Washington Nationals Off Season Outlook, with Aaron Somers

So the Nationals are up next in our Off Season Outlook series. Aaron Somers, the editor of District on Deck kindly decided to answer some questions for us, I’d I would just like to thank him for taking the time to provide us with some Nat’s insight. Well let’s get rolling…

Carlos Collazo- What are your thoughts on the Gio Gonzalez trade? Obviously the rotation got a lot better but do you think the team overpaid for a pitcher who might not do as well away from Oakland?

Aaron Somers- Bottom line, the addition of Gonzalez definitely provides a boost to what I believed was an already strong starting rotation. He’s a high strikeout left-hander who will gives the team a fairly formidable trio atop the rotation for the next few seasons (obviously when added to the mix with Strasburg and Zimmermann). The walks are certainly a concern and he’s relied heavily on having a respectable outfield defense behind him in Oakland – so there is reason to pause here before getting too excited.

As for the cost, my initial reaction was a relatively strong one. As I discussed in a post at the time, my concern isn’t the fact that four prospects were dealt to make the deal but rather the fact that three of those prospects were arguably the most valuable arms in the minors. Brad Peacock and Tom Milone were the only true MLB-ready starters in the team’s system and both were included in the deal, severely limiting the overall rotation depth that the organization has entering the 2012 season. A.J. Cole was the next best arm in the system. Yes, he’s a long ways away from reaching the Majors but it’s still a high cost to give up all three pitchers in the same deal.

http://districtondeck.com/2011/12/22/nationals-acquire-gio-gonzalez-from-oakland-but-at-a-high-cost/ (link to my post on the Gio trade)

the rest of the interview after the break…

CC- With baseball’s #1 prospect in the Nationals system you have to be excited about seeing Bryce Harper come up to the bigs. When do you think this will happen?

AS- Realistically I don’t expect to see Harper in Washington until mid-June at the earliest. I think it’s the smart decision, for baseball reasons not financial ones. Harper only has 118 games of minor league experience under his belt. He jumped from A-ball to Double-A last year and still has some maturity concerns to iron out. I think ultimately he will be best served by spending at least the first two months of the season in Triple-A, continuing to develop as a player and growing as an individual. Once he arrives in Washington he’s bound to struggle at first and he’ll need to be able to handle failure. Most people will likely cite financial reasons as to why Harper will start the season in the minor leagues. There is some validity to the argument, as I’d rather have the extra year of team control than see him on Opening Day.

CC- Talk about Jayson Werth’s ugly season and what you should be expecting of him in 2012? Where will he play in the outfield and where will be bat in the lineup?

AS- Werth is a tough one. Last season was just so downright disappointing, but the problem isn’t so much his performance as it is his contract. Werth was never one of the top outfielders in the game and wasn’t even an everyday outfielder before 2008. From 2008-2010 he averaged a .279/.376/.513 line with 29 HR and 84 RBI. Yet, he turned that span into a mammoth seven year, $126 Million commitment from an organization looking to prove to the free agent masses that they had the money to spend to make the Nationals a competitive team. Werth couldn’t live up to the expectations that came with the contract – which simply magnified his disappointing season.

2012 is going to be a big year for him. He’ll need to improve over his 2011 levels before the fanbase turns on him completely and tries to run him out of town. Werth is under contract for another six seasons, so there is likely optimism within the organization that he’ll bounce back this year. The belief is that his struggles were just an adjustment to a new city, etc. But I think he put too much pressure on himself because of the contract. And he’ll need to overcome that in order to produce anything respectable. My concern, however, is how much moving him around the field defensively will affect him at the plate. Werth has the potential to win a Gold Glove in right field, but isn’t quite the same in center field and I’m not sold on the idea of moving him there when Harper is ready. And I’m concerned the stress of learning center field will lead to struggles at the plate.

CC- The team is on the verge of being a legitimate contender in the NL East. What do you need to solidify this position and become a real threat to the Braves and Phillies?

AS- First and foremost, the next area that needs to be addressed is the outfield. Right now the team is looking at Werth in right andMichael Morse in left. Center remains a gaping question mark heading into the season and there doesn’t seem to be much desire from the organization to give Roger Bernadina a serious chance to win the job. Beyond that the roster actually seems relatively set heading into the 2012 season. Sure, there are questions that remain – who hits leadoff? who plays more between Ian Desmond and Stephen Lombardozzi? who wins the 5th spot in the rotation? – but generally things seem pretty figured out at this point in time.

The biggest thing that the team needs in 2012 is for everyone to remain healthy. Both Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann are poised for big seasons, in my opinion, and I think we’ll see continued improvements from Danny Espinosa andDrew Storen.

Thanks again to Aaron for doing this with me, I hope you guys enjoyed. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @BlogFTBleachers and be sure to check out District on Deck for my Braves thoughts with him.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Off Season Outlook Washington Nationals

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