Perhaps one of the Washington Nationals most underrated moves this offseason was bringing back Matt Adams. But how much should the slugger play in 2019?
While the Washington Nationals have made some big splashes this offseason with the likes of Patrick Corbin and Yan Gomes, re-signing Matt Adams has gone under the radar. The lefty slugger was a valuable piece to the team last year and we look at how much should he play this year.
Last year with the Nats, Adams hit .257 with 18 home runs and 48 RBI while posting a .842 OPS before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. That type of performance clearly left a mark as they brought him back on a one-year, $3 million deal with a mutual option for 2020.
“It’s an A-class organization and a place that feels like home to me,” Adams told Jesse Doughtery of the Washington Post just after signing, as he’s clearly happy to be back. And after taking on an expanded role last year, it’s fair to wonder how much playing time he’ll get this time around.
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Last year, he was initially brought in as an impact bat off the bench who could potentially make a start or two a week either at first base or in the outfield. However, after Ryan Zimmerman went down early on in the season, Adams took over as the primary first baseman, with some Mark Reynolds sprinkled in, impressing in somewhat full-time duty.
In his extended opportunity, Adams mashed against right-handed pitching with the Nationals to the tune of a .264/.345 /.538 slash line including 17 of his 18 homers. With that in mind, some sort of soft platoon situation is likely where Adams fits into the team’s 2019 plans, given the strong numbers that the former Cardinal puts up against righties.
The Nats benefit from trying to get Adams in the lineup more this year given that the majority of the everyday lineup is right-handers. Excluding Zimmerman, among the regulars, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier, Victor Robles, and both catchers swing it from the right side. When possible, starting Adams will give the lineup some balance, especially when they have to face a right-hander.
Even though Zimmerman is still productive, he’s rarely been able to stay healthy for a full season in recent years. So we can probably expect to see Adams start two or three times a week against righties which may include some cameos in the outfield if they’re desperate to find time for him.
However, unless Zimmerman struggles to stay healthy again, it’s unlikely that Adams takes the starting job for himself. The long-time National is still the superior hitter as he experiences a late-career resurgence with a new launch angle. In a perfect world, the Nats will likely want to have Zimmerman starting 100-120 games to keep him fresh, with Adams chipping with 60-80 starts depending on where he’s needed to play.
Matt Adams will once again be incredible value for money for the Washington Nationals as he heads into next season. He should be able to form a deadly combination with Zimmerman that may even rank as one of the best first base situations in the league. Watch out.