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Nats position analysis: Outfield

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Nats position analysis: Outfield

As we transition into offseason mode, we'll start by breaking down the Nationals' roster by position (infield, outfield, catcher, rotation and bullpen) this week and examine where things stand at season's end and where things might stand moving forward. Today's position: Outfield...

OF JAYSON WERTH
Stats: 81 G, 344 PA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, .300 AVG, .387 OBP, .440 SLG
1 E, -12.6 UZR, 1.0 WAR
2012 salary: $13 million
Contract status: $16 million in 2013, $20 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015, $21 million in 2016, $21 million in 2017, free agent in 2018
Where he fits in: After a frustrating debut season and after missing three months this season with a broken wrist, Werth finally got to enjoy playing in D.C. (and D.C. finally got to enjoy watching Werth play). The biggest key to his success: Embracing the leadoff role and becoming a potent force atop the lineup. The question now is whether he'll be back in that role next year or whether the Nationals want to add a more traditional No. 1 hitter. Given his skill-set and the makeup of the rest of the projected lineup, it probably makes sense for Werth to stay right where he is in 2013.

OF BRYCE HARPER
Stats: 139 G, 597 PA, 22 HR, 59 RBI, .270 AVG, .340 OBP, .477 SLG
7 E, 9.9 UZR, 4.9 WAR
2012 salary: $1.75 million
Contract status: $2 million in 2013, $2.15 million in 2014, $2.25 million in 2015, arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
Where he fits in: Harper burst onto the scene only three weeks into the season with expectations sky-high. He might very well have exceeded them by season's end, finishing strong to produce the second-most homers, the second-most stolen bases, the third-highest OPS and the most total bases ever by a teenager in the big leagues. Now the scary part: Harper is likely to improve by leaps and bounds next season. History has almost universally shown major leaguers who debuted at 19 really take off at 20 (which, FYI, he turns today). There's no reason to believe Harper won't follow that longstanding trend.

OF MICHAEL MORSE
Stats: 102 G, 430 PA, 18 HR, 62 RBI, .291 AVG, .321 OBP, .470 SLG
1 E, -9.4 UZR, 0.3 WAR
2012 salary: $3.25 million
Contract status: $6.75 million in 2013, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: Morse missed the season's first two months with a torn lat muscle that proved far more troublesome than anyone originally expected. It took awhile for him to rediscover his power stroke, and then once he did he was hampered again by nagging injuries to both hands. There's no denying Morse's offensive skills when he's healthy, but he'll have to prove he can stay on the field for all of 2013 in what will be a contract year at age 31. Because of his contract status, the Nationals may need to decide this winter whether to try to lock him up longer or perhaps even consider a trade. Morse's status may depend on what happens to Adam LaRoche. Either way, this one bears watching during the offseason.

OF ROGER BERNADINA
Stats: 129 G, 269 PA, 5 HR, 25 RBI, .291 AVG, .372 OBP, .405 SLG
0 E, 2.5 UZR, 1.9 WAR
2012 salary: $493,500
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2013, free agent in 2016
Where he fits in: After teasing everyone with his on-and-off potential for several years, Bernadina finally came into his own this season. Davey Johnson did a nice job establishing his role as a fourth outfielder and putting him in situations in which he could succeed. He'll be a due a raise in arbitration, but even at $1.5 million or $2 million, he's a valuable player on a contending club.

OF TYLER MOORE
Stats: 75 G, 171 PA, 10 HR, 29 RBI, .263 AVG, .327 OBP, .513 SLG
0 E, -3.2 UZR, 0.6 WAR
2012 salary: $480,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
Where he fits in: Moore made his big-league debut one day after Bryce Harper and over the course of the season proved his gargantuan minor-league numbers were no fluke. The kid from Mississippi can flat-out hit and even learned how to do it while coming off the bench cold as a pinch-hitter. Could Moore be ready for an everyday job? Possibly, though his defense in both left field and at first base leaves plenty to be desired. If he doesn't crack the lineup, he'll still provide a potent bat off the bench and is nice insurance to have in case one of the veterans goes down to injury.

IN THE MINORS
Corey Brown put up some big-time numbers at Class AAA Syracuse (.285-21-75 in 126 games) and earned some limited playing time in the big leagues, but the soon-to-be 27-year-old appears caught in a numbers game and stuck down the depth chart. The speedy Eury Perez put himself on the map, hitting .314 while stealing 51 bases at three levels of the system. He'll probably return to Syracuse to open 2013 but could force his way back onto the big-league roster if he keeps it up. After a strong 2011 at Class A Potomac, Destin Hood struggled at Class AA Harrisburg with a paltry .644 OPS. Highly touted center field prospect Brian Goodwin was fantastic at low-Class A Hagerstown and earned the right to bypass Potomac altogether. He's currently in the Arizona Fall League and could crack the Nationals' roster by Sept. 2013 or Opening Day 2014. Several club executives were touting Michael Taylor one year ago, but he cooled off at Potomac and still appears to be a long-term project.

OFFSEASON NEED?
If they want to keep things as-is, the Nationals could very well return in 2013 with the exact same outfield alignment they had this year: Morse in left, Harper in center, Werth in right, with Bernadina and Moore on the bench. It's not necessarily the best defensive alignment, though, and it's possible the club would prefer to acquire a true center fielder and move Harper to one of the corner positions (which would force Morse either to first base or off the roster altogether). In the end, the Nationals seem to believe one of their center field prospects -- headlined by Goodwin -- will be ready to take over in 2014, and thus there's no urgency to spend money and devote multiple years to a premier free agent like Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton.

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Will the 2019 and 2020 free-agent classes stir things up the way this one hasn’t?

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Will the 2019 and 2020 free-agent classes stir things up the way this one hasn’t?

