August 15, 2006

Dave & Nate Take On: Magic 8 Ball of Destiny

With nothing left to talk about this season, (Billy Traber vs. Jason Bergmann. Discuss...) Nate and Dave are ready to fast forward to the off-season. No playoff race for us. No Wildcard race, no NL East race. Not much good to talk about at all…

So we here at NTP want to be among the first to make some bad predictions and discuss. We also like the format we tried out last time, and wanted to try again.

“Dave Says”: I’ll kick this off. Deftly avoiding the Soriano discussion to start (we’ll come back to that), I’m going to focus my first prediction on pitching. I’m optimistic enough to think that Patterson will be back, and be the team ace. Armas is a maybe, but I don’t see Ortiz or Astacio. Traber will be with us, and I also expect to see Ayala back with young Mike O’Connor. With Frank gone (see how I slipped that prediction in), I also expect Zach Day to stick around. I also bet that Drese will not be back. Trader Jim will likely blow up what little starting rotation we have. Nate?

“Nate Says”: Pitching, huh? You sure you want to tackle pitching first? No thoughts on the ultimate fate (spiritual or physical) of Damian “The Esophagus” Jackson? Ok, then. Best case scenario: Patterson comes back healthy, slots in as the ace of the staff. I think Ortiz sticks around, he’s shown enough consistency to warrant a job and he’ll likely be cheapish. (If not we offer him arbitration and unload him for draft picks.) Astacio and Armas are likely gone. Hopefully Brian Lawrence can contribute as some point during the season. I expect the 5th starter role to be filled by O’Connor, Shawn Hill or someone like that. Frankly we have other things to worry about. The Nats have plenty of fifth starters. It’s the 1-4 slots that need work

“Dave Says”: Pitching does seem like it’s key to everything else. It’s also a wide open field, and either of our guesses is probably right. I think only Patterson is the only sure thing we could possible agree on. Playing off our previous conversation, I bet Ortiz is worth more as picks than as a pitcher. All this hand waving probably doesn’t result in anything. I doubt we’ll do significant pickups to the staff besides draft picks. I expect this team’s rotation to suck as much as it does this year. You’ll note I did slip in Frank. Frank won’t be back. I think we’ll have our biggest splash with a new manager rather than any major moves in the bullpen. Any candidates you see in our future?

“Nate Says”: I expect this offseason to be a final reckoning for either Trader Jim or Frank, but I have no special insight on who will stay and who will go. I’d be very surprised to see them both go, and it’s next to impossible that both will stay. If Frank goes there are certainly no shortage of replacement options. Start with Lou Pinella and work your way down to guys like Davy Lopes and Tony Beasley in our own dugout. And of course there’s the recently de-hired Special Assistant to Trader Jim, Davey Johnson. Meh, managing is not what’s holding this team back. Though it’s certainly not helping. Let’s talk outfielders.

Safe to say that Austin Kearns has rightfield nailed down. Some platoon of Escobar/Church/Byrd could be cheap and effective in center. I don’t think any of the three has proven that they could handle the gig full-time. What about left? Assuming, for this discussion, that Fonzie isn’t our Opening Day LF next season, which direction do you go? A big free agent bat like Carlos Lee or Vernon Wells? A 1-2 year stopgap (David Dellucci, Jay Payton-type) free agent? Or save money by promoting from within? I think we agree that the 2007 Nats aren’t going to be competitive, so why not give every OF in the organization a tryout, see if anyone sticks. Can’t be any worse than Michael Tucker.

“Dave Says”: If you didn’t sign Fonzie, you’re not doing another free agent. It’s Fonzie or bust for LF in terms of big names. With Livo gone, I actually am of the thought that they will try to sign Fonzie. It’s your one big draw for 2007 in terms of game excitement, and putting bodies in the seats is still a goal. You have to deliver something to keep the fans happy. So we either get Fonzie, or whatever we can get cheap. Moving around the bases then, we know 3B is fixed. I don’t see Vidro back with us on 2B, and I’m ok with that. I don’t mind giving Marlon Anderson the job anyway. Nicky is at 1B again. But the key question back at you Nate – will we see Guzmania in 2007, or is FLop the way of the future?

“Nate Says”: The money we saved on Livan will have to be spent on a replacement free agent pitcher. Unless you’re keen to trot Jason “Harvey” Bergmann out there every 5th day. If Vidro isn’t coming back, and I’d say that’s a pretty big if considering the amount of money left on his contract, then the infield solution is easy: Guzman at short, FLop at 2B and Marlon A. goes back to doing what he does best, utility infielder. If Vidro stays he has to be the starter at second, he’s got too much veteran-y goodness to ride the pine for $8M. I would actually throw it open to a spring training competition between Gooz and FLop for shortstop. Lopez has the better bat, Cristian has the better glove. But mostly, talking about this crap just makes my head hurt. We’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The team sucks now and all indications are it’s going to suck even worse next year, Fonzie or no Fonzie. Thank God football season is gearing up. Go Skins!

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