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Offseason storyline No. 2: Keep the lineup intact?

Oct 2, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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The Nationals are transitioning into offseason mode, and so are we. Over these first five days, we’ll run through the five biggest storylines of the winter for this club, continuing today with the No. 2 storyline: Whether or not to keep the current starting lineup intact…

For more than four months, the Nationals owned one of baseball’s least-productive lineups. On August 7, they sported a .240 team batting average, a .299 on-base percentage and averaged a scant 3.7 runs per game.

Which understandably led to some questions about the offensive plan heading into 2014. The Nats couldn’t stick with the status quo, could they?

Well, after a dramatic turnaround in production during the season’s final seven weeks, they just might.

Over their final 48 games, the Nationals hit a collective .276, posted a .343 on-base percentage and scored 4.9 runs per game. Which led to a 32-16 record, the majors’ best during that closing stretch.

What were the biggest differences during those final seven weeks?

— The Nationals had a fully healthy lineup at last, with Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos playing every day and Bryce Harper feeling as close to 100 percent as he had all year.

— Denard Span finally got hot after a sluggish start to his first season in Washington, producing a 29-game hitting streak and setting the table for the rest of the lineup.

— Ryan Zimmerman rediscovered his lost power stroke, clubbing a league-leading 11 home runs in September to finish with a team-high 26.

— Overall, players seemed to thrive under new hitting Rick Schu, taking a more relaxed approach to the plate than they did under Rick Eckstein.

Rizzo also believes the Nationals were better at situational hitting down the stretch after struggling mightily with runners in scoring position early.

“I think offensive efficiency is the thing that kind of disappointed us most,” the GM said. “It’s not doing the little things to create runs and manufacture runs. We were more reliant on the long ball, I think, than we should’ve been, and I think it’s shown. We’ve created more runs, we’ve stolen more bases, we’ve hit with runners in scoring position much better recently, and that’s really the roster that we constructed all along. We just waited too long to get it going.”

If Rizzo was inclined to make a lineup change, where would it happen? There aren’t many obvious answers. The Nationals are set in the outfield, at shortstop, catcher and at third base after Zimmerman made vast throwing improvements as the season progressed.

That leaves only first base and second base, and the Nationals don’t appear to believe either needs an upgrade.

Though Adam LaRoche struggled all season and finished with a .237 batting average and .735 OPS that each were career-lows in non-injury years, there appears to be organizational confidence in the veteran’s ability to bounce back in 2014.

“I think this year was an anomaly for him,” Rizzo said. “He showed streaks of being the Adam LaRoche that we all know. He had some physical ailments that curtailed some of his production. I’m confident he’ll come back to spring training next year fit, healthy and ready to produce, as he always has.”

Rizzo also gave an endorsement to Anthony Rendon, who as a rookie and novice second baseman hit .265 with seven homers and 23 RBI in his first 98 big-league games. Though the GM did leave the door slightly ajar for Steve Lombardozzi and the demoted Danny Espinosa entering 2014.

“When the season ends, Rendon will be our starting second baseman, but we’re going to go into spring training with an open competition for a lot of positions,” Rizzo said Saturday in Phoenix. “It’s going to be something we’ve got a lot of good young players at that position. Rendon has played remarkably well at that position for a guy who is learning defensively at the major-league level and trying to hit for the first time at the major-league level. Compound that with that he’s played more games than he’s ever played in his career, and he’s had a remarkable rookie season.

“And let’s not forget about Danny Espinosa, who hit 20 home runs and stole 20 bases in the big leagues already and is a stalwart defensive player. And Lombo, who is one of the most steady players that we have on the ballclub. We’ve got a lot of good options over there and we’re going to roll them out there in spring training and see what happens.”

  1. alexva6 - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    improved hitting from LaRoche is the key. defensive drop-off not withstanding Moore should be used before ALR’s slumps progress too far along.

    otherwise the lineup is set.

