May 16, 2010

File Under Better Late Than Never

To make room for the return of Mike Morse the Nats are designating 5th OF/pinch runner (and inexplicable occasional starting right fielder) Willy Taveras for assignment. Taveras is such a typical Jim Bowden-type player that I'm surprised Rizzo didn't get more grief for bringing him aboard. His defense has been solid, but he's been a black hole offensively (38 OPS+) and even with his vaunted speed is just 1-3 in stolen base attempts. Taveras's best performance came in an April 10th win over the Mets, where he went 2-4 with 4 RBI.

I'd say this move has been a long time coming, but in truth, until Morse was healthy again there was no one in Syracuse that would have represented a serious upgrade. Justin Maxwell has put up better numbers, but the organization still hopes that he's more than just a reserve or platoon outfielder and is giving him one last shot to prove he deserves a larger role. It will be interesting to see what sort of time share Jim Riggleman works out for Harris, Bernadina and Morse in right. Morse was originally slated to take the short end of a lefty/righty platoon with Super Willie. That would consign Bernadina to the 5th OF/pinch runner role Willy T. just vacated.

Morse has the potential to be the Nats most offensively potent right fielder (note the damning with faint praise.) Defensively he's probably a step above Cristian Guzman, but several notches below Bernadina and Harris. Morse gives the team a little more flexibility because he can also "play" first base, though with only 85 innings of experience over four seasons it's not clear that he'd be a better defensive replacement than Adam Kennedy or even an upgrade over Adam Dunn.

A look at the roster after Morse's return highlights two ongoing concerns. One, the Nationals are still operating without a legitimate right fielder, and there's no one waiting in the wings to take over. Two, there's still no power on this team outside of the core of Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham. When Mike Morse automatically becomes your big bopper off the bench, that's a problem. Fans are rightly focused on the arrival of Strasburg, Storen et al. to reinforce the pitching, but if the Nats are going to make a serious run at contention in 2010 Rizzo is going to need to do more in right field than just swapping Mike Morse for Willy Taveras.

1 comment:

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Morse is an upgrade over Taveres. That being said your analysis is correct. We probably won't contend this year but were not expected too. 2011 is still a good time to start worrying about filling holes. Besides Bernadina might start doing the job.