So the offensive exercise is over and let's recap. The Nats plan as far as starters go is hard to argue with. You can quibble in two places, first and center, but its hard to be sure that the Nats could improve those places significantly with what's available on the market. Can they gamble on improving a lot? That's possible. Can they be very sure they'd improve a little? Yep can do that too. But either way the Nats would be paying top dollar for those things. Unless you think the Nats are going to be salary cap busters, I don't see a reason to make such moves.*
So the improvement for 2014 isn't to be had in the starting line-up. It's to be had in the bench. The "disaster prep" portion of roster management. I think money should be spent to get someone to platoon for LaRoche, a legitimate back-up catcher as opposed to a cheap minor league option, and a traditional speedy, good D OF to round out the roster. I want these guys all to be players who if someone goes down with a couple month long injury, they could step in and start. They might not be perfect, but they likely could hold down the fort, and in a small time frame they might surprise you. In particular I want Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto, and Franklin Gutierrez.
It won't be cheap. These guys might cost you 5+ million over 2 years each. It won't be guaranteed success. There are reasons these guys aren't starting. But we saw what happened when the plan was hoping and wishing that rookies and castoffs could do the job. This may be even more imperative for the Nats to do as Rizzo has shown some inability/inflexibility to make in-season moves. If you aren't going to damage control like you should, you better make sure your disaster prep is done as well as you possibly can.
On to the comments/questions from the last two (and remember we're concentrating on 2014 here):
(If you think I've been too negative with these players understand that I am looking for problems. When you look for them, you are going to find them in nearly every case. Like Miggy? Can't field should be at first or DH. Verlander? 30 and off a decent, but not great year. You know what's a no-negative start? Mike Trout. You know what's another one? Because I don't off the top of my head.)
What about Matt Skole at 3rd (or 1st)?
Nah. Moved to first for a reason. Even ignoring the glove, he still hasn't hit in AA, carrying a .200 average in AFL (albiet with power and patience). Possibly down the road but needs more evaluation time.
Rendon would replace Zimm at third not Lombo, right?
Not the way I see it. Maybe if Zimm was sure to be out for the year they'd do the shift, but if Zimm is coming back I think that they'd want Rendon to keep playing 2nd and getting reps there. Hard to tell from last year because when Zimm missed a chunk of time Espy was still at 2nd. Tracy got most of the day-off replacement reps, so really it'll probably be someone not on the team now (like Baker, Youk, etc.), but I'd bet Lombo over Rendon if they somehow don't get someone that can play 3rd.
How about Peralta at SS, Desmond at 3rd (PEDs be damned)?
It's not a terrible idea, but why that over Desmond at SS and Peralta at 3rd? Peralta might be a step better but he's older. Anyway the real problem is Peralta is up and down and can't be counted on to hit better than LaRoche. I assume that's the goal right? I guess the fielding would be excellent though. I don't think that would be enough.
Infante at SS and Desmond at 3rd?
What? Infante hasn't played SS in like 3 years. He's a 2nd baseman, maybe 3rd. But no - same thing as Peralta. Can't be counted on to hit better than LaRoche, in my opinon.
Can the Nats trade LaRoche and....?
No. Well they could if they wanted to eat a bunch of money, but they'd be selling low. Plus the projections will probaby have Adam in the .240-.250 range with 25 homers, a slight improvement on this year at the plate.You better love Choo, whoever if you do this for the amount you are going pay them and the fact that Adam might have 1-2 years in the next 3 better than these guys.
You think Werth will get some time at 1st?
Depends. If they sign someone to sorta platoon with LaRoche then no. If they go with Hairston or Moore as the "platoon" guy I'd expect to see Werth there at least a couple times.
Hart or Choo better option in the OF? Beltran?
I like all of these guys better at 1st than OF. Hart's knees are done. Choo is bad in CF. Beltran has aged out of the OF. I guess you could give Choo or Beltran a corner and Bryce CF? Defense takes a big hit though and Rizzo likes his D.
Well Bryce looked better in CF, so it's a good plan right?
He did but I think that was the vagaries of defense. I think Bryce is an ok, maybe even good fielder right now... in left. I think if he spent the next 3 years in CF he'd look below average.
Vagaries of defense?
Dezo did a good job explaining in the comments, but basically for you to see someone's defensive worth balls need to be hit in an area where (1) they can get to it, (2) someone else could not, and (3) another OF does not get it. How many of those types of balls are hit a year? Usually enough but not always, which is why they say to look at 3 years of D stats to get the best idea. You can have a year where the balls just aren't hit in these areas enough for someone who's primary impact is on D to be able to help the team with his skill.
What about Stanton? Kemp? Braun?
Stanton - I'd do it. Such promise and value I'd totally throw the minor leagues at him. But I can't see Miami trading in division. Kemp, god no. That contract and that injury history spell trouble, and that's starts with "t" and that rhymes with "p" and that stands for "perpetually on DL earning a 125K a game" Braun? Also a terrible contract plus PED issues but I like him better than Kemp. But no. Look at the contract again.
Nice little player who's not going to improve the Nats enough as a starter. On the bench? I guess but doesn't fit well with Hairston here. Maybe if Hairston plays 1st.
Souza, Brown etc?
Brown's age and peripheral stats (K's too much - but so do nearly all of the Nats OF prospects) mean he's organizational depth now. Souza's far more interesting, will be in the mix for a call-up but given his limited high minors ABs I expect they want to see more of him down there, not watch him sit on the Nats bench. They are highest on Goodwin but I wouldn't expect him to start with Nats - again don't want him on the bench, want him playing. Him and Souza are potential call-ups and down the road Span replacements but not for 2014. As for 5th OF I'd bet on Kobernus or Perez if they go in house and can get over their Tyler Moore love.
Can at least Span stay out of leadoff?
One would hope but as a speedy CF he'll be there. I'd like the see Bryce first. Really the Nats don't have the easiest call for a guy there (high OBP, low SLG).
*Although I'm fine with busting the salary cap. I think the Nats SHOULD do it. Sign Cano, Ellsbury, & Choo for first. Span 4th OF. LaRoche given away while you eat his contract. Why the hell not? The Lerners have the money. But analysis wise I've got to be thinking of what will likely be the scenarion. Not what I think it should be.