The Nats sprinted to the finish line en route to a 80-81 finish primarily on the backs on young talent. Conceivably, there is a realistic way that the Nats could be contenders in the 2012 season - if things break the right way. There will be young talent (Espinosa, Ramos) complete with veteran leadership (Werth, Wang) - but the team will need to improve in a few key areas; mainly CF and bench. Lest we forget that Rizzo is always on the hunt for starting pitching. Let's take a look at a few of the free agent options that could possibly be a fit for the 2012 Nats - ignoring Pujols, Fielder, and Wilson.
CF - Grady Sizemore - 29 years old - 0.2 WAR in 71 Games
- Yesterday the Indians decided to cut ties with their former 3x All-Star CF due to a stunning lack of production and a string of injury riddled seasons. Since 2008, Grady Sizemore has been placed on the DL a whopping 5 times - Elbow and 4x Knee. Now, it might be a fools errand to go after such a player, but he will be a cheap option in CF as opposed to Upton and Span. It should be noted that Sizemore was drafted by the Expos and is still only 29 years old. It might be worth taking a flier on the off chance that Sizemore can repeat his 7.4 WAR performance from 2008. Sizemore is also the youngest CF Free Agent out there...
CF - Coco Crisp - 32 years old today - 2.2 WAR in 136 Games
- Sizemore is sure to get the angel's share of the buzz coming into the off-season, but Crisp has been a more consistent player over the past few years. His defense has taken a bit of a downturn over the past few seasons, but he is just a season removed from a 15.5 UZR/150 in 2010. Is it worry-some to put a 32 year-old in the most active of the outfield positions? Absolutely, but there aren't a lot of cheap options out there. Oh yea, and he had 49 steals last year...
SP - Mark Buehrle - 33 years old - 3.4 WAR in 31 Starts
- I would rather have Mark Buehrle in the rotation than CJ Wilson. There. I said it. He is a veteran pitcher that knows how to pitch to contact and win ballgames - 10th best Contact% in all of baseball last year. Pitching over 200 innings each of the last 11 seasons, with 8 of those seasons with ERA's under 4 and none over 5. Talk about the model of consistency. With a solid defense behind him, he could easily pitch for another 7 years (not that I would want to sign him for that long...).
LHRP - Dontrelle Willis - 30 years old - 0.8 WAR in 13 Starts
- Curveball. Yes. Dontrelle Willis could be a target for the Nats 2012 bullpen, as well he should be. After posting a 9.38, 7.49, and 5.62 ERA in '08-'10, Willis made his way back to the majors with the Cincinnati Reds and proved to be a solid option, in the beginning - he posted an 8.27 ERA in the month of September. The thing is, he was absolutely dominant against lefties all year, holding them to a staggering .127 BAA (Batting Average Against) - just 7 hits in 60 ABs. He could definitely replace Slaten and Burnett as the lefties out of the pen - as well as giving the team an easy spot starter in case of injury.
UTIL - Mark DeRosa - 37 years old - 0.1 WAR in 47 Games
- This is a player along the same vein as Jerry Hairston in 2011 - a veteran who is willing to accept his bench role while being able to play all defensive positions. He won't light the world on fire with his offense or defense but the versatility more than makes up for the deficiencies. This seems like the exact type of player that Davey Johnson wants on his bench.
*This is not a target list - or a wish list - it is simply a watch list*
Be creative, CapBallers, who do you see the Nats targeting this offseason?