Nationals Offseason Plan
With the Hot Stove heating up in baseball’s offseason, I thought I’d take a hometown look at what the Nationals are facing this offseason and offer up a few opportunities to improve in 2010.
Here’s what the Nationals have right now for 2010:
C: Jesus Flores (1st year of Arb.)
1B: Adam Dunn ($12.00)
2B: Cristian Guzman ($8.00)
SS: Ian Desmond (Minimum)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman ($6.35)
RF: Elijah Dukes (Minimum)
CF: Nyjer Morgan (Minimum)
LF: Josh Willingham (2nd year of Arb.)
UTL: Willie Harris (signed for 2010 for $1.5 million)
C: Wil Nieves (1st year of Arb.)
OF: Justin Maxwell (Minimum)
INF: Alberto Gonzalez (Minimum)
SP: John Lannan (1st year of Arb.)
SP: Scott Olsen (2nd year of Arb.)
SP: Garrett Mock (Minimum)
SP: JD Martin (Minimum)
SP: Craig Stammen (Minimum)
RP: Mike MacDougal
RP: Sean Burnett
RP: Saul Rivera
RP: Jason Bergmann
RP: Tyler Clippard
Other arms: Colin Balester, Sharion Martis, Ross Detwiler, Matt Chico
Obviously that’s not a pretty roster and the Nats will be making some upgrades through free agency and trades. Areas of concern: 2B, back-up catcher, at least two starters, and additional arms in the bullpen. I think Wil Nieves is a likely non-tender candidate (though they should try to resign him as a minor league FA). Bergmann, Olsen and MacDougal could all be non-tendered as well, but given the Nats lack of quality pitchers I don’t see them giving them up for nothing. Given Flores’s injury problems the past two years, the Nationals need to find a more reliable option behind the plate to back-up Flores. While there are a number of veteran catching options, most of them don’t make too much sense for the Nationals. One that does make sense is Gregg Zaun, who in 90 games last season put up some solid offensive numbers. He’s always been solid behind the plate, and his veteran presence should help Flores develop, and make the Nationals young pitchers more comfortable.
As for 2nd base, the Nationals have a couple of good options to pursue in free agency. Their primary target should be Orlando Hudson, with Placido Polanco as their fall back option. Hudson is a solid defender (though a bit overrated in that department) and would fit in nicely as the National’s 2 hole hitter. The only real concern with either Hudson or Polanco is they are Type A free agents and will require draft pick compensation (for the Nats it will be their 2nd round pick). Now usually I’m against a rebuilding team giving up a draft pick for a short term free agent fix, but here I think the Nats should make an exception. Two of the next tier of free agents are Ronnie Belliard and Felipe Lopez, but the Nats have been down those roads before.
As for pitching, the Nationals could use at least two additional starters, as their isn’t a sure thing in their rotation outside of John Lannan. The general thinking is that Washington will sign one pretty big name free agent starter and one lower end veteran. For the bigger name I think the Nationals should stay away from John Lackey and Randy Wolf since both are Type A free agents, and will cost the Nationals their 2nd round pick. I would target the 2nd tier of starters with John Garland as my primary option. Others that fit the profile would be Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis, and Vicente Padilla. Other additional arms that could be interesting are a group all with major injury concerns, headlined by Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets, and Justin Duchscherer. Now all four of those pitchers have great upside, but are held back by their injury issues. Given the uncertainty of their production this year, I think the Nats should go with a starter with a better track record. Now if the prices fall on any of these free agents the Nats should look to move in for them to be their other starting acquisition.
As for the relievers, I think the Nats should stay away from any of the Type A guys, unless they aren’t offered arbitration (which negates the draft pick compensation). As for the other relievers on the market, I’d target Brandon Lyon, Kiko Calero, Fernando Rodney, and Bob Howry. Rodney could be a solid closing option for Washington, next season, and the rest of the guys would go a long way to strengthening a big weakness for the Nationals.
