Nationals Baseball: October 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Starting Pitching

Presumed Plan :  Strasburg, Gio, and ZNN are set in stone. The fourth and fifth spots are up in the air right now, with Detwiler, Roark, and Jordan presumably fighting it out for the last two spots.  Other potential starters would be the surprisingly decent Ross Ohlendorf and the organization's favorite upper minors pitching prospect, Nate Karns.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : While Strasburg supposedly hasn't reached his potential, he's a top 10 pitcher in the majors, 6th in WHIP, 4th in Ks,11th xFIP.  Gio and ZNN both took a half step back this year, but that still leaves them as Top 25ish pitchers, with expected ERAs in the 3.25-3.50 range. They all pitched 180+ innings and ended the year seemingly healthy. 

The Nats really liked the way Detwiler pitched in  2012 and he started 2013 with an ERA under 3.00 before getting injured. Tanner Roark was remarkable to end 2013 sporting an ERA under 2.00 with fantastic control. Taylor Jordan wasn't as amazing (3.66 ERA) but pitched well enough to hold down a rotation spot. Ross Ohlendorf surprised the team with his equally decent performance (3.52 ERA as a starter). Nate Karns has the best raw stuff, unhittable in the minors with only one WHIP over 1.2 at any stop despite a bit of wildness. Among these 4 or 5 (depends on what they do with Ohlendorf who could get a big bump in arbitration) it seems like they could find 2 rotation worthy arms.

Problems with Presumed Plan :  Strasburg had surgery again, this time removing bone chips. Is he going to be ready to go at a high level to start the year?  There were questions about whether Gio and ZNN really were those #1 like pitchers they showed in 2012, and 2013 seemed to answer that question with a no. At 28 in 2014, they are getting to an age where they might start losing some zip on their fastballs.

All of the five other guys have issues. Detwiler will also be 28 next season, has had 2 major injuries, and what amounts to a little more than one full good season of pitching in his favor. Plus his pre-injury pitching in 2013 had luck going his way as much as skill. Both Roark and Jordan have a history of much more questionable pitching prior to 2013, with WHIPs over 1.30, suggesting that this past season could have been a fluke. Roark especially got a lot of breaks in his stint. Ohlendorf (31 next year) also got lucky and has a long history of major league stats (5.10 ERA) backing up the thought that he's a mediocre pitcher. Karns was unable to translate minor league success to the majors, with the guys at the top finding his pitching easy to whallop. Does he have a fastball that is fast enough to dominate AAA guys, but flat enough that major leaguers will kill it?
My take : You can't argue with Strasburg, Gio and ZNN. Even if Strasburg isn't STRASBURG he's still easily a legitimate #1 starter in the majors. Even if Gio and ZNN are regressing, they are still good pitchers and give the Nats a Top 3 that is among the best in the majors.

It's after this that the plan falls apart. The idea that the Nats can go into 2014 with this bunch and expect to win is scary to me. Sure you could find two guys out of this group but let's look at what you have here really. A middling major leaguer who pitched over his head (Ohlendorf), a former top prospect who looks like he will never be consistently healthy enough to even see if he can reach his potential (Detwiler), a never was prospect who very possibly had a miracle season at a somewhat advanced age (Roark), a never was prospect who very possibly had a miracle season, though admittedly at a younger age where it is more likely to be real (Jordan), and a B prospect who has great stuff but may not have the command to translate that into major league success which is about the most common thing you will hear about pitching prospects (Karns).

I think they could end up with two guys out of this group who were good enough to be #4/#5 pretty easily. Maybe even better than that (I like Karns' stuff as much as the Nats do and Jordan, given age & surgery & no big luck in the majors, could also be real) but it's a maybe situation. What if they pick the wrong guys out of the gate? What if it's July before they figure out who is good? What if, god forbid, one of the big three get injured? What these five guys give you is not two starters to rely on, but depth behind the Top 4 guys you really like.

I don't think there is any question they need a fourth reliable major league arm for this rotation. Ideally, with Gio and ZNN possibly slipping, Stras' surgery, and the spectre of "no major injuries to these guys in over 2 years" it would be someone of their caliber. A top 2 type of guy. With the Nats not looking for a long term solution (none of the FAs are better/younger than their own guys, and they got a couple low-minor arms that could be looking to break through in late 2014 or 2015) they need a short term deal. I see three ways to go. My preference would be for Hiroki Kuroda. Back to the NL, almost certain to take a 1 year deal, still incredibly effective. Also possible is taking a small chance on Tim Hudson. I'm not sure the Braves will give up on him, or that the GA boy wants out of Atlanta, but he's still good when healthy and even though he's been bit by the injury bug he's still pitching more than half the year. If the Nats want to go really crazy with gambles there's Josh Johnson. He has familiarity with the NL East and is just two years removed from being a special pitcher. At age 30 he's not so old that you give up on him completely. If you really like the "Detwiler, etc." group than this is a good bargain gamble to take.

Outside the Box Suggestion :
It's about damn time someone went back to a 4 man rotation. I'm serious. A lot has been made about pitching health these days but when it comes down to it there is a decent argument to be made that the pitches matter more than the innings, meaning the wear and tear is all about the individual outing rather than having only 4 days of rest. Sure, we've seen guys on 3 days fail in the playoffs, but that's a real questionable thing to base a decision on. You are talking about guys pitching differently come October, at their most worn down, than they did all year long and doing it against what is likely one of the better lineups that they could face. Pitchers went on 3 days rest for 50 years. Those guys weren't special. We weren't tougher back then.

I think the ideal situation would be to do it with guys in their late 20s-early 30s who have a history of lack of injury. Their bodies aren't growing anymore, but they aren't at the point where they are completely breaking down either. Keep them on a nice pitch count and let them go.  Strasburg doesn't quite fit the mold, but Gio and ZNN do in my mind. Add a say... Ricky Nolasco and run with it.

