No team in baseball has filled more key roles in recent years through minor league free agents than the Nationals. Odalis Perez, Tim Redding, Joel Hanrahan, Mike Bascik, Jason Simontacchi, Dmitri Young, Ron Belliard... all minor league free agents thrust into roles where they were counted on to make major contributions as starters or key relievers.
I don't have a problem with taking a flyer on inviting guys to camp who were once productive major leaguers or former prospects who maybe still have some talent. And the last time the Nationals announced a slew of these signings I tried to be optimistic. You might uncover a Dmitri Young who bounces back and has a really good season after everyone else had given up on him. And if that happens, great. You have another guy who can help you win, a guy you have to find playing time for. But usually you get replacement-level performance or worse, and to count on guys like this year in and year out the way the Nationals have is just a direct path to loserdom.
That's what I worry is happening this year, with guys like Jorge Sosa, Gustavo Chacin, Matt Whitney, and J.D. Martin getting penciled in for key roles that ought to be filled by either young rising talent or legitimate major league veterans. The team is certainly not done constructing the 2009 roster, but so far it's feeling very same old, same old.
Here are the five new Nationals:
- Jose Castillo
- Corey Patterson
- Jorge Sosa
- Gustavo Chacin
- Gustavo Molina