Monday, September 14, 2009

The Stretch Run

As the playoff contenders in Major League Baseball position themselves for the stretch run, Our Washington Nationals have stretched out their 40-Man Roster to position themselves for 2010. The opportunity for Front Office Management to let youngsters prove their worth and veterans to prove they deserve a 25-Man spot come next spring. Without certain who Our Manager will be in Viera, Florida this February. Without certain who Our Coaching Staff will comprise, there is no easy transition in store for Our Washington Nationals--still a ball club very much in flux.

Many decisions need to be considered and decided from this late September through late-March of next year.

You have to figure that Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan, Jesus Flores and John Lannan are set for 2010. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Mike MacDougal (whose contracts are controlled) will have the inside track in our bullpen. A decent nucleus, but not a whole lot else is set in stone after those nine players.

Not at second base, not at shortstop, not in rightfield, not on Our Bench, not in Our Bullpen, nor in Our Starting Rotation.

Certainly, 2009 First Round Draft Picks, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen are expected to reach Our Major League Roster sometime next season. Quality pitching necessary to be successful--just not off an opponent's bat come Opening Day in April, 2010.

Team President Stan Kasten and General Manager Mike Rizzo have clearly stated they will peruse those available and deemed reliable veteran pitchers this off-season. Hopefully, to fill a void in an effort to help stabilize a rotation in need of innings eaters. Hurlers that can, not only keep our team in any game, but lead them to victory. A Curly "W" that helps educate and balance those youngsters wanting of experience after being promoted from The Minor Leagues.

Success which John Lannan has found, but not consistently, under pressure of being THE MAN. A role that needs to be assigned to Livan Hernandez or some other--if not two Vets--that give equilibrium to an otherwise uneven rotation. After Our Number 31, J.D. Martin has probably earned a serious look next spring. The chance to return that is still uncertain for Garrett Mock, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis and Collin Balester. Moundsmen that have all shown promise at one time or another, but never consistently enough to be GIVEN A SPOT. That starting role which Stephen Strasburg will most likely earn sometime next year. Final possible outcome--Veteran, Veteran (Livo for us), Lannan, Martin and whoever else excels--then Strasburg--Our 2010 Starting Rotation.

Those deserving of opportunity given--handed a job--which is why Our Bullpen will be totally revamped next season. If Mike MacDougal is Our Closer right now, you have to figure Our Number 54 will be Our Set-Up Man come Drew Storen's arrival. The caretaker for the needed role that will be backed up by Burnett, Clippard, possibly Jason Bergmann, and a host of others that will be in the running for spots. Ron Villone, Saul Rivera, Logan Kensing, Victor Garante, Marco Estrada and the newly acquired Jesse English may all be on the current active roster, but none are locks as 2009 turns to 2010.

Neither are Scott Olsen, nor Matt Chico--both recovering from surgery--both uncertain about their future careers.

Professional judgments that will need to be made by Mr. Rizzo. Adjustment, resolution, agreement and maybe a little bit of compromise that must be decided among his baseball staff as to who fills the everyday roles for Our Washington Nationals. Jesus Flores will be Our Starting Catcher, Adam Dunn at 1st Base, The Z-Man at 3rd. Nyjer Morgan in Center and Josh Willingham in left. That is Our Locked Up Lineup--barring any major trade or injury. Heading to Winter Ball, Elijah Dukes probably has the inside track for rightfield. "The Guz"--whether at shortstop or second--probably a starting role. No question, Ian Desmond has turned heads these past seven games, but a week does not a future career make. Consistency does and Our Number 6's continuing development is far more important than any breakout opening game in The Major Leagues will ever last him.

Our Washington Nationals need a second baseman or shortstop. A fancy fielder to cover up the middle and in the hole. Whether that person is currently in house or on another team's roster will be decided.

A backup catcher also needs to be found. The stability in calling and catching any game--missing in 2009. With Flores returning, Washington needs a left-handed backstop off the bench. The important role Brian Schneider could easily fill for the very young Venezuelan in Jesus he personally helped teach The Major League Game. Nothing against Wil Nieves or Josh Bard, but DC's Team needs better at this point in their development.

And what better than to have a handler of pitchers like Schneider back on Our Roster. Yeah, he's been hurt most of the past two years, and his numbers have dwindled in kind, but that doesn't mean Brian Schneider can't be an effective influence on our young pitchers. Experience needed to build a roster. Good character which The New York Mets don't seem to want anymore from Our Former Captain. Authority, which Brian Schneider could bring back to a pitching staff still looking for its leader.

