The Numbers Game

a.k.a. option status

With six games to go in Spring Training, it’s rather obvious that the Washington Nationals have some roster decisions to make, many of which will come down to what’s often called “the numbers game.” In this particular case, it’s options — whether and/or how many a player has left.

The No. 5 starter has been considered a battle between Tom Gorzelanny, Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler, and sometimes Chad Gaudin. Maya has two option years left, Detwiler has one, Gorzelanny has none. Gaudin was signed to a minor-league contract, however, he would have to clear waivers to be assigned to Syracuse, giving him a leg up.

This brings us to the battle for the long/middle relief spots. Gaudin is also a candidate there, competing against Craig Stammen and Brian Broderick. Stammen has two options left, while as a Rule 5 pick, Broderick has to be kept or offered back to St. Louis. On its face, it seems obvious: send down Stammen and keep Gaudin and Broderick, but much depends on how Rizzo, et al views these pitchers long term. Ironically, Broderick’s value as a starter could result in him going back to the minors via trade or being returned.

While the announcement yesterday that Henry Rodriguez was being shut down to work on his control problems took some of the drama out of the race for the rest of the bullpen, the no-options-left status of Todd Coffey, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard has them in the driver’s seat, leaving the battle between Drew Storen, Doug Slaten, and Collin Balester for the remaining two spots. Storen has two options left while Slaten and Balester have one.
The conventional wisdom is that Balester is the most likely to lose this race, despite outpitching Storen thus far this spring.

It’s become obvious that the Nats do plan to send down Jesus Flores to AAA to catch every day, an unfortunate turn because had Flores hit the way he had been in Winter Leagues, it could have opened up trade possibilities. Flores does have two options left.

Alberto Gonzalez has been the subject of trade rumors, but if that does not come to fruition, his lack of options gives him a slight edge over his competition of Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr.

It also appears that Matt Stairs will be kept for his power potential off the bench and the ability to spell Adam LaRoche at first base from time to time, which brings us to the outfield. Michael Morse has separated himself from the pack of OFs with a spate of HRs and has put a lock on LF. With Jayson Werth the free-agent RF, the battle for CF is all that’s left.

Unfortunately, it’s not exactly The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in center, as it appears DC don’t need no stinkin’ OBP with the likes of Nyjer Morgan (.319 in ’10), Rick Ankiel (.324) and Roger Bernadina (.307) as the contenders. Ankiel has no options left while Morgan and Bernadina each have one. Two of these three are likely to stick, with the loser getting optioned or cut, as one would think that Hairston’s versatility may buy him a spot on the bench to offset Stairs limitations and add some right-handedness to the bench.

Should any transactions occur today, I’ll put ’em here in this space along any appropriate comments.

Well, I thought a move or two like this might happen yesterday but it turned out to be today…

…Craig Stammen and Jesus Flores were both optioned to AAA Syracuse this afternoon. The former appears to paving the way for Brian Broderick to make the team as the long reliever while Flores will get the chance to play everyday and regain more arm strength as he attempts to recover his 2009 pre-injury form.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

20 thoughts on “The Numbers Game”

  1. The one constant in the battle for centerfield is none of them can hit lefties, so that’s Hairston’s job.
    The one area that most impacts us minor league seamheads is for the bullpen, as how that is handled reverberates all through the farm system.
    Sue, it does seem that we have more pitchers than spots for both Syracuse & Harrisburg. And, who knows, this could even affect Potomac. Truth is, these are good problems to have.

    1. The problem with this is, again, Jim Riggleman at his finest. You lose a bat putting Hairston in CF and he looks a lot better in the infield than the outfield. Looks an awful lot like Willie Harris redux for 2011? Before ST 2011 the talk was about Werth moving to CF in games against LF starters? This makes abundantly more sense than Hairston from both an offensive and defensive perspective as he looks pretty miserable in CF (third base and second base seem like his positions?). But, then who goes to right field if Morse is in left? This is where Marerro might have fit in 2011 if he could have learned to play the outfield by moving Morse to right and Marerro to left.

      There is still a lot that is haywire about this roster.

