Last week, in the midst of the postseason, Baseball Prospectus ran an article on the Nats. It was Christina Kahrl giving her thoughts on what she would do if she were the GM of the Nats. Here is what she said: “They’re not going to win in 2011. Nothing we do here is going to alter that. The question instead is what they might do to help provide a worthwhile product on the field. Consider this a pragmatic sanction of sorts for what Mike Rizzo is already up to, tailored for a goal that’s more attainable, like 80 wins without sacrificing any of the future. Even that’s not so easy, because the Nationals are already staffed in most of the bigger slots and roles.”

She conveniently has it boiled down to 7 points which make the team better. I’ll give you her ideas (in bold), and then my take on them.

  1. Offer Adam Dunn arbitration. If he accepts you have him for another year, if he doesn’t you get picks. Ok, but then who plays first base? I like the start of this, but I also think they need to re-sign Dunn for the next 2 or 3 years. I really think he’s their best option, and nobody’s lining up to fill his spot until at least mid-2012.
  2. Sit back and let Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa become your middle infield combination of the present. For this one, I agree with her 100%. There aren’t any middle infielders worth pursuing in free agency. Desmond looks like he can hit enough for a SS, and his fielding improved in the 2nd half. Espinosa still has alot to prove, but I’d give him a chance. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best option.
  3. Don’t let it ride in the rotation. What Christina means is go out and get someone. And I agree, although I’m more bullish on John Lannan than she is. According to her, he’s “getting tattooed even more frequently” but in reality he got tattooed until he went down to the minors, after his return he was quite good. Anyway, she recommends looking at Harden or Vazquez among others. Those were on my list, but I think they should at least try to get Lee. After that, I’d look towards Duchsherer and Webb as well.
  4. Trade a bucket of balls to the Cubs for Kosuke Fukudome and $8.5 million. Not something I really thought of, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, at least to give him a shot. They need someone who can get on base and play the outfield, he would be an interesting choice, because despite some struggles he does both well. But she envisions him batting #1 and Nyjer Morgan batting second… I have a hard time with that one. Maybe Fukudome #1, Desmond #2, and Bernadina down at #6 or 7 playing CF, with Morgan providing speed and defense off the bench.
  5. Don’t move early to find a replacement for Dunn. Here she’s basically saying if Dunn’s done, don’t go out and spend on someone that isn’t much of a replacement (ahem, Pena). She also names some of my favorite internal choices as replacements there – Morse and Flores. Of course, if Morse is there, you need another outfielder. I’ll buy the “not going crazy to replace Dunn” thing, but replacing him with basically whoever is leftover in a few months in the market could really lead to disappointment.
  6. Sign or trade for arb-eligible or lower-end free-agent relievers. Why? This one I don’t get. This bullpen is probably in good enough shape as it is. I’ll take my chances the Storen, Clippard, Slaten, and Burnett all have relatively similar seasons. Throw in a resurgent Peralta and my assumption that Josh Wilkie continues the success he’s seen at every level of pro baseball, I don’t really see the need. It seems more like a boilerplate “what a bad team should do” answer.
  7. Entertain offers for Willingham, but don’t deal him just to deal him. I’m pretty much in agreement here, they shouldn’t dump him, because he does have value. One thing she didn’t mention, possibly because the news came out more recently than her article, is that Willingham would consider a contract extension. Now if you can get him for 3 more years starting NOW, rather than starting at the end of 2011, he is more appealing.

All in all, pretty good suggestions from Christina Kahrl. Going after Fukudome is certainly creative, and he fills a big need. If they can get him for nothing but cash, basically, I’d say it’s a very good idea. I’m still not sold on what she thinks is going on at first base. Other than that, it seems that she has some pretty good ideas. Let’s see how many of these are things that Mike Rizzo is thinking about himself.

By Charlie