The Washington Nationals saw what should have been a promising 2013 season derailed by injuries. The moves they've made so far this offseason indicate that they aren't going to let that happen again. After adding to an already-deep rotation by trading for Doug Fister on Monday, the Nats added some outfield depth on Friday, signing Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75 million deal with a club option for a third year.
McLouth will effectively be Washington's fourth outfielder behind Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth, but will still see a "significant" amount of at-bats. Scott Hairston will also be in the outfield mix, but McLouth's ability to play any outfield position will make him the primary backup. While it's hard to see where McLouth's at-bats will come from right now, neither Werth nor Span has been especially durable in the recent past.
Werth has only played in 210 games over the past two years, and while Span did make 153 appearances for the Nats in 2013, he only played in 198 games in his final two seasons in Minnesota. Even Harper is coming off a season in which he only played in 118 games, and his all-out playing style seems likely to be good for a DL stint or two every year. McLouth may not see much playing time to start the year outside of pinch-hit appearances and the occasional day game start, but odds are an injury will open up a starting spot for him at some point. And that's before you even get to the possibility of the Nats possibly listening to trade offers for Span, but that was when Jacoby Ellsbury was still available.
McLouth is coming off his best season since 2009, hitting .258/.329/.399 with 12 home runs and 31 doubles for the Orioles last season. He also went 30-for-37 in steal attempts, his highest stolen base total since stealing 23 in his breakout season of 2008. The stint in Baltimore — good for 3.7 fWAR over 201 games — rejuvenated a career that looked to be dead in the water after a mostly-disastrous stay in Atlanta. Now, McLouth returns to the NL East as a solid insurance policy instead of as an expected All-Star.