      1. There is still a lot that is haywire about this roster.

        This is a transition year no matter how you slice it, dice it, or spice it. Maybe they’ll surprise some folks, but I’m only shocked if they surpass 75 wins.

        1. Sue & Peric — agree with you both. Again, all the good news this year will be right here
          at N.P.!

      1. Looks like Ben Goessling is back … and look who else Rizzo picked up? He looks like he is going be active right up to the end. Have to think a trade will occur. The word is he is trying very hard to move Nyjer Morgan … and we’ve heard about Pudge and AGonz … but the problem is still pitching …

        The Nationals added another arm to their bullpen inventory this afternoon, claiming left-hander Lee Hyde off waivers from the Atlanta Braves. Hyde was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. He’s a 26-year-old who’s flashed a power arm in the minors, striking out a career average of 8.5 batters per nine innings. But Hyde’s walks kept him in the minors for his entire time with Atlanta; he’s averaged 3.9 per nine innings, and had a 1.714 WHIP in 22 games with Triple-A Gwinnett last year.

    1. That’s an interesting question that’s still TBD. Nix is more of a AAA Syracuse guy. But he may, like Gaudin, ask for his release if he doesn’t make the club. He is good enough to quickly find a job somewhere.

      Its more like you’ll see Nix on the major league roster with Bernadina joining Brown and Frazier in the starting Syracuse outfield. I suspect Cora goes to Syracuse if Riggleman is intent on keeping Stairs as the designated pinch hitter. Stairs ostensibly replaces Morse in that role but is far worst in the field.

      I can’t see that lasting very long if they have the same spate of injuries they had last year?

  2. Of all the positions on the field, other than the two months in 2009 when Morgan played way above the mean, the Nationals have NEVER had a decent CF. Not even adequate. At every other position you can name at least one guy who played better than average defense and could hit.

    This has been a problem since Endy Chavez.

    1. You’re right – The list of sub-par CF goes all the way back to OD, 2005. Wilkinson, Chavez, P.Wilson, Church, Logan, JMax, etc. Morgan was the best hope to date, based on his two months in 2009, but that pretty much bottomed out in 2010. I had hope for either Morgan on a rebound, or possibly Bernadina this spring, but it seems the team is currently leaning towards a platoon of Ankiel/Hairston. Not the best option, imo.

  3. Broderick’s value as a starter would lead him to being returned? Why because he has too much value for the Cardinals to accept a trade? Couldn’t he stick as a long reliever?

    I’m just not sure I follow… but I have been up since 2:45.. so that might be the reason…

    1. Here’s the logic in that scenario… Rizzo doesn’t want to use Broderick in long relief. Asks the Cardinals who they’d want in a trade. St. Louis’s asking price is too high, so Rizzo decides he’d rather lose him than be forced to keep him in the bullpen or otherwise work around him (which would hurt him developmentally, not to mention the parent club). It’s not probable, but it is possible.

      That’s why most Rule 5 picks end up being returned more often than not… GMs don’t like having their 40-man roster essentially turned into a 39-man roster by virtue of a guy they have to keep.

      1. One other thing to consider – Rizzo will likely be working with a 42-man roster into May (Wang & Strasburg on 60-DL).

        1. It seems likely that it might be three BinM, (Wang, Strasburg, and Ramirez). However, I have a hunch Wang will get released.

          1. Doubt that Ramirez would go to the 60-DL; More like the 15-DL, but I suppose almost anything is possible.

      2. I guess that is sort of admirable. I was coldly counting beans and not worrying about development figuring that having something was better than having the nothing we would get from the Cardinals. As in it is better for us to have a reliever than the Cards have a starter. I’m pretty heartless I guess…

    1. JCamp: I’m with you – Balester & Broderick have pitched well enough to earn spots. Meanwhile, Clippard has been an absolute arsonist this spring (2-2 in inherited runners scoring, 2.69WHIP, .355BAA, 12.80ERA). At least Coffey has some good peripheral numbers (3.3:1K-W, 1.38WHIP, .265BAA) going for him. Could Clippard be ‘pulling a Bruney’ on the team (disappointed in his contract)?

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