Nats GM Mike Rizzo spoke with the press today about the offseason to come, as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. He expressed satisfaction with the “good, steady brand of baseball” that the club displayed, while acknowledging the disappointment of failing to advance in the playoffs. Rizzo wasn’t keen to offer up much in the way of details on the team’s planning, but did provide some insight. Here are the highlights from his press conference and a few more notes on the team:
- Rizzo praised his roster’s versatility, suggesting that it allows “a lot of different directions to improve our ballclub.” Trea Turner, in particular, could occupy a middle infield role or play in center — leaving the Nats free to pursue a center fielder, shortstop, or perhaps even a corner outfielder (while moving Bryce Harper to center). As Rizzo put it, Turner’s presence “allows us to build around that, meaning that it gives us more options in the marketplace to improve the ballclub.”
- One thing that won’t occur is a permanent move of Turner to second base, with Daniel Murphy taking over for Ryan Zimmerman at first. “No, Zim’s our first baseman going into this offseason and spring training,” Rizzo said. The veteran struggled to a .218/.272/.370 batting line this year, by far his worst as a big leaguer, but he made plenty of hard contact (34.7%) and may have been unfortunate to carry a .248 BABIP.
- The Nats have some notable free agents, of course, including catcher Wilson Ramos and closer Mark Melancon. Rizzo wouldn’t commit to a strategy on the burly backstop, whose season ended with ACL surgery. The plan is to “do all the due diligence on the medicals” before making a call on issuing Ramos a qualifying offer and deciding whether to pursue him.
- As for Melancon, Rizzo offered effusive praise for his work on the mound and presence in the clubhouse. Looking ahead, though, Rizzo suggested that he isn’t locked into Melancon or the other top relief options on the market. “It’s a broad, deep reliever market this year, and Mark is one of the elite relievers in the marketplace,” he said. “In a perfect world, you’d always like to have a guy that’s done it in the most competitive situations, but that’s not always possible. We’ve got a lot of options as far as guys with plus stuff and plus makeup, and it’s a deep relief market this year. So there’s different avenues to go and different routes that are attractive to us.” One possible internal candidate for ninth-inning duties, righty Shawn Kelley, is expected to be fully healthy after leaving the team’s final game with what looked to be a concerning injury, though it seems fair to expect the organization to pursue a closer regardless.
- The Nationals’ decision to ink Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez was somewhat uncharacteristic, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post explores. Washington has largely sat out the market for Cuban players, but chose to take a limited risk ($200K bonus without promising a MLB roster spot) on the 29-year-old. Hernandez was worth the risk, per VP of international ops Johnny DiPuglia, because “he’s a legit left-handed hitter who grinds at-bats” and is capable of playing center field. Depending upon how the offseason progresses, Hernandez could conceivably position himself as a depth or even a bench piece, though the team hasn’t staked much on that possibility. “We thought we’d take a chance on him,” said DiPuglia. “He’s got a profile for us. We’ll find out.”
- One reason to add Hernandez? The fact that the team has an expensive decision to make on left-handed-hitting center fielder Ben Revere, who projects to earn $6.3MM in arbitration even after a dreadful campaign. Zuckerman looks at Revere’s 2016 season and the options for the Nats. From my perspective, there’s no real chance that the team will trust Revere with the regular job in center, making it hard to imagine that it will stake over $6MM on him. That’s especially true given the presence of Brian Goodwin, a former top prospect who made strides at Triple-A and showed well in his first taste of the majors.
Zim had one of the highest exit velocities this year to go with his .248 BABIP. Not saying he is going to light the world on fire but decent improvement seems inevitable.
Why would they move Harper to center and Turner to a corner? That makes zero sense to me.
I dont think it ever suggests Turner to a corner outfield spot. Its just commenting that Harpers flexibility could allow them to pursue a corner outfielder instead of center fielder only. That assuming Turner does become the shortstop.
They’re not saying they will move turner to a corner spot, they’re saying they can pursue a corner bat and move Harper to center, meaning through trade or FA
Makes zero sense to me, too.
I read it as a hint they plan to go after Cespedes.
If they can only buy one player and think they can get a considerably better corner outfielder than center fielder they move Harper to center. He’s what, 25?
Pretty much the guy who could drive such a scenario. It would be considerably easier to find a good corner OF or even a good CF than a good SS this winter. Moving Harper to CF probably isn’t ideal.
Bottom line is that, apart from going big for a premium bat (Cespedes), the Nats will probably be best off either signing (Fowler, maybe Desmond or Gomez) or trading for (Blackmon, I’d guess) a center fielder.
Turner is the best option in CF, the only question is do you want to make him into another Zobrist, Bryant, or Baez to give the manager more versatility.
I think MLBTR should have a “prediction” page. Where the writers can predict a signings (years and dollars) and trades. Then as they come to fruition we can see who is right most of the time. Can also keep track of rumors and see how often then become a reality.
Trades are harder though because they change so much but signings would be interesting.
Could also centralize the voting like “23% of readers predicted so and so would sign with Arizona for 5 million a year”. In fact y’all could run a competition for readers to predict stuff like this. Maybe just for the major players. Kinda like a fantasy league!
They do, except adding contract values for extra points would be fun.
Sorry Phillies2017 I wasn’t clear. I know there are the individual polls that are taken. I’m thinking more of a table with all the main players, projected team, projected years, projected AAV. Does this exist? Am I missing it? You could still poll separately but just put the results in a table with all players, rather than individual polls. Not sure if I’m explaining this right.
It could be done for just writers or add readers with a leaderboard, points for getting the team, years and AAV right. Extra points for early calls! I think it would be cool. I personally would lose but I’d love to see how accurate some of this stuff is for the readers who follow this stuff really closely.
Anyway, just an idea I wanted to throw out there to see if anyone liked it? It would be like the Free Agent tracker but with predictions.
Nats have lots of prospect depth in CF. It seems to make sense to put Turner back at SS and get someone who can hold CF for 2-3 years. Or the Harper in CF option if they find a good bat that’s also a good corner outfielder.
If the chips fall into place, Harper can move back to RF in 2019 with Robles in CF.