After acquiring a starter earlier this week, the Washington Nationals checked another item off of their winter wishlist as they signed outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75 million deal with an option for a third year.
McLouth was quite a find for his last team, the Baltimore Orioles. He played in 146 games in 2013, his highest total since 2009, and batted .258/.329/.399 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. McLouth seems to have found his calling as a fourth outfielder, after being a massive trade bust for the Atlanta Braves not too long ago, posting a .229/.335/.364 slash line over in three years in Atlanta.
He has probably been a fourth outfielder for most of his career as his production has tapered off considerably since 2008, when he set a career high in home runs, doubles and RBI, as well as posting his best career slash line. Since then, his career slash line has been .235/.327/.374 in parts of seasons for the Braves, Orioles, and a brief return to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The veteran is also known to be a strong clubhouse presence and also has some speed, as he stole 30 bases in 36 attempts.
Washington did have a need for a left-handed bat on their bench with the mid-season release of Roger Bernadina and the trade of Steve Lombardozzi. Of course, McLouth being a left-handed hitting outfielder is just icing on the cake, since Lombardozzi was a left-handed bat who was playing out of position in the outfield. With Scott Hairston being the right-handed OF off the bench, being able to add McLouth from the left side is a great move that could really pay dividends.
But was McLouth an overpay? Yes, it definitely was. McLouth’s deal for two guaranteed years with a club option that could push it up to a three-year contract worth a total of $17.25 million. That’s pretty pricey for a fourth outfielder who has a history of injuries and has cracked .270 for just once season in his career.
Plus, it’s a far cry from the past bench signings Washington has made. They would normally sign them for one year at a time a la Chad Tracy, as bench players tend to be slightly inconsistent. Take Hairston as a prime example of this. Before he got his own two-year deal from the Chicago Cubs, Hairston was a bench bat for the New York Mets, where he set a career high in home runs with 20 and absolutely mashed left-handers in Citi Field, where home runs go to die.
Hairston left the Mets and signed with Chicago, where he hit .172 with eight home runs before being dealt to Washington, where he hit .224. So, when many say Washington may have overspent slightly for McLouth’s services, it isn’t that far off.
All in all, McLouth is a high-character guy with speed and some pop, and has shown he is finally healthy. With new manager Matt Williams wanting to play aggressively and push the envelope, this is a solid signing by GM Mike Rizzo, overpay or not.