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3 deals in 10 days leave Nats in good shape

Dec 12, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

Associated Press AP

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Ten days ago, the Nationals needed a starting pitcher. They needed a left-handed bench bat. And they sorely needed a left-handed reliever.

Then came the trade for Doug Fister. Then came the signing of Nate McLouth. And after Wednesday’s trade for Jerry Blevins, general manager Mike Rizzo could take comfort knowing he had now addressed his club’s three biggest needs before mid-December.

“We think that we have kind of accomplished what we set out to do when the season ended in ’13,” Rizzo said. “We had an offseason plan in place, and we’ve accomplished the things that we have set out to. We feel good about that.”

The Nationals haven’t always been so efficient when it comes to the Hot Stove League. Rizzo had been thwarted in previous offseasons in attempts to bolster his starting rotation or bullpen, and his club often went into January (or even February) with significant holes still unaddressed.

But as the Winter Meetings wrap up today, the Nationals’ projected Opening Day roster appears nearly to be set.

Sure, Rizzo could still add a veteran backup to catcher Wilson Ramos. He could acquire another bench bat or middle infielder to compete with Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore for playing time.

But if the season began today, the Nationals absolutely would be comfortable heading north with a 25-man roster constructed solely from parts already in the organization.

“We’re very happy with the group we have,” Rizzo said.

What would that Opening Day roster look like? Here’s where things stand at the moment…

CATCHERS (2): Wilson Ramos, Jhonatan Solano/Sandy Leon
INFIELDERS (6): Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore
OUTFIELDERS (5): Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Nate McLouth, Scott Hairston
ROTATION (5): Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ross Detwiler
BULLPEN (7): Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Jerry Blevins, Craig Stammen, Ross Ohlendorf/Tanner Roark, Xavier Cedeno/Ryan Mattheus

That’s not a perfect roster. None ever has been. But it’s a roster that would stack up with any in baseball and probably would have fewer question marks than nearly any other club in the sport.

More important, it’s a roster built by Rizzo to mesh with Matt Williams’ managerial style. Williams wanted quality players on his bench who could give starters regular days off. He wanted a deep bullpen that included a lefty of Blevins’ caliber and multiple long-relief options like Stammen, Ohlendorf and Roark.

Rizzo not only managed to address those needs. He did it well before the Christmas shopping spree goes into high gear.

  1. trochlis318 - Dec 12, 2013 at 6:10 AM

    Mark, you think Detwiler has the edge, i know he is young but i feel like they test the water with Taylor Jordan and try to build some real value there imagine if he could go the entire season with a 3.50 era the value there would be enormous compared to someone like detwiler who pitched at that clip. I just feel like det to the pen as well as roark, with stammen getting sent down to AAA leaving us with a bullpen of:

    Soriano, Storen, Clippard, Blevins, Detwiler, Roark, Mattheus

    At least this is what i am thinking

    • Faraz Shaikh - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM

      Stammen has options for minors? Besides why would you do that to him? the guy has pitched well enough to be part of 29 other bullpens.

      • flnatsfan - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:08 AM

        Agree Faraz. Stammen stays. Mattheus needs to go. I cringed every time Davey put him in last season.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:23 AM

        I will keep him if he has options. That injury was stupid, no doubt but his numbers before that SD game were good enough for bullpen.

    • sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:30 AM

      One thing that has not been talked about with Detwiler is that he wants to be a starter. He has shown emotion before on the mound when things do not go his way, and I worry about that with him in the pen. I have been talking about him in the pen for quite some time and after natslady put those numbers up about his success rate the first time through the order compared to a 2nd or 3rd time I became even more convinced. That is all well and good but the key person to be convinced is Detwiler. If he has a reaction like Espinosa did last year, that will not play well. I am sure they will give him every opportunity to start but I also hope this coaching staff gets him ready to accept whatever role is best for the team.

      I do sorta think he would rather be riding on planes to away games and eating meals prepared by a chef in the clubhouse before heading out to the bullpen then sitting on a bus in upstate New York and eating KFC before getting ready to start. I know, I know, he will never get sent down but my point is, he has to embrace the relief role and right now, he is not thinking that way. The other young guys that are hungry for the majors (Jordan, Roark, Karns etc.) would be happy to make the team in whatever role possible, not so sure Det feels that.

      • unterp - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        i tell you what, Detwiler could be a closer for the next ten years. he’s perfect for that role IMHO

      • Sonny G 10 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:59 AM

        I’m sure Det does want to start. If he is relegated to the pen and develops an attitude…well you know what Rizzo does with players that disrupts the team chemistry.

    • sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:35 AM

      I love playing with the lineup and this pen does have the two lefties which we did not have last year. I also am thinking that Stammen will make this club and while there really is no place for him, I liked what Ohlendorf did for us last year. Maybe you start Roark down in AAA to give him consistent innings and make him your first move back to the big club if something goes wrong with a starter or in the bullpen. One thing for sure, there will be some great competition to make this club as a pitcher. Not so much in the field.

      Go Nats!!

  2. NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    Desi might sign a reasonable extension. I have my doubts that JZimm will. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t. If he stays healthy (big IF, I know) he will make a mint in two years, plus have the chance to be on another team, and have a different adventure.

    Not that the Nats are bad, but what if the Rangers, say, offered good prospects for him next winter? Or the Mariners, if they win, say, 85 games in 2014 and want one more piece?

    • sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:47 AM

      Natslady – not sure why you started a conversation about extensions but I agree with you. I am not sure Desmond will give them any kind of home team discount but he has expressed, many times how happy he is here. I think he would be my first priority to extend. The reality is, there is not much in our minor league system that makes me comfortable at SS.

      JZ has that stoic demeanor so you really are not sure how he feels but at least we have help on the way at starting pitching. Also, if we can do what the Rays have done with their young arms and re-stock with prospects from a trade, then at least we have received value for his work. Don’t get me wrong, I have wanted JZ to be the opening day starter for the last two seasons. He is a special talent but, like you, I think he will be moving on.

      • NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:49 AM

        Well, reason I mentioned it was Ken Rosenthal asked Mike Rizzo about JZimm (and didn’t ask about Desi). I agree that Desi won’t give much of a hometown discount–why should he?–but would probably sign if offered close to “market” value. He’s a leader here, and he would be a newbie anywhere else.

        I get the feeling JZimm is a risk taker and a poker player type. He doesn’t mind going smack up against Rizzo in bargaining.

        It’s too cold for human beans here. I should go to the gym but I am going to waste time and drink hot soup.

      • jd - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        Nats Lady,

        You might be right about JZim but I think that he and his agents are dead wrong. 2 years of starting at the majors has to produce at least a 25% risk of significant injury (JZimm ought to know). In addition there has to be at least a 25% chance of some significant regression in performance.

        JZimm’s value cannot possibly be much better than it is now.Do you think Matt Cain regrets signing the big contract when he did? Hammels?

        I think that if the Nats had a young pitcher ready to fill JZImm’s shoes (ALA the the Rays) it would have been a perfectly reasonable time to shop him for a bundle to talent. As it stands this is not an option so in the end both sides may lose in this game of chicken.

      • unterp - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM

        JZ would make a great poker player wouldn’t he?

      • Sonny G 10 - Dec 12, 2013 at 11:02 AM

        +1

  3. sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    One last thing before I am off to play in the gym.

    I read somewhere that Buck is now off our radar. I still hope we can get some sort of upgrade at that 2nd catcher spot. I love Ramos and what he brings but I think you have to be smart with that position. I see how Mauer has regressed, the same with Weiters and he is young. Its just a tough place to play and we need someone to take more then just the day game after the night game. I also think Solano will benefit from playing more then sitting. Not sure who is out there beside Suzuki but there has to be that 30 year old guy, not too young to think he can still start but not so old that he can only play once a week. Help me out here Insiders or do you think we have enough behind the plate?

    As with Mr. Proctor,(and Tom Boswell) I am also hoping to see Eric Chavez in our dugout this year but that will be another big money signing in my opinion.

    Go Nats!!

  4. 3on2out - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    I couldn’t agree with you more, sjm. Catching is a grueling job. It simply kicks your ass in July and August. And suppose you would like something left in the tank for…later? (I wouldn’t want to mention that month that is famous for its German beer festival) I think ideally a catcher should catch 5 out of 7 games at the most. That comes to 115 over a 162 game season….not 130. Based on that kind of thinking, a quality back-up catcher is critical.

    • Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      +1. I don’t want to see Solano/Leon starting 47 games this season, and Ramos doesn’t have a good, actually, ANY, track record of staying healthy for a whole season.

      Mark, you should make “How many game will Wilson Ramos start behind the plate,” one of your preseason prediction questions. “How many at bats will Nate McLouth get?” will be another interesting question.

