October 21, 2020

Washington Nationals address bench need; More moves coming?

The Washington Nationals addressed a glaring need Monday, trading for OF Scott Hairston. Hairston historically has had success against left-handed pitching, a skill the Nats are in dire need of off the bench. Secondarily, Hairston is a capable defender at all three outfield positions — another need the Nats have had this season.

Hairston will presumably replace Tyler Moore, a first baseman by trade, as the fourth outfielder and primary right-handed bat off the bench. It’s a long time coming, as Moore has been terrible this season (.151/.283/.478) in 42 games and 113 plate appearances.

Moore projected as a fringe big league player during his minor league career, and his success last season (.263/.327/.513 with 10 homers in 171 PAs) led many to believe that he was going to outperform his projections and be a quality bat off the bench for the Nats this season. What has happened, though, is the league caught up with him and is now exposing every weakness the player exhibited in the minors.

Hairston’s not having a great season, himself. Hitting .172/.232/.434 with eight homers in 112 PAs, he’s in the first of a two-year deal the Cubs gave the 33-year-old this past off-season. Giving a player with Hairston’s age and pedigree a two-year deal is a topic for another day, but the Nats now control Hairston through next season regardless.

Hairston is a career .268/.318/.500 hitter against lefties. That’s not all that spectacular overall and before looking it up I expected those numbers to be much more impressive. We have to go back to 2009 to find a season Hairston OBPd higher than .325 against left-handed pitching. It’s entirely possible Hairston’s career is in the wind-down phase, but he’s capable of punishing a mistake, as his 20 homers in 398 PAs in 2012 is testament to.

The Nats bench was exposed this year as injuries mounted. Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina and Chad Tracy all have performed worse than last season as more was expected of them this season. With Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman spending time on the D.L., where Danny Espinosa should have been with them, the bench was pressed into more duty than expected and failed to live up to expectations.

Now that the Nats are finally healthy — and not surprisingly, hitting — manager Davey Johnson can go back to picking-and-choosing when to get at bats for his bench players, utilizing the numbers to get favorable matchups instead of having to rely on these lesser players in a full-time role.

There’s absolutely no shame in being a Major League bench player. Scott Hairston has made a career of it. But pressing bench players into an every day role is problematic, especially for a team that had expectations of contending for the World Series.

Washington Nationals acquire outfielder Scott Hairston

The Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder Scott Hairston from the Chicago Cubs, according to an ESPNChicago report issued earlier today.

The Cubs will reportedly receive minor-league pitcher Ivan Pineyro in return for the 10-year veteran, who is batting just .163 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 111 plate appearances this season. The 33-year-old outfielder carries with him a career .244/.299/.447 and can hit well against southpaws. While his overall stat line falls short of impressive, the Nationals are in need of some potency off the bench and they, no doubt, have turned to Hairston to provide just that at little cost.

Hairston’s contract runs through 2014.

Pineyro, a 21-year-old right-hander in his third season with the Nationals’ farm system, recorded a 3.86 ERA in his two starts – 11.2 total innings pitched – with High-A Potomac. His combined Rookie, Short-Season, Low-A and High-A ERA is 3.17 in 204.1 total innings pitched in the Minors, dating back to 2011.

He was ranked the Nationals No. 27 prospect after the 2012 season.

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