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Non-tendered players who could interest Nats

Dec 4, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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Players across the majors usually get non-tendered for good reason: They haven’t performed nearly well enough to merit the salaries they’d command via arbitration. So, the 43 newly minted free agents who became available late Monday night don’t exactly leave scouts drooling.

But non-tendered players do make for affordable reclamation projects, and sometimes they prove to be savvy pick-ups for new clubs.

With that in mind, here are a handful of guys who just got whacked this week and could pique the Nationals’ interest…

CHRIS COGHLAN, OF
It’s been a precipitous drop-off for the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, but if healthy he could still prove valuable to someone. A left-handed-hitting outfielder who also has logged a little bit of time in the infield, sports a career .270 batting average and .337 on-base percentage could merit consideration.

SAM FULD, OF
Another left-handed-hitting outfielder coming off a miserable season, Fuld is a stellar defender with some speed. His career offensive numbers (.234/.314/.330) aren’t much to get excited about, though.

PAUL JANISH, INF
With Steve Lombardozzi now in Detroit, the Nationals are going to want to bring in a utility infielder who can compete with Danny Espinosa for a spot on the bench. Janish is an elite defensive player, a true whiz at shortstop. Problem is, he sports Mario Mendoza-like numbers at the plate: .214/.284/.288.

GARRETT JONES, OF
Probably the best hitter of the 43 non-tenders, the former Pirates outfielder/first baseman provides some legitimate pop from the left side of the plate, including a trio of 20-homer seasons. He’d make perfect sense for the Nationals coming off the bench, but you wonder if some other club might offer Jones the opportunity to get more playing time, and whether that ultimately would sway his decision.

XAVIER PAUL, OF
Little-known fact: Paul was a Nat before, a minor-league free agent who was in big-league camp in Viera in 2012 before getting released. He wound up contributing to the Reds the last two seasons, though his ceiling appears to be as a fifth outfielder.

JUSTIN TURNER, INF
The Nationals saw plenty of Turner the last three seasons with the Mets, and while he won’t blow you away, he’s more than a serviceable infielder. You could certainly do worse than a .267/.327/.371-hitting utilityman.

  1. nats128 - Dec 4, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    Good list Mark and just wondering if Coghlan is any better than Corey Brown at this point and time.

    • bowdenball - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      I don’t think our front office trusts Brown at all. I can’t say that I blame them. A 30% K rate in AAA does not bode well for a player’s prospects in the major leagues, where the pitchers are MUCH better at missing bats.

  2. Theophilus T.S. - Dec 4, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    I thought one of the points for trading Lombardozzi was to reduce the redundancies among the Nats’ backup infielder options. Why you would plug in a part-time .214 hitter in the spot occupied by a part-time.265 hitter is beyond me. Turner is pretty much the same thing; when a guy gets jettisoned by a team as bad as the Mets a message is being sent. Jones might have made sense for the Nats in 2007 but is in no way a fit. His defense is atrocious, again a message is given when you can’t find a place on your team for a guy who hits 20 HR per season. Coghlan’s ceiling appears to have collapsed. His name is the only one on the list that remotely interests me. Paul never had a ceiling. Fuld may be the next Ryan Langerhans.

    • pdowdy83 - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      Defense is not overly important on a reserve corner piece/power bat. I don’t know why people keep bringing up how atrocious Garrett Jones is in the field. The team wouldn’t be signing him to play in the field a lot. They would be signing him for his power plain and simple. That said I see him going somewhere like Seattle, Miami or Houston given the fact that all teams need a “power hitter”.

      As far as utility guys go I would target Jayson Nix on a minor league deal to compete with the in house guys but wouldn’t put too much thought into it after that point. Kobernus, Walters and Espinosa are all league minimum guys next year and could all conceivably hold down Lombardozzi’s spot. Nix showed he could play SS last year and he offers good defense overall. He also has a .407 slugging percentage and 17 career homers in 507 plate appearances against left handed pitching and provides above average base running.

      Fuld would be like having Lombardozzi back. Good clubhouse guy that fans like but provides fairly little value to a team like the Nationals. I guess the uptick vs lombo is he plays plus defense and has more speed. I just don’t feel like the team would have traded Lombo if they were going to go this route though.

