Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Ladson’s Inbox: 10/22/12 edition


LaRoche's status with the team will dictate a number of cascading roster moves. Photo Rob Carr/Getty Images via

I havn’t seen beat reporter Bill Ladson do an inbox response since February.  So I was excited to see one pop in this past Monday, 10/22/12.  As a reminder, I write my response before reading his, and sometimes edit questions for clarity.

Q: What are the Nationals’ plans for Tyler Moore? He is a power hitter who deserves to play every day. If Adam LaRoche returns next year, where does Moore fit in?

A: Tyler Moore indeed had excellent numbers in limited action, getting called up at the end of April to cover for a dearth of outfielders on the Nats roster.  His slash line was .263/.327/.513 for an OPS+ of 124 with 10 homers in 156 Abs.   Thats a homer ever 15.6 ABs and correlates to nearly a 40 homer pace for a full season of roughly 600 at-bats.  That is of course if you believe in what we saw in 2012 versus the continued lack of respect for Moore from the scouting pundits (who think his minor league power numbers were more a function of age than talent, and who continued to think that Moore had too many holes in his swing to be an impact MLB player).

Unfortunately though for Moore, if Adam LaRoche is re-signed there may not be an immediate place for Moore in the lineup.  LaRoche can only play 1B, Michael Morse is signed through 2013 and has become a club and fan favorite in LF.   Those are basically the only two positions Moore can play.

I think the better question here is, “Will the Nats extend Adam LaRoche?”  Because that’s the question that drives several other roster moves for 2013.  If LaRoche comes back and the team favors giving Moore more playing time, maybe they package Morse in trade.  Perhaps Moore sits and waits for another injury to give him playing time; LaRoche was incredibly healthy in 2012 and could regress for 2013.  Or, perhaps LaRoche (as basically the leading 1B power hitter on the FA market) will get a 3-4 year deal (likely) and the Nats won’t over-pay for his decline years, will install Moore at first and keep Morse in left.   Honestly, I think this last scenario is what plays out, and we’ll see Moore as your starting first baseman in 2013.

Ladson basically echos exactly what I say above.  Glad we’re on the same page.

Q: Do you think the Nationals will go after Michael Bourn this offseason?

A: No no no!  As I opined on September 13th, after seeing yet another Jim Bowden article intoning last off-season’s mantra of “the Nats need a center fielder,” the Nats HAVE a center fielder, and a darn good one, in Bryce Harper.  Harper finished the season with the 4th best UZR/150 for any CF with 500+ innings, even better than the vaunted defensive wizard Mike Trout.  It took about 5 games for his arm to be respected league wide, and he’s only 19 and will only get better.  Why would we possible move Harper off CF in the next 4-5 years?  Yes, eventually we expect a bulked up power hitting Harper to move to a corner spot, but not at age 20.  Besides, if Harper moves off CF … who makes way in left or right?  Do you move Jayson Werth to left field?  If so, then what happens to Michael Morse?  Do you move him?  Harper’s defensive value is wasted in right field.  Werth’s defensive value (while inarguably slipping) is also wasted in left field, where you can “hide” a poor defensive player who is plus-plus power.

*sigh* I wish this rumor would go away.  I’m pretty sure the Yankees never said to Mickey Mantle at age 19, “Hey Mick!  We like you in center but we to move you to a corner outfielder so we can sign a sub-average hitter to lead-off and play in your position.”  Of course not, so why would the Nats do so?

Unfortunately Ladson perpetuates the ridiculous myth himself and says he thinks the team goes after Bourn and puts Harper in LF.  Just ridiculous.

Q: Any news on Cole Kimball’s recovery?  Will we see him in a Nats uniform in 2013?

