Now that the 2014 MLB season is over, the hot stove is going to start to warm up and people will be talking about trades and signings. Some of these things have already happened, like the Cubs signing Joe Maddon to be their manager and the Twins signing Paul Molitor to be theirs. I want to take a look at what the Nationals might do.
In 2014, the Nationals acquired or claimed many players to help progress to eventually clinch the National League East. They have a few players not under contract for next year, and they have already released their options on a few others (and picked up their option on Denard Span!). The biggest ones are Adam LaRoche, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Rafael Soriano. There are also questions about what the Nats will do with Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, who both have one more year under contract before they become free agents. And there is also a lot of trade talk too. So I am going to look at some of the most talked about Nats players from 2014 and ask: WHERE ARE THEY GOING THIS OFFSEASON?
Now, these are just guesses based on where I think each player would play best. They are not always the most realistic, but sometimes you can never predict trades. Just ask how the Nationals got Doug Fister for Ian Krol and Steve Lombardozzi.
Asdrubal Cabrera– Asdrubal came over in a trade with Cleveland over the mid-season trade deadline. He played shortstop for the Indians, but filled in as the starting second baseman for the Nats. The question is who will be the Nats’ second baseman? Is it Danny Espinosa? Do they re-sign Cabrera? Do they move Rendon back to 2nd and give Zimmerman another shot at 3rd or sign someone like Pablo Sandoval to play 3rd? Do they acquire a second baseman like Brandon Hicks, Emilio Bonifacio, or Kelly Johnson? My guess is that Cabrera is probably leaving DC. He was an excellent second baseman, but he is also the best free agent short stop. Maybe the Yankees, who will be suffering from the retirement of Derek Jeter. Let me say this: I like Cabrera’s bat, as he is a good, doubles or triples hitter. Cleveland and Washington have fairly smaller ballparks, and with above average speed, he could get some big hits in some ballparks. That’s why I am thinking he might be good in a place like Miami. The Marlins are in the middle of a rebuilding process, and with a ballpark that could fit 3 blue whales, it would be an ideal ballpark for Cabrera to call home. They’ve got a nice shortstop in the making in Adeiny Hechavarria, but they could move Donovan Solano to the bench and have Cabrera at 2nd. San Diego would also be a spot if Everth Cabrera or Jedd Gyorko were not at 2nd and short, and so would AT&T Park. He needs to be in a big ballpark to succeed, so Cabrera would fit perfectly in Miami. It would be great for him to come back to Washington, too.
Rafael Soriano– His status in DC was very controversial, and the Nats have already decided not to give him an offer for next year. The era of the “Soriano Save”– where he almost gives you a heart attack by putting the game on the line– is over. He played excellent baseball in the first half of the 2014 season, but the second half was a disaster. He lost his closing job to Drew Storen down the stretch. Still, Rafael showed that he still has pretty good ability, and he definitely makes the games exciting to watch. I think that Rafael could play in a ballpark with smaller gaps, as when he gives up hits he doesn’t give up many home runs. Cincinnati would be absolutely perfect, but there is absolutely no way that will happen since Cincy already has one of the best closers in Aroldis Chapman. But what about as the setup man? Soriano doesn’t pitch as well in non-save situations, but if it meant having a job in the big leagues for 2015, he might be able to do it. Other options: Detroit, which needs relief pitching badly, 0r back to New York. Boston would be good too, but a lazy fly ball in to the outfield there could be a home run easily. Also, San Francisco may be a spot for Rafael, because their closer status is shaky and he pitched well in the NLDS there.
Adam LaRoche– It became clear when the Nats did not pick up LaRoche’s option that next year Ryan Zimmerman would be playing first base. That really wasn’t unexpected. I might have guessed that Adam LaRoche would head to Milwaukee, but the Brewers just announced a trade for Adam Lind in exchange for Marco Estrada. So what’s my next best guess? I think he will find his way up to Minneapolis. Joe Mauer is aging, and if LaRoche can play 1 or 2 seasons up in Minnesota, then he would be a good age for him to retire. Another option would be Miami but Justin Bour is a future star there.
