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Reading Material, Shopping Lists

We can start working on our 2010 wish list. A shortstop. A decent reliever. (Though probably not a top-of-the-line closer type; why waste the money?) At least one free agent starter. Maybe two, if Livo returns. Boz, in today's column, writes that "Rizzo is looking at a list that includes Jason Marquis, Randy Wolf, John Lackey, Cliff Lee, Jon Garland, Kevin Millwood, Tim Hudson, Brad Penny, Joel Piñeiro, Braden Looper, Jarrod Washburn, Brandon Webb, Brett Myers, John Smoltz and more."

Says Rizzo: "We're going to get one of them."

Thursday gave the Nats at least two things -- a look at rookie Ian Desmond, and heart palpitations. With that 2-for-4 performance, can Jim Riggleman really keep Desmond out of the lineup Friday against Florida? Probably not. Plus (and kudos to Bill Ladson for getting the news), the Nats have asked Cristian Guzman to consider switching to second base in 2010.

If you're curious, here's the list of potential free agents during the upcoming offseason. The shortstop list includes Orlando Cabrera, Bobby Crosby, Adam Everett, Alex Gonzalez, Khalil Greene, John McDonald, Marco Scutaro, Miguel Tejada and Jack Wilson.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 11, 2009; 11:21 AM ET
 
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Comments

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/cristian-guzman-and-position-changes

Fangraphs weighs in on Guzman.

Posted by: zstone14 | September 11, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

OMG!! I'm glad I didn't have food or drink in my mouth when I read this from
Boswell, otherwise I would have laughed it out all over my computer:

"After being beaten over the head with a bat, just being kicked in the shins is almost fun."

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The COTS free agent list is strange. Among the players still listed as being with Washington are Nick Johnson (you might dismiss that as being just slightly out of date, but it has Aubrey Huff assigned to the Tigers), Odalis Perez, and Gary Majewski.

Posted by: mvm2 | September 11, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

And it's cute Zimmerman calling Strasburg, "kid." Sniff...our boy is growing up.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mike Rizzo,

Please do not bring the defensive black hole that is Dan Uggla to our tranding-gently-upward team.

Love, the Nats (small) fanbase

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | September 11, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo's already earned so much of my trust in such a short period of time that I'm giddy with excitement about the offseason.

I picture him with a white board of all the free agents, ranked best to worst according to him, and he's already starting working on the top ones. Please let this be true. But please also let it be true that the Lerners trust him like I do.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to order the Cliff Lee with a side of Jack Wilson ... no wait make that the Brandon Webb with Orlando Carbrera, that way we can put a little mustard on it.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 11, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Here is my vote: No on Dan Uggla.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 11, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

If we want to sign a brilliant defensive shortstop at low cost so the bulk of the available free-agent dollars can be spent on pitching, then John MacDonald is the man to go after. Fantastic defence but he'll only hit .240. I think we can now afford that given the overall improvement in our offensive line-up.

Posted by: slopitchtom | September 11, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Free agent pitchers -- we know there will be a premium the Nats have to pay, just 'cuz, to get an ace starter. Assuming, arguendo, the Lerners are on board with that, I wonder what effect Strasburg might have on a FA's decision--say, somebody like Cliff Lee, who can reasonably expect to be the best starter on most teams, nevermind this one. Would the idea of this kid maybe taking "your" Ace spot in a year or two bother some players? Just wondering.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 11, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

If a .240 shortstop is all we can get, then we should give Desmond the chance w/ Guzzie at 2B. Personally I'd like to trade for either of the Escobars - the Brewers or the Braves. That would give Desmond one more year of seasoning until Guzzie's contract expires then he could play 2B or SS, depending on where it makes sense defensively.

There are some decent relievers coming on the market, but I fear they'll be too expensive. I like Rafael Soriano, and I think we should let Storen set-up next year to gain late inning experience. It seems all great closers set-up for at least a year to get ready for the role.

