Nationals Baseball: Off Season Position Discussion - Outfield

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Off Season Position Discussion - Outfield

Was OF an actual positive for the Nats in 2022? Probably not. I mean yes, it was given they had 2/3rds a season of Juan Soto in RF and Soto is one of the best hitters in the game today even in an off year. You take him out and the Nats OF, which ranked like 4th or 5th best in the NL this year, would be much lower. So it's not a positive. But unlike SP, and 2B, and 3B, AND SS AAANNNNDD DH the Nats wouldn't rank at or near the bottom. It wasn't a negative either. They had a perfectly cromulent year in the OF even without Soto.

Soto of course hit so awesome that it didn't matter than he fielded like crap. Which side note, I've been telling you guys for YEARS Soto couldn't field. That maybe bc he's so young and hit so well, you could suck it up through his FA year but it wouldn't be much after that when you simply HAD to move him. All yooooouuuu guys (pointing at everyone) said "Oh no, he's getting better!" "Oh he's fine!"  He stinks!  I was right!  And a mix of Yadi Hernandez (LF), Lane Thomas (LF/CF), and Victor Robles (CF) manning the other positions. Robles, who got his fielding back could compensate for Soto, and Yadi was hitting a little. It wasn't a winning major league outfield but it was a working major league outfield. Then Soto was dealt and the Nats had to make due. Josh Palacios, Joey Meneses and Alex Call all got tryouts and the latter two sort of stuck. Because of that Robles got squeezed out. But none of these guys can really play CF so it was a compromise in any direction they went. Still it could be worse  

Presumed Plan : Thomas mans CF while Call/Yadi and a FA veteran cover the corners. 

Reasons for Presumed Plan : For CF they have slowly but consistently given up on Robles, who they deem an attitude issue more than a talent one.  If Robles isn't here Thomas likely handles center unless they bring in a D guy, which might happen. But given the general newfound respect for them contract wise (see Taylor, Michael A) I don't think the Nats will win any bidding contests. That leaves them picking up more of a bat/corner OF guy.

Call was good but the audition was very short. Yadi was good to start with the bat, but he's a questionable fielder got hurt and is 35. That's not a good combination to rely on. This could be "eh" again or it could be a dumpster fire. Therefore grabbing a guy to bring in another body which probably won't cost much more than a few million and might be your biggest FA signing makes too much sense for it not to happen.

Does Robles get downgraded to a 4th/5th OF defensive specialist? Or does he get dealt for a similar "2nd chance" player somewhere in the league? I'm not sure. I can't see the Nats spending money on TWO FA OFs but there might be someone who slips through the cracks and can be picked up dirt cheap or a "minor league deal". Robbie Grossman? Tommy Pham? if only D matters in this spot, JBJ? 

My take :

They go into this year with everyone they had at the end of the year back so they could do nothing but one would think they will do something at a place so easily upgradeable for not a lot of money.  

If you are worried about them making a big mistake that's unlikely. The only guy to really build around is Judge and the Nats won't be in on that. Nimmo and Benintendi will get the next biggest deals. After that it gets dicey with a lot of very flawed guys. Hurt guys, guys coming off bad years, guys getting old.  It's a roll the dice situation whereever you look. Wil Myers, who regressed to not a good hitter while remaining an unimpressive fielder, will probably get a decent contract just because he can give you stability. 

The Nats don't need stability. They aren't building anything soon that a 32+ yo old is going to matter for. At least not one at this level. Instead they need a gamble and there is one that fits the Nats perfectly.  Michael Conforto.  Boras wants him on a big deal but after sitting a year with shoulder issues and coming off his least impressive year, Conforto has to prove himself again. A no pressure situation with a heavily incentivized contract and an opt out after this season... I think that could work. The Nats wouldn't want any long deals - the aim here is for the Corbin deal to get off. So a two year deal might be enough.  The money is probably too much of a gamble for a team that wants to win, but for a team that simply wants not to be terrible and have a player that someone could want enough to hand over more than a broken A-ball player? It might be just right. 

I hate what's happened to Robles, but at this point I think he should be dealt. He has more value as a trade piece than here. If he does well elsewhere good for him. And yes, he'd bring back a Fedde type at best - a first rounder who never got it and is this close to being released himself. But they sat on Robles for trade purposes then they sat him on the bench. They have far less now with him than if they dealt him 3+ years ago. Don't make the mistake of holding on until all you can do is release him. And if you don't trade him you have to play him. That's the crux of it. You have to get value one way or another. 

The OF will be a problem, but in the scheme of things it's not the worst problem. It's in holding pattern of mediocrity until the kids like Hassell & Wood move up and a place to put whatever bat that should really be at 1B or DH but those positions are full.  The alternative is you make it interesting.  Go out and sign Albert Amora, Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara. Last Chance Party. Ballpark of Misfit Toys.  Hey, it's going to be a LOOOOOONG season. Give us something.


DezoPenguin said...

Yeah, I agree with you up and down the line here. It is an endless source of amusement that Juan Soto is a Gold Glove finalist. Sure, the award is basically the Derek Jeter Memorial Best Hitter I've Heard Of At The Position Award, but it's still comical.

Thomas is the only one of these guys who definitely belongs on a major league roster. I'd really like if he could hit enough to play a corner, because his CF defense is "we can tolerate it" instead of actually good. It would help if he didn't take a two-month snooze to start the season.

Robles, yeah, he should be traded to someone who sees his raw talent and his 2019 success and thinks they can do better player development than the Nats. Probably there's someone who indeed can.

Yadi's fielding was so bad that he was literally sub-replacement level. I don't mind him being the backup 1B/DH/primary PH guy, but having him play the outfield on purpose doesn't even qualify as a plan.

Love the idea of a Conforto signing to a typical 1-year "prove you can still play, get traded to an actual contender if you're good" contract. The Nats can actually give him the full-time playing time he'd want to prove that. Hassell and Wood aren't going to reach the majors this year, after all. Possibly even a second player could be signed to a similar, Schwarber-esque deal. Call can start in LF and stay there if he's adequate.

Anonymous said...

I can admit I was wrong about Soto's defense improving. The low-effort version we saw this year was really quite ugly. I don't exactly blame him for phoning it in, but wow.

And I'm definitely on board with the Conforto idea. It just looks like a really good fit, and in some ways you'd think he'd rather be on a team like the Nats than sign with a contender. He gets a longer leash here, like Dezo says, but he also has a free shot at the spotlight -- he might be our all star! And, if he plays well, he gets traded to a contender for the playoffs anyway.

Trading Robles is an interesting idea. If someone thinks they can help fix his approach at the plate (and on the bases), that would probably be the best thing for him. But I'm just not sure what's out there. Would we rather have another Fedde than a plus defender as OF4? I'd rather get a lottery ticket low minors arm or two. Can't have too many of those. But I also wouldn't be surprised if there's just no demand for him.

Assuming we can't move him, my preference is to sign 2 OF FAs and drop Robles to OF4, but if we want to try Robles in CF for one more go round and only sign one, I guess that's fine too.

What I don't want is Call or Palacios as opening day starters.

John C. said...

How does Yadi being outrighted off the 40-man roster (he cleared waivers and was assigned to AAA) affect your "presumed plan?" I'm not being snarky, I'm adding at data point here.

Anonymous said...

Bellinger! Bellinger! Bellinger!!!