Nationals Sign Kevin Frandsen

frandsen philsYesterday afternoon, the Washington Nationals made a series of cuts that seemingly left their bench a man short — the two most obvious candidates for the last bench job, Tyler Moore and Jamey Carroll, had been optioned to AAA and given release papers respectively.  Manager Matt Williams stated yesterday that he was considering using extra catcher Sandy Leon or utility speedster Jeff Kobernus to fill the spot, but the moves caused speculation that the Nationals could look outside the organization.

Late last night, the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore mentioned that the Nationals were “one of two or three teams who reached out” to utility infielder Kevin Frandsen, who had been cut by the Phillies just hours before.  While not yet officially confirmed by the team, it seems the Nationals and Frandsen have reached an agreement:

Frandsen, 31, is a right handed bat with experience at all four infield spots in his major league career. Used primarily as a first baseman last year with Philadelphia, Frandsen posted a triple-slash of .234/.296/.341 in 119 games, with 5 home runs and 26 runs batted in.  According to both DRS and UZR, Frandsen is around league average in the field at first, second, and third base (he hasn’t played shortstop at the big league level since 2009).

For his career, Frandsen has marked platoon splits that make him a valuable bat against left-handed pitching — he has a .778 career OPS against lefties, versus just a .626 career OPS against righties (in 2013, the split was even more pronounced; .869 to .536).  If you recall, the Nationals were said this offseason to be interested in Jeff Baker, another right-handed corner infielder with career success against lefties — Frandsen’s skill set is that of a poor man’s Baker.

Frandsen also led baseball with 14 pinch-hits last year; for his career, he has hit .265/.318/.343 in a pinch-hitting role.  For perspective, the Nationals last year pinch-hit at a .208/.250/.358 clip, making Frandsen a clear improvement.

The Nationals decided Frandsen’s positional flexibility made him an improvement over Tyler Moore, and his relative youth and prowess against left-handed pitching made him preferable to Jamey Carroll.  His arrival leaves the Nationals with a bench that will break down like this:

IF Danny Espinosa (bats switch)

IF Kevin Frandsen (bats right)

OF Scott Hairston (bats right)

OF Nate McLouth (bats left)

C Jose Lobaton (bats switch)

There seems to be limited redundancy on that bench, as the balance in handedness and position ensures every player on it is likely to have a different role.

UPDATE: One other ramification of this deal, as mentioned by CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman:

As Zuckerman mentions, Perez is a candidate, as is catcher Jhonatan Solano.

UPDATE 2: The deal is now official:

In order to clear space for Frandsen on the 40-man roster, the Nationals removed Ross Ohlendorf from the 40-man by placing him on the 60-day disabled list with a “right lumbar strain.”

 

Nationals Roster Cuts — Down to 27

Aaron Barrett has made the Opening Day roster

Aaron Barrett has made the Opening Day roster.

Following their last home game of Spring Training, the Nationals made a series of roster cuts that have finally given shape to parts of their Opening Day roster.  All told, the Nationals cut five players today — they  optioned RHP Ryan Mattheus, LHP Xavier Cedeno, and 1B/LF Tyler Moore to AAA Syracuse, while serving outright release papers to utility infielder Jamey Carroll and RHP Chris Young.  Additionally, they have informed righty reliever Aaron Barrett that he has made the Opening Day bullpen.

Coming into today, the Nationals had active competition for three spots on their roster — the fifth starter, the final reliever, and the final bench spot.  So how do these cuts affect the composition of the team?

Carroll and Moore were thought to be the only two players competing for that final bench spot — if one of them didn’t get it, it seemed likely that the other would.  But having either one on the roster would seemingly create redundancy on the roster.  Moore’s value is as a right-handed bat to platoon with lefty swinger Adam LaRoche, but Ryan Zimmerman’s ability to play first seemingly eliminates the need to keep a roster spot open for such a player.  Similarly, Danny Espinosa fills Carroll’s presumed role of utility infielder quite nicely, as he has displayed the ability to play excellent defense at multiple positions over his career.  So instead, the Nationals are going in a different direction:

Kobernus, who recorded 45 stolen bases last year in time at Syracuse and in DC, would provide the Nationals with a pinch runner in key situations — a position on the bench previous manager Davey Johnson eschewed in favor of “hairy-chested bench bats.”  Meanwhile, keeping Leon on the roster would allow the Nationals to use Wilson Ramos as a pinch hitter in days where he doesn’t start (and the fact that they are considering utilizing a roster spot just to have Ramos pinch hit shows how highly the Nationals rate his bat).

