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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