Nationals Baseball: Off-Season Position Discussion : Outfield

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Off-Season Position Discussion : Outfield

There was no area of the Nats team more unsettled than OF last year, specifically CF and LF.  (Oh ok, middle relief pitching but that's par for course for any baseball team.) While Thomas manned RF for 148 games* doing both better at the plate and worse in the field than expected, the others had no stability.  

Oh they tried in CF, forcing Alex Call into the position for almost half the season after Robles got hurt. But Call was so bad with the bat (.200/ .307 / .307) that the Nats couldn't keep doing that. So they played Jacob Young (not good), Derek Hill (very bad) and even Lane Thomas (shouldn't be there) but found no answers.  

LF was even harder though there they might have found something in Stone Garrett.  Hitting .269 / .343 / .457 with decent defense it seemed like the Nats found themselves another dia... well tasteful piece of jewelry in the rough. But Garrett broke his leg and much like CF the other options tried all year; Dickerson, Call, Alu, Rutherford, Blakenhorn, and Vargas, didn't stick.

 But that's ok right? Because if the Nats have anything it's young OFers in the minors . Draft pick Dylan Crews, traded for players James Wood and Robert Hassell, random guys they liked before like Jeremy De La Rosa, or like more now like Daylen Lile.  The solution wasn't expected to be found in 2023.

Presumed Plan : 

Huh. Well Thomas will play RF. That's given. If we assume his poor D was more a fluke of yearly defensive stats (more likely) than a downward trend (less likely) he will be fine if not the Werth like figure they'd love to make him into. They've brought back Robles so he will probably be in CF, if only to play out the string on his Nats career. LF will be Stone Garrett if he's healthy. If not... I guess a random OF FA would be the choice. Something meh usually shakes out for cheap. 

Alex Call, who they love more than life itself, can play defense so probably sticks on the roster as the 4th OF.   

Reasoning behind Presumed Plan : 

OF is the Nats position of the future and they fully expect to have at least one young guy if not two starting on OD 2025, so they aren't going to pony up for a long term OF signing. Thomas is fine. Garrett would be fine. Robles seems to be the guy they can't quit but also can't fix.  As I noted they love Call and a defense first 4th OF makes sense as Thomas didn't look very good and Robles is probably the shakiest of the guys to hold their position.  

That's, of course, if Garrett is healthy. He may not be and if that's the case look for the Nats in late January early February to scour the OF market for the best cheapest option because, like I said, there isn't much reason to put money here when your prayers are you are starting a rookie here in July. This is a spot to save money for the team where fans can't really go after them because the plan is clear. They are going to take advantage of that.

My Take :  

Another holding pattern year isn't exciting but it's what the team needs to do. Of course they could go big but doing that at 1B or DH makes more sense than OF and as we keep saying SP is the one they really should do this for. I would have released Robles, better for him and the Nats, but GMs hate to lose and if someone else got Robles to be good (a distinct possibility in my eyes) Rizzo would flip. With Robles here you play him and you of course play Thomas who isn't as good as he's made out to be but he's a perfectly cromulent 3rd OF. 

LF is a question that Garrett answers well enough.  If he doesn't heal fast enough though I worry that the Nats will slap Call in there and "call it a day" (Ha!) and that will be bad. They should at least take a chance on someone else at this point. Because it would be very cheap to do so, I have them doing just that and there are going to be guys out there that won't hurt the team. Get a win or two better for a million bucks. It'll be worth it 

 *second most? Garrett and Call each played RF for 5 games. 


Ryan said...

fine with this, but I'd put Young in over Call, he's younger and I think we've all had enough of Call

G Cracka X said...

I agree with Ryan

John C. said...

Yeah, add my voice to the "hey, Jacob Young says hello" chorus. Note that none of us are saying that Young should be regarded as good, although he was good for month+ of work in 2023 and that he's a success story for a 2021 7th round pick (his 0.7 bWAR in 2023 compares to the 0.1 bWAR for all of the other players taken in the round. Heck, it's better than anyone else taken in rounds 5-10 (I didn't check after that). What we are saying is that (1) while not "good," he's likely to be better than Alex Call; and (2) he should at least be mentioned as in the mix for 2024.

Also, Harper, for a self-confessed soulless automaton, you sure lean into snarky, unsourced sarcasm. "Alex Call, who they love more than life itself." Please. And the assumption that the reason that Robles is on the roster is only because GMs hate to lose and that "if someone else got Robles to be good Rizzo would flip." I still enjoy the page, but despite the snark, not because of it.

