After the Washington Nationals declined their mutual option, Adam Lind’s chances of staying are slim. Here is why the Nats are betting he stays.
Lind could re-sign with Washington, but the Nats are betting on no team willing to pay the $5 million salary in his deal. For his performance that probably is a losing bet.
No matter how the Nats used Lind in 2017, he was a smashing success. His 14 home runs and 59 RBI off the bench provided spar. His four pinch-hit homers and 16 hits are franchise records. When Washington needed a boost, he gave them one.
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Although it is not surprising Lind’s option was not picked up, the team declining the mutual part is. After a strong season over 116 games where he posted a slash line of .303/.362/.513 for an OPS of .875, conventional says an American League team will spend the $5 million to plug him in at designated hitter.
Eight times out of the last nine seasons, Lind struck double-digit homers. Six years, he cleared the fence 20 or more times. At 34, he can add veteran presence in the middle of a contender’s order. Although not a tremendous fielder, he plays a solid first base and performed well back in left field.
The Nats must think the free agent market for his ability will remain undervalued as pitching again will draw top dollar. Letting him hit the open market, on their decision, is a head scratcher. Yes, $5 million is a slight overpay for his services. When you compare it to his $1 million salary this year, Lind is a bargain. With the Seattle Mariners is 2016, he made $8 million.
The Nats might re-sign Lind for less. His ability to play first and spell Ryan Zimmerman makes him a valuable insurance policy. Washington must feel Daniel Murphy can slide over to first with Wilmer Difo ready to play second if needed.
The reality is Washington is likely already over the competitive balance tax for a second straight season. Shedding his full salary drops their tax bill. Since Matt Wieters expects to remain for $10.5 million in 2018, anything they can save helps.
Still, with Zimmerman’s injury history, it is a risk. You know the team will try to get younger and cheaper with the bench, but Lind’s ability to hit for power and play first gives Washington added versatility.
The Nats are gambling the market for hitters remains cold. The odds in Lind’s case are not in their favor.