Following their last home game of Spring Training, the Nationals made a series of roster cuts that have finally given shape to parts of their Opening Day roster. All told, the Nationals cut five players today — they optioned RHP Ryan Mattheus, LHP Xavier Cedeno, and 1B/LF Tyler Moore to AAA Syracuse, while serving outright release papers to utility infielder Jamey Carroll and RHP Chris Young. Additionally, they have informed righty reliever Aaron Barrett that he has made the Opening Day bullpen.
Coming into today, the Nationals had active competition for three spots on their roster — the fifth starter, the final reliever, and the final bench spot. So how do these cuts affect the composition of the team?
Carroll and Moore were thought to be the only two players competing for that final bench spot — if one of them didn’t get it, it seemed likely that the other would. But having either one on the roster would seemingly create redundancy on the roster. Moore’s value is as a right-handed bat to platoon with lefty swinger Adam LaRoche, but Ryan Zimmerman’s ability to play first seemingly eliminates the need to keep a roster spot open for such a player. Similarly, Danny Espinosa fills Carroll’s presumed role of utility infielder quite nicely, as he has displayed the ability to play excellent defense at multiple positions over his career. So instead, the Nationals are going in a different direction:
Kobernus, who recorded 45 stolen bases last year in time at Syracuse and in DC, would provide the Nationals with a pinch runner in key situations — a position on the bench previous manager Davey Johnson eschewed in favor of “hairy-chested bench bats.” Meanwhile, keeping Leon on the roster would allow the Nationals to use Wilson Ramos as a pinch hitter in days where he doesn’t start (and the fact that they are considering utilizing a roster spot just to have Ramos pinch hit shows how highly the Nationals rate his bat).
Meanwhile, adding Barrett, a 26-year old reliever with a killer slider who, nonetheless, has never pitched beyond AA, to the Opening Day roster completes the Nationals bullpen. It means the Nationals’ bullpen will initially contain five right handers (Barrett, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Rafael Soriano, and Tyler Clippard), and two lefties (Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins). Furthermore, it means that the loser of the fifth starter battle — either Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan — will not then make the team as a long reliever. Instead, they will be sent back to AAA Syracuse, where they will continue to start, ready to head to Washington in case of injury or ineffectiveness. The Nationals were said to have been only considering using Roark in long relief, not Jordan, so this move might be a slight tip of the hand that Roark has earned the fifth starter job:
Keep in mind that major league rosters are extraordinarily fluid — the 25 men who will have their names announced at Citi Field on Monday are not going to be the same as the 25 men who are announced September 28th against the Marlins. But after a long spring, today’s cuts have made manager Matt Williams’ vision of an ideal Opening Day roster quite clear.