In an effort to answer manager Davey Johnson’s request for “a better bench,” the Washington Nationals just traded two minor-league players to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Jonny Gomes. The trade deadline is still a few days away, but Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo is already wheeling and dealing to try and give his team some depth in the outfield. Surely this won’t be the Nationals’ only trade this week, as they are still scouting other players for other possible trades.
For some reason, the Nationals are still trying to get yet another outfielder, specifically someone to play center field. They feel that Roger Bernadina is better suited for a corner outfield position (probably left, since Werth isn’t going anywhere – sigh!) and they’re in desperate need of a lead-off hitter. Rumors are that the Nats may be after Peter Bourjos of the Angels or the Rays’ BJ Upton, though nothing has been said officially. Apparently Rick Ankiel’s strong arm (former pitcher) is just not good enough currently, which I find surprising.
Another situation to consider regarding the lead-off position is that Stephen Lombardozzi is waiting in the Minor League wings and could bat first in the lineup. However, that puts Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa in a pickle. Since it doesn’t seem like either one of them is going anywhere -unless they trade Desmond for a pitcher (Hello! I’ve been saying for months that the Nationals need a good starting pitcher!) and put Espinosa at shortstop. I don’t think there will be enough room for Lombardozzi at this time.
And then there’s first base… Michael Morse has done a very good job replacing injured Adam LaRoche, but does he really belong at first base? (I think so!) Where will LaRoche go when he returns from shoulder surgery? This is why the Nationals should focus on getting a pitcher; the infield and outfield seem adequately covered.
In what direction is Mike Rizzo trying to take his team? Is Rizzo delusional enough to think the Nationals are a Wild Card contender this year? I still want them to finish the season at .500 and third in the NL East, but since their bats have been asleep since the All-Star break, that is looking less likely. Or maybe they are still in a “transition” year and just want to get back high minors prospects to win later as opposed to now.
Fans are wondering if Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper will see some Major League action this September, which is highly unlikely unless the Nats really do end up in contention (and even then, it’s still not a good idea). Mike Rizzo might think that allowing Strasburg to start a game at home in September will fill some seats in the ball park, but from an injury standpoint Strasburg needs to keep rehabbing through the off-season. What about Bryce Harper? If anything, he can be brought up to AAA before the minor-league season is over, but under no circumstances should he be brought up to the Majors until Spring Training next year.
So this Jonny Gomes guy… what’s his deal? He’s been a good hitter in the past, but seems to be struggling. Yes, he does have 11 HR so far this year, but his current average is .211, and he’s 3 for his last 24 at-bats (that’s a .125 average). Gomes should fit right in with the rest of the Nationals’ players who haven’t been hitting ! Gomes doesn’t seem to be sure how he feels about Washington, since he said he was “bitter about leaving such a good team” (meaning the Reds). He’s reportedly going to share left-field with Laynce Nix, so hopefully that means that they will dump Jerry Hairston, Jr. (my pick to be traded).
Mr. Rizzo, if you’re reading this, for the love of mankind, can you please get a starting pitcher? Chien-Ming Wang is supposed to return to the starting rotation this Friday, but I don’t have a lot of faith in him. Liván Hernandez is starting to fizzle (his “fastball” doesn’t top 80mph, and he’s not a knuckleball pitcher). This leaves Marquis, Zimmerman, Lannan, and…???
So the situation remains very fluid – since the trade deadline does not expire until this Sunday. Let’s hope the Nationals make the right trades in the mean time, and that Jonny Gomes can cheer himself up, snap out of his funk, and contribute to this promising team. Stay tuned!
About the Author
Written by Marien Hornyak
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico but have lived in the continental US for 22 years. I have a BS in Athletic Training and a MEd in Sport Management, where I did my thesis on "The History of Baseball Litigation." I am a wife, mother of 2, and self-proclaimed "Baseball Nerd." My favorite baseball players include Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, and Iván Rodriguez.