The Nats currently have what may well be the best rotation in the entire Major Leagues. Nobody is going to rank them any worst than 3rd or 4th in MLB, and even that might be considered low by everyone. However, if there is one knock on the group, it’s the lack of depth. They have 3 studs in Strasburg, Gio and JZimm, but there are questions after that.
It would be great if Detwiler is as good in 2013 as he was in 2012, but in reality all he has to do is be good enough to be a #4 or #5 guy and start most of the year. We don’t really know if he can do that, although I suspect he will be that and more. As for Haren, that move is exciting for the potential to have a top flight guy at the bottom of the rotation. But it is also a little scary due to injury history and a poor 2012.
Regardless of the health of the rotation in general, and even if Haren starts 30 games, it is highly unlikely that they will only use 5 starters the whole year. John Lannan was their first backup plan, but now that he’s gone, who do they have?
The first choice might be Zack Duke, who started 26 games in AAA last year and has been a starter all of his career. Unless he ends up being their only reliable lefty relief man, in which case he’s going to be needed elsewhere. Christian Garcia is another option – a converted reliever who was successful in a limited 2012, but hasn’t recorded a start in 2 seasons. Of course, there’s Yunkesy Maya, who had a decent 2012 in AAA, but was nothing special there. Almost all of his MLB appearances have been pretty rough. Jeff Mandel started some games and did well in AAA, so could get a shot as well. That’s about all I see from the obvious choices. Another route would be to go after a free agent.
The Nats are possibly without a first baseman, or, if they shift Mike Morse, are missing an outfielder. We’ve looked at the three biggest names that have been bandied about among free agent outfielders: Hamilton, Bourn and Upton. But there is another high end outfielder that is getting significantly less airtime, and that’s Nick Swisher.
Swisher is the next position player on Keith Law’s free agent list after the three named above, sitting at #10. And there is good reason to think Swisher could really help the Nats. First and foremost is his ability to get on base. Swisher has a career .361 OBP, and over the last 4 years it’s been .367. He also has a good amount of power, averaging just over 26 HRs a season over that time. In other words, in comparison to Upton and Bourn, he’s got a better OBP and more power than both of them. He doesn’t have the bat that Hamilton has, but he also hasn’t shown some of the issues Hamilton did at the end of this season, and isn’t near the injury risk he’s played 150 or more games in each of his last 7 seasons, when he only played… 148. Read the rest of this entry »
The Nats probably have a center fielder for next season in Bryce Harper. But there is a decent chance that they will need another outfielder, and they may not go after Josh Hamilton. Where does that leave them? Well, there are certainly some other corner outfield options, but if the CF options are better players, better hitters, should they go that way? It wouldn’t be a terrible thing to move Harper to LF and have an even better fielder out in center, as it would make quite a defensive outfield. (The Yankees did this with Granderson and Gardner the last few years and consensus was their defense was excellent out there).
Well wouldn’t you know it, there are 2 players that fit the bill for this conversation. Of course I’m talking about Michael Bourn and BJ Upton. They both play CF, they both can hit pretty well, although they have two very different strengths with the bat. They are also ranked as the #2 and #4 top free agents in the Keith Law Top 50 free agent list.
Bourn is a very talented player, and probably profiles better if you were to talk about the Nats “needs”. First and foremost, he is a speedy left handed hitting leadoff hitter. Ok, the leadoff part isn’t actually one of his talents per se, but you figure that’s where he’d play. His OBP, though, isn’t spectacular for that position, as his career line is only .272/.339/.365, although his last 2 seasons have looked better. He also led the league in steals each season from 2009-2011, and although he also lead in caught stealing from 2011-2012, his success rate is very high. A good part of his value is tied to his defense, which is really great.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Nats are totally the leading candidate to sign Prince Fielder. And also there is a 99% chance that they won’t sign him. Welcome, Nats fans, to the world of posturing. Now that Washington showed it would throw money at a guy like Jayson Werth, agents will be calling them a potential candidate with any relevant player. And the Nats might well be guilty, too. It’s negotiations via the media, and it happens every offseason. But I’ve never brought myself to believe any of it.
