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The Baseball Show: Offseason to-do list

Sep 27, 2013, 12:07 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

With their entire starting lineup under contract for next season, the Nationals are unlikely to do any major overhauls to their roster this winter. They do, however, have several areas that need improvement and will surely make at least some changes.

On Thursday’s Baseball Show, Mark, Jim Duquette and Rob Carlin looked ahead to this offseason to see where exactly the Nats may improve. They discussed which players will likely be gone and how the Nationals can fill those spots, as well as the Nats’ upcoming managerial search.

There will be months and months of signings, trades and rumors as the Nats try and return better in 2014, but here is an early look at the road ahead:

  1. jd - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    I have no opinion about Knorr one way or another, I just don’t know but If I were Rizzo I would wait to see what Girardi does and I would also interview other candidates before rushing to a decision. I think pitching coach and 3rd base coach are also candidates for improvement but of course if you bring in a new manager you may want to let him hire his own staff.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      It’s looking like there’s a good chance Ron Washington will be available.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        I know that was written in jest, but still: Bite your tongue.

  2. jd - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    I don’t think there will be any changes in the everyday lineup given that LaRoche is under contract for big bucks. I think Rizzo should not do ‘major surgery’ there. I think that for the bench you have Hairston and Moore likely back from the right side leaving room for a utility infielder, backup catcher and 1 or 2 left handed hitting outfielders.

    1)utility infielder – I think we need someone other than Lombo, someone who can play 2nd, SS and 3rd base and who provides excellent defense and occasional offense.
    2)Backup catcher – I think we need someone like John Buck or even Kelly Shopach, a veteran with a good arm. Any offense from this position is a bonus.
    3) The left handed bats are important as both Bernie and Tracy crashed and burned, it may be worth spending a bit of money to land someone like schierholtz, Corey Brown should be in the mix too.

    The bullpen is the most interesting area:

    1)Soriano is paid for unfortunately so he’s coming back.
    2)Clippard is a fixture.
    3) Storen – could be traded but I wouldn’t sell low. Well worth the effort to resurrect his value.
    4)Stammen – A bit inconsistent but if everyone else does their job he is a very valuable pitcher.
    5) Matheus – no thanks.
    6) Long man – I would seriously consider bringing Ohlendorf back for that role.
    7) LOOGY – I don’t mind our lefties but Rizzo may want to sign a traditional LOOGY such as Downs or Choate.


    I very much oppose going the EJAX or Haren Route again. If we can acquire a stud like Price it’s one thing but getting someone with established mediocrity or someone who is obviously on the way down has been tried and it has failed. Let the kids play.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      Ohlendorf may have pitched his way into a starting job elsewhere. Or did we already discuss that he’s under team control for 2014? I forget.

    • texnat1 - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      I certainly hope that Rizzo is more ambitious than you, JD. That is a recipe for absolute disaster offensively. Not only do you not want to upgrade the offense at any starting position but you want to rely heavily on a totally unproven commodity in Moore, and also Brown, on the bench. I’m sorry but that would represent a major major failure of an off season.

      This season shows that the offense on this team is simply not good enough. The core of this team is right there to win you a championship, but the offense is not good enough. They need to add a bat to the starting lineup. And they need to add real bats to the bench, not hope-for-the-best bats like Moore and Brown.

      Take a look at the Nats record when they scored 4 or more runs and when they didn’t and tell me they should stick with this lineup next year.

      How on earth is the lineup you just described going to be good enough to beat the Braves or wildcard competitors like the Cardinals and Reds?

      • jd - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:52 PM


        add a bat to the staring lineup – whose place are you taking? what are you doing with the player you are replacing? how does the salary structure work knowing you need to sign JKZimm and Desi?

        real bats to the bench – I suggested schierholtz and I wouldn’t dismiss Moore and Brown. Chris Davis wasn’t Chris Davis until this year either. Keep in mind that ‘bench’ players by definition are these players which aren’t good enough to be starters at this stage in their careers so it’s hard to get someone ‘proven’ who is also a bench player.

