'08 COULD BE GREAT, '09 WILL BE FINE
[August 10th] -- With tonight's interesting matchup between "traded for" starters Livan Hernandez and Matt Chico in the offing, I've been thinking about the team's future, and just how good this group of players can be, and how quickly the Nationals might become contenders. Though we've heard that "the corner" will be turned somewhere in 2009 or 2010, is it possible that the boys could make a run for a Wildcard spot next year?
Here is what I consider to be the team's best case scenario in 2008:
1B: Nick Johnson .285-20-80 [or] Dmitri Young .285-15-90
2B/SS: Felipe Lopez .275-13-50 [or] Ronnie Belliard .280-14-65 [or] Cristian Guzman .260-4-40
3B: Ryan Zimmerman .300-28-120
LF: Ryan Church .270-12-65
CF: Nook Logan .265-0-35
RF: Austin Kearns .265-20-80
C: Brian Schneider: .255-8-50
There is no way that this group (regardless of who plays center) can creating enough offense to contend, even if each player has a near career year. Now, the infield is solid, regardless of which of the seven players mans the five available positions. And I'm fine with Kearns in right; nothing in his background would indicate that this isn't anything other than an off year. If the Nationals sign a couple of studly-type outfielders, however, they might - perhaps - have the makings of a contender.
Take a look at this lineup and how it might produce next year:
SS: Felipe Lopez: .275-13-50 [40 SB]
2B: Ronnie Belliard: .280-14-60
3B: Ryan Zimmerman: .300-28-120
LF: Adam Dunn: .270-45-120
CF: Torii Hunter: .285-26-95
RF: Austin Kearns: .265-20-80
1B: Dmitri Young: .285-15-70
C: Brian Schneider: .255-8-50
All indications are that the Nationals are willing to add up to $30 million payroll, an amount that should buy the team two star outfielders. But will the existing pitching staff (at both the minor and major league level) be able to support this offense?
I think, yes, it could.
If (and granted, it's a big if) the no-name pitchers that were brought in last year continue to pitch as well as they have this year, and if John Lannon and Ross Detweiler (or at least one of them) have a solid rookie year, I really think that a 90 win year is possible. And now that there are a lot of strong arms in the minors, who knows, perhaps the team will actually trade youth for a veteran starter over the winter. It's also a near certainty that if the Nationals start next year with a $70 million payroll and they're close to a playoff spot come July that they'll trade for some veteran help then as well.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying it's going to happen in 2008, but it might. But the existing players have to rebound from their dismal 2007 efforts.
If that happens .....
Lerner Alert: The Internet is abuzz with stories about the head-butting between the Lerners and the stadium folks. I'm not going to bore you with the details - you've already read the stories I'm sure - but suffice it to say that there are many who believe that the new owners are going to go back on their word about funneling millions of dollars into the stadium/team that would have otherwise gone to payroll (read: Alfonso Soriano).
My view? Not enough information to say. It's my impression that the Lerner's fight hard and hold tightly on to pretty much every dollar they have ever made. I think it's more a business tactic then a way of doing business, however. They scare the bejeebers out of the opposition and then come through with the cash at the last moment. Regardless, I'm not going to worry about the Lerner's until the first day of Spring Training. Let me see who's on the roster and how much the team spent during the off season. It's just too soon to make a decision over chairs and carpeting and the like.
Detweiler Good Enough: Ross Detweiler pitched his first game for Potomac on Friday, giving up 2 runs and 8 hits in 4.2 innings. Overall, I'd say it was a good first outing at the higher level, as GCL competition wasn't much different from what he faced in college. As long as he continues to pitch "well enough," I'm sure we'll see him in September.
I would like for the Nats to sign Aaron Rowland cheaper and possiblity Adam Dunn. He still has to be optioned by the Reds to be a free agent. Also, a front end starter like, Carlos Zambrano(who's young) would be a great addation if the club does want to contend