Ohka offered Major League contract
Right-hander will begin second stint with club if he agrees
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals have offered free agent Tomo Ohka a Major League contract, MLB.com has learned. If he agrees to the deal, Ohka will begin his second stint with the organization.
The news comes more than a year after Washington traded the right-hander to Milwaukee for second baseman Junior Spivey in a deal that general manager Jim Bowden called his biggest mistake during the 2005 season.
Bowden was not available for comment, but Ohka's agent, Jim Masteralexis, confirmed that the Nationals made an offer on Wednesday, but the proposed deal is below market value. The offer came three weeks after Masteralexis called Bowden to tell him that Ohka wanted to return to Washington.
Masteralexis did not mention the dollar amount, but it's not a secret that the Nationals want to sign free agents at a cheap price.
"The Nationals and the big ballpark would be a great fit for Tomo, but the offer was below market value. We will continue to talk, but Tomo is going to test the market," Masteralexis said. "We appreciate that the Nationals want Tomo back."
Bowden acknowledged before leaving Orlando that a contract offer was made to a pitcher, but wouldn't say who it was.
"It's going to be January before some people on the free-agent market find out if they can do better," Bowden said.
After leaving Washington, the 30-year-old Ohka went 8-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 28 games for Milwaukee in 2005 and 2006.
Ohka missed time last year because of injuries to his right shoulder and hamstring. He did not pitch from May 2 to July 17 because of a right rotator cuff problem that did not require surgery. He also missed the final two weeks of the season after he strained his right hamstring running the bases against the Nationals in Washington. Masteralexis said a few weeks ago that Ohka's arm is healthy.
Ohka played with the Expos/Nationals for three-plus seasons. His best year was 2002, when he went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA. His departure from the Nationals came after conflicts with then-manager Frank Robinson. After moving in and out of the rotation in 2005, Ohka went to Robinson and Bowden on May 9 and told them he wanted to be traded after being demoted to the bullpen.
A source close to Ohka said this past summer that the right-hander was willing to return to the Nationals as long as Robinson was not with the team. Robinson was not retained as manager after the season and has been replaced as skipper by Manny Acta.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.