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Monday, September 8, 2008

A Little Light Reading: Next Year?

One of our favorite fellow bloggers had his take on what the team may look like next year, and while it may be a little early for that, I figured on the off-day it might a fun exercise. I won't critique his work, because every one is entitled to His Own Opinion, but I'll offer my thoughts, and most of these were expressed trading e-mails today with some other brilliant baseball minds.

The biggest decision during the off-season is not one of player personnel, but one of front office personnel. Whether the team retains Jim Bowden as GM is the biggest question facing this organization. That said, Let's Speculate!

OUTFIELD: We're almost certain to see a Dukes-Milledge-Kearns outfield next year to start, with Harris and Pena as back-ups. Pena has a player option which he's certainly take, and the team will at least try to see if the injury he hid all season was to blame for his poor play. They just won't throw $2M away. Harris is not under contract for next year and is arbitration eligible, and players of his sort (4th OFs having career years) are typically not the kind that rebuilding teams should be clogging their system with. That said; a) this team has a history or doing just that, and b) with so many questions in the OF, he's probably a pretty good investment, unless he costs Guzman money.

INFIELD: We're looking at Johnson and Young (both crutches) at first, Bonifacio at 2B, Guzman at SS and Zim at 3B. All these guys are under contract, there's no one in the minors pushing them and the team has already gone on record saying they aren't going to chase big-time free agents, nor should they at this point. Then I think they'll keep Belliard and Gonzalez as utility players. Gonzalez is a legitimate defensive wizard with a cannon, and will be invaluable providing middle infield defense in the late innings. As long as they don't have to ask him to swing the bat all that often. Anderson Hernandez is a spare part, and will stay warm in Triple-A (wherever that may be next year) in case of injury.

CATCHER: Pretty simple: Jesus Flores and Wil Nieves, or some other veteran catch-and-throw guy (think Gary Bennett-types). Flores' development is one of the few bright points this season, and he just needs to keep playing to keep getting better.

OTHERS: That's 14 position players right there, probably one too many. It may come down to Gonzalez' glove over Belliard's bat, Young or Johnson's infirmary, or the team willing to eat $2 to rid themselves of Pena. Boone, Casto, Langerhans, Orr = phooey. I don't think any of those guys get a contract. They don't particularly merit one. Bernadina needs another minor league year seeing AAA pitching

STARTERS: It's a complete crap shoot for pitching, starters and relievers. Who knows what the rotation looks like other than John Lannan and perhaps Collin Balestar? Redding isn't under contract, can they keep him for the $1M he cost this year? Do they try to bring back Perez? He stayed relatively healthy and relatively productive. They clearly don't see Bergmann, Estrada or Mock as long-time starters. Do they reach for a low priced free agent? Maybe so. I'll guess Redding, Perez, Lannan, Balestar, Low Priced Free Agent.

BULLPEN: Who knows? Can Chief come back? Will Wagner's velocity return? Will Rivera's arm fall off? Here's a throw it against the wall guess: Hanrahan, Rivera, Manning, Shell, Mock, Bergmann and someone not on the roster right now, perhaps another lefty. I think Cordero starts on the DL, and Wagner, Colome and Speigner are all non-tendered.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: Until the albatrosses of Johnson, Meathook and Kearns are gone, this team is going to be stuck in the bottom third of the league. Hopefully the draft picks of the last three years turn out to produce major league players and the progress is quicker than that, but most of the talent is still 2-3 years away. Next year may look an awful lot like this year, with hopefully fewer long losing streaks due to a more consistent line-up.

Let's just hope Dukes stays out of trouble this winter and he and Zimmerman play a whole year next year. That could be exciting. Dukes is really starting to look like the player scouts have been saying for three years he could become and Zim finally looks like he's healthy again.

And when/if we start seeing some of this pitching talent in the lower levels finally start trickling up to Nationals Park, then, and only then, will the front office (whoever may be in charge by then), be ready to fill the holes with a free agent here or there.

1 comment:

Steven said...

I don't think Pena's 2m keeps the team from upgrading. He may be a shot, but if he looks bad in spring training or starts slow, I don't think we're married to him.

I'd like to keep Harris as a 25th man, but if they see his role as bigger than that it's a problem. I don't care if they non-tender him. He's a replacable part and if we can go with someone younger with upside I'm ok with that.

Kearns could become a 4th outfielder. I know that seems crazy given how much we gave up to get him, but the only think worse than making a mistake is living with it.

Not sure why you're so down on Johnson and Young. They are above average run-producers if they are actually on the field. I don't like the injury risk, but they aren't albatrosses if they are on the field.

Guzman is more likely to be an albatross.

There are a lot of pitchers out there this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see them go a little further down towards the luxury car end of the sales lot this time out. Not CC or Sheets, but maybe someone in the Lowe or Penny group.