Predicting Decisions Washington Nationals Will Make on Soon-to-Be FA's

Robert Wood@@bleachRWreachrCorrespondent IJune 17, 2013

Predicting Decisions Washington Nationals Will Make on Soon-to-Be FA's

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    Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo may not want to discuss upcoming decisions on impending free agents during the season.

    But I do.

    Here are predictions for decisions the Washington Nationals will make on soon-to-be free agents.

    Note: All statistics courtesy of unless noted otherwise.

5. Bill Bray, RP

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    Bill Bray was signed from the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason as a left-handed insurance policy for the Washington Nationals bullpen.

    Bray's 2013 season has had one bad turn after another, as explained by James Wagner of The Washington Post on May 24: 

    Bray, 29, struggled with a mechanical flaw in his delivery during spring training and stayed in Viera to continue working on it. He was assigned to Class AA Harrisburg in early May and was throwing well. According to a Nationals official, Bray’s execution was sharper. He had allowed only two hits and no runs in 4 1/3 innings. But he last pitched on May 14 and then landed on the disabled list with the shoulder issue and was shutdown.

    Bray's opt-out date was set for June, according to The Washington Post. For now, Bray is still with the Nationals organization and on the disabled list in Harrisburg. But with the emergence of young left-handed relievers Fernando Abad and Ian Krol, expect Bray to be looking for a new job this offseason, if not sooner.

    DECISION: Do not re-sign.

4. Fernando Abad, RP

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    Before the 2013 season began, the Washington Nationals had a glaring weakness in their bullpen: a lack of quality left-handed relievers. This deficiency continued through the first two months of the season, until the emergence of Fernando Abad.

    In 12 appearances since his call-up at the end of May, Abad has surrendered seven hits and one earned run, while striking out 10 batters and walking only one. The 27-year-old Dominican has a 0.90 ERA, a .189 opponents' batting average and a 0.80 WHIP.

    In an article on June 12, James Wagner of The Washington Post illustrated Abad's value to the Nationals bullpen:

    As Johnson begins to establish order to the bullpen, Abad adds a needed element. In addition to Tyler Clippard, who is successful against left-handed batters, and recent left-handed call-up Ian Krol, Johnson has three options against left-handed heavy opponents. Before, when Zach Duke struggled as a long man and against left-handers, Johnson could only safely turn to Clippard in crucial spots.

    Fernando Abad began the 2013 season on a minor-league contract according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. But if Abad continues to pitch like this, he deserves a contract to match his performance.

    DECISION: Re-sign to one-year contract worth $1,000,000.

3. Chad Tracy, 1B

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    The head of the "Goon Squad" still has a place on the Washington Nationals. have Chad Tracy as being signed to a one-year deal worth $1,000,000 after his successful 2012 season, spearheading Washington's potent group of pinch hitters.

    The Nationals bench has been much quieter this season, but the 33-year-old Tracy is still pulling his weight. So far, Tracy has two pinch-hit home runs and two pinch-hit RBI, the only entries in either category for the Nationals to date according to

    Plus, Tracy's role as a mentor to the team's younger bench players such as Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore is invaluable.

    DECISION: Re-sign to two-year contract worth $2,000,000.

2. Dan Haren, SP

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    When the Washington Nationals had a decision to make in the offseason with Edwin Jackson, GM Mike Rizzo thought the grass was greener on the other side, so he let Jackson walk. But after signing Dan Haren for one year at $13,000,000 accoridng to, Rizzo's grass turned out to be Astro turf.

    Haren is 4-8 in 13 starts, with a 5.70 ERA over 72.2 innings. The 11-year veteran has a 1.39 WHIP, a .301 batting average against, and has surrendered 17 home runs. Not surprisingly, Haren has the worst starter ERA on the team by more than two runs, minimum nine starts.

    Things have gotten so bad that the Nationals have decided to watch video on Haren to see if they can spot any discrepancies, as Mike Rizzo related to 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny on June 12 (via CBSLocal Washington, DC):

    We have to figure out why it falls off so fast, so quickly – if it’s mechanical, if it’s delivery, if it’s mindset. We have to figure out the reason why you can cruise for four innings like he did, and then hit a wall so quickly and your location changes so dramatically. 

    Rizzo could make his life much easier by simply letting Ross Ohlendorf replace Dan Haren in the rotation.

    DECISION: Trade at deadline

1. Kurt Suzuki, C

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    Even though he's not a pitcher, Kurt Suzuki may be the most important member of the Nationals' pitching staff.

    Acquired from the Oakland Athletics just after the deadline in 2012, Suzuki is under contract through the end of the 2013 season, earning $6,450,000 this season according to So far, this veteran backstop has proven his worth, time and again.

    For starters, the agile Suzuki stops balls in the dirt or over his head that most catchers only dream about.

    His personality plays a role, too. Amanda Comak of The Washington Times explained during spring training that "Suzuki’s demeanor is a big part of why the catcher has become such an integral part of the Nationals." 

    Most impressive, however, has been Suzuki's work with emerging star Jordan Zimmermann. On May 1, the 27-year-old right-hander told Jon Cooper of what it's been like to work with Suzuki:

    Zuki and I have been on the same page pretty much every start. Everything he put down tonight I was thinking about throwing before he put the fingers down. So it's definitely easy when you and the catcher are on the same page.

    So far, the partnership has paid dividends. Zimmermann is 9-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 14 starts, with 67 strikeouts, 14 walks, a .214 opponents' batting average and a 0.93 WHIP in 99.2 inning pitched, to go with three complete games and one shutout. As a result of his performance, Zimmermann is the front-runner to start for the National League in the All-Star Game, according to David Schoenfield of

    For the Nationals as a whole, Suzuki becomes even more valuable with the oft-injured Wilson Ramos back on the DL.

    DECISION: Re-sign to five-year contract worth $25,000,000