Actually, this isn’t a one or the other situation. Jim Riggleman’s lineup tonight is both creative and desperate.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Jason Werth was moved to the leadoff spot for tonight’s game against the Padres. Oh, but that’s not all. They also have the pitcher John Lannan batting eighth and Brian Bixler ninth, who is subbing for the injured Roger Bernadina.
While the move says a lot about how much the Nationals have struggled offensively, it actually makes plenty of sense on the surface. Werth enters Saturday’s action with a .345 on-base percentage this season while Nationals’ leadoff hitters have a major-league worst .267 on-base percentage. And though he hasn’t shown it this season, Werth has a .380 on-base percentage against southpaws for his career. The Nationals will face left-hander Clayton Richard tonight.
In reality, Werth will only leadoff once tonight. In the top of the first inning. You certainly don’t want your best hitter batting after the pitcher, so Bixler at least gives him a little protection there. The Nationals have scored three runs or less in four consecutive games, so I applaud Riggleman for trying something different.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.