Nationals Arm Race

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

GM for a day (or an off-season): what do you do to this team for 2016?

22 comments

Picture at the top of his C.V. that he'll be updating this off-season. Photo Nats official 2014 via sportingnews.com

Picture at the top of his C.V. that he’ll be updating this off-season. Photo Nats official 2014 via sportingnews.com

How about some navel gazing to start the off-season?  2015 was a train wreck, both on the field (the projected opening day line up played together exactly 2 games out of 162 and there were something like 15 D/L trips among the projected starters this season) and off (the Barry Svrluga series at the Washington Post literally made me say “Wow” audibly while I sat alone reading the stories).  What can this team really do to right the ship for next year?

Now, I realize the questions “What *should* they do?” and “What *will* they do?” are two completely separate questions.  I have no idea what they will actually do; its hard to read Mike Rizzo and the Ted Lerner-led ownership group.  We often hear that Rizzo has an “ego” and is sometimes afraid to admit mistakes.  We hear rumors that Lerner is in bed with Scott Boras and has gone over Rizzo’s head to sign players Rizzo may not have actually wanted (Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Papelbon?).  But we’re not blessed with a hidden camera inside the boardroom of the Nationals management offices, so its mostly speculation.  In fact, Svruluga’s stories really led the reader to believe that the Papelbon acquisition was Rizzo’s idea as a consolation prize to acquiring Chapman or Kimbrel.  So who knows.

This post is about what I’d do.  From a front-office/managerial perspective:

  1. Fire Matt Williams.  Sorry, the evidence is too overwhelming at this point.  Here’s some quick qualifications for the manager i’d like to see: able to communicate properly, isn’t a Micro managing inflexible drill sergeant, knows how to read a Run-Expectancy chart, knows how to properly set a lineup, realizes that saves are useless and isn’t afraid to throw his best pitcher when needed, understands that bunting was exposed as mostly useless 10 years ago, is open to new ideas about usage, shifting, matchups and statistics in general, listens to his coaches, understands that sometimes the 23 yr old precocious rookie is actually a better player than the 38 year old vet on an 9-figure deal, and lastly, relates to the frigging players.  Shouldn’t be too hard.  Oh one more thing; I want someone who has actually managed a f*cking major league team before.
  2. I don’t have an opinion on the rest of the staff but would go under the general theory that a new manager wants his own staff in place.  Who knows if hitting coaches, pitching coaches, bench coaches, bullpen coaches and 1st/3rd base coaches have any impact on the players.  Hard to prove one way or the other; if the team hits well, the Hitting Coach is a genius.  If the team can’t hit … the hitting coach gets canned.  I like Steve McCatty … but hey, a new manager deserves his own coaches.
  3. Keep Rizzo, but have a serious talk with him about clubhouse chemistry and roster construction and the clear effects their actions have had over the years.  Its really simple: when a guy who’s been with the organization is given an under-market, professionally insulting extension contract offer and then you give $210M to some outsider … that’s “Baaaaaaaad” for morale.  When you tell everyone you can’t “afford” to keep Tyler Clippard (great clubhouse guy, grown up in the organization, thrown 70+ innings year after year for you) because he makes $8.5M …but then you bring in a clubhouse disaster like Papelbon at $11M to replace your UNION REPRESENTATIVE and all around well liked guy Drew Storen, you may have some downstream issues.  Oh; one other thing: take your ego and throw it away and stop trading away useful bullpen parts like Jerry Blevins because he had the audacity of challenging you in arbitration over $200k.  You either are or are not on a budget; $200k represented exactly 0.125% of the $160M payroll of 2015.  That’s like killing a deal for a $500,000 house over a $625 bill for something or another.  Its nothing and it should not have been a factor in the 25-man roster construction.  That Blevins got hurt for New York or that Felipe Rivero (his replacement) worked out isn’t the point.
  4. Budget: here’s a brilliant idea; if Lerner is “freezing” the budget mid-season, then SAVE SOME PAYROLL MONEY for mid-season acquisitions.  Look what the frigging Mets were able to accomplish this trade deadline by being flexible with their payroll and their prospects; they completely remade that team, bought a clubhouse presence and just raced ahead of the Nats.  (Tangent: For  you “clubhouse chemistry is BS” proponents, can you still tell me with a straight face that the 2015 fortunes of the Mets and Nationals had NOTHING to do with chemistry?)

