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:
  1. Odalis Perez (SP): Resign him.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

11 Comments so far

  1. Frank (frankl) on October 9th, 2008 @ 9:17 am

    A quick note-the Nats did in fact lose more than 100 games, Patrick was just pointing out they didn’t get to 100 first.

    Something pointed out by your other colleague’s Nats Review:
    just sayin ;)

  2. estuartj on October 9th, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

    What about Jesus Flores? I think the team is set on making him the #1 Catcher so getting Pudge to play backup is unrealistic. I put forward trading for Saltamaccia of Texas as a back-up for Flores and also fill in for Nick Johnson as needed.

    I especially like the idea of signing Adam Dunn since he can play both LF and 1B so if (or when) Johnson goes down you can move Dunn to 1B and have options in the outfield. I don’t think the team can afford the dollars or roster spot to get another 1B only player. I think Young may be done as a major league player and the club might offer him a coaching or FO job in exchange for renegotiating the remaining $5mil due him.

    I like the idea of signing Garcia and Oliver Perez, not sure if both is doable, especially if the team still believes Shawn Hill can pitch. Given what happened with Patterson this spring I think they are unlikely to give him much leeway so finding or signing a replacement now does make sense.

    After last season many were expecting a FA OFer signing like Hunter, Jones or Rowand, but instead decided to upgrade the OF via trade, getting Dukes and Milledge. If Bowden can find the necessary spare parts from within the organization I can see them attempting to trade for similair quality players to fill the void in the rotation. Florida seems ready to move several arbitration eligble players. The have to move Dan Uggla, but several SPers are also looking to get big raises and might be obtainable at a reasonable trade cost.

  3. Patrick (dmbosstone) on October 9th, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

    Man we should just become a dedicated blog on the Nats- we love to write about them!

    Thanks for the correction but 100 losses or 99- that’s way too many to lose.

    I agree that we can pull off a Tampa Bay like turnaround- I think it’ll take longer to do it via growing talent- mostly because we need more time to develop some.

    However we do have some great young talent that we can build around, I haven’t thought about building through free agency but perhaps the pressure to do better will make it a prority this off-season. If so I will be excited to see a team of young talent and solid veterans.

  4. Anthony Marenna (amarenna) on October 9th, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    Thanks for correcting my typo, Frank. I updated the article.

    I considered Jesus Flores during my analysis. It is important to note that though his defense is impressive, his bat is not worthy of the major leagues yet. The guy is only 24 years old. I don’t see the logic in allowing him to stay in the majors to only hit .256. The other guys in the league hitting at .256 are contributing with either a lot of home-runs or a lot of stolen bases. I think that two more years in the minors or as a backup catcher will be good for his development. That will also give the Nats the flexibility to give Pudge a cheap two year contract. We will get the defense, an on base percentage, plus the invaluable mentoring of young pitchers that he would take on.

  5. pgemf on October 9th, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    Flores is the least of this teams problems. Yes there are guys who hit higher than .256 who steal bases, but THEY ARE NOT CATCHERS! Only 7 catchers in the majors stole more than 4 bases last year, and one of those played other positions.

    Playing for an awful team with a minor league lineup somedays, Flores had 59 RBI’s. Only 10 catchers had more than that, and all of them had more at bats. Flores had 97 less at bats than Pudge, and had as many home runs AND 24 more RBI’s, and you want stolen bases out of him? Are you serious? What’s next, do you want to get rid of Zimmerman because he isn’t a closer?

    You don’t see the logic of having him in the majors. There are between 12-15 other teams he could start for today, and that is not counting probably another 6-10 that would take him over their incumbent higher paid catcher putting up similar numbers. We paid $5 million to Ivan Rodriguez last year, only his name was Paul Loduca.

    Amd Chad Cordero will not be with the Nats in 2009.

  6. Anthony Marenna (amarenna) on October 9th, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

    I didn’t ask for stolen bases from Flores, I merely pointed out the contributions of others in the majors who hit .256. My major point is that matching young, inexperienced pitchers with young, inexperienced catchers is hardly ever a workable formula. And honestly, I think we both know the difference between Ivan Rodriguez and Paul LoDuca.

  7. pgemf on October 9th, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

    Your quote: "The guy is only 24 years old. I don’t see the logic in allowing him to stay in the majors to only hit .256. The other guys in the league hitting at .256 are contributing with either a lot of home-runs or a lot of stolen bases"

    And again, my reply is not all guys who hit .256 are catchers. If Flores was a 1st baseman with those numbers, you would have a point. Never once have you heard anyone complain about the way Flores calls a game. So if the defense/game calling is a slight downgrade, why would you take an older, more expensive player who doesn’t put up the offensive numbers Flores does?

  8. Anthony Marenna (amarenna) on October 9th, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

    You may have a point. But don’t forget:
    1) Pudge hits for a much higher average than Flores does. He also has a significantly higher on base percentage. Flores has a superior slugging percentage, but other than that it’s a dead heap.
    2) As for calling games, I haven’t heard any complaints about Flores either. But it is not disputable that Pudge knows the major league hitters a lot better. It is also indisputable that he can nurture a young staff far better than Flores- the young pitchers are peers to Flores.

  9. pgemf on October 9th, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    Much higher?? If Flores had 6 more hits and 2 more walks, he would have the same AVG and OBP as Pudge. Not exactly Tony Gwynn esque.

    He does know the pitchers alot better, but why would you pay $4-5 million or so for a catcher that is not a major upgrade defensively, is older, is a downgrade offensively, and retards the development of a person who is at worst equal, and at best a better overall catcher right now, when that money could be better applied elsewhere?

  10. Anthony Marenna (amarenna) on October 9th, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

    You’ve got a great point. I’m curious to know what you think of the rest of my shopping list. Thanks for being a good sport.

  11. Maybe There Is Some Hope For The Nationals | Washington D.C. Metblogs (pingback) on October 22nd, 2008 @ 5:53 am

    […] I explained in my offseason plan for the Nats, they could be next. Many of the pieces are in place for our local baseball team to charge on to […]

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