Nationals Arm Race

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

So, while I was out…


Rodriguez DFA long overdue. Photo via

What a great time to have a 30-hour server outage.  Just as soon as the hammer drops on the Nationals Roster my site went kaplunk and I couldn’t post or host comments.  Grrr.  Moving the site next month to some place more stable.

So, focusing on the obvious, the Nats made a series of moves that some argue were overdue by about a couple years.  Some quick thoughts (since by now everyone’s weighed in so my comments are nothing obvious):

1. Henry Rodriguez DFA 16 walks in 18 innings this year in almost entirely low-leverage situations.  Long overdue move; if you can’t rely on a reliever, you need someone else.  I think the team hung on to him for far too long, and I struggled with  the acquisition to begin with as has often been repeated here.  Will he catch on with another team?  Probably; 100mph fastballs don’t grow on trees.    He can go be someone else’s Steve Dalkowski.

2. Zach Duke DFA: you had to see this coming; the Nats are paying the price for not tendering Tom Gorzelanny and thinking they could get by with Duke in that spot.  I did too; he was decent in AAA and great in September 2012.  But he’s been god-awful this year, and it looks like Rizzo is going to start spinning arms through the bullpen to find someone that can stick.  Unlike Davey Johnson, I don’t believe he’s going to get picked up off waivers and he’ll likely take his AAA assignment.

3. Danny Espinosa to the D/L and then (by assumption of his locker being cleaned out) banished to the minors: it was a-coming.  If he was hitting .230 with power and walks, he could have stuck on.  But you just cannot cost a struggling offense the kind of at-bats he was.  He’s got more than 1500 MLB plate appearances now; is this who he is?  I think Espinosa’s 2013 season may end up with him spending the rest of the year in AAA relearning how to hit before the team has to make a hard decision next year.

4. Anthony Rendon back up and at 2b: had to happen.  He’s ready for the MLB.  He had nothing left to prove by slicing up AA.  Can he play second?  Yeah I think he can; it isn’t rocket science.  If Rendon played shortstop in HS, he can make that transition.  Stick him at 6th or 7th in the order and let him play.

5. Ian Krol: this move came out of nowhere for me.  Suddenly mr “we don’t need a left handed reliever” Mike Rizzo has two of them in his bullpen.  He’s also managed to already call up both guys added to the 40-man roster last fall ahead of the rule-5 draft.  I’m sure both Krol and Erik Davis will struggle here and there, but should hold their own in short stints.

Summary: like the moves.  It is almost as if the Nats fanboy blogosphere got to play GM for a day and rid the team of all its issues in one fell swoop.  The timing couldn’t be better; 6 games against non-descript teams and even more non-descript starters.  Lets hope the combination of new blood and bad opponents sparks this team.

4 Responses to 'So, while I was out…'

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  1. I don’t think this is who Espinosa is; I think his shoulder is and has been hurt like LaRoche’s was in 2011.

    I’d love for Espi to use this year to get shoulder surgery so that both his shoulder and wrist are healed by spring training.

    If Rendon has entrenched himself at 2B by then, Espi is athletic enough to be the primary backup and utilityman in a role similar to Lombo’s current one.


    5 Jun 13 at 5:37 pm

  2. You’re right, i phrased that part badly; I didn’t mean to imply that the 2013 version of Espinosa “is who he is.” Clearly he’s been hurt all season from the get go and has only gotten more hurt with the wrist issue. Let me be more clear about what I meant; I think Espinosa is going to be at best the hitter he was during the 1300+ plate appearances he got in 2011 and 2012. A slightly under average MLB hitter (98 ops+ for those two years) with a low average (.242) but good power (38 homers and a .408 slugging) and a ton of strikeouts. I say “at best” because if you look at his numbers, everything about him is basically trending worse since he arrived . K’s going up, obp and slugging going down. Walks going down.

    So, is there a place in the majors for a 98 ops+ or worse batter but who plays great defense? Absolutely! Frigging Elvis Andrus just signed a ridiculous 8year $120m extension and he’s 15 OPS+ points worse than Espinosa for his career at the plate. The difference? Andrus plays SS and Espinosa currently occupies 2B. The modern expectations out of a second baseman have changed; now we expect production like what we got from a Jeff Kent, or guys like Pedroia, Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley or especially Robinson Cano. Frankly, the Nats may have to move Espinosa to a team that will use him at short and will be ecstatic that they now have a SS who can hit 20 homers, play plus defense and hit .240 reasonably well. We know he has a gun for an arm, we know he plays SS (as he did in college more than ably), and there’s more than a few people out there who think he’s a better defensive SS than Desmond. But, until he gets hurt and re-gains his stroke, he’s useless on the trade market.

    So, he needs to get healthy, re-find his swing and force the issue on the depth chart in 2014.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jun 13 at 7:10 am

  3. My problem with Espinosa isn’t that he’s hurt, it isn’t even that he has an excuse for everything, it’s that he lies about his injuries and tries to cover them up, which always fails. The shoulder became evident in spring training when he couldn’t hit and the wrist became evident when he couldn’t hit even worse than before. Last year it was his eyes and the color of the fence in Vierra. It’s always something with Espinosa and it’s usually a load of crap. As much as I’d like to see him succeed eventually, for now I’m glad he’s gone. Let him sort out his problems where they’re supposed to be sorted in; in the minors.

    It’s a bummer about Duke. He showed promise in the minors but has been absolutely miserable in the majors. So be it.

    All I can about Henry is good goddamn riddance. As with everything else, the Nationals were a day late and a dollar short kicking him to the curb but I guess better late then never. Unless, of course, it’s too late and there’s no bailing the sinking ship.


    6 Jun 13 at 4:31 pm

  4. Espinosa witholding injuries: agree. The shoulder issue troubled me. But then the wrist thing was even worse. On the one hand you cannot blame him though; his hold on a starting MLB position wasn’t exactly firm. we’re not talking about an established player who knew he could take the time it took to get healed and get his starting job back. So he did what a lot of us naturally would do; act like nothing’s wrong and play through the pain.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jun 13 at 7:29 am

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