        This team was good enough to win 98 games last year and I think it’s a better team now without making rash signings. Our major signings from last year were both flops in my opinion. and whoever gave the A’s example hit the nail right on the head.

      • texnat1 - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        JD, either Laroche or Span can be replaced. Failing that, I would sooner trade a major piece than sit pat. But I’d prefer the former option.

        This is not the same team as last year, because trading Morse’s offense for Span’s is not an even trade. And do you really think that you can count on Werth to put up anything resembling the numbers he put up this year?

        There is no rational reason to think this team, as currently constituted, would win 98 games next season. Anything is possible, but it is equally, or even more, likely that they win 78.

        Haren is coming off the books and should be replaced in house as you originally suggested. Laroche will be off the books in only one more year. There is money to spend. The Lerners should open up their checkbooks to nudge this team over the top. You don’t often have that opportunity. They have a real shot to win it all in the next couple of years. It would be a shame to just waste it on the theory that they were good enough in ’12 so surely they must still be that good.

        If you look at the team this season and the teams that finished above them, there was nothing aberrational about it. Now it is up to Rizzo and co. to do something about it. The fact that it won’t take that much major movement is what makes it so imperative that you do take the final step.

      • jd - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        They are not replacing ALR and eating $12 mil in the process and Spann was exceptional down the stretch, exactly what we were looking for the entire year. As a matter of fact the entire offense was clicking led by Werth, Zim, Spann et al.

        I think a strong manager and pitching coach gets this team back to the top echelon. I think our personnel is better than Atlanta and Cincinnati . Lots of teams have tried to throw money at their problems (Angels, Texas, Toronto). The danger is in being over aggressive and trying to fix that which is not broken.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        Atlanta made a bunch of moves in the offseason, but the biggest ones had little to do with their division title:

        (1) Signed free agent B.J. Upton. Yeah, THAT helped. Now he’s a $15 million/year for the next four years for a bench bat/defensive replacement. Woo! Better, this isn’t so much of an anomoly season as the continuation of a trend for him. Want to hear fuming sounds? Ask Braves fans how they feel about the contracts for B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.

        (2) Traded for Justin Upton. Got two terrific months from him, four mediocre to lousy ones. They still don’t know what they have in J-Up. Year One of the Up, Up and J-Hey outfield at best disappointing.

        So their “big moves” didn’t really help. Where Atlanta moved up was in (1) getting McCann back; (2) striking unexpected gold in Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis; and (3) having Freddie Freeman put up unsustainable levels of BaBIP (.367 this year!) and hitting with RISP. their starting pitching was pretty good, but their bullpen was great.

        In other words, you know, baseball. You can’t really control your fate, you can only adjust your odds. Baseball is still going to happen, and likely overturn your apple cart.

    • Section 222 - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      Fair analysis, but if we want to win the division, Rizzo must be more creative. Atlanta didn’t catch us by standing pat after finishing just four games behind us last year. I think I’ve expressed what I think the priorities are, so just briefly:

      1. Either replace ALR, or have a viable plan B. No longer does he get a pass for slumping in April/May. He is just as likely, if not more likely, to have another lousy year as he is to heat up.
      2. Sign a good No. 4/5 pitcher. I just don’t have confidence that Det/Roark/Ohlie/Jordan will cover 60 starts at the level needed to contend.
      3. Repair the bullpen — buh-bye to Mattheus, upgrade the lefties if possible, I’m ok with Soriano, Clip, Storen, and Stammen.
      4. Restock the bench — we need guys who can fill in in case of injury or poor performance, and that means they have to be able to hit. The Braves had Gattis, Schaffer, and others who played significant numbers of games. We suffered terribly this year when Werth and Harper were unable to play.
      5. Promise never again to keep a guy for the whole season as your hairy-chested pinch hitter type if he can’t even see the Mendoza line.