    • bowdenball - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Justin Turner can play all four infield positions. Steve Lombardozzi doesn’t have the arm to play short or third. He’s not a “utility” player, he’s a backup second baseman. Not saying Turner would be a good pickup, but they’re completely different players.

      Also … batting average? Really? Turner’s OBP in 2013 was .319. Lombo’s was .278. Last time I checked they let you go to first base when you walk. Why be intentionally misleading?

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 4, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    Mark Zuckerman: Is this a position-players-only list or did you not think that any of the non-tendered pitchers were worth the Nats’ interest? I assume the latter.

    • David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Here’s a left handed reliever who was non-tendered. Rizzo should consider him.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wrighwe01.shtml

    • Mark Zuckerman - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      This list is only position players. While there are a couple of pitchers who could look intriguing, it doesn’t seem like the Nats would be all that interested (except for perhaps Wesley Wright).

      • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:14 AM

        Thanks for the quick response.

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    without looking at any numbers, Turner and Coghlan interest me.

  5. jd - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    If you are looking for a left handed bat only Jones is a good choice but if you are looking for a true 4th outfielder then Coghlan is the better choice.

    Turner is a downgrade from Espinosa because he is below average defensively (I don’t think he played anywhere but 2nd for the Mets).

    • pdowdy83 - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Turner played 3rd and SS (not too often) for the Mets. He isn’t anything special but he is better than Lombardozzi. Only thing is I think Kobernus, Walters and Espinosa are better.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    The Nats need a backup catcher, a 4th outfielder, a utility infielder, and another lefty reliever, and I don’t see anyone on that list.

    My preference like I said is Stubbs who the Indians tendered a contract to only to try to trade. He’s a RH outfielder with + speed and better than average defense who would compliment the LH outfielders like Span and Harper as Stubbs hits LH pitching well. He is one of the best bunters in baseball and has a career BA of .410 when bunting
    for a hit. He also has a career BA of .274 vs Lefty pitching. Last season he had a .361 OBP vs lefties.

    His problem is he is a .226 career BA vs RHPs which is why he’s a 4th outfielder platoon type player, late inning defensive replacement, and pinch runner.

    • David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      I’m starting to think that Mike Rizzo doesn’t plan to get a backup catcher. He’s mentioned bench and bullpen help. I haven’t heard him list backup catcher as a need at all.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        Honestly I did not think rizzo was going to address starting pitching the way he did. You never know what’s going on up there in his mind.

      • Jw - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        Rizzo never telegraphs his moves.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      Concur on Mr. Stubbs.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        The Indians need a 3rd catcher with MLB experience who has MiLB options. The Nats can trade them one of those or make a bigger deal as they need some bullpen upgrades where maybe Rizzo gets Stubbs plus a prospect.

    • jd - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      I think the 4th outfielder must be left handed or a switch hitter to compliment Hairston and Moore, I think there’s a good chance Espinosa is the backup infielder.

      I think we absolutely need a catcher who can play 45 – 60 games without a huge drop off. I don’t think Solano or Leon are the answer. For the lefty reliever I would try hard for O’Flaherty and then mix and match until he’s ready.

    • pjnat - Dec 4, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Unfortunately, Stubbs is an outfield version of Danny Espinosa: 729 strike outs in 632 games, or if you prefer, a 29.3% strike out rate.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 2:52 PM

        pjnat, not a fair comparison and as a K is an out just like a flyout. His .361 OBP against LHPs makes him a strong platoon taking some games from Bryce and Span when the numbers match up well.

        His speed makes his OPS look even better as singles with a steal is like a double. I really like him as a bench compliment as he is a + defender, + speed, and + OBP facing LHPs.

  7. David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Doug Fister will be on 106.7 at 1:30

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    The Nats have 5 bench spots and let’s assume 1 spot TBD for the backup catcher and 1 spot for a RH power bat (Hairston).

    That leaves only 3 spots of which:

    1. utility middle infielder to which Espinosa will compete.
    2. 4th outfielder who can spot start
    3. LH bat off the bench

    I don’t see a spot for Tyler Moore here as his spot is taken by Hairston. Who becomes the backup 1st baseman when you want a RH to sit LaRoche? I can see a scenario where Espi plays 2nd, Rendon shifts to 3rd and RZim goes to 1st as Doc suggested this week, but that’s not optimum.

