Just like last time, the 40-man roster is full, so some creativity will be needed to make room. Lucky for all of us, I'm the king of creativity.
Our 25-man roster currently holds at least 6 players who should not be on it (I will give Saul Rivera, Luis Ayala and Charlie Manning a brief reprieve under one condition-LEARN HOW TO THROW STRIKES!!!):
RP Jesus Colome
C Paul Lo Duca
IF Fail-ipe Lopez
IF Pete Orr
IF/OF Willie Harris
OF Wily Mo Pena
Between Lopez and Orr, one needs to stay because an ML middle infield backup is necessary and there is basically nobody ready in AA/AAA at either position. I'll say Lopez stays because he at least has had some success with a baseball bat at some level. So that leaves us with 5 players on the roster that needs to be purged: Colome, Lo Duca, Orr, Harris and Pena. These 5 would fetch very little value on the trade market. Pena (raw power/everything else), Harris (speed + defense/bat), Orr (speed + defense/bat + eye) and Colome (can throw 97 MPH/can't locate at all) all have at least 1 marketable skill and at least 1 major flaw. Lo Duca just needs to retire to the broadcast booth (he did a decent job when Sutton was on the DL with a voice cracking like a 12-year-old boy).
I think (and hope) guys like Pena ($2 mil, team option for next year at $5 mil/player option for next year at $2 mil) and Colome ($1.25 mil) can pass through waivers, because if they can right the ship, they can be solid major leaguers. Both showed signs of decency with the Nats last year, as Wily Mo hit .293/.352/.504 and Colome threw 66 innings of 3.82 ERA ball. Wily Mo's line of .213/.253/.269 (with awful defense) and Colome's 6.00 ERA don't cut it, however, and both need to be jettisoned immediately, whether it be to Columbus or another team. DFA them both and see if any offers come up. If not, let them become other teams' problems. Seriously, look at Colome's last 10 games (taken from his Nationals.com page):
Now that's just pretty awful. Notice that the dates go back more than a month, before I wrote the original If I were GM of the Nationals (June 1). Seriously...he's given up 7 earned runs in his last 3 and 1/3 innings pitched and 16 earned runs over his last 14 and 2/3. There needs to be a point where Jim Bowden just says "no more" and dumps the fireballer. There are a ton of people who can throw it hard waiting for Jim Bowden (or any other GM, for that matter) to give them a chance. Let's add Colome to that list.
Orr will likely accept his reassignment to Columbus (because the Nats have already given him permission to play at the Olympics for Team Canada, so he might as well). Lo Duca might retire if the Nats dump him, because nobody wants a 36-year-old washed up catcher who can't hit, can't field his position and annoys the rest of the team while trying to "light a fire" under them. I've got your fire, Paulie. To put it more precisely, you're fired. Harris is probably pawnable, as he is only making $800k this year, has good speed and can play basically anywhere.
To fill the spots of these 5 guys (not to be confused with the delicious house of burgers), the following hitters would be added to the roster (bear with me, I'll get to the pitchers later):
1B/3B/OF Yurendell DeCaster (needs to be added to the 40-man roster)
OF Roger Bernadina (called up rather than Mike Daniel for 2 reasons: slightly superior hitting this year and is already on the 40-man roster)
OF Kenny Lofton (needs to be signed and added to the 40-man roster, read up on him in my last IIWGMOTN entry)
This would leave us at a lineup looking like this:
The bench would feature:
Lefty Kory Casto (1B/3B/LF/RF)
Lefty Kenny Lofton (LF/CF/RF, pinch running candidate)
Righty Wil Nieves (C)
Righty Yurendell DeCaster (1B/3B/LF/RF, 2B in a pinch)
Switch Fail-ipe Lopez (2B/SS/LF, pinch running candidate)
This would leave us with a bunch of corner infield/outfielders and not a whole lot up the middle, but the Nats usually don't carry more than 3 middle infielders (with now being the exception). Harris' ability to play middle infield in a pinch may trump DeCaster's callup.
Pitchingwise, it's a foregone conclusion that Odalis Perez returns and claims one of the two slots made available by dumping Colome. I once again support the calling up of Chris Schroder to fill the other spot, as he pitched well last year (3.18 ERA in 45 innings). He's already on the 40-man, and it's a bit of a waste to call up a start to put in relief when they could be starting in AAA (I'm looking at you, Balester/Clippard/Mock, etc.).
This all being said, guys like Balester, Clippard, Mock, Daniel, Estrada, Martis, Zinicola, Broadway and Escobar will probably see some ML action this year (or at least a handful of them) because of trades. There are realistically 3 tiers of guys: unmovable (due to lack of performance or contract), dump off for a low-level prospect (due to a lack of performance or contract) and trade for a solid prospect (or prospects, due to good performance).
Guys like Johnny Estrada and Paul Lo Duca probably won’t command anything on the trade market. If we’re lucky, somebody takes them off our hands for a PTBNL or something.
Guys like Ayala, Rivera, Nieves, Pena, Harris and Lopez could theoretically bring a low-level prospect I’d think if we tried dealing them away. I have a little bit more faith in Jim Bowden’s ability to find low-level pitching prospects (namely Martis), but still it is almost more worth it to hold on to most of them because (with the exception of Harris, Ayala and maybe Lopez) they have yet to reach their potential. Trading Ayala now would be selling too low for my liking, as this is his first non-great year when you look at it.
Guys like Young, Redding, Perez, Rauch, Boone, Belliard, Guzman and Johnson (if healthy) could theoretically bring in some decent prospects (maybe not Boone/Belliard, but it all depends on the market), with Redding, Rauch and Guzman being most valuable. All three are signed cheap compared to their peformance (Redding at $1 mil and with either 1 or 2 more years of team control after this year, Rauch at $1.2 mil this year, $2 mil next year and a team option at $2.9 mil in 2010 and Guzman at $4 mil this year) and are relatively young (30, 29 and 30, respectivelly). Since SP, RP and SS are 3 positions hard to find cheap, young, decent talent, the Nats could realistically ask for a B+ level prospect for any of them, and probably an additional B- to B prospect since it's Jim Bowden doing the asking. For guys like Young, Perez, Boone and Belliard, a B- to B prospect is more likely (and really a C+ to B- for Boone/Belliard would work). For Johnson, who knows.