The hot start by our Nationals this spring has gradually turned into a 7 game losing streak. Most worrisome, the patchwork of starting pitchers have pretty much all turned in their worst outings of the spring recently. While part of that is due to hitters finding their rhythm later in the spring than pitchers, I can only hope our starting five regain some form and also some confidence. Some offensive outbursts by the team around them would help in the confidence regard as well. I just hope they do not try and pick up Oliver Perez now that he has been released by the Mets. I’d rather give some of our youngsters an opportunity to show what they’ve got instead.
By the way, even though I was in favor of keeping Dunn this past offseason, it certainly looks like we ended up with the better of the 3 first basemen we were targeting over the winter. LaRoche is expected to be his usual consistent self and has hit .343 so far, while Derrek Lee just played in his first spring training game, and concerns linger about thumb, wrist, and potentially foot injuries. Carlos Lee has been fine so far for the Cubs, but looking at the three of them right now, I’m glad we ended up with LaRoche.
I took a full 24 hours to decompress after the Werth signing, so this post is a lot more toned down then the one I initially drafted. I always thought the Nats ownership was cheap, but I didn’t know that they also really lacked intelligence. We wouldn’t give Adam Dunn a 4th year on a deal at $14 million per season but we’ll give Jayson Werth 7 years and $18 million per season? JAYSON WERTH HAS NEVER EVEN HAD 100 RBI IN A SEASON. You could have had Carl Crawford for that kind of money, or probably even less. Sorry for the all caps, but it was cathartic for me. I feel better. Now if Crawford gets more money than that, he can send a nice thank you note and fruit basket to Werth for setting the market at an absurd level. Thankfully since everyone other than the Nationals organization is expressing their shock at this deal, I don’t have to rattle on too long about it. Plus, as I already predicted in a post on October 15, this signing will not end well. I’m sure Jayson Werth is a heck of a guy, but when we are 3 years into this 7 year deal, you will be seeing this deal listed next to other $100 million DC blunders such as Haynesworth and Arenas.
Josh Willingham: I was hoping that talk of him playing first base was just a crazy idea from Bill Ladson, but the fact that Willingham has commented on it means the team has at least floated the idea. I’ve already mentioned how ridiculous this is. He said he could learn how to field ground balls in spring training. So we want to replace Dunn with someone who has to learn how to field ground balls again? Who is much shorter than Dunn and coming off of an injury? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy, but I want to start winning at some point. Also, you heard it here first, but that knee will be a problem again next season for Willingham. He injured it back in the summer. They said it was a meniscus tear. Now they are saying he will begin baseball activities again around Christmas time. Conversely, Brandon Banks of the Redskins had a meniscus tear and subsequent surgery on November 3rd. He is suiting up and playing tonight again the eagles. It’s football. He gets hit on the knee every time to has the ball. He weighs 150 pounds.
Something else is wrong with Willingham’s knee. The only silver lining is that Morse may end up playing first base and given a chance to get his bat in the lineup every day.
Also, I hope the Nats’ “attempt” to sign Lee does not keep receiving press. Hopefully he’ll just sign with the Yankees or Rangers quickly and get it over with. There is zero chance that he would sign with us. They are just going to make him an offer as a PR move for the team. Sorry to be so pessimistic, but it’s just sad to predict and then watch another offseason unfold like this. I hope team ownership proves me wrong.
That would be the 5-day countdown until Adam Dunn becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Nats have a 5 day window to exclusively negotiate with Dunn before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If they don’t sign him within this 5 day period, he is gone. There is no reason why they would wait and get into a competitive bidding war with another team for his services and decide later that they are willing to pay a premium for him. So in other words, he is gone. The team may as well have announced as much when they sent this e-mail to season ticket holders last week:
HAPPY HALLOWEEN NATS FANS! VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE NATIONALS PUMPKIN & ENTER TO WIN AN OFFICIAL GAME-WORN ADAM DUNN JERSEY
They are trying to unload all of his gear because it will be more or less worthless to the team 5 days from now. It’s really sad that the Lerners just look at our team as a business and not as a team to be built into winners. I hope they prove me wrong, but it looks like the only way things will improve is if Selig retires (for those who don’t know, he gift-wrapped this team to the Lerners instead of other competing bidders who were actually serious about baseball). Once Selig retires, hopefully his replacement will put pressure on chronically under-spending and underachieving clubs to do more to put competitive teams on the field. Having more cities around the country be enthusiastic about baseball would be good for MLB and they know this. It especially hits home during the playoffs when they want high TV ratings nationwide, not just in the competing cities. One start could be restructuring the luxury tax. I realize that it was intended to help the smaller market teams, but as we learned when the Pirates’ books were opened earlier this year, in some cases it can enable under-spending teams to put a terrible product on the field and still turn a profit. We need to find a way to fix that.
