The Nationals Should Buy Ahead of the Trade Deadline

Currently owning a 52-54 record, 7 games back in the Wild Card chase and 8.5 games behind Atlanta for the division title, most experts and members of the media believe the Nationals should stand pat or sell ahead of Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline.  With only 56 games left to play in the season, that position makes sense, as their chances of making the playoffs are slim and their farm system is not as rich as it was a few seasons ago.  Contrary to this point of view, I find myself inclined to jump on my soapbox and argue the Nationals should make a trade to bolster the offensive production from their bench in their difficult attempt to secure a second straight playoff berth.

As general manager Mike Rizzo has mentioned in recent days, the Nationals need to improve their woeful production from their reserves.  The team entered the season with roughly the same bench as last season, but their production has not matched their superb performances from a year ago.  For example, here are the statistics from the four primary members of the 2012 and 2013 “Goon Squad”:

Roger Bernadina:             .184/.250/.279 in 2013 vs. .291/.372/.405 in 2012

Steve Lombardozzi:        .251/.262/.315 in 2013 vs. .273/.317/.354 in 2012

Tyler Moore:                     .151/.195/.283 in 2013 vs. .263/.327/.513 in 2012

Chad Tracy:                         .177/.210/.302 in 2013 vs. .269/.343/.441 in 2012

The Nationals made their first attempt to improve their bench a few weeks ago when they acquired versatile veteran and lefty-masher Scott Hairston to take over Moore’s role as a reserve right-handed hitting outfielder with pop.  Unfortunately Hairston has not performed well as of yet in Washington, hitting .118/.167/.118 thus far, but this small sample size should not overshadow the strong probability that he will bolster the bench down the stretch and be a nice addition to the roster. 

That said the Nationals now need to find a left-handed hitter to serve as a late-inning pinch hitter, occasional starter, and replace Chad Tracy on the roster.  This player is not currently in the organization, so the Nationals must look to make a trade to fill this void.  General manager Mike Rizzo has been loath to acquire “rental players” in trades, preferring players under contract for future seasons such as Hairston and Kurt Suzuki.  With this in mind, I believe the Nationals should (and will) target a versatile, veteran left-handed hitter with home run power under contract through 2014 – I recommend the Nationals trade for Minnesota Twins catcher and outfielder Ryan Doumit.

Doumit, 32-years-old, is struggling through a bit of a down season in 2013, batting .241/.304/.392 with 9 home runs and 42 runs batted in over his 91 games played.  However Doumit is a switch-hitter with a career .268/.328/.439 batting line and defensively can play first base, left and right field, in addition to catching.  While not a particularly good defensive player, Doumit is more than serviceable at each position.  Doumit makes $3.5 million this season, and will make $3.5 million in 2014 as well before becoming a free agent. 

From the Twins perspective, while Doumit is a versatile veteran signed relatively cheaply, Minnesota currently stands at 45-57, 13 games back of Detroit in the standings and could value an opportunity to clear future payroll and add an additional prospect or two to their blossoming farm system.  Frankly, Doumit is the type of player a rebuilding franchise should look to trade at the trade deadline.

For the Nationals Doumit would act as a substantial upgrade to Chad Tracy, as a veteran clubhouse leader and versatile bench player who mashes righties.  For his 9-year career, Doumit has produced a .271/.331/.457 batting line against right-handed pitching, and has shown proficiency for pinch hitting with a .260/.333/.385, a particular area of weakness for the Nationals this season.  Looking ahead to 2014, Doumit could serve as the backup catcher to Wilson Ramos if the Nationals decide to part with Kurt Suzuki this offseason, or he could find a reasonable amount of at-bats simply as a pinch hitter, possible designated hitter in interleague play, and backup at four positions.

I would approach Twins’ general manager Terry Ryan and offer him his choice of two of the following prospects {Robert Benincasa, Jeff Kobernus, Estarlin Martinez, Jason Martinson, Brett Mooneyham, Eury Perez, Tony Renda, Michael Taylor}, in addition to taking on all of Doumit’s future salary, and see if he is willing to deal.  Certainly Minnesota would counter with, and prefer names such as A.J. Cole, Taylor Jordan, Nate Karns, or Robbie Ray, but I think my offer would be enough to pique their interest.  If the Nationals could secure his services for a similar package to the one I offered while simultaneously protecting their top pitching prospects, Doumit would be a quality addition to the organization for a rather small price. 

2 thoughts on “The Nationals Should Buy Ahead of the Trade Deadline

  1. I can’t say I would include Michael Taylor in that trade offer but I would be ok with any of the others. I may be overly fond of Taylor but he is just now coming into his own and seems like he could be the real deal. I could see the Twins maybe biting on Benacasa and Mooneyham but I feel like the Twins would have to contribute some cash towards his salary next season. Maybe $1 – 1.5mil or something like that. The Nationals will have a lot of cash tied up in arbitration raises next year and I can’t see them taking the full $3.5mil on for a bench player. The Twins would still free up a chunk of payroll and get 2 arms into the system which seems to be a priority for them and the Nats would get a versatile bench player. I’m not sure I would want Doumit anywhere near the catcher’s position often. He was pretty bad defensively in Pittsburgh and now he is just older. Having a guy that can play a corner outfield spot, first base and catch in a pinch that switch hits with some pop isn’t a bad thing though.

  2. I’d go a bit further and try to get Alex Meyer back offering in addition pitchers such as Karns and Taylor Jordan. I’d just convert Ohlendorf to a starter for now. Purk, Cole, Ray, Solis and eventually Giolito are poised to move up. Rizzo’s FO has good taste in pitching and the second rounder they selected is doing well in Auburn.

    Rizzo got fleeced in the Span trade it would be nice if they could reacquire Meyer as they did Cole.

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