Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has done a good job in the past of turning low-risk signings into pieces for the future. Matt Capps was turned into what looks like the catcher of the future, Wilson Ramos, through a trade. By not signing Adam Dunn this offseason, Rizzo now has another two possible quick-to-the-majors draft picks, college players Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin. If Rizzo follows his modus operandi near the trade deadline, don’t be surprised if Laynce Nix is the piece turned into another prospect for the future.
Coming to the Nationals, Nix has been all reward and minimal risk. The Nats signed Nix to a minor league contract at the beginning of February and all he’s done since is mash the ball. His .534 slugging percentage ranks 19th in the major leagues. The Yankees and Cardinals are paying an average of $150 million dollars for that type of production (Mark Teixeira and Matt Holliday are 17th and 18th in the majors in slugging, respectively). His early hitting may be the reason Nats fans won’t get to see to many more days of Nix going 3-for-4 with a double and a walk like he did Sunday against the Padres. Rizzo has proven in the past that he’s taken these opportunities to trade seasonal production for building blocks for the future, and it’s the right move. The second half of a hot season for a 30-year-old journeyman is more valuable to a contender than to the rebuilding Nats.
It’s just too bad for Rizzo that more of his bargain bin signings haven’t panned out. Pudge Rodriguez may be an asset as a defensive specialist to a contender, but he also provides the Nationals a top notch backup who may be more valuable to the Nationals in that role with a young pitching staff and bullpen in the coming years than what he could return in a trade.
Rick Ankiel, Alex Cora, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Matt Stairs unfortunately are worth very little right now on the trade market.
Another player that Rizzo could move in the next month or so is reliever Todd Coffey, in a carbon copy of the Matt Capps deal. Coffey is also on a one-year deal, but providing play much more valuable than his $1.35 million contract indicates. He’s struck out 8.5 batters per nine innings which is the highest rate in his career, helping him to a 2.22 ERA. It may be time to sell high on the “Big Pot.”
The Nationals get a lot of grief every year for signing veterans that don’t excite too many with their past play, but it’s proved to be a smart way for the team to restock their previously barren farm system by flipping the veterans for prospects. Of course, not all of the low risk signings pan out and you deal with the Ankiels and Stairs. It’s more than worth it for the times you strike gold with a Capps or a Nix.