Nationals Arm Race

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Archive for November, 2010

Here’s why more Wild Card teams is a bad idea.

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Here's Bud Selig pretending he can't hear ongoing criticisms of his leadership. Photo courtesy of blogs.ajc.com

By now we’ve all heard about Bud Selig‘s expansion plans for the playoffs.  He would like to add 2 wild card teams to each post season, presumably having either a sudden-death or a best-of 3 series between them in order to determine who moves on into the conventional Divisional Series.

Here’s the main, singular problem I have with the plan.  It virtually guarantees that the griphold that AL East powerhouse teams New York and Boston have on the playoffs will continue.

Here’s a quick rundown on the AL East playoff representatives since the wild card was introduced after the players strike in 1994.

2010: Yankees (Rays)
2009: Yankees and Boston
2008: Boston (Rays)
2007: Yankees and Boston
2006: Yankees
2005: Yankees and Boston
2004: Yankees and Boston
2003: Yankees and Boston
2002: Yankees
2001: Yankees
2000: Yankees
1999: Yankees and Boston
1998: Yankees and Boston
1997: Yankees (Orioles)
1996: Yankees (Orioles)
1995: Yankees and Boston

In the last 15 years, to summarize:

  • The Yankees missed the playoffs just ONCE.
  • The Red Sox made the playoffs 9 of 15 years.
  • Both teams combined to make 23 of 30 possible appearances in the post season.
  • Other teams in the AL east made the playoffs a grand total of 4 times.
  • The Yankees and Red Sox BOTH made the playoffs in 8 of those 15 years.  HALF the time.

Lets take a quick peek at the standings for the past few years to see who would have benefited from a 2nd wild card:

2010: Boston and San Diego
2009: Texas and San Francisco
2008: Yankees and NY Mets
2007: Detroit/Seattle (tied) and San Diego
2006: White Sox and Philadelphia
2005: Cleveland and Philadelphia
2004: Oakland and San Francisco
2003: Seattle and Houston
2002: Boston/Seattle (tied) and LA Dodgers
2001: Minnesota and San Francisco
2000: Cleveland and LA Dodgers
1999: Oakland and Cincinnati
1998: Toronto and San Francisco
1997: Anaheim and NY Mets/LA Dodgers (tie)
1996: Boston/Chicago/Seattle (tie) and Montreal
1995: California and Houston

So, had a 2nd wildcard been in place it would have increased the Boston/Yankee playoff appearance ratio from 23 of 30 to at least 25 of 30 and possibly 27 of 30 places since 1994.

Why not just guarantee the two teams berths and have the rest of the league play for 3rd place??

Coincidentally, what was going on in the AL East just prior to the Wild Card era?  Take a look:

1993: (toronto)
1992: (toronto)
1991: (toronto)
1990: Boston
1989: (toronto)
1988: Boston
1987: (detroit)
1986: Boston
1985: (toronto)
1984: (detroit)
1983: (Baltimore)
1982: (milwaukee)
1981: Yankees
1980: Yankeees

The Players strike ended a nifty run of 4 divisional titles (and 2 World Series victories) in 5 years for the Toronto Blue Jays, who have not appeared in the post season since.  The strike clearly caused a shift in baseball viewing habits for both Canadian franchises, and resulted in the outright removal of the Montreal franchise (and subsequent firesale/gift for new Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria).

I realize that the MLB has drastically fewer playoff teams as a percentage of the league.  Here’s a quick table:

Ttl Teams # Playoff teams Pct
mlb 30 8 26.66667
nfl 32 12 37.5
nba 30 16 53.33333
nhl 30 16 53.33333
mls 16 8 50

Even adding 2 more wild cards would only increase MLB’s percentage to 30%, still lower than the parsimonious NFL.  But to what end?  Others have noted that this would mean longer seasons, world series drifting into mid-November, competing and losing to the NFL in ratings, bleeding into an already busy sports period, etc.

Just about the only benefit I can see would be having 2 wild card teams beating each other up and exhausting their rotations just before taking on the #1 regular season team.    The last thing I want to see as a baseball purist is a wild card team like the 1997 Florida Marlins sneak into the playoffs on a hot streak and luck their way to a world series title.  At least extra wild card teams would help prevent that from happening.

Written by Todd Boss

November 30th, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Baseball in General

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Vazquez and Webb: Do we really want them?

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A younger, thinner, harder throwing version of Javier Vazquez. Photo courtesy of baseball.dailyskew.com

11/28/10 update: possibly obsoleting much of this, the Marlins have reportedly signed Vazquez to a one year deal.

As the FA hot stove gets hotter, more and more players have the “Nationals” name attached to them as intereted parties.  None more so than Javier Vazquez and Brandon Webb.  The question we as Nats fans should have is the following: Are Vazquez and Webb really worth going after?

Javier Vazquez, despite being the answer to one of my favorite trivia questions ever (what major league player has the highest scoring Scrabble last name?) seems to be more famous for the players he’s been traded for over the years (he was the primary chip in trades involving Nick Johnson, Randy Johnson, Chris Young, and Melky Cabrera) than he has been for his pitching.  At age 34 he’s 152-149 for his career for a barely-better than average 105 era+ value.

He has shown that he can be great (2009 for Atlanta) and he can be mediocre (his two seasons in NY and two other seasons in Chicago).  He’s never missed a start in the majors, though the Yankees took him out of their starting rotation towards the end of last season for a bit after a series of poor outings.

Question is: rumors abound that he’s lost his velocity.  Is this true?  Lets take a look at Pitch F/X.  Here’s samples from three games last year (the box score is linked to the date and the Pitch FX data is linked to a mentioning of speed):

1. June 6th: probably his best game of the year.  7 innings, 1 hit, 9ks (though 4 walks).  Again his avg fastball is around 89 but he maxed out at 91.7.

2. July 26: a decent performance middle of the season.  About the exact same figures as on 6/6; 89.22 average, 91.6 max.

3. Sept 29: his final appearance of the year, a loss against Toronto where he got shelled.  Here he was averaging
89, max of barely 90 on his fastball.  Hmm.  not good.

Now Lets look at 2009, when he finished 4th in Cy Young voting (which really means, he received one vote from one of the stat nerd voters who decided NOT to vote for Carpenter because he missed a few starts).  Here’s a random game from the middle of the season.

1. June 11: Vazquez goes 8 innings, gives up 2 hits and strikes out 12 hapless Pirates.  Interesting: he was
throwing an average of 91.43, max of 93.5.

So, his average fastball MPH has dropped nearly 3.5 mph between mid 2009 and the end of 2010.  Not good.  This did not go without notice in the NY press and blogsFederal Baseball pulled out some great links and wrote a similar article to this a few days ago.

