The Great Washington Nationals Overhaul: 08-09
“Congratulations to the Washington Nationals for not being the first to lose 100 games this year.” Those are the paraphrased words that can be found in in my colleague Patrick’s recent season wrapup for the Nats. Now the team is faced with an important off-season during which they will have to rebuild. There are some important things I’d like to note about the coming off-season. Please feel free to weigh in.
- The Nationals MUST re-sign Odalis Perez (SP). Though he did not win as many games as was expected (7-12), he is cheap, and most importantly he wants to be here. Not many clubs in the situation of the Nationals can boast a veteran pitcher who wants to stay despite the lack of contention. His influence on young pitchers has been phenomenal. Re-sign him now!
- The Nats must let go of Aaron Boone. As a recent transplant from the New York area, I can sympathize with Boone. He gave me, along with millions of others, one of baseball’s greatest moments. But it is difficult to ignore the fact that he gets hurt an awful lot, and does not regularly make it through the season. His veteran influence will be missed, but there are others who can fill his shoes.
- First draft pick this year goes to the Washington Nationals. Think about how similar the Nats of today are to the Devil Rays of the not-so-distant past. The youth movement is alive and well in DC.
- A look at the Nationals depth chart reveals a strong set of position players, especially when you consider what guys like Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Zimmerman, and even Nick Johnson will contribute in the near future- they are headed into their prime. There are several faces that need to go, though I’m not sure it will happen in this off-season. Outfielders Willie Harris and Ryan Langerhans are heading into their thirties, and neither have made the transition to the major leagues. The Red Sox ruined Wily Mo Pena by benching him for two years, and he doesn’t fit in DC anyway. Dmitri Young is (unfortunately) locked in through next season, but Nick Johnson is the present and the future. Young’s career is in a nose-dive.
- Pitching is a much more difficult scenario. Though Perez should stay, he is not an ace. Tim Redding is washed up, and he must go. The rest of the staff is very young, and very under-prepared. It is likely that many of them would only be getting spot starts on just about any other major league team. But keep them, and keep them in the majors. They will mature as players, and some may become exceptional. In the meantime, sign two front end pitchers- not necessarily CC Sabathia type aces, but winners.
- I have faith in the Nationals bullpen. They have been shaky, but not horrible as a whole, and the combo of Chad Cordero and Joel Hanrahan promises to be impressive in years to come.
- So here’s my free-agent shopping list for the Washington Nationals this year:
- Odalis Perez (SP): Resign him.
- Ivan Rodriguez (C): He is not needed by the Yankees anymore since Jorge Posada will be back. Though Pudge is experiencing a downturn in career numbers, he has a tremendous talent for working with the young pitchers who make up the vast majority of the Nationals staff. He will contribute by getting on base, and he has always performed best on teams outside of the spotlight. He will also come at a bargain price after his mediocre performance in Pinstripes.
- Adam Dunn (LF): I rarely disagree with Tim Dierkes, but I simply do not believe the Nationals are at the beginning of a “long rebuilding process.” I think that they are nearing the end of one. Nats GM Jim Bowden likes Dunn (they were both Reds at one point) and wants to inject the team with power. That is exactly what the Nationals need. Dunn will drive in a ton of runs, create the kind of adrenaline and fan involvement that only a home-run hitter can, and he will help the Nationals grow into its big market. I don’t really know what there is not to like about Dunn in DC.
- Freddy Garcia (SP): Now is the perfect time for a club like the Nats to make a move on Garcia. He recently recovered from an injury and pitched fairly well for the Tigers in three games. He will be a major bargain given his time on the DL, but there will be teams after him, especially Detroit. If the Nationals make a bold move and outbid the bargain-hunters, promising Garcia the ace slot, he can be won. Remember, this is a guy with a world series ring who has won between 14 and 18 games five times. Go get him!
- Oliver Perez (SP): He has not yet mastered consistency, but he is still young- young enough to live up to the tremendous potential that this 180 strikeout season represents, but also old enough to help guide the younger pitchers. Perez will thrive where he can be a leader, as well as a student. He will also have a lot to learn if the Nationals can manage to pair him up with Pudge Rodriguez.
There are very few people who are willing to watch an atrocious baseball team. The Rays, Nats, and Royals can all attest to that. But Washington DC has the potential to be a massive market, particularly with the ease of travel that the Metro system offers. All that is required is some wise money spent along with continuous nurturing of the phenomenal youth movement taking place in the Nationals organization.
And in case anyone is interested, my prediction is Red Sox vs. Dodgers, Dodgers in 6.