It's something that should really be trotted out by some team, but I doubt anyone has the guts to do it. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Matt Williams

It's the Diamondback in the room. Matt Williams will be the new manager of the Nationals next year. So what do I think?


Ok, see you tomorrow!

Fine, fine. But let's start at the beginning. How do I feel about letting Davey Johnson go? Necessary, but it's pretty lousy it got to the point where it was necessary. Davey Johnson is one of those rare managers that actually seem to make teams better. Is he an expert on picking the right jobs at the right time? Perhaps. But it felt like there was something there seeing him manage, something that other guys didn't have. He also wasn't a cliche machine, which at least makes the manager interesting for us following the team on a daily basis.

Of course he didn't show that something special in 2013. It was obvious his interest level was not there. For that you have to blame Rizzo. Rizzo had decided before the season started that Davey was out. And Rizzo again, just like with Riggleman, wanted Davey to just coach and thank him for the kick on the ass that sends him through the door. Davey isn't the petulant macho man-child that Riggleman is so he didn't quit, but the idea that the organization is going to fire you no matter what certainly affected his actions (or more precisely inactions this year). Alienate one manager, shame on him. Alienate two managers, shame on Rizzo.

With Davey out the door someone had to be hired. What do we know about Matt Williams the manager? Nothing. He's never managed. After retiring he did some radio and TV work, and some various odd coaching jobs with the D-backs before getting hired by them as a base coach in 2010. But he never managed during this time. The thoughts are he will be a hard driving bad-ass but who knows? Did I mention he's never managed?

I can say I don't like the fact that he was hired mainly because Rizzo liked him. I'd have rather seen a minor league manager with a proven record of winning. But I'm also of the school of thought that the manager doesn't matter too much. He may cost a team at most a handful of games. Does that mean 1-2 games or 4-5, I'm not sure.  Either way there are usually a dozen other things you can point to that matter more. Still, for the Nats, ~3 games could be the difference between the division crown and the wild card, or the wild card and sitting home. That's where they find themselves. I can't say it doesn't matter at all. 

I don't care that he used steroids. He doesn't have to be a leader on PED morality to control the clubhouse.* The rules are different in 2014. That should be enough.

What I want to see is what happens in the first month. Can he set a decent line-up (does he put Span on top)? Can he really work a bullpen (does he use the non-closer in impt 6th or 7th inning spots)? Does he get bunting (does he limit it to P ABs or times the team needs/wants only one run)? He could show us some heartening traits, or he could show himself a fool that coaches like a dumb manager from the 1980s. Or more likely he could just coach like everyone else does nowadays. (Mostly like that dumb 80s manager, with a whiff of insight here and there.)

Really the only bad thing would be an early obvious inability to do the right thing. Bunting all the time. Overly rigid bullpen roles. No shifting at all. Span and Rendon leading off because they fit the classic mold. I wouldn't blame him, as a rookie manager, for these mistakes. Sometimes you have to learn on the job. But learning on the job would likely cost the Nats those ~3 games next year and leave them in a bad spot.

But again, just to hammer this home, who knows? Matt Williams is a blank slate. He could be great. He could be terrible. He'll likely be average. Average is usually good enough for a manager, especially if he has a very good team behind him. The Nats are likely to be a very good team, so Williams is likely to be good enough.

*FRobby smiled at talk of using greenies. Davey was part of the "hush-hush, we don't want to talk about it, Hank was there" Tom House Braves of the early 70s. I believe this was the first year in a while no member of the Nats minor league organization was punished for PEDs. Williams' history is nothing new.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Quickie - Obstructing my pickoff

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.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield

Presumed Plan :  Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth will retain their starting roles. Scott Hairston will likely be the 4th OF filling in with tough lefties (for Bryce or Span) or for injury sit outs. The 5th OF is yet to be determined. Could be Tyler Moore if another 1B is gotten for the bench.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Bryce Harper is set in left as the next big thing. He's a supreme talent who put up one of the best seasons for a 20 year old in baseball history. Again he hit .274 with 20 homers in 118 games a year before most college players will even be drafted let alone play in the minors. Jayson Werth has a huge contract and will play in right because that's how things work. Thankfully last season, he put himself on the outskirts of the MVP discussion finishing with a .318 / .398 / .532 line over 129 games. Denard Span was brought over for his defense and he was impressive.

Scott Hairston was traded for to help with the failing outfield bench but wasn't able to provide much of a boost. Still history suggests he can hit lefties well enough to be a 4th.  As I said in the 1st base review, Tyler Moore has done all he can in AAA, and the Nats seem to like him more than the other B-level prospects that are in the high minors right now.
Problems with Presumed Plan :   Both Bryce and Werth could be seen as injury risks. Bryce spent most of 2013 dinged up in one way or another. Werth has barely played 200 games in the past 2 years. In the field both are falling short of what Rizzo probably expected. Bryce's poor instincts make him average in the field. Werth is aging out of being passable in the outfield. Span on the other hand failed at the plate. When three out of the last four years saying one thing, you listen to them. He's a below average hitter.

Scott Hairston might be aging out of usefulness as well. He struck out at his highest rate (25.3%) in any season where he played a decent number of games and he hit everything in the air (59.3% FB). He probably can't handle the outfield in any long-term situation. Tyler Moore, we talked about before. Plenty of at bats to prove he belongs in the majors and hasn't done it.

What you should obviously see here though is a lack of the traditional 5th OF. Speedy good fielder who can play late in the games and serve as a pinch runner. The Nats saw with the whole LH relief pitcher situation, what can happen when you take away options from a manager.

