Nationals Baseball: Who do the Nats give up on?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Who do the Nats give up on?

The idea floating around out there, even perpetuated by the front office, is that the Nats will be mild buyers this trade period. This would seem to suggest they understand what a lot of us understand: The Nats have some decent pieces right now. There is no reason yet to think there is a bright future certain for the Nats. Maybe the Nats should go for something right now.

OK fine, let's say the Nats do that. Then how do they get better, because they need to get significantly better on both offense and pitching to make any serious runs at the playoffs. If this is just a - let's keep Dunn and Willingham around and go for .500 -then what's the point? You could trade them - make some savvy signings and be right back around there with a couple more prospects in your pocket. No, this has to be about making a real push at the postseason.

Offensively they can improve in 5 slots. Catcher, 2nd, short, center and right. Catcher though will be tough to improve on (there just aren't a lot of good options out there) they already have Pudge signed for next year, they have Jesus coming back and arguably their best position minor leaguers (Norris, Bryce) are catchers. It seems like they are stuck here.

Short is possible, as is center but sigining a player for either position would be giving up on a plan that the Nats were "committed" to just 3 short months ago. Nyjer and Desmond would be cheap players. Nyjer would provide speed and fielding while Desmond would grow into a better hitter and fielder. You could sign someone for right but then you'd be going over Bernadina. It's a little early to claim that he's going to keep hitting well but so far he's been decent.

So if you want to stay committed to the plan and the one pleasant surprise the Nats have gotten this year the only place to improve is 2nd base. Is Chase Utley available? Because honestly that's the type of improvement they'd need at 2nd base to make a serious difference in their offense with just one player.

It has to be at least two positions. Which means giving up on someone, Desmond, Morgan, Bernadina, Flores (if they go after Victor Martinez), they have to write off someone at the end of the year. This makes the 2nd half of this year critical for these players. If the Nats are serious about getting better in 2011 and 2012 they likely have to kick someone to the curb. Right now it would almost certainly be Morgan, who looks completely lost, but it could easily be any of these guys. There's a lot of baseball left to play.

Of course the Nats could stay the course - if Morgan and Desmond look a lot better in the 2nd half and if Bernadina continues to hit well and if Flores comes back this year and looks good. if if if if.

And this is just the offense...


Hoo said...

I'd see if RB can play CF during the next few months. I don't like him as RF b/c the Nats need some more pop there. So I'd say 1 OF and 1 IF.

Desmond can be moved/replaced depending on his latter half of the season. Catcher should be ok if Flores comes back.

Boz has an interesting article on 8 pitchers competing for 3 spots. The Nats can move some pitching pieces. Strass, Znn, Marquis, the best of Olsen, Wang, Dettweiler, 2009 Lannnan, etc is a playoff rotation.

Harper said...

It would be helpful if Roger could play CF well (my guess is he could play it but not well considering he generally has played a corner spot) but I think Nats fans may be getting ahead of themselves being ready to run with Bernadina and leave Morgan in the dust after only a half-season.

As for the rotation - sure that's a playoff rotation assuming there's no step back from Strasburg (see: Hanson, Tommy) and ZNN heals from injury while continuing to improve, and Marquis heals from injury and returns to his most recent form and two of those other guys do manage to pitch decently.

The Nats in theory have a lot but in practice we still haven't seen it and may never see it come together at one time. I think they need a stud pitcher, a good 2nd baseman (how about Hudson THIS time) and a power hitting OF. That's a lot to ask for but I think it's what they need to turn the corner.

Hoo said...

Harper: That projected 2011 rotation has been in place since spring with only one spot change: Lannan's place is gone. I've always hoped they get the big FA and suddenly you have a mad scramble for the 5th spot. That FA signing may be moot if Scott Olsen (or Wang) returns and is pitching really well.

Dez, Flores, Dettweiler, Bernadina, Nyjer Logan and Stammen need a solid few months. I think Stammen could be in the picture if not a starter as the Batista long reliever guy.

It's too early to give up on Morgan, who could easily be a better piece than say Tavares. But if the Nats are making the push for a run, they don't have the luxury to hope a 30 YO speedster turns it around.

I'm guessing trades are offing. Right now, I'm not sure there's a single (signed) prospect that should be stamped untradeable. Nats have assembled some decent pieces like Aaron Thompson, Dettweiler, Atilano etc. But may need to throw in Hood/Norris or so to get the big guns.

Will said...

You're deluding yourself if you think Strasburg, Zimmermann, Marquis and two of Olsen, Wang, Detwiler or Lannan are a playoff rotation.

Harper addressed it partially, but there is not a single "sure thing" in that rotation. Strasburg is the closest to it, but after 6 starts you can't be definitive about anything.

Zimmermann is recovering from serious surgery. I'd be careful to draw any conclusions based off 5 innings in A ball.

Marquis has never been good; he's serviceable at best. Just look at last season, easily the best of his career, he couldn't make the Rockies playoff roster!

There are still serious questions as to whether Wang or Olsen will pitch again this year. I wouldn't count on them to be a reliable #5 starter, much less a #4 as you're suggesting.

Detwiler has yet to live up to his potential. And contrary to what many are saying, he didn't have a good season last year, though it might have looked that way amidst the garbage of Martis, Cabrera and Balester. He walked far too many players (3.93 per 9 IP) and struck out far too few batters (5.11 per 9 IP). Those numbers are Lannan-esque.

If the Nationals want to be a playoff calibre team, they must sign at least one top quality SP (see: Brandon Webb or Javier Vazquez). Going into the season with three SPs and hoping the other two work themselves out is not a way to make the playoffs.

If you replaced the 168 innings given to Mock, Marquis, Lannan, and Atilano with 167 innings Joel Piniero and Brad Penny (two of the better FA SPs to be had this past offseason) have pitched this season the Nationals would improve by 3 wins so far (even more over the course of the season).

Then give Orlando Hudson that extra million he wanted, and sign either Werth or Crawford, and I think we have a playoff contending team on our hands.

It's an unlikely scenario but the Nationals will never be good as long as they only have 3 SPs entering the season. If they firm up the rotation, everything else will seem much easier, specifically not relying so heavily on our thin bullpen.

DezoPenguin said...

The Nats really do have a surplus of young pitching and should definitely move some of it if they have any intention of competing in the near future. Zimmermann, Detweiler, Stammen, Martin, Martis, Mock, Atilano, Chico...they need to decide who among these guys have a possible future and who can be moved for position players. Then they've got Lannan, who may or may not regain his form, and they've got Olsen, Wang, and Marquis, all of whom have experience pitching at the major league level. (All of which ignores the fact that, like it or not, Livan Hernandez has been the best pitcher in the rotation not named Strasburg through the first half of the season) Sooner or later, they have to stop collecting "maybes" and settle on a rotation and a couple of alternates for injury or breakdown if they intend to make a move.

Come to think of it, their rotation strategy rather resembles their middle infield strategy, where they throw Desmond, Guzman, Kennedy, and Gonzalez at the spots and hope that somebody separates themselves from the herd...or the right-field strategy with Bernardina, Morse, Harris, and Tavares. Watching how that's worked so far makes me really, really hope that they suck it up and re-sign Dunn and Willingham both.