Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The State of the Nats: The Week After Winter Meetings (Cliff Lee Included)

After a week of playing "who will they get besides Jayson Werth" and ending up with no one, the Nationals have only about 9 weeks to solidify some sort of roster before pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Florida to begin Spring Training 2011. But where do the Nats stand at this moment? Let's dig into it, bullet point style.

Starting Pitchers:

There are a host of options here, but here are the six most likely to compete for the job in order of likelihood that they'll be in the rotation. This all can change, for sure.
  • Jordan Zimmermann - Brought in to be the 2nd starter behind Strasburg, he will have to take on a larger role this year than the team wants him to. This embodies the problem that this rotation has had for several years: forcing guys into more prominent roles than they may be ready for.
  • Jason Marquis - Money. The reason Marquis is this high on the list has nothing to do with his performance last year, whether his relative success late in the year or his abhorrent beginning. It's all about the money, and with $7.5 million guaranteed to Marquis in 2011, there's no way he doesn't make the rotation barring an injury.
  • John Lannan - Lannan showed signs of resurgence, and for the first time in a while, Lannan won't be the Opening Day starter. This is huge, as Lannan is probably a #3 starter at best. This might turn into more success for John as the years progress.
  • Livan Hernandez - The Nats brought him back for a reason. That reason is probably more a mentor's role than anything, but it's hard to imagine either Maya or Detwiler making the rotation over a proven .500 starter. Livo is a good bet to make the rotation to start the year.
  • Yunesky Maya - Maya will be an interesting decision. The Nats may go with a 4-man rotation to start the year, as they've done in recent seasons. However, with the bullpen a little more set than last year, they may decide to go with a 5-man rotation. If they do, and no other players are signed before Opening Day, Maya will probably be the guy.
  • Ross Detwiler - Oh Rossy D, what has happened to you? He's been hurt, and when he wasn't hurt, he hasn't looked good. To make things worse, World Series Champ Madison Bumgarner and NL Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Jason Heyward were selected after Detwiler in that draft. But hindsight is 20/20 folks, and we're stuck with Ross for now. We'll see how much patience the front office has left as they set a rotation and bullpen for 2011.
The one thing that this category lacks is once clear, front-line starter. Stephen Strasburg was supposed to be that guy, but in the mean time, GM Mike Rizzo isn't wrong in actively pursuing a true Opening Day starter. There's some definite work to be done here.


These guys are are a lock to make the 'pen this year. I hope that Bally can have some influence on the others to get an awesome mustache growing contest going out there. More than anything, I want them to have the kind of success that they had last year.
  • Collin Balester - The man, the 'stache, the legend. Balester really figured out his command in 2010, and I look forward to another strong season from the power reliever.
  • Sean Burnett - The lefty specialist. Burnett came into his own in 2010, and eventually became Manager Jim Riggleman's go-to guy from the 'pen.
  • Tyler Clippard - The flailing approach and devastating change up. Clippard started out 2010 with a bang, but struggled a little in the stretch.
  • Doug Slaten - The other lefty. Slaten is the true lefty specialist here, not Burnett. He plays an important role in the bullpen.
  • Craig Stammen - Starter turned long reliever. It still remains to be seen if Stammen can remain a part of the big league club in the bullpen after his not-so stellar attempt to be a starter. I'm hoping for the best, but it probably wouldn't hurt to go grab another Miguel Batista-like reliever.
  • Drew Storen - The closer. Storen also made an appearance on the red carpet Monday night for the premiere of Owen Wilson's new flick where he's a Nationals reliever. I'm not ashamed to admit I'll see that movie just because of Nationals reference.
  • C: Wilson Ramos/Ivan Rodriguez/Jesus Flores - The first two will be a strong until Flores is ready to give it a shot, and who knows when that will be. For his sake, I hope it's before 2011 comes to a close.
  • 1B: Vacant - This is the question. A huge offensive hole has been torn in the Nationals lineup with the loss of Adam Dunn. How they fill it here could dictate a lot about the future.
  • 2B: Danny Espinosa - Espinosa started out with a bang in 2010, only to flounder as the season came to a close. Hopefully he can adjust to opposing pitchers figuring him out, and the NL East's pitching didn't get any easier this morning (see: Lee, Cliff)
  • SS: Ian Desmond - Desmond had the opposite experience from his middle infielding partner. He got hot at the end of the year, and looked like he could be a real rock in the lineup in the future. His defense still seriously needs help, though that improved as well as the season progressed.
  • 3B: Ryan Zimmerman - Top 3 3rd basemen in all of baseball right now. Wanna argue with me? I dare you. Zimmerman may be the most underrated infielder in baseball though, and the Nationals better get on signing him to a contract extension quickly, I'm thinking 20 years.
  • LF: Josh Willingham - This may change in the coming weeks. With a guy like Jayson Werth coming into the picture for the next 7 years, Willingham's worth (no pun intended) may have just plummeted to the front office.
  • CF: Nyjer Morgan - Seems that Manager Jim Riggleman and Rizzo are pretty committed to give T. Plush another shot as the starter in center. If Morgan can produce like he did in 2009 and the second half of 2010, he'll probably earn that role for the season.
  • RF: Jayson "The Beard" Werth - We won't go into this much, because there's somewhere around 3 million posts across the internet about Werth's arrival in DC. We will say that he has the potential to unseat Morgan should he falter, giving other guys the chance to succeed as starters at this position.
So this is our summary of what would happen if the Nats season started today. They could do worse, but they could also do a lot better. How Mike Rizzo and Co. finish up the offseason will dictate what kind of year this team has. If they can pick up a respectable starter and a good bat at 1st base, the team has a chance to best their 69 wins in 2010. Though the addition of Cliff Lee to the NL East again makes that even more difficult. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt... Can you imagine facing that rotation 18 times in 2011? Well, you're going to have to.

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