Stick a fork in 'em – the 2009 Nationals

Leave a comment

It could have been done before the end of April, but I didn’t have the
idea for the segment back then. So let’s officially declare the
Nationals dead for 2009 and look ahead to 2010.

The 2010 depth chart

Catcher: Jesus Flores (Arb.), Wil Nieves (Arb.), Josh Bard (Arb.), Luke Montz

Flores, who hit .311/.382/.522 in 90 at-bats before going down with
a shoulder injury last month, is the long-term answer behind the plate.
If the Nationals don’t want to pay to keep Nieves around, Montz could
come up and serve as an adequate backup.

First base: Adam Dunn

Nick Johnson is a free agent at season’s end, as is forgotten man
Dmitri Young, so the Nationals will probably stick Dunn at first base
next year. As much of a disappointment as the team’s outfielders aside
from Dunn have been, the team still has alternatives there and Dunn’s
glove is less of a problem in the infield.

Second base: Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris

Ronnie Belliard is a free agent and is very unlikely to be brought
back. Hernandez has a capable glove, but he hits like the backup
shortstop he was always destined to become, and the Nationals like
Harris better in the outfield than at second base. Maybe prospect Danny
Espinosa will be a possibility by 2011, but the Nats will need to look
outside of the organization for an upgrade.

Third base: Ryan Zimmerman, Kory Casto

Zimmerman, who signed a five-year deal back in April, is the only Nationals under control beyond 2010.

Shortstop: Cristian Guzman, Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez

Guzman will make $8 million next year in the final season of a deal
done in the second half of last season. Since he is injury-prone, the
Nationals need to find a better backup for him, but that would be taken
care of if they turned Hernandez into a utilityman.

Left field: Lastings Milledge, Willie Harris, Leonard Davis
Center field: Elijah Dukes, Justin Maxwell, Rogearvin Bernadina
Right field: Josh Willingham (Arb.)

Or you could go with Willingham in left, Milledge in center and
Dukes in right, though I think that’d be a weaker alignment. I don’t
see this as the Nationals’ starting outfield next year: Milledge could
be traded for another disappointment and Willingham is a candidate to
go in a deadline deal next month. Still, it’s a group with some upside
and one that wouldn’t cost more than $5 million in 2010.

Rotation: John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Scott
Olsen (Arb.), Collin Balester, Shairon Martis, Matt Chico, Ross
Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock, Marco Estrada

Olsen is due to be non-tendered unless he can come back and turn in a
strong second half. Even if that happens, the Nats may just go ahead
and trade him. They will, however, want to add one veteran to a
rotation only certain to include Lannan and Zimmermann. Strasburg may
well prove deserving of opening next year in the majors, but the
Nationals have to get him signed first. I still feel better about
Balester than most of the other youngsters likely to contend for jobs.

Bullpen: Joel Hanrahan, Drew Storen, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann,
Zech Zinicola, Tyler Clippard, Mike MacDougal (Arb.), Saul Rivera
(Arb.), Jesus Colome (Arb.), Logan Kensing

Well, obviously that’s not going to get the job done. The Nationals
will likely make the bullpen a priority this winter, even if they do
think Storen, the 10th overall pick in last week’s draft, is ready to
step in and take on a significant role. Storen may well be the closer
of the future, but the Nats will want a stopgap in the ninth and a
quality lefty. They may make efforts to re-sign Joe Beimel, Ron Villone
and Julian Tavarez, depending on how they perform over the rest of the

OK, best guess time.

Washington’s 2010 roster

SS Cristian Guzman
CF Free agent
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Elijah Dukes
LF Josh Willingham
C Jesus Flores
2B Free agent

Bench: C Luke Montz, INF Anderson Hernandez, OF Willie Harris, INF Free Agent, OF Free Agent

John Lannan
Free agent
Jordan Zimmermann
Collin Balester
Shairon Martis

Free agent
Free agent
Joel Hanrahan
Ron Villone
Jason Bergmann
Zech Zinicola
Free agent

Maybe second base or one of the bullpen openings could be filled
through a Lastings Milledge trade. Most of the other free agent spots
here won’t be taken by expensive players, but with less than $30
million currently committed and only Willingham, who might not even be
around, due more than $2 million in arbitration, there will hopefully
be around $20 million to spend. Andruw Jones would be an intriguing
target for the outfield, and Virginia native Billy Wagner would be a
nice get for the closer’s role.

White Sox acquire right-hander Tommy Kahnle from Rockies

Tommy Kahnle
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

According to the official Twitter account of the Chicago White Sox, the club acquired right-hander Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies on Tuesday evening in exchange for minor league pitcher Yency Almonte.

Kahnle was designated for assignment by the Rockies last week in a flurry of moves made in preparation of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old former fifth-round pick posted an ugly 4.86 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and 39/28 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings this past season for Colorado and he wasn’t much better at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Almonte, 21, had a 3.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 110/38 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season between Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.

It’s a straight one-for-one deal of two non-prospects, and the timing of it — in the evening, with Thanksgiving approaching — has our Craig Calcaterra wondering whether an executive was just trying to get out of some family responsibilities …

Mark McGwire to become the Padres bench coach

Los Angeles Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire roams the field during practice for the National League baseball championship series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. The Dodgers are scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The other day Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres were in discussions with former Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire about their bench coach job. Today Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done and will soon be announced.

McGwire has been the hitting coach for Los Angeles for the past three seasons. When his contract was not renewed following the end of 2015 he was rumored to be up for the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach job. He likely view staying in Southern California to be a plus, as he makes his home in Irvine, which is around 90 miles from Petco Park. That’s a long commute, but Mac can afford the gas, I guess.

