Friday, March 18, 2011

From 38 to 25

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Veteran infielder Alex Cora is in the running for a roster spot.
Yesterday's round of cuts at Nationals camp leaves 38 players remaining on the roster, with 11 days to go until the club heads north and 13 days to go until the Braves are in town for the season opener.

Thus, the challenge now facing the Nats' front office and coaching staff is how to pare that roster of 38 down to the final 25. Really, there are only 36 players still in the mix; Stephen Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang will be placed on the disabled list at some point before the end of the spring.

So 11 players still need to be cut, which may be a more difficult task than you'd imagine. Once you analyze the Nationals' remaining roster, you realize more than one player who deserves to make the club is going to get the shaft.

The really tough decisions are going to come on the bench and in the bullpen. Do the Nats keep an extra infielder or an extra outfielder? Do they make sure they've got an experienced long man in the bullpen, or would they rather make sure they keep one of their Rule 5 draftees?

Let's run through the remaining roster of 38, position-by-position, and try to make some sense of all this...

Ivan Rodriguez
Wilson Ramos
Jesus Flores

Nothing too difficult here. Pudge and Ramos will make the big-league roster. Flores, though he's made significant strides to come back from his devastating shoulder injury, needs to get some regular at-bats at Class AAA Syracuse before he's ready to face major-league pitching again.

Adam LaRoche
Danny Espinosa
Ian Desmond
Ryan Zimmerman
Jerry Hairston
Alberto Gonzalez
Alex Cora
Brian Bixler

The top five guys are locks to make the team. The question then becomes which of the other three reserve infielders the Nationals want to keep. Unless they decide not to keep any of them in favor of another outfielder, which is a possibility. Ideally, you'd rather not be locked into Hairston as your only backup middle infielder, but it is something the club is considering. If they do decide to keep another one, I think Cora probably gets the nod over Gonzalez and Bixler for his veteran presence.

Jayson Werth
Michael Morse
Nyjer Morgan
Rick Ankiel
Roger Bernadina
Matt Stairs
Laynce Nix

This picture remains somewhat muddled, dependent in large part on who wins the starting job in center field between Morgan, Ankiel and Bernadina. Ankiel makes the club no matter what. Morgan and Bernadina each have options, though you have to wonder whether the Nats would actually send either guy down. They certainly could keep both on the 25-man roster, though that might prevent them from keeping Stairs as a pinch-hitting specialist. Nix has also thrown himself into the fray with a nice spring, though he still probably faces long odds.

Livan Hernandez
John Lannan
Jordan Zimmermann
Jason Marquis
Tom Gorzelanny
Ross Detwiler
Yunesky Maya

It's pretty clear the top five guys will form the Opening Day rotation, barring some unforeseen development over the next two weeks. Detwiler and Maya will almost certainly open the year at Syracuse and will be the first two starters summoned if and when the Nationals need assistance.

Drew Storen
Sean Burnett
Tyler Clippard
Doug Slaten
Todd Coffey
Henry Rodriguez
Elvin Ramirez
Chad Gaudin
Collin Balester
Craig Stammen
Brian Broderick

This is again where the situation gets muddled. You've got to believe the top five guys (Storen, Burnett, Clippard, Slaten and Coffey) are safe. We've all assumed Rodriguez would make it, too, because he's out of options. But the right-hander has been all over the place in his three spring appearances, and you've got to start wondering whether he's worth keeping. In all likelihood, the Nats will hang onto Rodriguez, if for no other reason than to ensure they've got something to show for the Josh Willingham trade. But Rodriguez needs to show some semblance of control, and son. Ramirez, one of the Rule 5 picks, hasn't appeared in a game yet due to "arm issues." My guess is he'll wind up on the DL, which allows the Nationals to keep him for the time being. Gaudin is probably the front-runner for the final spot because he can serve as a long man in the bullpen, though Stammen and Broderick (the other Rule 5 pick who has pitched well) could possibly sneak in there. Balester is probably going to be the unfortunate victim of the options game.

Stephen Strasburg
Chien-Ming Wang

Strasburg, who won't be ready to pitch in the majors until September at the earliest, obviously will go on the 60-day DL. We'll have to see what the Nationals do with Wang. Will they place him on the 15-day DL in hopes he's ready to pitch sometime in the season's first two months? Or will they determine he won't be back until at least June anyway and put him on the 60-day DL, which would open up a spot on the 40-man roster?