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    My hope — and obviously not the biggest issue the Nats face — is that the team gets away from the Matt Stairs/Chad Tracy model of a ‘hairy-chested left-handed pinch hitter” who really can’t do much else. Okay, Mr. Tracy was much more versatile than Mr. Stairs, but he was still not someone you were going to play at either 1B or 3B except in extremis (or close to it). When Davey Johnson was playing and learning the game, teams could afford to carry a player who was exclusively a pinch hitter (more or less) because teams tended to carry one fewer pitcher. In contemporary MLB, the Nats need their left-handed bench bats to be more like Roger Bernadina (of the 2012 variety, obviously) or Willie Harris, who can contribute both at the plate and in the field. I just hate to see a 25-man roster spot reserved for someone who’s getting 100-125 pinch-hit ABs a year and not really available for much else.

  4. NatsLady - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    The Rangers and Angels rescheduled TOMORROW’s game, due to expected inclement weather. Maybe the weather is more predictable in Texas, but I’m wondering if we could ever do that, instead of waiting 4 hours through a delay and then having a double header on Sunday, when it was perfectly fine weather on Saturday afternoon.

  5. natsguy - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    They are required to interview several candidates by agreement. They are required to interview minority candidates. It won’t be as quick as we want.

    • NatsLady - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      Bo won’t be back. He said he’s going to spend all winter watching video and preparing for next season. There’s not even a whisper about him not staying in Houston.

  6. 1stwilkescountynatsfan - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Here’s to hoping the Nats go after the best offensive 2nd baseman in the game! It will take a tremendous amount, but the player is an impact player and will be for another 5-7 years. Unfortunately, I doubt he signs for less than 7-10 years.

    • NatsLady - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      I have mixed feelings. Rizzo likes the impact players/prospects. Hence, Harper, Stras, Rendon. There is a limited window while Desi and RZimm are in their prime and before Werth is OLD.

      OTOH, getting that player limited the development of Rendon… and limits what you can spend on Desi, JZ, and, eventually Harper (I don’t see Stras staying past his time). It will be interesting to see if Rizzo grabs the brass ring.

      • NatsLady - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        er, *limits* the development of Rendon.

        I think it completely depends on how Rizzo evaluates Rendon’s future.

      • 1stwilkescountynatsfan - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        Rendon would have to be traded if Cano were to be signed. I think Rizzo would like that. That way, he can trade for some fresh Pitching prospects or other potential PTP’ers (to borrow from a basketball legend).

      • therealjohnc - Sep 27, 2013 at 5:05 PM

        Rendon would not be traded if Cano were signed. LaRoche would be traded/dumped, with Zim moving to first and Rendon to third.

        And I say that as a person who (a) doesn’t want to shift Zim to first; (b) thinks that Rendon projects nicely as a second baseman but needs to develop more power to hold down a corner IF position; and (c) think that signing Cano to a deal of more than 5 years/$130 million isn’t worth it.

    • texnat1 - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      If Cano is signed then Rendon goes to third and Zim to first. You don’t let the fact that you have 1 year left in a declining player like Laroche cost you a player with the potential of Rendon.

      Now, of course, Cano will not be signed. Not unless the market totally falls apart for him or the Lerners just decided to give Rizzo this freebie and not hold it against him in future budgets.

      • NatsLady - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:57 PM

        I think you are right. Granted he’s an impact player, BUT, his age and the possibility he could get injured (any player could get injured) mitigate against it. Better to draft and develop multiple players, and sign second-tier FAs if you need them.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      Robinson Cano was born in October 1982. He will be 31 years old at the start of next season. Assume he doesn’t get the 10-year contract he’s seeking, but instead gets 8 or 9 years. Do you want a 38, 39, and 40 year-old 2B making northwards of $25m/year on the Nats of the late 2000-teens?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:56 PM

        …and early 2020s?

      • 1stwilkescountynatsfan - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        After the last 2 ten year contracts being (so far) busts, I doubt that any team is easily persuaded to tender another. That is why I said IF we could get him for 5-7 years if would be beneficial. If you have to add 1 or 2 mutual options on the end (or a buy out clause), that probably wouldn’t be entirely bad either. Cano is awesome, now, but who knows what he will be at 38 (maybe just really good).

      • texnat1 - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:42 PM

        No way.

        I would offer 6 years and 21 million. It hurts to offer that much, but I think it would be worth it. It will never work, but might as well throw your hat in the ring.

  7. NatsLady - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    It feels very odd for a Friday, not to be driving over to the box office to get tickets for the weekend, not checking the schedule to see what games I can go to… Not checking the standings to see which games impact the Nats…

  8. langleyclub - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Would guess that Rizzo is going to focus on the bench, and on acquiring a LH reliever. Without a major financial commitment, the A’s won the AL West despite a crappy year from their young star, Yeonis Cepedes, because Beane stacked the roster with solid MLB players (Seth Smith, Chris Young, Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, then adding Callaspo) and with two solid lefties in the pen (Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins). As a result, the A’s have a versatile roster that survived and thrived despite injuries and off-years from key players.

    I would expect the Nats to have at least one guy on the bench that would be a starter in most other organizations, and a much more balanced bullpen.

  9. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    I’d like to think Pujols and Rodriguez have permanently queered the market for +30 players seeking 10-year deals. Not that it matters to me because I don’t especially want Cano even if it’s for five or six years. Only the Yankees, Dodgers and Rangers have the dollars and the slot in their lineup to write the kind of contract Boras will insist on and it will boil down to one of them in the end. If all people are going to talk about this winter is how the Nats can sign Cano I prefer they start another blog.

  10. David Proctor - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    I have no problem with 10 year contracts, I have problems with 10 year contracts for aging guys. I would fully expect that Mike Trout will soon be getting a 10 year contract and Bryce won’t be too far behind. Let’s say you extend Bryce for 10 years in another…3 years or so. He’d be 23, so 33 at the end of it. If you really wanted, you could do a 12 year deal like Boras was asking and basically ensure he’s a National for life.

    Now that’s all getting ahead of ourselves, Bryce still has a lot to prove and all of that. But super long contracts aren’t necessarily bad. They can actually be pretty advantageous to the team. If you have a talent like Harper or Trout, it would be in the team’s prerogative to lock them up long-term before their value climbs even higher. I believe the Rays did something like this with Evan Longoria.

  11. Section 222 - Sep 27, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    There’s an interesting discussion going on here, but it’s all buried and twisted in responses to comments and responses to responses to comments. Just look at the times of the various comments. It’s all a mess. I know people seem to like the nested comments, but this thread is a perfect example of their downside.

    I invite everyone to join me in refraining from nesting a response to a comment unless you are writing immediately after that comment was posted. If other comments have intervened, just write a new “first degree” comment and add it to the bottom of the thread. Feel free to quote or refer to the earlier comment for clarity.

  12. cshunley - Sep 27, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    Keep Adam Laroche. He played 20 lbs below weight this year and his meds were off. Let him get straight in the off season and be healthy next year. Boy that guy can field too. It’s a contract year for him so he should focus and learn and get it together. He carried us the first half of 2012.

    Another good starter. We just didn’t have starting depth when det went down and haren busted

    A good lefty reliever or two. That vacancy hurt us badly.

    Learn to bunt and hit singles. Play smarter. Not that we were bad but the cards showed us this week what skilled teams do and we are not quite there yet

    Hope for a good year. The baseball gods do appear fickle and there is only so much mortals can do to affect Fate.

  13. therealjohnc - Sep 27, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Mark, how can you have a discussion about a prospective manager, including Charlie Manuel (?!?), and not mention Joe Girardi? He is a free agent. World Series experience as a player and manager. Although a former MOY with the Marlins, he probably did his most amazing work this year keeping the Yankees in contention to the last week with a roster held together with duct tape & baling wire.

    Give him a choice between rebuilding with the Cubs, going through a bumpy uncertain transition with the Yankees, or taking over the Nats. Why not Girardi?





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