Here’s one last visual aid; Fangraphs historical pitch velocity maps. In the mid-late 2007 he was averaging 93-94 with peaks of 97-98.  Now, he’s spent an entire year averaging 88-89 with peaks of no more than 92-93.  That’s a significant drop off and may be indicative of Vazquez’s utility as a power pitcher coming to an end.  The same thing happened to Livan Hernandez and he adjusted, but clearly Livan isn’t the ace starter that the Nats really kinda need.

—————————–

So, how about Brandon Webb?  We’re already reading how Rizzo likes Webb dating to his AZ days and we’re seeing pundit predictions and beat writer stories that Webb is coming to the Nats on a one-year reclamation project.

Webb’s history over the last 2 years:
– Made opening day start 2009, shoulder hurt, went on DL with Bursitis, surgery in august.
– Tried comeback 2010, never got off DL.  Pitched in the instructional league after the end of the season.  In those three instructional league games, here’s his performance summary:

  • 9/29/10: 1 inning, fastball at 81mph.
  • 10/2/10: 81-84mpg
  • 10/7/10: 2 innings, fastball low-80s, top mid-80s.

Webb got 2 innings in his last of three Instructional league start and was, per this report, was sitting “in the low-80s and topped in the mid-80s.”    Stated another way, “Webb has thrown in front of scouts multiple times, according to several reports, and in his most recent session his fastball reached four or five miles per hour below his typical velocity.”

Perhaps this is just a tentative guy, trying to work his way back.  In fact, if he was indeed pitching at just 90% of his effort after so long a time off, then mid 80s is just fine.

Webb was never a terribly hard thrower.  His fangraphs velocity chart from his healthier 2007 and 2008 show a consistent mid-to-upper 80s (88.5), with peaks into the low 90s.  His strength is in a serious sinker, that batters drive into the ground and cannot hit hard, consistently.

Conclusion:
– Take a flier on Webb.  I’d go 1yr $5M with $1M incentives at 15,20,25 and 30 games started to push total value to 1yr $9M.  And i’d get a club option at $10M for a second year.
– Stay away from Vazquez.  He’s trending downwards and is in Jose Contreras territory.

Coming soon: similar thoughts about Carl Pavano and Jorge de la Rosa.

First Look: Sammy Solis

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Sammy Solis pitching in high school. Photo www.azdiamondreport.com

Sammy Solis (pronounced Soo-lease) was the Nats 2nd round pick in the June amateur draft.  Some pundits questioned whether we’d be able to sign him as the August 15th deadline approached.  However, we got his deal done for slightly above slot (along with a couple other question marks in AJ Cole and Robbie Ray, both of whom got far above slot for 4th and 12th rounders respectively).

After putting in a couple of scoreless (albeit abbreviated) starts in Hagerstown, we sent him off to the AFL.  He got the start in the AFL championship game today, and this being the first time this Nats fan got a chance to look at him we tuned in.  His team Scottsdale ended up winning the game 3-2 to win the championship.

Observations: he has a pretty easy arm motion.  He has a low three-quarters arm slot, almost sidearm.  The left-hander brings a variable speed fastball that goes from 91-92 to speeds in the 97 range. He has been working on a cut-fastball, which would explain the low-90s version of the fastball versus the high-end ball.  He has a side-arm curve in the mid-70s mpg range that he sometimes struggled to keep in the zone (one of the criticisms of Solis is that his curve isn’t sharp enough, probably because of the arm slot resulting in more of a “slurve” instead of a nice breaking curve).  He definitely has gained significant speed on his fastball since his days at U. San Diego, at least if you trust this scouting report or this one and if you trust the gun on TV.  Keith Law liked him in college and predicts a quick rise through the minors. I didn’t necessarily too many change-ups, which is too bad since reportedly it is a plus pitch for him but isn’t out of character for an amateur-recently-turned-pro pitcher.

He benefited on the day from a rather large strike zone (getting Dustin Ackley on a called 3rd strike in the first that may have been slightly up and away) but he definitely showed some dominance over a strong lineup.  He got the side in order in the first, gave up a walk and a broken bat single in the second.  He got a double-play ball that was thrown away giving up a run in the 2nd (the run is earned despite the error on the double play attempt).  In the 3rd he worked the first hitter well, fooling him on a change-up and then striking him out w/ a nice curve before getting the next two guys on a deep flyball and a grounder to short.  He works fast, he’s always around the strike zone and he looked pretty comfortable on the mound.

In the 4th he got Ackley down 0-2 but then gave up a single to left to the AFL’s leading hitter and MVP and (arguably) closest prospect to the majors.  Solis showed some decent moves to first, showing a conventional and a quick-throw over, nearly picking Ackley off at one point.  He gave up another single after getting the count worked to 3-2 against Peoria’s cleanup hitter Ryan Lavarnway.  Eventually he leaked a 2nd run after another error in the infield.  He left the game with the lead after his team got him a run in the bottom of the 4th.  I can’t say that anyone really got “good wood” on him all day; the best hit balls being one deep flyball and perhaps the two singles in the fourth.

The Scottsdale Scorpions featured no less than four Nats in the starting lineup (Steve Lombardozzi, Derek Norris and Bryce Harper) with a couple more prospects (Adam Carr and Cole Kimball)  in the bullpen.  Norris legged out a deep grounder to 3rd that probably was an error but showed some great speed for a catcher.  He also got himself into scoring position with some heads up base-running before getting driven in by a sac fly in the 2nd.  Lombardozzi ripped a double in the 4th to give his team the lead.  Kimball pitched a 1-2-3 9th and showed a 98-mph fastball with good secondary pitches, further proof that he has a realistic chance to make the Nats bullpen in 2011.

Harper hit the first pitch he saw, going with a fastball outside and up and driving it through the right side of the field to drive in a run.  Definitely a nice swing but continues his trend of swinging early in the count.  One thing the Nats will definitely ask him to work on is patience at the plate in the minors next year.  That being said, it is awfully hard to criticize a known baseball rat who sat the entire summer and only got to play twice a week in the AFL for his patience at the plate.  In each subsequent at bat he also went up hacking at the first pitch.  In the 4th he popped up to right.  In his third AB he again swung at the first pitch and missed badly on a curve.  He then missed just as badly on two more similar curves, striking out.  And in his last at bat he K’d again after fouling a couple pitches off.

Conclusions: well, its hard not to be excited about the slew of Nats prospects in this game overall, and by Solis in particular.  He wasn’t Strasburg-esque in terms of dominance but he controlled the zone and seemed comfortable on the mound against the Minor’s best.  I can see him starting 2011 in Potomac and quickly moving up to Harrisburg, with an eye for a debut in 2012.  Norris is the real deal and I’m beginning to see why Law believes Norris is our “catcher of the future” and not Ramos or even Flores at this point.  Kimball gives the Nats something we really don’t have; a serious power arm to bring in to game in the 6th or 7th to shut down rallies.  Lombardozzi seems undersized but, well, he’s a middle infielder, and we all know who and what Harper is capable of.

