In 2011, Chad Tracy was a major-league castoff playing in Japan. In 2012, he was the leader of a bench brigade called “The Goon Squad” for the team with the best record in baseball. Not a bad 12 months.
Tracy was rescued from his Far Eastern adventure by Mike Rizzo after the 2011 Winter Meetings as the Nationals GM looked to shore up a bench that manager Davey Johnson wasn’t particularly thrilled with after he took over the club. Johnson’s preference for reserves that can change a ballgame around with one swing led the Nationals to Tracy, who had a career high of 27 homers while manning first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
2012 Actual Stats: .269/.343./.441, 3 HR, 14 RBIs, 73 games (93 AB)
Tracy’s contributions to the Washington cause started in the season’s first series, as the Nationals prime left-handed pinch-hitting candidate. In the first two games of the season, Tracy picked up both game-tying and game-winning RBI hits off the bench, but he only recorded one more hit in the entire month of April and finished the month batting a paltry .130. He got going though when given the chance to start a string of games at first base while Adam LaRoche battled some soreness. Tracy posted six hits in the three-game “Take Back the Park” series against the Phillies and had his best month of the year, clubbing all three of his home runs. Unfortunately, Tracy aggravated an old hernia against the Braves late in the month and required surgery, which kept him off the roster until the end of July.
It was business as usual from that point though for the 32-year-old veteran, and he finished the season as the major league leader in pinch-hit RBIs with nine. The Nationals were so pleased with his work that they signed him to a one-year contract extension in late August. Having seen Laynce Nix, who was Washington’s most productive bench player in 2011, leave the club over the winter after getting a sweeter offer from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals wanted to make sure they took care of Tracy.
“We had two parties that wanted to be together,” Rizzo said to the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore at the time of the extension. “He’s been a great teammate. He’s been great off the bench. We thought it was a good time to lock him up so he didn’t get out to free agency and test the waters. We know we had a guy we liked and a guy that performs for us. We felt it was a good time to lock him up for next year.”
Tracy’s role in 2013 should be very similar to the one he held in 2012 — lefty off the bench, and more than capable of filling in at first base or third, as he did on a handful of occasions when Ryan Zimmerman needed a rest. Tracy recently had surgery to clean up his left knee but is expected to be ready to go at full strength when spring training rolls around.
Season Highlight: It’s tough to accumulate big game numbers when you only start a couple of times per month, but Tracy took advantage when the Phillies came to town in early May. Playing first base, Tracy went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer to power the Nationals to a 7-1 won over their rivals from the north.