Commenter Mark L, in response to my statement that (paraphrased) the 2011 Nationals cannot afford to keep rule 5 picks on this team, pointed out that the team really has little chance of competing in 2011 and thus it is really the perfect time to be keeping and testing rule5 guys.
In theory I agree with this premise w.r.t. keeping rule 5 guys. We’re not going to win the pennant in 2011.
I think in reality though the team has gone mostly backwards since arriving here in 2005 and cannot afford to ever seem as if they’re not trying to make progress. I blame a lot of that on Bowden’s obsession with former Reds and tools-y players who became such a nightmare to integrate as a team that Acta had to be scuttled as a manager in favor of the more old-school Riggleman. The team lost the entirety of good will and excitement that came with a new stadium and the Lerners as owners had to be shocked at how quickly they destroyed their season ticket base (most observers believe they’ve lost more than half their season ticket holders just from 2009!). So the team is just not in a position to play for the future any more; they have to appear to be improving the team even marginally for the next few years to put themselves in a better position financially.
If the team was really playing for 2013 (as, say, the KC Royals clearly are), they’d never have even brought in the likes of Ankiel, Coffey, Hairston, basically every mid-career veteran and go completely with a lineup of prospects and these rule5 guys. Arguably they wouldn’t have spent the money on Werth either. What would the 25-man roster really look like without any FA signings? Lets take a look:
- Catchers: Pudge, Ramos (remember, they *had* to get Pudge b/c of the state of their catcher depth pre 2010). If you like, you can replace Pudge with someone like Flores or even Maldonado, since Norris is not ready for the majors in 2011.
- Infield: Marrero, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmermann backed up by Gonzalez and Lombardozzi. This would have required a serious leap of faith on the readiness of Marrero for 2011, and we’d be rushing Lombardozzi to the majors. Perhaps we would have replaced Lombardozzi with Bixler.
- Outfield: Bernadina, Morgan, Burgess, Morse and CBrown. I know Burgess was traded, but perhaps the team keeps him and installs him in right field knowing they wouldn’t have Werth. Perhaps Burgess and Morse compete for right field and we bring up newly acquired CBrown as the 5th outfielder.
- Starters: Maya, Detwiler, Livan, Lannan, Zimmermann. I leave Livan in here if only because we signed him to such a sweetheart deal. If we don’t count Livan, we’re looking at someone like Stammen, Mock, Detwiler or Chico in that 5th spot. Or perhaps we use Broderick as the 5th starter instead of putting him in long relief.
- Relievers: Storen, Clippard, Burnett, Slaten, Broderick, HRodriguez and Carr/Kimball (with ERodriguez on DL). Our bullpen would have hard throwers at the back end and we’d immediately give AFL hero Kimball or Carr a shot.
Of this active roster, 17-18 would be on pre-arbitration salaries and the total payroll would probably be in the $28-30M range for the entire team. It’d be the “right” thing to do but the town would absolutely howl in protest.
I dunno. I go back and forth as a fan. Part of me says screw 2011, play the kids, see what they can do this year and regroup for 2012 when you can have a very good Strasburg-Zimmermann 1-2 punch to go along with general improvement across the rest of our younger guys. The other part of me says that incremental growth in terms of wins and respectability for this team is just as important in terms of attracting free agents and enabling the team to make a quick leap in a couple years. If this team can win 75 games this year, Strasburg comes back and probably improves the team 5 wins just by himself, we acquire an incrementally better #3 pitcher and hope that Maya, Detwiler and our rising AAA guys become real major league options. If you’re a 81 win team a couple of key free agent signings coupled with the natural rise of our core up and coming players can improve the team 10-12 wins very quickly. Suddenly we’re a 90 win team and still have a manageable payroll to augment and take the next steps to rise above Atlanta and Philadelphia in the division.
That’s “the plan,” right?