Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nationals Sign Josh Bard

I like the move, especially at this price, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Bard step in as the starter if Jesus Flores's long 2008 season-ending slump carries over into 2009.

In fact, like the Beimel signing, this is a move I had suggested earlier this off-season (hope that doesn't seem like I'm breaking my arm patting myself on the back--it's not my intent). It's nothing that's going to catapult us into the playoffs, but it's a nice little upgrade that makes sense. Here's what I wrote in my position-by-position hot stove preview back in October:
With Flores and the nice collection of young guys in the system, catcher is one of our stronger suits both short- and long-term. Still, it's not as if we're sitting on Matt Weiters or Brian McCann here. We shouldn't be resting on our laurels.

Ideally, I'd like to see the Nationals cut Wil Nieves loose and bring in a younger major league-ready left-handed (or switch-hitting) back-up with at least some upside to pair with Flores and start maybe 40 games next year. That means making a trade. Some guys I see out there who might be available and fit the bill: Miguel Montero (D'Backs), Jason Jaramillo (Phillies), or John Jaso (Rays).

Failing that, I would still rather see them bring in a veteran lefty free agent backup like Greg Zaun (Blue Jays), Josh Bard (Padres), or Javier Valentin (Reds) rather than settling for Nieves or Montz. These guys at least would give us an upgrade in '09 and give us a more credible fall-back should Flores get hurt or something.
Here's what I wrote when the Red Sox signed Bard and Brad Penny:
Josh Bard signed with the Sox for $1.6m. He's a switch-hitting back-up catcher and a solid defender who would have fit in nicely with the Nationals, especially at that price. Last season his offensive numbers cratered to .279 OBP and .270 SLG as he suffered a series of nagging injuries including a sprained ankle and off-season wrist surgery that affected him early on. The wrist completely wiped out what little power he ever had, but what really hurt him was a .230 BABIP, which canceled out most of the value of his good on-base skills. Even last year he had a solid 9.2% walk rate. But his BB and K rates remained consistent with his career averages, and Bill James and Marcel both expect him to rebound to right around .340 OBP / .395 SLG. Chone has him a bit worse at .338 / .369, and even there he'd be a measurable upgrade over Wil Nieves, who is a nice guy and all but shouldn't be on a major league roster except in the event of an emergency.

These are the kinds of buy-low candidates that the Nationals should be looking to scoop up for one-year deals. In addition to filling short-term needs, both of them have a chance to become type-A or B free agents if they can bounce back with good seasons next year, which will net draft picks if they sign with another team for 2010. Kudos to the Red Sox, who don't really need to be seeking out undervalued commodities but are smartly doing it anyway.


Positively Half St. said...

Good stuff. What a deal, huh? You gave the Sawx credit for signing Bard for $1.6M (admittedly before crazy deflation), and then Rizzo makes the good move of getting him for a fraction of that.

A backup catcher who can hit? The idea is honestly exciting. I join you in applauding this signing, and thank you for the insight.

Steven said...

Yeah, the Red Sox keep getting stymied in their search for a Tim Wakefield caddy. I can't fault them too much. They also have George Kottaras. If he can do the job, he should get it.

But yes the price is right. The market is totally wacked, but it's good for the Lerners' bank account anyway.

Bard does need to prove that last year really was a matter of injury and bad luck, but Bard (or Valentin) would give Manny the platooning option since he can switch-hit. He's fine defensively.

The thing I'm getting excited about is that this is just more evidence that Rizz is thinking about overall roster construction and how the pieces all fit together in a way that Jim "logjam" Bowden never did.