Monday was a busy day in Nats Town. First we saw the Nats deal Sandy Leon to the Red Sox for cash. We later heard that Casey Janssen was diagnosed with tendonitis in his shoulder. Then we freaked out for a little while when Drew Storen left Monday's game with the Cardinals after shaking his arm. Shortly after we'd learned (or speculated) that two relievers might be joining the list of the walking wounded, the Nats dealt situational lefty Jerry Blevins to the New York Mets for Matt den Dekker. Finally, Rizzo capped the day off by signing Reed Johnson to a minor league deal.
I've already taken a look at the Leon deal, which seems like it was made more to create a spot on the forty man roster than anything else. We'll spend most of our time today discussing the biggest move the Nats made on Monday and take a brief look at the other move and the injury news at the end.
Jerry Blevins traded to the Mets for Matt den Dekker
Although neither Blevins nor den Dekker would appear to have much impact on the Nationals roster, this deal made plenty of sense. Blevins was a victim of a roster crunch. Matt Thornton, Xavier Cedeno, and Blevins are all out of minor league options. Rich Hill isn't completely out of the picture either. It was logical that the Nats would try to trade one of those players to get something of value rather than simply lose one for nothing when they would have inevitably tried to pass him through waivers. This deal accomplishes that.
Blevins' surface numbers don't look real pretty last season. He had a 4.87 ERA in 57.1 innings in D.C. Of course, those numbers were a bit misleading. Blevins' component stats actually look quite a bit better than his ERA. He had a 2.77 FIP and 3.25 xFIP while amassing 10.36 K/9. He was victimized by a really poor strand rate (60.5%) that came in well below the league average of 73.0%. Blevins was a tad unlucky, but he was also mismanaged a bit.
Blevins has a history of performing fairly well against right-handed hitters, but he struggled badly against them last season (.295/.398/.423) while absolutely demolishing lefties (.153/.202/.217). With that said (RHH nearly doubled their triple slash line against Blevins) and considering the fact that Blevins was the primarily situational lefty on the Nationals last season, Blevins faced more right-handed hitters (123) than left-handed hitters (117) in 2014. His manager generally didn't put him in the best situations to succeed. He didn't have a very successful season. It's funny how that works.
Xavier Cedeno will more than likely inherit Blevins' role. In two seasons with the organization, Cedeno has really dominated the AAA level. He's had a 1.83 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP, and a 102:28 strikeout to walk ratio in 73.2 innings over the past two years in Syracuse. That success hasn't quite translated to the major leagues, but we're looking at a minuscule 19.1 inning sample. Then again, with a pitcher who will be expected to throw 40-50 innings and often face just one or two batters, it's a small sample size world. Cedeno has struggled in the majors with a 5.59 ERA while failing to show the same dominance in the strikeout department (6.53 K/9) that he has in Syracuse.
Cedeno's minor league performance tells me that the Nats probably aren't going to see much of a dropoff by keeping him on the big league roster instead of Blevins. Let's just hope that his stuff translates better over a full season than it has in his two brief stints in D.C. the past two years.
When I discussed the Sandy Leon trade yesterday, I opined that it was a lot more about freeing up a spot on the forty man roster than about any concerns the Nats might have had about him clearing waivers. The Nats have suffered a lot of injuries both on the infield (Rendon) and in the outfield (McLouth, Span, Werth) which leave players that were expected to make the club at least questionable for opening day. Entering Monday, the two biggest contenders for the fourth outfield spot (since the starting center fielder is hurt, the fourth outfielder is hurt, the fifth outfielder may have to start, and the sixth outfielder will start in CF) were players who are not on the forty man roster. In order for either of them to make the club, the Nats would have to free up a spot. Good luck in Boston, Sandy.
Enter Matt den Dekker. den Dekker isn't a great defensive outfielder, but he can provide an average(ish) glove at all three outfield positions. He's best used in a corner spot, but if they have to give Michael Taylor a day off, it's not like they'd be putting Tyler Moore in center field. He'll immediately take Blevins' spot on the forty man roster, so the Nats won't have to cut anyone to open up a spot, as they would for Tony Gwynn, Jr. or Clint Robinson.
den Dekker isn't a complete zero with the bat. He hasn't been all that impressive in his brief time with the Mets, batting just .238/.325/.310 with 1 HR in 237 plate appearances as an up and down guy. He has had a lot more success in AAA, batting .321/.390/.521 with 39 doubles, 11 triples, and 14 homers in 586 PA at AAA the past two seasons. Take those numbers with a grain of salt, though. They didn't only come in one of the most hitter friendly leagues in the minor leagues (the PCL). They also came in what is probably the most hitter friendly environment in that league (Las Vegas).
den Dekker is a 27-year-old fourth outfielder who will probably never be anything more than that. He provides more upside with the bat than Tony Gwynn, Jr. and a lot more defensive value than Clint Robinson (or Kevin Frandsen) as a fourth outfielder. He'll also provide the Nats with a left-handed hitter off the bench capable of doing a little damage with the bat and a little damage on the basepaths. den Dekker is basically a younger, cheaper version of Nate McLouth, who he may have to battle for playing time when McLouth returns.
Was this a good return?
Sure.... The Nats didn't eat any salary in the deal and they acquired six years worth of den Dekker's services for one year of Blevins. den Dekker does have two minor league options remaining, so they'll have no trouble sending him to Syracuse if/when McLouth gets healthy. They traded from a spot where the organization was deep (left-handed relief) and filled a spot that was a hole on the roster (backup outfielder). Again, den Dekker isn't going to be a key cog on the Nats' roster, but Blevins wasn't really either.
Drew Storen's injury
OK... This scared the bejeezus out of me when it happened, but it sounds like there isn't much to be worried about. Storen left with what looked like it might be an arm injury during today's game, but the injury that has been reported is that he popped a blister on his big toe. Expect him to take a couple of days off. Don't jump off a bridge or anything. He'd probably be available to pitch through this on Tuesday if it was the regular season.
Casey Janssen's tendonitis
It doesn't sound like this is going to keep him out too long, but it's a safe bet that he's not going to be ready for opening day. I'd expect a brief DL stint to begin the year for Janssen. Blake Treinen sure looks ready to take the spot.
Anthony Rendon sees Dr. Andrews
Rendon hasn't recovered from his knee injury as quickly as the Nats originally hoped he would. At this point, it would make sense for him to go see a specialist. You're welcome to freak out if you'd like, but would you be freaking out if they'd announced that Rendon was seeing a specialist instead of that he was seeing Dr. James Andrews? Some people tend to associate Dr. James Andrews with the bogeyman, but his name is far scarier to hear when you're discussing an elbow injury. Let's hope all goes well with Rendon.
Nats sign Reed Johnson
At least it's only a minor league deal. Johnson doesn't look like a great fit for this team. He mashes lefties (.310/.363/.454) and is subpar against righties (.260/.318/.375). A lot of the players on the Nats roster are already a bit stronger against left-handed pitching. The only thing that does intrigue me about the signing is that Rizzo could be positioning himself to trade Tyler Moore. If someone is willing to overpay for Moore, I do think that the Nats have to take it. As of right now, Moore will be the fifth (third, depending on Werth) outfielder heading into opening day and the primary right-handed bat off the bench. While Johnson certainly doesn't boast Moore's power potential, he would provide a similar OBP from the right side and a better outfield glove. I don't think there's really anything to this, though. It seems like a move to add cheap minor league depth.