Can we just fast forward to 2012?

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0Ah73kg8XyqHoclVpWmJGamtLQ3h4ak1JelR0cnVXLWc&hl=en&output=html on

Rule 5 Protection Decisions for 2010

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You may not know who Brad Meyers is now, but he may be pitching for the Nats before you know it. Photo Rodger M. Wood/Wood Sports Photography

The Nats (and every other team) face an 11/19/10 deadline to add Rule5 eligible players that we want to protect to our 40-man roster. (Coincidentally, I maintain a spreadsheet online of key MLB off-season dates and their implications for the team.  The link is also available in the “NatsArm Creations” section on the links section to the right of this page).  NatsInsider.com writer Zuckerman beat me to the punch on this topic (which I wrote up last weekend but forgot to publish), but here’s some similar analysis.

Last year we added three players on 11/19/09 to protect them from the Rule5 Draft:

  • Juan Jaime, rhp
  • Aaron Thompson, lhp
  • Atahualpa Severino, lhp

Nats bloggers/analysts at the time surmised that we were gambling by not putting on guys like Erik Arneson and Hassan Pena or even local favorite Josh Wilkie (especially after he appeared in 2009’s Arizona Fall League), but we only ended up losing Zech Zinicola to the Rule5 draft.  We lost him to Toronto, who had former Nationals executive Dana Brown picking up a player he was familiar with.  Toronto eventually returned Zinicola to the franchise, and he split time between AA and AAA as a middle reliever.

Ironically, two of last year’s Rule5 protection players are now candidates to be dropped OFF the 40-man just one year later because of Injury (in Jaime’s case) or performance (in Thompson’s case).  Severino had a very nice season and should be in the mix to be the LOOGY out of the MLB bullpen in 2011.  In fact, Jaime was taken off the 40-man on 11/18/10 for just this reason.

This year, we definitely face a number of interesting choices on what prospects to protect.  RIP NatsFarmAuthority, but at least Brian Oliver has not taken down the Draft Tracker xls, so we can see who is 2010 Rule5 eligible.   Here’s the list of guys who are at risk with some thoughts in this year’s rule5 draft.   Remember; any team that grabs one of these guys has to keep them on their MLB roster for the entire 2011 season, so the analysis is based on who realistically is in jeopardy of this situation happening with.  These are ordered by the team that they played the majority of 2010 with:

Syracuse

  • Whiting, Boomer OF: light hitting speedy center fielder.  A .313 slugging percentage in the weaker AAA league just isn’t going to cut it.  He’s not in the mix for even a backup OF spot in the majors and seems destined to be an organizational guy/career minor leaguer.
  • Mandel, Jeff RHP: a decent starter for the Nats over the past couple of seasons who moved to the bullpen in Syracuse towards the end of the season.  He’s not overpowering and not a high K/9 guy, and seems to be now a middle relief guy at best.  Might be worth the protection since he may be a candidate for the 2011 MLB bullpen.
  • Wilkie, Josh RHP: I didn’t initially have Wilkie on the list, since we got him as an undrafted FA.  Zuckerman noted that he is rule5 eligible so we’ll discuss.  He has definitely performed for this franchise through the years, and was showcased in the 2010 AFL.  Having just finished his 5th professional season, he has methodically moved up the ranks and spent the entire 2010 in Syracuse.  He’s a middle reliever, a righty, with a good BA against and good peripheral numbers.  Is this worth protection in the draft?  Perhaps.  I feel he could compete for a spot in the MLB bullpen in 2011 but he’s behind several other proven right handed throwers and may be destined for AAA again.

Harrisburg

  • Rhinehart, Bill 1B/OF: demoted towards the end of the season to Potomac.  Now a 26-yr old guy who hasn’t been successful above High-A.  Days are numbered.
  • Marrero, Chris 1B/OF: our first round draft pick in 2006 and pretty much the sole first baseman prospect in the system.  He played a full season at AA and put up a decent line (.294/.350/.450) with 18 homers as a relatively young player in the league (he turned 22 in July).  I don’t know if he can turn into a producer at the MLB level and a large FA contract to Dunn or Pena could block him even further.  But he merits protection until we find out what we have with him.
  • Peacock, Brad RHP: He has been a decently effective starter for the team on multiple levels, this year stepping it up in terms of K/9.  He’s at the Arizona Fall League working out of the bullpen and is putting up similar numbers there that he did in the regular season (good k/9 numbers but an eras in the mid 4s).  Putting Peacock in the AFL surely will increase his visibility, but his mediocre performance there probably guarantees his safety in the Rule5 draft.  No need to protect him, but we hope he turns into a decent middle relief option in a couple years.  11/20/10 Correction; as noted by Kilgore here, Peacock’s Draft-Follow-Evaluate status means he gets one extra year.  We’ll revist in 2011.
  • Meyers, Brad RHP.  Meyers was the ace of the 2009 league winning Potomac staff and was named the Nats minor league pitcher of the year.  For 2010 he moved up to Harrisburg and was dominant in his first 6 starts there (1.47 era, 35 ks in 30 innings and under a 1.00 whip) before going down with complications to foot surgery and failing to pitch the rest of the season.  Because of this injury he seems a safe bet NOT to need protection despite his capabilities; no team is going to guarantee a 25-man roster spot all season to a guy who hasn’t pitched since June and who has never appeared above AA.  But we may want to be safer than sorry.
  • Solano, Jhonatan C: another who I didn’t initially have on this list, the Nats got him as an undrafted FA in 2006 and he is rule5 eligible.  While you never like to lose catching depth out of your system, suddenly the Nats are swimming in it.  We have 4 catchers on the 40-man right now, and that’s two too many for the MLB roster as it is.  We are probably non-tendering Nieves at some point but that means one of Flores or Ramos is starting in AAA.  Derek Norris is definitely moving up to Harrisburg for 2011, so that means Solano is designed to be a backup either way.  He’s not going to get picked up in a rule5 draft, so we can leave him unprotected.

Potomac, Hagerstown or Vermont.  It is really difficult to think that any player at A-ball or below is seriously a candidate to be taken in the Rule5 draft, but we’ll zip through the candidates.

  • Alaniz, Adrian RHP: put up pretty good numbers at Potomac after losing out in a rotational numbers game in spring training.  Has now spent parts of 3 straight seasons in Harrisburg but cannot stick.  He’s getting too old for A ball though and might need to show something out of spring to keep a pitching job.
  • Phillabaum, Justin RHP: he’s a later-innings/8th inning guy who got hit very hard this year in Potomac.
  • Beno, Martin RHP: no progress for the righty, having played the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons in high-A.
  • Gibson, Glenn RHP: traded to the Rays to obtain Elijah Dukes and then released.  I guess the Nats picked him back up because they liked him enough to draft him in the first place.  Assigned to Hagerstown, demoted to Vermont after putting up an 8+ ERA.  Not a prospect.
  • Erb, Shane RHP: he posted a 6.19 era at low-A this year, the LOWEST ERA he’s had in 3 years in the system.  Days are numbered in the organization.
  • King, Stephen 3B: struggled between short and low A this year, and possibly still held in contempt by the organization for a 50-game drug suspension that cost him the early part of the year.  May be out of a job soon.
  • Lyons, Dan, 3B: Batted .223 between low-A and high-A as a 26 year old.  Clearly too old for either level and may be outright released.