How to talk to your family about the designated hitter at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner

While political topics are normally the subject of awkward conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table, hardcore baseball fans know that it can be just as awkward to talk about the game with relatives.

They don’t know baseball as well as you do — not by a long shot — but for some reason everyone thinks they have the God-given right not only to offer their baseball opinions but to demand acknowledgement that those opinions are correct. Baseball may be dying, you guys, but it’s vestigial status as our National Pastime makes everyone think they’re an expert by simple virtue of being an American. It’s maddening.

I can’t tell you how to keep your family away from sensitive topics, but here are brief answers to some frequently asked questions about the state of the game, and how you can defuse combustible conversations:

Will the National League adopt the designated hitter?

Despite the fact that the DH has been around four 43 seasons, your relatives — even those far younger than 43 — will loudly proclaim it to be a new-fangled abomination as they pass the sweet potatoes. While the best way to avoid conflict here is to say something like “I think the differences between the leagues are special and should be preserved” and try to quickly move on to something else, we don’t progress as a civilization by indulging foolishness in the name of peace. Tell your relatives that pitchers batting is dumb and that the DH should be universal. And then tell them to get their own sweet potatoes. You’re trying to eat here for cryin’ out loud.

Where will the big free agents go? Don’t the Yankees spend all of their big money and buy championships anyway?

My god, your uncle/cousin/sister’s boyfriend who probably shouldn’t be piping up about ANYTHING right now given that none of you really like him and it’s not going to last anyway is out of touch when it comes to such things. Tell them that the Yankees haven’t won jack since the first year of Obama’s first term and that even when they were winning the World Series all the time they did so on the back of homegrown talent, savvily-developed. Indeed, they STOPPED winning championships once they went huge on free agency and jacked up payroll and, despite the fact that they still owe a lot of old guys money, they are back to developing talent again and are way less likely to spend stupid money in free agency than they used to be. Careful here, though: people have strong feelings about the Yankees regardless of their ignorance and will likely fight back on this point. Maybe it’s safer just to discuss Obama. Here’s an idea to that end: how — as your drunk uncle claims — can Obama simultaneously be the least effective president ever AND a total dictator? Maybe Obama is one of those two things, but my drunk uncle has never given me a satisfactory answer to how he can be both.

Why doesn’t baseball have a salary cap? The players make too much money.

The idea of a salary cap in baseball is dead. Deader than vaudeville. It blew up the game in 1994-95, and the owners blinked rather than try it again in 2002.  Since then the money has been flowing, competitive balance has been better than most people will admit, and the owners seem to have very little desire to fight that fight again.  It’s not going to happen. Yet, for some reason — likely the Football Industrial Complex’s propaganda machine — every sports dilettante thinks that baseball not only needs a salary cap but that it’s actually something that could happen, even though it isn’t.

Here some ju-jitsu is in order. Rather than bog things down with facts which show that there is no need for a salary cap, turn the question around on them and ask them when the billionaires who own baseball teams will accept a cap on how much they should earn for their “labor.” When they spout off about how owners built the business themselves and are entitled to whatever they can get, ask them which of the current owners, who form a veritable Who’s-Who of Paper Movers, Genetic Lottery Winners and Men Who Were Born on Third Base Yet Think They Hit a Triple, built a dang thing. Peter Angelos, maybe. Just don’t tell them that he’s a rich plaintiff’s lawyer who had the union’s back during the 1994-95 strike.

What’s wrong with young players today? Why don’t they act professionally and respect the game? 

By this time your uncle may be so drunk on the Beaujolais Nouveau that he may actually slip and say “Latin players” instead of “young players,” and that’s assuming he’s polite enough to use words like “Latin” to refer to people from the Caribbean, Central and South America. If so, skip the lecture about how arguments regarding baseball decorum and “playing the game the right way” are really just proxies for cultural anxiety and creeping xenophobia and go directly to the inevitable conversation about immigration, refugees and Donald Trump. It’ll save you time and make everyone angrier way, way faster. And this is a wonderful thing.

Or, at least it is for me. I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and the quicker people get to open warfare the quicker I can kick everyone out, bringing some peace and quiet back to my house. Plus: more pie for me.


(with both thanks and apologies to Brendan Nyhan of the New York Times)

Jerry Dipoto refutes the notion that Robinson Cano is unhappy

Robinson Cano

Yesterday John Harper of the Daily News reported that, according to a friend of Robinson Cano‘s, Cano is unhappy in Seattle and would like to go back to New York. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto responded to that report, saying that it’s totally false based on his conversations with Cano and his agent:

“[Cano’s agent] reached out to let me know that did not come from Robbie and that’s not at all reflective of how he felt,” said Dipoto, who replaced former GM Jack Zduriencik two months ago. “Shortly after the season ended, I sat down with Robinson in my office for two hours and we had a great talk and I think we left with a very clear understanding of who one another might be.

There are official lines and things one says to one’s friends. Then again, there are also friends who know things and “friends” who assume things thought by others and then talk to newspapers about it too. Where all of this falls on the truth/knowledge spectrum is something none of us can ever know.

What can be known for sure is that (a) Cano had a rough season from both a health and baseball perspective; (b) Cano is a professional who knows that there is zero upside to communicating displeasure with one’s current team to the press, either directly or through surrogates; and (c) when one is productive and one’s team is winning, one feels very differently about life than if one is not productive and not winning.

In short: there could very well be truth from both sides of this little happening.