My take : Despite the fielding issues and injury risks you'd be stupid not to put Bryce and Werth in starting roles next season. Bryce may not be the best fielder but he probably has a half-decade at least of being good enough and he has a hell of an arm. It be stupid to move him anywhere. Werth on the other hand might benefit from a move, but given that his 1B play is limited, it makes more sense to give him a last chance in RF and start him spot starting at 1B here and there. Anyway you hit like that, you play. No questions.

Denard Span is a harder call. His defense does make him an easy start, but defense can be very variable. He might not be any worse but given balls hit to the right places his defensive contribution could be muted to the point where he's not helping the team much in a specific season. Still I think if you are going to have Bryce and Werth at the corners you need a plus OF in CF. He may not last past this year (if Goodwin can breakout). But Span's the best choice right now.

I also like Hairston in the 4th role. I think he's on the way out but not there just yet. Should hit in the low .200s but against lefties I'd bet on something in the .250s with good power. (even hitting .214 vs LH he still slugged .484 - which is basically better overall than everyone but Werth last year) The 5th spot... well this gets confusing because of what's going on with 1B. If Moore (or Hairston or Werth for that matter) start spelling LaRoche, well then maybe you have a spot to bring in a real "5th" OF. Then again you'd then have to default to Lombo as the 3rd base back-up. If you bring in a Jeff Baker type then you have to cut someone. Of course that's my take. I say bring in a Jeff Baker type and let Tyler Moore go.

With Tyler Moore out you have a couple choices. You could let Eury Perez take that 5th spot. He probably won't be a good hitter at the major league level (no patience with no power) but he can play D and run. Since the 5th guy is not expected to start, I don't mind his flaws as much as if he was a #4. Still we ran into the "well what if our #4 crashes and burns" situation last year and Eury is far from a safe bet on playing big minutes. Instead you could go for perennial DL star Franklin Gutierrez. Pairing with Scott Hairston as 4th OFs depending on the situation, he was amazing defensively just a few years ago and showed some ability at the plate. His power was back in his short stint last year. I know he's fragile but this is not even your first back-up. It's your emergency starter. The point is if you told me the Nats need someone to start in CF for 3 weeks I'd feel better if it was a (at least starting) healthy Gutierrez than Perez. If he does get injured then Eury is still around, right?

Outside the Box Suggestion

You know who's a speedy guy who can play D who might fit in as a 4th/5th OF? Denard Span. So go big and bring in Jacoby Ellsbury who can play that stellar D you need in CF and also provide you with a potentially well above average bat in CF. Also he's a Boras client. Perfect, right? Sure it'll cost you down the road (given his injury history I wouldn't trust him playing anything close to a full season past age 34) but as a win now strategy it's hard to beat. It covers what I consider a lurking problem. Span is fine as the worst hitting guy on your team, but one injury that puts in Lombo, or a back-up C, or someone else and the Nats could find themselves in a situation where 7-8-9 are a rest period for pitchers. 

This would show a team committed more to "winning now". Honestly they've made only one such deal (the Zimmerman extension) that shows they might sacrifice some winning later for winning now. The Werth signing, when it was made, wasn't about winning now. The Gio extension was about value. The Soriano deal, like any 1-2 year deal, doesn't sacrifice the later. No only Zimm's new deal showed that the team wasn't happy with just winning 85-90 games now and would either pay AND sacrifice to make it more. You can't make too many of these deals, but its easier to make a few of these than cross your fingers and hope for prospect development from a middling system.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Presumed Plan :  Ryan Zimmerman will play 3rd. Some combination of Lombardozzi and a signee or rookie will back him up as the Nats say bye to Chad Tracy.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Next year will be the 9th year Ryan Zimmerman will be the Nats 3rd baseman. (9th! I'm so old!) That's a long time at a position that is hard to fill. Offensively, the days of dreaming that Ryan would be an elite hitter are probably over but his current level (.281 / .348 / .464 ~ 25 homers a year) is more than acceptable. It's a clear step behind the best offensive 3rd basemen (Wright, Beltre, Longoria, Cabrera... ok several large steps behind him) but its a clear step ahead of the rest of the pack. He's a top 5 guy with little chance to be top 3, but little chance to fall out of the top 10. Defensively he spent the better part of 2013 getting over a yips problem which ended up hurting his range as he tried to compensate by playing shallower. This seemingly resolved over the last couple of months

Lombo - because see last few of these.

 Problems with Presumed Plan : Ryan is trending down a bit average wise. His fielding issues seem to come and go, so I doubt we've seen the last of them. His injury past is worrisome as he hasn't played a full season in 5 years. Rendon is better suited for 3rd and might have more of a chance to blossom in his natural position.

Lombo :I like Lombo least of all at 3rd base back-up because I think we can get more of an offensive threat here to back up Zimm. Plus he's busy filling in at 2nd and SS so we'll need someone else just in case the Nats get two injuries at the same time

My take : The Ryan plan is good. The average issue is something to look at but the the league is trending down so it's not as bad as it seems. His injury history is some concern but in 3 of the last 4 years he's missed 15-20 games. It's more than you'd like but it's not going to derail a season. One major injury since 2008? I can take that chance. As for the fielding, you just got to take it as it comes. He's a Top 3rd baseman. Sure maybe not in the discussion of the best overall anymore but still tons better than what you can find on the street these days. Rendon can get used to 2nd. If he can hack it the Nats need him more there.

Who for a back-up? You're going to have to lean one way with these 3B/1B guys and I think LaRoche will need the platoon guy, so I still advocate the Jeff Baker idea from 1B.  He'd be a pretty bad 3B though. If you are looking more at 3rd base guys who can hack it at first, Chavez would be ideal but he hits too well to be looking for a pure back-up role and this ain't gonna be a platoon (also as a lefty doesn't help out LaRoche). Youkilis would be an interesting long shot grab. A good PH possibility with nice patience, and the bench role might keep him healthy. Mark Reynolds would provide righty pop which would allow you to keep Tyler Moore off the roster.

