This is a tricky offseason for Mike Rizzo. It seems pretty cut and dried. He should go out and get a CF, maybe get a pitcher and roll with that until 2013 when the team will likely have full seasons of Bryce, Strasburg and some free agent first baseman (or maybe Rendon). But what if he needs to trade a MI to get that CF or pitcher? Then he needs to get a MI too. What if he decides to bring up Bryce? Then he needs to somehow deal LaRoche (or Morse I guess) to make room. There's a lot of moving parts to this offseason. Let's look at each area in question individually and we'll start in the outfield
We all know Werth (6 yrs 112 million left) is set. They aren't going to give up on their big signing one year in and even if they wanted to, no one is going to take that contract off the Nats hands. Mike Morse will likely take the 2nd spot in the outfield. While it's tempting to say the Nats should start Morse at first over LaRoche, it doesn't make much sense, at least to start the year. Thanks to his injury Adam is non-tradeable, but beyond that there are too many good reasons to play him. The Nats want to be a pitch to contact good-field team. All the fancy stats agree, Morse is not a good fielder and LaRoche is. Adam, prior to the injury, was consistently a positive offensive player. And of course, the Nats are paying him 8 million dollars next year. What's the converse? Why do you not start Adam? Because Mike Morse seemed more comfortable at first? Because you want to bring up Bryce now? To me these are nice back-up plans to have but at season's start, if he's ready, LaRoche should be manning first.
Ok then who gets the third spot? The popular choice is still Bryce. He's tearing it up in the AFL right now and could likely at the very least hang in the majors offensively in 2012. A couple things though. First, Rizzo has stated several times in the past he likes a slow deliberate build to the majors for his stars. Bryce didn't dominate AA last year. It's completely conceivable Rizzo would want to see that before moving the kid up. Also, the kid is still learning how to play the outfield. He's more of a corner outfielder, but to put him there would mean moving Werth to center. Moving a guy at 33 to the most important defensive position in the outfield is risky business. You could play him in center, which the Nats are trying to teach him, but all word is he's not good enough yet. Given Rizzo's emphasis on D, I just don't see it to start 2012. Everything here feels a year away.
Nix, Gomes, Bernadina? Ha ha ha. (by the way Gomes did hit himself out of Type B FA status so chalk that one up in the loss column for Rizzo)
Free agency isn't really viable. Grady Sizemore is the lottery ticket in CF. Prior to injuries he was a plus fielder in center and a great hitter. If he were to get back to that any team that signs him would have a huge steal. Of course most lottery tickets are losers. The injuries happened and it's been a long slog back just to be a bad major leaguer. He's played 100 games the last 2 years and hit .220 / .280 /.379 while doing it. This isn't a gamble, it's a sucker bet. If you get lucky it's by the grace of whatever deity Rizzo worships. Unless he can get him on a Wang-esque deal this doesn't seem to be Rizzo's type of guy. The other name bandied about is Coco Crisp. Here are some numbers
34 years old .301 / .323 / .426
32 years old .264 /.314 / .376
The latter is Coco Crisp who I figure will get a multi-year deal around 10 million. The former? Endy Chavez. Granted it's just one year (which is why you don't expect those middle stats to be repeated), but he's a plus fielder who you could plug in center for a year and pay very cheaply. I'm not advocating getting Endy. I'm saying there's no point in getting Coco. There just ins't value there. If Rizzo insists on going that route then yes, bring in a Chavez or Corey Patterson, or hell, bring back Ankiel. But that's not a smart idea. That's an acceptable non-move.
This leaves trades. We discussed this plenty back around the deadline, but the general consensus is that Upton will be rather expensive, Span too now that the Twins were able to unload Delmon Young, and Fowler is obtainable but seems unable to progress in any fashion in the majors. (Michael Bourn was the last name talked about but he got dealt to the Braves and is there in 2012) Rizzo has pieces to deal, guys like Norris and Detwiler, but ask yourself this; rumors suggested Rizzo balked at dealing Storen and Bernadina for Span. That's a reliever, a damn good one but still a reliever, and a 4th OF. Do you think he could he bring himself to deal a position player or starter? Guys with a ton more potential value? I don't see that either. Rizzo's (very typical by the way, so don't blame him. almost every GM is like this) over-valuation of his own talent / fear of losing a trade makes a deal for Upton or Span a non-starter in my book.
Which leaves the Nats with what in the end? A potential deal for Fowler. A guy who may very well benefit from a change of pace but at the same time might give the Nats nothing. He might be obtainable for the level of talent Rizzo would be willing to part with. Not exactly the big move Nats fans are looking for, but this is what I see.