  2. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    The last week-and-a half exposed two things about this Nats’ lineup: (1) they are all streak hitters; (2) they wilt in the face of good pitching. In the space of about nine games they went from having five guys (plus Werth) hitting .280 or above to five guys hitting about .275 (or less). For the most part, again excepting Werth but not by a lot, there is no one you can look at and say, well,”this guy isn’t going to go 0-fer more than a couple of games in a row,” or “this guy won’t, at some point in the season, go through two or three weeks straight being unable to hit his way out of a wet paper sack.” Harper or Rendon might grow into that kind of hitter but that’s far from certain, espec. in the case of Harper. (Span is a special case; his final six weeks were close to what was hoped for but he’s never going to hit .300, either.) The rest of them are not fundamentally sound hitters and swing their way into horrible slumps, and when two, three of them — or more — are doing it all at once disaster portends. The guys they need in their lineup are players like Prado, Polanco (the younger version) and Utley who just go tick-tock, tick-tock and wear out pitchers every night.

    Unfortunately, they’re stuck with what they’ve got. It’s impossible to trade up at a position without giving away the house; it makes no sense (A), economically, to hire FAs at a position where they’re already committed to paying good salaries; (B) in the long-term, to trade players for less than full value just to have a hole to fill with a high-priced FA.

    This is why the next manager needs to be willing to ride some of these players like a rented mule if necessary to keep them working at their jobs and paying attention to instruction.

    • Candide - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:23 AM

      +1

    • rogieshan - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      +2

    • pchuck69 - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      -1

      The vast majority of players are streaky so to make this claim about these players is misguided.

      The problem with this team, this season, was Davey Johnson. His desired approach accentuated the streakiness. The team went out, game after game after game, always going for the three-run homer instead of making adjustments. I’m talking about in-game adjustments as well as adjustments for where the player is on the streaky scale at a given time. Davey managed this team as if he were completely unaware of these things.

      He managed this team like he was driving a car blindfolded with his gas pedal stuck to the floor.

  3. melaniehallblog - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    Reblogged this on melaniehallblog.

  4. Another_Sam - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    I’ve got one change for the lineup. I know that RZ made a few big league throws late in the season, coincident with his hitting coming alive. I say next spring, if his throwing isn’t confident from the start, do something right away. Play him at first for a few games. Bench ALR if this happens. IMHO the big mistake of 2013 was sitting by while RZ coudn’t make a major league through across the infield.

    If everyone is healthy next year, I’m okay with pretty much this same lineup as 2013. I hope BH dials it down to just 110% — from the 125% or so that he played at early in the season — so he can stay completely healthy all year.

    I’d sorta like to change the third base coaching, but I’ve really nothing to base that feeling on.

    I’m ready for spring.

  5. Candide - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Too much of Mark’s analysis depends on a whole bunch of things happening all at once – guys getting healthy, new hitting coach, anomalous season for ALR.

    The Occam’s Razor* analysis is much simpler: The Nats suddenly got better in August because they were playing the dregs of the league. They’d hit poorly against good-to-average teams until then, hit well against the bad teams in August-September, and resumed hitting poorly against the good teams again in late September.

    They were just as healthy against the Cardinals in September as they were against the Mets in August.

    Rick Schu was still the hitting coach in September against the Cardinals.

    The only major difference between their condition in late September and early September was the quality of the opposition. The Nats don’t hit well against good teams, for reasons Theophilus laid out so well above.

    * Occam’s Razor: “…among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”

    • Jw - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      You don’t have to assume anything to know that basically this same lineup produced throughout 2012. You don’t have to assume anything to know that Span has produced throughout his career, except for the bad stretch that started this season. You don’t have to assume anything to know that every player hits a slump. You don’t have to assume anything to know that sooner or later many of those slumps will line up together. So Occam’s Razor would say status quo, full speed ahead.

      • texnat1 - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        Jw, if you want to believe the team will return to 2012 form, that is your choice. But don’t try to pass it off as the assumption called for by Occam’s Razor. That is nonsensical.

        Span OPS’s less than 700 for 2 of the previous 3 seasons before this one.

