Managers of contenders and non-contenders alike often talk about wanting to put their best lineups on the field late in the season out of some sense of fairness to other teams, but not Davey Johnson.
Johnson told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that once the Nationals lock up the division title he’s going to rest regulars even if other people think that might be helping one of their late-season opponents like the Cardinals:
I really don’t give a rat’s ass what somebody thinks about my club and who I put on the field to either help somebody else or I’m not supposed to rest my regulars after we clinch it, I’m resting my regulars. End of conversation.
Fair enough. You win a division so convincingly that you can essentially take the final week off and … well, you’ve earned it. Tough for anyone that might hurt, but resting regulars in baseball isn’t quite like doing the same in basketball or even football. It’s not as if Johnson has trotted out the same lineup for 150 games already. And of course in the Nationals’ case their previously choosing to “rest” Stephen Strasburg will overshadow, say, Adam LaRoche getting a couple days off.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.