Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Ladson’s inbox 3/1/15


Roark; the lost starter.  Photo Alex Brandon/AP via

Roark; the lost starter. Photo Alex Brandon/AP via

I havn’t posted something in weeks.  I was facing writers block.  What is there to really write about in the early weeks of Spring Training?  Thankfully, beat reporter Bill Ladson piped up with an inbox!

As always, these are (presumably) real questions from (presumably) real Nats fans who took time out of their busy day to email Ladson personally.  And as always, i write my response here before reading his so as not to color my own opinion.

Q: Would the Nationals consider a six-man rotation so Tanner Roark isn’t left out?

A: Uh, no.   You don’t commit $210M to Max Scherzer and then immediately tell him and all the other veterans in the rotation that their entire work preparation process is going to be adjusted, for the first time ever by any MLB team, to account for a guy with a year and a half of service in Tanner Roark.

By going to a 6-man rotation for an entire 162-game season,  you’d be lowering the number of starts for each guy by at least 6.  What would you rather have, 6 less starts by the likes of Scherzer and Strasburg, or 20-some starts for Roark?  I like Roark too, and trust me I wouldn’t mind a bit for a trade to enable him to be the 5th starter again, but this team has made its bed with this contract.

Ladson says that Roark will be in the bullpen as the long man when the season starts.  Cutting-edge analysis!

Q: If the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann cannot come to an agreement and he signs somewhere else, what kind of effect will this have on the Nationals in general?

A: Not as much as you might think.  Yes, losing a near-Ace is never good, but this team has a 5-win starter pushed to the bullpen right now, and has significant depth in AAA.  I’m of the belief that a lot of the Scherzer signing was about providing rotation stability through the next few years as the team (likely) parts ways with a significant portion of its current rotation through free agency.  Two years from now you’re probably looking at a rotation that goes Scherzer, Gonzalez, Roark, Cole and Giolito.  And the Nats will have likely acquired a whole slew of upper-level prospects either by trade or by virtue of supplemental draft picks.  Ladson confidently says “there will be no effect at all” because Matt Williams “won’t allow it.”  Beat reporter bravado?  Of *course* there will be an effect; we’re talking about what will probably be a difficult and nasty separation when all is said and done.

Q: Why is Gio Gonzalez starting over Roark? Roark is clearly better. Gio won’t throw strikes.

A: Simple answer: because Gonzalez is lefty.  Secondary issue; Gonzalez is getting paid more than 20 *times* what Roark is in 2015.  I’m not entirely in disagreement here; I’ve been a Roark believer ever since he got called up.  But he’s going to be the odd man out in this competition no matter how good he looks this spring.  Ladson says Gio was his good ole self after getting past his shoulder injury.

Q: I like Drew Storen and his numbers are, overall, excellent. I have to admit, though, I worry about him in close games in the postseason. Am I overly concerned about the fact that 2012 and ’14 playoffs saw him blow saves in key games?

A: Three words for you: Short.  Sample.  Size.  Like it or not (and I too fall victim to this), you just can’t look at a couple of outings in the post-season and judge a guy.  Exhibit 1a: Clayton Kershaw‘s career post-season era is 5.12.    I killed Storen‘s 2014 NLDS performance too, but in reality he was rather unlucky to blow Zimmermann’s gem (Posey kind of fisted the ball into center and then Sandoval hit a down-and-away pitch for a very well-placed double to tie the game).  Storen’s regular season record speaks for itself right now: he had a frigging 1.12 ERA last year!

I say, lets worry about *making* the post-season first, then lets see how the games go.  At some point you have to think the Nats will, you know, hit the ball in a post-season series to the point where it won’t matter whether our closer will pitch a 1-2-3 ninth.  Lets you forget: the team slash line in the 2014 NLDS was .164/.222/.258 and in the 2012 NLDS was .232/.290/.393.  That’s not very good.

Ladson basically says the same thing.

Q: Do you expect a significant contribution from any of the players signed to Minor League contracts?

