Offseason Outlook: Washington Nationals

The Nationals aim to add an outfield bat and a starting pitcher this offseason, which might be enough to vault them into contention in 2012.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

It's about time the Nationals become a bona fide contender.  The heart of the batting order can be elite with Zimmerman, Morse, and Werth.  The rotation has front-end arms in Strasburg and Zimmermann, even if neither is a horse yet.  The back end of the bullpen is in place too, with Drew Storen, Clippard, and Henry Rodriguez.  This is the foundation of a playoff team, but GM Mike Rizzo must make several more significant acquisitions to make the Nationals a contender in 2012.  Rizzo recently told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, "I think we're an outfield bat away and a starting pitcher away from really being a contender in the division."

If Strasburg and Zimmermann combine for, say, 350 regular season innings in 2012, it'd be ideal to make up that deficiency with an innings-eating ace.  Obviously, those are in high demand. Free agents C.C. Sabathia and C.J. Wilson fit the bill, while James Shields would be a high-end trade target.  In the next tier, potentially available starters such as Edwin Jackson, Jason Vargas, Mark Buehrle, Jeremy Guthrie, and Brett Myers could gobble up 200 innings at a respectable ERA.  I don't like the idea of trading Lannan; the Nationals need the innings he could provide as a reasonably-priced fourth starter.  Catcher Jesus Flores represents more expendable trade bait, though his value is at a low point.

Assuming they believe in the second-half performance of shortstop Ian Desmond, the Nationals are in good shape in the middle infield and at catcher.  Center field continues to represent the biggest up-the-middle question for the club.  Rizzo could renew talks for Twins center fielder Denard Span, who is potentially signed through 2015.  Otherwise, Rizzo could go for a stopgap solution like B.J. Upton or Coco Crisp and keep Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury in the back of his mind as future free agent possibilities.  Using Werth in center is another option, at least in the short-term.

Agent Scott Boras will surely try to sell the Nationals on the idea of signing Prince Fielder for first base and using Morse in left field.  Fielder doesn't gel with the team's primary short-term or long-term needs. They have a $9MM commitment with first baseman LaRoche next year and impending extension talks for Zimmerman.  Committing $100MM to C.J. Wilson would be one thing, but Fielder could require twice as much.

One more item on the Nationals' to-do list is to name their manager for 2012.  Davey Johnson is widely expected to keep the job, but the team has until the end of the month to decide.

Are the Nationals looking to go all-in for 2012, or just make marginal improvements and let Bryce Harper and other talented young players close the gap whenever they're ready?  A healthy bump to a $100MM payroll would give the team $40MM+ in 2012 flexibility, enough for two starting pitchers and an outfielder, which could result in the Nationals' first playoff appearance.


48 Responses to Offseason Outlook: Washington Nationals Leave a Reply

  1. start_wearing_purple
    start_wearing_purple 4 years ago

    Considering the season Ells had I seriously doubt he’ll be made available.

    • mowses 4 years ago

      That’s not what it says. Stopgap and … in the back of his mind as future free agents.

    • slider32 4 years ago

      If the Sox could get Shields for Ellibury I think that would be a good trade provided they could sign Shields to a long term contract.  Ells has been injury prone in the past and has only had one great year so his long term worth is a ? like many players. Look at how Youk broke down the last 2 yrs.

      • I don’t think so. The SP class is thin and the Rays know that. They’d demand more.

      • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

        – shields already is signed to a long term contract

        – “got injured” isn’t the same thing as “is injury prone”. he broke a bunch of ribs when adrian beltre tried to assassinate him

        – that trade idea is ridiculous for both teams anyway

  2. slider32 4 years ago

    The Nats are an up an coming team and teams like that get their stability from pitching. They need to get a solid free agent pitcher or get one via a trade. I like Shields for Morse. A move like this puts the Nats ahead of the Mets and Marlins next year.