Harper said...

John C.

to de-snark it :
They clearly are very high on Alex Call's defense to the point where they would allow him to hurt the team with a below average bat for a long portion of 2023 hoping the bat would turn around based on little more than a surprise offense output in 2022. Until I see otherwise I suggest they might start 2024 pushing ahead with the same strategy pushing Young back to AAA. I would also like Young over Call. It's a better move.

baseball management is made up of people and people make decisions based on more than pure numbers, especially an older school guy like Rizzo. I believe his first move ever as a GM was to DFA Daniel Cabrera because he "was sick of watching him pitch". Robles wouldn't be here if he had no talent but it's hard to look at his overall usage and think the Nats have a firm plan for him. With a guy this close to FA, history of lack of performance, and history of injury I think most teams would pass on keeping him moving on to something that fits more solidly in the "ok placeholder" role. That the Nats are not suggests to me they may have some feelings. It could be a desire to "finish the job", or a commitment to doing their best for a player. But neither feels right to me either.

I think in general across MLB (though I'd need to back this up with data) that DFAs lean toward guys that have shorter times with the team once controlling for skill/age. Part of that is feeling the know the players better but part of that is believing you recongnized something and wanting to get that out. If someone else does what you could not that feels bad. That's a universal feeling.

John C. said...

If you prefer Young as an option you probably would have been better served mentioning him in the OP. But at least we’re on the same page there.

The defense of the snark seems to me to amount to “I will project the motivations of others based on my narrative.” Which seems sketchy to me. But this is the internet, so you have a lot more company in that than I do. Carry on

Harper said...

I say I don't like Call as the 3rd OF if Garrett isn't ready. I'd rather have a FA than Young though. I can't say I gave 4th OF much thought as a true 4th OF so that's why I didn't mention Young. No doing so. Yes, Young.

I suppose I could say "The Nats are keeping Robles. This is not what I expected based on his performance, injury history, and the Nats needs. I do not speculate on motivations" but that seems more weasely than soulless. I'm going to guess why. It's going to be influenced on my perceptions. Some snark will slip through depending on my mood. As long as my perceptions don't wholly influence what I think the performance of the team at hand will be* I'm ok with it.

*Currently - bad! worse that last year by random variation coming back at them

PotomacFan said...

@John C.: Hey, a little bit of snark makes Harper's insight more entertaining.
@Harper: Keep up the good work. I enjoy this site because you and the folks weighing in stick to the topic, with a bit of (gallows) humor where warranted.

Expos 1983 Blog said...

I vote for snark. Don't really care who plays outfield for this team until the prospects come.

Anonymous said...

Wait, what?
What does Lewis Carroll have to do with baseball?

Matt said...

Also pro snark. (Where it crosses the line for me is when angryfan69 is sure that if only they were in charge the team would go 162-0. Harper is a long way from that).

That said, not sure the snark is justified in the case of Robles. He's cheap, if they're willing to cut him in the future then he won't get in the way of younger players, and I'd say there's a small chance that he could finally put it together and be worth a little bit of something (not a lot) at the trade deadline. Or at least, the odds of this are as good for him as anyone else they might realistically put in there or sign. So why not?

Chaos56 said...

Y'all missing the transition that has apparently occurred. Having christened the man with "Souless Automaton" when he deconstructed my argument that the Nats would pick up at least .75 RPG back in '12, I believe we may be seeing a new software version for the automaton. Clearly some AI has been blended in in the form of sarcasm in order to make him "more human". It worked.

Now as far as the OF goes, he hits the nail on the head once again. Thomas is set (but could move if the kids are alright). 1B? DH? Who knows. You have to give Robles one more chance because the potential is still there and maybe by the time those youngsters are ready for the Show, he'll have a tiny bit of trade value. Outside of that, the Nats are clearly hoping they will have at least 2 under 22 year old outfielders by mid summer. This is probably the most fun part of the rebuild following the boys up the ladder. My personal concern is that they play too well and get moved to AAA too early. Purely selfish, but the Harrisburg squad is coming to NH to play my now local FisherCats for 6 games the second week in May.

Still the best blog on the street. You should feel for the Red Sox fans, who appear to be deluding themselves for a second straight year that they have a decent team. You want to look at a flawed build? Come to Fenway and their fans.

=- Chaos