Nationals Baseball: What if the Nats do nothing?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What if the Nats do nothing?

Just a few months removed from Strasburg mania and Nats' brief flirtation with trading for Oswalt, it's hard to contemplate the worst-case (for 2011) scenario. But with Kasten out the door at year's end, potentially because the Lerners won't commit to the same future , there has to be a serious questions raised about the new direction the Nats could conceivably take.

What if the Nats don't sign Dunn? It's feeling more and more likely that Adam is out the door, and while that would be a shame it wouldn't necessarily kill the team. The hope is the money not spent on Dunn would go elsewhere, possibly toward a run at Carl Crawford. (Forget for the moment that about a quarter of the league might be gunning for the guy, and the Nats are far from the most appealing candidate). But what if they don't even try to sign Crawford? What if they don't try to sign anyone interesting?

It's not like it couldn't happen. The Nats have a lot of young players ready to be tested and veterans still under contract. Ramos/Pudge/Flores, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman of course, Willingham, Morgan (all indications are that he'll at least go into next year as the favorite to start in center), Livan, Marquis, Lannan, Zimermann, Detwiler, Burnett/Clippard/Storen/Peralta etc. While the overall talent here might be lacking, the end result is that there are not a lot of holes in the Nats lineup. A quick look would tell a fan that First Base, LF or RF, and a trusted starter are needed. They should also get a decent MI backup. Other than that, while there are definitely places that could improve, there are none that NEED a new player.

Can the Nats get away with not filling these holes though? How would they justify it? Well not getting a good back-up infielder is easy enough to justify. It's a back-up infielder. Yes, injuries can happen and relying on a rookie and a 2nd year player who hasn't quite solidified his role is risky, but your average back-up MI is garbage anyway. Who's going to protest if they go with Alberto Gonzalez?

As for starting pitcher, you can see the Nats argument for not spending money there as well. Livan, Marquis, and Lannan should eat innings next year. They want Zimmermann and Detwiler to get shots. Maya needs a longer look. Strasburg needs a place to slip in. You could argue that another FA pitcher would only muddy the situation. Of course a stud pitcher would and should be grabbed, but here really IS no need to put another "ok" pitcher in with this group.

Outfield? I hate to say this, but Nats fans might have caught a break with the collapse of Bernadina over the past month. Before that it was pretty clear they were leaning toward an outfield with Bernadina. That could still be the case but justifying that is much tougher now. This is especially true if they want to go with Morgan again. The OF must generate offense and you can't count on a Nyjer/Roger combination to do that. They could turn to Mike Morse in the third outfield slot, but I don't get the feeling that the Nats management is behind that idea. The Nats could go into 2010 with no new OFs (or with a Mench like signing) but this one would be tough to swallow.

First base is the kicker. The Nats could go with Morse, but if they are questioning him in the outfield its likely they don't see him as an everyday player. They could go internally, but Marrero is far from a lock to hold down the spot. You can hope for it, but there is no way you can responsibly expect it. Given the offensive importance of first base a no-signing here would be an immediate white flag on the 2010 season.

The Nats could do nothing. It's always possible. Doing nothing though, would be a sign of a team giving up on 2011, surrendering already to another 100 loss season. First base has to be filled with something reliable and that outfield spot has the potential of being a huge hole and should be addressed. Other moves would help, but these are the ones that if they don't get done you can seriously question what is going on with the franchise.


bdrube said...

What if the Nats do nothing? They could well crash to last place in attendance in the National League. Florida is getting their new stdium and Strasburg won't be around to bump up the gate.

They bottomed out at 10,999 for a single game this year, and even that was artifically inflated because of the generous Red Carpet Rewords benefits given to season ticket holders.

If they do nothing, Nats Park next year will resemble the old Olympic Statdium in Montreal on dates when the Phillies aren't in town. And people will say baseball in Washington is a failure, even though it was never given a chance to succeed.

Hoo said...

The Nats could do nothing but I would be shocked. I still think it's 50/50 the Nats resign Dunn. Letting Dunn walk is a slap at not just the fan base but Ryan Zimmerman, who's carrying the banner and the baton of the "re-sign Dunn" parade.

If the Nats went with Marquis, Lannan, Dettweiler, Livo and Znn or Maya as the SP, I wouldn't complain. I don't see any reason to sign a new SP when you really need to take a long look at Dett, Znn and Maya AND Wang could return next year. If Wang does anything, he's your offseason FA.

If the Nats resign Dunn, I'd forgive them for a Roger. B./Morse OF platoon for one year.

