Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Nationals News

Inbox: Do Nats have postseason destiny?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from fans
August 3, 2017

MIAMI -- The non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, and the Nationals' bullpen is much deeper after the club added three relievers during the past few weeks. So now it's time to answer some other lingering questions from fans as the season enters its final two months.This weekend's three-game series with

MIAMI -- The non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, and the Nationals' bullpen is much deeper after the club added three relievers during the past few weeks. So now it's time to answer some other lingering questions from fans as the season enters its final two months.
This weekend's three-game series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field is perhaps a potential preview of the National League Division Series. We begin this week's Inbox with a look ahead to the postseason and a potential meeting between the two best teams in the NL.

The Dodgers and Nationals have had the two best records in the NL for a while now. After last year's thrilling NLDS -- which the Dodgers won in five games and included Clayton Kershaw coming out of the bullpen for a save -- there's no denying a rematch this postseason could be super fun.
:: Submit a question to the Nationals Inbox ::
But the postseason rarely works that way. Being the best two teams in the NL to date does not guarantee the Nats or Dodgers anything. For one, the Cubs are the defending World Series champions and have been surging since the All-Star break. Chicago also just added its own reinforcements before the Deadline in Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. The Cubs won't be an easy out if they can make it back to the postseason.
Crazier things have happened in a short series that could see the NL Wild Card Game winner unseat Los Angeles in a five-game series. The D-backs have had one of the best starting rotations all season and added a bat in J.D. Martinez. The Rockies and Brewers both added relief help to strengthen their bullpens for a stretch run.
So the only thing certain is that the NL side of the postseason should be extremely competitive.

In short, I do not. General manager Mike Rizzo was pretty definitive that the Nationals did not get serious about adding a starting pitcher before the Deadline, and I would be shocked if they changed course. Barring a drastic change in Stephen Strasburg's status -- and I do believe this is not a serious injury and they are just being cautious because they have the luxury of a double-digit lead -- I do not believe they need another starter.

Max Scherzer and Strasburg at the top of the rotation stacks up as well as anyone. Giovany Gonzalez is having one of his best seasons since coming to Washington, and even with his struggles, Tanner Roark is a solid No. 4 starter. I'm not sure anyone coming through the waiver wire will be a significant upgrade from those four or will carry a contract that makes it difficult to trade. A combination of Edwin Jackson, top pitching prospect Erick Fedde or even A.J. Cole will do just fine as the No. 5 starter for the rest of the season.

After Matt Wieters got off to an excellent start in April (.301/.400/.534) I was ready to take back any skepticism I had with the signing this spring. But since the start of May, he has been underwhelming, hitting just .222/.252/.316. Among the 11 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Wieters has posted the second lowest wRC+, wOBA and Wins Above Replacement (ahead of only Jonathan Lucroy in each category, although they are tied in WAR). It's a product of how good the Nationals' offense has been overall this season that he seems to be quietly having the worst offensive season of his career.
Wieters' defensive framing numbers have always been under fire, and they are not good again this season at -9.2 framing runs saved this season, according to Baseball Prospectus, which ranks 81st of the 84 catchers graded. The Nats are 24th in MLB.
But the Nationals do not seem inclined to make a change at the moment. For one, they still owe Wieters $10.5 million next season. Pedro Severino has been injured and his OPS was .586 in 51 games in the Minors. If Severino or Jose Lobaton can start hitting, then perhaps this is worth revisiting. But for now, Wieters will be the starter.

These things have a way of working themselves out. The Nationals' bullpen looked as if it was headed for a bit of a logjam at the start of the day Wednesday before left-hander Enny Romero strained his forearm; he appears to be headed to the DL. Shawn Kelley is still working his way back from the DL and is currently on a Minor League rehab assignment, but there are still a few players with options -- Matt Grace, who has been pitching well, or maybe Sammy Solis, if he returns to take Romero's spot -- who could be candidates to make room. Koda Glover is on a throwing program off flat ground at the team's complex in West Palm Beach, Fla. By the time he is ready to return, the roster could already be expanded to 40. With only a month to go before that will happen, the Nats will likely try to keep as many options as possible on the roster without releasing anyone before it is necessary.

This was a popular theory after the Nationals drafted left-hander Seth Romero in the first round of the Draft that Romero could be fast tracked to the Major League team this season. Now the chances of that are almost zero.
After stretching out in West Palm Beach, Romero was assigned to the Gulf Coast League this past week and just made his debut Tuesday with a pair of scoreless innings and three strikeouts. Remember, Romero has barely pitched this year after being dismissed from the University of Houston. So to go from not pitching to debuting in the Rookie League to making the Majors in less than a month seems highly unlikely.
Plus, the Nats are a lot less desperate for bullpen help than they were when he was drafted in June, so Romero will be allowed to progress at his own pace.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.