Archive: February 23rd, 2011

Offseason Changes: Nationals

Following with our brief series on offseason changes around the NL East, today we look at the Nationals.

In: Jayson Werth, Tom Gorzelanny, Adam LaRoche, Henry Rodriguez, Rick Ankiel, Chad Gaudin, Chien-Ming Wang, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Todd Coffey, Matt Stairs, Alex Cora, Cla Meredith, Corey Brown

Out: Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Justin Maxwell, Wil Nieves, Joel Peralta, Willie Harris, Adam Kennedy, Miguel Batista, Kevin Mench, Tyler Walker, Scott Olsen

The Washington Nationals certainly were busy this winter; if nothing else, the team will be different.

The big news, of course, was Jayson Werth’s 7-year, bazillion-dollar contract — which seemingly overshadowed the departures of Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. Werth is a solid player and an offensive force, but will he make up for the exit of Dunn?

Werth will get offensive help from first baseman Adam LaRoche, who gets little respect despite posting consistent, admirable numbers year in and year out. LaRoche is no star, and tends to be a second-half hitter, but he’s reliable and will hold his own as a #5 or #6 hitter.

I’m not sure where Rick Ankiel and the other veteran bats fit into the equation, but it appears as though the Nats will have a solid, experienced bench. I’m guessing Ankiel and Hairston are insurance against Michael Morse and/or Roger Bernadina not making forward strides.

After Werth, the pitching additions are the most exciting for Washington. Tom Gorzelanny steps into a rotation that has always needed stability. Chien-Ming Wang isn’t really an “addition” since he was rehabbing with the club last year, but if he can make a comeback it could be key to Washington’s chances of climbing out of the cellar. Henry Rodriguez — acquired in the trade that sent Willingham to Oakland — is a young, hard-throwing righthander who touches triple digits and seemed to turn a corner with his control in 2010. I also like the signings of Chad Gaudin, Cla Meredith, and Todd Coffey, veteran relievers who could win spots in middle relief. Gaudin in particular is intriguing, as he once made 34 starts for the A’s and should benefit by getting out of the AL East; whether he gets the chance to break into the Nats rotation remains to be seen. Meredith also could benefit by leaving the Beast; he was a strong performer for the Padres previously, and his 2010 performance was likely impacted by bone chips that were removed from his elbow after the season.

Finally, I’m happy to see Matt Stairs still hacking. His all-or-nothing approach and flair for the dramatic as a pinch-hitter is fun to watch — as long as he’s not hitting game-ending homers against the Mets.