Nationals Baseball: Two questions to answer, one to ignore

Friday, December 06, 2013

Two questions to answer, one to ignore

Question #1 : Is Nate McLouth good enough? 

Ehhhhhhh. Good enough for what? To be the 4th OF? 2013 Nate McLouth is, I guess. Overall the hitting was weak but if you plan for him to primarily hit  him versus righties (with Hairston and his .270  isoSLG vs lefties) you'd be looking at a  .272 / .342 / .411 line. That's fine. Plus he fielded... well he wasn't bad.

Ok so what's the problem?  His offense and fielding were better last season than they had been in years. The defense is explainable. McLouth is not a CF. He played a lot of CF in 2010 and 2011 and he looked bad. The played nearly none in 2012 and 2013 and looked fair. As long as the Nats don't see him as a CFer he's fine (and why would they, with Span a lefty hitter too?)

His offense is more of a question. He really was worse in those years before 2013, but if you do the platoon thing he should be ok.

2012 vs righties : .255 / .321 / .410
2011 vs righties : .251 / .372 / .372

You see... ok. I mean 4th OF wise. The potential is still there for a big collapse here though.

The way I see it is that he isn't someone who can play everyday, but if a corner OF goes down (like this year) then McLouth + Hairston will work for a contender.

Question #2 - Was there anything better out there? 

You do see a problem though. McLouth and Hairston don't give the Nats a true CFer in case Span gets injured. You can say "HA! MISTAKE!" but the truth is on the FA market there wasn't really anyone who was. Andres Torres I guess, but he's rehabbing. Frankling Gutierrez like I said, but he's not exactly Mr. Reliable.  Everyone else either couldn't hit at all, or hit well enough that they should, and will, start.

Ok that isn't 100% true. There WAS a better option than McLouth and he was the greatest Nat ever, one David DeJesus. He can play center and I'd bet on him hitting better than McLouth (though also best used in a platoon situation). The Rays ended up paying him a little less than McLouth (like 250K less) for 2 years so I guess you can jump on Rizzo for a little lack of foresight. Once he was signed though McLouth kind of sat out there as the best of what was left, even considering he can't play center.

So who does play center? They can't have a 6th OF on the roster can they? Well, no so it looks like they might go down the very questionable road of having Scott Hairston be the 1st base platoon, with Tyler Moore gone, and have someone else (Eury Perez? Souza?) be the slick fielding 5th OF. Or if they are committed to Tyler Moore for some reason than the decision on a CF injury would probably be to move Bryce to CF and let McLouth and Hairston platoon in the corner. At least I hope that's what they would think to do.

I don't really like either of those plans, but the latter is a little better overall. It becomes much better if they replace Moore with an actual good 1B platoon player.

Ignorable question - "Are the Nats paying too much to for Nate McLouth"?

Honestly, if it's not enough to affect future signings, and it isn't, you shouldn't care. (and if it is enough to affect future signings you should be mad that that is the case - the Lerners should just spend. Good teams, contending teams, overpay for a decrease in variability of outcomes.


Overall I can't complain much about the deal. McLouth was clearly the best guy left on the market. He's not the perfect answer for the Nats bench, but the perfect answer no longer existed. And when you're talking 4th OF perfect doesn't matter enough. Good enough works ok.

14 comments:

cass said...

Considering these sums, it seems the Nats really dropped the ball not signing DeJesus. We could've offered him a few million more than he got and been okay.

Positively Half St. said...

Perhaps the Spann kid we got for Dejesus somehow makes up the small difference with time.

Donald said...

I think this is fine in terms of the outfield. If there's a short-term injury to an OF, McLough and Hairston can fill in. If there's a longer term injury, particularly at CF, you can bring up Perez or even Goodwin if he's doing well in AA.

It was posted elsewhere that this signing doesn't bode well for Corey Brown, which I think is true. I also don't think it bodes that well for TyMo. He was the LF / 1B option off the bench and is now just the 1B. A guy like Skole can play first and third, or they may find a back-up catcher who can play 1B. Tyler's lack of versatility is going to be an issue.

