The Washington Nationals primary targets at the trade deadline seem to be relief pitchers. The speculation is that the Nats view the impending returns of some of their injured starters as moves that are similar to making acquisitions at the trade deadline. Anthony Rendon returned this weekend. Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are on the way, and may be back as soon as this week. Denard Span should also return in the next few weeks. We do have to question just how wise it may be to depend upon each of those players stepping right back into the lineup and performing at their career norms.
- Rendon didn't really hit for any power in his first healthy stint before hitting the disabled list with the oblique injury. He's gotten on base at a good clip so far this season, but has five extra base hits (all doubles) in 86 PA.
- Werth hadn't seemed to find his rhythm in his return from shoulder surgery before breaking his wrist when he was hit by a pitch. In 27 games, Werth was batting just .208/.294/.287 with 2 HR. His lack of production probably came with the biggest caveat of the bunch, as he never really had any time in spring training. We should probably have expected it to take him a little while to find his form.
- Zimmerman played through nagging Plantar Fasciitis, which is the injury that currently has him on the disabled list. Unlike Werth and Rendon, Zim did have a full spring training to get ready for the season, but looked like a shell of himself before hitting the DL. He hit just .209/.265/.346 before his current six week DL stint. How much of those struggles we can account to the injury can't be said, but it's an injury that he's unlikely to be fully recovered from until at least next season. Rest tends to help improve the symptoms for a while, but resting for the length of time that Zim has isn't going to make it completely go away.
Of the three, Ryan Zimmerman seems to be the biggest concern. He's dealing with an injury that figures to linger until at least next year. He played through the injury that he's been dealing with for a couple of months and it really seemed to sap his offensive value. Assuming that Ryan Zimmerman will come back healthy later this week and suddenly start hitting like the Ryan Zimmerman we've seen for the past decade seems foolish, so we're going to look at a few first basemen over the next few days, starting today with Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Adam Lind.
Why could the Nats use Lind?
Lind is a proven power-hitting first baseman with four 20 HR seasons under his belt, including a 35 HR season in 2009. He hits well for average and gets on base as well. Since the start of the 2013 season, Lind has carried a .296/.366/.493 line splitting time between Toronto and Milwaukee. Lind has hit 45 HR over those three seasons, which won't necessarily blow anyone away. Part of that is due to the fact that he hit just 6 HR in 318 injury-plagued plate appearances last year. Fully healthy this season, Lind has 16 HR so far to go along with a terrific .285/.365/.500 line.
For a slugging first baseman, Lind makes pretty good contact. His career strikeout rate is 18.9%, which is actually down a bit over those past three seasons (17.9% since 2013, 17.8% this year). He's never been a huge walker, but his 9.9% walk rate over the past three years (11.1% this year) has helped to transform him into a more complete hitter. After posting an OBP higher than .350 just once in his first six seasons, Lind has now done so three years in a row.
How would the Nats use him?
While Lind originally came up as an outfielder, he hasn't played anywhere but first base (or designated hitter) since 2010. Given that the Nats have allowed Clint Robinson and Tyler Moore to spend some time in left field, I would imagine that Lind could play there in an emergency, but it's hard to imagine a team looking him at anything other than a first baseman. Lind bats left-handed, so he'd be able to take the larger side of a platoon if Zimmerman returns and is ineffective/incapable of playing through his injury.
The Nats have been giving that spot to Clint Robinson while Zimmerman has been on the disabled list. Lind would improve upon Robinson all around. He hits for a higher average. He draws more walks. He has more power. He has a better glove. When not starting, Lind would add a strong power-hitting lefty that could be used off the bench.
Does he have any weaknesses?
Lind has pretty significant platoon splits....
He's been utterly dominant both this season and in his career against right-handed pitching. He's sub-replacement level against lefties. Lind's teams have recognized this in the past. Part of the reason for the improved triple slash lines these past few years is that the Jays and Brewers have platooned him an awful lot. Less at bats against lefties has led to improved numbers all-around. The expectation is that the Nats would do the same if they acquired him.
His glove isn't spectacular, but he's not terrible for a first baseman. The fact that he's limited to first base can't be a plus, as it would be preferable for the Nats to acquire someone who could play a corner outfield spot in case Werth doesn't come back from his injury at full strength.
What's his contract status?
Lind is making $7.5 million this season, so the Nats would be on the hook for about $2.5 million if they acquired him. He has an $8 million option with a $500,000 buyout for 2016. For a bench bat, that would be steep, but Lind is certainly capable of handling the strong side of a platoon. That's a pretty reasonable deal compared to similarly talented players.
What will the Brewers be looking for?
We talked about some of the things that the Brewers might be after with Francisco Rodriguez last week, settling on the idea that they'd probably be after pitching more than anything else. Lind looked like an interesting potential left-handed bench bat at the deadline when the Brewers started slow, but his performance over the past couple of months has certainly boosted his value on the market. I don't think he'll command a top prospect or anything, but he's gone from being worth a lottery ticket or two to being worth a probable big league regular plus a lottery ticket.
What should the Nats be willing to give up?
By himself, the Nats probably shouldn't pursue him. As well as Clint Robinson has played, Lind would be a certain upgrade over his spot. More than anything, adding Lind would be insurance in case Zimmerman doesn't come back strong, though. I'm not sure giving up a probable big league regular starting pitcher is worth finding an insurance bat who will pretty much be relegated to the bench if Zimmerman does come back and look like... Ryan Zimmerman.
Pair Lind with Francisco Rodriguez and settle the bullpen issues, and I think that I'd be interested. I'd suggest that one of the young, back half of the top ten starting prospects (Voth/Pivetta) could be in play here. I would think that a Brewers team which isn't likely to contend in the next couple of years could be interested in replacing Lind at his position with a cheaper, younger guy like Tyler Moore. Moore isn't great shakes or anything, but he's shown enough promise to be given a shot on a second division club for a few years and has three years of cheap club control remaining. Throw in a relief prospect and maybe the Nats could get the two packaged together.
Will the Nats trade for Adam Lind?
I don't think they will. I'm pretty sure that Rizzo is going to stand pat with the offense at the deadline. I would like to see them get someone that would improve their insurance policy in case Zimmerman and/or Werth don't come back strong. There aren't a lot of established first base options on the market, though we'll have one or two more that we're going to look at. Lind seems like the best of the bunch, even with his wart (big platoon split) in part because he has a pretty solid option for next year tied to his contract.