Somewhat overlooked amidst the Nationals current losing streak, Friday afternoon the Nationals agreed to a 1-year contract extension worth $1 million plus incentives with veteran reserve infielder Chad Tracy. After spending the 2011 season playing in Japan, Tracy made the Nationals roster this spring as a non-roster spring training invitee and has carved out an excellent niche this season as a valuable left-handed pinch hitter with power and occasional starter at the corner infield positions. Tracy, 32-years old, has batted .274/.343/.500 in 62 at-bats in 2012, and this contract extension virtually guarantees he continues his role as the leader of the Goon Squad, aka the Nationals bench, next season.
There is precious little to quibble about with this extension, as Chad Tracy provides the Nationals a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse, and has shown a propensity toward pinch hitting in 2012 (.296/.375/.481 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in 27 at-bats), one of the most difficult skills to master in major league baseball. True, that is a small sample size, but his career .278/.337/.447 batting line and 82 home runs in 8 professional seasons show he has good contact skills and power in his left-handed bat. In addition, most of the available defensive metrics count Tracy as an average fielder at both corner positions. Davey Johnson has long preached the importance of having a strong bench, and the success of the bench and the team this season has driven the point home to me the immeasurable value of a good bench. Certainly this is not to be considered a major move, but Chad Tracy’s left-handed bat, experience, and versatility make him an asset off the bench, and he would have received interest this off-season as a free agent: the Nationals avoided any possible “bidding war” for his services this winter by acting now and signing him for next season. Because of the short duration of the signing and the relatively small terms of the agreement, this deal carries little risk for the Nationals and his intangibles and knack for a timely pinch hit gives this signing a relatively good chance of returning value next year.
NatsGM Grade -> B
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