Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is ready to examine possible trade scenarios and determine realistic trades that the Washington Nationals should make, as he prepares to attend MLB's annual Winter Meetings, scheduled for December 3-6 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Will Rizzo trade for a top-of-the rotation starter? Will he finally make a deal to land an everyday center fielder that can also hit lead-off? Or will he make a blockbuster trade to land a highly-coveted superstar, perhaps in an effort to add outfield depth?
Here are five realistic trades the Washington Nationals should make during the MLB offseason. For each trade, every major league player involved receives a slide, and the trades are ranked by increasing level of magnitude, from the perspective of both teams involved.
Tyler Moore was a valuable member of the so-called "Goon Squad" during the 2012 MLB season.
He played in 75 games, and had 156 total at-bats, hitting .263 with 10 home runs, 29 RBI and a .513 slugging percentage. As a pinch-hitter, Moore was clutch, finishing with six hits, two home runs and five RBI in his 29 pinch-hit at-bats. His one postseason at-bat came also as a pinch hitter, when he hit the game-winning two-run single in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Although Tyler Moore primarily played as a left fielder, he is a natural first baseman. This fact, along with his youth, and proven ability to hit major league pitching, make him a valuable commodity during an offseason that is thin at the first base position.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTradeRumors.com writes that the Cleveland Indians are one team that could be interested in Moore, saying "Tyler Moore and Lucas Duda are examples of the powerful, controllable players that might intrigue Indians executives this winter."
While the Cleveland Indians are looking for help at first base, they also have some valuable assets of their own that they could move.
Shin-Soo Choo, a talented corner fielder who primarily plays right field, is one of these assets. The 30-year-old from South Korea is a career .289 hitter with a .381 OBP. He also has a fielding percentage of .984 and has 49 outfield assists in his career. In 2012, Choo finished with a .283 average, 16 home runs, 43 doubles, 21 stolen bases in 28 attempts and a .327 OBP. He added seven outfield assists, all from right field.
The Indians are listening to trade offers for Shin-Soo Choo. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported in August that the Indians may be forced to trade Choo as contract negotiations for the arbitration-eligible outfielder have been almost non-existent:
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said they have tried to extend Choo "multiple times'' over the past few years, to no avail. Antonetti was asked how much reception he's gotten to the possibility of a multiyear deal, and the GM answered candidly, "None.''
Assuming that the Nationals do not re-sign Adam LaRoche, they could move Michael Morse to first base full-time and use Chad Tracy as a back-up. This would make Tyler Moore expendable and also create an opening at one of the corner outfield positions, which would be filled quite nicely by Shin-Soo Choo.
Roger Bernadina has been with the Washington Nationals since they were the Montreal Expos, signing with the franchise in 2001. Bernadina is one of the Washington Nationals' arbitration eligibles, as he is in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Last season was a breakout year of sorts, even though it was mostly in a reserve role. Bernadina finished the season batting .291 in 227 at-bats over 129 games, with 11 doubles, five home runs and 25 RBI. He had a .373 OBP, and stole 15 of 18 bases. As a pinch-hitter, Bernadina was 8-33, with an impressive pinch hit leverage index (PHlev) of 1.33.
Roger Bernadina provides the Nationals' with some outfield depth, and the 28-year-old from Curacao could be dangled to help the Nationals land a bigger fish. One team that may bite is the Boston Red Sox. Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTradeRumors.com states that "regardless of what happens with [Jacoby] Ellsbury, the Red Sox will be pursuing outfielders this offseason.
An outfielder worth pursuing is the toolsy Roger Bernadina, who is capable of playing all three outfield positions.
A converted starter, Craig Stammen finally found a home in the Washington Nationals lineup as a middle reliever.
In 2012, he made 59 appearances, finishing with a 6-1 record and a 2.34 ERA, with 87 strikeouts and 36 walks in 88.1 innings pitched. Stammen had a .215 batting average against, and a 1.20 WHIP.
But another converted starter in the form of Tom Gorzelannny also provides effective middle relief. Additionally, Christian Garcia emerged late last season as an excellent seventh or eighth inning set-up man. Both of these roles were filled by Craig Stammen at various times during the 2012 season. So, the Nationals could move Craig Stammen to a team that needs relief pitching to help fill a need of their own.
