From The Desk Of NatsGM – Sign Trevor Plouffe

One major lesson I have learned in the past several years is the value of waiting out the early stages of the Hot Stove season and seeking bargains after New Year’s Day.  Just last offseason, Washington signed free agents Matt Belisle, Stephen Drew and Daniel Murphy after January 1st, three major contributors to last season’s team.

Rumors have tied Washington recently with bigger-name free agents Greg Holland, Brandon Moss and Matt Wieters in recent weeks.  And without dismissing those individuals, I want to spotlight one free agent Washington should specifically target, Trevor Plouffe.

After four consecutive quality seasons from 2012-2015, Plouffe struggled through an injury-riddled season in 2016, limiting him to only 84 games played.  Plouffe hit .260/.303/.420 with 12 home runs and 26 extra base hits in his 319 at-bats last season.  During his 7-year major league career, Plouffe has hit .247/.308/.420 with 96 home runs and 254 extra base hits in 723 games played.  In particular he has shown an aptitude against left-handed pitching with a career .809 OPS.  He does not draw many walks (only 7.5% walk rate career) and strikes out at a 20% career rate, but his impressive right-handed power makes him an asset offensively.

Defensively the 30-year-old has experience at each position besides catcher and center field, although he has been limited to the infield corners in recent seasons.  Plouffe is not a base stealer but has reasonable foot speed and decent athleticism, along with a strong throwing arm.  Defensive metrics traditionally rate him as below-average to fringe-average at both first and third base; in addition, his arm and athleticism should allow him to be passable as a corner outfielder in an emergency scenario.

Even coming off a subpar 2016, Plouffe is still likely seeking a starting position at the hot corner and a multiyear commitment.  However, considering we are mere weeks away from spring training, Plouffe might need to lower his demands to find a home.

Aside from the closer role, Washington’s most pressing need currently is a quality backup for veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.  Zimmerman has struggled the past two seasons with injuries and subpar performance, making him a major question heading into this year.  Clint Robinson has served in this role the past two seasons, but he posted a woeful .637 OPS in 2016 and did not have an extra base hit after the All-Star break.  This is unacceptable and Washington must upgrade.

If Plouffe is willing to serve in a reserve capacity, I could easily see him starting 30-40 games at first base, 10-15 at third and 5-10 as the designated hitter, even with excellent seasons and perfect health from Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon.  Unfortunately both players have struggled with past injuries, making it likely he would see additional playing time during the year.  Not to mention pinch hitting opportunities nearly every game, giving him another 50-100 at-bats. Plouffe could see easily have 300+ at-bats without injuries to others and the potential for significantly more if they do, making this a very important role for the Nationals in 2017.

Washington should take advantage of the hefty supply of corner infielders on the market, plus the calendar saying January, and aggressively target Trevor Plouffe to provide insurance behind Zimmerman and Rendon.

THE NatsGM Show #85 – Special Guest Julie Wright

THE NatsGM Show has returned with Episode #85 and we are extremely proud to welcome ABC7 & News Channel 8 Good Morning Washington Traffic Anchor and Co-Anchor of Lets Talk Live, Julie Wright!

Julie joins us to tell the tales of how she found her way to Washington, how she started covering traffic and working for ABC7 & News Channel 8.  Next she tells us how she keeps up with the traffic each morning, formerly flying in a traffic copter, the advances in technology and how she transitions to co-hosting a show later in the morning.  Finally Julie describes how the schedule affects her personal life, talks about her beagle Bailey and plays a game of “Rapid Fire“.

Special Thank You to Julie for graciously joining our show.  Please consider Rating, Reviewing & Subscribing to the show on iTunes and thank you for listening!

My 2017 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

As a card carrying member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA), one of the great honors each year is the opportunity to vote for our inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I generally lean toward more honorees than less, as the town of Cooperstown desperately counts on induction weekend as a major part of their economy; plus no one is ultimately hurt by a fringe candidate earning their way into this museum.