    • Fifty_Five 4 years ago

      They’re already ahead of the Mets and Marlins. And Morse was pretty much the only piece of offense they had this past year and he’s still really cheap, so I think they’d try not to involve him in any deals

    • Not to mention Morse is in arbitration…those are generally the kinds of players that the Rays prefer to ignore.
      -wtk

    • FacelessGeneralManager 4 years ago

      You do realize they finished third ahead of the Marlins and Mets this year?

    • setupunchtag 4 years ago

      Morse for Shields? Why would Tampa do that? Morse has been good for one whole year, and Tampa never buys high. He’s basically Mike Jacobs from the right side. Morse, Rendon and a low-level pitching prospect, and you’re in the park for Shields.

      • farid rushdi 4 years ago

        I don’t see the comparison between Mike Jacobs and Morse. Jacob’s career slash numbers are .253/.313/.475, .787 OPS. Morse’s are .296/.356/.500, .855 OPS. Jacob’s on-base percent has been below .300 his last three seasons while Morse’s is .355.

        Jacob’s numbers against opposite pitching (for him lefties) is .221/.269/.373 and Morse’s (against righties) is .292/.350/.490.

        Where is the comparison? As for Morse being good for just “one whole year,” prior to 2010, his career numbers (600 at-bats, basically a full season) were .292/.350/.456, 21 homers and 88 RBI.

        As for trade value (you suggested Morse, Rendon and a low-level prospect for Shields give or take), Shields and Morse are both under team control through 2014, so that is equal. But Shield’s value isn’t that much more than Morse’s; his career ERA is 3.96, just a hair better than the Nats’ John Lannan’s (considered a #3 starter at best) 4.00. I’m not suggesting Lannan is the same league as Shields, but they both give up the same number of runs every nine innings. And runs given up is the name of the game.

        As for Anthony Rendon, he was considered the top bat in last year’s draft as was thought to be the #1 overall pick in 2011 until injuries forced him down to #6 overall.

        That’s just too much for three years of James Shields.

        But good comment — I had to do some digging to see if Morse really was Mike Jacobs reincarnate.

    • farid rushdi 4 years ago

      The Nationals were ahead of the Mets and Marlins this year.

      The team has too many good young arms (majors and minors) and too few young bats to trade Morse for Shields (unless there is an assumption that 2011 was an anomaly for Morse).

      I think they’d give up Lombardozzi, Derek Norris (solid minor league second baseman and catcher, respectively) along with Roger Bernadina and maybe Tommy Milone. I think Tampa would take 3-5 prospects and some major league depth, but I wouldn’t give up Michael Morse.

      I agree big time they are an up-and-coming team, though. I don’t think people realize how good their top 10 starters (majors and minors) are.

  3. diehardmets 4 years ago

    The Nats primary goal should be landing Upton as a CF. He has speed, power, and I think would hit to a better average outside of the AL East. 

    After that, I don’t see why they can’t jump in on Wilson or Darvish. Adding one of them and then another more back end guy (possibly Jackson?) would give them a great rotation to compliment a very potent offense. That’s without factoring in Harper’s possible arrival in MLB.

    CF Upton
    SS Desmond
    3B Zimmerman
    LF Morse
    RF Werth
    1B LaRoche
    C Ramos
    2B Espinosa

    • kräftig. entschieden 4 years ago

      Wilson/Darvish would probably take around $100 million, and with the Zimmerman extension and the Werth contract it might not behoove them to spend so much. I would be fine if they went Stras/Zimnn/Lannan/Wang/Jackson. It wouldn’t be a fantastic rotation, but surely an above-average one.

    • FacelessGeneralManager 4 years ago

      Love to see them get Jackson, I’ve been wanting them to get him ever since the adam dunn for jackson rumors last year. Think he would fit great.

  4. rockfordone 4 years ago

    Danks and Quentin for Harper and Clippard

    • stl_cards16 4 years ago

      If I was the Sox, I would want to add Dunn and Strasburg to that deal to even it out.