    This is where I think Hairston is a luxury the Nats can’t give up a spot to. He is a poor defender, slow, and can’t hit RHPs and doesn’t play 1st base, or can he?

    • jd - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      You have 5 slots right?

      1)Hairston, 2)Moore, 3)Espinosa 4)backup catcher 5) left handed hitting 4th outfielder.

      no?

      • jd - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:40 AM

        Ghost,

        why can’t the 4th outfielder also be the left handed bat off the bench?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:47 AM

        jd, they are harder to find if you want the big bopper that Rizzo loves as they usually look like Tracy or Stairs. Beltran as a switch is perfect but he costs a ton.

        Give me a name of a big lefty outfield bat who can play defense? Coghlan could be that guy but as Nats 128 said, he’s maybe a slightly better version of Corey Brown depending at the metrics you’re looking at.

      • jd - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:52 AM

        Corey Brown may be that guy. who knows? Beltran will sign a big contract and be somebody’s everyday player. He’s not a 4th outfielder or a left handed bat of the bench.

        The difference between Coghlan and Brown is that Coghlan has done it at the major league level and Brown hasn’t.

        BTW, the Braves proved last year that you can find bench players in places which are not obvious. I think our biggest problem last year had to do with bench deployment rather than the actual makeup.

      • pdowdy83 - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:38 PM

        Ghost,

        Tyler Colvin can play outfield and hit for power from the left side. I don’t know why he isn’t more mentioned. I wouldn’t play him in CF but Harper can play there if we need a 2nd option there. He is perfectly average in both corner spots and has 2 season of 400 plate appearances where he has put up a slugging percentage of .500 or higher. He is also an average base runner. To me he fits the bench spot perfectly. He even has some major league first base experience.

        I do agree that if you plan on having Moore on the roster that Hairston doesn’t fit. I would go with this alignment:

        Backup catcher
        Moore
        Colvin
        Espinosa/Walters/Kobernus

        Then you still have one spot to toy with.

  9. Section 222 - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    Just say no to any player, utility or otherwise, who can’t hit. Jones and Coughlan definitely seem worth a look. I’m excited about a new look bench this year. And DP, I think Rizzo is well aware of our needs at catcher. He just doesn’t say everything that’s on his mind, as we know all too well.

  10. David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    How about Nate McClouth as the 4th outfielder? Left hander off the bench. Plays CF average and is above average in the corners. Fast–can pinch run. My ideal bench would look like this:

    RH power (OF): Hairston
    LH power (3B/1B): Eric Chavez (he can hit lefties well)
    Utility guy: Espinosa
    LH 4th outfielder: Nate McClouth. Can play CF average and the corners above average. Fast. Has some platoon splits though
    Backup catcher

    I don’t see a spot for Moore. Especially since Moore has reverse splits. He hits righties much better than lefties.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      David, I owe you a virtual beer on McLouth. I think we’re coming up with similar conclusions on Tyler Moore.

    • pdowdy83 - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      I’m on board with Mclouth but if he was going to sign cheap he would already be back in with the Orioles. I read somewhere he is looking for 2 years $10mm total. That is steep for a 4th outfielder. I like your bench alignment though. I really would enjoy Chavez being on the roster and Matt Williams just coached him so there is a connection. There is no reason to force Moore onto the roster with an option remaining. He is good depth.

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    If Rizzo went with a lefty off the bench, McLouth is a Free Agent although he’s not a bopper. Kubel lost all power. Ibanez is too old. Beltran, Choo, and Granderson all are starter types. Kelly Johnson is a 4th outfielder FA with some pop but just isn’t a good 4th outfielder. Beyond them you are looking at players like Coghlan.

    Other choices are trades.

  12. trochlis318 - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    im pretty sure that rizzo mentioned in an interview that he was looking for a backup catcher becuase he dind’t want to go in with leon or solano as the backup ill see if i can find it.

  13. David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    http://www.gammonsdaily.com/nationals-fleece-tigers-complete-powerhouse-rotation/

    There’s a good article on the Fister deal.

    • sjberke - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Article was good but not great (wish commenters would stop blaming Tigers for not digging hard enough for competing offers when they have no idea what the Tigers did or didn’t do); people should be aware that despite the URL the article was not written by Gammons but by Michael Weinberg, one of the website’s contributors .

