We looked back at the first half of Washington’s To Do List yesterday. This is the continuation of that list.
5. Filling out the bullpen and the bench. Perhaps adding some Triple-A depth as well.
Collin Balester was traded to Detroit for Ryan Perry. Brad Lidge was signed to replace Todd Coffey and provide a level of veteran leadership this bullpen has not seen in years past. Beyond those two moves and a handful of minor league signings the Nationals elected not to make many significant moves with regards to the bullpen this winter. But they didn’t truly need to make any significant additions.
Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Sean Burnett all return to round out the back end of the bullpen and cover the late innings. Lidge adds a veteran presence to the mix with significant late-game experience. The outcome of the starting rotation battle also will likely have an effect on the remaining openings – depending on who’s in the rotation, who’s kept in the bullpen in a long relief role, and how creative the team feels it needs to be in order to avoid losing a player of value.
Beyond that, the remaining spots in the rotation likely will come down to Perry, Tom Gorzelanny, and the out of options Henry Rodriguez. Such competition will likely force Ryan Mattheus to Triple-A Syracuse, along with the aforementioned minor league signings.
There still may be a lack of pitching depth at Triple-A. Brad Meyers could be returned to the organization later this Spring, after being taken in the Rule 5 Draft by the Yankees, which does restore one option. The team will have a number of options in the lower levels of the minor leagues, but even with strong seasons it would be unreasonable to expect any of them to even come close to the Major Leagues before September.
As for the bench, the previously mentioned DeRosa does provide some added versatility and veteran presence, presuming he can remain healthy. As does Ankiel, if he’s in a role that has him coming off the bench. It also seems safe that two of the bench spots will be filled with backup catcher Jesus Flores and infielder Steve Lombardozzi, who both are likely to see their fair share of playing time.
The team also brought in Carroll, Paul, Michaels, Jarret Hoffpauir, Chad Tracy, and Andres Blanco on minor league contracts and claimed Carlos Rivero off waivers from the Phillies. Not all of them are guaranteed to remain with the organization if they don’t make the team out of Spring Training, but if they do accept an assignment to Triple-A they’ll give the organization additional depth with some Major League experience.
6. Extending Ryan Zimmerman.
The team and Zimmerman’s representatives have been discussing parameters to a contract extension for the third baseman for nearly a year. Talks have dramatically heated up over the past week, as Zimmerman expressed a desire to have the basics of a deal in place by Saturday as he didn’t want to risk becoming a distraction as the team prepares for the regular season.
As of yesterday morning, a deal reportedly had been reached on a six year, $100 Million extension that will keep Zimmerman in Washington until 2019.
I took a look at what I thought an extension might look like back in January and it would seem my estimate (six years, $92 Million) was pretty close.
7. What to do with Jesus Flores?
At the time that I included this question on the team’s offseason To Do List, I figured a question remained whether the team would head into the 2012 season with Flores or Derek Norris as the principal backup catcher behind Wilson Ramos. I thought the possibility existed that one could be traded this winter, but admittedly thought it’d be Flores and not Norris.
Flores spent much of the winter playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, further proving his health after a shoulder injury opened the door for Ramos to win the starting job for the Nationals. According to Amanda Comak of The Washington Times, Flores didn’t really see himself in a backup role but he’s embracing the responsibility for the betterment of the team. He seems to know that if he performs on the field, he’ll force his way into earning the playing time – be it in Washington or elsewhere. Of course, before the team would even consider trading him (and there are teams that have expressed an interest, again according to Comak) they’d have to be certain that a suitable backup exists within the organization to take his place. With the inclusion of Norris in the Gonzalez trade, that is no longer an easily answered question.