Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo broke it down for Nate McLouth when he was recruiting the outfielder this winter.
Over the last few years, the Nats' fourth outfielders averaged around 80 games and 400 plate appearances. Those at bats were McLouth's if he took the Nationals' offer.
"'As we do,'" Rizzo told reporters including MASN's Dan Kolko, "'we mapped out the opportunity for (McLouth) - no uncertain terms, black and white, here's what we've had in the past and here's what we see as your role in the future - and he liked the fit here.'" McLouth signed a 2-year/$10.75M deal that made him the Nats' fourth outfielder.
New manager Matt Williams explained in an MLB Network Radio interview this winter that it was his job to make sure the 32-year-old nine-year veteran got the at bats he was promised.
McLouth, Williams said, "...will get somewhere between 300-400 at bats, which is great. And he can do a lot of things. He can steal bases. He's fantastic in all three outfield positions. He throws. He's got the ability to hit for power, so off the bench late in the game he can provide you that. He's kind of that hybrid guy."
In 2013, McLouth put up a .258/.329/.399 line with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting 31 doubles and 12 HRs in 146 games and 593 plate appearances over which he stole a career-high 30 bases. McLouth finished his ninth MLB season at +2.5 fWAR. In his major league career, McLouth has put up a .250/.334/.418 line in 966 major league games.
With the first day of full workouts tomorrow, Williams was asked on Wednesday afternoon if he'd given any more thought to where he's going to find the at bats for McLouth, whose versatility will allow the Nats to get all of their outfielders enough work and rest to keep them fresh throughout the season.
"I think it comes on matchup, one," the 48-year-old, first-year manager explained. "I think it comes on scheduled days off.
FBB's Recommended Reading:
"As a manager, you think, 'OK. Well, I want to give my guys days off on a regular basis.' So, in our perfect world, if we're vying for the playoffs and beyond, that they're fresh in September. That's the perfect world. And we all understand that you go on a two or three-game losing streak, and one of your big guys is scheduled for a day off then your tendency is not to do that."
"The beauty about Nate is that he can play all three positions," Williams continued. "So with that, we can look at those days off and get him at bats on a regular basis and allow him to get out there and stay fresh and sharp and all of those things. He'll come off the bench as well. But the plan, going in, would be to get him out there on a regular basis in all three of them and give our guys some days off and keep them as fresh as possible."
McLouth and the other Nationals' bench players will have to stay sharp and be ready to contribute when called upon, whatever the situation.
"It's important for them to take their work seriously," Williams said, "because on any given night he can be up there in a position to win a game for us and be asked to go out there and get four ABs and be productive. So, he's been around the game enough to know that that's what it takes. And we've talked about it. We've talked about me getting him as many at bats as possible, but him also being very valuable off the bench for us. He's good with that and we'll get him as many as we can. The plan is that we'll get him a lot."