Here’s what I know – it’s January, and Prince Fielder has about 2 months to find a team. I also know that there aren’t too many teams that might actually be interested – DC, Texas, Seattle, maybe a few others. One thing that might come out of this is a shorter contract for Prince, which would make him alot more attractive to teams that are scared off by his fielding ability, his body, and, in the case of the Nats, the lack of a DH on their team. So now that it’s January, what are your thoughts?
The Nationals only non-tender last night was Doug Slaten, and it was probably well deserved. Last year, lefties hit an astounding .333/.368/.639 against him. Righties hit .378/.489/.568, which is also pretty bad. But it would be alright if he had gotten lefties out, that’s why there are guys who get paid to come in for one LH batter.
In 2010, he faced 81 LH batters, and they couldn’t touch him. They hit .151/.235/.151 – that’s right, no extra base hits, and throw in 24 Ks. 2009 only had him face 18 lefties, but they hit him well, to the tune of .389/.389/.667 – that’s a tiny sample size, although not a good result. 2008 was another good season. While he wasn’t 2010 great against LH hitters, he faced 63 and they only hit .232/.317/.375.
Meanwhile, righties hit him the whole time. In 2010, their OPS was .844 against him. It 2009, it was .897 and in 2008, it was .866. He’s a lefty specialist, and yet over the years he has been very streaky at getting LH hitters out. The Nationals may yet re-sign him at a discount, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they just let him go, and Adam Kilgore writes that he’ll be looking elsewhere for a team that will give him a “better shot at making the team.”
The Nationals have been talking about using Mark Buehrle to fill the “innings eating old guy” need that Rizzo has proclaimed. I’m not saying this is a bad idea, although I’m not positive if its necessary. I won’t quibble with the philosophy though, let’s talk more about what Buehrle brings to the table.
Back in 2007, when I only wrote a post a week, and spent many hours on each post (you can do that when its weekly), I had a big writeup at the ready about how the Nats should sign Buehrle. Instead, mid-season the White Sox locked him up, and since it wasn’t really applicable, I scrapped the post. This is all I ended up writing, shoved onto the end of another post:
The White Sox locked up Mark Buehrle to a four year deal this weekend, and I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Not that the Nationals had much of a chance of signing him, but it would have been nice to see them take a shot. What’s so great about him?
Has Mike Rizzo made a conscious decision to not sign a Type A free agent? Maybe the Nationals don’t want to sign Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. The cost, being the first round pick, not the money, may be too high. What about their pursuit of Roy Oswalt, you say? Well, according to CSNPhilly, the Phillies aren’t going to offer him arbitration. So no draft pick will be taken from the team who signs him. And if they sign any Type A that’s been offered arbitration, be it one of those first 3 guys, or Jimmy Rollins, CJ Wilson, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Madsen, Josh Willingham (ok here’s the list), they’ll have to give up their first round pick.
We all knew that, the Nats were TOO GOOD this year, and if they had finished behind one more team, they would have only had to give up a second round pick instead of a first round pick. But they’re always going to be in this situation now, since they’re getting better, right? No. Buster Olney is reporting that the new labor agreement is being negotiated right now, and it was expected to be announced around the World Series.
It hasn’t yet, and the longer it takes, he surmises, the less chance of certain rules being put in effect next season. The big one I’m getting at? Buster writes, “It’s expected that the new labor agreement may well abolish first-round draft pick compensation, which is tied to Type A free agents.”
So there it is. There is no guarantee that any of this will happen ever. But it seems fairly likely that by the 2013 season, the top 15 teams won’t have to give up their first round picks for signing a Type A free agent. And maybe 2012 will get those rules, maybe it won’t. But if you sign Pujols today, you can’t count on having your first round pick this summer.