Posted by: sec307 | September 11, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

We should pick-up Macdonald whether or not he starts. He can also play 2B and would be a fantastic late-innning defensive replacement, though if he did start he would save us more runs with his glove than he would cost us with his below average offence, again, at at very reasonable price.

Posted by: slopitchtom | September 11, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Oh my goodness, I don't feel so bad about the starting pitching at this point - it's the relief pitchers that make me want to keel over every night. PLEASE get us a good reliever or two!! I LOVE Storen, but he's not enough.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | September 11, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article in the WSJ about beer prices at various ballparks. Nats park weighs in at $0.38/oz.

See:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574400704055332382.html#mod%3Darticle-outset-box%26articleTabs%3Darticle

Posted by: Sidebar | September 11, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

@sidebar: This team needs something much stronger than beer. I've been a Maalox-and-bourbon guy most of the past two seasons, and found the mix quite satisfying. Especially, in the Mike Macdougal era of closing, and any game in which Ron Villone even warms up. God, I miss Mike Stanton. Any chances of us going for the hat trick with that guy?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | September 11, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will about Villone and MacDougal, but I don't believe either of them has ever issued a walk off balk.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Count me in on the no to Uggla move anyone who decides to call out your best player in front of the media the player who is carrying your team while you ain't done a damn thing this season has got more nerve than Jesse James and Al Capone combined plus he isn't any better than Guzzman glove and range wise.

Posted by: dargregmag | September 11, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

With Desmond plus Espinosa in the wings (he too displays an inordinate amount of power) I'm not sure why you would sign a free agent shortstop at this point? If Guzman moves to second, plus Orr, plus Harris if he's still here? One of Desmond or Espinosa could play second.

Another focus would be outfield reserves could include Morse, perhaps Padilla, and Kory Casto. Certainly Morse could start in left field and perhaps be as good as Willingham with the bat. Do they bring back Austin Kearns?

So, in the end the focus Rizzo has had is in exactly the right places. Pitching, Pitching, and more pitching ... especially young left-handed pitching prospects. And replenishing the farms with pitching and position players. Perhaps more emphasis on position players during this offseason.

And looking for those key trades you need to turn yourself into a competitive franchise.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

@the Eclipse: Yeah, I remember that Stanton game-losing balk. That night the post-game refreshment was two shots of bourbon with one shot of Maalox. That faded from my memory because it happened in the same season when Matt Chico started his windup and pitched one about three rows behind the Florida dugout. This team has provided some pitching moments to remember, that's for sure.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | September 11, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Cliff Lee yes, Randy Wolf yes...maybe take a gamble and not sign a SS thinking that either Guz moves to 2B or Gonzo or I-Des plays SS at the start of 2010.

Posted by: markfd | September 11, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Our favorite good luck talisman, Ronnie Belliard, would again again probably be available. And then there's left-handed hitting prospect Leonard Davis to go with Orr and Kasto.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't help but notice that FLop is on the list of free agents. Would somebody PLEASE pass the vomit bag?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | September 11, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

My prediction: "Rizzo the Sheik" works a trade (a steal) for veteran starting pitching.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Brian_ 's review seems apropos right now since he was probably the most interested in seeing a September evaluation of Ian Desmond at short:

Desmond Debuts

The Nationals gave SS Ian Desmond his first major league start last night and he showed some things I’ve seen and some things I have not seen.

Desmond’s first AB saw him drive the second pitch he saw to deep center for an out.

He saw his first play in the field in the top of the fourth, handling a groundball off of the bat of Raul Ibanez.

Desmond got his first major league hit and RBI in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI double to right center, scoring Elijah Dukes.

The fifth inning saw Desmond handle a pop out and then I saw something I had never seen from Desmond in all the times I’ve watched him in the minor leagues … a booming three-run homer that nearly cleared the Red Porch. It drew a curtain call from the fans at Nationals Park.

He handled another groundout in the seventh and flew out to left in the bottom of the inning.

And it was in the ninth inning that I saw something I have seen quite a few times. After catching a pop up off the bat of Raul Ibanez, Desmond fielded a routine grounder from Jayson Werth and airmailed a throw to first base. This has always been the knock on him, making the hard plays look easy while committing errors on the routine ones.