So far I’ve talked about what the Nationals will do, now I’m gonna give some options of what the Nats should do. Here are a couple of trade proposals and the resulting consequences that can make the Nats better in 2010 and a competitor in the near future.
Trade 1: Adam Dunn to the Baltimore Orioles for Sp David Hernandez (MLB), RP Dennis Safarte (MLB), RP/SP Radhames Liz (MLB), and SS Pedro Florimon (A+) or C Caleb Joseph (A+).
Why it makes sense: Dunn is in the final year of his deal that is back loaded ($12.00 million in 2010), and his overall value is hurt by his horrid defense. He has already been regulated to first base duty, and is really much better suited in the AL where he can DH. Dunn’s value will only decrease as the season goes on, and the Nats mind as well get some value for him now. This O’s trade offer won’t blow anyone away, but given the price tag, lack of position, and only one year remaining, it seems like pretty fair value. Hernandez would actually be the Nats 2nd best starter, at least until they sign a free agent. Safarte and Liz haven’t lived up to their potential, but give the Nationals something they’ve lacked; hard throwers in their bullpen. Florimon is a solid young prospect with a ton of upside. He plays a premium position and gives the Nats a good position prospect. The Nats won’t be able to get any of the O’s young stars, or any of their top 5 prospects, leaving them with quantity over quality.
Aftermath: The Nats improve their rotation and bullpen, and while the upside is limited it is an improvement for Washington. Florimon gives them depth in the minors as well. In addition, the Nats save $12 million dollars next season, which will give them the flexibility to address a number of issues. First they should sign Adam LaRoche to fill Dunn’s shoes at first. LaRoche can’t match Dunn’s offensive output, but he holds his own with the bat. LaRoche also is a superior defender than Dunn (not a great glove, but average), making them more comparable. The Nationals can then use the rest of their savings to add better talent at other positions.
Trade 2: The Nats trade SS/2B Christian Guzman to the Reds for either SP Bronson Arroyo or SP Aaron Harang
Why it makes sense: The Nats best middle infield defense is with Desmond and a free agent at 2nd base (see above). Playing Guzman hurts the Nationals already fragile rotation with his negative defense. Unfortunately for the Nats Guzman’s $8 million salary makes him pretty untradeable, accept for another undesirable contract. This is where Arroyo or Harang come in. Both are solid pitchers, but definitely overpaid. And the Reds are a team that is looking to slash payroll. A Guzman for Arroyo swap would save the Reds $5 million over the next two years (he has a $2 million buyout in 2011). Moving Harang would save $6.5 million over two years ($2 million buyout in 2011, like Arroyo). At the same time each team would fill a need, the Nats would get a veteran starter and the Reds would get some production out of their SS position. If the Nats were smart they would make it a larger trade involving 2B Brandon Phillips and giving up a couple of prospects. This way they could ignore the higher priced free agent market (and giving up a draft pick) for a quality 2B. Other bad contract options to move Guzman for would be Nate Robertson or Jeremy Bonderman from the Tigers or Jake Westbrooke from the Indians.
3rd Trade: The Nats trade Justin Maxwell, Michael Burgess (A+) (or some other upside prospect), and Luis Atilano (AA) to the Royals for OF David DeJesus
Why it makes sense: David DeJesus, as Fangraphs showed is an extremely underrated and underpaid corner outfielder. He would be a nice upgrade for the Nationals over Elijah Dukes. The Nats could use a better defensive outfield, which DeJesus would automatically provide. While he’s not a power hitting corner outfielder, he does have plenty of offensive upside. DeJesus is available because the Royals are another team that needs to cut payroll. DeJesus will make over $10.5 million over the next two seasons, so the Royals would do well to capitalize on him while they can. The Nats package is a little light I will admit, but seemingly DeJesus is undervalued throughout the league. I’m sure the deal would have to be tweaked some, but DeJesus is exactly the type of player the Nats should look to add.
That’s how I’d fix the Nationals. What do you think? Can Washington improve to a .500 showing this season?