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How does Moore fit into Nats’ 2014 plan?

Dec 18, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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If the Nationals make another move before the start of spring training, it most likely would be for another bench player. Which most likely would directly impact Tyler Moore.

Which raises the following question: How exactly does Moore fit into the Nationals’ plans, both in 2014 and beyond?

The organization continues to praise the young slugger, with several club officials still believing he will develop into an everyday big-league bat. And that may yet prove true. Problem is, Moore remains blocked in Washington, and his opportunities for playing time appear to be diminishing with each passing week.

Adam LaRoche will be the Nationals’ first baseman next season, this much has been made clear by Mike Rizzo and Matt Williams. The organization is counting on the veteran to bounce back from his substandard 2013 and is going to given him every opportunity to do so.

That didn’t necessarily spell disaster for Moore, who still figured to get at-bats in place of LaRoche on days the Nationals face tough left-handers. But then came last week’s revelation from Williams to the Washington Post that Ryan Zimmerman has agreed to work out at first base during spring training and start perhaps 10-to-15 games as LaRoche’s primary backup next year. That could very well be the first step toward a permanent position switch for Zimmerman in 2015 once LaRoche’s contract expires.

What about left field when Bryce Harper gets a day off? That job will likely go to Scott Hairston, a more experienced, right-handed bat on the Nationals’ bench.

All of a sudden, Moore finds himself on the outside looking in. He’s unlikely to get significant playing time at first base or in left field, leaving him to try to stay productive as a pinch-hitter. And we saw this season how much he struggled in that role.

Moore, to be sure, remains an intriguing player. He only has 349 career plate appearances, during which time he has clubbed 14 homers while driving in 50 runs. But he also has struck out a staggering 104 times in those 349 plate appearances while drawing only 22 walks. He’s not particularly adept in the field. And he appears to be the kind of guy who needs regular at-bats to stay fresh.

But how are the Nationals going to give Moore regular at-bats in 2014? Barring injury, it’s simply not going to happen at the big-league level.

Could they stash him away in Syracuse, where he could play every day? Sure, but there’s little left for him to prove at Class AAA, where he boasts a .997 OPS over 315 plate appearances. And he’s not getting any younger; he turns 27 next month.

The Nationals could decide to keep Moore on their big-league bench. They could decide to send him back to the minors. Or they could decide it’s time to find out if another organization can provide him the kind of playing time he merits, and in the process get something of value in return for a guy who just doesn’t seem to fit into their immediate — or long-term — plans.

  1. TimDz - Dec 18, 2013 at 6:39 AM

    I would think his long term future would be with an American league club as a DH/Part time 1B….

  2. sjm308 - Dec 18, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    He will bring more value as the year goes on. I am not passionate about either Moore or Hairston. If Moore has a great spring and Hairston struggles, keep Moore. Neither can play LF with great skill but at least Moore can play some first base as well. I am expecting Moore to be sent down since he has that option and then used by Rizzo as part of a package later in the year. If they sign E. Chavez, like I am still hoping, I think it makes it even more difficult for the young man.

  3. sjm308 - Dec 18, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    He will bring more value as the year goes on. I am not passionate about either Moore or Hairston. If Moore has a great spring and Hairston struggles, keep Moore. Neither can play LF with great skill but at least Moore can play some first base as well. I am expecting Moore to be sent down since he has that option and then used by Rizzo as part of a package later in the year. If they sign E. Chavez, like I am still hoping, I think it makes it even more difficult for the young man.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 18, 2013 at 7:46 AM

      sjm, in a perfect world it would be a ST competition and the better performance would snag the last spot on the roster, but the reality is that Hairston gets the spot over TyMo if it comes down to that.

      Right now everyone’s fate is dependent on acquisitions Rizzo could still make.

  4. sjm308 - Dec 18, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Whoa, how did that happen? Natsfan1a to the rescue please!

    • natsfan1a - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      No worries, sjm. I’ve done that a few times myself, but the new format won’t let us delete them.