Todd Boss said...

I think you put Wang on 60-day DL, making it that much easier to add in 2 or 3 non-40man roster guys that they're considering right now (Cora, Nix, and Gaudin all require a corresponding move).

The 40-man roster has to factor in as well. For that reason alone I can see Nix not making it. Or Bixler no matter how well he's looked.

I think we're keeping Broderick as the long-man in lieu of Gaudin or Balester for now. Gaudin is on a minor league deal and can be summoned when we want. Broderick has thrown well and the pitching-needy Cardinals may want him back.

sjm 308 said...

It is such a risk with the rule 5 guys but I also like keeping Broderick over Gaudin at this point since we can send Gaudin down to Syr. with his minor league contract. Have to figure that he, Detwiller and Maya will all pitch in the bigs at some point. No one has explained to me why we need 7 pitchers in the pen but I guess its just what all teams do. The utility situation can be made a little easier by the fact that Espinosa can play ss on days that Desmond needs time off. I would keep Ankiel, Morgan and Bernadina and then its pick one between Cora-Nix-Gonzalez. I am not a big fan of keeping a pinch hitter on the bench but everyone seems to love Stairs.

What a difference between this and past years when we were looking at other teams released players just to fill the roster.

Go Nats

Bowdenball said...


What's the reason for Gorzelanny over Detwiler as the #5? I would think the club would want to get every look it can at Detwiler vs. major league hitters to see if he will be part of the future. And he's certainly the more exciting of the two, with the higher ceiling. Plus he's had the better ST, for whatever that's worth. Is this just a deference to the veteran type thing?

Richard said...

Focusing on the position players and assuming they keep 11 pitchers for opening day (soon to be 12 when the 5th starter is needed), they have 14 position slots available. Eight starters (Morgan in CF) and a backup catcher leaves 5 slots available for opening day. I'd say Hariston, Gonzalez, and Ankiel are locks. That leaves Stairs, Nix, Cora, Bixler, and Bernadina in the mix for 2 slots (soon to be one slot). Can a team that's not going to contend this year afford a guy like Stairs who only pitch hits? Considering what Stairs adds to the team other than what he does on the field -- the infamous intangibles -- I'd keep him; and I'd say Bernadina's pretty much a lock, too, although it's crowded out there in CF. All these guys could be on a Major League roster, so will Rizzo wheel and deal? Note to Nats: Pls don't mess with Morse in LF or wherever else you can put him so he plays every day. Riggleman buddy, you scare me with the notion that everybody has to play and me happy, and I read that Ankiel's a buddy of yours. Oh boy ...

Doc said...

As sjm 308 has stated, these roster trimming decisions are, for the Nats, more what should be done by a team hoping to be competitive.

It must be hard for guys like Kimball and Ballystar to accept demotion, when their performance means less than some other player's options. But that's baseball, and the good news is that it's a 162 game season, with the rotation/BP stretching down to AA and AAA.

Some day when Cole and Colin are out of options in The Bigs, their keeper status will be more important than some new kid's performance.

Will said...

Seems pretty straightforward to me. Cut/demote:

Ramirez (or DL)

Broderick only makes the team due to Rule 5 constraints, but is kept on a tight leash. I'd also keep an eye on Coffey. He started out lights out, but has had several bad outings since. If he doesn't start the season strong, Gaudin, Stammen, Balester and Kimball are all equally deserving of his roster spot.

Stairs is useless to the Nats. He's essentially the same bat as Ankiel, but incapable of playing defense. So what purpose does he serve again, except to keep a roster from from another deserving, more well-rounded player?

Finally, Rizzo should look to trade Livan, Marquis or Lannan (whomever would provide the greatest return) early in the season, particularly if Detwiler and Maya continue to pitch well.

Todd Boss said...

Gorzelanny == no options. Simple as that. Gorzelanny either makes the rotation, bumps a guy out of the bullpen or goes on the DL. Else we lose him and have nothing to show for prospects we gave up just a couple months ago.

Balester is definitely looking like he's getting the raw deal here. He pitched very very well at the end of last year in the same role he's now getting beat out for.

