Dec 18, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
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.
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)...
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