Nats address bench, outfield depth with signing of Nate McLouth

Posted on December 07, 2013 by Andrew Bailey

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

You could make a strong case that the 2013 Nationals missed out on the post-season because of an ill-equipped bench that was asked to do too much. When injuries struck Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, players like Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina -- crowd favorites who had performed pretty well the year prior -- were thrust into significant roles. And it didn't pan out.

Yesterday though, the Nationals took strides toward addressing this issue heading into 2014, agreeing to a two year, $10.75 million deal with outfielder Nate McLouth, who spent the past two seasons with the Orioles in Baltimore.

The deal also includes a $6.5 million team option for 2016.

In McLouth, the Nationals secure a player that should serve as a valuable insurance policy as a versatile fourth outfielder. In Baltimore the past two seasons, McLouth was worth 1.1 and 1.5 WAR in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and in each season spent time in a starting role. He also posted on base percentages of .342 and .329 and stole 42 bags in those two seasons. This is exactly the type of production the Nationals could have used last year.

Bernadina and Lombardozzi, meanwhile, had WARs in the negative a year ago.

Though he's exactly the kind of reliable left-handed bat the Nationals sorely needed, some folks seem stuck on the high price tag. I've seen a few comments suggesting that "$5 million a year is too much for a bench player." For a contending team, however, this is flat out false.

Admittedly, if you're a bad team heading into 2014 with low expectations, investing that much on a reserve player is a bit of a foolish endeavor. But if you're a contender -- especially one that had the experience we had a year ago -- the difference between spending that money and pocketing it can mean missing out on the post-season. In other words, McLouth and the role he'll fill is worth a lot more to us than it would be, say, the Marlins or Cubs.

I've also seen some hesitation with regard to the lingering contract extensions expected to be offered to players like Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann at some point in the near future. But the McLouth deal is far from a prohibitive mega-contract.

The bottom line with consideration to extending the team's premium talent is this: this organization isn't going to fret over $5 million. To a Major League Baseball team, especially one owned by Ted Lerner, $5 million bucks is hardly worth blinking an eye over. Or as Jay Z and Jermaine Dupri might say: "Money Ain't a Thang."

One other thing to keep in mind: if McLouth had re-upped with the Orioles, he'd have likely been their starter in left field. That's not meant as a dig (or is it it?), but rather to illustrate the point that this is a guy who could have potentially started for a quality team. And he'll be coming off the Nationals bench. Personally, that's the approach I wanted to see from Mike Rizzo and company this season: add players that can contribute in expanded roles and that are bench players only because we already have superior talent in place.

next up:

NL East: Granderson stays in New York, joins the Mets

December 06, 2013

The Mets add a three-time All-Star, but will it matter?

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