Outside the Box Suggestion : For the sake of getting it done with, the hanging mostly in the box idea of Zimm to 1st, Rendon to 3rd, and sign Cano gets the play here. The reasoning in obvious. Cano is an huge offensive talent that gives the Nat the superstar bat they may be lacking (we'll see if Bryce explodes or Werth keeps it up). That also provides the Nats with a true upgrade from LaRoche as opposed to the "maybe we'll get more offense" other options floated around in LaRoche sits scenarios. And Cano is a good defender, right now. Of course the contract Cano will eventually sign is the sticking point but if money's no object, luxury tax be damned, this plan is the clearest path to success in 2014 and the few years after that.

Friday, October 18, 2013


The Nats will need a 1st baseman in 2013.  Hell, if LaRoche is crashing out they could need one next year. Why did they seemingly have no interest in Abreu? Should they have?

What we know of Abreu

Supposedly 26. Hit .453/.597/.986 33 HRs, 93 RBI in 2010-2011. .394, 35 homers following year. .382 with 13 homers (much shorter seasons - still led league) last season. Has acquitted himself well ( 9 for 25 with a walk, double, 3 HRs, 9 RBI) in the WBC. Fielding is considered a minus. No speed to speak of.

Why no interest

The cost was going to be high - As international scouting gets better the costs for these guys go up because they aren't seen as much of a gamble. Cespedes was 4/36. A few months later Puig was 7/42. Darvish got 5/56.  Chances looked good Abreu would top that, which would set the Nats up for having 60 mill for 4 players (Zimm, Werth, Gio being other 3) going through 2016, which may hurt resigning ability for players such as Desmond and ZNN (let alone nailing down Stras, Bryce, Ramos)

Counterpoint : So? Money shouldn't be an object if you really want to win. Remember - THERE IS NO MONEY BUCKET. Teams can spend what they want. Owners are generally incredibly wealthy (the Lerners are) Therefore money should not be a concern, in my opinion. That doesn't mean you sign stupid deals, but pay a little more? Sure.

Might Need 1B free to move Zimmerman there if throwing problems continue.- Zimm seemingly cleared up his issues by years end but he's seemingly done that before too. If he gets another bout of the yips, they may want to move him to a spot where his throwing won't be an issue. No DH means that's 1B

Counterpoint : I hate the yips too but I can swallow them if it means having a good hitting first baseman. Good hitting 1B are harder to find that good hitting 3B. Overall I don't see how moving Zimm off 3rd makes the team stronger. Can the Nats find a 3B or 2B (if they domino Rendon to 3B) that can hit better than LaRoche has (let's say .260 with 25 homers)? I doubt it.

They like the prospects coming up - Tyler Moore has seemingly done all he can in AAA and there's a feeling he still might "get it" at the major league level.  They were enthused with the development of Matt Skole prior to his injury. Someone currently in a different position like Zach Walters might also get a shift over. Or maybe a Goodwin or Souza will develop and push the aging in the field Werth over to first.

Counterpoint : The door is closing on Moore and most of the Nats hitting "prospects" are guys that should be coming into their own at the majors right now. Souza (early April), Skole (late July) and Walters (early Sept) all turn 25 next year. Their chance to surprise and make an impact is currently on the clock. Goodwin at 23 all next year, is a better bet to have big impact but also not ready yet. In other words, I don't like the prospects coming up.

You can always get a shorter term bargain like with LaRoche - why sign someone for 6 years when you can sign someone for 2. First base is generally considered the easiest position to play. (Movie Ron Washington : "It's incredibly hard") Why not take a chance and stick a Victor Martinez or Aramis Ramirez there in 2015? Or a Chase Headley?

Counterpoint : See LaRoche. You get what you pay for. These guys could be fine or could drop off the cliff with injury or age. If they do well next year they'll be costly. If they don't they'll be cheap but you'll be betting on a bounce back from a 35+ player.  Or in Headley's case a guy coming off 2 sub-optimal years. 

They have another plan - Trade? Bryce at first? Who knows.

Counterpoint : None

What do I think

I don't know. If this were a year later I'd possibly do it. We don't really see power dropoffs so he's going to hit ~30 homers a year. Even if you take Cespedes' average in 2013 to be a fair representation (I kind of do), Abreu was a better hitter and would hit a little better.  Even if that's .250 and 25 you are essentially getting LaRoche again for LaRoche money, with mostly upside potential on those numbers. The question of course is the fielding. Is he bad or is he terrible? I can't answer that. If it's the latter than he really belongs in the AL where he can just hit. He's Adam Dunn esque which means he likely won't age well. Done at 30, halfway through the contract is a distinct possibility. 

Still the Nats want to WIN NOW so who cares about down the road. Why not this year? Well because I don't think they can unload LaRoche and I don't think they want to just not play LaRoche. Since Abreu bats right I can see a platoon like situation which wouldn't work well for anyone... I just see a mess honestly. Also I still don't trust the Lerner's to aim for that Top 5 payroll like I feel they should. (#2, #4, and #5 are still in the playoffs right now). I think they'll be content to say "Top 10" and have that be enough. That means they'd use Abreu as an excuse to not re-sign ZNN or Desmond both of which I think they should.

I don't know. I see how it could work, but I'd only be in for it if I thought we'd see that scraping 200 mill payroll, and I don't think that will happen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Quickie - 2b SS questions

Hey you ever have your electrician cut both your cable and your phone lines? Nope. Just wondering.

Well knowing TWC I should have my cable fixed sometime around Thanksgiving, so my posts should be sporadic for a while, just letting you know.