A: Shoulder injuries in power pitchers are never an easy recovery.  That’s why we never really saw Kimball in the summer and why he’s currently in the AFL getting some extra time on the hill.  As of this writing he only has 3 2/3 innings, so not much to go by.  We are seeing some reports that he looks decent.  2013 prognosis?   He faces an uphill battle to make the bullpen; there’s several right handers that are now clearly ahead of him on the depth chart.  Storen, Clippard, and Stammen are locks (if not traded).  Rodriguez has no options.  Mattheus has pitched his way onto this team.  That’s your 5 righties out of the pen (Davey Johnson likes 2 lefties).   And we havn’t even talked about Christain Garcia, who pitched well enough to make the post season roster.   So the answer may be that Kimball starts in AAA and waits for an opportunity.  Ladson says he thinks Kimball can make the 2013 bullpen.  How exactly?  Who is he going to be ahead of?  Not much provided in the way of deep analysis, Bill.

Q: Do you think there is any chance the Nationals bring up Corey Brown to play center and bat second?

A: No.  Brown looks to me like the definition of a 4-A guy, and will be stashed in AAA as outfield depth until further notice.  Batting second?  Really?  We’re currently batting Werth at leadoff despite his having middle-of-the-order power.  What makes anyone think Brown deserves to bat anywhere in this lineup, let alone ahead of the power guys?  And, if Brown makes the 25-man roster which outfielder does he replace?  Certainly not the starters in Morse, Harper and Werth.  Certainly not Roger Bernadina, who more than earned his stay.  And certainly not above Moore.   Ladson agrees.

Q: What do you think about the addition of Kurt Suzuki to the roster?

A: Somewhat of a panic/reactionary move at the time, but it has worked out great for both sides.  Jesus Flores wasn’t stopping the one-way street for opposing base-runners, and we needed more of a plus-defensive guy behind the plate.  Flores did himself  no favors batting .213 either.  Suzuki immediately upped his batting stroke too,  batting .267 here after hitting just .218 in Oakland in 2012.  Clearly Suzuki and Wilson Ramos are your two catchers heading into 2013.  What do we do with Flores?  Do we dare non-tender him and give him away?  Do we tender him and try to trade him?  I’d hope for the latter, thinking that even a .213 hitting catcher has value in this league.  I hate to say it, but Ramos can’t stay on the field and we needed the insurance.  Ladson agrees, but doesn’t mention Flores’ fate.

Q: The Shark, aka Roger Bernadina, had a career year and will probably get a raise this offseason. Do you think the Nats are going to try to move him, or can we expect to see The Shark with the team next year?

A: Great question.  Do we sell-high on Bernadina and make-do with a 4th outfielder like Corey Brown or Eury Perez in 2013?  We could, if it brought us back something worth having.  We do have some rising quality OF depth that would replace Bernadina (Brian Goodwin comes to mind, perhaps even Anthony Rendon if he hits his way to the majors in 2013).    Ladson thinks Bernadina will be back.  I have no problem with that; he hit great this year, knew his role and is fantastic defensively.

Q: Do you think Davey Johnson is the best manager in Nationals/Expos history? Felipe Alou is tough to beat, but Davey has my vote on this one.

A: Why not Jim Fanning?  He led the franchise to its only prior post-season appearance.  I dunno; what exactly makes a “good” manager?  I think Johnson has absolutely done better with this team than anyone thought, so yeah that makes him a great manager (and my favorite for winning NL Manager of the Year).  Best ever for the franchise?  Why do people think Felipe Alou was so great?  His last three Expos teams each lost 90 or more games.  Who can really talk intelligently about how well Buck Rodgers mangaged the team in the mid 1980s?  The team improved 19 wins from 1978 to 1979 under Dick Williams.  Those are good managers too.  Ladson thinks Johnson is the best ever but says Alou was great.  I don’t get it.

15 Responses to 'Ladson’s Inbox: 10/22/12 edition'

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  1. Ladson’s response to the Bourn question is why I don’t take him seriously as a journalist. There is absolutely no reason to sign Bourn at his age for the money he’ll want with Harper already in CF and Goodwin projected to be ready at about the time Morse will be a free agent and Harper will be ready to move to a corner position.

    Just an aside, but in checking the WAR stats on Baseball Reference, Harper led all Nats players with a 5.0 WAR in 2012, which was greatly enhanced by his 1.4 score defensively. By staying in CF, Harper could end up next season challenging Mike Trout’s insane 10.7 overall WAR score from this year.