  5. Muddy Ruel - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Seems kinda strange that the Nats are trading lefties and saying they need lefties. First Krol goes. Then the Nats trade lefty Fernando Abad, who had good numbers in 2013 to the As for obscure minor leaguer John Wooten. Then they trade their minor league player of the year, Billy Burns, to the As for left Jerry Blevins, who had numbers in 2013 only slightly better than Abad. Can the delta between Blevins and Abad be good enough to justify these transactions? Maybe somebody in the Nats media will have the interest to provide compare Blevins and Abad. Perhaps the Nats are motivated to do Billy a good turn since he’s blocked in their system with Goodwin, Souza, Taylor and even Perez. Anyway, it’s good for Billy.

    • ArVAFan - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:04 AM

      Abad’s numbers for the season overall look okay. But he was not nearly as good in the second half of the season as the first half. Maybe a new start somewhere else will help him–or maybe a different pitching coach. But I’m not going to miss him. So I like the trades: at least until they start playing the games and see what we really have bargained for (see, Haren).

      I was hoping to see Billy at some point, just given his speed, but I’ll just have to download some highlights instead (which I expect him to have at some point in the not-too-distant future).

    • natsjackinfl - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      People seem to forget that Rizzo doesn’t make these moves without massive amounts of input from a very knowledgeable scouting staff. Trading out Abad for Blevins may be seen a s a curious move but I am sure the information that the team has says differently.

      • scnatsfan - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM

        +1

      • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        Agree completely. Plus, Mr. Blevins is an established MLB player with a solid — not spectacular, but solid — track record. Mr. Abad ran hot then cold last season. Remember, too, that the Nats were in the process of DFA’ing him when that trade was made. Getting the minor leaguer from Oakland was, essentially, an afterthought.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      You can do the comparisons yourself, and arrive at your own judgments – fangraphs even has a compare feature that you can use for some stats:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/comparison.aspx?playerid=7841&position=P&page=6&players=4994,10066

      I think the short answer is that Blevins has better #s than Krol and Abad, and that he has a longer and more established track record, and thus brings a higher degree of confidence about what you’ll get in the future.

      • Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        Pretty cool HH. Thanks.

  6. 3on2out - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Great screen handle, Muddy. A player of startling obscurity but a great baseball name!

  7. alexva6 - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Boone Logan, JP Howell, Mike Gonzalez, Rich Hill all still available.

    I think Rizzo signs one of them or makes a trade for another LH reliever.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Best GM moves award this off-season goes to Mr. Rizzo. I could see some more bench shuffling too. I hope so.

  9. jd - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    The Blevins trade wasn’t a bad move I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal from either side. Blevins should be expected to give you 0.2 Wins (He does almost every year) over replacement. I think you would have got something like that from Abad or Krol or Cedeno. Perhaps 0 or 0.1. It could be that Rizzo and Williams are looking for some veteran intangibles from Blevins which is fine. I don’t think this moves the needle much one way or another.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      I agree with your overall point, jd – this doesn’t move the needle that much, tho I think Blevins is a pretty clear upgrade over Abad.

      I wouldn’t use WAR, tho, to make the comparisons here. It’s not a great stat for relievers, because it’s likely to be low, and subject to variation from small sample sizes. And in this particular case rWAR and fWAR diverge pretty widely. Blevins has 0.3 fWAR but 0.8 rWAR in 2012, and an even bigger divergence in 2012 – fangraphs had him a 0.0 WAR, and rWAR at 1.5.

      More relevant I think are #s like WHIP, where Blevins wins pretty handily – 1.21 over his career, and 1.07 for the last two years, vs. 1.5 career for Abad, and 1.38 last year.

      • Hiram Hover - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        @#$ing lack of edit key –

        Blevins had 0.3 fWAR but 0.8 rWAR in 2013

      • sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        I agree with both of you that this is not a huge move but it does improve the club and cost us very little. The numbers you guys throw around are something I have not yet become comfortable with. I appreciate you using them but its hard for an old guy. I realize era for a relief pitcher is not reliable but I think games pitched says something and if you look at the number of times the A’s threw Blevins out there, its impressive. He has had 60+ appearances multiple times in his career. That tells me 1.he wants the ball, 2.they were comfortable giving him the ball and that 3. he does not get injured. The fact that this past Post season, in more pressure situations, he gave up just one hit in 3 appearances is also a good sign. I just don’t think Abad or Krol had that kind of resume so I think this is an upgrade.