Onto the 2nd base and Shortstop Comments :

How about Omar Infante?

Omar Infante would be great!  Imagine if Steve Lombardozzi hit for higher average, more power, fielded better and ran better and that's Infante. (maybe a walk or two more, too but just a few)

There are a couple problems with him though. He could cost the team a first round draft pick if the Tigers offer him a qualifying offer (probably won't). Usually I don't care about that but for a bench player it's something to think about. The second is that if I were coming off his season I'd be looking to start somewhere and the buzz is that's the plan. It seems likely he'll get a multi-year deal at 5+ a year to do just that. What would the Nats have to do to get him to come here where is his playing time is not guaranteed? The Nats need to spend on the bench but not say 20+ million for three years.

Is there anything more confusing than the question "once Espinosa was terrible and demoted why didn't he get his shoulder fixed?


Should Espy get the surgery, at the very least to use it as an excuse? 

I'd have to think so. Right now he's basically playing himself into the independent leagues. OK that might be a stretch., if the Nats cut him today someone would pick him up and try him out in AAA, but it's not far from the truth. I don't care how good your D is, a 28 year old punchlessly hitting .210 in AAA is going to be in St. Paul by August. Basically he's got 1 1/2 years on the path he's taking. Go the surgery route though, and you might buy yourself another year as teams hope you just need to recover.  Maybe he's one of those guys that faints when he sees a needle?

Is is possible Espy ruined his swing because of the injury, it healed, and now it just needs to be fixed? 

I suppose. I will say that his time hitting last September immediately after the injury produced similar stats to this year so he'd have had to immediately have changed his swing for the injury and it effected him in the same way then as swinging that way healed does now. Seems doubtful. The other option is that he changed it in the offseason. But wasn't that when he was healing? I just don't see it, but I won't rule it out. That certainly explains the whole "no surgery" angle better than anything else.


Sorry, not going to happen. I know I leave a lot to be desired grammar-wise with these posts.  I can't claim to be an interesting writer, but I do know my punctuation and proper word choice. The thing is that these posts are basically first drafts given a once over for obvious errors or hard to read spots. They are C- work at best.

Why would I put out such a poor representation of what I feel I can do? Time. I don't have the time to conceive, write, check, edit, check again, edit again, final read with minor changes, that I would like to do.  I have time to conceive/write, edit while sort of checking. If this were my ultimate goal, to be a writer about sports, I'd probably put more time into it. But this is my hobby so I'm ok with it

Why not trade Zack Walters if we don't need him at short? 

Walters just made himself into a fringe prospect. He strikes out way too much and he'd be much better at 3rd than SS. Value isn't exactly there yet to get back something usable now by himself, even with the power numbers. Lots of guys can hit AAA homers but can't make enough contact to do it in the majors (see : Moore, Tyler).

What age is too old for a shortstop? 

32/33 or so, but it varies a lot. That's just when fielding is likely to start to diminish at a faster rate. If you are a good fielder to begin with you should be able to eek out a few more decent years than if you were a bad one. Also if you can still hit your team might be able to ignore the fielding for a little while.

For Desmond, if he declines offensively again this year, then I'd say around 32 (won't be hitting by that time so if he's not fielding well he's not of much use). If he stabilizes or goes back up he could probably hack it until 35 or so.  A million caveats of course. So I'd wait a year to see if he's trending down then make your long-term decision. Be prepared to pay either way though. Either a slight overpay for a couple more years past his FA or a dumptruck full of cash for his useful career.

Walters for Loney? 

Loney's a FA.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop

Presumed Plan :  Ian Desmond will play shortstop. As noted in the 2nd base analysis, Lombo will likely back-up the MI positions.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : After two seasons of disappointing both at the plate and the field Ian Desmond put everything together in 2012. His .292 / .335 / .511 line and superior defense made him an All-Star. While last season wasn't quite as good, it was still and elite year for a shortstop. He's put himself in the conversation for best shortstop in the majors. True the conversation begins with "Are there any challengers to Tulowitzki's spot at best SS in baseball?" but that's still very very good. At 28 and cheap there is really no reason to look elsewhere.

We talked about Lombo when we discussed 2nd. Same things apply. Good enough to be back-up given that he does a bunch of stuff at an average major league level.

 Problems with Presumed Plan : I suppose that Desmond could regress a bit more. He did run hot and cold last year. He also packed a lot of pop into one month. (9 homers of 20 in July). He's not immune to injury, playing only 130 games in 2012.

Lombo : Again imperfect back-up if he needs to play more than a fill-in roll. I suspect it would be even worse at SS than 2B, because I think Lombo's range might be exposed. No power or patience.

My take : This was really easy wasn't it? You could be afraid Ian would regress but two straight years of good offensive and defensive production and an optimal age for 2014 make it silly to worry about. Injuries are always a concern but outside of 2012 he has played 3 full seasons as a starter. Not quite an iron man as he gets nicked and bruised here and there but close enough.

Lombo is fine if his role is limited to last guy off the bench. Basically, the CI, OF and maybe even C back-ups need to provide power and have at least one guy that would be ok playing full time, if not 2. It's probably easier to find that type of player in those positions (maybe not C) than in MI, thus why it's ok to keep the Nationals unofficial mascot.

Outside the Box Suggestion : Like we talked about with Ramos, you don't move young, cheap and good off a premium position. So the only outside the box idea is to trade. Like to the Cardinals. What!?! Make your enemy stronger? Listen, you all might hate the Cards but the truth is they are LOADED. Not just this year but in the minors. They have OFs, Ps, CIs out the wazoo who could be impact players BUT they don't have a SS. Daniel Descalso hasn't been able to get over the hump and recreate his minor leagues success. Pete Kozma makes Lombardozzi look like Eckstein at the plate. So they actually could use Desmond. And in return the Nats could get young players but players ready to contribute now. Prospects are fine, but trading Desmond for prospects 2-3 years down the road only creates a "not quite good enough team in this way" that will morph into a "not quite good enough team in that way" down the line.