Now, assuming that the Nats are going to reign back in the budget slightly from their $160M plus payroll in 2015:

  1. Let 8 of the 9 FAs go.  Zimmermann, Uggla, Fister, Desmond, Span, McLouth, Janssen and Johnson.  This frees up approximately $60M in payroll.  You’re going to need some of it in arb extensions (there’s 8 arbitration cases pending though we may trade/non-tender a couple).
  2. I’d try to resign just one of my FAs: Matt Thornton.  I think he’s done a pretty good job as a situational lefty.
  3. I’d offer Qualifying Offers to Zimmermann, Desmond and Span but not Fister.  Both Zimmermann and Desmond turned down significant deals to stay here and have made their beds at this point.  I think the team has made the decision to not allocate money there and go with internal options.  I don’t think any of the three take the QO, not even Span.  Why?  Because Span just hired Scott Boras and Boras will tell Span there’s a long term contract to be had in the market.  Span didn’t hire Boras so he could take a one-year Qualifying Offer (deeper discussion on QOs for the Nats pending FAs was previously done here: To Qualifying Offer, or not to Qualifying Offer (2015 version).
  4. I havn’t done major analysis of Tender/Non-Tender cases yet but the only guy seemingly in jeopardy of a non-tender is Tyler Moore; discussed more below.  Maybe David Carpenter too depending on the severity of his shoulder injury.
  5. Rule-5: this is more about the 25-man roster and not the edges of the 40-man; we’ll do a separate rule-5 post later on.

So, this leaves the 25-man roster looking like this for 2016 as a starting point;

  • Rotation: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Ross and Roark
  • Bullpen: Papelbon, Storen, Treinen, Thornton, Rivero, ? and ?
  • Inf: Rendon, Turner, Escobar, Zimmerman, Ramos
  • OF: Harper, Taylor, Werth
  • Bench: Robinson, Moore, Espinosa, Lobaton, den Dekker?

What do we need?  In order: bullpen, lefty hitters, backups and maybe rotation competition.  Every projected starter save Harper hits righty right now and that just needs to change.

So, section by section (using the  mlbtraderumors 2016 FA list for reference):

Rotation: Could the team go shopping for a 5th starter?  I like Roark and don’t think his 2013 and 2014 seasons were flukes, but the team doesn’t seem to rate him.  I like Ross as #3 and think he’s locked in based on his performance this year.  Depth wise, we have Giolito who probably will be ready for the rotation by mid 2016; he could see action as an injury call up if need be.  I have little faith in the rest of the upper-minors depth right now.  Cole, Jordan, Hill have all disappointed at the majors and may be traded for other spare parts.  I like Treinen and Rivero … they are both former starters but both have struggled at times and seem likely to stay in the pen.  I don’t think this is a high priority to supplement the rotation but I could see it.  Maybe Voth gets a shot next year if we get shredded with injuries.  Reynaldo Lopez and Erick Fedde are really more like 2017 options unless the Nats get creative and put Lopez’ 100mph heat in the bullpen short term (not the worst idea…)  Rotation wise, I think they have bigger fish to fry and will stand pat with what they have.

Bullpen; Thanks to the ridiculous choking incident, I think the team needs to part ways with Papelbon.  Won’t be easy; he’s due $11M next  year, his performance tailed off badly, he’s proven once again in his third organization out of three that he’s a bad apple, and he has a partial no-trade.  I’m sure his wife will be happy; reportedly they *just* bought a $2.9M house in Alexandria, like the day before he choked his teammate on national TV.  (side note: why would they buy if he was only here for another year??  That just doesn’t seem like the best investment.  Now they have a brand new property that they have to ditch).  Worst comes to worse, they have to release him to eat $11M.

If they part ways with Papelbon, what do they do with Storen?  I think Storen still demands a trade; this organization has jerked him around enough times, has now gotten not one but two higher-paid veteran closers to replace him despite regular season numbers that looked just fine each time.  Problem is: The FA market for “closers” is pretty weak (there’s just one closer on the market: Joaquin Soria); maybe if Papelbon is gone the organization makes right by Storen and lets him reprise the role.  Of course, on the flip side, the trade market for closers should be pretty good as a result and maybe Rizzo can spin some gold like he did with the Matt Capps trade.  If Papelbon leaves, maybe they kiss and make up with Storen and give him a bigger-than-he-deserves arbitration award and makes him happy.