        The 2012 lineup was different because it had a healthy functioning Morse in it. From an offensive perspective trading Morse for Span was not an even trade.

        If you want to know what the simplest assumption is, it is that if the Nats put out the same lineup next year that they put out this year, they will get similar results. Yeah, Harp, Rendon and others may improve, but it is also likely that others will take a step back. Werth for example had a statistical outlier year at age 34. I cringe to think what the projections will be for him next year given that this team simply can’t afford for him to fall off much at all.

      • chaz11963 - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        Completely agree Jw.

        Texnat- Span for Morse was a great trade. We finally have a legit leadoff man and CFer. If Span just stays around his career averages, we are golden. I love Michael Morse, but look what happened to him this year, plus he is a deficit in the OF and not a leadoff guy.

    • scbilly - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      The other thing that changed for most of that last week and a half was that the team was eliminated from playoff contention, leading to what looked like a fairly predictable drop in intensity once the games became meaningless (the magic of 300 games above .500 notwithstanding), so it’s not straightforward to read. That said, open competition at 1B and 2B makes a lot of sense, and any opportunity to bring a steady bat from outside the organization at a reasonable price ought to be explored. Balancing the runs saved by the exchange of a healthy Morse for a plus defender in CF with the runs lost in the other half of the inning is an interesting question, made somewhat trickier by the fact that a healthy Morse is only slightly less mythical than a unicorn.

  6. slidell2 - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Well, the mark of a good team is to play the better squads at about .500 (Braves/Cards/Royals/Diamondbacks) and beat up the rest which is pretty much what we did late. In July, we went through a stretch where we couldn’t seem to beat anybody, including the Marlins and the Phillies.
    So to me, the jury is still out. We’ll see next spring what the true story is.

  7. therealjohnc - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    I think the team goes largely with the status quo. This is because: (a) there is a rational argument that the offense will be better overall than it was in 2013, if not likely quite as good as it was during the last third of the season; and more importantly (b) there may not be a workable alternative available.

    With the latter point, the free agents that are likely to help (Cano, Ellsbury, Choo) come with price tags that would likely affect the team’s ability to sign Desmond and Zimmermann to extensions. As well as costing the team their first round draft pick. Other than that, the free agent class is weak – and particularly weak at 1b and 3b. Signing Abreu to play 1b would be potentially expensive and a wild leap of faith. Even if the team did sign him, I’d recommend that they hang onto ALR and start 2014 with ALR at 1b and Abreu in the minors to get used to playing in the US.

    And ALR and Span are the only two hitters you might consider moving. The rest – Ramos, Rendon, Zimmerman, Desmond, Harper and Werth – are fine. Verdict: status quo.

    • texnat1 - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      If you are right: verdict: struggle to win the last wild card and probably don’t get it.

      • therealjohnc - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:05 PM

        Meh. I’m glad you can see the future. If you have a team with six of eight position players above average for their positions (Ramos, Rendon, Zimmerman, Desmond, Harper, Werth), one just about average (Span), and one slightly below average (LaRoche), your offense should be just fine, thanks.

        Assuming the status quo from 2013 guarantees a repeat in 2014 is as foolish as assuming that rolling over the roster from 2012 guaranteed another division title in 2013.

      • texnat1 - Oct 2, 2013 at 6:00 PM

        There are no guarantees of course, but what is the reason to think this team will be demonstratively better than who they were last year?

        What frustrates me is how close this team is to being the best in baseball. If they could score 4 runs a night, they would be turn-out-the-lights good. Instead it appears they are going to opt to struggle to eek out runs over the course of the year with a very hot and cold lineup. This puts enormous pressure on the hitters, who, as this season has amply demonstrated, do not always react well to it.

      • nats128 - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:47 PM

        It’s an optimistic view John to stick with the status quo and expect better results. Laroches regression and age have to be troublesome. 1st base is a premium power position and he just didnt deliver the OPS. I think that was the only weakness as the team finished strong. The “slow start” tag on Laroche isnt good for a team that got off to a sluggish start after Week 1 of 2012.