So how about Desmond and junk for Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez, and Descalso? Adams gives the Nats the masher at 1st they are dying for to replace LaRoche (the Cards don't need him with Craig at 1st and options behind that). Martinez gives them a fantastic arm for the pen and possibly a future closer to help replace the will be gone Soriano, the aging Clippard (29 and closing in on FA) and the headcase Storen. (Cards smart enough to know relievers are fungible. Have Rosenthal in late innings for youth. Plenty of arms to replace). Descalso is merely a throw in that the Cards don't need anymore to give the Nats someone to play SS. No he's not very good, but he's had suspiciously low BABIP years that make me think there's a league average hitter in there. I guess if you like Greg Garcia better he could fit here.

Any other plan won't work. If the Nats try to work a three team trade and get a decent SS back, why wouldn't the Cards just kick the Nats out of the deal and get that SS for themselves for a lot cheaper? The Cardinals have a lot of SP arms but I have a hard time seeing a team trade a major league ready power hitter and a major league ready starter, even if they can afford to do it. And the Nats, like I said, don't want help later. They want help now. Plus, in a crazy lucky world, Espy could get surgery now, be back for the start of the season, hitting like he always has and playing SS as good or better than Desmond.

No, I don't endorse this plan, but you come up with a better one. No one else needs a SS and has enough decent young players to give back immediately to the Nats.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Second Base

Presumed Plan :  Anthony Rendon will continue to serve as the Nats second baseman. Seems likely at this juncture that Steve Lombardozzi will be kept and serve as the MI back-up.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Anthony Rendon performed adequately at second base (.265 / .329 / .396) after taking the reins. While that's not a great line it would put him squarely in the middle for 2nd base production. He's also a decent to good fielder, whose current issues lie with errors, something potentially correctable. He was a top prospect putting up a .319 / .461 / .603 line in AA this year. Everything seems to suggest that he has upside to grow into a star at the position.

There aren't really any good alternatives. The former second baseman Danny Espinosa, along with the Nationals organization, is having a problem perceiving reality. While common sense tells even the dullest of dullards that a player who put up remarkably consistent numbers for almost 4 years, through minors and majors, who suddenly became a different hitter right after he got injured is probably suffering from injury related issues, the Nats and/or Danny refuse to admit it. Instead he gets his swing tinkered with and continues to not hit in AAA. What a surprise. Great. I mean we should all be REALLY REALLY mad at this. Even if you didn't like Danny because you take offense to be 99% of a player's value, and take batting average and strikeouts to be 99% of offensive value*, he was still a commodity. He was something somebody would have given the Nats something for. The Nats basically burnt a $20 bill in front of your eyes.

Steve Lombardozzi has his moments. But moments are like fish in the sea. There is a lot more water out there and the water says no patience, no power, not all that fast, average at best in the field. That's not a starter. But he can do other things. He plays adequately at SS and 3B, hits for .265 or so, and rarely strikes out. He's not all that slow so he can pinch run and he can bunt. Not quite a "jack of all trades", maybe an "8 of clubs of all trades", a smart manager can use a player like Lombo. 

Problems with Presumed Plan :  A potential issue is that Rendon didn't really perform adequately. He performed great (.330 in June) then terrible (.187 in July) then ok (~.280 from then on out). So if the real Rendon is closer to July than anything else, the Nats will have a problem. He didn't hit all that well in AAA remember.

The real problem though is that Rendon isn't Danny in the field. He can't run like Danny which is a small minus and he can't field like Danny which is a bigger one. Danny helped out the defense as a whole, especially, it seems, the aging LaRoche. Of course you can't bring Danny back if he's not hitting so it's something you just have to swallow.

Another issue is that Rendon is a known injury risk. Bad ankles cost him time in college then most of his first year in the pros. Lombardozzi isn't a full-time player so do the Nats need someone better as a back-up? 

My take : Rendon is an easy call. His prospect status and his performance, especially the good enough last couple months, earned him a long leash for 2014.  Maybe he can't be put in pen as the starter all year, but he'd have to slump all the way to the All-Star break to make me suggest a change. I don't think July Rendon is the real one (any more than I think June Rendon is) that's just something you have to accept when starting someone with little major league experience. The fielding issue? If he's good enough and LaRoche isn't the problem really isn't with Rendon, now is it?As for the injury risk, he's young enough I'm willing to take that chance.

I really do like Lombo as the last guy on the bench. He can make contact and you need that kind of bat sometimes just like you need one that can put it over the fence. Granted you need the latter far more than the former, and you hope the former can be done by someone that can do the latter  but you still need the former.

Cano? It's an interesting idea in theory but I'm not sure how to make it work in practice. He's not going to get 10 years or 30 million per. We all saw what happened since Pujols, at about the same age, got a 10 year 24 million dollar deal. No one is doing that for Cano. But the Yanks need him back and if the Dodgers don't win it all they might be clamoring for that one more player to put them over the top. He'll get a lot. 8 years 200 mill? Do you want the Nats to do that?

It's a dilemma. They need an offensive bump and because they don't have obvious holes they need a really good player to do that. But really good players cost money. Right now I'm saying this is a non-starter. With ZNN, Desmond need contract extensions soon (not to mention Clippard). Ramos and Strasburg right after that at a point where they will still have almost 50 mill committed to Werth, Zimm, and Gio (probably), I just don't think the money is there to do something like this.Or more accurately, the money is there, I just don't trust the Lerners to spend it. Sign Cano and sign all these guys is Plan A1.  Plan A2 is just sign all these guys.

