After a game at Nationals Park last season, Jason Marquis had a chance to talk with John Lannan, a second-year pitcher atop a rotation consisting of four rookies.
"Lannan just thought there was a lot of pressure on him to lead a staff," Marquis said, "when he was a second-year player and really didn't know what it was about."
Yesterday, the appropriately named veteran became the Marquis name on that very staff, signing a $15 million, 2-year contract to join the Washington Nationals. He immediately jumps to the top of the rotation and adds a vocal presence to a staff that is also expected to include No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg in the near future.
"I've been in their shoes before," Marquis said. "I've looked up to the likes of [Greg] Maddux, [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz and learned a lot of valuable lessons from them, not only on the field but off the field. Hopefully they can feed off what I do in between starts, feed off what I do on the mound and apply it to themselves."
Marquis will receive $7.5 million for each season under his deal. The 31-year-old righthander went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 216 innings for the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He made his first All-Star appearance thanks to an 11-6 start, but he fizzled down the stretch and wasn't part of the Rockies' postseason rotation.
Despite their recent losing history, Marquis said the Nationals were on his short list of desired destinations. He listed the signing of Strasburg to a record $15.1 million contract this year, the recent trade for New York Yankees relief pitcher Brian Bruney, and the $6 million, 2-year deal given to free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez as reasons the franchise is a more attractive place to go.
"It starts with the Strasburg move, obviously," Marquis said. "You can maybe not take him because the money's too high. In the offseason, obviously, you get Bruney from the Yankees. Pudge, his track record obviously speaks for itself. It showed they want to make moves to go in the right direction."
* A person familiar with the talks says Major League Baseball and its umpires have completed negotiations for a new labor contract and are likely to announce an agreement today.
* ESPN The Magazine reported that the Phillies are interested in free-agent reliever Fernando Rodney, who saved 37 games in 39 opportunities for Detroit last season. But sources say Rodney is in serious discussions with the Los Angeles Angels, who would use him primarily as a setup man for closer Brian Fuentes.
* Pitcher Javy Vazquez was traded back to the Yankees by the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Melky Cabrera, a move that pushed New York's payroll for next season over $200 million. New York also got lefthander Boone Logan as part of the deal, and the Braves obtained a pair of pitching prospects, lefthander Mike Dunn and righthander Arodys Vizcaino.
The trade leaves New York with an opening in leftfield, allowing the Yankees to perhaps pursue Mark DeRosa. New York does not appear interested in re-signing Johnny Damon or going after free agents Matt Holliday and Jason Bay.
* The New York Mets are nearing agreement on a minor league contract with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a person familiar with the talks told the Associated Press.
* Lefty reliever Darren Oliver and Texas finalized a $3.5 million, 1-year contract that includes a club option for 2011.
* A baseball official familiar with the talks says Toronto is close to acquiring former No. 1 draft choice Brandon Morrow from Seattle for fellow reliever Brandon League and a prospect.