Even if they keep Storen, the team still needs to acquire two good power arms for the 7th/8th inning.  I like Treinen, Thornton and Rivero to reprise their roles (Rivero in particular is intriguing; he can hit 100 from the left hand side, a rarity.  Too bad he doesn’t have a 3rd pitch or i’d be asking why he isn’t in the rotation).  They’ll get Stammen back so that’s a good 7th inning righty.  Barrett may miss the whole of 2016 so he’s not an option.  Carpenter’s got a shoulder injury and was AAA fodder anyway.  They can fill the long man with Roark if he gets replaced in the rotation or someone else like our spare starters (Cole, Hill, Jordan).  They could buy a whole lotta good will with the fans and re-sign Clippard.  How about someone like Jim Johnson, who kind of re-made himself with his closer performance in Atlanta, to be your 8th inning guy?  How does this look like for 2016:

  • Storen, Clippard/Johnson, Treinen, Stammen, Thornton, Rivero and someone like Cole as your long man
  • bullpen depth:  de los Santos, Davis, Martin, Solis, Grace, Carpenter (if he’s ready to go for 2016)

Still kind of thin; how many of those “depth” guys proved they were ready to go in the majors this year?  Are there any guys on the rise in the system who could make sense to push for a spot next year?  How much would you pay for someone like Clippard on the open market?  Maybe we’re going to see some kind of blockbuster trade where we acquire the surplus of arms we need.

Infield: seems rather set; Turner is a ready made replacement for Desmond.  Healthy Rendon at 3B is a 5-win player.  Escobar more than earned his money this year and defensively makes more sense at 2B where he can do less damage.  Zimmerman isn’t going anywhere (except back to the D/L for the millionth time in his career).  Espinosa remains one more year as the backup infielder and the team finds an additional utility guy from within (Difo?) or in the FA market for backup purposes.  Ramos was finally healthy for a whole season … and took a huge step back at the plate; do we try to replace him?  We could go for someone like a Matt Weiters, who hits lefty and addresses a need and flip Ramos for something we need like bullpen or bench depth.

Outfield: Harper and Werth are set in the corners .. .Werth for better or worse.  Is his 2015 the start of his decline or an injury excuse?  He’s got a no-trade and makes a ton of money and seems locked into LF as long as he’s here.  Question marks remain about Taylor; is he a starter or a 4th OF?  I think the Nats will pursue a lefty hitting outfielder, then position Harper in either CF or RF depending on the abilities of the acquisition.  The name Gerardo Parra keeps popping up; they liked him at the trade deadline and could pursue him again.  Or, if Span inexplicably takes the QO, there’s your lefty CF for 2016.  Jayson Heyward is a lefty but doesn’t add much punch and is going to be crazy expensive.

How about a radical realignment: Zimmerman goes to LF to make way for a lefty hitting 1B like Chris Davis; Harper to center, Werth back in RF, Taylor the 4th OF.  That’d give the team another lefty, a ton more power (imagine a lineup with both Harper and Davis?, and would fit in the budget even if Davis gets something like 6/$100M or so.  Or do you say “Davis is a nightmare FA contract waiting to happen when he starts inevitably declining and/or his Ritalin prescription runs out” and not commit money in this fashion?  I could buy that argument absolutely.  How likely is this team, really, to extend Bryce Harper for $300M plus?  Are they saving their pennies for that attempt or are they saying “he’s a goner lets just try to win while we have them?”

Bench: the team got a ton from Robinson and Espinosa this year; they’re both back.  Moore?  Probably DFA’d; he’s eligible for arbitration and there’s likely to be a dozen right handed power hitters who could play a corner and pinch hit here and there.  Look for a cattle call of veteran MLFAs like we did for the lefty 1b/LF position that Robinson won this past spring training.  I think the team likes den Dekker as “speedy backup CF outfielder” guy so he likely returns too.  Plus he hits lefty and really hit well in September.  No reason to mess with Lobaton; he gives flexibility at the plate and is cost-contained as a backup C.

Summary:
Honestly, the core of the team is mostly still intact.  If all these guys were healthy all year and hitting at their 2014 rates, this season would have gone a lot differently.  I think we’ll see a lot of work in the pen and some activity on the fringes, but no major signings and no major trades.  Payroll takes a step back; I can’t tell you how much b/c payroll projections will take time and depend on who gets tendered/re-signed/QO’d, but I could see this team back at $130M heading into 2016.

Does this sound like a winning formula?  Did I miss anything?