This is my big issue with acquiring guys with no roster flexibility. Gorzelanny, Henry Rodriguez, and Broderick if we keep him all have to stay on the 25-man roster, all year, else we lose them. You can DL them but none of them seem to be "hurt" right now. This inflexibility prevents you from fielding your best team when the time comes.

Will said...

Gorzelanny starts in the rotation because he has no options left. He would have to clear waivers, which is unlikely, for him to be demoted to AAA. Detwiler, on the other hand, still has options left.

Bowdenball said...

Thanks guys. I figured that's what it was. Kind of a shame as I was excited about seeing Detwiler, but certainly the right move.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Josh Willingham was one of my favorite Nats players. If Rodgriguez does not work out, someone must be shot! Disgraceful. I am sick about this.

Steve M. said...

This is the first Spring in the Nats existence where there truly are tough decisions for the reserve players because these are many bona fide bench guys.

Right now I am most concerned about the relievers. Sean Burnett is the only one who has performed well and I haven't seen a stopper in the bunch which is not good. Henry Rodriguez stays but on a short leash for the purposes Mark stated. Tough choice on the last spot. Broderick and Gaudin have performed better than Stammen and Balester who we have seen before and can see again. The Broderick Rule 5 makes him an interesting dilemna at this time.

A DC Wonk said...

I'm trying to understand how a Rule 5 guy like Broderick can pitch so well, and not be on Mark's list as likely to make the 25. Anyone?

sjm 308 said...


I will bet that you will get quite a bit of Detwiller this year and hopefully for years to come. They are correct in letting him start in Syracuse because he honestly has not yet shown he can get through a line-up more than once.

People keep saying the reason we are keeping Gorzelanny is that he is out of options. I think you also have to look at his abilities. This guy won 14 games for the Pirates (a horrible club). He, unlike Detwiller is a proven commodity and while he was sick early in spring training which set him back, he had a decent start his last time out. He can also throw out of the bullpen if needed and I think its more then just "he is out of options". Also like that he can put something on the ball and besides Zimmnn is our only other hard thrower at this point.

Mark Zuckerman said...

A DC Wonk: He's pitched 8 2/3 innings in spring training. Yes, he's pitched well, but are you prepared to say that's enough evidence he's worth keeping on your 25-man roster the entire season over guys who have established themselves at some point at the big-league level?

I do believe the Nats will try to work out a deal with the Cardinals to keep Broderick (who has been a starter his entire minor-league career, by the way). But I'm not sure I see him cracking the Opening Day roster over the likes of Gaudin or Stammen.

JaneB said...

I agree anon at 11:38. Not the shooting part but the disappointment. Still it's not a good enough reason to keep him. They can't put down to keep stairs. That would be so demoralizing for someone on his way up in our organization. I get the seniority/paid your dues thing at my advanced age. But there comes a time when you make way for new and young. I think we are there.

Steve M. said...

This is the Pick 5 and there is a shortage of RH pinch hitters in this group so Cora loses out to AGonzalez just for that reason:

Wilson Ramos (Yes)
Jerry Hairston (Yes)
Alberto Gonzalez (Yes)
Alex Cora
Brian Bixler
Rick Ankiel (Yes)
Roger Bernadina (Yes)
Matt Stairs
Laynce Nix

Anonymous said...

A DC Wonk: He's pitched 8 2/3 innings in spring training. Yes, he's pitched well, but are you prepared to say that's enough evidence he's worth keeping on your 25-man roster the entire season over guys who have established themselves at some point at the big-league level?

I'll weigh in on this again. Broderick is similar to THREE other pitchers in the Nats organization:
1. John Lannan
2. Tom Milone (Organization Pitcher of the Year)
3. Danny Rosenbaum (runner up Organization Pitcher of the Year).

All are pitch-to-contact type pitchers who rely on a good GO to FO ration. What do the three I list have over Broderick? Besides Lannan's experience ALL ARE LEFT HANDED pitchers. Something the Nats are sorely lacking in according to Mark's final 25.

I have to wonder how Tom Milone would have done were he invited to ST 2011? He finished the year very strong in Harrisburg. There is another pitcher who has increased his pitch velocity to Strasburg levels and that is Ryan Tatusko. He is a power pitcher who is about the same age as Broderick. Guess who I would rather see the Nats consider bringing up in case of disaster (injury) as happened last year? Tatusko hopefully from Syracuse NOT Broderick.