One team in need of relief pitching is the Boston Red Sox. Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTradeRumors.com writes that "Boston’s projected bullpen could look considerably different in a couple of weeks, once the non-tender deadline passes."
Craig Stammen would address this specific area of concern for the Red Sox. And Stammen would come cheap once obtained, as his projected arbitration salary for 2013 is $900,000, as predicted by Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com.
The Boston Red Sox are looking for depth in both the outfield and the bullpen. Jacoby Ellsbury could be traded by Boston in an attempt to fill both of these holes. The 29-year-old center fielder could fit into the Washington outfield, the future of which centers on Bryce Harper.
Ellsbury played in only 74 games in 2012, but is just one year removed from a monstrous 2011, when he played in 158 games and batted .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored and 39 stolen bases, to go with a .376 OBP. In his six-year career, Ellsbury has a fielding percentage of .996 in 461 games as a center fielder.
Ellsbury's expiring contract with the Boston Red Sox, combined with the glut of free agent outfielders, means the Red Sox may not be able to get a lot for their center fielder, according to the team's offseason outlook on MLBTradeRumors.com:
The Red Sox could also listen to trade offers for Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s now just one year away from hitting free agency. The timing couldn't be better for Boston. Center fielders Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino, B.J. Upton and Angel Pagan are available in free agency, which reduces Cherington’s leverage in potential trade talks. Still, the Rangers have liked Ellsbury in the past and many others would express interest given Ellsbury’s youth and MVP-caliber 2011 season.
This trade makes sense for the Red Sox, who could further shed salary while filling two different needs at once. And this deal makes sense for the Nationals, who would finally get a true center fielder while not giving up too much in the process.
Ross Detwiler had a roller coaster ride of a season in 2012.
Detwiler surprised the team by winning the fifth spot in the rotation. But he began to struggle, and was then demoted to the bullpen. Detwiler then returned to the starting rotation, and even made the playoff roster as a starter. He capped off his year with a dominant performance in Game 4 of the NLDS, his first postseason start.
Detwiler finished the 2012 season 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 27 starts and 33 total appearances. Detwiler had 52 walks and 105 strikeouts in 164.1 innings pitched, with a .241 average against and a 1.22 WHIP.
Although the arbitration-eligible Detwiler figures to be in the mix once again for the fourth or fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation, he could be a very attractive trade target for a team that badly needs starting pitchers. The Minnesota Twins are one such team, according to their offseason outlook on MLBTradeRumors.com:
The Twins have the highest ERA among teams that don't call Coors Field home, which makes it relatively simple to anticipate the team's offseason priorities. Unless [GM] Terry Ryan acquires pitching depth, the Twins will enter the 2013 season as a likely 90-loss team.
The 26-year-old Ross Detwiler could provide the Minnesota Twins with the pitching depth they so desperately need.
The Minnesota Twins have something the Washington Nationals need, as Denard Span represents an option for the Washington Nationals in center field. The five-year veteran finished 2012 batting .283 in 128 games, with 38 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 41 RBI. Span drew 47 walks versus only 62 strikeouts for a .342 OBP, and also stole 17 bases in 23 attempts.
Denard Span is a very good player, as his contract with the Minnesota Twins suggests, but the team is showing they may not need him all that much. What the Twins do need is starting pitching, as Phil Mackey of ESPN1500.com reports:
The Twins have made no decisions about next year's roster, other than to say they'll be searching hard for starting pitching. But in order to acquire that starting pitching, it's possible -- if not highly likely -- the Twins will have to trade for it. It's also hard to imagine that the Twins would open the 2013 season with five left-handed hitters in the order, which is another reason why a trade could happen. But if the Twins can get quality starting pitching in return for Span this winter, the lineup would seem to be just fine without him.
The Nationals lineup, on the other hand, will improve with Denard Span. He is a left-handed bat, which the Nats are seeking in order to break up their parade of right-handed hitters. Span could also pose as a lead-off hitter as well.
Steve Lombardozzi was another key member of the "Goon Squad" last season for the Washington Nationals.
Playing left field, second base, short stop and even third base, Lombardozzi logged 126 games as a utility player. He finished with a .273 average in 384 at-bats, with 16 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 27 RBI. As a pinch hitter, Lombardozzi was 8-26, with a 1.14 PHlev.
