Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Offseason Review: Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals

Scowlin' ass home-stealin'
Bryce Harper. 
The Washington Nationals are the best team in baseball and didn't really need to do a whole lot with their offseason. Mike Rizzo is a genius, Davey Johnson is a very good manager and top to bottom the whole roster ranges from competent to prodigious. To make matters much, much worse for their competition is the fact that the bulk of their talent has years of excellence ahead of them; most notably staff ace Stephen Strasburg and the 20 year old total-bro NL Rookie Of The Year wunderkind Bryce Harper. The Nats are so goddamn good that they are actually in a position where they will either have to trade or bench the coveted and versatile Michael Morse due to the surplus of talent they have built up.

Washington is only responsible for two major moves in the offseason. One is the addition of RHP Dan Haren, an MASSIVELY underrated pitcher who after one underwhelming year was signed on a remarkable one year $13MM contract. If Haren bounces back, which I think is almost inevitable given his age and prior track record, this is going to be a major steal for the Nationals. Worst case scenario, Haren duplicates or degrades from his 2012 performance and Washington has a little money to chew. My estimation is that Haren will win 15 of his 30 or so outings and get extended by the end of the 2013 season and 29 other teams are going to look salty as hell.

Washington's new center fielder Denard Span
The other major move by the Nationals was the acquisition of center fielder Denard Span from the Twins for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. I am a little iffy on this move (I'd have preferred Ben Revere) but Span should play well in Nationals Park. Span has proven to be an exceptional leadoff hitter thanks to a career .357 OBP. His defensive prowess when paired up with Harper and Werth make an already formidable Nationals outfield an exceptional force to be reckoned with. I personally think that Meyer has what it takes to be a pretty damn good starting pitcher, and while exchanging a potentially good pitcher for a pretty good center fielder might look silly in a few years, the Nats have enough young up and coming talent to not really need every competent farmhand they have in stock. 

The inherent risk in either of the aforementioned deals is pretty much washed out by the brilliantly designed team already set up and ready to play, so what do they have left to do?  The only glaring issue right now lies is the bullpen. The Nationals let a substantial bulk of their pen walk. Mike Gonzalez signed with the Brewers, as did Tom Gorzelanny who was non-tendered by the Nationals. Sean Burnett signed a two year contract with the Angels, leaving Zach Duke as the only lefty in the pen. GM Mike Rizzo said that a second lefty was not necessary given the dominant splits over left handed hitters on behalf of several of the right handed relievers. While many of the RHP's do appear more than capable holding together a capable pen, I think re-signing Gonzalez or a more aggressive pursuit of J.P. Howell would have been a prudent move given the Nationals relatively inexpensive offseason.

Small imperfections aside, the Nationals are set up for their second consecutive year of domination. Strasburg is going to pitch his first complete year and dominate his way to a possible Cy Young THANKS TO THE SMART THINKING ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONALS MANAGEMENT TO LISTEN TO MEDICAL EXPERTS AND SHUT HIS SEASON DOWN, REGARDLESS OF PLAYOFF CONTENTION, SEE ROBERT FUCKING GRIFFIN THE THIRD. The offense is going to crush and the defense is going to shut opposition down behind a dominant starting rotation. The Nationals, best team in baseball, are going to win the 2013 world series. I'll put a beer on it*.

Sneak preview of everyone getting me beer after they thought
some other team was going to win the World Series and
foolishly bet against me and had to buy me beer.

*Applicable to the first 12 readers ages +21.

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