A couple of things just give me a warm feeling. Mike Rizzo saying they’ve pretty much laid their offer to LaRoche on the table and are not changing it. We’ve come a long way from a few years ago where we had to way overpay to sign a ‘big’ free agent in Werth. Haren signed a 1-year deal to play here because he wants to win. Rizzo is now holding fast because he believes LaRoche feels the same way. With Loney and Napoli being signed and filling 1B needs for other teams, the market for LaRoche is growing smaller. I’d welcome him back, but again only for the 2 year deal.
If that happens, some baseball minds are saying that we’ll trade Michael Morse. I would hope that only happens if we get some solid value in return, not just a few low level minor league guys. Sure, he’ll be a free agent next year and if we lose him we’ll get nothing. But these are the new Nats. We don’t have to wring every piece of value at every turn. In past years, we did this to prepare for the future. Well, the future is here. I’d be happy keeping morse. There will always be injuries on any given team. Look at the outfield last year. Morse himself missed significant time, as did Werth. While I don’t wish for injuries, they do happen and it would be great to have Morse around for insurance. I really like his bat, and I believe he’s well-liked by teammates and an important part of the clubhouse. The biggest issue may be a roster crunch, with Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina both needing bench spots as well. But it’s still early in this process, and the roster numbers are a long way out from being detemined.
Sunday’s game was an interesting September game for a couple of reasons. The Nationals, particularly Davey Johnson, have said that they plan to play a lot of the younger guys and September callups as the season winds down so that they can have a better idea of who might help them in the bigs next season. Fair enough. People acknowledge that this might have an effect on wins and losses. But others argue that you need to keep one eye on each objective, so you can finish strong and show potential free agents that this team is indeed on the rise so that they might sign here (and not have to be wildly overpaid to do so).
Back to Sunday. When Wang gave up the 2 run homer to make it 4-3, a lot of folks groaned that Davey left him in one pitch too long. But hey, he wanted to see Wang pitch under pressure, and see how his shoulder would hold up going deep into a game. Fair enough. When he took Wang out, he was forced to make a double switch because the pitcher’s spot in the order was due up the next inning. so Jonny Gomes came out and Ankiel trotted out to right field. I wouldn’t have thought much of it until Bernadina subsequently replaced Morse as a defensive substitute.
If you’re protecting a one run lead and have no problem taking out your best power hitter for a defensive replacement late in the game, the manager is asserting himself and putting a defensively superior outfielder out there to try and help secure the win. So then why did Ankiel and Werth not switch positions? For the majority of the game, sure, play Werth in center because you want to find out if he can play there in a potential outfield of Morse, Werth and Harper. But late in the game, if you’re taking your big bat out of the lineup and putting egos aside, why can’t you do that to Werth? The Nats aren’t the Yankees; they don’t have players that are “protected” from that kind of stuff. Everyone knows that Ankiel is a superior CF to Werth, and I don’t even recall Ankiel playing in right field previously this season. Werth played right field for most of the season. If you are intent on winning the game, you make that switch. No brainer. The cherry on top is the number of incredible plays that Ankiel has made out there in just the past 2 weeks. But nope. Werth is now protected because of his $126 million dollar contract, and not even Davey Johnson had the guts to make that move. If he’s around and making clouded decisions like that next year, it will be a real disappointment.
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.
It’s a great day to be a Nats Fan…4 games over .500, Bernadina possibly finding his groove, Strasburg pitching a no-hitter through 6. Gotta love it. I realized that I hadn’t written a post in while when I read today that Jason Marquis is going to have surgery to repair bone chips in his elbow. The I thought, hey, I called that out in my last post 3 weeks ago. I’m still kind of amazed they let him waste 3 weeks trying to cure it with rest. As Rizzo was quoted as saying, “It didn’t work, so it set us back for about three weeks.” C’mon Mike, you’re better than that. I’m sure he’s mad at himself for letting Marquis convince him he could work through it.
Back to Strasburg, if they keep him pitching every 5th day, that would potentially have him starting on July 6 at home vs the Reds. Expect a sellout at the ballpark.
Great outing last night by Lannan; too bad our bats and bullpen could not get it done. After a great performance by Jurrgens, Mike Gonzalez ended up getting the win for Atlanta after throwing only 1/3 of an inning. While this is somewhat of an oddity statistics-wise, it does not compare to former National Bill Bray, who a couple seasons ago threw exactly 1 pitch in a game and got his first Major League victory. That is about as rare as they come.
With Dukes playing so well and with the defensive combination of him and Justin Maxwell in center field, it’s hard to imagine Milledge coming back up to the bigs for a while. If and when he does come back, he needs to play a corner outfield spot and bat lower in the lineup. It was painful watching him pay out of position and hit out of position in the batting order as well. Someday soon I really would love to have true base-stealer at the top of the lineup. It really makes the game so much more exciting to watch. And there is an immeasurable effect on opposing pitchers, who always have to be cognizant of what’s going on when they are on base, which in turn distracts their focus from pitching and helps out our hitters. Anyone have an injury update on Roger Bernadina?
Well I’m sorry to say we haven’t notched a W since I last wrote an entry here, but I still had a great time at Opening Day yesterday. At least our guys are putting up a fight, and putting runs on the board. No doubt, it will be long season for our young starting pitchers. Any hope of trading for a starter in exchange for one of our extra outfielders went down the tubes with Milledge’s demotion today. It does solve the fact that based on results, Dunn, Dukes and Kearns should have been starting anyway. Maybe Lastings can turn it around down there. I’m not as harsh on him as a lot of people. I do think he belongs in a corner spot and not CF. If he picks it up, he could come back as a nice reserve outfielder. Will Bernadina get the call-up as his replacement?