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In response to a friend’s lament about the woeful and frustrating Nats offense, I offered the following:

Good players have down years.  Mediocre players have good years.

As Nationals fans, we need to be clear about objective: is it a World Series title? Or a long run of being competitive?  Ask the Braves and Marlins: almost impossible to achieve both.  Braves won 14 consecutive divisions, but 1 WS, and that was in 1995, near the beginning of their run.  The Marlins broke the bank to win in 1997 and 2003, but I don’t think they’ve sniffed the playoffs at all other than that.

Nationals hitting is without any doubt the primary issue, Soriano’s inability to pitch a clean inning aside.  But I do not see where Rizzo could make such an upgrade that it would solve any problems.  An offensive upgrade to Span is welcome (at what cost to defense?).  LaRoche could easily go 25/90 or better next year, and with a year left he could be traded.  But the better, younger first basemen are pretty much spoken for: nobody is going to give up the likes of Belt, Freeman, Goldschmidt, Rizzo…you prefer James Loney?  Casey Kotchman?  Brett Pill?  If you’re going to sign someone, be prepared to give up Adrian Gonzalez money for someone perhaps not as good.

Teams that are successful have to draft at least some of their impact players.  We have Harper, Rendon, Desmond, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Zimmermann, Gio (who was the product of a trade for four farm guys), Storen, Clippard (acquired as a minor leaguer for a prospect)…that’s better than just about everyone.  Span was a trade for a draft pick guy.  Werth is really the only major FA we’ve signed.  LaRoche and Haren (and Edwin last year) are all short term rentals.

So Rizzo either plays the hand he’s got — and there are perhaps 20 GMs that would gladly swap their team for his — or folds a pretty good hand.  But he can’t discard value hoping to draw to an inside straight.

I say stay the course, develop the arms, use them as trade bait judiciously, and be opportunistic.  The best we can hope for is that someone in the system blossoms, or a LaRoche-type has another career season.  Or the money materializes to sign Votto or similar.  The only close to top level 1B on the market upcoming is Mike Napoli.  ALR is pretty close to that skill set and only a little only, and a better fielder.

How about signing Jacoby Ellsbury?  Are you buying 2010 and 2012?  Or 2011 and 2013?   In 2010 and 2012, he played a TOTAL of 92 games, with no performance.  in 2011 and 2013 combined (1.75 seasons), he has 83 steals, 39 HR, 152 RBI, and hit about .310.  What kind of value do you put on that?

Dinging our current guys is pretty easy: it’s been a tough season to watch.  Finding upgrades is a pretty big challenge.  If only we could just finish in last again and get another blue chip #1 overall….

 

August 20, 2013
Rodanthe, NC

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