  5. Hiram Hover - Dec 18, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    Not the worst kind of problem to have. If he really needs regular ABs to keep fresh, as Mark says, then sending him to Syracuse seems the best thing, no?

    Hairston at least seems accustomed to the role of bench bat. He had a down year last year, but had an OPS+ of ~115 in 2011-12. I’d want to see if 2013 was an anomaly before just getting rid of him. If he doesn’t bounce back, you can cut him and bring Moore back at that point.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t trade Moore just to get rid of him, unless there’s another addition to the bench (and I think these dreams of Chavez are just that),.

  6. JamesFan - Dec 18, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    This is a decisive year for Moore. LaRoche will be gone after this year and the job will be open. Zim can stay at third if there is a good option at First. Moore will get plenty of opportunities to perform this year as a platoon with ALR in many situations. It will be up to him. If he repeats 2013, he will have lost a major opportunity.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 18, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      After 2014, the Nats will be looking for a proven and full time 1B to succeed ALR. Even if Moore shines this year, I doubt the Nats would look to him as their starting 1B in 2015.

      Still, he’d be nice to have around in an “in case of emergency, break glass” sort of situation.

  7. nats128 - Dec 18, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    Moore has options which makes him the guy on the outside looking in and even if Hairston was dumped early in the season, it could be Eury Perez or Kobernus or Walters getting the call.

    Whats the theory about the hot hand getting the callup?

  8. Jw - Dec 18, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Here’s another consideration. If Ramos continues to rake, they will want to keep his bat in the lineup on days when he’s not in the squat. Where’s the logical position to do that? First base, which suddenly becomes very crowded with LaRoche and Zim already there.

    • nattyboh1 - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      Am I reading this right? Are you suggesting Ramos play first?

      I don’t think that’s going to happen…

    • bowdenball - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      If Ramos starts a single game at first base in the next 2 years I’ll eat Jayson Werth’s hat after an extra inning game in July. He’d be awful there defensively,as he has both zero mobility and zero experience- he played 12 games there in rookie ball at age 18 and hasn’t done it since. They’re not going to take the massive defensive hit just to keep a .270/330/.450 bat in the lineup. Ramos is an above-average bat for a catcher, but let’s not get carried away. He’s not Joe Mauer, and the Nationals are not the Twins.

      • Sonny G 10 - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:13 AM

        +1 :)

      • Jw - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        That’s 12 games more than Zimmerman has played first. If it comes to the point where they need his bat in the lineup every day (like last year) he either has to do the Yadier thing or play another position sometimes. First base is the only possibility for that.

  9. akiterp - Dec 18, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    So the assumption is that everyone will play at their peak. Not sure if there is any flexibility. As far as the bench:

    If RZ plays some first, who plays third?

    If ALR has an abysmal start to the season, who plays first?

    Who’s filling in at 2 and SS? Espinosa? Sounds like he is a lock to stay on the roster

    • Sam - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      Assuming this plays out as expected (LaRoche gone in 2015, Zimm to 1B), I think we will see Espinosa at 2B with Rendon moving back to 3B.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        So many factors hinging on an infield shuffle. If RZim’s gold glove is back then no reason to move him and if it isn’t the Nats can possibly look for the Padre’s 3B who is a Free Agent. If RZim can stay at 3rd, Rizzo has other in-house options and ask JWerth to get his old 1st basemans glove and upgrade the corner outfield as that might be easier as 1st baseman right now are hard to find.

  10. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Rather than looking at Tyler Moore in isolation, I think you have to consider him as one part of the Nats bench. Right now, you’d have to assume that bench would be composed of:

    OF – Nate McLouth (LF, CF, RF)
    OF – Scott Hairston (LF, RF)
    INF/OF – Tyler Moore (1B, LF)
    INF – Danny Espinosa (2B, SS, 3B)
    C – Jhonatan Solano (or Sandy Leon)