  10. NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Well, that was fast (sorry, couldn’t resist). In the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft,

    Nationls take OF Theo Bowe, very speedy OF from Reds.

    Who needs Billy Burns?

    • NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      Can’t hit, can steal bases. Though, not many last season, plenty in previous seasons.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bowe–001the

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      That’s interesting NatsLady. Nats now have to clear 2 spots on the 40 man. The Rule 5 rarely makes sense but if this guy is my Drew Stubbs and can hit RH then I am listening.

      • DaveB - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        Bowe was in the minor league phase of the draft … he doesn’t go on the 40 man

      • NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:42 AM

        BBRef doesn’t show minor league splits, but Bowe’s history is interesting. Maybe he CAN hit–sometimes. Also, his caught stealing pct. was high at the lower levels, so perhaps Riggleman discouraged him from stealing, or AA was a struggle (or maybe he was hurt). His OPS dropped over 200 pts from A+ to AA.

      • knoxvillenat - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM

        Nats Lady,

        I don’t think Riggleman discouraged Bowe from stealing any bases last year in Pensecola (AA)…not when Riggleman was managing the Reds AAA team in Louisville. I suspect however that Bowe, much like Billy Hamilton, needs to focus on getting himself on base more often to use his speed and less on the hitting the big fly, which I’m told by Reds fans is his big weakness.

      • NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 5:05 PM

        @knoxville–sorry, I lost track, I thought Riggs was with the Blue Yahoos ;). Thanks for info.

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    Morse to Giants.

    • NatsLady - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      Yeah, one year deal, probably with incentive. They needed a left-fielder. Wish him the best.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        He should have looked for a 1B job. I know his production is far from league average 1B hitters but he could be one. That defense only hurts his value.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Good luck to him.

    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 12, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Good luck, Mikey!

  12. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Good for him; I hope he does well.

  13. sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Good for Mike – I am thinking he might fit in well there. That crowd loved Brian Wilson, Lincecum is a character and they absolutely love the Panda. We visited last May and FROZE in their beautiful park. Tell Mike to keep his long sleeved under armour. Hoping we drop the song in the 7th inning. As we continued to slide last year it did nothing to warm my spirit hearing the song without the player involved.

    On a totally different topic. Just read a quick blurb about LaRoche’s experiences over in Afghanistan. How great that for two years in a row, members of our team have been selected for this. This is not just a photo-op situation. They are actually flying this group into some of the forward operating bases. They are speaking to troops and visiting hospitals. I think he will benefit from this as much as the troops he is talking to.

    Go Nats

  14. sunshinebobby - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    I too wish Mickey well, except against us.

    Got to disagree, sjm, about the song. Keep it. Royalties are the only thing keeping A-Ha above poverty line.

    • Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      I’m with you on that sunshine. Keep it. Both for A-Ha’s sake and for us. Mickey gave us the song, but it is now ours. And way way better than anything that’s been played there before. Hopefully the pain will dull for you sjm.

      I would bet that by mid next year the majority of fans in attendance either never knew or will have forgotten that it was once Morse’s walkup song. But hopefully, when the Giants come to town, they’ll give him the honor of playing it the first time he comes to bat. I’ll bet the fans will really enjoy that, and Mickey will too.

      Of course, that assumes he isn’t injured by the time the Giants are here in late August…

      • sjm308 - Dec 12, 2013 at 3:22 PM

        I can see playing it when the Giants come to town but that would be enough for me. I respect your thoughts on this but I am still not a fan of playing a song of a player who is not here anymore.

      • Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        I respect your thoughts too 308. The pain will ease, I promise. :-)

  15. Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Has a RH batter ever hit a homer into McCovey Cove? If not, Mickey Morse might be the first. There’s a list of McCovey Cove homers at this link. I don’t see any immediately recognizable righties, but maybe someone else will see one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCovey_Cove

    • Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      Of course, Morse may also hit a lot of doubles into Triples Alley!

    • Section 222 - Dec 12, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      Well, if I had read that whole Wikipedia entry on McCovey Cove I would have seen the following:
      ‘No right-handed hitter has ever hit an opposite field home run into McCovey Cove, though Giants catcher Buster Posey has come close several times.”

      So now I’ll be looking for Morse to be the first, hopefully not against us.

  16. sunshinebobby - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Post of the day candidate:

    Section 222 – Dec 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Of course, Morse may also hit a lot of doubles into Triples Alley!

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