22 Responses to 'GM for a day (or an off-season): what do you do to this team for 2016?'

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  1. (cutting n pasting Forensicane’s comment from previous thread since it is more apropos of this post):

    Hi Todd and all, been limiting posting for lack of time but you’ve had some remarkable posts here. Just wanted to poke my head in to wave and pipe in a couple of off season points beyond the more readily discussed:

    1) The 2016 draft should be viewed not even as 3 extra picks (assuming declined QO for Span, Desmond, Zimm), but far more. The additional high payroll slots afford the Nats the ability to sign below slot on high slot amount players and accumulate some serious surplus to draft players like Tyler Watson who are college signs otherwise thought to be unsignable. Watson and Schrock (college junior) worked out well, and the Nats were drafting with a far lower pool than they will have next year. The leap forward from the 2014 draft, and the non-signs of Suarez and Byler, was one of the bright spots of the organization and perhaps the influence of Miller.

    2) If in fact the money management and negotiation is improved, then that will translate this winter not only into free agent discussions, but internally with free agents to be, and in considerations of Cuban talent (Miller signed Chapman). An if, but an if worth watching.

    3) Injury-prone position players are a huge and understated problem at the ML level. Werth and Zimmerman are frequent flyers to the DL, as are Rendon and Ramos. Span, a FA, is also a frequent flyer. Absent great depth, this has proven to be disruptive and there are no easy answers. Harper proved his durability this year, as did Taylor and Escobar. But the team has to field players who can stay on the field.

    4) Injuries to starters and relievers also derailed the team – Fister and Strasburg and bullpen folks. But other than Strasburg, the bullpen injuries were more unexpected and atypical. The team needs to deploy Scherzer this winter to help train and educate others on the staff and in the organization about preparing themselves for the grind and properly caring for one’s body.

    5) The season ended with a few encouraging signs. Roark’s start today was reason to consider him for a return to the rotation in 2016, especially if it affords flexibility for trading Strasburg to a) get a haul from a team looking for a splash and b) package in a high salaried player they want to dump (Werth, Papelbon). Scherzer has shown enough all around this year to peg him as a staff ace. Gio has more in his tank. Ross will get his chance. Roark deserves his as well. I think the big wild card is how ready the organization believes Lucas Giolito is to compete for the rotation next year. It may seem like a rush to some, but the Nats have had no problem promoting starters of far less pedigree from AA, and Giolito has shown flashes of dominance there that may certainly compete well in spring training against Cole, Jordan, or others (Voth). That is also to say that whomever the Nats trade, there is always the prospect that they bring back a legitimate high ceiling prospect starter, specifically left handed starter, in return.

    6) I remain a strong fan of Rizzo, and am far less inclined to erase his body of work over the Papelbon drama, but I did take issue with his not trading Zimmerman in the preseason, especially because at the time he was replaceable (by Roark). I do think the Nats, as an organization, will learn that it is unwise to go into a season with so many players in their walk years. As much as the presumption that players will step up their performance may bear out, others may plateau or otherwise underdeliver because they are pressing.

    7) Team defense has to improve and trades and acquisitions will reflect that. Danny Espinosa delivers defense at SS and 2B that is not replaced right now from within the organization. The Nats have shown no confidence in Escobar at SS. Rendon is so smooth at 3B (and he would be sold low right now). Turner and his anticipated role is a mystery. Werth is a liability and that won’t change. I experience him as akin to Mike Morse (with less saleability), because there is no room for both him and Zimmerman at 1B, and he cannot be accommodated in the OF defensively. As pathetic as the team’s offense was in the 2014 NLDS, Werth and Desmond are two of those who choked. I’m all for moving Werth (and if Mel Upton can be packaged, anyone can be) and replacing him with a far more dynamic controllable star in the making.

    8) Turner remains a key answer to team planning. Where will he play? What I have been most excited about has been his catalytic effect as a winner. His teams play better. Harrisburg improved after he blew into town. Syracuse was a much better team with him on the field. He has the “it” factor that a championship team needs. Span has it and the team sorely missed his winning presence. If Span indeed goes, the Nats will need another winning catalyst.

    9) A major retooling of the minor leagues is well underway and necessary. Two additions this past offseason (Turner and Ross) were the top achieving players in the minors this year (and yes, I factored in Robles). An acquisition last year, Rivero, has graduated particularly well this year. The paucity of home grown talent at the upper levels (I am far less bullish on Severino) necessitates a position player talent infusion for organizational depth. This is something Rizzo is strong at, and I am looking forward.

