The Nationals finish up their spring slate in Florida today vs the Mets, and return home to face the Yankees in their final exhibition game tomorrow at Nationals Park. It was great to see Zimmerman dial it in with 3 homers yesterday, and Ramos with 2. There is no need to talk in detail about Harper, as his stats this spring speak for themselves. A lot of the regulars have had solid springs. Some of the pitching has been rocky, but that’s not out of the ordinary for spring training. I won’t even freak out about the first start of the regular season for each if they are still settling in. But after that, I expect them to be true to form. Let’s hope Haren and our bullpen get it together pretty quickly.
I do think, or at least strongly hope, that we add a decent left-hander to the bullpen fairly early in the season. Maybe we can pick up someone that gets released during final cuts, and stash them at AAA until they are needed. No matter how good the big three are at the back of our bullpen, you can’t change the fact that they are all right-handed. We need a decent situational lefty. He doesn’t have to be an all-star. But we need one. And if Zach Duke (who has had a shaky spring) is supposed to double as our long man out of the bullpen, we can’t expect him to be the LOOGy all the time as well. We need another one, and he should not be that hard to find. I don’t think at this point that Romero will be the answer.
One final note: Michael Morse led MLB this spring with 8 homers, and is hitting .365. Go Mike. You deserve it, and I really do think at some point this season we’ll be sorry that we let you go. I hope I’m wrong and that we stay healthy, but either way, impressive start to the year for him.
The news this week that Espinosa will be playing through a torn rotator cuff this season and that Jayson Werth’s wrist is still not back at full strength certainly caused more than a little concern. Let’s not forget that Zim is coming off offseason shoulder surgery, and that Stras is not all that far removed from his Tommy John procedure. On the bright side, I can speak from experience that it is possible to play through a torn labrum, assuming you are not a pitcher. I had a torn labrum and rotator cuff for many years and only finally got it repaired 14 months ago (although often referred to interchangeably, they are not exactly the same injury). The rehab was brutal, and makes me even more impressed that LaRoche went through it and then came back last season and put up the numbers that he did. Hopefully Danny can keep his shoulder strong and play through the injury. If not though, Davey must not hesitate to play Lombo. He should at least see some increased time there to give Espinosa a rest more often.
As for Werth, I actually liked him as a leadoff hitter. Wrist injury or not, I think his days of hitting 25+ homers per year are over. I’m fine with him in the 6th spot if Span lives up to expectations. But for all the heat I’ve given Werth, he is a smart player. He took a lot of pitches (and walks) in that role, when I’m sure he would have rather been swinging the bat. Working a pitch count, and letting other players see what pitches a guy throws in a particular count, is a valuable skill that does not show up in a stat sheet. Not to mention his stalling tactics when there are 2 outs and the pitcher just batted. Team player. They should not hesitate to put him back at leadoff if Span need a day off or spends any time on the DL.
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.
Looking forward to the long homestand beginning tomorrow night, but I’m sure the Nationals front office is pretty bummed the streak didn’t last just a few more days. They probably would have sold another 5,000-10,000 more seats per game during the streak, as it would have given people an added incentive to come to the ballpark.
If Lannan can come up with another solid outing tomorrow night and get to .500, I’ll feel really good about he and Martis anchoring our rotation for the rest of the season. We still need more consistency from Olsen’s outings. What will the Nats do with Cabrera? It’s probably still too early to say. They need him to eat some innings for now. He’s too wild to send to the bullpen. But we’re paying him a decent chunk of change and I don’t think we want to rush any more of our young guys to the bigs just yet. Maybe by Monday we’ll start having some games without rain continuously in the forecast…we can only hope.
Well, I just returned from a long weekend away, hoping that we might have some (even minor) player news to talk about. Looks like all we’ve got are the impending negotiations, or possibly hearings, between the club and their 4 arbitration-eligible players: Zimmerman, Olsen, Willingham and Hill. Let’s hope they make some reasonable offers, at least to the first 3, so that we can avoid a process that distracts from the players preparing for the season or causing any bad blood between them. I still like Hill’s potential, but he does not deserve a raise until he proves himself to be healthy and a solid contributor.