    24 Oct 12 at 12:24 pm

  2. Agree with you both on Bourn, anyone who thinks the Nats need a CF’er this offsesason hasn’t watched any baseball this year at all.
    The Nats played Bernadina perfectly this year. Give him 250-300 AB’s a year and he’s great. Any more than that and we’ve seen what happens.
    Corey Brown’s gonna be a valuable player for somebody soon, probably not the Nats though.

    Of LaRoche, Moore & Morse, one will be gone next year. Don’t know which one.

    Mark L

    24 Oct 12 at 3:43 pm

  3. Amazing; a 5.0 war which I believe ranked him 29th in the majors this year. That’s a pretty good age 19 season.

    Todd Boss

    24 Oct 12 at 8:09 pm

  4. I’ve come to the official conclusion that there’s a lot of just lazy baseball writers out there. I got so incensed at a couple of things Bowden has written lately; he made all these suggestions for moves that the Nats “may make” in the off-season and almost every one of them made no sense.

    I had never given moving Bernadina any thought til seeing that question; it could be a sell-high kind of situation. But yeah we’d lose a great resource. He can play any of the 3 OF positions, can start for an injury, and makes a great 4th outfielder.

    Todd Boss

    24 Oct 12 at 8:11 pm

  5. I’m late to this thread, but I’m in full agreement with you guys about Bourn. There’s such a group-think mentality to sportswriters now. It’s like they’re writing about a fantasy league rather than actual teams. Does Ladson (or many of the others—not just picking on Bill here) ask himself: What would be the real-world consequences of adding Bourn? Answer: (1) Harper has to move out of a position he plays well. (2) Werth is locked up in RF, so one of either Morse or Moore (both of whom have higher upsides than Bourn) has to be benched—and if LaRoche is re-signed, the other has to be traded. So for the everyday loss of Morse and Moore from your lineup, you get a weaker offensive player than either, and you have to pay him 3-4x more money than Morse/Moore combined.

    Off-topic: While the issue is still in flux, what are your thoughts on LaRoche? I’m deeply torn on this. He’s a great clubhouse presence, a great defender, and a plus hitter, but he’s going to get older and I’d really like to see Moore out there.


    25 Oct 12 at 2:41 pm

  6. I truly hope they don’t go after Bourn. He is highly inconsistent and strikes out WAY too much. This team doesn’t need more strikeouts. If they are going after a CFer they need more of a contact guy like Victorino. Not that I’m advocating for a CFer because I agree they do not need one.

    Here is an idea I had. If the team resigns Laroche, sign Victorino or Angel Pagan to play left field. That gives the team a switch hitting top of the order bat with speed AND a veteran with playoff experience. Then you package Morse with someone and trade him to an offensively challenged team like the Rays who are in need of a 1B, OF and/or DH and have an extra quality starting pitcher. A lineup like the one below may be pretty solid. Again this is only if they bring back Laroche.

    Victorino/Pagan – LF
    Harper – CF
    Zimm – 3B
    Laroche – 1B
    Desmond – SS
    Werth – RF
    Espinosa – 2B
    Suzuki – C


    26 Oct 12 at 9:32 am

  7. Pdowdy, I’m not sure I’d want to take on that kind of payroll, but yours is certainly a much more creative and valuable proposal than signing Michael Bourn. I agree that the Nats don’t need a CFer, but if they added one I’d definitely prefer Victorino to Bourn. Of course, then we’d only be one LFer away from having a Phillies outfield…


    26 Oct 12 at 9:54 am

  8. Bad time to say this, but I’m rooting for the Tigers. Poor Detroit. That city could use a boost, but looking like not this year.


    26 Oct 12 at 10:45 am

  9. Agreed on the payroll Clark. I was thinking Victorino would be a bit lower after a down season and being 2 years older than Bourn and Pagan. Probably not the best plan of action given the money it would take but it would be an interesting way to greatly improve the outfield defense, add another veteran with playoff experience and cut out a swing and miss bat from the lineup.

    I am sure there is a financialy cheaper way to do this as well I just can’t put a finger on which players may be available in a trade that profile in a similar way as Victorino.


    26 Oct 12 at 12:10 pm

  10. I have a hard time rooting for the Tigers. Grew up through little league/travel ball baseball with Verlander and he is and always has been an arrogant jerk.