Considering the backlog of qualified candidates, I would have a full ballot of 10 players and would select several others if that number was extended.  However, within the 10 player limit, these are my choices for my 2017 Hall of Fame ballot. {Editor’s Note: The BBWAA only allows 10 selection per ballot, the IBWAA allows 15.}

Jeff Bagwell

My favorite player as a child and my vote for the most underrated player in recent baseball history. Bagwell finished his 15-year career with a .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs, 202 stolen bases, and 80.7 WAR – that’s a Hall of Famer!

Barry Bonds

Perhaps the best offensive player in my lifetime, Bonds’ induction will 100% come down to how the voters feel about “steroids”, as his .298/.444/.607 batting line and 164.4 WAR make him a top-5 player in baseball history.

Roger Clemens

Probably a top-5 pitcher in baseball history, Clemens won an astonishing 354 games and produced 170 more wins than losses over his 24-year career. I understand the steroid “issues” but how can there legitimately be a Hall of Fame without Roger Clemens? I am curious which team cap his plaque would have if he achieves enshrinement, as Boston, Toronto and New York each has a claim.

Vladimir Guerrero

Perhaps the franchise player for the Montreal Expos organization, Guerrero is one of the most exciting and dynamic players in baseball history.  There was nothing he could not do, as he was an elite defensive right fielder, an asset on the bases and a legitimate cleanup hitter.  Over his 16-year career, Guerrero hit .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1,496 runs batted in and 181 stolen bases.  A 9-time All-Star, Guerrero struggled with injuries in his 30s which hindered his total numbers and caused him to retire at 36.  Nonetheless, this first-time eligible candidate should earn induction to Cooperstown on his debut appearance on the ballot.

Edgar Martinez

If Mr. Griffey had the sweetest swing in his generation, then Martinez is my vote for the 2nd purest swing and the best right-handed swing I have ever seen. Spending the majority of his career as a designated hitter and in a small media market hinder his candidacy, but any hitter with a career .312/.418/.515 batting line and 823 extra base hits should be in the Hall of Fame.

Mike Mussina

Growing up an Orioles’ fan as a kid, Mussina was my favorite pitcher and co-favorite player as a child. That bias stated, Mussina is criminally underrated, as his 270-153 career record reflects. Even more impressive to me, Mussina has a higher winning percentage for the Orioles (.645%) than for the Yankees (.631%) as he pitched for some poor teams in Baltimore. Mussina never won a Cy Young award and “only” made five All-Star appearances in his 18-year career, but if Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer, Mussina should also be enshrined. It might take several years, but “Moose” should one day join teammate Cal Ripken Jr. in Cooperstown.

Tim Raines

Likely the second greatest leadoff hitter ever in baseball, Raines has become one of the most discussed candidates of all-time for the Hall of Fame. His detractors say he was only a superstar for a short time and compiled his impressive statistics due to playing for 23-years. First I think it is impressive to play for 23 years as an outfielder and I believe if he played in a larger media market during his prime, he would already be in Cooperstown.

Manny Ramirez

Lost among his eccentric personality, Ramirez was a 12-time All-Star over his 19-year career and is one of the best right-handed hitters in the past 50 years.  For his career, Ramirez hit .312/.411/.585 with 555 home runs and 1,831 runs batted in.  Sure his defense was suspect in the outfield but few have ever possessed the balance and skill at the plate Manny Ramirez did.  He’s a no-doubt selection for me.

Ivan Rodriguez

One of the best catchers in baseball history, Rodriguez made 14 All-Star appearances and earned 13 gold glove awards during his 21-year career.  In addition to being one of the elite defensive backstops in history, Rodriguez was also an impact hitter, batting .296/.334/.464 with 311 home runs and 127 stolen bases.

Also, I had the pleasure to watch for two seasons in Washington and the impact his leadership, moxie and smarts had on several key members of the organization.  Rodriguez is one of the best 10 catchers in baseball history and without a doubt, a Hall of Famer.

