January 8, 2010

Better Outrighted Than Garrotted, I Suppose

After quietly smuggling reliever Matt Capps into town earlier this week the Nats made a place for him on the 40-man roster by outrighting lefty reliever Victor Garate to AAA Syracuse. Garate (aka the PTBNL in the Ronnie Belliard trade) had an abysmal 2 inning big league audition at the tail end of 2009, posting a 22.50 ERA, 4.00 WHIP (19 ERA+), so his demotion is not particularly surprising. What is surprising, and more than a little depressing, is that Garate was not necessarily an automatic choice. You could make a case that a half dozen players currently tying up spots on the roster are less valuable than Capps, and Matt (a righty closer on the rebound) isn’t all that valuable himself.

Jesse English, Ryan Mattheus, Atahualpa Severino and Doug Slaten come almost immediately to mind. You could add Luis Atilano and Marco Estrada without much argument, and I’d even be willing to entertain a discussion about the relative value of Brian Bruney and Matt Chico. There’s a lot of dead weight on the Nats roster, but the problem is that these guys are here because they’re better than any of the other options – they are the best major league-ready talent in the organization.

Of course, Drew Storen will be along to claim a roster spot soon enough. Some of the Nats failed starters (Mock, Balester, Chico) might mature into effective relief arms. Every year one or two non-roster invitees impress or resurrect their careers. No doubt several more of the fungible relievers above will be joining Victor Garate in Syracuse or Harrisburg. Still, it’s a measure of how very far the Nats have to go that even after making moves to shore up the relief corp there’s this much chaff on the roster.

The wasted space on the roster makes the team’s reported interest in veteran outfielder Randy Winn all the more difficult to understand. Winn’s a wizard with the glove, but he brings next to nothing with the bat. Assuming he’s not displacing starters Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Elijah Dukes, or reserve Willie Harris (no slouch with the leather himself), Winn would be competing with Justin Maxwell, Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse for that all-important 5th outfielder spot. Sure a Harris-Morgan-Winn defensive outfield would be impressive, but would it really be worth the collective 260/330/370 batting line?

No comments: