Nats Start Trading Season by Addressing a Major Need


The Washington Nationals offense may rank in the bottom of the league for
the season, but recently they have been much better. As has been pointed out
countless times here, and all around the Nats Blogosphere, the Nats offense has
been much better since Anthony Rendon replaced Danny Espinosa at second, and a
healthy Jayson Werth returned to the line-up. Of the Nats starting eight
position players it would be a downgrade to replace any of them with what is
available at the deadline. The only move that makes sense in any way is to
acquire a corner outfield bat and move Span to the bench but the loss in
defense at a premiere defensive position makes that move nonsensical.  

So the Nats started off their portion
of the trading season by acquiring noted lefty killer Scott Hairston. Hairston
has the ability to play all three outfield positions and has a career batting
line of .268/.318/.500 against left handed pitching. The Nationals have
struggled to find a right handed power hitting bench bat to come up late in the
game to face tough left handed relievers. Both Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero
have been used in that role and neither has an over .500 OPS. Moore performed
well in that role last season, but now that opposing pitchers have figured out
how to pitch him he isn’t making contact the way he would like, and he has a
lower OPS (.402) versus left handers this season than right handers (.541).

In total the struggles of the Nats
bench have been what has derailed them more than anything. By WAR the difference
between the Nats bench last season and the Nats bench this season at this point
in the season is an entire six games. It is insane to think about that. If the
Nats had last season’s bench instead of being down four games in the division
race to the Braves they would be up two. The main issue is that the Nats do
have last season’s bench, but none of them have performed anywhere close to
what they did last season, and although Scott Hairston replaces the one need in
a right handed power bat they still have multiple other needs.  

Scott Hairston could serve as the Nats
main fourth outfielder allowing them to search for a left handed back up first
baseman/left fielder to replace Roger Bernadina or they could even bring in
another right handed power bat and find a left handed utility player to replace
Steve Lombardozzi. As far as the utility role goes Steve Lombardozzi is wholly
unsuited. He is serviceable at second base and left field and nothing else, he
can’t hit for average or power, and he isn’t as fast as his size would
indicate. Someone like Jeff Kobernus who is in the system could fill
Lombardozzi’s role. Kobernus can play six positions total and could be placed
at first base in a pinch. Kobernus has more power and better speed, and overall
has a higher ceiling than Steve Lombardozzi.    

If the Nats do not want to take that
route they can continue to make trades in order to replace most of the bench.
The only player I have any faith left in is Chad Tracy, and that is somewhat
inexplicable as he hasn’t done very well this season, and if the Nats were to
trade for the likes of Raul Ibanez to replace him it would be a good move. For
the season Tracy has a .441 OPS, and it has actually been trending down as he
has a .348 OPS over his last nine games. Replacing him makes all the sense in
the world and Ibanez may be the perfect player to do so. The Nats do lose their
back up third baseman, but would hopefully be acquiring that around the same
time with a trade for a true utility player in the Jerry Hairston Jr. or Willie
Harris vein.   

Scott Hairston by himself helps the
Nats with a major issue, but he is only the first move in what hopefully is an
ultimate dismantlement and rebuilding of the Nats bench as it is currently
constructed. Both Corey Brown and Jeff Kobernus could be players internally
that could help the Nats, but there are better options out there in the trade
market. The Nats still have work to do, but today they took the first step and
have until July 31 to do it through non-waiver trades and all of August to do
it with waiver trades. Scott Hairston is a good first step, but his acquisition
will not be the last.   



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One comment

  1. Doesn’t Hairston also play 2B? His wiki suggests he does. If that’s true, and if the Nats replaced Tracy w/Ibanez, it seems like Rendon becomes your back up 3B and Hairston/Lombo (if he’s hasn’t been traded) become your fill-ins at 2B. Ibanez may be old, but man does he bring postseason experience with him. Werth loves him, as I recall, so you’d think chemistry should be ok, too. Regardless, I like the idea of upgrading the bench. Loves the guys we have, but as a group they aren’t producing like what a playoff contender needs.


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