    10) Having Turner and Taylor in the lineup every day should afford a wise manager the opportunity for a disruptive lineup that really uses its speed. I’m hopeful for Difo’s continued maturing next year (presumably in AAA because those three could conceivably play at three positions and give the Nats RBI bats who can steal 50 plus bases. What an amazing lineup that would be, teamed with Harper, Rendon, and a couple of other producers. Were I to be the GM and team brass, I would look to that speed/power combo as part of team short and long term planning, especially with a talent like Robles racing through the system (assuming he stays healthy).

    11) As for the money, there is enough going off the books now that the team can and will capitalize. The MASN mess will resolve soon enough as well. Signing Harper is a bog must for the organization. But I would lock up Ramos as well. I think he is a bounceback candidate and gives a lot of demonstrated stability to this staff. For me, Kieboom is the catcher to watch and the most important participant in the AFL for the organization. They should also invest that much more in scouting, especially with the draft to come.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 9:31 am

  2. That’s some kind of welcome back :)! Usually my threads disappear!

    forensicane

    5 Oct 15 at 9:49 am

  3. Todd I like the Weiters and Davis (Zimm to left) ideas.

    Parra not as much, but if it’s a short term Parra vs Taylor decision, I’d gladly take Parra.

    I was impressed with Den Dekker this year too. As a 4th OF, could enable us to trade Taylor in a package.

    Marty C

    5 Oct 15 at 10:43 am

  4. Some thoughts on Forensicane’s great comment:
    – 2016 draft focus: yeah this team needs bats. Enough with the college lefties.
    – Acquiring depth; that’s a tough one. How do you acquire talented enough players to cover inevitable injuries to Werth, zimmerman, whoever, but then convince them to sit when they’re all healthy? A player that good will want to go where he’s guaranteed a start. Maybe the real answer is this: you acquire near-to-the-majors prospects for that depth who can eventually take over and who would be happy just to be on the bench and get a shot at MLB pitching.
    – Defense: Williams *just did not get it* and clearly could not see how much Escobar’s defense hurt the team. It remains inexplicable to me that Rendon (a gold glove calibre defender at 3B) was not re-installed there upon his return. It just is one more example to me of Williams’ inept management of his players and deployment of resources. Escobar is the vet so he gets to “pick” where he plays? Fck that; Rendon is the home grown future of the team, Escobar is a temporary rental with a history. When will people get it through their skulls that this kind of stuff matters?
    – Turner plays from day 1. Leadoff, SS. No more screwing around with things. Stick to a lineup and put the right resources in the right places.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 10:47 am

  5. Well, Todd’s first point has happened.

    I think you have to start something this philosophically, not specific moves. And in my mind, the Nats ought to (i) reload, not rebuild, (ii) look to improve defensive efficiency, (iii) create viable depth at known risk positions (bullpen, 1B, corner OF), and perhaps (iv) cut down on the strike outs (offensively).

    With that in mind, their biggest trade chips should stay put unless the return are major league ready players at positions of need. Thinking Harper and Rendon. Stras is the next biggest chip, and I think this should be evaluated in terms of what he’d bring back, since their pitching depth and improved defense can make the drop off to the next man up potentially bearable.

    Draft – I still think you take BPA, not focus on a position. Baseball is too much of a crapshoot to try to force a pick. Agree that we ought to creatively use the money, though Rizzo has mostly been a ‘big ticket’ drafter.

    Defense – they have two superior defenders now (Taylor, Espinosa) and someone in Rendon that has been and could be superior at 3B. So like Todd, I’d feature that and start them at their highest value spots – SS, CF and 3b.

    Position depth – yes, agree that given this particular roster, they way to acquire 1b/corner OF depth is by trading for some upper level minor league guys. But you have to give value to get value.

    Turner – he plays from Day 1 if he is the best current option, not automatically. If they keep Escobar, I’d say it would be hard to see Turner outperforming him offensively in 2016. But I am not so convinced that Turner will shine automatically that I’d start him over Escobar.

    Catcher – I’d like to improve from Ramos too, but candidly I think the cost will likely be too prohibitive for it to make sense. While I don’t know that I would extend him like Forensicane suggests, I do think that I’d be ok going into the season with the same tandem.

    Wally

    5 Oct 15 at 11:40 am

  6. Scherzer-Strasburg is nearly as potent a 1-2 punch as Kershaw-Greinke. That’s nothing to shake a stick at and is a great thing to have in your pocket. You build around a team with that in the rotation, not trade it away. Draft BPA of course; these things usually work themselves out on draft day. Heck, they ended up with Rendon in a draft where they were certainly not projected to get him.

    Turner, Escobar and Espinosa; 3 players for two middle infield positions and all three guys can play all three positions. Maybe you start 2016 with Espinosa/Escobar at SS/2B with Turner as backup. Maybe spring training shakes things out and Espinosa is back as super sub guy. Hell, maybe he transitions to RF and becomes a switch hitting option in the lineup if he can prove he’s closer to a .280 hitter than a .220 hitter.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 11:44 am

  7. Most of the stuff in Todd’s post I tend to agree with; it raises so much stuff – and there are so many issues this offseason in general – that my own manifest will have to wait until I have time to actually write something borderline coherent. I know everyone is looking forward to that :) In the meantime, I will note that:

    when a guy who’s been with the organization is given an under-market, professionally insulting extension contract offer and then you give $210M to some outsider … that’s “Baaaaaaaad” for morale.

    Assumes facts not in evidence. By all accounts the Nats made a substantial offer to Jordan Zimmermann (and Ian Desmond too, FWIW). Since we don’t actually know the terms offered, it’s a flying leap to assume it was “professionally insulting.” Certainly there’s nothing coming out of Jordan or his camp that suggests that they felt insulted.

    Oh; one other thing: take your ego and throw it away and stop trading away useful bullpen parts like Jerry Blevins because he had the audacity of challenging you in arbitration over $200k.

    Again, assumes facts not in evidence. People who don’t like Rizzo beat the drum on this narrative because it makes Rizzo look bad. I haven’t seen any reporting that establishes this beyond the level of rank speculation.

    Tangent: For you “clubhouse chemistry is BS” proponents, can you still tell me with a straight face that the 2015 fortunes of the Mets and Nationals had NOTHING to do with chemistry?

    I’m not in the “chemistry is BS” camp, but I am in the “chemistry has a lot of moving parts, is impossible to quantify and virtually impossible to predict” camp. It’s easy in hindsight to say something didn’t work. It’s much harder to say something won’t work. You could have said (and many did) that bringing A-Rod back to NY was a disaster, a ticking time bomb in the organization and the clubhouse. Instead he was a model citizen, hit a pile of bombs and the Yankees are hosting the Wild Card game tomorrow. Sure, the Mets took off after the Cespedes deal. Cespedes has also worn out his welcome on two teams in three seasons (there were rumblings in Boston about his work ethics and clubhouse presence). But it never became a problem, I suspect in large part because he hit like he was Bryce Harper for the first five weeks he was on the team. If Cespedes had sucked, then the Mets would have been pilloried. It’s hard to know in advance what’s going to happen.

    John C.

    5 Oct 15 at 12:26 pm

  8. I’m a little surprised that Rizzo fired the whole staff. It’s the right thing to let a new manager pick his staff, but I would have thought that he’d find a place in the organization for some of these guys, like Knorr. He still can, I guess.

    Wally

    5 Oct 15 at 1:02 pm

  9. Some random thoughts:

    –I think the Nats need to do more upgrading than Todd is suggesting, although I know there are constraints. Everyone likes to say that they need another bat or two, but there are really only a couple of places where another bat could go: OF (benching Taylor and then waiting for Werth to get hurt so Taylor can play), and 2B/3B, although it will take some doing to find someone for that slot who will hit better than Escobar did in ’15.

    –While I like the thought of screwing with Angelos by taking Davis and Wieters, I don’t think either will age well. Wieters hasn’t played close to a full season in ages. And I’m not sure I want to contemplate the defensive liability of an OF of Zim/Harper/Werth.

    –Of the FA OFs, the only one who really intrigues me is Justin Upton. John just make the case against Cespedes, and as Todd mentioned, Heyward will be an over-pay for someone who is more defense than offense. Parra really tanked after the trade to the O’s, and I don’t see him as that much of an upgrade anyway. If you want a LH bat, perhaps look for a trade for someone like Bruce, although the Reds were pretty delusional in their trade requests at the deadline.

    –Wally and I have both been on the thread of reuniting the Ross brothers, or looking for someone in trade similar to Tyson. This has been a Rizzo MO, to trade for a controllable mid-level starter like Gio or Fister. I don’t know that the Nats *have* to have one more bridge starter, but considering the meltdown by the starters in midseason this year, it couldn’t hurt.

    –Espinosa faded back to being, well, Espinosa in the second half. He is what he is: great defense, up and down hitting. With Escobar, meanwhile, his defense has faded while his hitting is as good as ever. It’s a classic offense vs. defense question about who should play (or if Escobar should be traded, selling high).

    –Does Turner play at day one, or does he spend 45 days at Syracuse to get the Super Two back? I was really impressed with the solid hit he got off Harvey on Sat., when Harvey was practically untouchable.

    –Coaching staff: I was surprised when Matt W. was hired that he only got to bring in one guy. That sent a pretty clear message that he didn’t have a lot of control, all the more so when they kept Knorr, who had been a strong candidate for the job, as the bench coach. As for McCatty, like Todd, I’ve generally given him a lot of credit over the years, but he didn’t seem to have a lot of answers when both the bullpen and the starters went south this year.

    –As I’ve noted before, my #1 priority would be to back up the Brinks truck and at least see if it would be possible to get an extension with Harper.

    KW

    5 Oct 15 at 1:06 pm

  10. JohnC: That undermarket deal comment was about Zimmermann, not Desmond. I think Desmond’s offer, which we know from reporting, was fair and he made a mistake not taking it. But I’ll bet you the deal Zimmermann eventually signs is longer and has a bigger AAV than anything the Nats offered. Of course, I have no way to prove this, since nobody knows what the Nats offered and what Zimmermann turned down, so maybe its not worth talking about anymore. I’m presuming, based on a host of circumstantial points that Svrluga confirmed in his 3-part dissertation, that the Nats offer was insulting based on the way they’ve treated every other home-grown guy in the clubhouse.

    The Blevins comment was directly from Ken Rosenthal who at time time reported that Rizzo traded Blevins exactly because of the $200k issue. Here’s the link: http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2015/03/30/mets-add-another-lefty-acquire-jerry-blevins-from-nationals/ . The implication of his tweet is pretty clear to me.

    A-rod clubhouse example: the problem with that example is that there’s not really evidence that fellow players don’t like Rodriguez. Sure, the media and ownership can’t stand him. Players? Where’s that evidence? I can’t find any. Papelbon was about as clear as the day is long.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 1:26 pm

  11. Firing whole staff: I think it kinda had to go that way. New manager is going to want his own staff, so might as well clear house now.

    It also highlights how difficult it is to evaluate coaches. Did McCatty do a good job or a bad job? Knorr was the bench coach …. but didn’t inform Williams of a BRAWL BETWEEN PLAYERS? Isn’t that kind of an indictment of your whole responsibility of being … the coach of the bench? Yes i’m taking that term a bit literally, but what does a bench coach really do? Strategy? Man management? Would you say the team failed in those two regards pretty spectacularly this year? 1st and 3rd base coaches are useless; you give them to your buddies, so no surprise there.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 1:28 pm

  12. Todd… continuing from previous post regarding Span. Yes his defensive metrics were terrible this year but he was playing with a stomach shredded by 2 surgeries and then a hip problem too.

    He’s not the perfect answer, especially with the health concerns, but at least he’s a grinder contact hitter that could be a stopgap. We just cannot string together another lineup of Taylor + Ramos types who go weeks at a time striking out. And we need to go lefty somewhere in the regular lineup. Taylor is a tough case. He has speed and power but it is useless at the very bottom of the order. He’ll never get better as a hitter stuck in the 8 hole either.

    Marty C

    5 Oct 15 at 1:47 pm

  13. The problem with Span is his age. His value is highly tied to his defense, and defense peaks at like 24. He’s not getting any younger, and every year and every surgery theoretically slows him down, reduces his range, weakens his arm.

    The real answer may be driven by what the Lerners are willing to pay. If $60M comes off a $160M payroll and 160M is the budget for 2016, well that’s a lotta cash to play with. If the budget is going back down to 2014 levels, then we don’t have naerly as much room.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 2:53 pm

  14. Check out the always excellent Svrluga regarding manager prospects. His strongest prospective candidates are former Padre manager Bud Black and current Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, who is a longtime protege of Joe Maddon. I like both, but I’ll admit to a bias in favor of Martinez, whom I’m familiar with from living here in Tampa (and being married to a Rays fan).

