Trying to Walk a Mile in Mike Rizzos Shoes.

Graphic from MLB Network Radio

Disclaimer * If this article is confusing, it’s supposed to be. This shows just how hard it is to set a Major League 25-man roster for hopeful success. I hope I was clear enough with all the potential roster moves I would make if I was Mike Rizzo*

Boy, am I glad that I’m not Mike Rizzo. As much as I’d love some of the perks of his job —mostly the paycheck and having a nice little suite to soak up all the Nationals baseball humanly possible — I am glad that I am not the one who is going to be making a slew of difficult, and potentially life-changing roster moves for some of the players we know and love. However, I thought it would be fun to be Mike Rizzo, so I wrote this article on how I would handle the upcoming roster decisions for the Nationals.

This 2018 Nationals baseball team has been riddled with injuries since even before the season kicked off — and they have only gotten worse. But here we are now over halfway through the season with the mid summer classic right around the corner. All while looking up at the division leaders, instead of down as the division leaders for a change. But things are starting to look bright. With 3 straight wins and some big guns coming off the DL, the Nats are looking like they could blast off.

Right now with the current DL list, the Nationals bench could consist of any combination of Pedro Severino, Spencer Kieboom, Wilmer Difo, Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin or Adam Eaton. On any given day, 5 of those 9 guys are riding the pine due to rotation, rest and pitching match-ups. But in the coming days/week(s) this is about to change as Weiters, Strasburg and Zimmerman are about to come back from the DL.

Matt Wieters is catching games for Harrisburg awaiting the green light to come back up to The Show. Ryan Zimmerman is eligible to come off of the DL tomorrow, July 9 (Although he will head out on a rehab assignment first).  And Stephen Strasburg is about to be on rehab assignment(s) as well. So when the big boys return from their assignments, who will be leaving the majors?

With Wieters returning, it’s an easy decision. Based on the usage of Severino and Kieboom, it’s looking like Spencer Kieboom will make way for 4 x All-Star and 2 x Gold Glove catcher. As Wieters gets back into the thick of things, Pedro Severino is surely to become catcher #2.

So there’s one move down, onto the next one — Stephen Strasburg. This one looks pretty simple, but it’s actually not. On paper — if Fedde is still on the DL — you could go Strasburg for Jefry Rodriguez. But I don’t think it will be that simple or that cut and dry. Why? Because I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Strasburg activation with a Madson trip to the DL that would leave Jefry Rodriguez in the ‘pen. To me, this is the move I would make. Madson has looked rough this year. He hasn’t looked like the Ryan Madson of last year or anything close — especially since coming off of the DL earlier this season. With Kintzler, Herrera and Doolitle looking like they are able to handle the 7th, 8th and 9th this is the smart move in my mind.

Staying in the areas of pitchers let’s talk about Erick Fedde. Once Fedde comes off of the DL, I would send Jefry Rodriguez AND Fedde back to Syracuse, and recall Sammy “everyday” Solis. Leaving us with a rotation of Max, Stras, Gio, Roark and Jeremy Hellickson. While also giving us a pen of Sammy Solis, Matt Grace and Sean Doolittle as our southpaws, and Justin Miller, Brandon Kintzler, Kelvin Herrera and Shawn Kelley as our righties. With a 7 man pen and 5 man rotation, this leaves the Nationals with a 5-man bench.

Now the next roster decision that is the tough one. Maybe the toughest decision Rizzo has possibly ever made in his career — Ryan Zimmerman.

Ryan Zimmerman, the face-of-the-franchise  player and known as the FoF. The only player on the Nationals roster who has been playing in DC since its inaugural season back in 2005. When Zim is ready to return is where things become extremely complicated. Ryan Zimmerman started the season off as cold as a February day in the northeast. Before his longer than anticipated DL stint, Ryan Zimmerman’s stat line was sitting at .217/.280/.409 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 33 games. Not great, but as mentioned in the first sentence of the paragraph, he is the FoF.

