When the Washington Nationals signed free agent Matt Adams in December, they didn't expect he would be one of their most important players. That he has been just that is a reminder of one of the things that define baseball's best general managers.They value every roster spot, build depth an inch
When the Washington Nationals signed free agent Matt Adams in December, they didn't expect he would be one of their most important players. That he has been just that is a reminder of one of the things that define baseball's best general managers.
They value every roster spot, build depth an inch at a time and stack contingency plan on top of contingency plan, often stashing potentially valuable veteran assets at Triple-A.
How this season has played out for the Nationals has been a reminder that their general manager, Mike Rizzo, is among the best at this kind of thing. If not for the veterans penciled in to provide bench depth -- not just Adams, but also infielders Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick -- the Nats might not have stayed afloat through a ridiculously long injury list.
There are plenty of examples throughout the game of players providing significant contributions to fill in for injured teammates or to replace those who are struggling.
Let's consider 12.
1. Adams, 1B/OF, Nationals
Adams' career has been reborn in Washington, and without him -- and Difo and Kendrick -- the Nats could easily have been undone by all the injuries.
2. Gleyber Torres, 2B, Yankees
Torres pretty much destroyed Triple-A pitching during 14 games there and has done the same thing since making his Major League debut on April 22.
3. Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers
There was little drop-off when Aguilar was called upon to replace injured first baseman Eric Thames. Aguilar was a February 2017 waiver claim from the Indians.
4. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Cardinals
Josh Donaldson? Manny Machado? We spent most of the offseason speculating who would play third for the Cards in 2017. Turns out, they already had the right guy. Gyorko has built upon a solid 2017 season with an even better one.
5. Daniel Descalso, 3B, D-backs
Known for his unselfishness and consummate professionalism, Descalso has been important in the changing of the culture in Arizona. His contributions on the field should not be discounted, either. Descalso has started at three positions, mostly at third in place of injured Jake Lamb, and played all of them well.
6. Corey Dickerson, OF, Pirates
Bucs GM Neal Huntington wanted to be first in line when the Rays made the 2017 All-Star available. Dickerson is one of the reasons Pittsburgh has been one of baseball's surprise teams in 2018.
7. Alen Hanson, 2B, Giants
With his third organization in a year, Hanson began the season with a .222 batting average in 267 career plate appearances with the Pirates and White Sox. He was summoned to the Majors when Joe Panik was injured and has played the best baseball of his brief career.
8. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Mets
What did Gonzalez have left in the tank after an injury-shortened season with the Dodgers? Turns out, plenty, and with the Braves picking up virtually all of his $22.4 million salary, there haven't been many smarter acquistions.
9. Ryan Flaherty, 3B, Braves
Speaking of great general managers, Atlanta's Alex Anthopoulos grabbed Flaherty for a utility role when he didn't make the Phillies' roster. All he has done is play nearly full-time at third base and help the Braves to their best start in years.
10. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Twins
Gibson began this season with 127 career starts and a 4.70 ERA. He has improved dramatically after an offseason in which he welcomed suggestions by the Twins to embrace data that suggested he alter his pitch usage and mechanics.
11. Jaime Barria, RHP, Angels
When injuries hit the Halos' rotation, the 21-year-old right-hander with three Major League pitches was ready to step in. Barria allowed the Orioles two runs in six innings in his third, and most recent, start.
12. Hector Velazquez, RHP, Red Sox
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski's decision to focus on scouting in Mexico paid off with a 29-year-old right-hander, who has made two solid starts and a string of nice relief appearances.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.