Conclusions:

If I were the Nats i’d protect Mandel, Marrero and Meyers to be safe.  With the Jaime move that would put us exactly at 40/40 on the 40-man.   At that point we possibly consider adding in Peacock or Wilkie but probably not: if one or the other of these two needed to go on, we have a few guys who could be dumped off the 40-man and probably would clear waivers.

11/20/10 update: The Nats chose to protect Marrero, Adam Carr and Cole Kimball.  In retrospect, I suppose I should have taken guys like Carr and Kimball into account.  They first became rule5 eligible last year and were not protected, and were not selected.  In the year since both have become valuable power arms out of the bullpen and are leading candidates to compete with and/or replace the likes of Batista, Peralta and Walker in the 2011 bullpen.  Next year :-)

Nats Lineup when all Trade/FA rumors go through.

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Is this the Nat's 2011 Opening Day Starter? (Photo deadspin.com)

By now we’ve all seen predictions of free agents in the off season.  Here’s some from Tim Dierkes, here’s the rest of the MLB trade rumors writers, here’s some by Jon Heyman, and here’s a bunch by the HardBall Times guys.   By various accounts the Nats are going to:

  • Let Adam Dunn walk.
  • Sign Carlos Pena to take his place
  • Roll the dice on Brandon Webb
  • Chase after but not obtain Cliff Lee
  • Eventually sign Javier Vazquez (I really hope not)
  • Maybe get Jorge de la Rosa (I hope not)
  • Possibly get JJ Putz as a closer placeholder/trade bait version of Matt Capps

Note: I’ve also seen comments here and there that we’d be interested in Hisanori Takahashi, a 35yr old utility guy in the Mets bullpen or taking Kosuke Fukudome off the Cub’s hands.  The former isn’t a FA and is arbitration eligible but the Mets reportedly are non-tendering him.  The latter could be mildly intriguing; he’s a decent hitter, a decent fielder who has played center in the past.  But it doesn’t necessarily improve over a Morse/Bernadina combo.  Of course, i’m also hearing about possible trades for Zack Greinke (as covered in this blog posting) or Matt Garza.  I’d love to have either guy of course, but don’t want to give up the farm for either guy.  And now that Dan Uggla has indicated that he wants out of Florida (and honestly, given the cheap-skate way the franchise is run and the way the players are run out of town as soon as they get too expensive, who wouldn’t?), there’s all sorts of rumors about his possible destination … and the Nats are in the thick of it.

(Side note: do you start to think that the Nats are acting a little out of character this off season?  They’re attached to marquee free agents, they’re listed as “interested parties” on half the free agents out there, and they’re putting their name in the hat for all the big names on the trading block.  Is this all for real or is this severe over-compensation for the Lerner’s spending the past 5 years of acting like MLB paupers?)

So, our 2011 rotation could look like this:

  1. Livan Hernandez
  2. Brandon Webb
  3. John Lannan
  4. Javier Vazquez
  5. Jordan Zimmermann

Leaving the likes of Maya, Detwiler, injury disappointment Wang and $15M bust Jason Marquis on the sidelines (to say nothing of the next tier of guys like Stammen, Atilano, Martis, Mock and Chico looking at bullpen spots or AAA).  I can’t see Sammy Solis making a Mike Leake-esque debut at the MLB level having never pitched a day in the minors, especially after his less-than-dominant AFL numbers.

The POTENTIAL of this rotation is great.  Webb’s a former Cy Young winner, Vazquez an innings eater who garnered Cy Young votes in 2009 in Atlanta.  Lannan (outside of the first half of last year) is a difficult lefty who gets a ton of ground balls and pitches at a 110 era+ level, Livan is a revalation and Zimmermann is a Matt Cain replica who could be just as dominant with mid 90s possible shutdown stuff.  The reality could be just as bad: Livan is a soft tossing righty who depends on guile and is regularly shelled, Webb hasn’t pitched in 2 years, Vazquez has lost his fastball, Zimmermann is promising but has never produced, and Lannan (our Ace) is a #4 pitcher on a good staff.  Nothing like glass is half empty/glass is half full analysis.

Our non-pitching/out-field lineup looks pretty set already for the 2011 season.

  1. (L) Nyjer Morgan – CF
  2. (R) Ian Desmond – 2b (yes I think he and Espinosa need to switch)
  3. (R) Ryan Zimmerman – 3b
  4. (L) Carlos Pena – 1b (he has to bat cleanup to go R-L-R in the heart of the order)
  5. (R) Josh Willingham – LF
  6. (L) Roger Bernadina/(R) Michael Morse platoon in RF
  7. (R) Ivan Rodriguez – C
  8. (S) Danny Espinosa – SS
  9. Pitcher

I can live with that.  Frankly i’d like to see another outfielder acquisition.  I liked Bernadina and Morse’s production this year but they’re not game changers.  You really need to use your power positions on the field (first and third base, right field, left field) to hold your big boppers, and we need more production out of the RF spot.  Jayson Werth would really fit in nicely there wouldn’t he?  I guess we wait til 2012 and the introduction of Bryce Harper to fill that spot.

I also think we need to do something in center/leadoff.  Morgan’s troubles towards the end of last season are well documented, but his production wasn’t earning him playing time.  If the Red Sox acquire Carl Crawford, that might make Jacoby Ellsbury available.  His 2010 was a wash but he’d be the perfect center fielder/leadoff guy.  2009 stats: 70sbs, .301 BA and a .355 obp.

Willingham has mentioned that he would be willing to play First, and I think that’d be a great alternative if we can’t get any of the free agent 1st basement to come here.  We could go with an outfield of Bernadina, Morgan and Morse with Willingham at 1st base, giving us a decently good lineup both offensively and defensively.

It looks to be a really interesting offseason for the Nats.

GM for a day Part 3: the rest of the Roster and DFA candidates

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The last time anyone was happy with Jason Marquis. AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez

This is the 3rd of a quick series of reviews on the Nat’s 2010 season ending roster with analysis of what we should do.  Part I was a discussion of our Arbitration candidates while Part II was a discussion about Free Agents (ours and rumored acquisitions).  Part III is a quick rundown on the players either already under contract for 2011 or under club control (not yet reached arbitration status).  Bold means I am guessing that they’re on the 25 man roster on opening day.

