Brad Lidge Signs with Washington Nationals: What's the Point?

Charles Bennett@chasbennettonbrSenior Analyst IJanuary 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 08:  Pitcher Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 8, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It was reported earlier today by ESPN that former Phillies closer Brad Lidge has agreed to a $1 million one-year deal with the Nationals.

That's a million dollars that would better be spent elsewhere.

For starters, Washington didn't really need to beef up their bullpen. They already have a decent closer in Drew Storen and a solid setup man in Tyler Clippard.  

The Nationals had the fifth-best relief ERA in the majors in 2011, and of the five men who had 50 or more relief appearances for them, four of them (Storen, Clippard, Henry Rodriguez and lefty Sean Burnett) are under contract for this season.  

The lone free agent is 31-year-old journeyman reliever Todd Coffey (although, to be fair, Coffey was himself making over $1 million). The Nationals could have replaced him with Ryan Mattheus or recent acquisition Ryan Perry rather than shelling out a million for Lidge.

What the Nationals need to improve on for 2012 is batting and starting pitching. Starting pitching shouldn't be too much trouble, as they grabbed ace Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland A's, and will have Stephen Strasburg for a full season, joining halfway decent pitchers in John Lannan and Jordan Zimmerman.

The Nats were bottom third in the league in most offensive categories in 2011. Yet, in terms of batting, their big acquisition was Mark DeRosa (who's 37 and hasn't batted .280, hit a dozen dingers or even had 500 plate appearances in several years). The Nats should have spent the million on Lidge on a bat for what isn't one of the league's strongest lineups.

Another reason why I think shelling out a million for Lidge was a bad idea is that I don't think Lidge will be worth it this season. He's 35, and struggled with injuries last season.  

And, with the exception of the 2008 season, he's not really a top-tier reliever. He has a career losing record and 3.46 ERA. In the last three seasons, he was 1-11 with 16 blown saves, a 4.73 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP.  

Sabremetrically, Lidge had a combined minus-1.3 wins above replacement in the last three seasons while allowing two more runs than a replacement. That means that any schmuck would have done better than Lidge did from 2009 to 2011. Not particularly stellar. Note that in those three seasons, Lidge made $36 million, whereas a hypothetical replacement would've made closer to $2 million.

I know Lidge has an impressive 12.2 Ks per nine, but that's about all he does. Bottom line...Lidge won't help the Nationals do much except spend money.