Desmond was part of the game-ending double play helping the Nats escape with an 8-7 win.

All in all, a great debut for Desmond. He showed much more power than I expected.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

at 12:36, Sec3mysofa wrote, "Would the idea of this kid maybe taking "your" Ace spot in a year or two bother some players? Just wondering."

I think an effective way to get the most out of someone with a competitive nature (and most professional athletes are off the scale when it comes to competitiveness) would be to say, "this kid may be taking 'your' Ace spot in a year or two. If you let him."

Posted by: greggwiggins | September 11, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"This has always been the knock on him, making the hard plays look easy while committing errors on the routine ones."

Perhaps then he should change his name to Zimmermannn.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Derek Norris for finishing 7th on the Baseball America Hot Sheet for the season.

Posted by: longterm | September 11, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

That's what they call it -- "Ballpark in Arlington"? (from the beer article)

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 11, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Sunshine, is that you, JDSchultz50?

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 11, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

This has always been the knock on him, making the hard plays look easy while committing errors on the routine ones."

Perhaps then he should change his name to Zimmermannn.


Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 1:36 PM
-------------------------------------

He would have to be ZimmermaNNN...

Posted by: TimDz | September 11, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"Perhaps then he should change his name to Zimmermannn.


Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 1:36 PM
-------------------------------------

He would have to be ZimmermaNNN..."

Why do the three n's at the end need to be upper case?

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

@ Eclipse: This is why I need to wear reading glasses...Vanity really sucks sometimes...mea culpa

Posted by: TimDz | September 11, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Still think Rizzo's "focus" is exactly in the right place: finding the right mix of veteran and "prospect" pitching. Unless a deal / offer you can't refuse appears I think that is where the work needs to be done in the offseason.

Look at this way: Right now MacDougal is your closer and JD Martin your most effective starter.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Desmond has to get a shot at short next season. Its why he's been in the system since the Expo days, to learn. Times up, show up, play up, man up.

Posted by: cokedispatch | September 11, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Wolf is a 33 year old lefty, while right handers Pinero and Lackey have just turned 30.

_________________________________________________

While the free agent market for pitchers will be pretty light this summer, that might play into the hands of both Randy Wolf and Joel Pineiro. How light is the market? Well, consider that ESPN.com's Jayson Stark rates those two as the second and third best purchase options in the crop respectively, behind John Lackey.

Of Wolf, Stark writes, "Wolf's stock has risen faster this year than IBM's. He'd be 18-6 if the Dodgers's bullpen hadn't blown EIGHT saves for him. He's ripped off 14 straight starts of six innings or more. And only four pitchers in the whole sport can beat his 19 starts of no more than two earned runs allowed."

And of Pineiro, he writes, "he's one of the hottest pitchers in baseball. He's 8-0 since July 1. And if it weren't for a blown save last Sunday, the Cardinals would have won 12 straight games he's started -- the longest streak of any pitcher in baseball."

We wondered if they were in the wrong order, however...

Pineiro is the better buy -- Keith Law

"I'd take Pineiro. I've always liked Wolf, but I think he needs to pitch in a pretty big ballpark, whereas Pineiro has changed his entire approach to become a groundball machine, and that plays anywhere. Groundballs plus no walks equals a happy ERA."

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"Desmond has to get a shot at short next season. Its why he's been in the system since the Expo days, to learn. Times up, show up, play up, man up.

Posted by: cokedispatch | September 11, 2009"

There's an opening at second base as well. So, perhaps you have to look at it as MI and 2 positions with 4 - 5 players, 2 starters and 2-3 backups?

1. Ian Desmond.
2. Cristian Guzman.
3. Danny Espinosa.
4. Pete Orr.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if anyone has noticed? (Wondering if Rizzo or Riggleman look at such things?) But Brian Oliver has "jumped ahead" and on his NFA Nats Big Board he has already placed Ian Desmond starting at short with Guzzy at second base? ~smiles~

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

surely you jest, you can't carry 4 people for 2 positions. There's not enough space on the 25-man team.

