2011 Looks a Little Different Now

It was revealed today that Stephen Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery. Disappointing for sure, but it is at least a reliable surgery with a reliable recovery time. If this was shoulder surgery or something else, he might never throw 99 again. Instead, we miss a year of him when we need him least, assuming that 2011 wasn’t going to be a playoff year anyway. And he should come back the same guy, the chances are in the 80-90% range, maybe even higher now. But he does miss a year of development that would help him be a better pitcher in 2012. So it’s time to quit your crying about this. If you’re only into the Nats for Strasburg, see ya in 2012. If you’re not, let’s see what this means for the team. The recovery time likely has him starting the 2012 season. The Nats can really focus their efforts on building for 2012, instead of 2011. What does this mean for next season?

  • Josh Willingham is trade bait. His injury means he won’t be easy to move in the offseason, but his contract ends in 2011. After that, to extend him would mean a long term deal for a 33 year old outfielder who is good but not spectacular. I doubt they’ll want to keep him.
  • The Adam Dunn contract situation takes on a new color. No longer will they be getting him for 3 or 4 years of contention. Instead, with 2011 being another “getting ready” year, they may feel he isn’t worth the signing. They could play someone else in the meantime until more 1B options are available.
  • Chris Marrero may have taken Dunn’s place as the 1B for the “good” team. He’s batting .295/.352/.454 in AA Harrisburg this year, and another solid year in AAA puts him in the majors. Unfortunately, Rizzo will have to make a decision on Dunn before he knows what Marrero will be.
  • A short-term quality solution at 2B may not be an issue anymore. They probably have time to wait for Danny Espinosa, who is now in AAA. He’s hit .262/.333/.467 in the minors this year, and while he’s spent about 85% of the year so far in AA, his numbers (even his PAs per HR) are pretty close to identical in AA and AAA. He should be up by next summer, assuming he doesn’t convince everyone in the spring that he should stay.
  • Nyjer Morgan may become very expendable. It already appeared that Roger Bernadina was on the way to replacing him in CF. While Roger isn’t the fielder Morgan is, his bat is much better and he doesn’t have the Nyjer noodle arm. By the way, while UZR/150 is a tough measure to use on such small sample sizes, according to the stat he’s an above average CFer, while very below at the corners. CF may be a better fit for him, and he could be a top 10 bat at that position (at a corner, he’s not so impressive at the plate). Nyjer is still cheap, and arbitration eligible, so they may decide to hold him, but they may see what they can get in trade.
  • If they trade do Nyjer, and Roger goes to CF, you figure you need some help in the corners. Mike Morse is still useful to demolish lefties but is no good against righties (.931 OPS vs LHP, .684 vs RHP this year). They have a certain young prospect that will be able to fill a role in one of the corners, maybe even some time in 2012. But they need to sign legitimate outfielders this offseason. One of them should probably be a long term deal, because Bryce Harper can only play one position at a team (I think). Some LF/RF guys available this offseason: Carl Crawford, Michael Cuddyer, Jayson Werth… not much exciting beyond that. 2012 looks a bit deeper without the high ceiling
  • Wherefore is the starting staff? You can assume Jordan Zimmermann and that’s about it. What will Lannan have to offer? Stammen seems better in the bullpen, so maybe he stays. What about Detwiler, can he string together quality starting consistently? He’s starting tonight in the minors. Do they try another year with Livan? Are we gonna get to see Tom Milone get a shot? All he’s done is dominate at every level, and strike out a man an inning in AA this year. What about the injured Bradley Meyers? At least Jason Marquis will have somewhere to pitch.
  • What’s the catching situation? Ivan Rodriguez may be contemplating retirement this time next year. Either way, the Nats will be ready to move on, but who will they be playing? Will Jesus Flores ever be able to catch again? If not, maybe he’s a first basemen. He wouldn’t be a star at the position, but as a fill-in to buy time for Marrero, his bat will probably do. Does Wilson Ramos come out of spring as the backup? Or perhaps splitting time 50-50 with Pudge? He’s killing the ball in AAA since the trade with an .861 OPS. Derek Norris is too far away at this point for next year, so he’s probably not in the picture.

2011 can still be a successful season. This team is young and it can be good, considering how much better they were this year than last, and how little Strasburg was a part of it (he appeared in only 12 games, although the team had a spectacular 8-4 record). They can continue to improve, and depending on the development of the other pitchers, could still approach .500. So you go ahead and pick up some crackers for your crybaby soup. I’m going to watch Ian Desmond continue to develop. Have I mentioned he’s hitting .327/.365/.481 since July 1? Yeah, I probably have.

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