In all of the discussions we’ve had since the season ended six weeks ago about the various choices the Nationals have for their 2017 outfield, we’ve kind of glossed over one more option that isn’t all that outrageous: bringing Ben Revere back as the starting center fielder.
Revere turned into a forgotten man over the season’s final two months, once he was bumped from his starting job by Trea Turner. That bumping was more than deserved, but it left Revere with virtually no role down the stretch. He started only seven of the Nationals’ final 36 games, compiling only 41 plate appearances in that time, then was left off the roster for the National League Division Series.
Despite all this, Revere does remain under the Nats’ control in 2017 ... if they choose to keep him. He’s eligible for one more year of arbitration, and considering the fact he’s likely to earn more than $6 million through that process, it’s widely assumed the Nationals won’t tender him a contract before Friday’s league-wide deadline.
That may yet prove the case, but it’s not out of the question to wonder if the Nats might actually decide to keep Revere and hope his awful 2016 was an anomaly.
And make no mistake, it was an awful year. He hit .217 with a .260 on-base percentage and .560 OPS that ranked last in the majors among all batters with at least 300 plate appearances.
But is that who Revere really is at this stage of his career? There’s legitimate reason to think it’s not.
Consider how consistent he was the previous four seasons. His batting average always fell between .294 and .306, his on-base percentage between .325 and .342.
Consider how his batting average on balls in play between 2012 and 2015 was always between .325 and .344, only to plummet to .234 this season.
And consider that he pulled his oblique muscle on opening day, and despite returning from the disabled list a month later admitted at season’s end he never did fully heal.
“I know guys that have done it and they say it’s tough to come back that year from an oblique injury, their swings were just different,” Revere said in September. “But it’s a lot easier the next year because they had time in the offseason to let it heal.”
All of that suggests Revere is due for a healthy bounceback performance in 2017. But can the Nationals afford to take the chance it’ll actually happen?
They can move Turner to shortstop, leaving center field available once again for Revere. But if he doesn’t bounce back, where does that leave them. And even if he does return to form, are his longstanding weaknesses - a lack of power, a lack of walks, a lack of a strong throwing arm - enough to overshadow whatever offensive contributions he would make?
The safest bet still appears to be a parting between the Nationals and Revere, perhaps before the end of the week.
But don’t discount entirely the chance of him getting a chance to redeem himself after a disappointing debut season in D.C.