Meanwhile, adding Barrett, a 26-year old reliever with a killer slider who, nonetheless, has never pitched beyond AA, to the Opening Day roster completes the Nationals bullpen.  It means the Nationals’ bullpen will initially contain five right handers (Barrett, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Rafael Soriano, and Tyler Clippard), and two lefties (Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins).  Furthermore, it means that the loser of the fifth starter battle — either Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan — will not then make the team as a long reliever.  Instead, they will be sent back to AAA Syracuse, where they will continue to start, ready to head to Washington in case of injury or ineffectiveness.  The Nationals were said to have been only considering using Roark in long relief, not Jordan, so this move might be a slight tip of the hand that Roark has earned the fifth starter job:

Keep in mind that major league rosters are extraordinarily fluid — the 25 men who will have their names announced at Citi Field on Monday are not going to be the same as the 25 men who are announced September 28th against the Marlins.  But after a long spring, today’s cuts have made manager Matt Williams’ vision of an ideal Opening Day roster quite clear.

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Spring Training Game 7 (Nats vs Braves)

This seems like the 100th time this Spring that these two teams have played each other. Tonight, the Nationals started Jordan Zimmermann to face Julio Teheran of the Braves. The Nationals lineup was filled with bench players and minor leaguers galore, with the exception of Anthony Rendon/Danny Espinosa (depends on who you ask).  Nationals gave the Braves there second Spring win, losing 3-2 on a walk off single. We look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from this game.

GOOD

Jordan Zimmermann continues the trend of Washington Nationals starting pitchers who look good in Spring Training, sans Ross Detwiler. Zimmermann’s started the game going 1-2-3, including a strikeout of Justin Upton. In the second inning, Zimmermann got Evan Gattis to ground out, which was then followed up by a Chris Johnson single. However, nothing amounted out of that base hit, as Zimmermann was able to strikeout Dan Uggla and get Andrelton Simmons to ground out. Then, Jordan Zimmermann did something that no other Nationals starting pitcher has done this Spring, pitched in the third inning. The third was Zimmermann’s most eventful inning, as he gave up an infield single to Matt Lipka and a walk to Justin Upton. But Zimmermann was able to get out of a jam by striking out Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. Final line on Jordan Zimmermann: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K’s.

Will Rhymes is a very unlikely candidate to make the Nationals out of Spring Training, but today, he looked very good in the starting role. Rhymes, who started today at third, had a very solid day with the bat, going 2 for 3 with 2 singles. In a game with little offense, Rhymes was a highlight.

Anthony Rendon started this Spring on a sour note, going 0 for 7 with 5 strike outs. However, today, Rendon broke his mini-slump with a 2 for 3 performance with 2 singles. Another player snapping their Spring hitless streak was fellow infielder, Danny Espinosa, whose single in the first snapped his 0 for 10 streak. 

Aaron Barrett was recently featured in an Washington Post article, where writer Adam Kilgore anointed him as a potential future closer for the Nationals. Barrett, who was almost out of baseball in 2010, has managed to build his way through the Nationals farm system all the way to AA, where he posted a 2.15 ERA and piled up 69 strikeouts in 501 / 3 innings. Today, Barrett made his second appearance of the Spring, retiring the Braves in order in the 6th.

Chris Snyder‘s chances to make the team were shot down when the Nationals acquired Jose Lobaton back on February 13th. But that won’t stop Snyder from trying, as he hit a big home run in the bottom of the ninth to cut the Braves lead in half, and starting the Nationals ninth inning rally.

BAD

Tyler Moore has looked sloppy all this Spring. His woes continued today where he had two poor plays, one with the bat and one in the field. In the top of the third inning, Moore came up to bat with runners on first and second an one out, hoping to take brake the 0-0 tie. However, Moore did no such thing, as he rolled over a pitch to a fastball to shortstop Andrelton Simmons to start a 6-4-3 double play, and end the inning. Then, in the bottom of the third, Moore was holding on the runner, Matt Lipka, at first. When Lipka was slowly walking back to the bag, catcher Jose Lobaton made a snap throw to try to catch the snoozing Lipka. Not only did Lobaton catch Lipka off guard, but he also caught Moore of guard, as Moore wasn’t expecting the throw, and let the ball get by him. The error allowed Matt Lipka to get all the way to third, and made Tyler Moore look foolish.

UGLY

Ross Ohlendorf did not have a good day. Ohlendorf, who was making his spring debut, started off the sixth inning by loaded the bases on singles and by Edward Salcedo and Andrelton Simmons and a walk to Dan Uggla. Then, Ohlendorf gave up the tie with a single to Todd Cunningham. After that single, Ohlendorf started to feel some discomfort in his lower back, leading to Matt Williams and trainer Lee Kuntz to pull the pitcher from the game.

The Nationals take on the Astros tomorrow at 1:00 PM. Doug Fister takes on Brett Oberholtzer at Space Coast Stadium in Viera. You can hear Charlie and Dave call this game on WJFK 1580 AM and WFED 1500. The game can also be heard on the Astros broadcast through Nationals.com or the MLB At Bat app.