    Personally, and it’s intuition more than anything else, I expect Mike Rizzo to make one more significant move with regard to the bench before the season starts. But he could do it several different ways: Acquiring a player like Eric Chavez (1B, 3B) or Jeff Baker (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF) before Spring Training begins (which would leave Mr. Moore outside looking in). Going the ‘established’ back-up catcher route and signing John Buck or someone similar (which might eat up the rest of the budget for the bench). Accepting a trade for Danny Espinosa or Tyler Moore if the offer is deemed sufficient (i.e., meets the Nats’ expectations of their future value rather than being based on last year’s production). Or Mr. Rizzo could wait until Spring Training to see (a) whether Adam LaRoche appears ‘back to normal’ (although his normal is a slow start), (b) whether Tyler Moore appears to be a realistic replacement for a still-suspect Mr. LaRoche, and (c) whether Danny Espinosa has found his missing bat. In other words, lots of permutations and lots of uncertainty. But all those moves/options are linked to the broader question of bench construction writ large.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Eugene – That is a thorough and first rate analysis – thanks.

    • Jw - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Tyler Moore’s best shot at being part of the Nats bench would be to walk to the far side of the dugout and plank.

    • masterfishkeeper - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

      It’s really hard to determine much about likely performance in spring training, other than seeing if players are healthy. Espinosa hit well in spring training in 2013, then fell off a cliff when the season started.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        Fair point, although — to be clear — I certainly wasn’t suggesting the Nats evaluate either Adam LaRoche or Danny Espinosa on the stats they generate during Spring Training. I’m thinking more in terms of their health, their approach, and (more in Mr. Espinosa’s case) their attitude.

  11. Sam - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Tyler Moore is essentially Mark Trumbo with less experience (and, unbelievably, more strike outs). Which also means that he’s essentially Michael Morse with fewer injuries and, again, less experience. Trumbo and Morse are significantly overvalued for their power and provide terrible outfield defense. If Moore was given enough plate appearances, he would probably be similarly exposed and valued the same way the other two were. Regardless of where he ends up, he should be a DH. He’s probably no more or less valuable over 600 PAs than LaRoche, albeit in a very different way (~ 1.5 to 2 WAR.)

    • tcostant - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      I like Tyler Moore, but to compare him to one of the best power hitters in the majors, is misguided. His minor league power needs to be discounted, guys like Corey Brown get released while leading there minor league team’s in HR’s.

      • Sam - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        I didn’t think I had mentioned anyone who qualifies as “one of the best power hitters in the majors.” I assume you’re talking about Trumbo, who, over the last 3 years, ranks 27th in the major leagues in ISO? Morse ranks 43rd over that span. I suppose that those are pretty good rankings and would be valuable if either of those players had any other skills besides being strong.

    • tcostant - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      Mark Trumbo has tons of power, clubbing 95 home runs over the last three seasons, including a career-high 34 in 2013. How many did Moore hit in the bigs?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        Yah, let’s not get carried away with comparing TyMo to Trumbo as TyMo is a AAAA guy right now. We all like his potential which really doesn’t mean much for a 27 year old.

  12. tcostant - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Off topic, but this article is an interesting read. I wish there was a similar article about the development and tax issues around Nationals Park.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-18/cincinnati-stadiums-bury-county-government-in-debt.html

    • Jw - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      What development and tax issues around Nats Park? Now that the economy is improving, development is happening. Go down there and walk around. It’s hard to miss.

      • tcostant - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        It’s improving, yes. The park was there in 2008, and they were basically no business outside until 2012. Also where are the sports bars that are right outside the park? Was D.C. counting on taxes from immediate development at that park site? That’s what I mean.

      • Jw - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        Ballpark financing was not contingent on development near the ballpark. Not sure what the issue is there. As for sports bars, walk a few blocks east or north of the park. They’re there. Development is approaching the immediate ballpark area from the outside of the circle. First comes residential/office, then retail/bars/restaurants follow.

      • tcostant - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        We really saying the same thing. I know that it wasn’t “contingent” on development near the ballpark, but that doesn’t mean that when some official in DC decided to issues bonds, that they didn’t make projections on new taxes being raise in the ballpark area.

      • Jw - Dec 18, 2013 at 4:02 PM

        Bond financing for the ballpark comes from three sources: (1) tax on tickets and concessions, (2) rent payments by the team, and (3) gross receipts tax on existing businesses making $3M or more. New development around the ballpark doesn’t affect any of that.