A: We already talked about the NRIs in depth.  Short answer is this: *maybe* one of the veteran right handers might have an impact but not immediately.  And we might very well see one of the lefty-hitting vets pushing Tyler Moore for the last spot on the roster.  Ladson thinks Mike Carp in particular is going to contribute off the bench … which means he’s predicting Carp to make the 25-man roster?

Q: Which Minor Leaguers could get called up during the season?

A: I think we’ll see at least three of the AAA starters at some point during the  year (guessing Treinen, Cole and Jordan).   I could see Matt Grace getting some MLB time.  I’m sure we’ll see a backup catcher in Dan Butler at some point.  If Michael Taylor doesn’t start out on the 25-man roster to replace Jayson Werth, then i’m sure we’ll see him at some point.

Perhaps a better question would be this: what non-40man roster guys could you see getting call-ups mid-season?  Rafael Martin comes to mind, as well as someone like Emmanuel Burriss or Matt Skole if the team gets stuck on the injury front.

Ladson mentions Cole and Grace … and then says that he could see Giolito getting a September call-up.  That’s the dumbest thing i’ve read in a while.  Why in god’s name would we want to start Giolito’s clock early like that??  If he’s MLB ready by the end of 2015 …. then you sit on him in AAA for two weeks in 2016 and call him up mid-April.  That’s it.  Every day he spends pitching useless innings in Sept 2015 would be another day the team has to wait for him in 2016. 

Q: Do you see Danny Espinosa on this team in 2016? It seems like he has gotten a lot more slack than anyone on the team. Additionally, what are the team’s long-term plans for second base?

A: I see no reason for Espinosa not to be on this team in 2016, if he continues to serve as an adequate backup.  There’s no reason to cut him, and there’s not really anyone better who is that close to the majors.   I’m not sure if i’d characterize the way the Nationals have handled him as “slack;” in fact the Nats have now gone out of their way to replace him as the starter both with the Cabrera trade mid-2014 and with the Escobar trade this past off-season.  Long term you have to think the team is waiting for Wilmer Difo as the long-term 2B solution .. if he can step it up and advance two levels in 2015 he may be ready by mid 2016.   I’m not as convinced that Tony Renda (who is “ahead” of Difo on the org 2b chart) is a real MLB prospect at this point.  There’s practically nobody of interest at either AAA or AA right now who rates as a prospect.  There’s also a possiblity that newly-acquired-but-not-yet-with-us Trea Turner could be a solution … but the team is hoping he can stick at short.  Ladson basically agrees.



35 Responses to 'Ladson’s inbox 3/1/15'

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  1. I love me some Roark, but I think that the real reason that Gio is the favorite going in for the #5 starter spot (or even #4, with Fister as #5) has little to do with contracts or with handedness, or with Roark’s prior effectiveness out of the bullpen. I think the real reason is that Gio is likely to be better than Roark as a starter in 2015.

    Yes, I said it. Roark had a better W/L record and a much better ERA in 2014. But the former isn’t really helpful to analysis and the latter was built in substantial measure on a lower BABIP and a higher strand rate – and I question whether those are repeatable skills. If you look at many “peripheral” stats (FIP, xFIP, K/9, K%-BB%, etc.) Gio actually was better than Roark even in what was a “down” season for Gio. This is why, going by fWAR, Gio was actually better than Roark in 2014 (3.1 vs. 3.0) even though Gio pitched 40 fewer innings. Further, Gio has been a consistently very good for the last five seasons – his fWAR totals are 3.0, 3.3, 5.1, 3.1 and 3.1. And despite his greater experience, he is only one year older than Roark so it’s not like age related decline is a factor.

    It’s not just me; if you look at Steamer, Fans or ZiPS projects, they all have Gio ahead of Roark (ZiPS leans Gio even though they project Roark to pitch more innings).

    And the final thing that makes me lean Gio is that after he came back from the DL he began using his changeup very effectively, especially against RH batters. Nicholas Minnix did a writeup of this on Rotographs (

    I love Roark’s story and his production, and I am very, very glad that he’s on the Nats. I see him as a member of the rotation from 2016 on, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he gets 15-20 starts in 2015. But I think Nats fans are forgetting just how good Gio really is.

