Nov 8, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
With MLB free agency officially underway — don’t get too excited yet, because players typically don’t start signing for several more weeks — we’re taking a broad look at players the Nationals could pursue, based on positions of possible need. We continue today with bench players…
The Nationals’ bench, touted as a real strength on Opening Day, proved to be a major weakness by season’s end. Backup position players hit a combined .207 with a .264 on-base percentage, while the .250 on-base percentage posted by pinch-hitters was the NL’s worst mark.
So, Mike Rizzo will seek to address this area over the winter. Problem is, the Nationals already have Scott Hairston, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore signed or under team control for at least one more year, so there aren’t many roster openings.
With Chad Tracy gone, the Nationals will need to add at least one left-handed bat to come off the bench. And with that in mind, let’s look at some possible free agents who could fill that role…
It’s been nearly a decade since his Silver Slugger/Gold Glove days in Oakland, but Chavez has reinvented himself as a potent bat off the bench. In 567 plate appearances over the last two seasons with the Yankees and Diamondbacks, he has hit .281 with 25 homers, 81 RBI, a .341 on-base percentage and .829 OPS. No, he can’t play the field anymore, but the Nationals don’t need someone to play first or third base on any kind of regular basis. They just need a good, left-handed bat coming off the bench. Chavez certainly would fit that bill.
An everyday outfielder for the Tigers only two years ago, Boesch has since lost that status. Released by Detroit last winter, he signed with the Yankees but appeared in only 23 games due to a shoulder injury. If healthy, the 28-year-old makes for an intriguing, left-handed, bench bat. This is a guy, after all, with three double-digit homer seasons on his ledger.
A starting second baseman for much of his career, Johnson became a jack-of-all-trades this season with the Rays, also appearing at first base, third base and in left field. He’s still got pop from the left side of the plate, having launched 16 homers for Tampa Bay. He could fit into a utility role if the Nationals were interested.
A versatile utilityman, Bloomquist has done it all throughout his career and hit over .300 each of the last two seasons with the Diamondbacks. Two potential problems, though: 1) He’s right-handed, and the Nationals already have Hairston and Moore hitting from that side of the plate, and 2) He doesn’t hit for any power (17 homers in 2,689 career at-bats).
Wait, seriously? Well, probably not. As much as the Nationals love the big galoot, they really wouldn’t have much playing time to offer him (barring injury to Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth). And Morse, coming off a disastrous season with the Mariners and Orioles, likely wants to re-establish his value by signing with somebody who will offer him a chance to play every day. The Nats can’t offer that, so this is probably a pipe dream. But it would make for one interesting reunion, wouldn’t it?
NL EAST STANDINGS
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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