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Nationals searching for trade partner

Nats looking to trade amidst free-agent frenzy

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said Thursday that the free-agent market dictated what took place during the Winter Meetings over the past four days. Teams were willing to spend big money for free agents instead of making trades to help their teams get better.

However, the Nationals stuck to their principles and didn't make an effort to sign big-name free agents. Instead, they tried to make deals to improve the farm system. Some of the talks became comical as teams were asking about the availability of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Washington quickly ended such discussions.

The Nationals told opposing GMs that closer Chad Cordero, outfielder Ryan Church and second baseman Jose Vidro were available.

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There was talk of Cordero being part of a three-way deal that would send Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez to the Angels or the Giants, but those talks quickly died within a day.

Of the three players, Church has received the most interest. The Cubs, Phillies, Pirates, Royals and Tigers would like to acquire his services, but none is willing to give up a top prospect for Church.

As for Vidro, there are no takers. It doesn't help that he has two years left on his contract worth $16 million and he is coming off a disappointing season by his standards.

Deals done: The Nationals didn't get any deals done, but that didn't get Bowden down. According to sources, Bowden believes he can make a deal for Church. There is plenty of interest in the left-handed hitter. It's just a matter of what they can get for him.

Rule 5 activity: The Nationals selected catcher Jesus Flores and right-hander Levale Speigner in the Major League phase of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, while taking left-hander Justin Jones in the Triple-A phase.

Washington also lost nine players in the draft. Shortstop Alejandro Machado was selected in the Major League phase, while pitchers James Henderson, Andrew Shipman and Ricardo Morales, catcher Salamon Manriquez, infielders Billy Webb, Josh Labandeira, Brandon Powell and Jose Contreras were taken in the Minor League phase.

Goals accomplished: The front office was giddy about drafting Flores, who could be the heir apparent to Brian Schneider. Flores has power and is getting better behind the plate. The Mets were hoping that he would get bypassed in the draft because he was considered the eventual successor to Paul Lo Duca.

Unfinished business: The Nationals had plenty of trade discussions and, according to sources, feel they can get their pitching prospect. Bowden declined to talk about what he was up to.

GM's bottom line: "I'm more surprised at the stultified dollars that has been spent on mediocre players. It's amazing to me, because even though revenues [are at high levels], there is not enough revenue to support the type of signings that are being done." -- Bowden

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

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