The Nats have plenty and then some of guys like Broderick. This move on Rizzo's part confuses. Henry Rodriguez, Elvin Ramirez make sense. If HRod gets the handle on his control you have a closer. The same with Carr, KImball, and Balester.

If you need starting pitching? Why not move a pitcher who has a five pitch major league level repertoire into starting in Harrisburg? Who? Why Drew Storen. I have no doubt this guy could easily be another Matt Cain.

Democrafty said...


Is there a sense that Wang is being overly cautious? Never having gone through a shoulder injury (or been a Major League pitcher), I know it's easy to hurl accusations around. From what I read though it seems that any semblance of soreness leads him (and/or the coaches) to add another 2 months to his rehab schedule. I know you don't want to rush it, but at some point he'll need to either sink or swim...

Anonymous said...

He, unlike Detwiller is a proven commodity and while he was sick early in spring training which set him back, he had a decent start his last time out. He can also throw out of the bullpen if needed and I think its more then just "he is out of options". Also like that he can put something on the ball and besides Zimmnn is our only other hard thrower at this point.

To further reinforce what sjm 308 states:

Gorzelanny had ELEVEN quality starts over 23 total. Last year, even before his velocity peaked, he was the defacto Cubs ace into June. Only Lannan (12/25) and Livo (22/33) had more. That's 2010 not 2007 when Jim Tracy burned out his arm and sent him to the DL the following year.

He has the best K/9 ratio of most all pitchers the Nats currently have with the exception of Strasburg.

His velocity into the late innings has improved and is better than both Lannan's and Detwiler's. He is a true power pitcher.

Bottom line: Watch Gorzelanny closely, you are looking at your 2011 ace pitcher if Zimmermann falters. Expecting Livo to repeat last year's "Return of the Magnificent Seven" pitching is like betting on a volatile stock market. Its highly unlikely to happen again. Plus Gorzelanny is a lefty, and the kind of starter you want to face the Phillies lineup. And I do hope no one is seriously expectimng John Lannan or Jason Marquis to become top ace power pitchers?

JD said...

Anon @ 12:22

Why are you screaming?

markfd said...

Actually I do not think it is that tough a call based upon Rule 5 considerations as well as people on the 40 man roster.

Catchers (2)


Infielders (5)


Outfielders (5)


Starters (5)

Gorzelanny * (acts as the long reliever until he is needed as a starter and with typical rainouts in April this may be later than April 20th)

Bullpen (8)

Drew Storen
Sean Burnett
Tyler Clippard
Doug Slaten
Todd Coffey
Henry Rodriguez
Collin Balester * (once Gorzelanny becomes part of the rotation sometime in April you move Bally to AAA and call up Gaudin as the long reliever)
Brian Broderick

Theophilus said...

The solution is that Rizzo needs to dump a whole bunch of these guys for low level minor league prospects -- or maybe even one prospect -- between now and Opening Day. Gonzalez is completely redundant w/ Bixler under contract and the banjo-hitting Lombardozzi in the high minors. Coffey should be gone; someone else will be foolish enough to take a chance on H. Rodriguez. Gaudin has had more shots than Annie Oakley -- no idea why anyone should expect him to be an improvement over any younger, cheaper and more auspicious player. Morgan speaks for himself. Are you gonna send him to Syracuse to learn to be a better left fielder? Better to stock Pittsburgh's or Arizona's Triple A team than ours.

By the way, it is completely against logic to rail against Lannan in one sentence and rave about Milone and Rosenbaum in the next.

PAY TO PLAY said...

MarkFD, I don't think you want to do 8 in the bullpen and not have another RH bat. I say that because you have Nyjer and Ankiel who are horrible as Lefty hitters vs. Lefty pitchers.

I agree with your 1st 6 picks in the bullpen but I think 7 is the max.

A DC Wonk said...

A DC Wonk: He's pitched 8 2/3 innings in spring training. Yes, he's pitched well, but are you prepared to say that's enough evidence he's worth keeping on your 25-man roster the entire season over guys who have established themselves at some point at the big-league level?

Thanks for responding Mark.

Let me say -- I completely hear what you're saying. But, if that's the case why bother picking him up as Rule 5?

I mean -- what's the point of picking up a Rule 5 guy, have him play superbly for a short time, and then cutting him loose?