Although Steve Lombardozzi played several positions for the Nats in 2012, the 24-year-old is a natural middle infielder. This could make him attractive to a team like the Arizona Diamondbacks, who will probably be needing a short stop soon. Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTrade Rumors.com says "Longtime Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew leads a relatively unremarkable class of free agent shortstops, but he's 'probably not' coming back to Arizona in the words of his former GM."
The Arizona Diamondbacks also need starting pitching, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTradeRumors.com:
The Diamondbacks could seek an experienced starting pitcher in a trade for an outfielder. Though they have an assortment of promising young starting pitchers, Towers has said he'd like to acquire a veteran starter this winter.
John Lannan is a veteran starting pitcher. Lannan has pitched six years in the major leagues, all with the Washington Nationals. In 134 career starts, Lannan is 42-52 with a 4.01 ERA. He has two career complete games including one shutout, and has a .272 batting average against to go with a 1.42 WHIP.
Lannan could find a home with the Arizona Diamondbacks, as he has apparently reached the end of the line with the Washington Nationals. Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post recently wrote that "people familiar with the Nationals’ thinking expect them to either trade arbitration-eligible John Lannan or allow him to become a free agent."
Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks is coveted around baseball, and with good reason. The 25-year-old finished the 2012 season hitting .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI in 150 games. Upton had 63 walks but struck out 121 times, and had a .355 OBP. He stole 18 bases in 26 attempts, and scored 107 runs. As a right fielder, Upton had seven outfield assists in 2012 and has 23 in his six-year career, to go with a career fielding percentage of .967.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that "GM Kevin Towers seeks a young shortstop and pitcher back in any potential Upton deal." The Nationals can offer the Diamndbacks just that, as Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reports:
When the Nationals consider trades this winter, [GM Mike] Rizzo said, they would attempt to deal from the positions of depth. The Nationals consider pitching and infield to be their two deepest spots, from top to bottom, the major leagues down to the lowest minor league rungs. They believe they have an abundance in both spots.
If a package including Steve Lombardozzi and John Lannan is acceptable to the Arizona Diamondbacks, then the Washington Nationals can beef up their outfield by acquiring Justin Upton, whose contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks is good through 2015. Such a scenario would work if Washington does not seek to acquire a center fielder through either free agency or a trade.
Michael Morse is a force in the middle of the Washington Nationals' lineup. While playing only 102 games during the 2012 season, Morse still managed to hit .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI. Morse had a .355 OBP while slugging .470 and collecting 191 total bases.
Morse, who has one more year left on his contract with the Washington Nationals, offers the team some measure of flexibility on defense. He played mostly left field in 2012, and is a serviceable corner outfielder. But while Adam LaRoche was injured during the 2011 season, Morse logged 85 games at first base for the Nats. The eight-year veteran is actually a natural first baseman.
If the Nationals re-sign Adam LaRoche, then Michael Morse could become a trade option, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTradeRumors.com writes:
It's also possible that the Nationals could re-sign LaRoche and pursue a free agent center fielder. GM Mike Rizzo could elect to create roster space by trading Morse at a time that many teams are seeking offense. The [Tampa Bay] Rays are among the many teams that could have interest in trading for the first baseman.
But if the Nationals part with a big bat like Michael Morse, then they must get something big in return.
James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays is definitely a star the Washington Nationals could get in return for Michael Morse.
"Big Game James" finished the 2012 season with a 15-10 record and a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts, with three complete games and two shutouts. Shields had 223 strikeouts versus 58 walks in 227.2 innings pitched, and had an average fastball velocity of 92.0 mph, according to FanGraphs.com. In his seven-year career, Shields is 87-73 with a 3.89 ERA, .239 average against and 1.17 WHIP in 217 starts, with 19 complete games and eight shutouts.
...this could finally be the year the Rays trade a prominent member of their rotation. The Rays could address multiple needs by dealing a top-of-the-rotation starter. Their offense ranked 18th in MLB in runs scored, so there’s clearly room for improvement.
The Tampa Bay Rays would dramatically improve their offense by adding Michael Morse. And the Washington Nationals would instantly bolster their starting rotation with the addition of James Shields, whose contract with the Tampa Bay Rays includes club options through 2014, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. For the Nats, James Shields would be an excellent replacement for the departing Edwin Jackson.