Age on Opening Day 2016: 28
How acquired: Traded from Mets for LHP Jerry Blevins, March 2015
MLB service time: 1 year, 33 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $512,972
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2018, free agent in 2021
2015 stats: 55 G, 110 PA, 12 R, 25 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 9 BB, 20 SO, .253 AVG, .315 OBP, .485 SLG, .800 OPS, 1 E, -1.1 UZR, 0.6 WAR
Quotable: "He's a talented player. He's got good power. He can run well. He's got a strong arm. Plays all three outfield positions. He's got a bright future. And we are so right-handed-dominant that he fits. He fits here and hits from the other side of the plate and has ability." — Matt Williams on Matt den Dekker
2015 analysis: Quick: Guess who had the second-highest OPS among all Nationals with at least 100 plate appearances this season. Yes, Matt den Dekker. Only Bryce Harper was more productive. Den Dekker's production, of course, came in a limited sample. And most of that came in September.
The outfielder, acquired at the end of spring training for Jerry Blevins, made three brief stints in D.C. over the season's first five months, hitting just .184 with a .606 OPS. But while playing at Class AAA Syracuse, he made some adjustments to his swing, most notably adding a higher leg kick. The result: More power and more production.
Given a chance to play a bit more in September, den Dekker showed off that new swing and impressed club officials. He hit .320 with a .990 OPS over his final 29 games, with three homers and six doubles. In the process, he opened up more than a few eyes and stated his case for a permanent spot on next year's roster.
2016 outlook: The Nationals need a reliable fourth outfielder who could be trusted to step in and play on a regular basis if Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper or Michael Taylor gets hurt. Preferably, that player would be a left-handed hitter. Sure sounds like den Dekker fits that bill, right?
Not necessarily. The Nationals may want somebody with a more proven track record (ie. Gerardo Parra). The question is whether they want to pay good money to acquire a free agent to hold that role, something they did two years ago with Nate McLouth (who proved to be a complete bust).
Given the fact den Dekker will come significantly cheaper — he'll make only slightly more than the MLB minimum in 2016 — there is a strong argument for letting him take that job. The Nationals would be banking on his strong September being evidence of his full capabilities, which is a gamble. If nothing else, the 28-year-old has earned the opportunity to prove what he can do next season.