With few realistic options in acquiring a starting center fielder, the Washington Nationals may have interest in attempting to acquire corner-outfielder Carlos Quenten from the Chicago White Sox, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Gonzales, who doesn't cite any specific sources, points to the fact that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo originally drafted Quinten in 2003 when he was the scouting director for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I don't usually put much weight behind these types of rumors that are really more a product of a beat-reporter thinking out loud, than anything of actual substance. However, Gonzales makes an interesting point. Mike Rizzo has in the past shown interest in acquiring players who he played a part in drafting (see Justin Upton), and the Nationals desperately need a power-hitting right hander to solidify their lineup, perhaps even more-so than a traditional leadoff hitter.
So how would Carlos Quentin look as a Washington National? And what would the Nats need to do to acquire him?
Quentin, a two-time All-Star, has a career 162 game average of .252/.346/.490 with 32 home runs and 101 RBI over his six year career. Those are great numbers, the only problem is, the 29-year-old outfielder has never come close to playing 162 games in a season. In fact over the past three years, he has averaged just 116 games each year. Anyone who has watched the Nationals play over the past several seasons knows that consistency is one of the things the Nats need most, a 29-year-old who has had multiple trips to the DL over the last four years only ads more uncertainty to the Nationals lineup.
That being said, 116 games of the type of performance Quentin can provide is better than the value that a player like Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina can provide in 162 games. In 2011 the 29-year-old hit .254/.340/.499 with 24 home runs and 77 RBI in 118 games for the White Sox, numbers that were likely disappointing for those on the South Side of Chicago, but those numbers also would have ranked among the tops in the Nationals lineup. His power bat could provide much needed protection to Jayson Werth, who will look to bounce back after his worst season in years, and when combined with the likes of Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, and Ryan Zimmerman, could help complete one of the more potent lineups from top to bottom in baseball.
Quentin is no star in the field, but he is much better than the -24.3 UZR he posted in 2010. He played much of that season with a nagging foot injury which likely hurt his defensive abilities. In 2011 he posted a much more reasonable 0.6 UZR in 118 games. The logical thing for the Nationals to do if they were to acquire him is to move Jayson Werth to center, where he looked competent at times this year, and place Quentin in either left or right field.
The only way the Nats could make a deal like this work is if they are successful in signing a starting pitcher. If the club could land Mark Buehrle or Roy Oswalt, it would give them more flexibility to use either Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, or even Brad Peacock as a trade chip. This would quickly make Washington much more of a veteran team, but it could also put them in contention for the playoffs sooner rather than later.
In review, I think that Washington should only make a deal for Quentin if they can do so on their terms. The White Sox have been viewed as sellers for the outfielder, especially with the emergence of Dayan Viciedo, and as a result the Nats should not give up more than they have to. Quentin is a gamble, and as a result his value should be considered lower than what he could produce in a "perfect world." Hopefully Rizzo will view this the same way. If Washington can sign Oswalt or Buehrle, and can trade Lannan or a combination of Detwiler and a C-level prospect for Quentin than go for it. Otherwise I'm fine with Washington taking their chances with free-agency and hoping that Bryce Harper is in D.C. by August.