The Nats would at least represent the future with most of the lineup. If they signed a new CF or a corner OF, that would be gravy if they kept Dunn.

For the first time in a long time, a lot of pieces are falling into place. Heck, Mench over Padilla and Espinosa over Orr as Sept. callups is definite improvement. I think all the pieces may crash if Dunn walks b/c I don't see how they replace him without huge spending in the 2 OF spots.

Bryan said...

I agree with Hoo...

Given Zim's interest in this, losing Dunn might be the first step in losing Ryan. I doubt the team wants to go down that particular road.

Anonymous said...

No need for starting pitching? Eat up innings? Umm...we need better starting pitching to give our offense a shot. Too many times the poor pitching puts pressure on the hitters. Forget eating innings! Get pitchers that will eat up hitters! To win and make playoffs in MLB you must spend money. That is proven year in and year out.

Anonymous said...

Without Dunn (or someone with real power) it will impact Zim's numbers. Pitching is always useful and some of pitching will go out the door at the trade deadline (along with Pudge).

If the do nothing they probably won't hit 100 loses next season, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility if they trade away enough of the team at the deadline and it starts to look a lot like Syracuse. I fear that is the way things will go since that is the way to make the most money.

Anonymous said...

This is the most realistic look at what I believe the Nationals Front Office will do this offseason.
After five years of almost totally failed offseason acquisitions (other than Dunn and Soriano) that haven't pushed the Nationals any closer to contending for anything other than last place and the first draft pick. The Nationals are at least three or four years away from being a playoff contender, and even then they could be no better then they are now. Almost no pitchers have come up and been any good, other than Strasburg and Zimmermann's evil twin who shows up once a month. Dunn will command too high a price from a team looking for a final piece, and honestly the Lerners are justified in not wanting to essentially pay for what would essentially really nice chairs on the Titanic. When the team's only established pitchers are both very old and inconsistent, and almost nothing is coming up from the farm system other than reliever converts (or people who should be by now) it wont matter how potent the offense is with the only bright news in the Nationals Universe in the infield. The defense will still be the worst in the league and the team will be as bad as it has always been. If I was the Lerners I would feel more justified spending Dunn's money on drugs and alcohol to forget they own this team that seems to be destined to be on its way out of DC

Harper said...

bdrube - Florida isn't getting a new park until '12 so it'll take a surprise jump in standing by them (and Pittsburgh - who gave their fans less than usual this year) for the Nats to bottom out. But fall under 20K a game? sure.

Hoo - I'd be shocked too. They just don't have the young players in line at first/OF to give fans an excuse of "seeing what these guys have" To do nothing would be admitting this team is nothing but a lerner cash maker

Bryan - Let's just say if they drop Dunn they better be damn sure they'll be .500 in 2012 and better in '13 by any means necessary or why would Ryan stay?

Anon #1 - agreed but the plan could be let's see what ZNN, Detwiler, Maya have, how Strasburg recovers and then let's see if we need that ace.

Anon #2 - the 100 loss thing is interesting because you'd expect a starting pitching bounce back to some degree, and if Morgan isn't hideous and the rookies all improve a little the team doesn't collapse (like some will predict). Then again it does leave the door open to another 50win season if things do go wrong early, whereas signing Dunn might force them to keep some guys at the deadline for next year.

Anon #3 - It's been a dismal combination of a bad organization to start, bad luck, and half-hearted off seasons. nothing specifically wrong, but in general terrible. If they do do nothing though, I couldn't blame DC for giving up on the Nats, because it would certainly look like the Nats gave up on them

Hoo said...

If Dunn walks, then Rizzo needs to live up to his quest to find a #1 SP next year. And pay for a corner Of that would still be a playmaker in 2013if they go for the journeyman 1st route.

The team needs to improve again next year b/c otherwise the team will be trying to make a 40 game jump in wins in 2 years to be playoff game by 2013. That seems a bit far fetched.

The Rays could do that b/c they had amazing talent in the minor leagues. The Nats great young pitchers are either struggling or rehabbing Tommy John surgeries. For the open spots at first and OF, the team needs someone to make an '09 Desmond leap to find PT in 2 years.

Dunn walking is the proverbial bird in hand except no one is sure that there's even a bird in the bush let alone 2. B/c I'm not sure anyone thinks that a) the minors will produce a + 1st anytime soon or b) the Nats will win a FA contest for whatever elite first is on the market when the Nats decide to spend to make their push.

This episode is frustrating.