The thing about Ryan Zimmerman is that he’s not making the decision hard, but a former college teammate is — Mark Reynolds. In 37 games with the Nationals this year Reynolds slash lines are .292/.358/.594 with 10 HR and 24 RBI. He has far surpassed Zimmerman’s production on almost identical plate appearances separated by just one walk-up to the plate and Reynolds is doing this effectively as a bench bat — not a starter which manager Dave Martinez acknowledged.

“Not getting those every day at-bats, it takes a little longer to get some confidence back, especially when you are pinch-hitting off of guys throwing hard,” Mark Reynolds said. “Just going to try to make it hard for Davey to take me out of the lineup going forward. We got a lot good players and not enough spots. I’ll take my at-bats as I get them and try to help us.”

Not only has Reynolds single-handedly won at least 3 games this year for his team, you could certainly state that if he was an automatic out that the Nationals might not have won: 1 in Arizona where he went yard twice, 1 against Miami where he walked them off with his second career walk off HR, and the other against Miami where he tied the Nationals single game RBI record with 10! So boy oh boy, what in the world does Mike Rizzo do here? You know this is weighing on Mark Reynolds mind.

Reporter: “What can [this 10 RBI night] like this do for you going forward?”

Reynolds: “Might keep me on the team for a couple more weeks.”

It’s more than likely the Nats will go with a 5-man bench and 7-man pen. Two of these bench spots are guaranteed to the back up catcher and an outfielder. So let’s fill these two spots in;

C – Severino
OF – Taylor/Eaton (depending on matchups 9 out of 10 times they’ll be on the bench.

The third spot will go to Difo/Murphy. Whichever one isn’t at 2B, will be on the bench. So let’s pencil them into the bench as well.

C – Severin0
OF – Taylor/Earon
2B/INF – Murphy/Difo.

As of right now if you’re lost the 25 man is looking like this;

SP (5) Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, Helly.
Pen (7) Solis, Grace, Doo, Kelley, Kinzler, Herrera, Miller.
Line up (8) Weiters, 1B, Difo/Murphy, Rendon, Turner, Soto, Harper, Taylor/Eaton
Bench (5) Severino, Taylor/Eaton, Difo/Murphy, TBD, TBD.

This leaves a starting 1B spot and 2 bench spots that must be filled with either Goodwin, Adams, Reynolds or Zim. By my math, that’s 3 spots for 4 ball players. So who bites the dust? Based off of how valuable his play has been this year and how valuable he is to the team as a left-handed bat — lets pencil in Big City Matt Adams into the starting 1B slot for all intents and purposes;

SP (5) Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, Helly.
Pen (7) Solis, Grace, Doo, Kelley, Kinzler, Herrera, Miller.
Line up (8) Wieters, Adams, Difo/Murphy, Rendon, Turner, Soto, Harper, Taylor/Eaton
Bench (5) Severino, Taylor/Eaton, Difo/Murphy, TBD, TBD.

This leaves 2 bench spots for Zimmerman, Reynolds and Goodwin. To me the decision is clear — but I’m not Mike Rizzo. My roster move for Zimmerman would be Brian Goodwin. Much like he was in the outfield upon his return from the DL with the emergence of Juan Soto, Goodwin is the odd man out here. Why? You simply cannot DFA Mark Reynolds that’s why. After his play with the Nats, you cannot let him go to another contender once he is DFA’d. It would be utterly stupid. However can you afford to lose Brian Goodwin — absolutely and here’s why.

Victor Robles. Robles just resumed baseball activities with the GCL Nationals. A ballplayer who is much better than Goodwin. A player you don’t need on the roster right now, but a player that could be useful come September and postseason (if the Nats can pull it off). Robles gives you much more value than Brian Goodwin — even if he’s not on the 25 man roster.

With all this being said, I now present to you my soon to be nationals 25 man roster.

SP (5) Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, Helly.
Pen (7) Solis, Grace, Doo, Kelley, Kinzler, Herrera, Miller.
Line up (8) Wieters, Adams, Difo/Murphy, Rendon, Turner, Soto, Harper, Taylor/Eaton
Bench (5) Severino, Taylor/Eaton, Difo/Murphy, Zimmerman, Reynolds.

DL — Madson

This entry was posted in Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.