Marquis, Jason #4 starter in 2011; lets hope he can regain some form.
Zimmerman, Ryan Franchise player
Strasburg, Stephen 60-day DL to start season; hopefully see some rehab starts in September
Rodriguez, Ivan Likely to cede playing time gradually to Ramos through 2011.
Hernandez, Livan Great 1-year re-signing.  Opening Day #1 Starter 2011.
Maya, Yunesky Hopefully shows his value with a full Spring Training.  Probable #5 starter barring FA signings or injury
Morgan, Nyjer Still under club control; but definitely a roster question mark
Mock, Garrett Destined for AAAA starter status.  Syracuse Rotation
Stammen, Craig Despite good advanced stats, probably behind in rotation race.  2011 long man in BP
Clippard, Tyler BP Anchor; splits time between setup and closer role.
Zimmermann, Jordan #3 starter 2011.  Hopefully stays healthy.
Atilano, Luis AAA rotation
Balester, Collin MLB bullpen/longman
Bernadina, Roger Possible starting 2011 RF
Desmond, Ian Starting SS
Detwiler, Ross Probably loses out on rotation battle and starts in AAA
English, Jesse Coming off injury, probably AAA bullpen.  Possible DFA.
Jaime, Juan Injured all of 2010: Possible DFA?
Martin, J.D. Coming off injury, probably AAA rotation or DFA.
Martis, Shairon AAA rotation
Mattheus, Ryan Injured most of 2010: Possible DFA
Maxwell, Justin 4th outfielder.
Severino, Atahualpa AAA bullpen
Thompson, Aaron AA Rotation.  Possible DFA after awful 2010.
Bisenus, Joe DFA Candidate after middling end of 2010.
Storen, Drew MLB bullpen; sharing closing duties w/ Clippard
Ramos, Wilson MLB backup catcher
Espinosa, Danny MLB starting 2nd baseman
Harper, Bryce Likely starting in Potomac and fast rising.

We had more than 40 guys that needed to be made active  (given that we ended the year with several on the 60-day DL) and some had to be designated for assignment (DFA) to make room when the date arrives to make the rosters right post 2010.   That date was 11/10/10, and between our 5 free agents we also cut loose four other players.  None was really a surprise. 

  • Scott Olsen endured another injury and earned the ire of the manager when his move to the bullpen was met with some petulance.
  • Tyler Walker was injured all year and is the most common of commodities in baseball (the right handed middle reliever).
  • Jesse English suffered a similar fate to Walker, and is surplus to requirements after Slaten did such a good job as the LOOGY.
  • The mild surprise DFA so far has been Joe Bisenius.  He didn’t have the greatest numbers out of our bullpen at the end of last season (walking more than he K’d) but he’s a power arm in a league that is quickly becoming a power-arm league.  Perhaps he’ll be invited to spring training to try to earn another shot.

As of right now, we sit at exactly 37/40 on the 40 man.  This gives us some nice flexibility to acquire players via trade or sign free agents without having to make any more moves.  We also have a pending deadline to add Rule5 eligible players, and we have several guys we probably want to protect (a blog posting on this is upcoming…), so I do feel we could make a few more moves:

  • Juan Jaime: he’s buried in the minors and its unlikely someone would risk him after being injured all year
  • Ryan Mattheus (see Jaime)
  • Aaron Thompson: who had just a horrible 2010 and could probably pass through waivers.
  • We could also cut JD Martin loose: he’s 27 coming off a season-ending injury, is clearly not going to be in the future plans of the team, and a soft-tossing right handed starter isn’t likely to be in great demand on the waiver wire.

Let the offseason mania begin!

Nats GM for a day. Part 2: the Free Agents

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Is this the National’s 2011 First Baseman? Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images

In our first of a 3-part post, we talked about the arbitration cases that the Nats face.  Some of those decisions are already being made and that post has been updated.  Now, lets talk about the free agents.

Player What Should Washington Do?/What WILL We do?
Dunn, Adam We should resign him, but Rizzo seems dead set against it.  Offer him arbitration and let him walk.
Batista, Miguel Valuable rubber arm in BP; I would resign him to a simliar 1 year deal in 2011.
Harris, Willie Let him go.  Declining value, Morse a better utility option.
Mench, Kevin Let him go; awful september numbers.  Perhaps ML FA in AAA
Kennedy, Adam Decline club option and let him go.  No need for 2nd baseman.

Clearly, the Adam Dunn decision will be critical to the direction of the team and our offense next year.  As noted above, personally I think he needs to be re-signed.  The team’s actions all year (plus Tom Boswell‘s repeated comments about how the front office has bungled the negotiations) seem to indicate though that we’re content with getting the compensatory picks and moving another direction.  If we decide to let him go, I’d prefer to sign someone like Adam LaRoche, a player who plays decent defense and shows a good bat.  I don’t think Carlos Pena (as is frequently rumored) is a good choice, and there’s sentiment in the Tampa Bay community that he may stay on in Tampa and try to improve on an awful 2010 season.  But, most pundits seem to think he’s coming here.

We also could become more creative and put someone like Josh Willingham, Michael Morse or even a supposedly healthy Jesus Flores at first as a stop gap until one of our prospects like Chris Marrero or even, say it isn’t so, Bryce Harper is ready to come up.  I mean come on, you “hide” defensive liabilities at first base.  If someone is 6’4″ and has any fielding ability they should be good enough to play the position.

Moving on to other FAs to be the decisions are relatively easy.  Harris, Mench, and Kennedy are gone.  None batted well enough to even consider and we have more able (and cheaper) minor leaguers ready to come up and serve as backups.  The last FA to be Miguel Batista proved to be a great asset to the bullpen at relatively little cost and would be worth bringing back.  We signed him last year on a non-guaranteed contract but guaranteeing him $1M wouldn’t be a huge risk.

Now, given the above, what is in store in the FA market?  I know i’ve heard lots of noise about how the Nats are going after Cliff Lee but I just don’t see that happening.  Here’s what I do see them doing:

1. Getting one or two pitchers.  Rizzo has a history with Brandon Webb, Arizona has blown enough cash on the guy, and he may be ready to come back.  We sign him to a one year deal and try to get lucky.  I’d also be happy with trading for one of Tampa’s spare starters (Garza, Shields), acquiring Vazquez (who I think is an NL, non-NY market pitcher and could return to his 2009 Atlanta form) or a De La Rosa type (hard thrower and can get Ks).  Most pundits have us signing Vazquez, some have us getting Webb.

2. Get a FA first baseman: I’ve previously said I like Adam LaRoche.  Rizzo likes Carlos Pena.  We’ll see what happens.  There’s lots of teams looking for first basemen, so the competition for these guys may force our hand into a guy we don’t want.

3. Find a utility player: we need a better version of Willie Harris.  May come from the minors as a prospect but probably not.  We need a guy who can play 2nd/ss or 3b in a pinch.