    John C.

    2 Mar 15 at 1:19 pm

  2. JohnC: can’t argue with any of that. It does highlight a significant issue when looking at WAR between the two leading systems. Baseball-Reference has Roark’s 2014 season at a 5.1, Gio’s at a 2.3. At fangraphs as you noted, Roark a 3.0, Gio a 3.1. What gives?

    Todd Boss

    2 Mar 15 at 1:54 pm

  3. I believe that the difference is that Fangraphs uses FIP as a starting point where B-R uses runs against (earned & unearned). There’s a write-up at B-R here that goes into it in some detail.

    John C.

    2 Mar 15 at 2:22 pm

  4. I agree with John C that Gio is better. But to play devils advocate for a minute (even though most here seem to love Roark, and so don’t need more encouragement), if you wanted a stat-based reason to support Roark, its that he seems to have deception through (a) above average called strike rates, and (b) above average ‘weak contact’ generation. I am not personally convinced (a) is a repeatable skill, but (b) seems like it. I like, not love, the guy, and would say to all of the Roark-lovers this: if he became a 4.00 FIP/ERA guy for the rest of his career, how surprised would you really be. Compare that to how surprised you’d be if that happened to Stras/JZ/even Fister.

    I think the bullpen is going to need some help as the playoffs draw near, whether it is for Storen directly, or otherwise. I do think that can be internal – Grace, Treinen, even Cole and Jordan. Some times bullpen guys can be effective in short spurts do to a little stuff and a lot of unfamiliarity.


    2 Mar 15 at 2:26 pm

  5. So, FIP drastically penalizes pitchers who have lower K/9 rates and who depend on getting grounders and working hitters instead of Ks. A 2 win difference between the two WARs in a single season is ridiculously huge. Roark had a 6.3 K/9 rate last year which exploded up his FIP from his ERA of 2.85 to 3.47. Meanwhile Gio was the exact reverse case: a high K/9 rate (9.2 K/9) leading to a negative delta to his FIP (3.02) from his actual ERA on the season (3.57).

    Which would you rather have? The guy who *actually* posted an ERA of 2.85 or the guy who *actually* posted an ERA of 3.57?

    Consider Jack Morris. Career WAR on baseball-reference: 43.8. Career WAR on fangraphs: 52.5. Thats nearly 10 wins over a career, also not exactly an insignificant amount. Especially since a lot of the people arguing against Morris were using his supposedly low WAR figure against him.

    And then there’s this little factoid, which I found in April 2013 and posted on. Look at these two stat lines:
    Matt Harrison: 5.2 IP, 6 R, 5 ER, 9 K, 3 BB, 0 HR
    Stephen Strasburg: 7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 K, 0 BB, 0 HR

    Which of those two lines would you think would have resulted in a better WAR on the day?

    Todd Boss

    2 Mar 15 at 2:40 pm

  6. Of course you can pick single games to magnify the differences in the system. The question is whether the results tend to even out over time.
    FWIW, the extreme differential last year was almost certainly a one off. For example Gio’s career ERA is 3.59. His career FIP is 3.57. His career xFIP is 3.70. And I note that Gio’s career K rate has been pretty consistent.

    Which would you rather have? The guy who *actually* posted an ERA of 2.85 or the guy who *actually* posted an ERA of 3.57?

    Depends on context, and how likely the pitchers are to repeat that performance going forward. I’ll note that all three projection systems lean Gio for 2015. Of course that’s a data point, not a clincher.

    Everyone loves Roark (they’ve essentially glossed over his serving up the Belt HR in the NLDS last year). Hell, I do, too – like I said above I’m really happy he’s on the Nats, and I expect him to start many games this season and to be in the rotation hopefully for years to come. I just think that it’s easy to get so caught up in Roark that they forget how good Gio is.