Outside the Box Suggestion :

Move Rendon to 3rd, put Zimmerman at second. Hey! I said "outside the box".  Zimm's issues are routine plays where he has to think about it. Shorter time frame to throw it means less time to think about it. Problem solved! As Zimm's offensive skills diminish it won't be as problematic since his comparitives are 2nd baseman rather than slugging 3rd basemen. If he keeps hitting maybe he goes to 1st next year. Meanwhile Rendon gets to be as comfortable as possible in a position with a lot less running (save those ankles), as he tries to become a star hitter in the majors.

*99% chance you have brain damage.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monday Quickie - Quick Shots

FYI I'll be trying to do a Monday - Tuesday - Thursday schedule in the offseason with news dictating if I break that. I'll still tweet when new ones are up though if you don't like being on schedule.

Quick replies to C/1B comments

How about Ryan Doumit? 

Not a bad idea. They guy can play 1B and C (though not well) and can sit in the OF as well as say, Tyler Moore can. He can also hit lefty to complement Ramos and righty to complement LaRoche (though historically he's not a good right handed hitter). He's not meant to be an everyday player but as a bench player on a good team he's a good choice. Of course he was concussed last year, but he still plans on playing C in 2014. Do the Nats have what it takes to get him? Not sure. The Nats don't have a deep system and can't afford to trade anything worthwhile. Are the Twins going to deal him? They'd love to move Mauer out of the position and Doumit gives them some flexibility to do it. Again not a bad idea in theory, not sure it can work out in practice.

Will Geovany Soto seek out starters money and time? 

Maybe but he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2008 and hit under .200 in 2012, so I'm not sure who's betting on this guy being a starter. I'd expect him to end up a back-up somewhere.

How about Jose Abreu?

It's a gamble. One that paid off so far for the A's with Cespedes (just barely though - his 2013 left a lot to be desired), but these things can get out of hand quickly. Kei Igawa anyone? Still hitters are more projectable than pitchers and 1B is weak for FAs over the next few years. Seems though that the Nats aren't really in for him. As has been noted by others, signing Desmond, ZNN long term might be better use of money right now.

Why not move Bryce to first to keep him healthy? 

It'd be a waste of an arm and even if he's only ever going to be average out there he's still average out there. Zimm's troubles might pop up again. Werth might need a resting place. You can always try to move FA boppers there. There are better 1B options than Bryce for the next few years.

Maybe Moore will "get it" and flourish. It happens.

Yep it does. It also doesn't happen more often than it does. But his age and inability to offer anything else to the team makes it a fair gamble to let Moore go if needed, in my opinion. It's safer to deal him than say, the younger, more athletic Zach Walters, who also K's a bunch.

What about Walters at first? Or Skole? 

My opinion on both is the same. Wait and see. Let's see what Skole does in the AFL and how both do next year. They are probably Moore-like players, but maybe one breaks out. I won't depend on either right now though.

What about sliding Zimm over to First? 

Not next year (unless it's a Cano thing, which we'll talk about tomorrow). The FA market just isn't good enough to definitely get someone better than LaRoche without paying through the nose.

Why do you want Jeff Baker? That guy had one good fluke year!

Yeah, you're buying high off a year that won't be repeated but here's the thing. Baker vs LHP :

2013:  .314 / .407 / .667
2012:  .240 / .277 / .388
2011:  .314 / .349 / .463
2010:  .350 / .395 / .550

He's not an everyday replacement for LaRoche, but the guy can hit lefties or at least he's a good bet to next season. Building a bench is about making good bets. The Nats made a lot of bad ones last year.

The fielding wasn't bad, it was a fluke of looking at one year of fielding data.

Maybe. I completely agree with the fact you can't look at one year of fielding data. I also think the Nats D peaked in 2012. Werth is trending down. LaRoche wasn't very good before so him not being very good now is not a surprise. Bryce doesn't look to be improving to me. Zimm is a question mark. I think it's fair to say the Nats aren't a bad fielding team, but I think they are only in the average to slightly above average range. I don't think they'll be back near elite like they were in 2012.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : First Base

Presumed Plan : Adam LaRoche will continue to be the starter at first base.  Tyler Moore will likely take up the primary back-up role, fitting in somewhere between a true back-up and a platoon.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Adam Laroche had an off year but offensively it wasn't as horrible as it seemed. A marked increase in OBP (.095 isoOBP) helped offset a big drop in SLG (isoSLG .239 to .166). He still hit righties for ok pop and with a return to career level BABIP he should put up a more typical unimpressive LaRochesque year in 2014, which not coincidentally he is being paid 12 million for.

Tyler Moore has proven over the last 2 years that he does not belong in AAA, putting up a .315 / .390 / .620 line over the course of two seasons. His right handedness complements LaRoche well and he can provide cheap late inning pop off the bench. 

Problems with Presumed Plan :  Adam LaRoche overall did have a horrible year. His mid career defensive renaissance has passed and once again he's a statue, albeit one with soft hands*. He continues to be surprisingly slow in general. Offensively there are problems too. His slumps seem to be getting longer, not only did he open with his typical slow start (.159 / .227 / .284) but his July (.136 / .213 / .259) was a big reason the complete team took a month to get going. His power drop is concerning as he was well below his career isoSLG of .210. He's almost a punch and judy hitter versus lefties now, "slugging" at a .336 rate.

Of course the alternative, Tyler Moore, has bigger issues. Those impressive AAA line have come in fairly limited play (29 games last year, 45 this year) and his major league performances have been less than impressive. After June of last year he's hit all of .220 with an unacceptable .265 OBP.  While he has shown some pop in the past, this season he has not. Even in his hot stretch at the end he only hit 1 home run and a few doubles. And as you probably know, he doesn't offer anything else to a ball club outside of what he does at the plate.