Stabilizers in the clubhouse.

Those type of guys that sometimes ride the pine but come off the bench and contribute in significant ways.

A role which Willie Harris has excelled at these past two years in a Nationals Uniform. No, Our Number 22 did not have as good of a 2010 as 2009, but Willie brings energy and hustle to every appearance. Solidarity of which Washington needs more off their bench next season. Alberto Gonzalez, Pete Orr and Mike Morse have had their moments and may well find roles, but none, including Jorge Padilla, have elicited any fear into our opponents. Washington needs that defensive specialist and a big bopper off the bench. Tools which Gonzalez and Morse may have, respectfully, but may not be able to provide on a consistent basis. Whomever Washington's New Manager becomes, he will need solid supporters off the bench to choose from. Players to trust with the game on the line or when those twist and turns that occur in any baseball game determine final fate. The ever evolving process of building and re-building a Big League Team.

Finding that perfect match.

With The 2009 Playoffs stretch run in full swing, The Stretch Run for Our 2010 Washington Nationals has already begun. The jockeying and maneuvering over the next six months to fully determine The Major League Roster for Version 6.0 of DC's Team. Final positioning probably not fully concluding until Opening Day next year. And in Strasburg's & Storen's cases--not until a few months pass after that.

Soon, this winter's Hot Stove will be upon us. The time of the year for baseball fans to Stretch their own minds and Run with their own thoughts as to how Our Washington Nationals should go about improving themselves for 2010 and beyond. What trades can be made? What free agents can be signed? What Minor League Prospects will surprise and arrive well before their expected time--if any? The Game Show--Jeopardy!!--this is not. But, the answers will come only after the proper questions are asked and resolutions found.

1 comment:

SenatorNat said...

Excellent rundown, at this point. Rizzo clearly in charge and he is methodical and realistic which bodes well. Regular line-up for 2010, as you say, seems set for 1,3,4,6,7: Morgan; Zimmerman; Dunn; Williamham, Flores. I personally think that Guz will continue on the team, batting second and playing second, and that the team will pursue an excellent everyday shortstop to bat 8th. Unless, the better free agency potential is a classic second baseman and Guz remains at short, with Desmond on the team splitting time there. My hope that team will pursue an outfielder to bat 5th, e.g., Matt Holiday, unlikely, as Dukes is adequate, and team really wants to concentrate its dollars on getting younger and stronger up the middle.

Bench guys: I do think that Pete Orr is making a case to be the 2010 version of Ronnie Belliard, and that the team is hoping it can discard Gonzalez and replace him with Desmond. The rest are not making a case for themselves - although Maxwell's two homers give team hope that he could come through. More likely that Roger Berdanino will get strong look next Spring. Harris is a given on the bench, although his BA way down.

Back-up catcher: Snyder is of course a possibility; and Will Nieves predicable as back-up (adequate), but likely they go to someone else entirely. Bard is gone. To save money, they may just keep Nieves, depending on what they figure they need to expend for up the middle position and pitching.

Relief Corps: I think that the theory at this point is that MacDougal would be the penciled in as closer, with Storen expected to arrive but start out as the set-up guy. Burnett and Clippard have earned spots; Bergmann should be replaced by Stammen - consider how strong Stammen starts out in games - it's the second time batters see him that they close in on him. Fill-in with a Beimel type here from free agency for $1-2 million.

Starters: Here is the Big Rub. Keep Lannan as your permanent Number 3 on excellent staff you are building. Re-sign Livo, although that need really depends on whether they can purchase two reliable starters - then he is not resigned. Hope fervently that Scott Olsen can pitch. Hope that Ross Detwiller can join the rotation. Bring in two - yes two - expensive free agents, number two types. Plan on Strasburg coming in to be the Number 5. Thus, they will be no true number 1 - keep it there for Strasburg to move into. In the meantime, put one of the number two free agents in that slot.

Thus: 1. Number Two Free Agent Caliber; 2. Number Two/Three Caliber Free Agent; 3. Lannan; 4. Olsen (Detwiller); 5. Livo(Strasburg). This should be the framework.

Total price for free-agents: $24 million. Will team go that high? Yes, since they have it to spend and stay on budget.

Trust in Rizzo. All interesting.