    I’m going with San Francisco. Their double A team is here in Richmond so at least there is a bit of a tie to the area. Not a strong one but enough to sway my rooting in the series.


    26 Oct 12 at 12:13 pm

  11. Pdowdy, make no mistake, if the Nats pursued a CFer, I really like your idea of Victorino. He’d cost less than Bourn and would probably sign for less years, and he’s a veteran contributor.

    Your earlier mention of a trade with the Rays is also intriguing, because the local sports columnists down here in Tampa are calling on the Rays to finally trade away pitching for hitting. The Rays have been great at cultivating pitchers, but they’ve been too reluctant to trade away players before their FA years kick in (Carl Crawford, BJ Upton). However, their hitting was so awful this year that they couldn’t even make a wildcard spot with (I think) the best pitching in the AL. This was truly a let-down season for them, and that’s why I think they’re going to look at possibly trading James Shields. He has value, and he’s running out of years when low-budget Tampa can afford him. How about Michael Morse and Jesus Flores for Shields, to replace Jackson in the rotation? The problem is that I believe Tampa will ask for way more than a reasonable GM would be willing to give up, as was apparently the case with Upton for the past two seasons. Still, as to command, Shields would certainly be an upgrade over Jackson.


    26 Oct 12 at 2:03 pm

  12. Clark I was thinking Shields when I typed that but I think it is going to take more than Jesus as the throw in for the Nats to get Shields. I’m honestly not sure though. Shields makes pretty small money (for a starter of his abilities) this year with an option that is still very reasonable next season. Morse makes less than Shields this year but has no team control afterwards and will probably be looking for a deal in the 3 year 24-30 million range (if not more if he repeats his 2011 season in ’13) which means the Rays would lose him more than likely after one year. I would think they may want something else that is controllable.

    Maybe a Morse/Clippard for Shields/PTBNL type of deal. The Rays will also be in the market for a closer as I think Fernando Rodney was a one year deal and priced himself out of Tampa with his stellar season.


    26 Oct 12 at 2:20 pm

  13. I guess really it may make more sense from Tampa’s perspective to ask for Tyler Moore in the deal. He is far more cost effective and fits in the same mold as Morse.


    26 Oct 12 at 2:21 pm

  14. Can’t disagree with anything you said about modern sportswriters. My thoughts on LaRoche: as much as It pains me to say, I think the right move is to offer him a qualifying contract and let him go. He’s easily the best available 1B on the FA market this off season ( and he should cash in heavily. The Nats should not fall into the “extend players into their decline years) trap and should let him go.

    I think you give qualifying offers to both Jackson and LaRoche, let them go to FA, then use the nearly $20M in salary to get THE best SP out there in the FA market and a lower-level FA outfielder like Cody Ross (probably available for $3M-$6M this off-season). Ross could absolutely start in LF for us, allowing Morse to move to 1B and allowing the team to get another evaluation year of Moore. Imagine Zack Greinke added to our big 3, with Detwiler as the 5th.

    Todd Boss

    28 Oct 12 at 1:52 pm

  15. That’d be a great trade (Morse & Clippard for Shields and a prospect). It would make sense for both sides; Shields is absolutely the power-arm type that Rizzo craves and would be a great like-for-like replacement for Jackson. Morse gives them a legit middle of the order bat to replace Pena at 1B and Clippard is a closer-quality guy for the back of their bullpen (not to mention is a Tampa resident and would be coming home). Shields is very Healthy (never missed a start), great k/9 rates, and good numbers pitching in the AL (and the AL east). He’d likely show a Gio-esque improvement moving to the NL and would give the Nats an even stronger rotation in 2013 than they had in 2012. Question is; would Tampa go for this deal? Morse at $7M, Clippard 2nd year arbitration and likely to get a decent bump in pay … would Tampa want to take on $10M+ in payroll? Shields set to make $9M in 2013 so maybe so, it seems like a great fit.

    Do Washington and Tampa have a good trade history? Last one I remember is the Dukes deal.

    Todd Boss

    28 Oct 12 at 1:59 pm

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