Bring Seth Smith to Washington

Amidst the many positives from the “Take Back the Park” initiative this past weekend against the rival Philadelphia Phillies, early in the game Sunday evening Jayson Werth broke his left wrist attempting to catch a sinking line drive in shallow right field.  Werth had surgery to repair the damage Monday afternoon and the initial prognosis is that he will be out of the lineup for 10-12 weeks, leaving the Nationals to pick up the slack until early August.  Instead of celebrating winning the series against the Phillies and leading the NL East, now the Nationals front office must ponder how to play their outfield with Mike Morse out until mid-June and Werth out until August.

Until Mike Morse returns, Bryce Harper should feel confident that he will be penciled into the lineup every day at one of the corner outfield positions (most likely right field), and Rick Ankiel, overextended as an everyday player, should provide enough above-average defense and occasional power to passably manage center field.  Tyler Moore is better suited as a pinch hitter and occasional starter at this point in his career, leaving Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina to battle for playing time in left field.  The Nationals could elect a strict Bernadina/Nady platoon, but with Nady’s rapidly declining bat speed and putrid .119/.161/.186 batting line, and Bernadina’s career numbers of .239/.304/.361 (.243/.310/.370 against right-handed pitching) leaves far too massive a hole in an already struggling lineup.  In light of this, I believe GM Mike Rizzo needs to look outside the organization and make a trade, with the best plausible option at this time being Oakland Athletics outfielder Seth Smith.

Smith, 29, has started rather slowly this season, producing a .209/.365/.313 batting line with 2 home runs in 67 at-bats.  However, spanning his six year major league career, Smith possesses a .272/.349/.476 batting line with 53 home runs in 1352 at-bats, and according to the defensive metrics, his defense is average in both left and right field. (Thanks Fangraphs.com)  In addition, Smith, a solidly built athlete with a strong left-handed bat, has hit 15+ home runs in each of the last three seasons, and his career .349 on-base percentage would represent a significant upgrade to the projected Bernadina/Nady platoon in left field.

Granted, it is difficult making trades early in the season for many reasons, but taking into account Athletics GM Billy Beane’s off-season trades of Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey, Oakland has clearly stated their intention to rebuild for the future when they can relocate to a new stadium in San Jose. In addition Oakland possesses some quality outfield depth, as they traded for Smith and Josh Reddick and signed Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Jonny Gomes as free agents this off-season.  Not to mention, as seen in the Gio Gonzalez trade, the Nationals have a cordial working relationship with the Athletics front office.  Seth Smith makes $2.415 million this season in his first year of arbitration, and for a small market team in the midst of rebuilding, it would be foolish for Oakland not to entertain trade offers for him.

Although this idea I have proposed does not represent the long-term solution in center field Nationals fans have clamored for, I recommend GM Mike Rizzo inquire about the availability of outfielder Seth Smith, as he would represent a significant upgrade from a platoon of Bernadina and Nady.  With the Nationals farm system still feeling the effects of the Gio Gonzalez trade and with most teams still chasing the postseason, the best course of action is a smaller trade to bridge the gap until Morse and Werth return while minimizing the loss of further depth in the minors.  Although Oakland has started the season well, they are lacking delusions of playing in the postseason, and taking into account their outfield depth, I would expect the Athletics to be willing trade partners.  I will not pretend to know what would tempt Oakland to part with Smith, but they acquired him in January from Colorado for the underwhelming package of pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, so I would surmise that two prospects with potential would intrigue the Athletics front office enough to part with Smith.  I would offer the Athletics two minor league pitchers (Robert Gilliam and Danny Rosenbaum perhaps?) and hope it entices Oakland enough to bring Mr. Smith to Washington.

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10 thoughts on “Bring Seth Smith to Washington”

  1. I suspect he already did … and for whatever reason they couldn’t make the deal that Billy Beane did. His stats and left-handed bat made him the perfect part-time starter and bench bat as I mentioned this past winter. Everyone wanted Bourn, Span, Parra. Fly swatters who really couldn’t add much to the offense. Which is why Davey went with Desmond and now Harper in the #2 slot.

    Seth Smith looked like the potential big-bat that could come in and play until Harper was ready and when he was do a better job in a bench role than Nix and Gomes did this past season. Smith would be a far better acquisition than, say, Josh Willingham.

  2. They wouldn’t part with Rosenbaum. And why would Beane want him with Milone already him his rotation. Instead I’d ship them Rick Hague or Carlos Rivero and Taylor Hill. They might counter and ask for Kobernus instead … which wouldn’t have hurt were it not for Rendon’s injury.

