The Washington Nationals, despite being 33-36 and in last place in the National League East, are just five games out of a Wild Card spot. Now, its only June and it's far too early to be thinking about the playoffs, but these Nationals are competitive and with a couple of moves, could be a serious contender for a playoff spot.
This brings us to James Loney. The Nationals were said to be interested in him at the Winter Meetings, but nothing obviously came from it.
With Adam LaRoche going down with season-ending shoulder surgery today, the Nats could make a play for LaRoche. It'd make sense.
*Hat tip to Speedy8 of the Scout.com Dodgers' Message Board*
Loney would be under team control through the 2012 season and he's owed less than the $4.875 million he signed for in February. He could make in the neighborhood of $6-7 million next season, which isn't as attractive to the Nats. However, Loney is in dire need of a scenery change. He's hit a lot better in the last couple months (.293/.350/.413 in May, .271/.333/.354 in June), but he's still not providing enough offense for the Dodgers.
Nationals' Park has a park factor of .901, which tends to favor pitchers (anything less than 1.0 favors pitchers). By comparison, Dodger Stadium has a park factor of .782.
In nine career games at Nationals' Park, Loney has a slash line of .429/.500/.629 (15 hits in 35 ABs). It's a small sample size, but a change could improve both teams.
So, what would the Dodgers be looking for in return? Well, certainly not Jordan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, as was reported when the Nats first had interest in Loney. However, Washington has some good depth at catcher. They acquired Wilson Ramos last year when they sent Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline. Ramos is the team's primary catcher. They also have Derek Norris, who was rated by Baseball America as the team's No. 2 prospect (No. 72 overall) and Jesus Flores.
Norris, 22 is in Double-A and is hitting .211. It's not all bad, though. His OPS, despite the low batting average, is .822. His walk rate is an amazing 24.1 percent and he's actually scored more runs (33) than he has hits (28). He threw out 51 percent of would-be basestealers in 2010. To snag Norris, the Dodgers would likely have to sweeten the proverbial pot.
Flores, 26, has 200 games of Major League experience, with a .260/.314/.406 slash line. Not great, but certainly exponentially better than Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro. He had a nice 29-game run in 2009, but suffered a torn labrum in September 2009 and is just now getting back. He didn't play at all in 2010 and has just a .597 OPS and a 4:39 BB/K ratio in Triple-A.
The Nats could choose to include Ramos instead if they'd rather keep Norris. Ramos was the team's No. 5 prospect and has a .730 OPS in 49 games.
To Washington: Loney, Chris Withrow
To Los Angeles: Norris
- Throwing in Withrow is a high price, but if it means getting a frontline catcher, I wouldn't hesitate one bit.
To Washington: Loney
To Los Angeles: Flores
- This deal actually makes the most sense for both teams. The Dodgers open up a spot for Jerry Sands at first base while acquiring a decent starting catcher for a guy who is likely to be non-tendered this winter.
To Washington: Loney, Josh Lindblom or Javy Guerra
To Los Angeles: Ramos
- The Dodgers lose a piece of the bullpen, but Ramos is well worth it.
Loney's time with the Dodgers will come to an end after game 162 is played (barring something unforeseen), so if he has any trade value whatsoever, they need to cash in on it now. A team on the cusp of contention like the Nats could be willing to take a flier on Loney and his .303/.359/.478 mark away from Dodger Stadium.
The Ogden Raptors announced their roster. The Pioneer League season starts in less than a week. Here are some players on the roster all Dodger fans should be interested in:
OF James Baldwin (My prospect rank: 23)
- Fourth-round pick last year, Logan White is said to be "Matt Kemp-high" on him.
RHP Ralston Cash (20)
- Second-round pick, ranked as high as No. 13 on Kevin Goldstein's Top 20 Dodger prospect list.
OF Scott Schebler (36)
- The Dodgers' 26th-round pick in 2010, Baseball America picked him as its "breakout" prospect.
3B Scott Woodward (NR)
- The Dodgers just selected him in the draft a couple weeks ago in the seventh round.
I'll be making the 35-mile trek to Stockton tomorrow night to see the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in action against the Stockton Ports. Matt Magill is pitching right now. He's holding the Ports to four hits, two walks and two strikeouts in four innings. I'm interested in seeing Jake Lemmerman, Blake Smith and Angelo Songco in action in person. I'll post a recap and photos Friday night or Saturday morning.