Less Likely:

4. Sign or acquire a marquee outfielder.  I’d love to see someone like Werth or Ross in right field, which could move Bernadina to center, allow us to rid ourselves of Morgan and then use Maxwell as the 4th outfielder.  We could also acquire someone like Rasmus or Ellsbury, put them in center, dump Morgan and go with Willingham-new CF-Bernadina.  Or we could use a Morse/Bernadina platoon in Right with Bernadina occasionally spelling Morgan in center (though they’re both lefty and both hit relatively the same, so that may not actually work).

I don’t really see us going after any bullpen help or a closer.  As Zuckerman once said, we’re remarkably set on 2011 positions despite being a 90-loss team.   We had a good bullpen last year and have a couple of decent looking reliever prospects in Carr and Kimball.  I could see a 2011 bullpen with Clippard, Burnett, Storen, Stammen, Balester, Slaten and Carr.  Or substitute some of our arbitration/fa guys for Stammen and Balester.

I’ve said for a while that the Nats need to spend like a mid market team.  $90M payroll at a minimum so as not to insult the fanbase.  Perhaps this off season we’ll see it.  They only have a paltry $24M committed for 2011 right now and, while that number will increase with potentially 13 arbitration cases, a huge chunk of last year’s payroll is now gone (just Guzman and Dunn consisted of nearly 1/3 of our 2010 payroll).  So, lets see some FA dollars get spent!

WS Pitcher Review and Lee’s horrendous Decision in Game 5

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Edgar Renteria buried the Rangers in Game 5. Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.

(this is a follow-up to a previous posting about the Giant’s World Series victory).

Despite the supposed massive superiority of the American League and its juggernaut payroll teams, a team from the National League (one that barely made the playoffs no less) was crowned WS champion after a rather tidy 4-1 series victory.  The Giants are certainly not a low-payroll team; they started the season with the league’s 9th highest payroll, finished the regular season with the 5th best record and advanced through the playoffs with relative ease (they were 11-4 in the playoffs altogether, losing 2 Sanchez starts, a Lincecum and a Cain start (despite Cain continuing a 22 inning post season no earned-run streak).

Not that it mattered in the end, but game 5 certainly turned on a questionable pitching strategy decision just before the decisive 3-run homer in the 7th.  Cody Ross led off with a single (continuing his amazing post season and certainly buying him FA dollars in the off season).  Cliff Lee made an 0-2 mistake to Uribe who smacked a single into center.  After a fantastic career-first sacrifice/drag bunt by Aubrey Huff, Cliff Lee had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out.  Lee battled Burrell to 3-2 before striking him out on an outside cutter.  This seemed at the time to be the game-changing strikeout that Lee needed but he quickly fell behind the next batter Edgar Renteria 2-0, missing badly with two curveballs.  Announcer Tim McCarver, often villified as being the master of the obvious, stated very clearly that the right decision upon falling behind 2-0 would be to walk Renteria, load the bases with 2 outs and start afresh with the on-deck hitter Aaron Rowand (a sub in the series and not nearly the threat of Renteria).  Before McCarver could finish his thought, Lee grooved a 2-0 fastball, belt high, down the middle of the plate and the aging, soon-to-be-retired Renteria didn’t miss.  He crushed a 3-run homer and the game was essentially over.  Lincecum pitched 8 complete (giving up a meaningless homer to Nelson Cruz) before oddball closer Brian Wilson blew through the heart of the Rangers lineup (Hamilton, Guerrero and Cruz again) to get the save and finish out the series.

Why does Lee not walk Renteria there?  Why does the pitching coach see the obvious situation, run out to the mound and say, “hey, lets just throw two fastballs a foot outside and start over on Rowand?”  This is the reason MLB teams have bench coaches; to help the manager manage the game.  It was the latest in a series of curious pitching moves (or non-moves) from the Rangers coaching staff.  In reality Lee is a competitor and probably thinks he can get anyone out, at any time, let alone an over-the-hill bounce-around-the league veteran like Renteria.  But, no matter what the quality of the hitter mistakes in Major League Baseball quickly turn into gopher balls.

Overview of all 15 games the Giants played this offseason:

Series/Game # Giants SP Opponent SP Game Result WP LP
NLDS-1 Lincecum Lowe Giants W 1-0 Lincecum Lowe
NLDS-2 Cain Hansen Braves W 5-4 Farnsworth Ramirez
NLDS-3 Sanchez Hudson Giants W 3-2 Romo Kimbrel
NLDS-4 Bumgarner Lowe Giants W 3-2 Bumgarner Lowe
NLCS-1 Lincecum Halladay Giants W 4-3 Lincecum Halladay
NLCS-2 Sanchez Oswalt Phillies 6-1 Oswalt Sanchez
NLCS-3 Cain Hamels Giants W 3-0 Cain Hamels
NLCS-4 Bumgarner Blanton Giants W 6-5 Wilson Oswalt
NLCS-5 Lincecum Halladay Phillies 4-2 Halladay Lincecum
NLCS-6 Sanchez Oswalt Giants W 3-2 Lopez Madson
WS-1 Lincecum Lee Giants W 11-7 Lincecum Lee
WS-2 Cain Wilson Giants W 9-0 Cain Wilson
WS-3 Sanchez Lewis Rangers W 4-2 Lewis Sanchez
WS-4 Bumgarner Hunter Giants W 4-0 Bumgarner Hunter
WS-5 Lincecum Lee Giants W 3-1 Lincecum Lee

SF Starting Pitching Stats in the playoffs (all three series combined)

Pitcher Starts w/l Team w/L ip k/bb era whip
Lincecum 5 4-1 4-1 37 43/9 2.43 0.92
Cain 3 2-0 2-1 21.33 13/7 0 0.94
Sanchez 4 0-1 2-2 20 22/9 4.05 1.25
Bumgarner 3 2-0 3-0 20.66 18/5 2.12 1.11

The cliche for post season baseball has always been, “good pitching beats good hitting” and we certainly saw this in the 2010 post season.  The Giants featured 2 clear “Aces” in Lincecum and Cain, while witnessing a 21-yr old rookie Madison Bumgarner dominate on the sport’s biggest stage.  Only #3 starter Sanchez struggled in this post season (if you can call a 4.05 era against the best teams in baseball truly “struggling”).   The world series featured the league’s best hitting team in Texas, but they were shut down by the Giant’s pitching staff, hitting .190 for the series.

Ironically; what the Giants just finished doing to the Rangers is what most of the baseball world thought the Phillies and their vaunted rotation would be doing.  Yes; the AL has the Red Sox and Yankees and Rays (by most opinions 3 of the best 5 teams in baseball) but the NL has the rotational depth to shutdown $150M rosters.  If the Yankees want to compete next year, look no further than replacing Vazquez with Cliff Lee, turning the ineffective Burnett into a 5th starter (ala what SF did with Barry Zito) and finding themselves a solid #1a Ace behind Sabathia.

