The Nationals also appear close to signing two veterans -- right-hander Felix Rodriguez and first baseman Daryle Ward -- to non-guaranteed minor league deals, giving them an opportunity to make the team in spring training.And:
In addition, the Nationals are pursuing free-agent shortstop Royce Clayton, presumably to fill a utility role and push the team's starting shortstop, Cristian Guzman.Let's dispose of the understandable one first: Felix Rodriguez was lousy and injured last year, and giving him non-guaranteed money to see if he can turn it around is fine. You can never have too much pitching, as Jim Bowden forcibly reminded us last year.
Daryle Ward has a very specific job: hit righties and back up at first base (the Post claims he "can play the outfield," which is kind of sweet. It has happened, but that doesn't mean it will or should happen again). Now it's time to force your memory to dig through the events of late 2005. As it stumbles over various outrages and catastrophes, it may find the story that Bowden already signed a guy to hit righties and back up at first base. Then he did it again. So now we have three defensively useless left-handed pinch-hitters. I'd rather have Daryle Ward than Robert Fick or Marlon Anderson -- Ward's the only one of the three with any power -- but if you already have the first two, there's no need for a third. The upside: Ward looks like Demetrius "D.H." Harris from TV's Playmakers!
Then there's Royce Clayton, a crappy shortstop to back up our crappy shortstop. We did this last year with Deivi Cruz, and it actually worked out pretty well. That says a lot more about Cristian Guzman than it does about Cruz. The problem with bringing in another Deivi is that it pushes someone -- possibly someone I like -- off the bench and gives Jamey Carroll absolutely nothing to do. I look at this way: if Guzman gets hurt, Carroll can take over for a while with no real drop-off. If Guzman is playing so badly that he needs to be benched long-term, we're screwed anyway so just let Jamey play. Clayton would be a good fit for a team that needs a backup middle infielder, but remember that Bowden spend the beginning of the off-season collecting second baseman the same way he later collected lefty pinch-hitters. No vacancy. Go away.
Above: Royce Clayton in action. Below: the limited edition Royce Clayton bobblehead doll.