Reshuffling The Outfield

By now, you would think, Nyjer Morgan is getting the message: on Wednesday, MLB Trade Rumors reported that the Nationals would sign former Cincy outfielder Laynce Nix to a minor league contract. The signing nearly overstocks the Nats’ outfield — particularly considering the team’s previous inking of Rick Ankiel. While Nix is only so-so against lefties, he will provide a steady presence off the bench and (perhaps more importantly) provide some competition for Morgan and the planned left field platoon of Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse. Put simply, the outfield is getting crowded — with Nats skipper Jim Riggleman now looking at a full complement of Jayson Werth, Morgan, Nix, Bernadina, Ankiel and Morse, which is not to mention the addition of MLB wannabe Corey Brown, who was acquired in the Josh Willingham trade to Oakland. Brown will pressure the likes of Nix and Morgan: which is just the kind of competition that Mike Rizzo and skipper Riggleman like.

Prior to Nix’s signing, the Nats parted ways with Justin Maxwell, ending an experiment that began in 2005 — when the Nats drafted the fleet-footed former Terrapin in the fifth round of that year’s draft. The rap on Maxwell is well known: he simply couldn’t hit and his speed on the base paths and talent with the leather wasn’t enough to keep him around. Maxwell brought a solid return (despite some skepticism in the Nats blogosphere) — Adam Olbrychowski isn’t exactly the second coming of Bruce Sutter, but he could eventually figure in the Nats’ mix as a solid middle innings reliever. River Avenue Blues wrote not all that long ago that “Adam O” needs to add a second pitch to his 91-93 mph fastball. Last week the Nats also added Cla Meredith, whose weird looking side arm motion once baffled hitters, though that now seems long ago. Still . . . still, Meredith is a solid veteran and certainly worth taking a chance on.  He was pretty good back in San Diego (73 games, 4.09 ERA), but he struggled with the Showalters. Hardball Talk has this right: he will compete for a back of the bullpen job in Spring Training, though he might land in Syracuse.

You have to admit — all of this reshuffling is pretty impressive. The Nats outfield is nearly remade, the team has apparently made a long term commitment to a middle infield of very green youngsters, the signing of Adam LaRoche gives the Nats a new first baseman and (while Rizzo & Co. did not land that big front of the rotation guy we need), there’s a new mix on the mound — “filled with potential.” We say that advisedly — it was the same phrase we used last year. There’s probably more to come, but with Spring Training now an eyeblink away, the Nats are set to enter the season with a tougher defense and a newly reshuffled outfield. No one is predicting a trip to the World Series (or even a Wild Card berth), but there’s enough here to keep Nats fans in the seats until August. Maybe.

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