        The Nats can afford to bench Laroche and make him the Chad Tracy and let him earn his spot. I think the Nats need a manager who wont play favorites and get players to earn there way.

        Part of the 2012 problem was waiting to long to make changes and part of that was based on lack of depth with the problem with Espinosa as Rizzo didnt have a readily available player. It was a huge fail since Rizzo (not the fanbase) knew he was recovering from a shoulder injury and didnt have a backup just in case or at least had Rendon playing 2nd base in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training and Minors. The other problem was the replacement players like Bernadina were hitting like pitchers.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:30 PM

      Absolutely… sign Abreu and platoon him with ALR, unless he has a Puig-type year.

  8. Section 222 - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Bryce Harper feeling as close to 100 percent as he had all year.

    Not to nit pick, but I think he felt closer to 100 percent in April, before those wall incidents. If he was close to 100 percent healthy in the last seven weeks, then we have to hope he’ll be better next year. Here are his numbers from Aug. 9 through the end of the season:
    .277/.372/.413/.785 with just 3 homers and 12 doubles in 42 games. That’s not the Bryce we know, or the Bryce we need to return to the playoffs next year.

    I agree completely with Candide. The biggest difference in those last seven weeks was the quality of the opposition. I’m pretty sure Rizzo will be looking at the whole season in making his decisions about next year. ALR is the biggest question mark in this lineup. We need a bigger bat from him for sure.

  9. bleacherbumerik - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    The Nationals really need to consider moving Harper to 1B assuming Zimmerman was actually hurt during the majority of the 2012 season. If he can stay at 3B, moving Harper to 1B would seem like the ideal situation to me. His bat projects to be far too valuable to continue trotting him out there in the OF considering the enormous risk of injury due to his style of play. This would also enable them to find another bat for the OF which at the moment in MLB seems easier than finding a 1B. If Moore is not considered the future at 1B, and I don’t think he is at this point, why not make Harper your 1B of the future? As a former catcher, I am sure he can adjust. Losing his arm in the OF stinks, but so does watching him limp through an injury-plagued season. Haven’t looked much at potential free agents, but I think Choo would be a nice pick-up. The lineup certainly doesn’t need and overhaul, but to me, LaRoche is finished.

    • bleacherbumerik - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      That should read 2013 season.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      I cannot disagree with this comment enough. First of all, Harper has never played first, or even infield. We have no idea how good he could be there. Further, it’s not like first baseman don’t get hurt – there are a lot of collisions with runners that occur when bad throws take the fielder into the baseline. This is talk radio GMing at its worst.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        OTOH, Werth has played 1st base in the minors and would benefit and lengthen his career by a shift to 1st. He’s tall and athletic and would do great. Think back to Soriano moving from 2nd to LF and Rendon to 3rd. Only shortsighted people say it can’t be done.

        Of course there is no rush to do it if Rizzo can’t bring in an upgrade like Shoo or Stanton. Only makes sense if you upgrade.

      • texnat1 - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:57 PM

        Ghost, I agree that Werth might be a good idea and it would help preserve his offense as he gets longer in the tooth (or is the beard)?

        What do you think the Nats would have to give up to get Stanton? I fear it would be Desmond plus Giolito plus maybe even more.

        It’s a shame there aren’t more hitters on the market this year. The Nats could really use one.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 2, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        Stanton can be had for a Justin Upton type deal. I believe he will be traded but doubt the Nats will get him. Shoo could be a better fit for the Nats and all he will cost is money and a Comp pick.

        Glad you are open minded. When I bear the drum about Rendon to 2nd the day he was drafted I was told it would never happen but I kept saying it. I suggested in Spring of 2012 that Lombo get time in LF and was told by some here it would never happen.

      • Eric - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:44 PM

        Harper – Span – Choo?

        Hooooo doggy, I’m in! Especially if ALR doesn’t return to somewhere at least midway between 2012 and 2013 form, and if Werth can perform at least a bit above average at 1B.