  3. Peric-

    Always good to hear from you… You make good points, to build off the that, I am assuming GM Rizzo was centrally focused this winter trying to add a center fielder, and probably assumed a $2.4 million dollar bench player would not fit into the budget. Now that it appears as though Harper can play a reasonable center field and their needs could be filled be acquiring an outfielder of any position, the easiest to find will be a left fielder. Although Seth Smith is not an all-star level player, his left-handed bat, reasonable pop, and on-base skills would greatly benefit the bottom of the lineup, especially until Jayson Werth returns.

    As to your second point, I agree that the Nationals would be hesitant to part with Rosenbaum, but their pitching depth was drastically hindered by the Gio Gonzalez deal, and they have few interesting arms at the upper levels. Beane might not have interest in him as well, but my line of thinking was that he traded for a similar player before (Milone) and is reaping some success, perhaps he would go back to the same well. Taylor Hill cannot be dealt for another month, so I did not consider him (although I’d happily part with him to get a deal completed). I would be happy to offer Hague and/or Rivero, but would deny attempts at Kobernus, as I have been a huge fan of his since I watched him on Cape Cod.

    Hopefully the Nationals upgrade the outfield, as I think it would be close to devastating to their playoff chances to continue the Nady/Bernadina tandem much longer. Thanks for writing-

  4. They don’t need another bat. They need someone who can teach them how to use the bats they have. Eckstein has been a complete failure in terms of teaching approach, pitch recognition, and situational hitting.

    Rick Ankiel is his longest-tenured pupil, yet he swings hard at every pitch, even when the pitcher has shown he cannot throw strikes. It is hard to watch. Even harder to imagine Eckstein gets to keep his job. Make him an advance pitching scout. But get a hitter to teach hitting.

  5. Ehay2K-

    Thanks for writing… Although I think you are being somewhat harsh on Rick Eckstein, I am astonished that on most nights the Nationals 19-year old rookie Bryce Harper has a better game plan and approach at the plate than the rest of the lineup. You make nice points about Ankiel (a tad critical but true) as his situational hitting is pretty poor, some of which probably comes from spending the first 25 years of his life as a pitcher.

    Espinosa and his volume of strikeouts is the “burr in my saddle” right now, as he fails to cut down his swing with 2 strikes and the book is all over baseball that as a LHB Espinosa cannot hit the fastball up and away, yet he will not lay off of it. He continues to swing and miss at this pitch and seems stubborn to adapt, all the while striking out 1+ times a night and failing to utilize his speed by putting the bat on the ball.

    I agree with you that Eckstein does deserve some percentage of the blame for the poor offensive output and situational hitting this season, but injuries and flawed hitters probably deserve more of it. Thanks for reading and for your insights-

  6. Harper is a true student of the game but most especially hitting. He has proven that time-and-again. Harper prides himself on being coachable. But he is also 19 and still prone to the mistakes a 19 year old would make.

    Eckstein might talk but do they listen? Desmond went to his high school coach and
    became pathetic at the plate. Werth was using Matt Stairs as a hitting coach last year.

    It may be time to hire someone who has been there, done that for hitting coach. Although Davey has been filling that role.

    Would the offense be better if they something similar to the Diamond Backs for a coaching staff? With Kirk Gibson, Matt Williams, Don Baylor and Allen Trammel? It doesn’t seem like anyone other than Davey on the current staff did anything significant in the major leagues as a player?

    1. Peric-

      You make some good points. This is one of the many areas that because we are not inside the clubhouse on a daily basis can we know if the team has tuned Eckstein out. I am not sure if a change at hitting coach would make a difference or not, but I know that many of the hitters have not made progress, either numbers-wise and just working a count and swinging at the right pitch.

      It might be worth looking at an alternative soon- sometimes a new voice, even sending the same message can see a different result. But once again, the hitters are the ones at the plate and there is only so much a hitting coach can do once the man enters the batters box, so I want to continue to highlight that the majority of the problem is injuries and lack of talent. Thanks Peric-

  7. I don’t think that Robert Gilliam would interest Oakland, seeing as how they sent him to the Nationals along with Gio.

    I’m an Oakland fan and I agree that Seth should be on the trading block, although I think Coco (once he’s off the DL) would be more available/affordable in a trade.

    1. Casey-

      Thanks for writing… As I tried to convey in my piece, I have little idea what Oakland might want in return for Smith, besides the generic idea of “pitching”. I see your point about Gilliam, my thinking was perhaps the familiarity they have with him might be seen as a positive from their perspective. Plus, although his ERA is ugly right now, he is missing a lot of bats, which is always a positive at the Double-A level.

      The grander point I was trying to make was that Smith should be readily available, and for a price that should not cripple the farm system, making him a nice target for the Nationals. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts-

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