Curt Schilling

Certainly his win total feels a little light for Cooperstown, but it should be noted that Schilling was 70 games over .500 for his career (216-146). That said, his career 3.46 ERA, 79.7 WAR and key role in leading three separate teams to the World Series gives him more than enough credentials for enshrinement.

Danny Espinosa Takes His Talents To Anaheim

Saturday evening the Washington Nationals traded infielder Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for minor league pitchers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin.  Earlier in the day, reports surfaced Espinosa had skipped the team’s WinterFest this weekend due to his displeasure following the Adam Eaton trade.  Expected to play a reserve role in Washington, Espinosa immediately becomes the projected starter at second base for Anaheim.

Drafted in the 3rd round in 2008 from Long Beach State, Espinosa has spent his entire career with Washington, playing 779 games for the Nationals over seven seasons.  Last year the switch-hitting Espinosa batted .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs and 9 stolen bases while acting as the starting shortstop.  For his career, Espinosa has a .226/.302/.388 batting line while playing multiple defensive positions.  An outstanding defender with a cannon-like arm, Espinosa is one of the better defensive middle infielders in baseball.  Sadly, the 29-year-old has always struggled making contact, as evidenced by his career 28.1 K%, which limits his overall value.  Espinosa is under salary arbitration for one final season and is projected to make $5.3 million in 2017.

In return Washington receives two 25-year-old right-handed pitchers, Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin.  Drafted in the 8th round in 2012 from the University of South Florida, Adams was added to Anaheim’s 40-man roster this winter after a successful 2016 spent primarily in Double-A.  Last season Adams threw 41.1 innings with a 3.05 ERA and 61 strikeouts against 24 walks and 29 hits allowed.

According to scouts, Adams possesses a lively 93-96mph fastball that touches the upper-90s along with a devastating slider.  Unfortunately Adams struggles with his location and command, as shown by his 6.4 BB/9 career ratio.  He did trim his walks allowed last season and if he cuts his walks allowed closer to 4.0 per 9, he could be an asset in a setup capacity.  He is unlikely to see major improvements at his age, but it is a low-risk gamble to bet on a change-of-scenery for an obviously talented arm.

Perhaps the better-known of the two players, McGowin was drafted in the 5th round in 2013 and was recently rated as the 20th best prospect in Anaheim’s organization.  McGowin has long impressed scouts with a quality 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a low-90s sinking fastball along with a decent slider and changeup.  However, his results have never matched his repertoire, as he has a career 4.77 ERA with a 7.7 K/9 ratio against a 9.2 H/9 and a 3.0 BB/9 ratio over 375.2 professional innings.  In addition, McGowin has struggled with various injuries throughout his career, limiting him to only 75 appearances and 67 starts in four seasons.

Due to organizational need following the departure of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, McGowin will likely remain as a starter next season.  However, his long-term role is likely in the bullpen, which could allow his stuff to “play up” and help him stay healthy.

The bottom line on this deal is Washington understood Espinosa would not accept a bench role in 2017, so the team decided to swiftly part with the disgruntled infielder for salary relief and two depth arms.  Washington made the correct decision to trade Espinosa and showed tremendous class sending him back to the west coast.  Those are all positives, yet I am still left feeling utterly unimpressed with the players coming back to Washington.

For all his flaws, Espinosa is a tremendous defensive infielder with power and should provide Anaheim with 1.5-2.0 WAR next season for a reasonable $5.3 million salary.  Certainly I have no way of knowing what, if any, other offers were made, but this package feels underwhelming for a starting-caliber player.  I would have preferred Washington wait for more attractive offers later this winter or during spring training rather than settle for this offer.  It feels like Washington preferred a quick resolution to this situation, rather than maximizing the potential value of their asset.  I can understand the rationale behind this decision, but cannot support the conclusion the organization ultimately reached.

NatsGM Grade ->             D