  10. texnat1 - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    How does the weak competition not even make the list for factors contributing to the offensive surge?

    I’m really not sure how Rizzo thinks that Rendon should potentially lose his spot but Span is sacrosanct. Rendon had a better OPS than Span. Rendon was a rookie who has a world of potential. Span is a proven mediocre hitter.

    I am hoping that Rizzo is just trying to put a happy face on the current cast of characters (and motivate Espi) given the possibility that you can’t upgrade even if you try, because if he intends to trot out the same lineup next year, you can expect the same struggles and the same lost potential.

  11. Drew - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    The wrist injury that cost Matt Skole a year of development was a significant drawback to this season.

    The Nats need to know whether his 2012 season was an anomaly or whether he can be LaRoche’s power-hitting heir at first base. It will be very interesting to see how he performs in the AFL.

  12. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Re: Skole —

    I don’t think — especially given Skole’s injury and considering previous lukewarm assessments of his long-term potential — the Nats can be locked in to their own internal succession plan at 1B. Even if LaRoche rebounds, they won’t keep extending him indefinitely. I could see trading over the winter for some other team’s top 1B prospect — a AA or AAA guy who is currently blocked by another young player. (I haven’t gone surfing on minor league prospect boards to tell you who that might be.) The point would be to set up a 2015 ST competition or platoon situation involving Moore, Skole and Prospect X.

    I don’t see the Nats looking at Moore as the 1BOTF. I think their comments aim to paint him as some other team’s 30 HR guy, not theirs. I think going outside the organization is the only way they can position themselves — with some assurance — for a young, affordable 1B who can blend into a still-young team.

    For the foregoing reasons, Moore stays on the 25-man all of the 2014 season — unless he plays again like Tracy — to show once and for all whether he is a future contributor.

  13. NatsLady - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    I don’t count the last St. Louis series. Period. The guys went on a major-league bender after getting eliminated (whether it was an ACTUAL bender, I can’t say, but it was certainly a psychological bender…). StL had something at stake and the Nats didn’t and don’t give me “pride” or “revenge” because those are for next year.

    Also, I think Rizzo has some moves in mind that we haven’t discussed, and he’s waiting. Well, he has to wait, but there are two of his trading partners (Oakland and Tampa) still in the playoffs and you don’t know what they will offer. Tampa owes us for DeJesus because they would never have gotten him off waivers, some other AL team would have claimed him first (or the Barves would have).

    This was the first Wednesday with no regular season games, so I listened to Mr. Tony for the first time since last spring. Forgot how annoying he is, and how shallow his baseball knowledge is. Anyway, apparently Tyler Clippard said something to the effect that “We have a good thing here, hopefully the next manager won’t mess with it too much” which K took as arrogance and complacency. I didn’t take it that way at all. Look at the last couple of months, the team was functioning as it’s supposed to, and however upset Clip was about the bullpen (Storen), that’s been resolved and that’s pretty important. Maybe Clip likes Randy Knorr, and the assumption is he would fit in with the culture–who knows.

  14. chaz11963 - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    The Nats have their core team and lineup. The place where they need offensive help is the bench. In 2012 all the “Goon Squad” guys had career years off the bench. That totally failed this year, and when the core players started going down early in the season, we got hurt by the lack of production off the bench. There’s no place to put another bat in the lineup unless you platoon someone with ALR and/or enhance the bench offense.

  15. langleyclub - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Tampa does not owe the Nats a thing. The Nats claimed DeJesus off revocable waivers from the Cubs, which resulted in a trade. Then, the Nats immediately placed DeJesus on recovable waivers, and the Rays then claimed DeJesus which resulted in the Spann for DeJesus trade. Any team with a worse record than the Rays could have claimed DeJesus before he feel to the Rays, but no one claimed DeJesus until it was the Rays turn.

