Hey, everybody’s doing inbox responses this week. Here’s Bill Ladson’s latest inbox column, dated 12/11/12.
As always, I write the response here before reading his, and sometimes edit questions for clarity.
Q: Are you pleased with the Denard Span trade? Or do you think the Nats should have tried to sign Michael Bourn?
A: My thoughts are pretty clear on the Denard Span trade; in a sentence, I didn’t think we needed to make the trade, but the deal we struck was fair. If it comes down to Span versus Michael Bourn, there’s no question in my mind you go with Span; Bourn wants too much money, is older, they’re roughly equivalent in terms of UZR/150, and Bourn has lesser career batting stats (104 OPS+ career for Span versus 90 for Bourn). I think there’s a reason that BJ Upton signed and most teams with CF needs/wants have solved them (Phillies and Ben Revere, Giants and re-signing Angel Pagan, Braves and Upton, Nats and Span, etc) and Bourn still sits unsigned; he and his super-agent Scott Boras are over-valuing his services. Ladson says he likes Span for his contract and his age versus Bourn.
Q: Why are the Nats thinking about getting rid of a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy in Adam LaRoche?
A: First, lets be fair; the Nats are “not getting rid” of the Free Agent Adam LaRoche; he’s a free agent and can sign anywhere he chooses. Maybe LaRoche is tired of the humidity in Washington and wants to find a team closer to home. Maybe his wife really likes the Pacific Northwest and he’s looking to move to Seattle. Ok seriously; the problem with LaRoche is simply his age; yes he was 30/100 THIS year; what will he do next year? More importantly, what would he do 3 years from now when he’s 35 and earning $15M/year or so? That’s the risk in any FA contract for someone in his 30s, and these types of contracts have a tendency to add up and really hamstring your budgets. Just look at the Yankees and Phillies right now; think the Phillies wish they had about $50M in payroll flexibility to improve their .500 team? The team really doesn’t want to commit more than a couple years, but at LaRoche’s age this is really his last shot at a big-time, life altering guaranteed contract. He really needs to get as much guaranteed money as he can. If the Red Sox give him a 3year guaranteed contract, he really needs to take it. Ladson states the obvious; Nats offering 2 years, LaRoche wants 3.
Q: Who will be the Nats’ second baseman in 2013 — Danny Espinosa or Steve Lombardozzi?
A: Danny Espinosa. The team showed patience waiting for Ian Desmond to turn it around and seem likely to do the same with Espinosa. Now, if it were me, I wouldn’t mind cashing in Espinosa’s defensive stature and 20-home run prowness and shed his 190Ks/season to obtain some farm system depth and just live with Steve Lombardozzi playing 2nd and batting 8th, but there’s really no reason to do that right now. Espinosa is at MLB minimum and may make the leap; and Lombardozzi may really just be a utility/backup infielder type. Ladson predicts a gold glove and an All-Star appearance for Espinosa. That made me chuckle. He’s very optimistic.
Q: What does the Span trade mean for the future of Tyler Moore? Moore has good pop and belongs in the everyday lineup.
A: Well, clearly the Span acquisition means that Tyler Moore is at best looking at another season of backup at-bats. What is more important to Moore is what happens with LaRoche/Michael Morse. Because those are the blockers to Moore getting actual playing time right now. Moore’s production last season was great for a first year guy; .840 OPS, 124 OPS+, a 22 home run full season pace. He hit righties better than lefties, which fares well for his maturation as a hitter. But there’s just no room for him right now. I suspect he may be trade bait if the team signs LaRoche to a 3year deal, just as Morse will be. Ladson states the obvious; Moore will come off the bench this year.
Q: Who will be the Nationals’ starting catcher on Opening Day?
A: Great question. I’d go with Kurt Suzuki for now, until hearing how Wilson Ramos‘ recovery is going. Remember, Ramos had to have two knee surgeries last summer; I don’t think its a guarantee that he’s ready opening day. Ladson agrees, saying the team is taking it slow w/ Ramos.
Q: Do you think Michael Morse is a defensive liability in the outfield? If LaRoche signs with the Nats, what impact will that have on Morse?
A: Yes he’s a defensive liability in LF. But I don’t mind having a 30 homer defensive liability in left. But I’m not the GM of the Nationals who seems dead set on replacing all sub-par defenders on his roster. If LaRoche signs, it pretty clearly means an imminent trade of Morse, since it makes little sense to have his bat sitting in a backup capacity. Ladson doesn’t think he’s as big of a liability in LF as I do, pointing out that Morse seemed like he was playing hurt at the end of the season.
Q: What will the Nats do with Chien-Ming Wang?
A: Nothing. Chien-Ming Wang is a free agent and can sign anywhere he wants. If the Nats give him another dollar of guaranteed money I’ll be furious. Ladson says he’s not coming back and may not sign til mid-season, ala Roy Oswalt.