My take : Basically the Nats are stuck as there is a dearth of first basemen on the market. I look at it and throw up my hands. Adam LaRoche is the starter. Hope he bounces back next year rather than crashes out. Honestly though he should be just ok and we should all just be happy we get that.

Is Tyler Moore the back-up? Not in my world. I've never liked what I've seen from the kid as he has no strike zone recognition. Now, I will note that he does seem to hit a lot better when he starts. I think he is a type that responds to playing time. So a platoon then? Well, if we're doing a strict platoon I would want Jeff Baker first. That guy kills lefties and plays a decent first. Failing that then I suppose you can TRY Moore, but with the very short leash that should have existed in 2013. I wouldn't be happy about that though. If you aren't platooning than Moore doesn't have much use on the bench, other than the fact that he indeed hits RH. I guess I might try a Lyle Overbay to back-up and provide some defensive help at the position. (but honestly can the Nats be convinced LaRoche hasn't got range and would need a late inning D replacement?) 

Outside the Box Suggestion :
I toyed with moving someone to first but LaRoche shouldn't be terrible next year so moving him to the bench rather than a dominant platoon position would only be worth it if you could sign someone really good in this move. I'm not sure there's anyone available that I'd think of like that. Maybe if you could get Hart or Choo for cheaper/fewer years than we think they'd go for you could try Werth at first (or Hart for that matter) but that's gonna have to wait until the market plays out (and how often do you see guys go for less than you think they will?) So platoon idea it is.

Platoon yes, but bring back Mike Morse to do it. Now hear me out. He might be terrible at the plate and he will almost certainly be terrible in the field but you are buying super low right now. We're talking near minor league contract levels after the crappy season he put up in 2013. Sign him for peanuts, for one year, and give it a go with him as LaRoche's platoon partner. Something about Morse and the Nats worked, maybe moving back here to a league he grew familiar with would help him find a spark. If it doesn't work out you cut him and whatever. As for Moore, see if he can put up those great AAA numbers in... you know... at least half a AAA season. If he does that than maybe he warrants a closer look.

*Danny Espinosa where are you! It's funny that Span came in, and played great defense but the team as a  whole crashed. Zimm played in and lost his range. LaRoche and Werth are aging out. Bryce looks more and more average the more time he spends out there. It was a team built with defense in mind but right now might only have two good defensive players. Luckily they are up the middle but still.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Catcher

Presumed Plan : The Nats will once again pencil Wilson Ramos in as the full-time starter. They will fill in the back-up role with whatever junk they can find.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Wilson Ramos has been the "next" starter since the year after being acquired. However a rash of injuries (torn ACL in 2012, hamstring issues in 2013) has limited him to just over 100 games in the past two years. When he has been healthy he has performed well enough offensively (.269 / .327 / .449 over past 3 seasons) to put himself in mix of the Top 10 hitting catchers. There's also potential there (.354 OBP last year, .470 SLG this year) for something special if it all comes together in the same year. His defense can be erratic but is generally viewed favorably. He is entering arbitation this year which will put him in line for a raise but he will still be cheap in relation to how much he should be paid. All in all, if you can look past the injury issue, it's a no-brainer to make Wilson the starter.

As for the back-up decision, finding a good back-up catcher is hard. Here are some of the lines put up by guys that got over 150 ABs this year. Hanigan .198 / .306 / .261, Mathis .181 / .251 / .284, Phegly .206 / .223 / .299, Maldanado .169 / .236 / .284. Given how little production you get, the difference between spending a little and spending nothing is virtually non-existant. So why spend anything? If you can find a lefty bat to complement Ramos who's a good defender well that's good enough right?

Problems with Presumed Plan : Wilson Ramos has played just over 100 games the past 2 years. As injury risks go, he's near the top. If he remains healthy, things work; if he doesn't, things fall apart fast. You see those terrible lines up there? Jhonaton Solano, the most likely internal solution, would kill to hit that well. .146 / .180 / .188 this year. Outside of last years minor bench role (EVERYONE hit last year) he's shown no proclivity to hit well even in the minors. Sandy Leon is a bit more promising, if only because of his age (25 next year - Solano will turn 29 in August of next season) but last year's performance at the plate makes 2012's look like a fluke rather than a revelation. If the Nats go with the usual plan and Ramos goes down they could be looking at a huge gaping hole in the lineup.

My take : I think the presumed plan can work, if Rizzo is willing to act quickly if Ramos goes down. Why spend money on a guy that may never play?  Of course, Rizzo has shown no such ability to make these kinds of in-season moves. Therefore I think it's worthwhile to spend money on the best possible back-up the Nats can get.

Who is that exactly?  Probably Geovany Soto (.245 / .328 / .466 - 31). The better ones (Salty, McCann, Navarro, Pierzynski) are likely to get starting gigs. Carlos Ruiz would like to return to Philly and they'd like to have him. That leaves us in an area with John Buck (older, not as good a hitter), Humberto Quintero (older, really not as good a hitter), and Ramon Hernandez (really older, might be done). I suppose you could look at Brayan Pena, as he switch hits with some level of skill, but he might be turning into a mess behind the plate after years of average play. And of course there is always bringing Suzuki back, but I see a guy on the way out.

So that's what I would do. Ramos starter, Soto back-up, if possible.

Outside the Box Suggestion : There really isn't a good outside the box suggestion here that keeps Ramos on the team. You don't move young cheap catchers to other positions. However how about this : Trade Ramos. As a young cheap catcher he is a fairly wanted commodity.  Put him in a package for David Price and then sign Brain McCann weaking your main rival and bringing in the best choice for production the next couple of years. Sure he's an injury risk but you were willing to start Ramos who's a bigger one, right?  Win now. Let the team disintegrate in 2016.