    If anything, the Nats made life more complicated for the Rays as the Nats held on to DeJesus for 4 days when the Rays were in the middle of a pennant chase, and the Nats claim caused the Rays to give up a lefthanded pitching prospect which the Cubs may not have demanded as the Cubs were simply looking to dump payroll.

  16. JamesFan - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    The Nats played well in September for several reasons: weak schedule, pressure was off them and Zimm’s hot streak. The were not competitive against the Cards, and the Nats have got to face the reality that they are not as good as several NL teams.

    It is just as possible that ALR will be the same or worse in 2014 as he was this year. Moore is potentially a 30 homer guy and Skole should be recovered. I would like some heavy pressure put on ALR next year. Rendon has a record as a fragile player, although I do think he will be an excellent hitter over time. Even in the .260s he was great in the clutch.

    A strong manager is key. Then in order of priority: Solid backup for Ramos, strengthen the pen, depth at starting pitcher, outfield bench players.

  17. Theo - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Problem with our line-up is you don’t become a major league hitter by going 0-3, 4-4, 0-3, 0-4; you become a major league hitter by going 1-3, 2-4, 0-3, 1-4. Both are .285 hitters, one is far more useful than the other. Nats hitters like Zimm seem to have good numbers but huge games skew those numbers and hide the 0-fees.

  18. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Is righty danny still useful against left-handed pitching? either way, he needs to get himself fixed health-wise at least. if he is gonna be part of next year’s roster, he better be 100% healthy.

    • JamesFan - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      I just do not see Espinoza coming back after such a hard demotion and failure in AAA. The team is moving on and he needs a new start somewhere else. There are a lot of teams that will think they can fix him. Maybe they can, maybe they can’t. I don’t see him back in Washington.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        that would be a sad end to his DC times. I hope it does not come to that. ugh, that would totally suck.

      • janebeard - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        I agree that the BEST thing for Danny is to move him somewhere else. He can have success elsewhere. For him to come to SPring training and not make the club out of there would just be awful on so many levels. AT THE SAME TIME, I stick with Rendon, absent some huge shift in Espi.

    • langleyclub - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      Against left handed pitching through the beginning of September, Danny Espinosa hit .195 with 0 HRs against AAA pitching. So, it does not appear that Danny Espinosa is useful against left-handed pitching.

      IMO, the Nats will trade Espinosa to an organization that can afford to take a risk with a high potential-low production player to see if he can snap out of his funk in a situation with less pressure (Houston, Minnesota, Miami, San Diego, even Oakland). Despite his struggles, Espinosa still has some value, but if the Nats wait through another bad start in 2014 for Espinosa, teams will just wait until he is released.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:27 PM

        a month worth of PAs may not mean much. we should more rely on scouts’ opinions at this point I think.

  19. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Andrelton Simmons has the highest Defensive Wins Above Replacement in MLB history (5.4). Now while you can define defensive WAR how you want I’m not buying. Shortstops save mostly singles. Corner infielders save doubles. Machado probably saved a couple dozen doubles.

    I watched at least 20 Braves games this year and noticed that Simmons has good range but so does Desi. To give a 5.4 WAR over replacement is hard to fathom for saving singles.

  20. letswin3 - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Realjohn, bleacherbum and others, I echo your thoughts about ALR. Every club in baseball feels that the first baseman’s bat is expected to exceed the 237 that ALR brings to the party, and who cares about his fielding if he can’t hit.. But maybe we could package Span with him to pull off a more attractive trade, particularly if someone thinks that ALR will return to his ’12 form or match expectations for those who are in their final year of a contract before becoming a free agent. And that would bring Choo into the equation where he would fill in nicely in both halves of an inning….he hits, he runs, he hits for power and he catches the ball. The vacancy at first base could be filled by Moore, Zim, a FA or a player involved in one or more trades. Ownership can find enough cash under their couch cushions to sign Zimmermann, Choo, Desi and a 5th starter…..particularly if they can consummate the MASN deal that is bound to provide a huge war chest. And about $26 million would be freed-up by losing the salaries of Haren and ALR….that’s a nice start to the cash needed to sign productive guys.

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