Williams: Nats want to make amends for 2013
There are six weeks left until pitchers and catchers report to 2014 MLB spring training, but still there remain several big name free agents left on the market.
Yesterday I detailed the Nationals' recent history of making late offseason splashes, and this year could be no different. The only problem is the guys left to be signed aren't necessarily fits in Washington.
This year there is no Rafael Soriano or Edwin Jackson out there ready to fill a vacancy on the Nats' roster. For instance, their rotation looks to be completely set after the Doug Fister trade and six of the top ten free agents according to Hardball Talk's 2014 FA Tracker are starting pitchers.
Here is a look at the ten best players left via HBT's top 150:
1. Masahiro Tanaka - RHP, 25 years old
2. Matt Garza - RHP, 30 years old
3. Ervin Santana - RHP, 31 years old*
4. Ubaldo Jimenez - RHP, 29 years old*
5. A.J. Burnett - RHP, 37 years old*
6. Nelson Cruz - OF, 33 years old*
7. Stephen Drew - SS, 31 years old*
8. Bronson Arroyo - RHP, 37 years old
9. Kendrys Morales - 1B-DH, 30 years old*
10. Grant Balfour - CL, 36 years old
None of those names really jump out as obvious fits with the Nats. Most of them are starters and the top position players available require teams to forfeit draft picks (noted with *).
You have to look a bit further down the list to find some guys who could potentially help the Nationals in 2014. Here is a look at five that might make sense with their HBT rankings included:
36. Fernando Rodney - RHP, 37 years old
Sure, the Nats have three guys who can close in Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, but what if they want some insurance? Clippard is ideal in a late innings setup role and they may not want to mess with what he has going. Storen had a playoff collapse in 2012 that they can't afford to have happen again. And despite saving 43 games, Soriano was anything but a sure thing in 2013 when he took the mound. If they find themselves in a playoff race, will he begin counts 3-0 like he often did in 2013? Rodney will get a raise from the $2.5 million he made last season, but could be a decent addition after saving 37 games last season.
89. Oliver Perez - LHP, 32 years old
Perez actually spent 2011 with the Nationals and made 16 appearances with the Harrisburg Senators. He was pretty good and afterwards joined the Mariners where he posted a 3.16 ERA in 94 relief appearances over the last two years. Perez was much better two seasons ago (2.12 ERA) than he was in 2013 (3.74 ERA), but he's a lefty and the Nationals could use as many as they can find.
99. John Buck - C, 33 years old
Backup catcher is a spot the Nats still may target before they head to Viera and Buck is the best available option. Last season he exploded out of the gate with nine home runs and 25 RBI in the first month with the Mets before joining the Pirates later on. He fell back down to Earth and hit just .219 in 110 total games. He would be a solid veteran to have on the Nats' bench if signed.
103. Jeff Baker - INF-OF, 32 years old
Do the Nationals feel comfortable with Danny Espinosa as their utility infielder or do they not? If they want to go with somebody else, Baker would be a good choice depending on the price. He's not quite the defensive player Espinosa is, and he hasn't played much middle infield in the last two seasons, but Baker is excellent at the plate. In 74 games with the Rangers last year he hit .279 with 11 home runs and 21 RBI. Nearly half of those appearances came as a bench player, and he posted a .905 OPS.
119. Michael Gonzalez - LHP, 35 years old
Another lefty formerly of the Nationals, Gonzalez joined the Brewers last year and couldn't recreate the success he had in Washington in 2012. Gonzalez' ERA ballooned to 4.68 across 50 innings and is not garnering much interest this offseason. The Nationals could take another flyer on him and hope for the same guy who held a 3.03 ERA and struck out 39 batters in 35 2/3 innings for the Nats two seasons ago.