    If there’s a pitcher that I’m concerned about, it’s actually Fister. Sure, he was 16-6 with an great ERA (2.41!). But despite moving to the NL from the AL and no longer having to deal with the DH his velocity crept down, his K rate cratered and his GB% also dropped alarmingly. His BaBIP (.262) was 30 points below his career average. All of those things created a bit of a flashing yellow light on the instrument panel.

    John C.

    2 Mar 15 at 3:17 pm

  7. But those single games are exactly my point. Those single games ADD UP to the full season total. And when a stat equates a 7IP-0ER performance with a 5 2/3 IP 6R performance, you have to question it. If it doesn’t make sense at the micro level, how can it make sense at the macro level?

    Mariano Rivera had a career BABIP of .263, 30 points below what everyone accepts as a “normalized BABIP figure.” Not surprisingly, his career FIP is more than a half-a-run more than his career ERA. At some point, you say “gee, maybe there’s something to this.”

    Todd Boss

    2 Mar 15 at 3:27 pm

  8. FIP just comes down to a simple question: do you believe that pitchers control their pitches enough to produce different results on similar batted balls (Stras gives up hits on 80% of his line drives, but the average pitcher only 70%), or do you believe that a ball, once hit, will generally fall into similar stats regardless who is pitching (ie line drives will be hits ~70% of the time, etc)? If you believe the first, you’ll hate FIP. I dunno what I believe, but statheads are firm that they think the historical stats are clear that no one gets materially better percentages on similar batted balls. They are fine saying that Fister can get more groundballs than the average guy, but not that he’ll have more of those groundballs turned into outs than the league wide average.

    But regardless of where you come out on that, I do think ERA is a poor stat. I could be persuaded to go with a stat that measures all runs given up, but I think determining errors is a highly subjective process, and therefore excluding unearned runs is just faulty, in my mind.


    2 Mar 15 at 3:38 pm

  9. On Rivera, I can’t find a source [meaning I didn’t look], but I do think that there is a prevailing belief that relief pitchers can and do exhibit lower BABIPs than starters, due to stuff ticking up and ‘fewer times through the order’. And that consequently FIP isn’t necessarily a good stat to measure them.


    2 Mar 15 at 3:41 pm

  10. Well, of course the single games add up to the season total. But the idea is that over 30-35 starts the results more or less even out. Which is why I note that the disparity between Gio’s ERA and FIP were unusual, and that for his career his numbers are actually pretty close.

    As for BaBIP, you misconstrue my citing to it in this case. I’m agnostic over whether Roark’s expected BaBIP will normalize out relative to Gio’s BaBIP. Too soon to tell. I do note that Gio’s BaBIP was his highest in the last five seasons, and Fister’s was well below his overall career mark. I do expect those to normalize towards career numbers. And I also think that Roark’s and Gio’s strand rates will converge as well.

    John C.

    2 Mar 15 at 4:33 pm

  11. Being argumentative…. but does it make any sense that (in the case of the individual games I noted) that we depend on Strasburg’s WORSE games to bring up his season-long WAR value to be where it should be? Think about that; I want a statistic that recognizes that a 7IP 3hit 0R performance is BETTER THAN someone who strikes out 9 but gives up 5 earned runs! Am I wrong?

    On babip; why would we *expect* Gio’s babip to improve this year? He’s one year older and one year worse as a pitcher. Why don’t we expect his performances to regress even more?

    Todd Boss

    2 Mar 15 at 5:10 pm

  12. Good discussion, guys. I have little to add other than to echo the concern of a Fister regression more so than a Roark one.

    Giolito: if pinned to the wall, my first prediction would be that he comes up in late April 2017. My second prediction would be post-June 2016 so the club can see him against MLB hitters before making the decision on Stras. It’s 99.99% unlikely that he would be seen this year, and the suggestion of a Sept. attaboy call-up is ludicrous. Here’s the 0.01% scenario that could get him to 1/2 St. this season (after June): a) he’s totally lights out in A+ and AA, b) there is a collapse of biblical proportions among the Nat starters (injuries, ineffectiveness), extending down through Roark, Treinen, Cole, Jordan, and Hill (so we’re talking at least 10 guys ahead of him), and c) the Nats are still in the playoff hunt due to the weak division. Under that scenario, they might consider bringing up Giolito, but it would be highly unlikely. Oh, and they’d shut him down, too. He only pitched 98 innings last year. He’s probably not going to be pitching anywhere in Sept.

