Single Best Idea To Make The #Nats Better

Photo Credit ESPN

Photo Credit ESPN wrote, “A richer diversity of ideas makes the single best idea even better, it’s a statistical principal. Open Innovation brings a wider selection of potential products, methods and ideas to the company doing the searching, and that wider diversity of ideas helps ensure that the single best idea of the bunch is even better.”

They wrote that this is is a statistical concept described by Andrew King and Karim R. Lakhani in their MIT Sloan Management Review article, Using Open Innovation to Identify the Best Ideas (Fall, 2013, pp. 41 – 47). Open Innovation is a paradigm that assumes that entities can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths.

In the old days, they called it ‘brainstorming’ and that has evolved. Open Innovation is a techie concept, but it works with any type of entity including baseball teams. The question is always, how do you make your baseball team better on a budget?

Acquiring a top closer could certainly be a single best idea. The only complication with that idea is the small number of candidates, and the budget constraints. Names discussed have been Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman as well as trades.

I have two paths to achieve one goal of solving the centerfield and shortstop issue. My best idea solves more than that, but is complicated. Single best ideas are usually complicated, but should have a clear path.

Jonathan Villar is a switch-hitting infielder who is 25-years-old and went from a part-time player to a starter this year and will earn the league minimum in 2017. Villar is a speedier version of Ian Desmond as Villar stole 62 bags this year to lead the NL, and he is much younger than Desmond who never got close to the .369 on-base-percentage that Villar had in 2016.  Like Desmond, Villar strikes out much too much, but he gets on-base at such a high percentage making him a conundrum of sorts. When Jonathan Villar bats with runners-in-scoring-position, he steps up his game to slash .313/.394/.487/.881 and his strikeouts per plate appearance is 20.6% which is much lower than Ryan Zimmerman‘s 23.02%.

Villar could start the season at shortstop where he has exceptional range, but has too many errors (as mentioned, he is similar to Desmond). Maybe he could play centerfield. Villar has 13 professional games in the outfield with 6 games in centerfield. What you have to like is Villar can certainly play shortstop, 3rd base, and 2nd base giving the Nats the ability to trade Danny Espinosa. The Nationals need a Plan B if Ryan Zimmerman cannot improve greatly which would allow the Nats to call-up Andrew Stevenson for centerfield, move Trea Turner to shortstop and Villar to 2nd base and Daniel Murphy to 1st base. The complication is what the Brewers would want to trade away Villar which leads us to a simpler idea with an acquisition of Dexter Fowler.

Dexter Fowler fits into the need for an experienced centerfielder who can field the position. Fowler is a switch-hitter who had a .393 OBP this season which was 6th in the NL. He will be 31-years-old in Spring Training, and as Keith Law writes in ESPN, “[Dexter Fowler] is one of the only players on this market who’s worth the $20 million-plus a year he’s going to get, and if it takes four years and $90 million to get him, that’s probably fair value given the industry’s rising tide.”

By the way, Fowler’s RISP slash this year was .253/.395/.418/.813 with a 21.01% strikeout rate as a percentage of plate appearances. Jonathan Villar had more impressive RISP numbers than Fowler.

Fowler will cost a ton but would only add about a net of $8 million to payroll if the Nats trade Danny Espinosa and non-tender Ben Revere saving approximately $12 million. If the Nationals signed Fowler, the starting outfield is set and Trea Turner would move to shortstop. The solution to a Plan B if Ryan Zimmerman falters is Jayson Werth shifts to 1st base, and Andrew Stevenson plays leftfield. A little complicated.

Both of these ideas are complicated, but both would greatly improve the team.

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