At this point, they have 2 out of 5 bench spots filled. They still need a backup catcher. Not sure if Solano is the guy. They need a utility IF. My guess is that the job is Espinosa's to lose, but it wouldn't surprise me if they got some vet on a minor league contract to provide some competition there. And they need the 1B back-up, preferable a guy who can also play 3B or provide something besides just passable days off to LaRoche. I'm hoping they give Skole a chance over Moore.

John C. said...

Donald, 2014 is probably a little too early to give Skole a role in Nats Town; he only has five at bats above A ball. If he rakes this year in AA (and AAA?) and there are a couple of injuries he might get a late season callup.

Wally said...

I think that you guys are overstating the difference between DeJesus and McLouth. I don't think either is a CF; DeJesus played ok there last year, but was bad there in 2012, and year to year variations in defense aren't too reliable. And for last year at least, McLouth had better splits against lefties (DeJ against lefties: wRC+ 25, .089 iso and .467 OPS, McL: wRC+ 75, iso .148 and .640 OPS). McLouth is also two years younger, meaning decline should be less pronounced, and has clearly superior baserunning value.

All in all, I also would probably prefer DeJesus a little bit because of McLouth's down period in ATL, but it is very close, and when you add the prospect Rizzo got for trading DeJesus, I think the Nats came out ahead overall.

But I agree with this comment wholeheartedly Good teams, contending teams, overpay for a decrease in variability of outcomes. It is nice to see the Nats finally embrace that, and I am thinking about letting Burnett and Gorzy go last year for Duke, as one example of not getting this in the past.

JWLumley said...

@Wally
I don't think it's wise to compare splits for a single season, especially for someone who's been as inconsistent as McLouth. DeJesus is a better glove in CF, but is probably only passable at that position, where McLouth isn't. That being said, you bring up a great point: baserunning.
McLouth is actually a basestealer and while he didn't run nearly as much in the second half last year, he stole over 20 bases in the first half of last season. While that may not be the second coming of Vince Coleman or Ricky Henderson, it is a skill set the Nats sorely lacked off the bench last year and as much as I hate to admit it because I hated the DeJesus trade so much, may mean that he's actually a better option for the Nats than DeJesus.

Wally said...

@JWL - I agree, I was being lazy. I wasn't even trying to say McLouth was better for us, just that the differences were being stated too strongly.

Primarily, I think that we should all be encouraged that Rizzo no longer is trying to get by on the bench and most of the pen with guys making the minimum. That is unacceptable for a contender. Whether he got the exact right guy is less important than him realizing that he has to spend a little money on some of those spots.

Anonymous said...

I would take McLouth over all those guys, but thats just me.

blovy8 said...

There are plenty of plan C's in the minors for center if Harper and Span are both out. Quibbling over not having a replacement for Span doesn't deal with the reality of today's short benches. Span is very good, why would you need a defensive replacement for him? And if you are in that position, it means you're already starting a CF who would be better off in a corner. There's nothing wrong with this move, it's just money and they acted quickly enough not to get stuck with a guy who is crappy. Frankly, I'm surprised they were willing to pay what it took to get a reasonable veteran option. If nothing else, you get a player who can run for someone with a good chance of getting into scoring position in a close game, or who can score from second on a normal single.

Anonymous said...

I think that Harper kid can play a pretty decent CF if need be. Just sayin' . . .

Goodwin may be close enough to come up if there's a need, and Perez has spent a good bit of his time in CF.

At this stage of their careers, both McLouth and DeJesus are substandard in CF, so that's a push. McLouth certainly brings a dimension on the bases that DeJesus doesn't.

As suggested on this blog a month or so ago, though, perhaps our best 4th OF prospect would have been Span, with a big bat coming in as a regular. The McLouth signing seems to decrease that possibility.

cass said...

I'm not worried about centerfield at all since Harper can slide over. And if we lose both Harper and Span for a significant amount of time, we're no making the playoffs anyway.

I just worry about McLouth being a one-season mirage.

Lee said...

There is a question with an easy answer that wasn't asked. Is McLouth better than any OF bench option we had last year? Yep. Good talk.

blovy8 said...

I still think Goodwin strikes out too much to project as a reasonable hitter, but being on the 40-man gives him every chance at frequent flier miles in 2014.

Last catcher squatting seems to be Buck, he's a really good bargaining position right now. Can we really expect the Nats to pay the premium on two bench roles?

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