Nationals Offseason Outlook: Part 1
September 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
Catcher: Returning: Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores
While Pudge Rodriguez will no longer be part of this group the Nationals don't need to necessarily rush out and grab a catcher. Flores isn't a great back-up, but he is cheap and under team control. Ramos has established himself as a pretty solid major league catcher, and at just 24 his best years are ahead of him.
First base: Returning: Adam LaRoche, Chris Marrero, Michael Morse?
The Nats on paper look to be okay at first base next season, but I don't think they are as good as they appear to be. Morse this year has displayed the offensive potential to handle the position, but it appears like the Nationals want to move him back to the outfield. LaRoche is under contract for this year, and is a solid option for a non-contending team (or maybe a cheaper option on a contending team), but the fact is even with his defense LaRoche isn't a top 15 1st baseman in this league. And if the Nationals want to contend they will need a top 15 (and actually better) first baseman to be in the heart of their lineup. Particularly while they deal with below average production from other areas. Now I know a lot of Nationals fans have liked seeing Chris Marrero in the lineup, but he isn't the answer either. His defense has been pretty poor, and despite having a nice average his value as a hitter is fairly minimal. Of his 19 hits just 3 have gone for extra bases (all doubles), and he has just 3 walks to go along with 15 strikeouts. Now if he had shown more in the minors maybe he'd be worth the shot, but his power production in the minors has always been moderate at best.
Options: Sign a big name free agent Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols- It would be a bit of a shock, but the Nationals are a team on the rise, with plenty of money to spend. Given the need that they have it makes sense, and would give them the impact bat that they need.
Trade for Logan Morrison- Another option would be to try to pry Morrison away from the Marlins. Morrison and the Marlins have had a messy marriage so far, but by all accounts Morrison isn't a bad teammate, and has been handled fairly poorly by the Marlins. While Morrison has been trotted out in LF by the Marlins, he is actually awful out there and is a far better option at 1B. Morrison's .801 OPS isn't groundbreaking, but given his success in the minors, his age (24), and the fact that he's been dealing with playing out of position, I think it is a number that is likely to jump up. He's still going to cost a couple of solid prospects or better from the Nationals, but he is the type of young player who shouldn't be available at all Making him a prime target for Washington.
2B: Returning: Danny Espinosa
Danny Espinosa has had a pretty good rookie campaign. While his offensive production ground to a halt, he's been a sure defender, who has shown that he has 25 HR power. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts and make more consistent contact, but overall he looks to be a quality major leaguer.
SS: Returning: Ian Desmond
Desmond has no doubt had his struggles, but his defense has vastly improved this year, and his offense is weighted down by such a horrendous start. Since the All-Star break Desmond is hitting .294/.342/.436, which is over a .200 jump in his OPS from before the break. While it is still a concern that he will revert back to his old ways, Desmond is a young controllable shortstop, with good defense, and solid offensive potential.
3B: Returning: Ryan Zimmerman
The only thing the Nationals need to do here is extend Zimmerman to a long term contract. Zimmerman is one of the best players in the game and the heart of this team. Yes he has been banged up some, but his offensive/defensive potential is among the best in the league.
Check back later for Part 2 where I look at the outfield and the pitching staff!