Could Mark Reynolds Replace Tyler Moore?

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Yesterday, Jon Heyman reported that the Nationals were one of five teams to be interested in free agent infielder Mark Reynolds. Reynolds, who played with Ryan Zimmerman at UVA, is coming off possibly the worst year of his career. Reynolds has never been know as a contact hitter, having led the league in strikeouts since he came into the league in 2007, but what he had been known for was his power. In his 7 year career, Mark Reynolds has hit over 202 home runs, which is the ninth best in the Majors since 2007, and has a career slugging percentage of .464. If the Nationals were to sign Reynolds, he would see a reduced role, as the Nationals already have their starting first baseman in Adam LaRoche. However, Tyler Moore, who is also coming off a bad year, could be replaced by Mark Reynolds. Both players are very similar; both are right handed power hitters who are terrible in the field. I examine who would be better to back or even platoon Adam LaRoche — Mark Reynolds or Tyler Moore?

OFFENSE

Both of these players had down years offensively. Mark Reynolds had career lows in almost every offensive category, including slugging percentage, on base percentage, walks, and extra base hits. Tyler Moore’s second year in the majors didn’t go very well for the 25 year old, as every single offensive stat (except for at bats) went down from 2012, most notably, his Slugging Percentage, which went from .513 in 2012 to .347 in 2013. It is hard to compare the two players season, as Moore was used as a bench player, while Reynolds still started in over 120 games. In terms of career production, while taking in effect that Moore has only played two seasons as a bench player, Reynolds has more upside, as he used to be a top major league hitter as recent as 2009, when he hit .260/.349/.543 with 44 home runs and finished 20th in MVP voting.

VERDICT: Mark Reynolds

DEFENSE

It is a tough task to choose which one here, as they both are so horrendous defensively. Mark Reynolds is more flashy with the glove, making plays like this one, but he still doesn’t play very well. Both players primarily play first base but also play another position. Reynolds is actually a natural third baseman, but moved to first to accommodate his defensive abilities. Moore, on the other hand, is a natural first baseman, who was “converted” into an outfielder so that he could see more playing time in the Nationals lineup. While both players are just decent first basemen, the are horrendous at there other positions. Statistically speaking Tyler Moore’s career Rdrs/yr (which is the defensive run saved averaged into 1200 innings, or 135 games) of 5 is a whole 14 points better the Mark Reynolds career Rdrs/yr at first, giving him the slight edge.

VERDICT: Tyler Moore

SALARY

Because of the fact that Tyler Moore still hasn’t reached arbitration, he will still receive a rookie salary of $493,000, making him a very inexpensive option. Mark Reynolds will most likely see at least 6 times that amount. Even though he had a down year, Reynolds will still be worth a lot of money. In order for the Nationals to sign Reynolds, they would most likely have to pay him a little bit more for a reserve role. Reynolds could always take a little less for the chance to play for a contender, but my guess would be he would get at least $4 million a year.

VERDICT: Tyler Moore

DURABILITY

In 2011, recently signed first baseman Adam LaRoche went down with a season ending shoulder injury in June, forcing the Nationals in a little bit of a pickle. Luckily for them, they had former Mariner Michael Morse on their bench. As most of you already know, Morse went on to have a career year, hitting .303 with 31 home runs. Now, in 2014, Morse is gone and if LaRoche were to go down with an injury, Tyler Moore would currently be our only option to replace him. Moore hasn’t had more than 178 plate appearances in his major league career. If the Nationals were to add Reynolds, he would give the Nationals a more experienced bat to replace LaRoche. Now, major league teams don’t just sign players for the sole reason of having an insurance policy if one of their players get hurt. If LaRoche were to struggle like he did in 2013, and the Nationals wanted to keep Zimmerman at third, they could always platoon LaRoche with either Moore or Reynolds. Reynolds splits against lefties (.238/.359/.475) are much higher than Moore’s (.222/.276/.383). In fact, Moore has better career splits against righties than lefties. If the Nationals wanted to platoon LaRoche, Reynolds would be the better option.

VERDICT: Mark Reynolds

IS IT WORTH IT FOR THE NATIONALS TO SIGN MARK REYNOLDS?

For now, it is a no. If the Nationals were to sign Reynolds, it would leave Tyler Moore in limbo. While Moore would see more playing time in AAA then if he were in the majors, it is important for Moore to start seeing more major league playing time, as after 2014, with Adam LaRoche gone, Moore becomes the only viable first baseman on the roster. Moore, 27 in January, is getting close to the age where progression stops and regression starts. While some people are late bloomers (Michael Morse, Jayson Werth), Moore will need a lot more playing time in the pros in order to grow and develop; Reynolds would only impede that. Unless something happens in the next week where the Nationals find that the desperately need a Tyler Moore replacement, look for Reynolds to end up somewhere else.