      • David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        “wish commenters would stop blaming Tigers for not digging hard enough for competing offers when they have no idea what the Tigers did or didn’t do)”

        Ken Rosenthal reported today that some GMs weren’t even aware that Fister was available. They clearly didn’t shop him as well as they could have. But their loss is our gain.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 12:14 PM

        Lightning struck twice with Fister. When he was traded in 2011 from the Mariners to the Tigers it was all below the radar and most GM’s weren’t aware. None of the players the Mariners got have turned into good players. The Mariners got slammed for that trade.

        That was one of my criticisms of trading Willingham to the A’s as it would have seemed more teams should’ve bid him up for better prospects. I think most trades are done in small circles except the ones where GM’s publicly announce a player is available.

        If you remember last year I said repeatedly Justin Upton was available and the D’Backs at one point said it wasn’t true. I don’t think many teams got in on that Upton trade, and even Fielder to Texas seemed like it wasn’t shopped at all.

    • Section 222 - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      This is kind of funny:

      “They picked up a fantastic starting pitcher at no cost to their short term future and now look poised to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 armed with a rotation capable of dethroning the Tigers.”

      I think we’re more interested in dethroning the Red Sox, or at least the Braves.

  14. Mrsb loves the Nats - Dec 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Uhm… Forgive me if this hasnt been said yet… But I think back up catcher is a greater need than OF… Given Ramos health and history… Hope that is a position on Rizzo’s list.

  15. Theophilus T.S. - Dec 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    All back-up catchers end up looking like Wil Nieves. It’s a Hobson’s multiple choice. If Ramos has a serious injury he’ll go trade w/ some team looking for a salary dump. If only a short-term problem he’ll rotate the farm system options in and out.

  16. JamesFan - Dec 4, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    To have the current pitching staff and no serious backup catcher behind Ramos except a couple of rookies is irresponsible.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 4, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      The off-season has almost 4 full months left. I’d give it time before I tag the outcome “irresponsible”.

  17. David Proctor - Dec 4, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Rizzo said on Hot Stove this morning that Matt Williams has made a few recruiting calls to free agents. So they’re not just standing idly by.

  18. letswin3 - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    I’m just a wannabe Hot Stove GM looking to get some experience here. But let me ask you to try this on for size … the Nats saved about $6 million in the swap of Haren for Fister (man, that sounds good). And I’m not quite sure what the pricetag would be for Choo. But the $6 million savings could be directly applied to a big Choo contract for him to take the RF position, while moving Werth to 1B (improves the 1B position output immeasurably, while saving Werth’s body) and providing the big lefty bat on the bench in the form of ALR. I know that’s an expensive bench lefty, but it would only be for one year, and would you rather have him get 500-600 at bats at 1B or have Werth in the batting lineup every day at that bag? Moving in Choo to LF and Werth to 1B would give the Nats a lineup to give every pitcher they face nightmares…… let’s face it, the 2-year deal we gave ALR was a mistake, so we take our lumps with the understanding that he will go away after ’14. There are no really hot 1B prospects in the organization waiting in the wings anyway, so this solution could prove to have a multi-year benefit relative to the “golden years” of the big Werth contract.

    • letswin3 - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      I meant Choo to RF.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 4, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      I understand why there is a certain amount of suggesting they bench LaRoche, but honestly, it’s pretty rare to sit an expensive, popular, hard-working veteran in his walk year when he’s one season removed from a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, after only one career-low season that’s very possibly due to taking the wrong meds. He’s going to have to have another lousy first half before they even bring up the subject, barring injury.

      • letswin3 - Dec 4, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        You’re probably right, Sofa. I’ve likely been premature here. Thanks for sharing a different perspective.

      • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Dec 4, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        If they sign Cano plus moving to do the two extensions LaRoche might end up going. Less expensive to go with Rendon at third with Zim at first when you factor in the Cano hit against the payroll. Signing Cano might just get them the JZimmnn and Desmond extensions. Shows you care about winning now.

    • Section 222 - Dec 4, 2013 at 7:13 PM

      Seems highly unlikely, but oh man would it be awesome to have Choo and his greater than .400 OBP in our lineup, not to mention his power.

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