Posted by: swang30 | September 11, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

On Guzman: If a guy can't go to his left at SS, what makes one think he can go to his left at 2B? You can move him to a different position, but he's still a defensive liability. Plus, at 2B, Dunn can't go to his right, so there's a lot of ground for the 2B to cover.

Posted by: BRG13 | September 11, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

@Nats_Lady: Yes, it is. I changed the name to protect the innocent. Good call!

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | September 11, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

By all means sign a veteran, inexpensive, strong defense shortstop and move Guz to second. Shortstop is the most important defensive position and are pitchers are all pitch to contact guys. MacDonald is good, as is Everett, Gonzalez, and few others.

I have not seen Desmond, but his minor league stats show he hits a ton of ground balls and few flies (58% v. 27%). Thus Brian's surprise at the HR. His average spike this year looks like it is a lot of luck (BABIP .425). Glad he had a great debut, but I also remember how Anderson Hernandez looked last September, the past winter league, and April this year.

If Desmond can be an average SS hitter with a plus glove, then I'd be happy with him having the job, but I think our long term SS is Espinosa, and the long term may start in 2011. Sign the veteran glove for a year, and if Desmond beats him out, great. But do not count on Desmond for next year.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | September 11, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

BRG13 - the Fangraphs article at the top makes the point that if you think your SS is losing range, moving him to 2d will help the defense more than keeping him at SS because fewer balls are hit to SS.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | September 11, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, fewer balls are hit to 2d is what Fangraphs says and I meant.

Oh, here are Desmond's minor league splits:

http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=435622

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | September 11, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

i still don't understand the monstrous b0#er that periculum has for morse, like we have to find a place for this guy in the starting lineup somewhere.

the guy has seen extended playing time once in his career and had a 718 OPS. he's hit decently in AAA, but not in the majors. there's a reason seattle gave him away.

he's a decent bench guy, but nothing special. let's not try to get rid of, say, willingham to make room for him to play every day. willingham is an 800+ OPS guy with power. he's not an all star, but he's a decent starter.

Posted by: sec231 | September 11, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

"On Guzman: If a guy can't go to his left at SS, what makes one think he can go to his left at 2B? You can move him to a different position, but he's still a defensive liability. Plus, at 2B, Dunn can't go to his right, so there's a lot of ground for the 2B to cover."

At second, Guzman can make up for his lack of movement to the right and/or left by positioning himself further back, a la Belliard. Although the ball will take longer to reach him, he can make up the lost time because he has a shorter throw from second than from short.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Eclipse: that's a good point. You can play a deep 2B, which will allow for better defense. My thought was that Guz's deficiencies would be exacerbated with Dunn at 1B, since Dunn cannot go to his right. I'm not even sure Guz can go to his right -- remember that when playing SS, he has Zim over there to compensate.

Posted by: BRG13 | September 11, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Some points to be reinforced:

1) Guzman going to his left is a physical problem (bunion on right foot). Until that is corrected, he's no better at 2B than he is at SS.

2) Desmond may have hitting skills, but is still an error machine at SS; He's only had ONE major-league game; Let's not annoint him as the 2010 starting SS just yet. The last three weeks & spring training will give the FO a better feel for where he is.

3) Morse, at 6'5", 230lbs. is not, repeat NOT, a MI prospect; At 1B or a corner OF slot, ok.

4) The team could use a Shut-down, power arm SP for 2010, either through FA or trade. Strasburg could be that player by 2011, with JZimm to back him up, but they need someone in the interim.

5) In the bullpen, re-sign MacDougall; He can serve as a closer until Storen proves he's ready.

6) AGonz & either Orr/Harris could serve as a defensively solid (but uninspiring offensively) platoon combo at 2B; Don't spend money where it isn't really needed.

Posted by: BinM | September 11, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"the guy has seen extended playing time once in his career and had a 718 OPS. he's hit decently in AAA, but not in the majors. there's a reason seattle gave him away."

