Washington Nationals: Early Grades for All Offseason Moves
The Nationals made big splashes via free agency and the trade market to enter the 2013 season, improving an already solid roster.
General manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals' front office were widely commended for a productive offseason, as they had the difficult task of improving a team with the best record in baseball the previous season.
Although many thought the team would be relatively quiet this winter, the Nationals took the opposite approach as one of the more active teams. Their most notable additions came in the form of Rafael Soriano, Denard Span, Dan Haren and the re-signing of Adam LaRoche.
Despite a slightly inconsistent start to the season, there is still plenty of time for the Nationals’ offseason moves to produce.
The following piece will grade each addition throughout the first three weeks of the season.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
All stats current through April 18, 2013.
While LaRoche may not be considered a "new" addition to the Nationals, he was still a free-agent after the 2012 season.
The team took some time to allow the market to develop this offseason, but eventually they re-signed the first baseman to a two-year deal to stay in Washington.
LaRoche’s defensive ability, solid left-handed bat, and positive clubhouse influence were important to retain.
Statistically thus far, LaRoche may be off to a bit of a slow start. He battled an early-season back ailment, but seems to be getting back on track as of late.
LaRoche has always had a penchant for starting the season off slow, but in his first game back after a two-game absence, he emphatically put that to rest while belting two home runs against the Chicago White Sox.
It’s safe to say that LaRoche will regain his power stroke from last season that led to a silver slugger award at first base. All things considered, it is only three weeks into the young season and many players are still getting back into the groove of playing.
Stat Line: 12 G, 41 AB, 8 H, 4 BB, 11 K, .195/.267/.633, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 runs scored
Early-Season Grade: C+
With Edwin Jackson on the free-agent market after a solid season in Washington last year, the Nationals needed a starting pitcher to take his place. The Nats worked out a one-year, $13 million deal with veteran right-hander, Dan Haren.
Haren, who is coming off a season to forget in 2012, posted a 12-13 record with a career-worst 4.33 ERA since becoming a full-time starting pitcher.
After a rocky start to the 2013 season, Nationals fans and front-office alike are certainly hoping this is not a continuing trend.
The 32-year-old right-hander is now sporting a hideous 8.10 ERA, 2.03 WHIP and 12/1 K/BB ratio over his first 13 1/3 innings with Washington.
While this is obviously not the start that the Nationals expected from the veteran pitcher, he still has plenty of time to adjust and work out what may be causing this poor start.
Luckily, the one-year deal he signed is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Nationals. If he manages to get back to his pre-2012 form, the Nationals will have one of the deepest pitching staffs in all of baseball.
Unfortunately, that still doesn't prevent him from receiving the lowest grade out of all the Nationals' offseason moves thus far.
Stat Line: 13.1 IP, 8.10 ERA, 2.02 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 0.7 BB/9, 12.0 K/BB, 17.6 H/9
Early-Season Grade: D
During the offseason, the Nationals finally landed the quality leadoff hitter they've coveted.
In a trade with the Minnesota Twins, Denard Span was brought to the Nation's Capitol to set the plate for the rest of the talent-filled Nationals lineup.
His dynamic ability from the leadoff spot should lead to more opportunities for the middle of the lineup.
Thus far this season, Span has done just that, consistently getting on base and hitting for average. Unfortunately due to the Nationals' offensive inconsistencies early this year, the team has been unable to capitalize on it.
Once the remainder of the Nationals lineup heats up as the season progresses, Span's value to this team will be more noticeable. If he manages to become more of a menace on the basepaths, his value and overall grade will certainly rise.
It's obvious that the Nationals GM, Mike Rizzo, believed Span would be the perfect fit for this team heading into the season.
"You're talking about a true defensive ballhawk center field type of guy with great range," Rizzo told reporters, "Sabermetrically and with a scout's eye, he's a front line defensive center fielder. He's a confident, leadoff type of hitter. He appeals greatly to us because of his skill set as an offensive player. You know, high average guy, .350 OBP-type of guy, doesn't strike out -- one of the tougher guys in the league to strike out -- so a contact bat and can really, really run... from the left side of the plate, which keeps our lineup balanced and a guy that in the past has stolen a lot of bases and we feel is really going to come into his own as a base stealer in the National League."
Stat Line: 13 G, 48 AB, 15 H, 9 BB, 5 K, .313/.421/.775, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 9 runs scored, 2 stolen bases
Early-Season Grade: A-
The signing of closer Rafael Soriano this offseason was probably their most notable move. On paper, he bolstered what many believe to be one of the top bullpens in baseball.
Soriano dealt with an early season leg ailment, but he's still converted five out of his six save opportunities thus far. There is a lot to be said about locking down the ninth inning as that was a cause of the Nationals early-playoff exit last season.
Soriano has been a bit shaky, but he's pitched scoreless innings in five of his seven trips to the mound and has seemingly righted the ship over his last three outings.
It is also crucial that Soriano stay injury-free going forward for the Nationals, as Drew Storen may not be cut out to take over the ninth inning duties.
Stat Line: 7.0 IP, 5.14 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 8.0 K/BB, 9.0 H/9, 5 saves
Early-Season Grade: B