    • jwsox 4 years ago

      Your thinking wrong here. The nats want pitching and a center fielder. So clearly the trade is peavy+ rios+ Dunn+ Quentin. For Harper+ morse+ rendon ( as a ptbnl) and stras. The sox will even throw in Thornton.

      • I rhink the Nats should trade Brian Bixler for Paul Konerko.  That trade is more realistic than anything you are proposing. 

    • Alexander_Brovechkin 4 years ago

      We have found Omar Minaya’s handle.

  5. I don’t see next year as the year for the Nats. Why overpay for a SP now when you have such a rich class of them in 2013? I’d rather wait a year and not potentially cripple the organization or make a stupid move.

    • Smrtbusnisman04 4 years ago

      I like their chances. They looked young and energetic down the stretch while the Phillies and Braves both struggled. If Werth turns things around and they find a solid pitcher, I could see them winning 80+ games.

      But I agree, they should shoot to contend in 2013.

  6. Pseudonymus Bosch 4 years ago

    Yeah, if Zack Greinke’s interest in DC this past offseason was honest/legit (he said he refused the trade because if he plays in DC he wants the guys in the trade package to still be there), they can throw the big bucks at him in 2013 and focus on the bats this year.

    Strasburg/Zimmermann/Greinke is the 2013 equivalent of the 2011 Phillies rotation.

    • monkeydung 4 years ago

      strasburg/zimmermann/greinke doesn’t include a World Series MVP as their fourth starter or a 3x all-star as their 5th starter.

      it also doesn’t include the greatest pitcher of this generation, and puts a lot of stock in a kid who hasn’t really done anything in his career.

      • GriffeyandSizemore 4 years ago

        “or a 3x all-star as thier 5th starter.”
        I didn’t know Vance Worley was a 3x all star.

        But i do agree that that rotation is nothing like the Phillies. 

      • WolandJR 4 years ago

        Considering the recent postseason results, it may not be advisable to follow the Phillies model to a tea.

        • monkeydung 4 years ago

          i know. can you believe how awful Roy Halladay was in his 8 inning, one run game on Sunday?

          • Guest 4 years ago

            yeah. that hunter pence guy sure is a god like everyone in philadelphia makes him out to be.

      • hallwagner 4 years ago

        i hate when people use “word series mvp” , or even how many rings a person has to prove a point. you have to be in the postseason to earn that award, and theres no stopping strasburg from throwing a perfect game in the postseason, he just has 2 get there 1st. now, this is all hypothetical, but it’s still an asinine way to judge how good some1 is.

  7. GriffeyandSizemore 4 years ago

    Sign Matt Stairs for CF!!!!

  8. NatsTown 4 years ago

    Nook Logan is available

  9. hallwagner 4 years ago

    another offseason need: sign zimmerman for a long term contract. even though he’s still under control through 2013, we need to lock that up.

    • Guest 4 years ago

      why is everybody proposing we pick up edwin  jackson? there’s a ton of guys, some that we have, that can put up similar numbers, and be cheaper. he’s overrated, im guessing just cuz he throws hard. he’s really not that good. and sure didn’t show anything to change that so far in the playoffs…

  10. hallwagner 4 years ago

    idk y but jeremy guthrie actually seems like a good idea to pursue for the nats

  11. ncNAT 4 years ago

    Somehow get Brett Gardner for John Lannan

  12. ncNAT 4 years ago

    Somehow get Brett Gardner for John Lannan

  13. natshopemonger 4 years ago

    Wilson and Darvish scare me – Wilson because he is 30+, has logged a ton of innings the last two years and my be ready for an injury; and Darvish because he is a wild card. If the Nats make a big splash this off season it has to work because they can’t paper over a struggling star with improvements from other players like they did with Werth this year.

