Nationals sign Laynce Nix, what role will he play?

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms Thursday with outfielder Laynce Nix on a minor league contract which includes an invitation to Spring Training.

Nix spent last season with the Cincinnati Reds and got a taste of the postseason for the first time in his eight-year career. He hit .291 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 97 games in 2010. 

Nix will have a chance to compete for a spot on the team, although, the odds may be against him due to the fact that the outfield will be cluttered when the team gets to camp. Jayson Werth was signed this off-season to a multi-year deal and will be the teams starting right-fielder, and the club also added veteran outfielder Rick Ankiel who will come off the bench. The Nats will be returning Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina, who the club has received strong decent production from in previous years.

Considering the logjam in the outfield, some have speculated the logic of this move. Why add a veteran outfielder when we already have at least four outfielders competing for three sports at the major league level?

To us, this move exemplifies one of the key principles of general manager Mike Rizzo, organizational depth. While the Nationals currently have outfielder depth at the major league level, their minor leagues have become depleted with the losses of Justin Maxwell, Michael Burgess, and others. Nix can help solve that problem at the Triple-A level while serving as an emergency call-up veteran in case of injury.

We think that Nix can serve a similar role that Kevin Mench did in 2010, where he earned 281 at bats in Syracuse and played in 27 games at the major league level. Nix certainly doesn’t have the upside of Maxwell or Burgess, but the club had decided to go another way with their future which didn’t include them. Now they have a veteran who can fill in at an MLB level when they need it, but wont require MLB at bats for development.