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Washington Nationals 2007.


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When playing as the Washington Nationals in 2007, you inherit a roster that makes grown men cry. How can such a collection of journeymen and bit-part players anchored by about three genuinely good major leaguers possibly survive in the bigs? I have no idea, but it seems like it’s worth investigating…


Anything I could do before Opening Day would really just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Nevertheless, I decided to make some moves.

Jesus Flores went down to Triple A Columbus, whilst Danny Ardoin passed him in the opposite direction. Not sure how much difference having a marginally better backup catcher will make, but there you go.

The pitching rotation also did not go unshuffled. I decided that John Rauch, a very nearly decent pitcher, would be going to waste coming out of the pen, so I decided to move him into the rotation. He’ll replace Billy Traber, who I plan to use as a long reliever/spot starter/emergency back-up plan. I never liked that Traber anyway, my Mother told me never to trust men with beards. Not shitty beards, anyway.

With that done, I was ready to start making my big, earth-shattering moves. In my biggest coup of the offseason, Mark Loretta was brought in for $18million over the next four years. Decent deal, I thought, considering the current market. I have a few reservations about paying him so much at age thirty-seven, especially for a team with such a small payroll, but I really needed someone to play second, what with no Vidro this year. (Of course, even if he’d stayed, I would have had no real confidence in Jose’s ability to play the field, but that’s by the by).

As a result, Bernie Castro was optioned to Columbus. He’s still a decent enough player with some upside, but he’s not versatile enough to be a valuable bench player (versatility is valuable to me this year; I’m going with a five man bench). Probably see him again in case of an injury or in September.

That versatility will be provided to a large extent by my second free-agent pickup, Miguel Cairo. He’s probably not going to set the world alight, but he can play any position and doesn’t embarrass himself at the plate. For $800k over two years, I’ll take that and no mistake.

Knowing that I needed to make some room on my roster, I decided to demote recently-acquired left fielder Chris Snelling. Simply put, I have better outfielders and no real use for a bench guy who can only play one-position, is a decent but not exceptional base-stealing threat and has fairly even lefty/righty splits. He’s a young guy, so maybe he’ll make the roster one day, but right now he’s another insurance/September call-up kinda guy.

With the dead wood cleared out, I moved on to acquiring some pitching. Lacking a left-handed reliever, I looked to the free agent market for some (cheap) help. I came up with former National Joey Eischen. I don’t love the guy’s stuff, but he was inexpensive ($2.2million over two years) and should do a decent job of getting lefty hitters out. I hope. Meh, I wanted Ray King or Arthur Rhodes but they were both out of my price range. And Kent Mercker wanted to be in the rotation! Jeez.

At this point, I had enough payroll left to make a run at a half decent starter. After taking my chances and lowballing Mark Mulder, David Wells and Jeff Suppan to ridiculous degrees, I settled on the far cheaper but not much worse solution in Brian Lawrence. For $7.2million over two years, I think he’s a steal. Look at what Adam Eaton got, for chrissakes.

Anyway, he was my final acquisition. As a last bit of business, I decided to place both Shawn Hill and Christian Guzman on the trading block. Hill is an OK starter, but I optioned him to Triple A after getting Lawrence, so there’s just no room for him. He might bring a low-level prospect or something in return, and I’d take that. As for Guzman, I’m basically just crossing my fingers that some team has $4million burning a hole in their pocket and wants one of the worst shortstops in the majors. I don’t really mind what I get for him; I just want his contract off my payroll. He’s too expensive however you slice it, but he’s not even the starting shortstop anymore.

So, after a hectic few minutes of wheeling and dealing, here was the roster I had put together:

C: Brian Schneider

1B: Nick Johnson

2B: Mark Loretta

SS: Felipe Lopez

3B: Ryan Zimmerman

LF: Alex Escobar

CF: Ryan Church

RF: Austin Kearns

C: Danny Ardoin

SS: Christian Guzman

LF/RF: Michael Restovich

CF: Nook Logan

UTIL: Miguel Cairo

Starting Pitchers:

John Patterson

Brian Lawrence

Michael O’Connor

John Rauch

Jason Bergmann

Long Reliever: Billy Traber

Middle Relievers:

Ryan Wagner

Saul Rivera

Micah Bowie

Lefty Set-up Man: Joey Eischen

Righty Set-up Man: Luis Ayala

Closer: Chad Cordero

Wish me luck, guys. I’m gonna need it.

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Just as a precursor to the first game, I thought I'd make some notes relating to player usage and lineups.

There will be a few platoons. At catcher, Schneider will hit against righties and Danny Ardoin will start against lefties. Alex Escobar will play center with a right hander on the hill, with Nook Logan doing the job against lefties. Ditto Felipe Lopez and Miguel Cairo at short.

During interleague play (and in the World Series, of course), Austin Kearns will be the DH. This will allow Michael Restovich to get some at bats and time in right field against right handed pitchers, whilst Alex Escobar will play the field and hit against left handers.

So, lineups. This is in the order they will hit against righties...

SS Felipe Lopez.

Solid contact and good speed make him a lock for this spot. Also has some pop for a shortstop, which is a nice bonus. Can't hit lefties to well, though, and will sit against them.

2B Mark Loretta

Probably our best pure contact hitter, good for the #2 spot.

3B Ryan Zimmerman

Big pressure on this kid, who was only drafted last year. It says a lot about our lineup that he's probably our best hitter, despite being so inexperienced. Will hit lower against lefties, but isn't much worse against them than against RHP.

1B Nick Johnson

Has some good power. Might not hit for high average against righties, though he will kill left handers.

LF Ryan Church

Pretty good all-around hitter for both average and power against any kind of pitcher. Will hit sixth against lefties.

RF Austin Kearns

Similar skillset as Church, although he has more marked splits -- hitting lefties for both better average and power. He will hit cleanup vs. LHP.

C Brian Schneider

Decent enough hitter against righties, will put up acceptable numbers for a catcher at the very least. Considerably worse against lefties, however, and he will be on the bench in those games. Has value as a defensive replacement for Ardoin.

CF Alex Escobar

It's difficult to know what to do with this kid. His competition at CF is Nook Logan, and both of these guys are better hitting lefties. If I can't give him enough at bats against LHP, I might consider moving him for a left-handed power bat nearer the deadline. Will put up below average numbers for a CF when starting against righties. Will sit against lefties, but will be the number one pinch-hitter. Also, a possible defensive replacement for Logan.

C Danny Ardoin

Can't hit righties much at all, and is an inferior defensive player to Schneider. Not much use coming off the bench vs. RHP, but is the starter (batting eighth) against left handers

UTIL Miguel Cairo

Plays a pretty good D all over the field, and is a passable hitter. Probably our second-best hitter off the bench against righties. Useful guy to have around when starters need some rest. Maybe has some small value as a pinch runner also. Will start and play short with a lefty on the hill, batting seventh.

SS Cristian Guzman

Stolen base threat, not much else. Could be a defensive replacement for Cairo.

LF/RF Michael Restovich

#1 pinch-hitter against righties, which is of some importance in the National League. Marginally better than the two starting corner outfielders defensively, but probably not to a large enough to degree to really be valuable as a late-inning replacement. Will get some at bats against lefties.

CF Nook Logan

Stolen base threat and not much else when coming off the bench. Will start and hit leadoff against lefties, however. Suspect arm makes him a bit of a liability defensively. He also gets thrown out more than he should when trying to steal.

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