On Friday evening, the Washington Nationals continued their busy week by signing former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth. McLouth now joins Doug Fister as the newest Nationals player brought in this past week.
McLouth signed a two-year deal worth $10.75 million with an option for 2016. With Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth already manning the outfield, it looks as though McLouth is headed for a fourth outfielder role, something the Nationals need more than people may think.
Last season, both Harper and Werth spent stints on the disabled list, and Span needed a day of rest every now and then as well. The people that were brought in to replace them, Tyler Moore, Jeff Kobernus and Steve Lombardozzi, are solid bench players, but you can’t ask them to do much more than that. They aren’t very effective in the grand scheme of things.
With McLouth, the Nationals now have a surefire replacement if one of their outfielders goes down, or just when they need to occasional day off. McLouth can also pinch-hit off the bench as well as move himself around the bases.
In 2013, he hit .258 with a .329 on-base percentage and 12 home runs with 36 RBI. He accounted for 76 scored runs and stole 30 bags while getting caught just seven times. The Nationals have addressed both bench depth and outfield depth with this signing.
Another interesting wrinkle that won’t come into effect until the future is the contract status of Span. Span is coming off of a season in which he was a Gold Glove finalist, but is entering the final year of his contract. After this coming season, Washington will have to decide on a $9 million team option to keep him, or a $500,000 buyout to let him walk.
McLouth will be much cheaper than Span at that point in his contract, so we could potentially see the Nationals let go of Span and hang on to McLouth. If Mike Rizzo and Matt Williams feel that McLouth is good enough to let Span walk away, they could very well save themselves some money and buyout Span’s contract in favor of McLouth’s cheaper one.
At any rate, the move to sign McLouth is a good one. Mike Rizzo has added a player that can play all over the outfield, and is effective enough with his bat to take on an everyday role if need be. At the same time, he’s also added bench depth for Williams late in games. Another solid pick up by Rizzo.