    Other potential call-ups: I’d be interested to know if Skole is working more at 3B or 1B this spring. The Nats have nothing in reserve if there’s an injury at 3B. Frandsen cannot be a regular starter for any period of time. (Not sure Cutter is even worth discussing.) I hope the light goes on for Skole this year. In addition to trying to bounce back from injury, I wonder if the expectations of him trying to be ready to replace LaRoche have weighed on him the last couple of seasons.

    I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility to see Difo in Sept. if he replicates his 2014 at higher levels. I don’t think they would be worried about starting the clock on him, and he’s got elite speed.

    Chats – Chelsea Janes had an encouraging rookie outing last week, and she should be joined by Wagner in future chats:


    2 Mar 15 at 6:03 pm

  13. I’d bet that the backup third baseman is on the roster already: Ryan Zimmerman. Not optimal at all – but he muddled through parts of last year without killing the ballclub, and they need his bat.

    John C.

    2 Mar 15 at 8:02 pm

  14. Giolito call-up; I think this team clearly learned its lesson from the Detwiler “atta boy” call-up situation. And I also think they’ve learned their lesson from the “trying to game the super-2 situation” with Strasburg. As in, I think they wasted a half a season of Strasburg. Notice that they didn’t bother to play that game with Harper; when they had a need in April of 2012, they didn’t hesitate.

    JohnC is right: if Rendon got badly hurt … this team is likely putting Zimmerman right back there, thinking that scatter arm but good range at 3rd is going to be better than putting someone like Frandsen over there with his limited range. Remember: Skole looked halfway decent in Spring 2 years ago and he’s a lefty power bat … in other words exactly why the team has a cattle-call of corner infielder left-handed hitting guys. If skole lights up AAA and/or remembers what made him our minor league hitter of the year 2 years ago, he’s likely getting called up.

    Todd Boss

    3 Mar 15 at 9:39 am

  15. I do think that the difference in how Harper was treated vs. Strasburg in considering “super two” status is a reflection of a change in the team’s circumstances rather than a change in the team’s philosophy concerning Super Two. The 2010 Nationals were coming off back-to-back 59 win seasons, and even with Strasburg’s help only managed to improve to 69-93. Two more months of Strasburg wouldn’t have gotten the 2010 Nationals within shouting distance of contention – but might have cost the Nationals Anthony Rendon. Rendon slid to the Nationals at #6, but tacking on a few more wins could well have cost them a guy who looks like a franchise cornerstone.

    When Harper was knocking on the door, the Nationals were coming off of an 80-81 season, and wild card contention was much less of a pipe dream. When Werth got hurt bringing Harper up could have been the difference between getting a wild card and missing the playoffs. That changes the cost/benefit analysis.

    John C.

    3 Mar 15 at 10:10 am

  16. If that was the case JohnC … then why did the team call up Rendon in the third week of April of 2013? They had just finished a 98 win season, and by your logic the team had a solid team that didn’t “need” to call up Rendon when they did.

    to me, the Rendon call-up proves my point even more; they realize the folly of gaming the super-2 deadline because (especially w/ Boras clients) you’re going to be looking to negotiate away the arb years regardless, so who cares if they get an extra year.

    Todd Boss

    3 Mar 15 at 11:07 am

  17. They brought up Rendon because they had a serious need – they rushed him to play second base, a position he had barely started to practice in the minors, because Espinosa and Lombardozzi both cratered. And the logic of being a contender applied even more so in 2013 than in 2012, because in 2012 the team had never been a contender while in 2013 they were an established contender that was struggling. As a team fresh off a 98 win season draft pick position was not really a factor (they weren’t going to be in the top ten anyway) but missing the playoffs absolutely was on the table, and in fact came to pass despite Rendon’s efforts.