Matt Thornton– One simple word: Toronto. The Blue Jays do not have a true closer, and Thornton has past success as a closer for teams like the Red Sox and the White Sox. He would also good setting up in a place like Detroit, where the ALDS showed that the Tigers’ pen STINKS. They also would need a lefty specialist, and that is exactly what Thornton is. Another team that could use him is the Mariners. But I would think the right place for Matt would be in Toronto.
Nate Schierholtz– One place that would be good for Schierholtz would be Houston. Space City is in the middle of a rebuilding process, and a player like Nate would go perfectly with a team doing something like Houston. Nate does not have overwhelming power, but a team with Matt Dominguez, Chris Carter, Nate, and in the near future Colin Moran and Carlos Correa, the Astros may be the powerhouse of the 2020s. You will have to watch out for Houston and Chicago in future years.
Kevin Frandsen– As much as he proved himself to be a great personality in the clubhouse and an excellent situational hitter off the bench, he may not be coming back to Washington. Frandsen would be perfect hitting baseballs into the Ohio River in Cincy (BTW, has anyone ever hit a baseball into Kentucky at Great American Smallpark?). I also think he’d be a good fit in the Bronx or Boston, where fans would see lots of home runs off the bat of Frandsen. If he doesn’t return to the Capital, who could replace him as a bench and utility player? How about Mike Aviles or former Nat/fan favorite Michael Morse? Morse would be great filling in for Zimmerman at first or LF, and Aviles could be an everyday second baseman or fill in for Desmond. However, keeping Frandsen would give the Nats a lot more options to use him ; he can back up Zimmerman, 2B, Desmond, and Rendon, and also play outfield.
Danny Espinosa– Almost everyone thought Danny would be part of a trade last year. I really like Danny Espinosa as a player, but I’m sorry to say I don’t think Danny will be in Washington for the entire season. I don’t know if Danny himself feels comfortable as a bench player, so he may want to be traded. His defense is always amazing, but if he could just get his hitting down, he would be one of my top picks for the job out of everyone in the league. However, I think the Nats will say that they have given him enough chances already, and I think they will make a signing this offseason for a new starting second baseman. Again, watch out for Mike Aviles going to DC or maybe a Kelly Johnson or Brandon Hicks. Asdrubal Cabrera made a lot of fans in DC this year at 2B, but I think he will get a better offer from another club looking for a short stop. Other options are Jed Lowrie from the A’s, Didi Gregorious from the from the D’backs, or Daniel Murphy from the Mets. Danny may not be going anywhere- should the Nats fail to acquire a 2B, I am guessing that he and Will Rhymes will battle for the spot on Opening Day. I think Danny will start but the Nats will acquire a 2B while the season moves into the playoff hunt.
Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond– Two of the biggest questions are whether the Nats will sign long-term contract extensions with Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. Both have been amazing players. Zimmermann threw the Nationals’ first no-hitter in the last game of the 2014 season, and Ian Desmond went 20/20 again this year. I think Zimmermann will sign a long-term contract extension. Pitching is not really a problem for the Nationals, but both Jaime Garcia and Jeremy Guthrie will be on the market in 2015 if they don’t sign extensions. Having either of these veterans would be great additions for this ballclub. If Zimmermann signed a 5-year deal, he would only be 33 by the time his contract expires. It is a little controversial, but the Nats could trade Zimmermann this offseason. He is coming off one of his best seasons and only has 1 year left on his contract, so if they got someone good in return, it may be worth it. Desi, however is more likely to resign with the Nationals. The Nats don’t have a lot of depth in their middle infield positions, and Desmond is the rare Golden Glove and Silver Slugger at short stop. He should get an extension because he is harder to replace. Plus, Ian Desmond has done so much for our community, and is so nice, that seeing him put on a Tigers or Astros jersey would seem wrong– like a 3-dollar bill or the Braves winning the World Series.
The free agent market is ready to be exploding. The Winter Meetings are at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront between December 7 and 11, and lots of very important trades. Be ready- I’ll be writing about most free agent pickups and trades. Speaking of which…..
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned with some amazing posts coming up. For example, I will be attending the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award ceremony tomorrow and telling you about an exciting opportunity to play a game against a Nationals All-Star.
Only about 150 Days until Opening Day!