How does this tie back to the Nats?  The answer is clear; if you can put together a top notch starting rotation, you can go incredibly far.  Imagine in 2012 this rotation: a healthy Strasburg, a strong and improving Jordan Zimmerman, an impressive young starter in Sammy Solis, a top notch free agent acquisition along the likes of Greinke or a healthy Brandon Webb, and a take your pick from our stable of #5 starters like Lannan, Detwiler or Maya.  These guys can end losing streaks, keep your team in games, throw up quality starts 80% of the time, and turn a league average offense into a post season team.

That’s the “plan” anyway.

End of Season Award Candidates/Guesses (updated with Winners)

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Josh Hamilton hits another homer. Photo: www.graphicshunt.com

Nov, 2010 Update: actual award winners:

Candidates and Guesses on the award winners for the 4 major categories per league.  I originally wrote this towards the end of the season, and now am updating it based on how the season finished out.

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton (Cano 2nd unless voters get all NY-starry eyed).  Miguel Cabrera getting is putting up serious numbers but the all around play of Hamilton is hard to miss.

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez.  Back in late august I had CC Sabathia winning this, but Felix’s statistics pitching for such a poor team are overwhelming.  Mid summer, this was David Price‘s award to lose and, well, he’s lost it.  Cliff Lee was putting in a pretty strong summer as well but has really struggled since getting to Texas.  Guys like Clay Buchholz (who led the Majors in ERA for a bit) and Trevor Cahill looking so strong.  Lots of good starter performances in the AL this year.

AL Rookie: Neftali Felix, who has been lights out for the Rangers as their closer.  Guys like Austin Jackson and Brendan Boesch have tailed off.  Daniel Bard really isn’t in a position as a setup guy to be the impact player the others are.  Reaching the post season and putting up good numbers there didn’t hurt.

AL Mgr: I’m going with Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire.  He coaxed 94 wins out of a team with a ho-hum pitching staff, a team that lost its closer in the pre-season and which didn’t have its leading slugger for the 2nd half of the season.  Ron Washington also gets some credit, having taken a team with very little payroll to the top of their division.  Its a bit less impressive though since the Rangers were already projecting to be a pretty good team.

NL MVP: Joey VottoPujols may be an equal, but Votto will win the “hey lets give it to someone else” crowd.  I guess Adrian Gonzalez will come in a distant third.

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, who has been consistently and quietly awesome so far this year.  Again this was another’s to lose (Ubaldo Jimenez) and indeed he has lost it, performing so badly in the last month that I considering dropping him from my fantasy team.  Wainwright is up there for consideration as well.  Latos, Josh Johnson, and Hudson are also having great seasons.

NL Rookie: Buster Posey.  Yes he only came up in june, but to immediately slot in as the catcher, calling games for a rotation of elite starters AND being  your teams cleanup hitter is impressive.  That they made the playoffs and eventually won the World Series with Posey at the helm is even more impressive.  In August this award was absolutely going to Jayson Heyward, but he tailed off and wasn’t nearly as exciting towards the end of the season as in the beginning.  Jamie Garcia is in third place; it is hard to argue with a potential Cy Young candidate.   Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and even Stephen Strasburg were up for consideration at various times.  Mike Leake‘s accomplishments are pretty noteworthy (not a day in the minors and making the MLB rotation on a playoff-bound team).  Just a great rookie class in the NL this year.

NL Manager: Bud Black, though some serious consideration goes to Dusty Baker for the job he’s done in Cincinnati.  But (in a similar story to Texas) to take a team nearly dead last in payroll to the top of a division with big time talent is tough.  Bobby Cox has also done a nice job turning around Atlanta.

What will Dunn do? (updated)

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Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America

As posted by other bloggers today, October 28th 2010, (especially in this post here on the Nationals Enquirer which rather eloquently titles their posting with the obvious consequence of Dunn’s Elias rating), the Nats dodged a huge bullet and will be fully compensated if Adam Dunn decides to leave via free agency (that is well, unless they do the unthinkable and fail to offer him Arbitration).  The official Elias Rankings came out and previous estimates on Dunn were slightly low (resulting in panicked posts by yours truly and others about his being a type B free agent and thus making our entire mis-handling of the contract extension even more egregiously bad).

Now, based on the rules of compensation (as explained in the Kilgore’s Nats Journal blog posting today), the first 18 picks of the 2011 draft are protected (usually first 15 but there’s a few compensation picks in there from failed draft picks in 2010).  So, IF Dunn is leaving (and the prevaling opinion seems to lean that way despite all realistic arguments against it…), what the Nats now root for is a team in the “bottom” half of the first round to be the signing team.  If this happens, we’ll get their 1st rounder AND a supplemental pick.  Otherwise we’re looking at the supplemental pick plus the signing team’s 2nd rounder.  That’s not nearly as nice of a haul frankly.

The first round draft order for 2011 goes like this, thanks to mlbtraderumors.com

Here’s the thing though; if Dunn is going to leave, then he needs to go to a team that:

a) Needs a first baseman and

b) Is REALISTICALLY in the market for Free Agents in general, and

c) Makes more sense for him to leave the Nationals for.  As in, why would he go from one last place team to another, unless the Nats insultingly refuse to offer him anything more than a 2yr deal.

Here’s a quick rundown on NL teams and their 1st basemen situation.  We focus first on the NL because of Dunn’s repeated statements that he’s not interested in becoming a full time DH.

  • Nym: Ike Davis: an up and coming prospect, had a nice 2010.
  • Phi: Ryan Howard: long term contract, anchor of the franchise.
  • Fla: Gaby Sanchez: could be upgraded but it doesn’t matter, they’re not FA buyers.  Never are.
  • Atl: Derrick Lee, who is a FA.  Troy Glaus also a FA but was awful this year. Could be a buyer, looking for a slugger to help them make the leap from WC to divisional champ.  Or they could depend on up and coming prospect Freddie Freeman.  Not listed as players in any of the early Free Agency predictions though.
  • Stl: Albert Pujols; franchise player, obviously.
  • Mil: Prince Fielder.  Milwaukee’s franchise player until his eventual trade/FA saga next season.
  • Cin: Joey Votto; MVP candidate and not yet even to arbitration.  Best bargain in baseball right now.
  • Chi: it was Derrick Lee til they traded him to Atlanta.  Possible FA buyers.  See below.
  • Hou: it was Lance Berkman til they traded him.  But are they FA buyers?  I don’t think so.
  • Pit: Garrett Jones: doesn’t matter, they’re not FA buyers; they’re the reason baseball has revenue sharing.
  • Lad: James Loney: cost contained and home grown.  plus no FA $$ spent until ownership divorce settled.  Some reports seen saying they’ll trade Loney and go after Dunn, but sounds doubtful.
  • Sdp: Adrian Gonzalez; San Diego’s marquee player.
  • Sfg: Aubrey Huff: a FA and SF desperately needs hitters.  BUT Huff may have earned an extension based on his post season exploits both at bat and in the field where he’s a plus defender.  And the Giants (by virtue of a number of awful contracts) are payroll bound for the next few years.  Not major shoppers.
  • Col: Todd Helton; signed through 2011, which will be the last of his 9 year contract.  His production is declining but they’ll want to stay flexible enough to go after the bumper 2011 1st basemen FA crop of Fielder, Gonzalez, and Pujols.  Won’t go after Dunn but will seek a 1-year FA.
  • Ari: Adam LaRoche, who is a FA, but Arizona’s new GM values defense and doesn’t like Dunn.  Plus, they do have a decent 1B prospect in Brandon Allen.  Not buyers.