    For the foreseeable future for the Nationals the team’s current needs will trump any consideration of “super two” or draft choice position. May it be many, many years before they return to the 2010 balance of interests with the future so strongly outweighing the present.

    John C.

    3 Mar 15 at 11:18 am

  18. To be clear, Rendon’s initial, April 20 callup in 2013 was because Zimmerman got hurt. As soon as Zimmerman was back (May 3), Rendon was sent back down to the minors. Thus the Nationals still could have held off Rendon’s Super Two status by holding him in the minors until the end of June or so. It was his second callup, at the beginning of June, that was caused by the needs of a hopeful contender that couldn’t seem to get past .500 and whose second base options (Espinosa and Lombardozzi) flopped.

    John C.

    3 Mar 15 at 11:45 am

  19. So getting back to Giolito, when do you guys think we would see him? I’ll stick with late April 2017, as that would be his logical time to join the rotation. If someone falters in 2016, we could see him then, in a need situation, as described with Harper and Rendon (if other starters are struggling).


    3 Mar 15 at 12:08 pm

  20. Giolito: if he can “solve” high-A in a half season and then show he can hold his own in AA, I could see him up with the big club early to md 2016. But that’s a tough task for a 20-yr old.

    A better projection might be this: 2015: high-A. 2016: AA, 2017: starts in AAA, perhaps up after a few weeks so as to stave off FA for a year.

    Todd Boss

    3 Mar 15 at 2:46 pm

  21. I agree with Todd on Giolito; sometime in 2017 is a likely timetable. Given that he’s likely on a “de facto” innings limit this season and the Nats have tons of depth a 2015 arrival is VERY unlikely. Even 2016 would require rapid advancement by Giolito AND a decimation of the Nats’ pitching depth.

    John C.

    3 Mar 15 at 7:19 pm

  22. I’m reluctant to put this out there because there would seem to be no need for the rush, and because it is unlikely. However, if Giolito is truly healthy this year, and if he truly is the best pitching prospect in baseball (as some pubs have him ranked), it’s theoretically possible that he could blow through A+ and AA with near-100 mph ferocity and force his way into the rotation conversation for 2016 next spring. (Even then, they would delay his arrival to late April.) Unlikely, but possible. I don’t know that this scenario would require a decimation of the depth, either; it’s quite possible for him to be a better option than Treinen or Cole if he really is a 1/1 talent.

    It’s also a certainty that he’s a 20-year-old kid on his second elbow who has yet to throw a pitch above A-, which is why my baseline projection is late April 2017.


    4 Mar 15 at 12:11 am

  23. History has demonstrated that every year, the Nationals system yields an increasing number of performers whose achievements in the minors demand that they be promoted. Now the system, for the first time in memory, has four starters at the AAA level who realistically could so dominate at AAA that they force an opportunity for themselves either in DC or elsewhere.

    I am far more intrigued with the question of who will emerge from Cole-Treinen-Hill-Jordan than the arrival date of Giolito or even Rey Lopez, for all of the reservations of prospect caution that we have covered elsewhere. The bullpen is full, the rotation is full, the organization obviously has a plan for the contingencies of good news and not just bad. The system is ten starters deep, which is incredible to me.

    With that said, Giolito and other TJ survivors bear out a few other truths: One is that TJ survivorship is too high a risk to offer a seven year megadeal of risk.

    With that noted, the Nats have every reason to bring Giolito along more aggressively onve e is fully recovered in his rehab program. There may be only a limited window in which a person with TJ can be expected to excel until the risk for TJ 2 becomes high. If that is the case, and I am sure the Nats medical team has the stats on this, we may see Giolito in AA or AAA at the same pace in which we saw other talented TJ survivors ascend when there was less pitching in the system. The Nats have shown no qualms about having pitchers touch three levels in the same year, and promoted Jordan from AA when they concluded he was the best of the lot at a time of need. So presuupposing, and that is presupposing Giolito’s success of 2014 will continue in 2015, I expect him to rise faster than projected here, for reasons of the urgency of a window of his dominance winning out over the system “taking it slow” because the stocks are full.

    In my opinion, if it’s September 2015, and Giolito is truly more ready than the other arms in AA, which would be one hell of an achievement, the Nats are going to promote him over the others if they think it has World Series implications. I expect them to manage his innings accordingly this year if he is that dominant, in order to maintain that flexibility and avoid a Strasburg 2012 scenario.


    4 Mar 15 at 4:53 am

  24. Sorry, I meant IF he is more ready than the others in AAA. No disrespect to Joe Ross, whose California League stats at a younger age were more impressive than Treinen (we know how he has turned out) and who has shown early high promise at AA already.

    And the ten starters deep is just counting AAA to stay realistic.


    4 Mar 15 at 4:57 am

  25. With apologies for off topic. Emerging now as the new hot name in the Nats system is 17 year old Victor Robles. Of note here is that there has been enormous criticism of the investment in Scherzer. I am delighted with the signing and am impressed with how the Nats are able to make selective transcendent investment for major long term chips.

    Scherzer is a Jayson Werth signing for different reasons. The Nats have a guaranteed #1 well beyond the window of what may be significant attrition of big name talents to free agency. He is proving to be a leader among men and a coach on the field. His intangible worth is what the Nats are betting on in the same way they envisioned intangible worth for Werth.

    Now reflect on how the Red Sox paid 31.5 million for 19 year old Moncada and how the Nats paid 225K for Robles, who will emerge stateside this year. I am not comparing the two for ceiling and prospect value but would point out that the multi-tool talents in Robles have already blossomed at an age in which Moncada was playing against younger competition. More to compliment te prudence of their scouting six figure talents from Latin America like Read, Franco, Robles, and cheaper buys like Lopez. The Latin system has long ago righted and bears further pleasant surprises for us all in the year ahead. The first indication of this will be in who makes the Hagerstwon roster, if anyone. Then we will watch the GCL and see who busts out there. We are less than two years removed from the 2013 GCL Nats and will this year see the early returns at the upper levels from those of the first wave of what is to come. Kudos to Rizzo on that front.


    4 Mar 15 at 5:08 am

  26. If you’re saying the Nats seem to have decided on betting their pitching future on Scherzer + the young arms, I think you’re right. I really don’t think they will re-sign Zimmermann and will be surprised if they re-sign Fister. They’ve still got two years to make the judgment on Stras, who very likely is playing it out to try FA regardless, so there would be no guarantees with him anyway. So they took the best available option in Scherzer.

    This is a huge year for all the young starters in the system, not just Giolito. They know that up to three slots could be available in the rotation over the next two years. One would figure to go to Roark, leaving two open. Front-runners for 2016 would figure to be Treinen and Cole. I see Jordan and Hill as depth/long-shots. Then there is a truckload of younger guys. There’s also the possibility of a resurrection by one of the lefties – Solis, Purke, or Rivero. We’ll see. It will be a very interesting could of years to watch the minor-league arms.

    On that score, I’m also curious about whether Treinen will go to Syracuse to be a stretched-out starter, or remain with the big club as a power bullpen arm.


    4 Mar 15 at 7:28 am

  27. I’m with you KW.

    I would add that while I have spoken about the value of patience at the trade level, what we are also seeing is patience at the developmental level with allowing competition to dictate who emerges. At this point, our guesses of those arms that take the next developmental leap (rather than step) are entirely, entirely speculative, though the Nats are getting a good idea. The word on Cole this spring appears to be strong, and once they are at AAA, there is nowhere else to leap.

    A good reference is the MASN series this week interviewing Gary Cathcart. He is not Doug Harris, who is ” the truth”, but he is touting people we have clearly had no consideration of, and when that Kerr series gets to the pitching, I think that will have the informative value we wait all winter for.