I appreciate Bill Ladson’s enthusiasm/interest in the Nationals, but I wonder how he could possibly come up with some of these personnel ideas for the Nationals and actually think they are remotely wise moves. I realize some of these are rumors that he’s hearing from the Nats’ front office. Here my are comments in response to these suggestions for a potential Adam Dunn replacement:
Carlos Pena, Rays: He hit .196 this season. Please be serious.
Aubrey Huff, Giants: He hit .290/26/86 this season. He will be 34 in a few months. Next season he’ll be lucky to go .270/24/78. Is that really an upgrade?
Paul Kornerko, White Sox: He’ll be 35 years old next season. He had 100 RBIs for the first time in 4 years. Yes, he had a renaissance year. It’s not going to happen again.
Adam LaRoche, D-Backs: He hit .261 this year. Dunn hit .260. Only if he comes real cheap.
James Loney, Dodgers: Not much power and hit .267 this year. I’m still firmly against a trade for someone like this when you could sign a free agent who has better numbers without giving up a player.
Josh Willingham: Willingham has played three games at the first base. Why would the Nats think his defense at 1B would be any better than Dunn’s? This is a ridiculous suggestion.
Jayson Werth, Phillies: He will be 32 early next season and will be looking for a final big contact for financial security. He can’t even get to 100 RBI batting in a potent Phillies lineup. If the Nats sign him, look for him to average .255/22/70 over most of 3 seasons before being released by the team. You heard it here first.
Now that that baseball is breathing a collective, if temporary, sigh during this post-trade deadline week, let’s pause to take a look at what the Nats did (and didn’t do). As I had recommended earlier, we made the right move and traded Capps. In the the process we may have picked up our catcher of the future. We moved Guzman, who was a very capable hitter, for 2 pitching prospects that are having solid seasons (but not exactly kids at 25 and 26).
We held onto Adam Dunn instead of trading him for a pitcher who has an ERA over 5 this season and whose career average is not much below that. This made a lot of fans happy (including this one) and hopefully the Nats’ next move will be to try and repair some of the feelings between the 2 sides and get Dunn inked to that 4 year, 60 million dollar deal. Exposing him to waivers was not a great start. His price may have just gone up. We must have him in the lineup for his production and also as protection for Zim and the pitches Zim sees. Let’s get this done asap.
I’m not going to go into a player by player review of what the Nats have accomplished or failed to accomplish this season. However, I’m going to share a few key thoughts about how the Nats should approach the second half of the season.
Put on the trading block any pitcher on the active roster not named Strasburg, Storen or Clippard. You’ll notice I did not protect Capps there. While Capps is having a great year, holding onto a solid closer is not as critical when you are not headed to the post-season. And he could probably bring more in return right now than any other non-protected pitcher on the staff. Plus, he’s not making a ton of money this season, so a lot of teams would jump at the chance to have him. More on this later.
Play Nyjer every day in center until July 31st, hope for a surge, and try and trade him too. If he is not traded by the 31st and he has not gotten more consistent in every aspect of his game, then beginning in August make Bernie the starting CF and start Morse in right the rest of the season. We need to see if these guys are going to be able to be everyday players next season.
Trade Guz if we can get anything decent in return. Sign Dunn now to an extension.
Finally, we have got to be active in the free agent market this offseason. We need 2 quality starting pitchers, a closer if Capps is traded, another solid setup man, a big name second baseman who can hit for power and average, and a big bat in RF if Bernie or Morse don’t look like the solution by the end of the season. SPEND THE MONEY Lerners! We can’t wait any longer for the guys in the farm system to mature and hopefully become stars at the major league level. If you wait 3 more years, Zim’s contract will be up and who know if he’ll really re-sign here if we haven’t shown a commitment to winning by then. We don’t need to be buyers at the trade deadline. But please, be buyers in the offseason. If only takes cash to do that; you don’t have to part with top prospects. Take a chance on spending some money. We could contend next year if we do this. Thanks for reading.