So, if he goes anywhere in the NL I think it could be either Atlanta, Chicago or (maybe) San Francisco.  Chicago already has some serious payroll issues and an underperforming team but has a ton of cash.  SF may not have the payroll flexibility to buy Dunn despite really needing him.  Atlanta only has $60M committed next year and has a bunch of arbitration cases … but they’ve spent over $100m on payroll as recently as 2 years ago and may expand it out again.

Adding in AL teams, looking at 1B solutions (I can’t see him signing up for a team that will ONLY DH him, so we have to look at teams where he splits time between 1B and DH).

  • Bos: Kevin Youklis/Victor Martinez; but have a serious need for a DH if they don’t resign David Ortiz.  Interesting off season for Boston.  If they cut loose the legendary Ortiz, I can see them letting Beltre go, putting Youklis at 3rd, and then going after Dunn and selling him on splitting time between 1st and DHing when Victor Martinez needs a blow.  That’s an awful lot of “ifs” to work out though.  Update: The RedSox exercised the 2011 option on Ortiz, presumably removing them from the equation.
  • Nyy: Mark Teixeira.  Plus, don’t the 2011 yankees have like 8 guys who might need to DH periodically?  My favorite subplot of the next few years is how the Yankees handle their aging core of players.  Jeter, A-Rod, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera are all on the wrong side of 34, all make a ton of money and all need a position to play.  Where exactly does Jeter go when he cannot play SS anymore?
  • Tam: Carlos Pena, a FA who will be allowed to walk.  However, Tampa won’t buy Dunn b/c they’re in massive payroll reduction mode.  I’m sure they’ve got some uber hitting prospect who will contribute an OPS+ of 140 next year.  They do have their 2010 minor league player of the year Dan Johnson, who hit THIRTY homers in AAA in just 98 games but he hasn’t exactly torn it up in his MLB experiences.
  • Tor: Lyle Overbay, a FA who is 34.  Can’t see Toronto buying an aging FA w/ new GM in town who is focused on building the team the right way.
  • Bal: Ty Wiggington: another aging mediocre FA.  Dunn would be *perfect* in Baltimore and at Camden, but are Orioles buyers?
  • Det: Miguel Cabrera; locked in and coming off a great year.  However, they have nearly $60M coming off the books and may be looking for someone to bash and protect Cabrera.  Would mean that Dunn becomes a full time DH.
  • Cws: Paul Konerko, a FA coming off a career year.  But, the consensus seems to be that the CWS won’t pursue Konerko (he’s 34 and clearly should start declining).  A dark horse candidate for Dunn.
  • Min: Justin Morneau; franchise player, long term contract.
  • Kc: Billy Butler; player of the future.
  • Cle: Matt LaPorta, the future of this team right now and bounty from the CC Sabathia trade.
  • Laa: Kendrys Morales; a key hitter whose injury helped derail their 2010 season.
  • Oak: Daric Barton: up and coming hitter, only 24 but they’d never buy Dunn unless it was to flip him later.
  • Sea: Russell Branyon/Casey Kotchman but they have Justin Smoak coming up (bounty for Cliff Lee).
  • Tex: Had a rotating door post Smoak trade between castoff Cantu and rookie Chris Davis, but their 2009 minor league player of the year Mitch Moreland seems to have taken hold of the position.  9 homers in 47 games down the stretch plus he has come up huge in the post season.  Not buyers.  No wonder they were OK with letting Smoak go.

There’s many more AL options.  In various scenarios he could make sense for 5 or 6 AL teams.  At least Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, or Toronto.  Tampa if they weren’t going cheap.

My personal odds/guesses in order on where Dunn may go:

  1. Chicago Cubs: makes the most sense and are already politicking for him.  However, rumors on the street at the start of free agency seem to indicate that the Cubs are standing pat.  They have new ownership in 2010 and a bunch of bad contracts.  After such an awful season how can the owners be compelled to throw good money after bad?
  2. Chicago White Sox: instead of the North Side, he moves to the south side.  Some of the Foxsports.com team belives he’s heading here.  The White Sox won 88 games last year and may be looking to upgrade (and get younger) from Konerko.  Yes its AL, but he’d clearly be the first baseman.
  3. Re-signs w/ the Nats; less likely since Rizzo can’t see the forest (40 home runs) for the trees (Dunn’s defensive liabilities).  And, he has to be insulted by the hemming and hawing that went on all season (not to mention the constant trade rumors, which clearly irritated him as the summer progressed).  There has been a 3-year deal on the table since at least August but Dunn has resisted.
  4. Lesser possibilities but which could arise.

  5. Atlanta: if the braves don’t trust prospect Freeman, they make perfect sense and Dunn would be walking into a playoff team ready to take the next step.
  6. Houston; a return home  … but I don’t think they’re really shopping.
  7. Detroit: A couple of Fox sportswriters seem to think he’s heading to Detroit.  If he does, its clearly a signal of defeat on his part because he’d immediately be a full time DH.
  8. New York Yankees.  The Yankees do have a slight need for a DH, but it would take convincing Dunn to completely give up playing in the field as the Yankees are already stacked with future DHs.
  9. Baltimore; Dunn may reach 700 career homers if playing in Camden Yards for the next 5 years with its short porch.  But, as mentioned before, if he decides to leave Washington (an up and coming franchise that could actually contend by the time his contract ends), why would he go to a place like Baltimore?  Baltimore is the 5th best team in a division that shows no signs of ever having an off year.  In fact, why would ANY marquee free agent ever go to Baltimore?
  10. Oakland: listed by Ben Reiter as a dark horse for Dunn’s services.  Don’t see it.

Now, IF Dunn is absolutely leaving … who are the teams we’d be “rooting” to sign him?  Boston is best, but Atlanta or SF would be great too.  If he goes to these locations we’d own a mid-20s first rounder plus a supplemental.  If he goes to Chicago or Houston, we’re looking at a supplemental and an early 2nd rounder (or worse if these teams decide to sign TWO type-A free agents and the other is higher ranked than Dunn.  Under this scenario we’d get a supp-1st and the signing team’s 2nd rounder.  Not good).