has inspired me. I've got a plan of my own. A plan to be .500 next year with minimal moves needed.
First, start signing some mid-level free agents this year (probably type B guys, maybe one type A guy) and then NEXT year start going after the studs. Do what the Tigers did and sign a guy like Pudge this year to build the team around and then fill in the rest of the holes next year.
The foundation is here. It is POSSIBLE to make the playoffs next year, but only if Jim Bowden is canned. It is NOT PROBABLE, by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't find it incredibly hard to see Zimmerman, Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Flores, Lannan, Balester, Redding, Bergmann, etc. having breakout years.
Here's what I think our lineup and 25-man roster could look like next year with minimal FA signings:
SS-Cristian Guzman (resigned for $14 mil/2 years)
2B-Orlando Hudson (FA signing for $32 mil/3 years)
1B-Adam Dunn (FA Signing for $12 mil/1 year)
L-Oliver Perez (FA signing for $5 mil/1 year)
Closer: Jon Rauch
Setup: FA to be named later (Wheeler was resigned in April)
Middle: Luis Ayala/Saul Rivera (trade one, keep one)
Middle: Steven Shell
Middle: Adam Carr or Zech Zinicola
Situational: Charlie Manning
Long: Joel Hanrahan
CA Wil Nieves/Luke Montz
1B Nick Johnson/Dmitri Young (keep one, trade one)
IF Aaron Miles/Mark Loretta/Adam Everett/Pete Orr/Yurendell Decaster/Leonard Davis (signed at $1.5 mil/year or less)
IF/OF Willie Harris
IF/OF Kory Casto
OF Wily Mo Pena
See...a few mid-to-upper level FA signings would really change the complexion of the team. I think that's a lineup and rotation that could make the playoffs, with the assumption that the young hitters progress rather than regress. That's a dangerous assumption, but who can see the team going .500 by simply signing Dunn, Hudson and Perez? The nice thing is this: By signing guys like Dunn and Perez, it shouldn't block youngsters from coming up. They'll likely only demand a 1 year, incentive-laden deals because they've had relative down years this year (Dunn's BA is .228 and Perez' ERA is 4.62). I think we can make it happen. I'd also like to note this: no more assuming Johnson is going to be healthy. I'm planning like he's hurt from now on. Dunn is basically Johnson with a little less AVG/OBP and significantly more power (and better durability).
Here's a list of 2009 FA's by the way: