Nationals Arm Race

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

I said “Call me when they Sweep Atlanta” …

115 comments

If the Nats want October baseball, they may want to think about how to beat this guy.  Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If the Nats want October baseball, they may want to think about how to beat this guy. Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the comment thread of the last post, I said something along the lines of “call me when the Nats sweep Atlanta.”

Well, they just did that.  They did what they were supposed to do, had some luck, got some clutch hitting (thanks Matt den Dekker) and swept Atlanta at home.  They picked up 2 games on the Mets, who sputtered in Miami.

… and then they go and drop the ONE “sure thing” match-up in this series.  Our “Ace” Max Scherzer craps the bed yet again (He now has a 4.52 ERA in the 14 starts since his no-hitter/one-hitters in June) versus the Mets’ #5 starter Jon Niese.  After knocking out said #5 starter in the 4th and after scoring 5 runs, the Nats lose again.

Coincidentally, the Nats have now dropped three games 8-5 in the last week, after holding the lead in all three.  Their record on the season when they score 5 or more runs: 45-13 … but they’re just 8-10 when scoring exactly 5 runs.  That’s crazy.

By way of comparison, in 2014 when they scored exactly 5 runs, they were 13-1.  In 2014 when they scored 5 or more runs, they were 57-6.  You want to know why this team is hovering near .500 in September versus running away with the division like they did last year?  There’s a big reason.  13-1 versus 8-10 in games they should be winning; that’s 9 games in the loss column.  Heck, in 2014 when they scored *four* or more runs they were nearly unbeatable, let alone 5 runs.  This year when they score 4 or 5 runs they’re a .500 team (18-17).  That’s an indictment of the starters *and* the bullpen, two areas that were supposed to be locked down this year.

Can this team beat Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom in the next two nights to salvage this series? They have their work cut out for them;

  • In 4 starts against Washington this year Harvey is 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA, having given up just 18 hits in 27 innings.
  • In 4 starts against Washington this year, deGrom is 1-2 with a 3.47 ERA, having given up 20  hits in 23.1 innings.

Not out of the realm of possible, given the way they’re scoring runs (they’ve scored 5 or more runs in 9 of their last 10 games).  But the Nats starters need to do some work.  We need our trio of “Aces” to do more than what Scherzer did yesterday.

ps: Bryce Harper is right; why the F are fans leaving in the 7th on a holiday weekend day game??  It isn’t like its a tuesday night on a school night and you’ve got to get the kids to bed.  No excuse.  I’d be pissed too.

Written by Todd Boss

September 8th, 2015 at 9:22 am

115 Responses to 'I said “Call me when they Sweep Atlanta” …'

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  1. sure things in baseball are right next to crying, they don’t exist. :)

    Max’s 2d half is troubling, Sure, but one thing at a time. Let’s see what happens tonight and tomorrow. While I would have liked to see how tight the Mets got with a loss in game 1, now the Nats have to do it against Harvey. How great would it be to watch the media turn in Harvey if he gets shelled?

    Wally

    8 Sep 15 at 4:50 pm

  2. No need to worry about the NY media blasting Harvey anymore. To quote Private Hudson in Aliens; “Game over, man! Game over!”

    So… how about an early start on discussing possible offseason moves?

    Clark17

    8 Sep 15 at 10:43 pm

  3. Clark 17 — okay I’ll take a stab at it.

    1). Fire Williams.

    2). Either fire Rizzo or bring in a seasoned baseball executive to be his boss. Rizzo is not half as smart as he seems to think he is, and that was painfully evident this season.

    3). Trade Werth and eat the last two years of his contract.

    4). Suck it up and resign JZ if he is at all willing to come back, which at this point I doubt.

    5). Get another big bat in the outfield.

    6). Get THREE new bullpen arms already. Clearly Rizzo’s “brilliant” strategy of heavily relying on low cost youngsters has been an epic fail.

    7). They also might want to rethink those massive ticket price increases or Nats Park is likely to be pretty empty next season–especially if the team falls flat again and Harper keeps insulting everybody.

    Karl Kolchack

    8 Sep 15 at 11:15 pm

  4. Another word on Harper–I wasn’t there on Monday but I’ve attended around 160 games since 2005 and have spent tens of thousands of dollars on this team, which has gone into the pockets of this collection of arrogant, underperforming millionaires. If I want to leave early (rarely do, but if I did), it’s my right. I’ve been a big Harper fan and have always defended him in the past, but those comments really pissed me off.

    Karl Kolchack

    8 Sep 15 at 11:19 pm

  5. Don’t re-sign Jz. We don’t need another 9 figure deal for an aging pitcher.

    Otherwise agree.

    Andrew R

    9 Sep 15 at 12:31 am

  6. Epic fail. Just epic. I know I’ve been the half-full guy, but it’s over.

    Kudos to the offense, for hanging seven on Harvey in the biggest game of the year, and to JZim, who came up big in his last significant start for the Nats. And farewell to Drew Storen, apparently a good guy, but one who has now put the death knell in three Nats seasons. He wants to be traded, and it’s time to oblige.

    A quick word on Harvey and the Mets. I wish no opposing player ill, and it’s been tragic for the game to see so many young arms damaged in recent years. That said, the Mets’ cavalier, we-know-better attitude about their three young starters reminds me a lot of that the Braves took in 2012-13. By 2014, their rotation fell apart with a slew of injuries, taking the whole competitive level of their franchise with it.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 5:29 am

  7. A quick word about bullpen construction: the front end was supposed to be Barrett, Stammen, and Roark. Any team in baseball would have been glad to roll with that crew. When Stammen got hurt, Rizzo picked up a quality arm in David Carpenter, who also got hurt, as did Barrett. Roark got pressed into starter duty. So the kids were not part of plan A or plan B.

    Also–and I know most of the people here get it, but I keep hearing it elsewhere–everyone needs to move on about the Clippard trade. Without Escobar, the Nats are about 12 games out right now and we’re not even having this conversation. I certainly buy the argument that he should be at 2B, not 3B, but there’s no quibbling with his offense, including last night.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 7:49 am

  8. I was there last night; one of the few times I’ve been there in the last 3 years. Great game to see.

    Once again, Matt Williams showed how incapable he is of reading the tea leaves on his pitchers. He takes out Jordan Zimmermann on 100 pitches as he’s cruising. Why the f*ck does Williams keep taking out effective starters while leaving in ineffective ones (see the previous night, letting Scherzer take a 2-on, 2-out at-bat after having given up 5 in 6). If i’m Jordan Zimmermann, I’m probably going into Williams’ office today and basically saying “Don’t you ever take me out of a f*cking game again.” How many times has Zimmermann sat in the dugout as lesser pitchers lost him games? And yes, *any reliever* is a lesser pitcher than a MLB starter.

    Bullpen: Rizzo bought Papelbon. he didn’t buy any middle relief. He could have had Clippard back! For cheap! From his favorite trading buddy Billy Beane! Wtf? Why didn’t he buy any one of several near-closer quality middle relievers who all moved for peanuts? Nope; instead he stuck by his collection of retreads and head cases.

    last night as Storen melted down, Williams didn’t have a single guy warming up. Nobody. It wasn’t until Storen went 3-0 on the guy after the guy he walked in that the bullpen scrambled … with Matt f*cking Grace warming up. that was his saviour. Williams just doesn’t get it.

    You want to know what I want next off-season? Fire Williams. Trade Storen. Remake the bullpen with actual veterans (that you acquire via trade, NOT free agency). Let everybody walk and soak up the draft picks. Go into next season with Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Roark and Ross and be happy. Trade the log-jam in AAA (Jordan, Cole, Hill, etc) who are never going to pitch for us to acquire something of use. Since you’ve already blown Turner’s damn service time, install him at short and stick with him through thick or thin.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 8:57 am

  9. Who is Turner?

    Andrew R

    9 Sep 15 at 9:08 am

  10. Trea Turner? You know our top-end shortstop prospect who was inexplicably called up so he can sit on his ass at the end of the bench all month, earning valuable “hanging around veterans” time.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 9:18 am

  11. Yes, MASN showed several shots of the empty bullpen as Storen threw ball after ball. Fister? Roark? Jordan? Anybody? Did the phone not work?

    I can’t switch completely to offseason mode yet. I’ve got to go through the other stages of grief first. Yes, trade Storen. I’d think about trading Ramos, too, and at least explore what one year of Stras might bring. The whole keep-the-band together all the way to FA deal didn’t work out this year, either in results or in draft picks (probably only QO’s to JZim and Desi). And yes, by all means, please sign another big bat, even if he has to go in the crowded OF. I really don’t think Werth is tradeable, but explore that just to see if anyone might bite.

    In general, it’s time to move on from the old crew, not give them one more chance in 2016.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 9:50 am

  12. A trade of Strasburg wouldn’t surprise me either. I’ve read rumblings about how Rizzo is going to “clean house.”

    I’ll bet you can move Werth; call up the Dodgers and say “I’ll trade you Werth, a good prospect and some cash for Yasiel Puig” and they’ll bite. Or, you offer Werth and a prospect for a spare part and the Dodgers will basically buy Werth’s contract for the prospect.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 10:18 am

  13. Stras, Werth, and Jordan to the Dodgers for Puig. I’d have to think about that one. I’d hate for the Dodgers to get Stras, but I’ve always had the sinking feeling he’ll end up there anyway. Maybe Escobar could beat some Cuban sense into Puig. I’d rather trade Stras to the Padres, but they’ve probably got Rizzo’s cell phone number blocked!

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 10:32 am

  14. That seems like too much for Puig. I think he can be had for less, thanks to his “clubhouse issues” that are well known to teams now. Dodgers are kind of stuck; they will be selling low on him, even though he’s a heck of a talent and young and cost controlled. Of course … i may have just answered my own question; he’s still young, still a heck of a talent, and the Nats would have to really sweeten the pot to get him.

    Interesting trade idea.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 10:42 am

  15. Oh, btw, completely agree that Strasburg seems likely to end up in Los Angeles. He’d be out of the limelight, wouldn’t have the pressure of being the Ace on the Dodgers, likely slides into the #3 spot behind Kershaw and Grienke and … oh man, he may drop his ERA a half a point pitching in that cavern.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 10:43 am

  16. I thought Turner had been traded back to the Padres :)

    I’d do that trade for Puig in a second. To get out from under the Werth deal AND get Puig would be well worth losing a year of Stras.

    I think Lucroy is the most gettable difference maker out there. I’d send Fedde and Difo and perhaps more.

    Andrew R

    9 Sep 15 at 10:54 am

  17. Andrew R – The only reason I say re-sign JZ is because the rotation could end up being quite poor without him. One thing you have to say for JZ, he’s a bulldog. Never misses a start are rarely gives you less than six innings. Those are hugely valuable traits these days–especially when you look at what a mess Gio and Strasburg often are.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 Sep 15 at 11:47 am

  18. KW – I go on about the Clippard trade because it was obvious that Storen should have been traded instead (and I thought so at the time, so this is not revisionist history). Given how Storen pitched before 7/31, there is no way the Nats make the Papelbon trade unless Rizzo did not have confidence in Storen all along.

    By trading the bullpen’s most effective arm instead of the one he knew he didn’t want to be the closer in a playoff situation, Rizzo both depleted it of a invaluable veteran arm and left in place a land mine which exploded in his face when he disturbed it four months into the season.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 Sep 15 at 11:53 am

  19. I don’t quibble that Clippard could have helped the team. My point is more that it seemed like common knowledge that he would be traded in the offseason, as they weren’t going to pay him the arb-level money, and that they got a great return for one year of a non-closer.

    I don’t disagree that Rizzo has never trusted Storen. (Neither have I!) But I don’t think he thought of Clip as a closer option, either. But I’m not sure where he planned to find one. Perhaps his plan all along was to ride Storen to midseason and then see who was available.

    Bullpen construction almost seems more like luck than rocket science. Sometimes the pieces fall into place, sometimes they fall to pieces. The Braves probably left two or three WS rings on the table in the ’90s due almost completely to bullpen failures. Yet some teams with fairly nondescript bullpens have ridden them a long way, including both WS teams last year.

    Sigh. It really does feel like the morning after the end of the season.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 12:15 pm

  20. Stras, Storen, Werth, and Jordan to the Padres for Kimbrel, T. Ross, and Kemp. Swap one bad contract for another. Nah, probably don’t want four years of Kemp’s contract, even though he’s much younger than Werth. Just thinking out loud.

    Really, if we trade Stras, I’d rather do it to the AL. The Angels would have the money to pay him long-term, but not much to offer in return that I can see.

    Andrew, I’d love to get Lucroy in some sort of swap of Ramos and a pitching prospect or two. Perhaps his price isn’t quite as high after an off year.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 12:25 pm

  21. Karl – JZ is a wonderful, fabulous pitcher. But so is Scherzer and I wouldn’t have paid either 9 figures. Those contracts always turn out badly. I’ll really miss him, just like I missed Clip who was also waaaay expensive at $9MM. Keeping an overpaid guy isn’t a good thing, but not replacing him effectively is a bad thing.

    Next year’s rotation – Scherzer, Ross, Roark, Gio, (Cole, Voth, TBD trade candidate until Giolito is ready June 1). Not great, but pretty good, and this season’s vaunted staff turned out to be mediocre.

    Andrew R

    9 Sep 15 at 12:26 pm

  22. Oh, I’m assuming Stras will be traded, but if not he takes that fifth spot.

    Andrew R

    9 Sep 15 at 12:29 pm

  23. My guess would be that there’s an 80 percent chance that Stras will still be here. They’ll set a high price for him, if they seriously shop him at all.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 12:51 pm

  24. Andrew R – I agree with you about long term contracts for over-30 pitchers, but I see a team with just three more guaranteed years of Harper’s services and an ace who isn’t getting any younger. The next three years are also a window in which the Nats won’t again be WS favorites, but still have enough ammunition to at least make the playoffs.

    Besides–we keep hearing that Uncle Teddy wants to win a WS before he dies, and he’s GOT the cash! :)

    Karl Kolchack

    9 Sep 15 at 2:27 pm

  25. FWIW, Strasburg’s arbitration salary number given his sh*tty season probably makes him completely affordable and far too valuable to trade. When he’s healthy, he still pitches with numbers that put him in the top 10-15 pitchers in the league by most categories.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2015&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

    Strasburg is, for the last three seasons: 20th in fWAR, 35th in ERA but 19th in FIP, 6th in K/9, 12th in strikeouts. So all that includes his meltdown this year. If his arb salary turns out to be somethign like $10M (which wouldn’t be a crazy increase from his $7.4M this year) you have to keep him.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 2:47 pm

  26. Cash . . . yes, there will be a lot of it available. Todd is better at figuring these things than I am, but here’s what I get quickly on the back of an envelope: don’t resign JZim, Desi, Span, Fister, Thornton, and Reed Johnson and buy out McLouth and Janssen, and that comes to a savings of $58.65M. Of course you have to pay guys to replace these fellows, and Stras and Storen, if still here, will be due big arb bumps.

    Hey, I’d love to have JZim around for three more years. I’d even pay him $25M/per to do it, despite him being slightly off this year. But he’d never take a three-year deal. His baseline is going to be 6/$150M. There’s no way a deal like that makes sense for the Nats.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 2:56 pm

  27. I was calculating at the same time Todd was writing. Yeah, I’d probably keep Stras at $10M unless someone made us a great offer.

    KW

    9 Sep 15 at 2:57 pm

  28. Re the discussion of trading Werth to LAD: doesn’t hehave a no-trade clause in his contract?

    BAS

    9 Sep 15 at 4:47 pm

  29. BAS: yes you’re right: full no-trade.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/national-league/washington-nationals/

    Maybe we shouldn’t speculate on trading Werth. I know he’s bought a house here and has set down some roots; odds are he’d reject a trade to the west coast. He’s from a town that’s somewhat close to St. Louis; would he take a trade to play for his hometown team? Who knows; he’s owed $21M each of the next two years and that’s tough to move. My bad for not thinking about his no-trade.

    Todd Boss

    9 Sep 15 at 5:06 pm

  30. Another night–another debacle. I guess Williams won’t be satisfied until he has ruined Storen’s confidence so thoroughly that he will never again be an effective MLB pitcher.

    I agree on Strasburg. The only way you trade him or Gio (another very favorable contract) is if the team is going into complete strip down and rebuild mode. With Harper reaching his prime and Scherzer getting all that money to be the ace I don’t seem them doing that.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 Sep 15 at 10:57 pm

  31. That’s really part of the big conundrum here. Unless the team goes out of its way to make major changes, seven of the eight regulars will be the same, with Espinosa/Turner stepping into the lineup for Desmond. (Unless you want to count Taylor as a “change” from Span, even though Taylor has essentially played the full season.) Four of the five starters will be the same (counting Ross), with the fifth likely being Roark, who is also part of the same past.

    I know we give Boz a hard time, but he really nailed it today, speaking for all Natsdom:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/after-another-buckle-the-nationals-prove-they-need-a-stronger-spine/2015/09/09/d1504396-5720-11e5-abe9-27d53f250b11_story.html

    KW

    10 Sep 15 at 5:30 am

  32. This was a horrible series, but at least they lost with their best guys. If I am content with anything, it’s that I think the Mets are the better team right now. I wasn’t sure earlier.

    I can’t put this series on Williams. The criticisms of him this series are over mostly marginal decisions to me, marginal in the sense that there were only slightly better odds going one way or the other. He asked Storen and Papelbon to hold leads and they couldn’t. Ok, we aren’t going to win games when that’s true. At least they are in there.

    But man, they can’t bring this team back next year, thinking if they were healthy they would have had a big enough lead to absorb these losses. This is a flawed team and they need to turn over a large portion. Everything should be on the table.

    Wally

    10 Sep 15 at 8:38 am

  33. “After Johnson’s homer, manager Matt Williams pulled Strasburg in favor of Drew Storen, who had allowed 13 runs in his last 16 innings entering the game. Cespedes, a .319 hitter against right-handers as opposed to .220 against lefties this year, then redirected a 1-0 pitch into the Mets’ bullpen for his 32nd homer.”

    Wally; is this one of those “marginal decisions” that you’re excusing Williams for? I mean seriously, why in the world would he have thrown Storen again last night after his performance the previous night??

    Todd Boss

    10 Sep 15 at 9:00 am

  34. Because it was the 8th inning, Stras has been hurt, he’d already thrown over 100 pitches and hasn’t been pitching regular turns in months? I know he pitched well, but weren’t we all surprised he lasted that long? So is it nuts to say that it was time to go get him? And once you cross that bridge, who exactly is the right call there? Where is the lights out reliever that was left idle?

    That is what I mean by marginal decision – how much more confident would you have felt with any other bullpen guy? Easy to say in hindsight any but Storen but they have all sucked. Williams sucks but so does his pen options, I don’t think we can lose sight of that.

    Wally

    10 Sep 15 at 9:24 am

  35. After witnessing the NLDS Game 5 in 2012 from the first row RF seats, and watching the mediocre run halfway through 2013, I concluded that choking is a part of this team’s make-up. Unfortunately I was proven right time and again last October and this year; but my cynicism paid off and I’m not too sad now.

    I think there *are* happy things to think about: the Kid. Any thoughts on where his slash lines / HRs may land at the end of the season? Another 20+ games to go. I think he’s the only “big game” player on the team and am glad I have him to look forward to every time I read the post-game summary.

    Todd, I don’t like MW either. I just want to point out facts: we complained about him not using Treinen – the next day he uses Treinen and gives up runs. Ditto for Storen, ditto for Papelbon.

    Fact is: there’s no one MW can really use in the bullpen. I think he’s known this for a while but the fans don’t.

    Justin

    10 Sep 15 at 9:33 am

  36. That move encapsulates everything about Matt Williams’ decision making that I can’t stand. The night before Storen couldn’t find the plate. You have TEN other frigging guys out there. The night before Cespedes teed off on Storen and didn’t seem to be too challenged by him. Cespedes’ splits are pretty apparent; he hits righties much better than lefties. Why would you *possibly* throw Storen there??

    Williams just can NOT get past his stubborn, hard-wired “color by numbers” method of bullpen management. He sees Cespedes and sees he’s a right-handed batter and the inning number on the board (8th) and literally is incapable of adjusting to the situation (“Storen’s my 8th inning guy so I gotta go with him even if his ego is completely shattered from last night and even if he has shown that he can’t find the f*cking plate over the last 2 months). Do you think Williams considered the stats? Cespedes now is hitting .320 against righties this year, .220 against lefties. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=cespeyo01&year=2015&t=b . His f*cking OPS against RHP is .935, against lefties is .718. That’s HUGE! You have two lefties in the pen who each throw mid to upper 90s.

    Do you think Joe f*cking Madden would have thrown Drew Storen last night in that situation??

    Even if you wanted to make the argument that you wanted to throw a RHP there, its the middle of the 8th inning; why not just f*cking bring in Papelbon?? I mean, we’re in desperate times here and the two of the last three times Papelbon has thrown its been 2 Ip stints; now suddenly he can’t throw but one inning? What is his poor little arm made of glass?? He’s thrown 17 f*cking innings in FIVE WEEKS.

    Todd Boss

    10 Sep 15 at 9:34 am

  37. Justin; Boswell Agrees with you; https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/after-another-buckle-the-nationals-prove-they-need-a-stronger-spine/2015/09/09/d1504396-5720-11e5-abe9-27d53f250b11_story.html

    On Williams ineptitude: I too was at a critical game; tuesdays. While Storen was busy throwing ball after ball, Williams just sat there, nobody in the pen, nobody going out to talk to Storen, nobody DOING ANYTHING. We were screaming at him “Do something! Get someone up! MANAGE THE TEAM!”

    You’re not really defending his pitching management over the past three games are you? Why let Strasburg hit in the 7th with a guy in scoring position if you’re going to yank him 5 pitches later? Why take out Zimmermann with a lead and only on 100 pitches? Why possibly put Storen back in the day after he melts down? Where the F*ck is Janssen?

    If, Justin, you’re accurate and “there is nobody in the bullpen he can use” … then why *ever* take out a starter? Studies are pretty clear; you can let a modern, veteran, mid-career starting pitcher throw up to about 120 pitches before any regression is seen in subsequent starts. These guys have been treated like they’re made of paper mache. 100 pitches and get yanked?? WTF? Let them throw the damn baseball. For everyone who whined about Strasburg getting shutdown; he was at 103 pitches last night when he got yanked. 103! That’s it. Yeah it was warm, yeah maybe he was getting tired. He’s a PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PITCHER; if he can’t condition himself to throw a complete game or throw more than 103 pitches when its a little warm out side, then he never will and we should trade him before other teams realize his ineptitude.

    Todd Boss

    10 Sep 15 at 10:21 am

  38. Todd – no one is saying Williams is good. It’s just that [almost] all of the pitchers have sucked.

    papelbon have up a run in both appearances. Storen sucked. Treinen got shelled. Janssen’s been getting shelled. Max couldn’t hold the lead.

    Williams isn’t good, but we needed better players more. I am just saying that was more important.

    Wally

    10 Sep 15 at 11:55 am

  39. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Storen warming up, much less when MW called him into the game. It was like watching a horror movie, where you just knew something bad was going to happen. At the time, the managerial decision struck me as something a high school coach would do to try to get a kid’s confidence back. Well, this ain’t high school, and even most HS coaches wouldn’t pull that stunt with the last rays of hope for the season on the line.

    Rizzo has made some comments about how MW is the manager “through the end of the season,” which does sound like he knows the handwriting is on the wall. It’s reached the point where he will risk losing the clubhouse and the fan base if he doesn’t make a move.

    KW

    10 Sep 15 at 12:31 pm

  40. I’ve shifted my thinking to potential offseason upgrades. For those who want to play along, here is the list of free agents:

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/09/2016-mlb-free-agents.html

    It’s impossible to even speculate about what can be done with the bullpen, of course, other than to trade Storen. Considering that one year of Clippard brought Escobar, Storen could bring a reasonable return. I don’t want to sign Clip, as his FIP is through the roof.

    There are a couple of problems with thoughts of upgrading the everyday lineup. One is that there are several players who are pretty entrenched. The other is that they’re at least “good” at every position, and the price to upgrade from “good” is generally “great.”

    The Nats could look to trade Ramos, but catchers who hit even half-decently are hard to find. Rendon and eventually Turner seem guaranteed to hold down two of the three spots among 3B/SS/2B. Escobar could be traded or benched, but he’s been the second-best offensive player in 2015. Zim theoretically could be moved to LF in favor of a bopping 1B (Chris Davis?), but with Zim in left and Werth back in right, Harper would have to be faster than Michael Taylor to cover all the ground in between.

    If Zim stays at 1B, they could add a bat in the OF and keep Taylor and all his K’s in reserve. My pick would be Justin Upton over Heyward or Cespedes, but any of those would require another contract north of $100M. Do you pay that when you’ve already got 25-30 HR potential in Taylor?

    I would be surprised if the Nats sign one of the several big-name starters likely to be available, but you never know. They might be more likely to trade for one than to get a FA. Again, though, you’d have to be getting someone who is going to be clearly better than Roark/Ross/Gio to displace a starter.

    The Hot Stove period isn’t supposed to start in September, but it seems better than contemplating the nightly disasters!

    KW

    10 Sep 15 at 12:34 pm

  41. We’re going to need a much improved Rendon back next year. He has been pretty pathetic this year with that .367 Slugging Pct. His ab’s aren’t really passing the eye test either.

    If he is really an elite hit tool guy like everyone lauds him for, he’s going to have to scare a .300 average one of these years soon too.

    Hope it’s mostly injury related this year, but wow he has disappointed.

    What do you guys think about trading Rendon for a big haul? Could get some real quality in return. I used to love this guy but the more I see and hear about him, the less I like. Especially attitude, plate adjustments, and leadership qualities.

    Marty C

    10 Sep 15 at 2:40 pm

  42. Trading Rendon: definitely selling low. If injuries hampered his 2015, then why trade him now so he can be healthy and productive for someone else next year? I’ve heard nothing negative about any off-the-field stuff; Marty do you have links to issues with his attitude or leadership stuff?

    Todd Boss

    10 Sep 15 at 3:10 pm

  43. Todd, you must have heard this already. Strasburg already gave up a HR and single in that inning. Leaving him in is not a good idea.

    Bringing in Storen also not great. I think maybe Martin / Grace / Solis were worth a try; but would you trust them at bottom of the 8th? Rivero / Treinen / Thornton / Janssen are either used or sucky.

    I’m all for firing MW; will definitely not shed a tear. But what this team needs is to get rid of sissies and add a few gritty guys in the lineup and pen. Some Sandoval / Buerhle type character. Getting rid of the manager is not enough. I quite like Clint Robinson type guys. We should get rid of Ramos and Desmond.

    The lone bright spot is Harper. Our record will be like ATL / PHL if he wasn’t doing his thing. I suggest we talk about him, because that’s all there is left to talk about. How many HRs? 40? 45? Runs? Record final OPS line? etc etc

    Justin

    10 Sep 15 at 5:19 pm

  44. Gotta trade Werth – guys with No Trades get traded all the time (see Papelbon, Jonathan). If he knows that he’ll be the 4th outfielder, I’m guessing he’d welcome a change.

    Maybe Escobar can move to the outfield? Otherwise, he needs to be traded as well.

    Andrew R

    10 Sep 15 at 5:29 pm

  45. I don’t have the links but Boswell was mentioning in one his recent chats that Rendon was acting like a total jerk to the writers.

    But also… last year were articles that he thought “baseball was boring”, and the fact that in the offseason he didn’t allow his friends he hangs out with back home to even talk about or mention baseball. Not to mention his yawning in the batters box.

    The guy is obviously talented, but doesn’t seem to love the game or express any leader- grinder qualities.

    I don’t think you’d be selling low. Lots of people I’m sure still think he’s top class and would give up a lot to get him. Maybe we could get a Car-Go type back plus more. We don’t really have any other decent 3b options to replace him I realize. I’m just mentioning this in terms of total team re-tool scenarios and options. I was really excited about him at first, but less so the more I see of him. Has very long cold streaks. Strikes out more than his good eye should suggest. Gets behind in count too much. Suffers weird injuries.
    (and probably even enjoys the DL break!)

    Team needs fire and he is not that guy I think now or ever. And as the league figures him out he’s looking more like a singles hitter to me with just average pull side power. Think pitchers are adjusting to him better than he is adjusting back.

    Everyone thinks he had this amazing playoff series last year, but he just grooved a few singles early in the series and faded late. It’s not like he was dumping them in the upper deck and McCovey Cove like Harper’s breakout.

    Hope I’m wrong. But I think his ceiling is not much higher than the haul you could get back for him.

    Marty C

    10 Sep 15 at 5:34 pm

  46. Point being. He’s a talented piece to have around but I wouldn’t have him in plan for our next franchise block type guy with a 9 figure contract.

    Marty C

    10 Sep 15 at 5:39 pm

  47. Per Fangraphs, Rendon was the fourth best field player in baseball in 2014. He’s just 25 years old and controllable for four more years. I wouldn’t declare him 100% not available, but the Nats would want a huge return for an asset like that, even coming off an off year.

    I saw Boz’s comments about how Rendon wouldn’t talk to the press one night, but Boz said in his chat that week that he still thought that Rendon is a good kid and that others in the clubhouse would probably set that straight.

    If I were to guess which everyday starter would be most likely to be traded, it would be Ramos, but starting catchers are terribly hard to find. It would make sense to at least float Escobar, as they’d be selling high and they have replacements in-house. I’d listen to offers on Taylor as well, in large part because of the K’s. I projected his season over 700 plate appearances and got 24.5 HRs . . . and a staggering 232 strikeouts. Werth and Zim probably can’t be traded, and Harper and Turner won’t be.

    KW

    10 Sep 15 at 8:31 pm

  48. The Nats are actually in a pretty good spot heading into the offseason, because their individual parts likely are valued more highly than the sum total has produced. So they have many players with decent to enormous trade value. But I think we are in one of those situations where the team needs a very large makeover, so I would look to trade many.

    (1) I would extend Stras. Likely to be higher than comfort allows, but I think he is really good, better than most of the commenters here I think, and young. For payroll reasons, I think that means you flip Gio, and go with Stras, Max, Roark, Ross and kids.
    (2) Harper and Rendon are the blue chips, and they take priority over other position players. So Rendon always plays 3rd.
    (3) Zim (1b)

    Wally

    10 Sep 15 at 8:32 pm

  49. Sorry, hit send by accident.
    (3) Zim (1b), Tylor (cf) and Espy (ss) are the role player you keep, primarily for defense, which gets stressed.
    (4) Werth, Escobar, Ramos, Storen get traded for young controllable position players, especially OFs. Guys like Grichuk was before he became really good (they got him for Freese).
    (5) turner gets first crack at 2b but there needs to be a quality backup for him and Rendon.
    (6) Sign several quality relievers

    Wally

    10 Sep 15 at 8:35 pm

  50. I’ll never understand why folks are so eager to give out 9 figure deals to pitchers. These deals NEVER go well. Sure, the first few years are usually fine, but pitcher arms these days just don’t last into a pitcher’s mid 30s or later these days, unless they are Roger Clemens or Bartolo Colon (uh…).

    As great as Max was, is anyone bullish on that deal one year in?

    Let’s focus on signing the hitters (Harp and Rendon and maybe even Taylor) and then continue to draft and develop high-end pitchers.

    Andrew R

    10 Sep 15 at 8:42 pm

  51. Well, kind of sure it’s because it isn’t my money

    Wally

    10 Sep 15 at 8:50 pm

  52. Look, it’s fun to speculate about offseason moves (nothing else for Nats fans to do right now other than dream of better days ahead), but anyone who says “trade Werth” instantly loses credibility. First, he has a rock-solid no trade clause; second, he’s one of the few Nats to put down roots in the area, and would therefore have little interest in leaving; third, he’s entering the final two, least productive, most expensive years of his contract and he gets hurt a lot, so there would be few if any teams interested in taking him. Moreover, Papelbon isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, because Pap is two years younger and plays a less athletic position (sorry, pitchers). Pap wanted off the Phillies sinking ship, along with everyone else. But, however bleak thing seem now, the Nats are not the Phillies. Werth’s chances of winning the WS in the next two years are still better in DC than in most MLB cities, so why would he waive his NTC? Likewise, no one is trading for Zimmerman (fat contract, hurt all the time), so the Nats own those contracts for the duration.

    Regarding actual tradable pieces, I suppose Ramos is a candidate, but to what end? Is there another catcher we’d rather have? (And don’t say Buster Posey; I mean someone obtainable.) True, Ramos isn’t the all-star we’d hoped he’d become, but the team could do a lot worse, too. Taylor is tradable, but not for a major return. You could probably net a fair return for Escobar, selling high off his good season. Mostly, though, it’s pitchers. I’d unload most of the bullpen, and Gio while I was at it.

    As I stated before, Wally, I just don’t think there’s any meaningful chance of extending Stras or Harper. Per Boras protocol, they’ll maximize their value and go to FA at the end of their contracts. I’d extend Harper now, if it was possible. But it’s not. Strasburg? The guy is a different pitcher every time he takes the mound. Not sure I’d extend him even if I could.

    Finally, fire Matt Williams. Even Boswell, a reliable defender of the status quo, made a strong argument that MW should be gone. Hopefully, Rizzo isn’t too arrogant to accept that “his guy” didn’t work out.

    Clark17

    10 Sep 15 at 9:37 pm

  53. To my mind, it wouldn’t make sense to extend or re-sign Strasburg. He’s been way too irregular and oft-injured to be worth $25-30M per for 7+ years.

    Boras has always said that he’d be willing to talk Harper extension if the price is right. The price, of course, is in the Trout/Kershaw/Stanton range. Harper hadn’t proved he was worth that until this season, and I don’t think Boras would have discussed it until Harper posted a breakout season. Well, now he has, with the highest OPS ever posted by any current player, and at age 22. I’m not convinced that it’s doable, either, but if it is, that’s the first place I’d be looking to sink long-term money right now.

    KW

    10 Sep 15 at 10:08 pm

  54. Here’s a ballpark deal for Harper: 15-20-25-30-30-30-35-35-35 = 9/255, including three non-FA years bought out. Is that enough? Trout and Kershaw both jump almost immediately to the $35M range; Stanton gets less per year, but over a longer period. That may look like a lot of money, but it’s the going rate. There would probably be a large “signing bonus” in there, too. Werth would come off the books before it gets too expensive. They’ve got the Scherzer and RZim commitments, but they’ve also got a lot of young, cheap assets who shouldn’t cost much for a long time (Rendon, Turner, Taylor, Ross, Giolito).

    KW

    10 Sep 15 at 10:26 pm

  55. Not enough. I’d start with 10/$355mm and probably have to go up from there.

    To the Werth is stuck here crowd, another worse contract was Kemp. He was traded. Werth won’t even accept being given a day off from the lineup – if he’s told he will be the 4th OF, he will be miserable and accept a trade.

    Andrew R

    11 Sep 15 at 9:01 am

  56. Lots to catch up on here:

    Rendon thoughts: he was awesome in 2014 and hurt in 2015. We’d be selling completely low by moving him now, especially considering that he’s the kind of player you try to *keep* not move: young, cost controlled, proven production. Its sometimes hard to distinguish between “bad body language” and a guy who just plays with a “calm” demeaner; scouts talk about it all the time. Arizona has shipped quite a flew players out of town for exactly that reason. Not every guy plays with a manic frenzy; some guys are smooth, calm, even demeanor, others play with abandon. Both approaches can work.

    My big beef with Rendon this year comes back to management. Why is Rendon not installed back at third base when he’s finally ready to go?? To me this is one more huge indictment of Williams; clearly he doesn’t understand the value of defense. Rendon was a plus-plus third baseman while Escobar cost the team runs over and again playing there. I just don’t understand the mindset; you have a home grown guy who puts up one of the league-leading offensive and overall performances in 2014, then you make *him* play out of position to make way for a veteran with a “history” to play the position he wanted to? What sense does that make? Escobar has been a disaster at 3B (here’s his fangraphs fielding link: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4191&position=SS#fielding . -9.1 for uzr/150, -12 DRS). By way of comparison, Rendon in 2014’s figures: 23.5 uzr/150 and a +4 DRS. That’s a 16 run difference; that’s probably 4 wins! And we all see it; Escobar can’t get to balls in the field, doesn’t get into position well, etc.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 9:06 am

  57. 9 figure pitcher extensions: no, they almost never work out. You can run through Cots’ history of $100M+ deals and count on one hand then number of those deals that ended up great for the team. I myself track just the pitcher side in this XLS (not updated for 2014 or 2015 yet): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vtP0arroQFLG46ftr8Qz3PL2nGQMW6z_m8yq3AfT2GM/edit . So far, of every $100M+ pitcher contract the *best* might just be Greinke’s deal, given what he’s doing this year. But its not even half way over. You have to dip down to Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina to find a significant multi-year deal that “went well” when all was said and done, and neither of those two guys were $100M deals.

    What are you going to do? I think its safe to say that Scherzer wasn’t Rizzo’s decision; that was Lerner trying to guarantee the win. How pissed is Lerner right now? He’s on the hook for $195M more for a guy who’s put up a 5ERA in the 2nd half. Not. Good.

    The alternative to paying to freight for a team like Washington is to develop players well. See St. Louis. We’re clearly not ever going to strike it rich on the RSN like LA or NY teams. So we have to draft and develop well. And frankly, there’s going to be a time when we’ll bottom out and have to strip down/start over ala Houston or Chicago. I don’t think anyone wants to watch this team go down the drain like Philadelphia has.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 9:13 am

  58. Kemp was traded because the richer-than-God Dodgers paid about $30M (if memory serves) for him to go away, and because the Padres made a whole slew of incredibly stupid deals . . . for which we’ll be thanking them for years to come!

    The Nats will not pay $30M for Werth to go away. Also, to get him to waive a no-trade, he’d probably have to be extended by the acquiring team (which the Nats essentially did with Pap). Hard to see that happening, either. This is just what happens at the end of big contracts.

    If he isn’t leaving, the question then becomes what level of “4th OF” the team will bring in. Do they settle for a player at the level they thought they were getting with McLouth? Do they raise the bar a bit for someone like Parra or Rasmus? Or do they go for a full-fledged star starter, like Upton or Cespedes? Or do they just stand pat with CRob and den Dekker and hope for the best?

    KW

    11 Sep 15 at 9:31 am

  59. Werth thoughts: I’m not as completely anti Werth as others. Why? Because I think he makes an excellent lead off hitter. Here’s his career split batting leadoff; .278/.362/.455. He routinely is near the top of the league in “pitches seen per at bat” as we’ve noted elsewhere, and he’s still in good enough shape to get a SB and to run the bases effectively (none this year but the last few years betwene 8-10 SBs per year). I think you have to look beyond his .227 batting average this year and look at what he can do out of leadoff for the rest of his career.

    No he’s not awesome in LF. But as I’ve intoned many times before, you don’t have to be Willie Mays to effectively play left field. Thanks to circumstance, the Nats have to deal with two positionally locked players in Werth and Zimmerman for the next few seasons. It is what it is. It could be worse; both can still be effective at the plate.

    Besides; look at the projected lineup for next year (before any major trades/acquisitions) and tell me who is a better leadoff candidate? Infield of Zimmerman, Escobar, Turner and Rendon. OF of Werth, Taylor and Harper, Ramos behind the plate. Turner obviously is a better candidate … but he needs to prove he can hit at the MLB level first. Taylor has too many Ks right now, and Rendon is a prototypical #2 hitter and should stay there. My lineup is Werth, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Escobar, Taylor, Ramos, Turner. Way too many righties but what are you gonna do.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 10:13 am

  60. OF; would love to see a good hitting lefty OF. Here’s a crazy thought: Jayson Heyward. Put him in RF and stick Bryce in Center. Werth LF, Taylor 4th outfielder. There’s your solution. And we get another lefty power bat that we’re missing. I like what Robinson brought to the table as a lefty off the bench; keep him. den Dekker can go back to Syracuse as OF depth. Have another cattle call in spring for a right handed bat off the bench to compete with Moore and see if anything hits.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 10:17 am

  61. Justin: yanking Strasburg. Fair enough; he had given up a homer and a single that inning. He had also struck out Cespedes swinging the last two times he was up AND he had struckout at least two guys in every inning after the first on the night! So the game’s tied at 2-2 in the 8th; did Strasburg *look* tired? I doubt it; 100 pitches is not that many pitches. Meanwhile, Cespedes tee-d off on Storen the previous night and it surprised no body when he blasted a homer when Storen hung a slider so badly that I could have put good wood on it. Williams TIME AND AGAIN over manages and yanks starters too soon. Except when he doesn’t properly read the situation and he inexplicably leaves them in when its obvious to hit for them (See Scherzer, Max on Monday). Wouldn’t you like to have seen Zimmermann continue pitching with two outs in the 9th in the NLDS last season? Wouldn’t you liked to have seen Strasburg man up and try to get the Mets two best hitters out in that situation and stay in line for the win??

    Maybe you’ll say i’m 2nd guessing every move Williams makes with the benefit of hind-sight. Fair enough. You can quibble with *every single* strategic move he made in that Mets series, every pitching change, every ridiculous bunt attempt, every time he left in a reliever to throw 12 balls inside of 15 pitches while having nobody up in the pen. But enough is enough; the REASON all these moves are arguable is because time and time again he gets them wrong! Name me one strategic move he made in the Mets series that worked.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 10:51 am

  62. Why would you want to play Werth every day over Taylor next year? MAT plays great defense, is super clutch, and is just getting started. Werth is on the decline – I’m not trying to say he’s terrible as much as that he belongs in the AL where he can DH a few times a week at least.

    If you assume that Werth is worth 2 years, $20-24MM on the open market, the Nats would either have to pick up ~$10MM or take on an equally high contract.

    Or, I’d be fine keeping Werth as the 4th OF if he’d be willing… but I don’t think he’s good enough (or likely to be healthy all season) to count on him as a core guy in 2016.

    Andrew R

    11 Sep 15 at 11:33 am

  63. The Nats need to take a page from KC or Pitt and make defensive efficiency a high priority. This is especially true if they don’t invest heavily in more pitching. So Rendon at 3b always, Espy at SS and Taylor in CF.

    I agree with Andrew on Werth – if the Nats played him like he merits (400 PAs, lead off or low in order, defensive replacement late), then ok, it’s fine he would be helpful. But due to some combo of contract, personality, veteran status, they treat him like a core guy and build around him. That isn’t helpful.

    I understand the sentiment against extending Stras, even if he would. I know that I am the ‘high’ guy on him but the other view is reasonable. While I think he probably doesn’t sign, Boras also knows that he hasn’t put up the stats of Max or Kershaw either, so who knows. Anyhow probably not something the Nats want to do either.

    I wouldn’t do many FA signings this year, more trades. The primary FA signings would be to reconstruct a bullpen, similar to what HOU did this past offseason. I’d like to see some young OFs acquired in trade – Max Kepler types. It’s an organizational weakness.

    Wally

    11 Sep 15 at 1:37 pm

  64. wally; interesting point. I heard analysis from someone recently that said that teams nowadays are focusing on Defense and Bullpen, two areas that Rizzo specifically skimped on this year.

    Andrew: If Taylor earns it over Werth, so be it. Right now it doesn’t matter; both are slated to be opening dya starters in 2016. An acquisition changes the scene for sure. But ask yourself this: if Matt Williams is still the manager, who do you think he’ll play first if it came down to a Werth vs Taylor question?

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 1:46 pm

  65. Todd… I’d put Turner at the top and let him start being the leadoff hitter he is supposed to be right away. Ramos 8th and never move him from there. Unless you trade him which I hope they do.

    Marty C

    11 Sep 15 at 4:06 pm

  66. Hey guys, that great baseball mind we’ve wanted to help out Rizzo is now available – Ruben Amaro! (Kidding! Just kidding!)

    A few thoughts on the above. I get the suggestion of adding Heyward as a LH bat. However, having just turned 26, he’s going to want at least seven years for at least $20M per. I’d have a hard time paying that for a guy with a career OPS+ of just 113 and only one season with more than 20 HRs, not to mention giving up the draft pick.

    To that point, the 2016 draft is supposed to be pretty strong, and as things stand, the Nats would be looking to pick in the teens plus add two comp picks for JZim and Desi, so three picks in the top 35.

    One point on trying to extend Strasburg: I looked at the 2017 FA class, and it really jumped out at me that he’s going to be far and away the #1 starter available. It’s not like this year, where JZim is going to face a lot of competition from Price, Cueto, maybe Greinke. Seeing that tells me that there’s no way Boras would do an extension unless it’s over the top. Sorry, I’d go a bit over the top for Harper, but not for Stras.

    I’ve almost come around to the thinking that the Nats should mostly retrench/go with the kids for 2016 and stay away from the comp-level FAs. Storen should bring a decent piece in a trade, perhaps the 4th OF they need, or a quality setup man, already signed for a couple of years. Do you carry the retrofit a bit farther and look to trade Stras, Ramos, and Escobar as well? I don’t think you’d diminish the team too much by doing that, as you’d get quality players/prospects for all of them, star-quality for Stras.

    I don’t know. I think the Nats could stand relatively pat, improve the bullpen, and be in contention with the Mets next year to win the division. But I also fear that mostly standing pat leaves them like the Caps, in or near the playoffs every year, but with not enough firepower to do more. It will be interesting to see which way they go.

    KW

    11 Sep 15 at 4:28 pm

  67. Marty: I want to see that Turner can actually hit at the MLB level first. I know his MILB numbers are awesome, but there’s a huge difference between AA/AAA and the majors. I’m not ready to install him at leadoff on day one. In fact ……… prepare for repetitive whining about the handling of Turner …… but this is kind of exactly why I didn’t want him called up until mid april of next year!

    How many draftees from the 2014 class are in the majors right now? Like 7 or 8 tops. Rodon, Schwarber, Conforto, Nola, Lindgren. they havn’t even called back up Finnegan and he was awesome last year. Point is; you have to be pretty awesome to be debuting the year after you got drafted in this day and age. So what’s the rush?

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 4:43 pm

  68. Ruining Tomorrow, Jr. got the Axe.

    2016 draft absolutely is stronger than 2015; i’ve heard analysis that said that just 2 or 3 of the top 10 picks from this year would be in the top 10 of next year. So that’s good news.

    Totally agree on Heyward’s being overpaid for what he brings to the table.

    FA money gambles: normally i’d say gamble on the position player no thte pitcher, but Lerner didn’t get that memo (Scherzer). question; do you think maybe it pissed everyone off this year that Lerner was willing to shell out $200M+ for an outsider but NOT for home grown guy like Zimmermann? Is it just me, or does this front office/ownership group seem to time and again piss off their own players in the way they handle personnel moves? you think this plays into their severe underperformance this year? You tell me; does Jordan Zimmermann look like a happy guy right now?

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 4:46 pm

  69. Bullpens are notoriously difficult to construct. I’ve seen teams go with kids and flop, and I’ve seen teams go with veteran FA types and flop. With reliever performance so volatile in general, it’s a lot more art than science. I don’t think that Rizzo overlooked the bullpen he just had a bunch of things happen in a row that undermined what he thought would be a good bullpen, starting with the Stammen injury and working from there. Rizzo has constructed bullpens that were really good, and has had bullpens turn out really badly.

    On whether JZim looks happy: how could you tell? He doesn’t show emotion much at all. I honestly can’t tell a lot of difference between him this year, last year or from 2012. He doesn’t smile much.

    I think fans are (once again) too quick to write off a player, this time Werth (again; we wrote him off after 2011, too). After writing off LaRoche a couple of times and Span, too, you’d think we’d be hesitant to write off players. Nope.

    Unless he just blows the doors off the competition for the middle infield, I’m perfectly OK with starting Turner in AAA in 2016. If Escobar or Espinosa flops, bring him up. But yeah, Rendon should be at third, Zimmerman at first, period. My only quibble with blaming MW for that is that I don’t know whether that came from the front office, from MW, or from the players themselves. No matter where the Escobar-at-third came from, though, it needs to leave.

    John C.

    11 Sep 15 at 5:38 pm

  70. Todd, a question: do you know the rules for when an international free agent needs to be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft?

    I ask because I was looking at the 40 man roster and I was trying to figure out whether they needed a spot for Reynaldo Lopez. The Nats currently have 45 guys on the roster (five being on the 60 day DL) but that problem will solve itself because of the seven free agents. The only player I can see them possibly adding to the 40 man roster is Spencer Kieboom – and even that’s no gimme since his bat took a step back this year in High A. So they do have room for Lopez if they need it.

    John C.

    11 Sep 15 at 5:46 pm

  71. Lopez and rule5: I think IFAs are like HS guys because (for the most part) they are 18 or under upon signing. So its 6 years. Lopez signed as an IFA in 2012 so he seems safe for now. It looks like 2012 college draftees and 2011 prep/IFAs are rule-5 eligible this coming off-season.

    I’m months away from doing the rule5 roster add analysis :-) But, since we’re looking at it, yeah not a whole lot out of our 2012 college draft class worth protecting. I’d say yes to Keiboom just because he’s a catcher and he’s got a great reputation as a receiver. 2011 prep: just Deion Williams and guys like Skole and other 2011 college draftees. 2011 IFAs? Severino (already added), Raudy Read (may be too low), Gilberto Mendez, other random relievers.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 6:37 pm

  72. Todd–I think you hit the nail on the head regarding the Scherzer contract, which was just like the R Soriano contract before it. Worse than even dissing the home grown talents, how much is that contract going to cause the Nats to continue being non-entities on the IFA market? Or to skimp on scouting, which could already be why so many of their higher draft picks have flamed out in recent years.

    Karl Kolchak

    11 Sep 15 at 10:29 pm

  73. It occurs to me that there is a LH-hitting OF who’ll be available who has higher OPS and OPS+ the last two years than Heyward but who’ll cost half as much. His name is Span. I wonder if he’d take 2/$16M with an option, with the understanding that he’d be the 4th OF. He’d be insurance if Taylor’s K problem reaches Espy-like proportions, and for the inevitable Werth DL stint(s).

    Two years should be a bridge to Stevenson, Robles, Wiseman, someone . . . With Goodwin flaming out, there isn’t much in the way of OFs in the upper minors, which is why they had to go looking for guys like CRob and den Dekker.

    *When healthy,* Werth has indeed been a huge offensive contributor since late 2012. He had back-to-back bWAR of 4.7 the last two years. He still looks like he can hit, at least for average if not for as much power, and age had nothing to do with how he got hurt this year. It was a stray pitch. We’ll see. In this day of inflated WAR costs, he can actually pay for his contract next year with 3.0-3.5 WAR.

    KW

    11 Sep 15 at 10:39 pm

  74. My scherzer comment is conjecture; as JohnC noted below, who the heck knows what these guys are really thinking. Is Storen happy, sad, mad, pissed off, ambivalent, resigned, depressed? Who knows. Same with Zimmermann and Roark and especially Espinosa, who has watched his team try to replace him for years and years.

    Does it seem like maybe this team is heading towards the Tigers “stars and scrubs” model? A handful of high priced guys at key positions, then having veteran FAs and 0-3 year guys filling in the edges?

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 10:49 pm

  75. KW: if you give Span a pillow contract, do you create playing time issues between him and Taylor? Is it better to just install Taylor as the starter and let him shine? He didn’t really improve much as the season went on; his average in july and aug was still in the .220-.230 range http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=taylomi02&year=2015&t=b

    I dunno. I don’t disagree with you that his numbers are better than Heyward. I probably shouldn’t have thrown his name out there; frankly I don’t want him for the same reasons already pointed out; a ton of his value is tied to his defense, which is squirrly and hard to measure and fleeting.

    But, if you re-sign Span, are you just signing up for another year of injury issues? I mean, is there a guy on this team who is NOT an injury risk? Its crazy isn’t it?

    Is it a safe assumption to just write off 2015 as a crazy year of injuries and hope everyone stays healthy in 2016?

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 15 at 10:56 pm

  76. A Span contract would be with him being told explicitly that he’s the 4th OF. He should know as well as anyone that there’s plenty of PT for a 4th OF around here!

    Whether it’s Span or someone else, I do think they’re going to have to spend/trade for a starter-type guy to be the 4th OF . . . as McLouth was supposed to be. Their thinking with him was certainly right. He was just lousy/injured the whole time.

    I completely share the concerns about Taylor. The raw talent is there – power, speed, and defense. But with his poor plate discipline, he would seem to be at great risk for a career arc like Espinosa’s. Do they totally commit to Taylor as a starter? Or do they think about bringing in someone like Justin Upton (former D-Back!) or Cespedes and leaving Taylor as #4?

    KW

    12 Sep 15 at 10:17 am

  77. I’ve always thought a Stars and Scrubs model is the way to go. I’ve never seen value in the mid-level FA type that McL fit into. I’d much rather sign our big guns and then trade off mid-level pieces to get back potential core guys.

    This team right now has too many mid-level pieces (Ramos, Escobar, Espy, Werth) who are too hard to take out of the lineup, but aren’t so good to justify it. Rendon and Zimm fit there as well this year, although I expect them to be major contributors next year.

    As for the pen – I think we have good pieces but had a combo of bad luck (Stammen, Carpenter, Barrett) and mismanagement (how many days in a row can guys warm up and pitch???). I don’t think we need more than one new veteran guy next year in the pen:

    Closer: Pap
    Setup: Rivero and Treinen
    Middle: Stammen, Carpenter, Solis
    Fringe: Cole, Lopez, B. Harper, AdlS, Lee, Purke

    To Todd’s point about ticking off the guys with “grass is greener” signings like Scherzer, Papelbon, Escobar and Soriano, I think that’s a big deal. I can’t imagine our guys were thrilled to see that their replacements were being brought in well before they were gone. All of those guys, while good/great, weren’t necessary to the roster.

    Andrew R

    12 Sep 15 at 12:27 pm

  78. Todd–conjecture it may be, but SOMETHING sure seems to be inflicting this team like a virus. I mean, c’mon, Drew, you went to Stanford. You HAVE to know that when locker meets fist, fist loses every time.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 Sep 15 at 10:05 pm

  79. Andrew–that bullpen you just posted scares the crap out of me.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Papelbon becomes the second coming of Brad Lidge next year.

    I like Rivero as a lefty, but Treinen has shown again and again that he cannot be trusted in high leverage situations.

    Carpenter looked to be skirting the edge of disaster like Janssen before he got hurt, and there is no way to know if Stammen will even pitch next year, let alone pitch effectively. As for the rest of those guys, Cole will remain a starter until such time as he definitively shows he should not be, Solis looks very hittable despite his good fastball, Lopez is nowhere near ready and the rest of those guys are org depth at best.

    I said way up at the top of this page that the Nats need to bring in three veteran BP arms next year–but looking at your list I wonder if it shouldn’t be four.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 Sep 15 at 10:14 pm

  80. Man, it’s starting to get ugly (if it wasn’t already). Just one game above .500. Maybe they’re just trying to improve their draft position . . .

    KW

    13 Sep 15 at 7:34 am

  81. It’s a shame about Storen. Also going to negate his trade value, so I wonder if he stays on the team, at least until he shows that he is healthy again. Rizzo doesn’t like selling low. The WaPo article said he isn’t a FA until after the 2017 season, and I thought it was after next year. Does anyone know for sure?

    If they keep sliding, I think it winds up making sure Williams is fired. It will back up the storyline that he lost the clubhouse.

    Wally

    13 Sep 15 at 8:10 am

  82. Although on second though, Storen is probably due for $6-7m in arbitration, so maybe Rizzo just unloads him no matter what.

    Wally

    13 Sep 15 at 8:12 am

  83. Storen was a super-2 guy so he gets 4 arb years: but his 4th arb year is coming this season, so he’s a FA after 2016. WashPost article is wrong: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1CUR_nqM9-YsnKaJt58vwn88LZkBoc58kbRcceZ71qBo/pub?output=html

    Fitting that he breaks his thumb to end his season mercifully. I’m sure Rizzo will use this logic to trade him: “well, he was fine until we unfairly layered him with Papelbon; if you acquire him and put him at closer, you’ve got years of proof that he can post a sub 2.00 ERA. Just don’t trust him in the post season.” I’m sure that’ll work.

    There’s been more than one national writer that has written that Williams long ago lost the clubhouse. Lerner’s have to be beyond pissed that their $160M investment has led to a .500 season and are probably asking Rizzo if the manager is the reason.

    Todd Boss

    13 Sep 15 at 9:07 am

  84. Storen has followed a pretty similar arb curve as Clippard did. Clip got $8.3M for this season, so figure Storen to get at least that, probably more because of the saves. I don’t think the broken thumb should hurt his trade value, just spare him a few boos, warranted or not.

    Don’t underestimate Storen’s trade value. The Nats got Ramos for Capps and Escobar for one year of Clip. Storen could be a very effective, affordable closer for a mid-level team, just as long as it doesn’t end up in any late-season, high-pressure situations. Billy Beane might come calling for him for another reasonably priced closer.

    Speaking of the bullpen, why in the flip is Ross still pitching? If he’s shut down, he’s shut down. At -9.5, there’s no reason not to shut him down. Give those innings to Cole, Jordan, heck even CRob and T-Mo. Just don’t get Ross hurt.

    KW

    14 Sep 15 at 12:15 pm

  85. Ross was never “shut down” – he was pulled from the rotation because he was approaching his innings limit for this season. The Nats’ incentive to get him as close to his target workload as possible while not overtaxing his arm is to ensure that he reaches the point where he has no innings limit for 2016.

    John C.

    14 Sep 15 at 1:44 pm

  86. Good point. However, I don’t know that they’ll get Ross to an unlimited number of innings next season, even with a little more work. He’s at 150.1 right now. If they go 20% more in 2016, that’s 180; 25% would be 187.5. If they go 10 more innings with him this year, they may bump him up to 200 for ’16 at the outside. They’ve always been very conservative with the young arms, though.

    KW

    14 Sep 15 at 2:01 pm

  87. Storen trade value: You’ve gotta find a team with a closer problem who also has as GM who still is willing to deal for a closer. Tougher and tougher to find. Who has closer issues that might be shopping this coming off-season? Boston, Chicago Cubs, Detroit, the Dodgers, Seattle, Texas maybe, Toronto maybe? Seems like there’s a market.

    Ross Innings: I’d bet they go up to 180 next year, maybe a bit more. That’s just a few starts at the end of the season (right Matt Harvey?)

    Todd Boss

    14 Sep 15 at 4:16 pm

  88. Storen at $8-9M is cheap for an established closer. On the FA market, he would command at least what the Nats paid Soriano. Beane gave up an established player to get Clippard as a cheap closer for this season. There will be a market. It might be wishful thinking that they can get someone who will contribute as much as Escobar has, but they can get value for him.

    It was interesting to see a Nats-flooded chat for Boz yesterday on the day after the Redskin opener. Boz had a lot to say, some of it sane, some of it crazy, such as still insisting that the Nats will make four QOs, including to Span and Fister. He also thinks they should sign an established starter. I’m not sure what to think about the starter idea. I can’t see them going after one of the big $150M+ guys. I’m not sure I would want to give up the draft pick for someone not of that caliber, though. If they do sign a starter, do they then float Stras a little more aggressively? Maybe they trade for a starter instead of signing one?

    Boz also thought they need a LaRoche/Morse type bat, preferably LH, but he didn’t know where that player would fit in the lineup, unless they do some overturning to the lineup rather than just tweaking.

    KW

    15 Sep 15 at 8:10 am

  89. Qualifying Offers. Part of me says “there’s an established omerta in the players union that will prevent any player from accepting a QO” given the proof we have seen so far; In three off-seasons we’ve seen 8, 13 and 12 QOs offered to players and not one accepted. There have been several guys whose declining the QO was rather inexplicable (Cuddyer main one, but also Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew stand out). So why not offer the QO to all four main guys departing and see what happens?

    On the other hand … both Span and Fister would be psychotic to turn down a QO based on their 2015 seasons. Neither guy (for separate reasons) is likely to get a multi-year deal, so both are looking at pillow contracts to re-establish value before attempting to get a 3 or 4 year deal as the last major FA signing of their career. So if you offer each guy 1yr/$16M … they’d have to be idiots not to take it right? And the Nats may be idiots for committing that money.

    That being said; Span was just unlucky with injuries, still proved he could hit, and could be the Nate McLouth we never had, as argued elsewhere. he’s lefty bat in a lineup that really, really, really needs some. Fister is more of a problem case of actively blocking someone if he were to take the deal. And $16M for a frigging long reliever is nuts.

    Todd Boss

    15 Sep 15 at 12:14 pm

  90. I would give Span $16M . . . for two years! I think you’d also have to get an understanding from him that he’s basically the 4th OF. I’d be glad to have him in that role, although ideally, I’d prefer someone with more power.

    I don’t think the Nats can risk the $32M hit of offering to Span and Fister. As you say, they’d be insane not to take the deals. If they turned down the QOs, they’d be dead men walking for the first half of next year, as no team would give up a draft pick to do the contract. Boz is banking on what you said, that every player turns down the QOs, but I can’t see it happening in these cases.

    If the Nats didn’t want to risk offering to LaRoche, who was a significantly more valuable player, I can’t see them doing it here. I’m just glad that Desi has played well enough in the second half to remove concerns that he might take the QO.

    KW

    15 Sep 15 at 2:00 pm

  91. I thought not offering QOs to both LaRoche and Edwin Jackson was a mistake. Maybe less so LaRoche but absolutely Jackson. It was clear from the context of that market that Jackson was going to sign a long term deal. I secretly think both lack-of-QO-decisions were pat on the back “handshake deals” on the way out the door for those guys.

    On Span; what if he did take it? We’ve shown over and again that there’s bound to be plenty of OF at-bats. Taylor was supposed to be the 4th outfielder this year and will end up with 500 ABs. Robinson, Den Dekker and Moore combined have another 500 ABs. What’s that, your 5th outfielder? :-). Harper’s been nearly 100 healthy this year; will he be again next? Werth missed half the year and will be 37 next year; he’s likely to miss time. And as talked about before, Span is a natural leadoff hitter on a team without a projected one right now and he bats lefty on a team that may have just one lefty bat in its starting 8 w/o moves in the off-season.

    Todd Boss

    15 Sep 15 at 2:44 pm

  92. This was in Ken Rosenthal’s news and notes column today:

    The Rangers and Nationals had trade talks involving Stephen Strasburg over the winter, per Rosenthal. Nothing ever came close to getting done in those “wide-ranging” talks, in which Steven Souza (later dealt to the Rays) and Jurickson Profar (later scratched for the season) also came up. It’s not clear from the report what kind of scenarios were considered. Looking forward, it remains to be seen whether there will be any consideration given this winter to a deal involving the 27-year-old righty. Strasburg’s value is down, due both to an inconsistent 2015 season and to the fact that he now has only one season left before hitting free agency, but it’s still hard to imagine the Nats letting him go unless the return was rather significant.

    Strasburg for Profar as the basis of a trade would have been pretty interesting.

    Todd Boss

    15 Sep 15 at 7:53 pm

  93. Previous Nat non-QOs: I always suspected that there were handshake deals with Boras on EJax and Soriano not to QO them. At the very least, they didn’t want to make Boras mad at them. Incidentally, even without the draft-pick-loss anchor, Boras asked too much for Soriano this season, and when he went unsigned for months, Soriano fired Boras. Anyway, back to Nat non-QOs, with ALR, it was probably partly doing right by him and partly concern that he would take the offer.

    “Strasburg’s value is down.” Um, tell that to the Phillies! With 27 Ks over two starts, I think he is well on the way to reestablishing that value.

    Yes, last night seemed like the fulfillment of Nat fan dreams for half a decade, with Stras dominant and Harper raking. Too bad it seems like mostly for a lost cause. At least Harp should get the 40 HRs, and perhaps 100 RBIs. I can’t believe the idiots who still rap him for his “low” RBI total (90), but it’s out there.

    I wonder if the Stras-for-Profar trade would still be a possibility. That would be intriguing. I have about come to the conclusion that they should at least explore trades for him, but only do it if the value is good.

    KW

    16 Sep 15 at 8:29 am

  94. I think Stras would have substantial trade value, if we go that route. Capped by what pitchers on 1 year deals bring, but given that his salary isn’t expected to be exorbitant (half of Price’s?), virtually all teams would be in play. I’d expect something like what Price got back for half a season, and more than Cueto. They also get a comp pick for Stras. I’d still make an effort to extend, though I accept I am the voice in the wilderness.

    As for Spn, I agree the injury rehab time rules out the QO but I’d like to know what the meds say before ruling out his return. If It’s highly confident that Span returns to the player he was after his rehab, then 2/$16 greatly undersells his market. He’d have a chance at 4/$50m if he wasn’t hurt going into offseason so discount the injury from that. I think he makes perfect sense for us on a 2-3 year deal with Werth and MAT staying and I would be up for investigating what that took.

    I’d be open to moving Escobar and Ramos. I think Ramos,while clearly having a strong arm, is overrated defensively and Escobar is judged accurately defensively (which is poor).

    Wally

    16 Sep 15 at 9:25 am

  95. KW – would you really want to trade Stras where the primary return is a guy who missed two straight seasons with shoulder problems? That’s too risky for my blood.

    Now, if it’s about Lewis Brinson or Odor ….. :)

    Wally

    16 Sep 15 at 9:31 am

  96. “Strasburg’s value is down.” Well, yeah he’s hot in September. Still has a 3.98 ERA on the season. Its the same thing with Desmond; yeah he’s hot now, but he’s been dismal on the larger scale. But recency bias will convince everyone that both guys are a-ok thanks to a good finish.

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 15 at 11:19 am

  97. Trade Strasburg in the off-season? Why would we want to do that? Get one more season out of him at a relatively cheap price (he can’t possibly explode up in arbitration that much from where he is now), he’ll be pitching for a contract and should give the Nats a fantastic 1-2 punch. I’d rather have Scherzer-Stras-Gio-Ross-Roark than Scherzer-Ross-Gio-Roark and a question mark.

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 15 at 11:21 am

  98. Wally, I’m pretty much on the same page with you. I think they should definitely trade Storen and should float Stras, Ramos, and Escobar. I also think Jordan should be on the block, as I don’t seem him in the rotation plans going forward, and he could bring a Karns-like return.

    As noted several times before, the difficulty with trading Ramos is that there just aren’t much in the way of decent-hitting catchers out there. Lucroy supposedly will be available, though. Would it be worth the gamble that he will bounce back? Or would it be worth it to look at signing Wieters, with his injury history? (If I had Lerner-type money, I might be tempted to sign Wieters and Davis just to screw with Angelos!)

    The hit in trading Escobar would be in the difference between him and Espinosa. You’d lose a little at the plate but gain a lot in defense. The real difference might be between Escobar and Turner, though, as Danny might be a regular either way with Desi gone. If Turner takes time to click, there wouldn’t be a safety net.

    As for Stras, as I noted somewhere above, he’s going to be far and away the #1 FA starter in 2017, so there’s no way Boras would do an extension and miss out on that. It is what it is. Is another year of the promise and heartaches of Stras, plus a draft pick, worth more than what the Nats could get in return? I think the return could be better. The trade would weaken the rotation in the short run, with that spot filled by Treinen/Cole/Jordan, with Giolito in the midseason wings.

    KW

    16 Sep 15 at 11:32 am

  99. How can you be so sure? Don’t you have to see what comes back before deciding it’s better for the Nats to keep him? I am being more theoretical than specific, since my preference with Stras is keep and extend, but if Price brought back Norris + two good prospects for 1/2 a season, what doesa full year of Stras + comp pick bring? I don’t know, and wouldn’t speculate, other than to say it should be investigated before we conclude its better to keep him for 1 more year. Especially with most of the remaining core either another year into decline, or still needing to prove they can be above average players. I’d say only Bryce and Rendon project to be reliable, full time above average players for next year based on reasonable expectations, and is that the kind of profile where you automatically keep the last year if a quality player?

    But I think it’s a general managers job to always see what his players could bring in a trade, and any player, be it Trout or Bryce, could be worth trading for the right package.

    Wally

    16 Sep 15 at 11:35 am

  100. Todd was posting at the same time I was. I see his point about keeping Stras in the rotation. At the same time, is it fool’s gold to keep counting on Stras to be a rotation anchor, only to be let down time and again? If they do trade Stras, perhaps they pick up another second-tier starter somewhere along the way?

    I don’t know. I think it would be a shocker if they do trade him, but it might be time for the franchise to do a little major shaking up. I also hate to see any high-quality player walking away with only a long-shot draft pick in the 30s in return.

    KW

    16 Sep 15 at 11:38 am

  101. At the same time, is it fool’s gold to keep counting on Stras to be a rotation anchor, only to be let down time and time again?

    Well by many stats Strasburg has been one of the top 10-15 pitchers in MLB from 2012-2014. Personally I think that shaving that stupid Amish beard has released his pitching beast!

    Anyone else notice Harper’s literal and figurative embrace of MW as manager last night? I didn’t see that coming, especially since I’ve been assured over and over by many “internet insiders” that the two seethe with anger and resentment towards each other.

    John C.

    16 Sep 15 at 12:06 pm

  102. Trading Strasburg; well yes of course if the return is something that makes you say you have to make the deal, you do it. Something like Souza/Ott for Turner/Ross. Yeah.

    so what do we think a good return for Strasburg is? By nearly any measure you can come up with, he’s one of the 10-20 best starters in the game over the past few years even given his “down” 2015. But he’s only got one more year. David Price netted two good and one decent prospect for a half a season of service to use as a benchmark. Would you trade Strasburg for such a return this off-season?

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 15 at 12:46 pm

  103. Harper love-fest ofr Williams: yeah that caught me by surprise too. Maybe it was meant to be totally sarcastic and ironic 😉

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 15 at 12:49 pm

  104. I don’t dispute the stats, or that the loss of Stras would leave a large hole in the rotation, or that (when healthy) he’s probably been as consistently good as he’s ever been since the mechanics retrofit (or the shave). I’m not jumping up and down for him to be traded. If he can’t bring a star-level package, it’s not worth it. As Todd just noted, the level of the package would have to be very good.

    At the same time, the years of mostly standing pat seem to have left the franchise in regression. Yet it will be tempting to do it again, as the Met lineup isn’t that imposing, and the rest of the division is in the toilet. I certainly don’t advocate for a Braves-like teardown, which to me seemed like an over-the-top reaction. But it also seems like the time has come for a major move or two, not just a little tweaking to the bullpen.

    We’ll see. It will be an interesting offseason. And yes, it is interesting to see Harper coming to the MW defense, particularly after all the “old-school” treatment that Williams has given him.

    KW

    16 Sep 15 at 12:50 pm

  105. If you try to guestimate Stras’ trade value, I think Price is the most useful comparison. Price is ‘better’ and was traded into a seller’s market (ie pennant race), but Stras offers a full year, and gives back a comp pick. So I think the packages would be loosely comparable, with the ability to argue for a little more or a little less.

    Price got Norris (60FV, 17th overall preseason), Boyd (45+FV), and Labourt (50 FV). So a top 25-50 (I think Norris slipped a bit by midseason), then two more top 200ish guys. That seems reasonable. If you pick a few likely teams, let’s just pick out BOS, LAD, CHI, HOU and NYY, I think you could build a deal around some of the following, and then add a couple of decent prospects. This isn’t apples to apples, since pitching prospects probably aren’t equal to position prospects, and I haven’t really looked at how close to the majors each of them are.
    BOS – Benintendi or Margot
    LAD – DeLeon
    CHI – Happ, McKinney
    HOU – AJ Reed or Martes
    NYY – Jorge Mateo. Not really sure they have a headliner that they would be willing to include (like Judge), so the other two might need to be stronger.

    I think deals centered around those guys would at least have to be considered. Of course, the reason that Stras has value is because he is very good and young. A 7 year deal right now would only lock him up through his age 33 season . Just saying :)

    Wally

    16 Sep 15 at 2:49 pm

  106. Why can’t Williams ever express any of that fun personality in his interviews? After all he was a broadcaster himself for a couple years.

    Anyway.. if it’s not Harper who has a problem with Williams, there’s not another player on the roster worth accommodating for the sake of a manager switch. There is something to be said for the fact that Williams did finally tap Harper’s vast potential.

    My guess is Werth is the one spreading the disgruntlement rumors.

    Marty C

    16 Sep 15 at 2:51 pm

  107. Wow Marty, are you giving Matt Williams *credit* for Harper’s breakout season? So does he also get the blame for Rendon’s awful season? I guess all those passive aggressive moves and comments he’s made in the media about him really helped “manage him up!”

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 15 at 3:31 pm

  108. Everyone knows that Harper’s comments praising Williams should be read as sarcastic and ironic, because they otherwise would seem to contradict our dearly held Narrative.

    Any good tea leaf gazer/conspiracy theorist will tell you that there isn’t ANY fact that can’t be spun into support of the Narrative. The Narrative SNEERS at contrary information!

    John C.

    16 Sep 15 at 5:01 pm

  109. Yeah I might give Williams credit for Harper’s season. They seem to interact a lot about hitting. Of course we all knew he had the power potential, but did anyone really see a .338 batting average coming? He is completely different at the plate this year than in the past. I’d certainly give more credit to MW than to Rick Schu.

    And yes I think Harper is probably more coachable and agreeable to motivation than Rendon. Harper wants it more. To be the best. Much much more.

    Of course it would take an Einstein level genius to fix Desmond.

    Marty C

    16 Sep 15 at 5:11 pm

  110. And obviously Werth has been inspired tonight . . .

    Getting back to Stras, Wally, you’ve done a good analysis of the type of players who might be available in a trade. The cost/benefit question then becomes whether that level of compensation is enough to make the trade worth it.

    My concern with all of the trade talk is that the Nats not drift too far into “future” mode. The Nats’ “window” isn’t closing. It’s open at least as long as Bryce is here and Max isn’t completely over the hill, so at least three more years. Yes, adding some well-regarded prospects would be good, particularly hitters, but I’d prefer guys closer to the majors or already there.

    I would think that an array of teams would at least inquire about Stras. It doesn’t have to be a big-market team. Some smaller-market ones that are close might take the short-term gamble. I would guess he’ll make around the $16.5M that JZimm got this year. In those situations, it might be better to try to get him to the AL than to risk strengthening a potential NL playoff or wildcard rival.

    The other factor would be that he wouldn’t have to be traded by himself. A package deal obviously would bring more. In addition to the MLB players mentioned who might be available, the Nats have a wealth of young RH arms.

    We’ll see. As I’ve said, as intrigued as I am by what the Nats might be able to get for Stras, I would still be surprised if he actually gets traded. I’d also be a little sad, as an era would end, if it isn’t ending already with JZim and Desi most likely leaving.

    KW

    16 Sep 15 at 9:24 pm

  111. JohnC: if there wasn’t narrative, there’d be no sportswriting! :-)

    Todd Boss

    17 Sep 15 at 11:13 am

  112. But Desmond is fixed! .314/.375/.539 in August. Just don’t look at his April, June, July or September numbers.

    Todd Boss

    17 Sep 15 at 11:15 am

  113. I heard Espinosa is fixed also… since a big game on August 18 in Coors Field, he’s gone .159/.229/.273 in 49 PAs.

    Since August 1 – .200/.269/.400 in 79 PAs.

    Andrew R

    17 Sep 15 at 12:05 pm

  114. And of course Danny has also continued to hit much better RH than LH . . . Sigh. Yes, it’s time for a shake-up. Danny’s fade does have me wondering whether they should hang onto Escobar, though, despite the defensive liability.

    Kudos to Bryce for reaching 40, though. He’s now inched ahead of Bonds’ best pre-juiced OPS season, when Bonds was in his prime (28). Bryce remains ahead of any OPS season by any other active player: Pujols, Cabrera, Howard, Trout, any of them.

    KW

    17 Sep 15 at 12:47 pm

  115. I’m posting something new; we’ve argued about it before but its a QO post.

    Todd Boss

    17 Sep 15 at 1:29 pm

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