Sean Casey breaks down the MLB off-season
Seeking an upgrade to a bench that was among the majors’ least-productive units this season, the Nationals are adding a veteran with significant experience. And paying him like an everyday player.
The Nationals have come to terms on a 2-year contract with outfielder Nate McLouth, pending a physical, a source familiar with the deal confirmed Friday afternoon. The deal guarantees McLouth $10.75 million, according to the Baltimore Sun, a substantial salary for a player who doesn’t figure to be a regular part of the lineup.
McLouth, 32, is a career .250 hitter with a .334 on-base percentage, 100 homers and 129 steals in nine seasons with the Pirates, Braves and Orioles. He’s been an everyday player when healthy, for the most part, and wound up with 593 plate appearances in Baltimore this season (during which he made only $2 million).
The Nationals, though, lured the 2008 NL All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner with a multi-year deal that will pay him only slightly less in 2014 than starting center fielder Denard Span is due to earn ($6.5 million).
McLouth should immediately bolster a Nationals bench that struggled mightily this season, posting a combined .206 batting average and .264 on-base percentage. He’ll become new manager Matt Williams’ top left-handed bat off the bench, assuming a role held by Chad Tracy the last two seasons, but he’ll also provide a more-rounded skill-set.
McLouth is a gifted outfielder who can play all three positions, affording Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth the opportunity to take more games off. He also boasts speed on the bases, having recorded a career-high 30 steals this season for the Orioles.
With McLouth on board and right-hander Doug Fister acquired earlier this week to fill out the starting rotation, the Nationals will head to next week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando with only a handful of roster spots left to fill. They still seek a left-hander for their bullpen and perhaps more bench help (an infielder and a backup catcher).