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2015/10/05/the-likely-list-of-replacements-for-fired-nationals-manager-matt-williams/

    Svrluga’s earlier series about the season was extremely informative. I’d already read that the Lerners don’t allow payroll increases midseason, so they bear some of the blame for Papelbon (especially because this policy was the sole obstacle to the return of Clippard). But Rizzo probably bears more blame than they do because the failure to land Kimbrell or Chapman had as much to do with Rizzo’s (rightful) refusal to part with Giolito or Turner as it did with salary. If that’s accurate, then the hard salary ceiling was irrelevant, at least in regards to Kimbrell and Chapman. Moreover, even with the Lerners refusing a salary increase, Rizzo could simply have stood pat rather than trading for a position that was already capably filled by Storen. And this bring up the most jarring part of the 3-part Svrluga series: the revelation that, as far back as last offseason, neither Rizzo nor the Lerners had any faith in Storen to pitch in the postseason anymore. Now, first of all, this lack of faith on their part certainly has merit. Had we made the playoffs this season with Storen at closer, I personally would have developed multiple ulcers in the length of time it took him to travel from the bullpen to the mound with the game on the line. He couldn’t get three outs with a two-run lead in ’12; he couldn’t get one out with a lead in ’14. So I get their lack of faith in him. But it begs the logical question: Facing the franchise’s highest expectations ever, WHY DID MANAGEMENT AND OWNERSHIP HAVE A GUY AT CLOSER FOR TWO-THIRDS OF THE SEASON IF THEY HAD NO FAITH IN HIM TO SUCCEED IN THE PLAYOFFS?! WHY WASN’T HE TRADED BEFORE THEY SENT HIM OUT THERE, WATCHED HIM EXCEL, AND THEN UNDERMINED HIM IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE LEAGUE BY REPLACING DESPITE HIS EXCELLENCE?! Because I suspect that crap moves like that do not inspire confidence in your clubhouse or loyalty from your players. Just sayin’.

    clark17

    5 Oct 15 at 2:56 pm

  15. I think there will be a LOT of change this offseason, Billy Beane (and now Preller) style. Someone else posted about potentially trading Rendon and resigning Desi in another thread -seemed ridiculous at first thought, but now I’m intrigued. Desi probably gets 3/$45mm and I’d make that deal. Rendon could fetch a top 20 prospect and a young pitcher (How about Judge, Refsnyder and Eovaldi?).

    Trade Stras and Werth together (add a prospect like Fedde) for Kimbrel and Ross.

    Trade Escobar for a middle reliever (Tazawa?)

    Papelbon for potato chips. Storen for a few minor league lottery picks. .

    Next season:
    C – Same for now
    1b – zimm/Robinson/Judge
    2b Turner/Refsnyder
    Ss -Desi/Turner
    3b -Espy/Turner
    Of – Harper/Judge/Taylor/mdd/Refsnyder
    SP – Scherzer, Ross, Ross, Eovaldi, Roark,Gio, Giolito in May
    RP – Kimbrel, Rivero, Tazawa, Treinen, stammen, Carpenter/Martin, Solis

    Andrew R

    5 Oct 15 at 3:13 pm

  16. Clark: couldn’t agree more. There’s a litany of undermining moves this organization has made and it seems like they’ve come home to roost.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 3:25 pm

  17. Just saw this: a summary of manager challenges on the year.
    http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/mlb-manager-review-system-success-best-at-challenging-plays-100515

    I’ll give you three guesses who came in last, and the first two don’t count.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 4:58 pm

  18. Why not Ron Washington?

    forensicane

    5 Oct 15 at 5:37 pm

  19. Ron Washington? Wasn’t he constantly eviscerated for his strategy decisions?

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 15 at 7:07 pm

  20. Todd Boss

    6 Oct 15 at 9:42 am

  21. Reading lots of “trade Werth” here and elsewhere; but, given his contract, no-trade clause (he’s also a 10/5 now anyway), potential injury/decline issues, who would want him???

    BAS

    17 Oct 15 at 9:31 am

  22. BAS: agree that the no-trade clause in Werth’s contract makes talk of trading him kind of pointless. Who would want him? Its not like he’s a fat slob who can’t play the outfield; even at his advanced age he’s still rangy, fast, a decent corner outfielder.

    I had no idea he had achieved 10 and 5 btw. Good call.

    Todd Boss

    18 Oct 15 at 4:32 pm

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