    The Nats have a lot of good arms in the system – both #3 and up guys in Peacock, Solis, AJ Cole, and Purke, and also solid 4-5 in Lannan, Detwiler, and Milone. They’re also somewhat crowded w vets and prospects at some key positions – 1b (LaRoche, Morse, Marrero) and C (Ramos, Flores, Norris) – and possible at MI with Rendon and Lombardozzi pushing Espinosa and Desmond.

    The rotation will be better next year with a full year of Strasburg regardless. Wang’s late season surge bodes well for him for next year w a regular off season and stronger arm/shoulder. Put someone like Edwin Jackson in that mix and you’ve got a rotation of Strasburg/Zimm/Lannan/Wang/Jackson – that’s pretty strong. Then you can go out and shop some of the extra pitchers and maybe a position player for a good CF that can, ya’know, get on base.

    BJ Upton doesn’t seem like a good fit with his sub .330 OBA and plus-160 Ks. Not real sold on Denard Span but I haven’t seen him much. But I have to think that a package of a top tier pitching prospect, plus a 4-5 guy like Detwiler or Milone, plus a position player (either a good prospect like Norris or definitely Rendon or possibly a vet like LaRoche) would get that guy.

    A healthy Strasburg and Wang plus a reliable 4-5 starter is a big improvement on this years rotation, wont saddle the team with a high price FA, and will give the Nats the flex to use some of its organizational depth to go out and get an impact CF/leadoff hitter. Then in 2013, Harper and one of the young stud pitchers should be major contributors on top of a very solid foundation – maybe that is when you can make a big splash to put the Nats over the top.

  14. coreif 4 years ago

    Lannan, Detwiler & Bernardina for Brett Gardner:
    CF Gardner
    SS Desmond
    3B Zimmerman
    LF Morse
    RF Werth
    1B LaRoche
    2B Espinosa
    C Ramos

    Strasburg, JZimm, Wang, Peacock, Milone
    Storen, Clipp, H-Rod, Burnett, Ballystar, Gorezelanny, Livan
    Flores, Lombardozzi, Brown, Marrero, Jason Kubel

    • Ummmm No. Born in 1983. A bit too old for Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and Roy Clark. Upton/Borjous that’s what they are thinking trade-wise. Projectable well into the future.

  15. The Key cog is a total wish….but can be had at the right price.  With The Dodgers being sold now it is logical that the new owner wold want to trim the fat ($) and start with young players.  The Nats could trade a couple of their top young SP prospects like Peacock and Detwiler along with Morse and The Shark and maybe even Lombardoza or Desmond for Matt Kemp.  To get Kemp would trump a Poohols or Prince deal by 10x.  They ten can sign a back-end fireballer like Jackson for $6mill and have a solid group of SP.  Their RP is set IMO but the addition of Kemp would be the be all end all.  At that point, you move Werth to LF and play a platoon at 1b untill LaRoch can be traded.

    If Lombardoza is part of the deal:

    SS Desmond
    2b Espo (swith hitter)
    CF Kemp
    3b Zimm
    LF Werth
    RF Harper
    1b LaRoch / Marerro
    C Ramos

    bench:  Norris, Laroch or Marerro (whoever is not playing), sign a super util guy (Jerry jr again?), sign Kubel, promote some younger players (Hood?)

    Stras / Zimm / Lannon / Jackson / Wang

    Pen: H-Rod, Clipp, Storen, Milone (long), the fat guy, Sean B (LHP), another lhp free agent (maybe an older guy who can bring some playoff smarts)

    If Desmond is part of the deal:

    2b Lombardoza
    SS Espo
    CF Kemp
    3b Zimm
    LF Werth
    RF Harper
    1b combo
    C Ramos

    same pitcher ideas…

  16. The Dodgers just re-upped Kemp. It seems highly unlikely that they would trade either Kemp or Kershaw. It ain’t happenin’.

  17. No, they control him through 2016.

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