Over the next several weeks, the Washington Nationals can expect to activate Drew Storen, Chad Tracy and Jayson Werth — probably in that order — from the disabled list. They also have Xavier Nady on a rehab assignment and will have to make a decision on the veteran outfielder. Where will all these players fit on to the Nats roster, and who will have to go to make room?
Storen will be first. According to manager Davey Johnson in Wednesday’s pre-game press conference, Storen could be activated for the day game against the New York Mets Thursday, or Friday’s start of a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves. Logically, activating a bullpen arm means removing one from the roster. The only players in the current pen that have options are Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus, both right-handed pitchers that Johnson has relied heavily upon in different situations.
Another option would be to move one of the three lefties that Johnson has at his disposal. Tom Gorzelanny has only pitched three times in the last 19 days in his mop-up, long man role. Michael Gonzalez pitched very well for a while and has found himself in increasingly high-leverage innings, but also not having as much success. The Nats would have to DFA either of these pitchers to make room for Storen.
Tracy could return some time next week. He was a potent left-handed bat off Johnson’s bench early in the season until he tore his groin and missed two months. The lefty bench bats currently are outfielders Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel. Bernadina has been the primary left-handed pinch-hitter recently, going 5-for-12 with three walks in his last 13 games. Ankiel has been used as a defensive replacement of late, with only six plate appearances in July.
Johnson told the press Wednesday that he expects Werth to start a rehab assignment over the weekend, and the Nats highest-paid player put on a pretty impressive batting practice display before the tarp came out before the game with the Mets. With the MLB trade deadline looming July 31, the Nats envision Werth as their big “trade deadline acquisition.” Healthy, Werth slides back into his familiar position in right field, with Bryce Harper back to full-time in center and Michael Morse the everyday left fielder.
Obviously the Nats could trade a player off the active roster to make room for Werth, but for the sake of the argument, let’s assume they don’t.
The Nats only backup infielder is Steve Lombardozzi, so I don’t see him being removed from the roster, despite the fact he has options remaining. Tyler Moore is currently the only right-handed bat with any power off the bench, but with Werth’s return, it’s hard to see Moore getting any meaningful playing time. Mark DeRosa has 10 plate appearances in July and is hitting .122/.279/.184 this season. The debate then is do you get rid of the non-performing veteran or the rookie slugger with minor league options?
Unfortunately for Nady, I just can’t envision any justifiable scenario to re-add him to the Major League roster. Perhaps he clears waivers after a DFA and accepts a minor league assignment.
If the Nats make a deal to acquire a big league player before the deadline, it even further complicates matters. It will be interesting to see how the roster shakes out over the next couple of weeks as the Nats chase their first winning season and a potential playoff berth.