Exactly the same could be said of Willingham before this year. The guy didn't get in the line up mostly because of his fielding skills.

Almost exclusively as a pinch hitter Morse is hitting .287. So, he makes an excellent bench guy behind Willingham perhaps Dukes? The question was is he preferable the far better fielding Kearns?

I think you would see the same level or close to the same level of production from Morse, given his performance in SYR and the Mariner's AAA club before that, this year, perhaps as Willingham. In other words he looks to be a better candidate as a bench outfielder than Kearns.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

"3) Morse, at 6'5", 230lbs. is not, repeat NOT, a MI prospect; At 1B or a corner OF slot, ok."

Or outfield. His hitting is ML level. Surprised he was never considered as a potential DH in the AL.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

New post on ex-Nats.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Piniero would fit in better as a an efficient ground-ball churning pitcher.

But Wolf as an older / wiser left-handed starting pitcher would be very attractive to Rizzo I suspect. Given continuing progress by the right-handed prospects and a relative dearth of left-handed prospects (other than Detwiler and Thompson plus a rehabbing Chico) this may make sense?

Tend to suspect that the focus will be on Wolf at least initially after the season.

Posted by: periculum | September 11, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

@peri: "corner OF slot" means either Left or Right field; Duh. You were all over him earlier in the year as a 2B, now you think he's DH material in the junior circuit? He didn't get picked up there because of a minimal track record in the majors - When an AL team claims a player with th e DH position in mind, they want a Proven Hitter.

Posted by: BinM | September 11, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

no no no. you cannot say the same things about willingham that you do about morse. willingham is a proven commodity.

a) willingham has nearly 1800 ABs in the ML to morse's barely 300.

b) willingham has four straight seasons of 100+ games and 800+ OPS. morse has played more than 21 games once (72 in 2005) and had a 719 OPS that season.

you know what you're going to get from willingham, he's not an unproven commodity. he's going to give you 100+ games (this is the first season he's been w/o injury issues and has been a starter the three years before this when healthy). he's going to give you an 800+ OPS (trending up a little this season). he's going to give you mediocre defense.

all we know for sure about morse is the mediocre defense. he has hit decently in the minors, but has never hit nearly as well as willingham in the majors. decent avg/obp, but little power in the majors. not exactly what you expect from a starting corner OF or a 1B. he's a bench guy.

Posted by: sec231 | September 11, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

btw, "hitting 287" in 14 ABs doesn't exactly mean anything. especially an "empty" 287 (no walks, 1 XBH).

Posted by: sec231 | September 11, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

If a .240 shortstop is all we can get, then we should give Desmond the chance w/ Guzzie at 2B.

Posted by: sec307

That's all that's out there, a bunch of weak-hitting retreads. This whole thing about getting a great fielding shortstop that can't hit only works on teams that can carry them. It also is only valid when your pitching staff is good enough to make use of them. There's no way the pitching will be good enough to carry a no-hit SS, because they're going to have to score runs next if they have any chance. Guzman's range to his left isn't the reason the team lost so many games, but his bat is one reason they've even won as much as they have. Besides, you have one of the greatest third basemen ever, so the SS and his role defensively is overrated. Zimm can gobble up shots in the hole that no one else can. I mean, nobody complains about Derek Jeter now - he plays short like an old man now - because he more than makes up for it with his bat. Hell yeah they ought to get Uggla. Eight days a week I'd get him. 30 homers, 100 rbi? Get real - you won't see anyone slug like him outside of Utley for the next 10-15 years. Would you rather have Uggla hitting 5th or 6th or 7th, and keep Guzman at SS or MacDonald hitting 8th? Defense is overrated imo. MacDonald won't save you the 50 rbi's you won't get out of him. The only thing a SS saves is a single. That's it. You don't get to the big leagues because you can field. Some 15 year olds are better than some of the SS's in the bigs, but so what?

Posted by: Brue | September 11, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

What free agent worth his salt would opt to play here in 2010?

Posted by: JohnRDC | September 11, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

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