    4 Mar 15 at 8:36 am

  28. I have zero belief that any of the three of Zimmermann, Fister or Strasburg will be with this team after 2016. Zimmermann got his offer and rejected it apparently. Fister’s numbers decline may warrant his just being let go. Strasburg is a Boras client and you can count on one hand the number of Boras clients who signed team-friendly extensions instead of testing the market.

    Jose Fernandez went from dominating high-A straight into the Marlins rotation. And didn’t seem any worse for it. Until he blew out his elbow that is…

    Todd Boss

    4 Mar 15 at 8:39 am

  29. One caveat. We are not privy to the long term organizational plan. But a case can be made for the model of the Braves dynasty of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine as the three pillars that franchise relied upon in their rotation. I am sure the Nats have considered the relative value of keeping the same big three aces intact (which is arguably what a team needs to win a World Series) vs. rotating new blood in yearly as big contracts approach. Competition among the young guys makes that an easier money decision, but this franchise spends on psychological stability. How Rizzo has this schemed, and with which starters beyond Scherzer (if any) is the mystery that determines the teams future and his legacy. If there are no major injuries or tragedies that force trading from depth, the team is making a decision based on the best of two goods. Fun for us.


    4 Mar 15 at 8:46 am

  30. Braves dynasty; different world of payroll in the mid 90s to today. To keep Strasburg, Zimmermann and Fister you’re probably looking at $24M/year, $20M/year and $15M a year on longer term deals roughly. Ask the Phillies how they’re doing committing that kind of cash to pitchers.

    Todd Boss

    4 Mar 15 at 9:00 am

  31. You may be right. I don’t have an opinion of whether the economics make things different to Rizzo or the Lerners. Neither of us is making the decision.

    And, the team just committed 210 mill to Scherzer. Hamels and Lee may not be Smoltz and Maddux. But they have value and served the World Series aspirations of their team. Were the Phillies to have not declined, they might not be on the block.

    It gets back to whom a team is willing to bet on for the long haul, and at what age? And why? Is it a big one, big two, or big three? Clearly Rizzo values big game experience.

    Is the marketability of a Cy Young winning Strasburg, for example, worth more in incidental revenue and collateral franchise value than a cheaper high performance Fister. I’m not doing the actuarials, beyond flagging TJ history.


    4 Mar 15 at 9:30 am

  32. When Rizzo retires from the Nats in 12 years or so (while they’re still paying Scherzer), I hope some reporter gets a good exit interview with him and asks him “why Scherzer?” and “why in 2015?” After all, the Nats had a full rotation without him, there will be a truckload of good starters on the market next winter. Did the Nats think Scherzer was better than any of the others who’ll be there in 2016 (including Zimmermann)? Did they think the top guys next year will cost even more of a premium? Did they think Scherzer was the missing element to put this team over the top in 2015?

    In general, I’m on board with the idea of securing the quality of the rotation for the next few years with a front-line starter. I agree with Todd that the Nats felt like they gave Zimmermann his chance last off-season. I also think that the asking price for Strasburg will be more than it was for Scherzer, perhaps considerably more. So I’m good with what they did. I’m just curious why they decided that particular pitcher was “the guy.”


    4 Mar 15 at 10:04 am

  33. Why Scherzer? who knows. Was this a “win now at all costs” move since Lerner is pushing 90? Does he care what kind of payroll constraints face the team in 5 years’ time if he’s in a box?

    Todd Boss

    4 Mar 15 at 1:04 pm

  34. Rizzo has already spelled that out.

    “Who wouldn’t want Scherzer?”

    Yet they chose him over more affordable Shields. So it’s more than the cushion of a front line starter. They wanted elite and they bet on him staying elite for the same reason they bet on Werth being a starting caliber OF through the life of his contract. They were willing to pay for the best.

    Lerner does not at all strike me as a vanity owner. He comes across as a decent public citizen and approaches Nats success as a responsibility to fans. Rizzo credit aside, he deserves credit as well.


    4 Mar 15 at 1:52 pm

  35. The franchise is going to Mark. It does not end with his death, but you can bet he has thought of the tax implications of that debt passing to his son and next generations, like any good father.


    4 Mar 15 at 1:54 pm

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