Nats Start Trading Season by Addressing a Major Need


The Washington Nationals offense may rank in the bottom of the league for the season, but recently they have been much better. As has been pointed out countless times here, and all around the Nats Blogosphere, the Nats offense has been much better since Anthony Rendon replaced Danny Espinosa at second, and a healthy Jayson Werth returned to the line-up. Of the Nats starting eight position players it would be a downgrade to replace any of them with what is available at the deadline. The only move that makes sense in any way is to acquire a corner outfield bat and move Span to the bench but the loss in defense at a premiere defensive position makes that move nonsensical.  

So the Nats started off their portion of the trading season by acquiring noted lefty killer Scott Hairston. Hairston has the ability to play all three outfield positions and has a career batting line of .268/.318/.500 against left handed pitching. The Nationals have struggled to find a right handed power hitting bench bat to come up late in the game to face tough left handed relievers. Both Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero have been used in that role and neither has an over .500 OPS. Moore performed well in that role last season, but now that opposing pitchers have figured out how to pitch him he isn't making contact the way he would like, and he has a lower OPS (.402) versus left handers this season than right handers (.541).  

In total the struggles of the Nats bench have been what has derailed them more than anything. By WAR the difference between the Nats bench last season and the Nats bench this season at this point in the season is an entire six games. It is insane to think about that. If the Nats had last season's bench instead of being down four games in the division race to the Braves they would be up two. The main issue is that the Nats do have last season's bench, but none of them have performed anywhere close to what they did last season, and although Scott Hairston replaces the one need in a right handed power bat they still have multiple other needs.  

Scott Hairston could serve as the Nats main fourth outfielder allowing them to search for a left handed back up first baseman/left fielder to replace Roger Bernadina or they could even bring in another right handed power bat and find a left handed utility player to replace Steve Lombardozzi. As far as the utility role goes Steve Lombardozzi is wholly unsuited. He is serviceable at second base and left field and nothing else, he can't hit for average or power, and he isn't as fast as his size would indicate. Someone like Jeff Kobernus who is in the system could fill Lombardozzi's role. Kobernus can play six positions total and could be placed at first base in a pinch. Kobernus has more power and better speed, and overall has a higher ceiling than Steve Lombardozzi.    

If the Nats do not want to take that route they can continue to make trades in order to replace most of the bench. The only player I have any faith left in is Chad Tracy, and that is somewhat inexplicable as he hasn't done very well this season, and if the Nats were to trade for the likes of Raul Ibanez to replace him it would be a good move. For the season Tracy has a .441 OPS, and it has actually been trending down as he has a .348 OPS over his last nine games. Replacing him makes all the sense in the world and Ibanez may be the perfect player to do so. The Nats do lose their back up third baseman, but would hopefully be acquiring that around the same time with a trade for a true utility player in the Jerry Hairston Jr. or Willie Harris vein.   

Scott Hairston by himself helps the Nats with a major issue, but he is only the first move in what hopefully is an ultimate dismantlement and rebuilding of the Nats bench as it is currently constructed. Both Corey Brown and Jeff Kobernus could be players internally that could help the Nats, but there are better options out there in the trade market. The Nats still have work to do, but today they took the first step and have until July 31 to do it through non-waiver trades and all of August to do it with waiver trades. Scott Hairston is a good first step, but his acquisition will not be the last.   

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