  13. Section 222 - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Tyler Moore and Danny Espinosa are two guys with lots of promise and potential, but they are coming off such poor 2013 seasons that there is a serious doubt whether that potential will be reached this year, or ever. I don’t know how you use up two important roster spots with guys like that and expect to get to the playoffs.

    Both have options, and I would much prefer to have proven vets on the bench to start the season because I don’t think you can rely on spring training stats to show these two are ready. If Moore or Espinosa can tear it up over the first 45-60 days in AAA, great. Injuries and other unexpected developments will create room for them.

    I’m sorry to be a hard ass about this, because I’m sure both are great guys. But my motto would be — you don’t play for the Nats this year if your BA is under .200. Or shorter — “Never Again.”

    • David Proctor - Dec 18, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      “I don’t know how you use up two important roster spots with guys like that and expect to get to the playoffs.”

      Last year the Braves had two guys (Upton and Uggla) hit under .200 and they won 96 games. The Cardinals had Pete Kozma hit .217 and Adron Chambers hit .154. Obviously you don’t build a roster with the intent of guys performing that poorly, but just saying.

      • Section 222 - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        Boy, you really had to go searching there didn’t you, DP? Adron Chambers? Come on. He had 26 ABs last year! Why didn’t you mention Ryan Jackson? He didn’t get even a single hit for the Cardinals in 7 ABs. That’s comparable to having Espi and Moore on our bench, right?

        The Braves kind of prove my point. BJ Upton was terrible last year, but the Braves had a strong bench (Gattis, Reed Johnson, Jordan Schaffer) and were able to replace him in the lineup for much of the year. If ALR goes south, or Rendon gets hurt, we’re in trouble if the replacements are Espi and Moore, unless they have turned it around. All I’m saying is make them prove they deserve a spot on the roster by tearing it up on AAA. If they can’t do that, why should we settle less than replacement level players?

  14. Drew - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    I like Tyler Moore, but calling him Mark Trumbo is a huge stretch.

    In the last two years Mark Trumbo has hit 66 home runs in the major leagues with 195 RBIs.

    The big unanswered question about the ghost of first base future is what happens with Matt Skole?

    Given his lost year, it’s time to show whether he can do the job offensively and defensively.

  15. David Proctor - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    The Rockies just traded for Ghost’s man Drew Stubbs.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      Saw that. I think he would have been a good pick-up, but only in place of Scott Hairston. Not sure how else he would have worked on the roster.

      Also saw that Messrs. Choo and Boras reportedly turned down a seven-year, $140 million contract from the Yankees. I’m guessing that’s going to be hard to match, but maybe not impossible.

  16. letswin3 - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Maybe Mark should do a piece like this one for Danny. It surely looks like Danny is a December mortal lock for the utility infielder bench spot, unless an unexpected trade is in the works (or one is in the mind of Mike …there ought to be an acronym for that, like MOM). Two emergency “break glass in emergency” bench players with deficiencies is probably not the best way to start a season. April 1, 2014 will be the anniversary date for Danny’s missing bat, and it didn’t show up even when he was sent down. Yes he has some pop, but we have lots of pop in the lineup …Danny needs to hit for average, put less emphasis on the longball and get over the K’s to be the contributor that is needed on the bench. And if the Zim to first and Rendon to third moves materialize in ’15, Danny could again be looked at to reclaim his spot at second. I was a critic of Danny last year, and I screamed for his demotion to the minors, but I have a hunch that he could again become a valuable starting second baseman, and an interim serviceable bench infielder, if he could just dial it down a little and learn to be a contact 240 hitter…. hell, I’d settle for 225 and that lovely glove.

  17. David Proctor - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Braves acquiring Ryan Doumit from the Twins.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      That’s a smart acquisition.

  18. David Proctor - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Eric Chavez going back to the D’Backs. Boo.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      Apparently he has a home (permanent?) in Phoenix. Oh well, better than going to the Braves (I think).

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