There’s an old Magnum, P.I. episode called “Home at Sea”. Magnum has been knocked off his surf ski after a too-close speedboat zips by, leaving him alone to survive in the water. His mind wanders. Flashbacks from childhood, the war, and his family, fill his head. He’s treading water and waiting.

Things are not life-and-death severe during this offseason as the baseball world wades through what has become the sigh-inducing drudgery of free agency. But, big names remain unsigned, reduced to sending out social media pings via a hat (Manny Machado seen in the background of a video in a White Sox lid) or tweet (Bryce Harper having fun with everyone’s emotions by making weather jokes or referencing Tony Romo’s prognostication abilities).

What we don’t have — yet — are results. Everyone is just treading water. Which leads to thoughts beyond today. In particular, the coming free agents in 2019 and 2020.

This class was supposed to be epic. Harper, Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson. Cy Young and MVP winners along with young, generational talents. A mix rarely, if ever, seen before.

(Jose Fernandez, the talented young pitcher in Miami, was also expected to play a major role in this free agency class before he tragically died in 2016 at the age of 24.)

Instead, ongoing shrugs and muted exuberance have met this market, which gives next year a chance to deliver comparative heat. Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon, J.D. Martinez, Marcell Ozuna, Gerritt Cole, Chris Sale, Kenley Jansen, Justin Verlander and Madison Bumgarner could all be available. Even Stephen Strasburg could join them in the unlikely situation he exercises his first opt-out.

That grouping would be more well-rounded than the current top-heavy one. It also could suffer from the same lack of investment occurring now, which has already begun underground rumblings about the pending fight between players and owners once the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.

Several things need to align in order for the 2019-20 free agency crowd to be awash in such prominent names. Martinez, Jansen and Strasburg would have to opt-out. Rendon would need to make it through the season without signing a contract extension in Washington, something both sides are working on and open to.

Though, if everyone hits, around-the-diamond needs will be filled.

Need a third baseman? The best and arguably second-best are available.

Need a top-of-the-rotation starter? Sale, Bumgarner, Verlander and Cole are there. 

Need a reliever? Jansen or Dellin Betances would be there.

The class also has interesting middle depth: Yasiel Puig, Khris Davis, Michael Wacha, Miles Mikolas, Brett Gardner, Matt Kemp, Scooter Gennett, Jose Abreu, Ryan Zimmerman (if the Nationals do not pick up his $18 million option). 

Another monster class hits the following year. Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Jacob deGrom can become free agents after the 2020 season. George Springer, Robbie Ray, James Paxton and J.T. Realmuto are also in the mix. Even Giancarlo Stanton could hop in by opting out, though who would want to leave that contract?

Languishing negotiations from Harper and Machado have led us here, treading water and wondering what’s to come. It at least sounds interesting. We’ll see if it turns out to be so.

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Baseball Hall of Fame Results 2019: Rivera makes history with first ever unanimous induction

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Baseball Hall of Fame Results 2019: Rivera makes history with first ever unanimous induction

The question coming in was this: three or four?

Two locks were set to be voted into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday: Legendary New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who became the first player to be named on 100 percent of the ballots cast, and starting pitcher Roy Halladay, both first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Seattle’s Edgar Martinez was expected to finally make it. He did with 85.4 percent of the vote.

That left Mike Mussina, 49 votes short last year, to hold his breath this time. He made it, narrowly, with 76.7 percent.

Mussina spent spent 10 years in Baltimore chasing 20 wins and providing annual durability before joining the New York Yankees for eight more seasons. Longevity and consistency keyed his entrance into the Hall of Fame. Mussina made 30 or more starts 12 times on his way to a career 123 ERA-plus. Only three times across almost two decades was Mussina’s ERA-plus below league average. All that work allowed him to compile 3,562 ⅔ innings pitched, 2,813 strikeouts and a 1.192 WHIP.

Rivera dominated the league with a single signature pitch, his cutter, for 19 years. His preferred music of “Enter Sandman” ran counter to Rivera’s pleasant and forthcoming demeanor off the field. He viewed the accidental discovery of his cutter as a gift from God, which made him willing to share information about the pitch with whomever asked. The slim right-hander anchored one of baseball’s great winning runs while with the Yankees. Rivera is a 13-time All-Star who owns five World Series rings. His 205 career ERA-plus is an all-time record as is his 652 saves, which is more than 50 ahead of second place and a record unlikely to be broken.

The wait, and push, for Martinez was extensive. Martinez find himself at the core of an ongoing debate about Hall of Fame candidacy for designated hitters. He didn’t become a full-time player in the major leagues until age 27. He was perpetually on base from there until his age-41 season, delivering a career OPS of .933 and on-base percentage of .418. Martinez walked more than he struck out 10 times in his 18-year career, finishing with more bases on balls than whiffs. Seattle denizens long pushed for his conclusion. It took the maximum 10 years, but Martinez is finally in.

Halladay’s inclusion is a bittersweet moment. The right-hander died Nov. 7, 2017, when a small plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He previously told reporters his possible Hall of Fame induction would be a “tremendous honor.” Halladay twice won the Cy Young award — once in each league — made eight All-Star teams, and finished with a 3.38 ERA. He also threw a perfect game and in 2010 became the second pitcher in history to throw a postseason no-hitter.

The central characters from baseball’s so-called “steroid era” remain on the outside. Roger Clemens (59.5 percent) in his seventh ballot and Barry Bonds (59.1 percent) remain well below the 75 percent threshold for enshrinement following slight increases from 2018 voting. Curt Schilling (60.9 percent) and Larry Walker (54.6 percent) also moved up significantly in year-over-year voting. Fred McGriff moved up in his final year on the ballot, however remained well short. He should get in when considered by the Today’s Game Era Committee based on their recent selection of Harold Baines.

 

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