Out of nowhere, a center field prospect has emerged, and he looks to be quite the talent. Ok, maybe this whole thing’s not out of nowhere, but I certainly hadn’t heard of Yoenis Cespedes before today. And now, thanks to his strange video below, which shows him hitting some slow mo homers, about 10 seconds of fielding, and lots of core training, he is clearly on his way to a hall of fame career:
All kidding aside, he’s probably considered the best position player in Cuba. He’s 26 years old, and defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic. He’s looking for a major league contract, and people are taking him seriously. While Kevin Goldstein has a great overview of the ridiculous video, he also mentions a few important points. Cespedes hit .333/.424/.667 with 33 HRs last year, all those threes further adding to his mystique. He scored 89 runs and stolen 11 bases (caught 4 times) in his 90 games played. Goldstein writes that Cespedes is “a tremendous talent—arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation. He’s a legitimate center fielder with plus power and speed and is in his prime.”
And Goldstein isn’t the only one buzzing about Cespedes. Adam Kilgore over at the Post notes that the Nationals are definitely paying attention. He writes that Nats front office folks were in the DR, watching the Cuban star work out. And they are impressed with his talent, and his ability to hit and to field (although not with his arm). So will the Nats go after him?
The Nationals are in the market for a centerfielder, and a leadoff hitter, although they aren’t necessarily the same person. This week, both Keith Law at ESPN and Ben Reiter at SI released their top 50 free agents list. How about we take a look through that list to shop for a CF, and see what we come up with? While there are possibilities, like moving Werth to CF and picking up a corner guy, let’s just look for now at those guys who are or having been out there in center.
Carlos Beltran (#9 Law/#7 Reiter) – Beltran can still hit, as he showed at least in the first half last year. He really isn’t a centerfielder anymore, between his injury risk and his age. His range isn’t there anymore, and the Nats probably aren’t in the business of signing a 35 year old at this point anyway.
David DeJesus (#21/—) – Last year was a terrible season at the play for DeJesus, which might be why he didn’t even make Reiter’s list, but some of that might have to do with moving to Oakland. If you believe he can still hit enough, you have to convince yourself he can still play CF. I am not so much a believer of either, considering he hasn’t been a regular there since 2008, and he fell off a cliff against lefties this past season. At this point, he could be a platoon guy who can’t play CF.
Grady Sizemore (#25/#21) – Sizemore still gets some credit for being one of the best players in baseball in 2007-2008, and he deserves it. But for a guy who was never a great CF who is now a huge injury risk, why would you want to play him there? He’s a high risk guy who once was a star, so he might be able to do something special, but even if you get a great contract with him, sticking out in CF seems like folly.
If you haven’t been watching the World Series, you’ve been missing out on some great baseball. But now is your chance to jump on the bandwagon, and tonight is the perfect night. Why? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons why any baseball fan should be paying attention tonight, but Nats fans in particular have one extra reason – C.J. Wilson. The Nationals have said they are in the market for an ace, and his contract ends after this seasons. It’s hard not to list him as the best starting pitcher available at the moment. After the World Series, CC Sabathia may opt out, and Yu Darvish will likely end up coming over from Japan. So at worst, he’s the third best guy.
Personally, I’m not so sure if Wilson is an ace. He’s very good, and his move from the bullpen last year to full time starter has been a rousing success. In 2011, he had a 2.94 ERA in 223 1/3 IP, striking out 206 and walking a worrisome 74, while going went 16-7. The year before, he actually lead the league in walks, with 90, but still managed a 3.35 ERA to go with his 170 Ks. The walks are very troubling, and yet, he’s managed to strike out 376 hitters in the last 2 seasons, and have a 142 ERA+ in a true hitters park. I’m not sure if that shows how good he’s been, or how lucky he’s been, but it’s certainly intriguing.