Know what I'm asking?

Steveospeak said...

@DC Wonk

Rule 5 is a crap shoot that only costs the Nats 25K (it is 50K to draft them, but if the team accepts them back then you get 25K back). Sure he has looked good in about 9 innings of work, but a lot of guys have looked good, and or have better track records. Does he def. deserve a shot, sure and he has improved over a number of other pitchers who were in camp. I'm guessing that they trade something to the Cards to allow them to send him to the minors this year. But I wouldn't keep him just to keep him. He could get exposed pretty fast if he has to start getting ML hitters out on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

By the way, it is completely against logic to rail against Lannan in one sentence and rave about Milone and Rosenbaum in the next.

Lannan is redundant. Milone and Rosenbaum look like they may just be quite a bit better. And they are younger? He should be on the trade block. Not listed as the #2 starter. TRADE when the value is HIGH, BUY when the value is LOW. Lannan's value will never be any higher than it is now. Pull that trigger today!

Anonymous said...

Every Rule 5 pick, will only have a short time to prove themselves, by definition.

If they're unwilling to keep Broderick (and I doubt the Cardinals will deal him) then they shouldn't have picked him or any other player in Rule 5. There's nothing more Broderick can do to prove himself.

Anonymous said...

>>>You've got to believe the top five guys (Storen, Burnett, Clippard, Slaten and Coffey) are safe. <<<

How can Drew Storen be "safe"?

BinM said...

As of today's game (3/18 vs StL), here's how I see the pitching staff...
Starters = (4 on Opening Day, 5 later), comprised of = Livo, Lannan, JZimm, Marquis; The 5th starter is still TBD between Detwiler, Gorzelanny, Maya & Gaudin. Gaudin is a longshot under a MiLB contract, and both Detwiler & Maya have options remaining.

Relievers = (8 on Opening Day, maybe 7 later in season); comprised of = Gorzelanny in Long-relief, with Clippard & Rodriguez in spot roles (all three are out of options & having issues); Coffey, Slaten, Balester, Broderick & Barnett at the back-end. Stammen & Storen draw the 'short straws' & get optioned to Syracuse; Ramirez gets offered back to the NYM (off Rule V).

The bullpen might shift from 'Clip & Save' last year to a DC version of the 'killer B's' (Balester/Broderick/Barnett), at least for the early going.

BinM said...

As far as the player roster goes, I figure the team has 13 spots to fill, (2CA, 5/6IF, 5/6OF)...

CA = Pudge & Ramos on a 60-40 split to start the season; Flores gets optioned to Syracuse to get regular at-bats & a chance to either work his way back, or become trade bait.
IF = The starters are 'locks' (LaRoche@1B, Espinosa@2B, RZim@3B, & Desmond@SS). Hairston, AGonz, Bixler & Cora are all bench possibles, along with the wild card Stairs.

OF = Morse(LF), CF(??), & Werth(RF). CF comes down to Morgan, Bernadina, or Ankiel (all LH-batters). The fallout from CF, and Nix are still hanging around as well for the bench.

Bench = Ramos (RH-CA) is all but assured; That leaves four spots still open. AGonz(RH-IF), J.Hairston(RH-IF/OF, Ankiel(LH-OF), Bernadina(LH-OF), & Morgan(LH-OF) are all under MLB contracts; Bixler(RH-IF), Cora(LH-IF), Stairs(LH-PH), and Nix(LH-OF) are not. As of right now, i'm leaning toward a bench of AGonz, J.Hairston, Ankiel, & Bernadina, with Morgan winning the CF starting gig. Bixler, Cora, Nix & Stairs all either go to Syracuse or 'opt-out' of their contracts.

Anonymous said...

To reiterate a previous poster, I not only think Drew Storen is not "safe", I don't think he makes the club. He has been AWFUL. He needs to go to AAA (or lower) and work out what is wrong with him.

Broderick and Burnett have been the best relievers in the spring, in my view.

From general observation in spring training, I also think Bernadina is not going to make the club. He is not used as a starter in the way Morgan and Ankiel are. He has been as inconsistent at the plate as ever, and has taken bad routes to balls in center field. I think either Nix or Stairs (hopefully Nix) takes this spot. Stairs with a glove is frightening (as anyone at the March 16 game can attest to).

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