Nationals Arm Race

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Non-Tender deadline 2015: do we have any candidates?


Might be the end of the road for Moore. Photo unknown via

Might be the end of the road for Moore. Photo unknown via

The next big day on the 2015-16 Baseball off-season calendar is the “Non-Tender deadline.”  Midnight on 12/2/15 is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players and/or unsigned players.  If not tendered, those players immediately become free agents.  (Craig Calcaterra has a funny little intro post on the same).

The team has a whole slew of “unsigned players” but we’ll leave them out of this discussion for the time being, since the non-tender deadline is mostly about discussing what arbitration-eligible players will either guarantee themselves a contract for 2016 or be cut loose.

(this is the 4th year running we’ve done this post: 2014 version (no real non-tender candidates and none non-tendered), 2013 version (Detwiler, Ohlendorf in play), 2012 version (Lannan, Gorzelanny, Flores in play), 2011 version (Slaten and Gorzelanny in play).

The below table lists our 8 arbitration-eligible players for 2016, their current contract, what they got paid in 2015 and then two projections (mine and for their 2016 salary.

Player Current or 2015 Contract 2014 2015 My 2016 Guess MLBtraderumors 2016 guess
Strasburg, Stephen 1yr/7.4M (15) (arb3) $3,975,000 $7,400,000 $12,000,000 $10,500,000
Storen, Drew 1yr/$5.7M (15) (arb4) $3,450,000 $5,700,000 $7,600,000 $8,800,000
Ramos, Wilson 1yr/$3.55M (15) (arb3) $2,095,000 $3,550,000 $4,700,000 $5,300,000
Rendon, Anthony 1yr/$1.8M opt (15) (arb1) $1,800,000 $1,800,000 $4,000,000 $2,500,000
Stammen, Craig 1yr/$2.25M (15) (arb4) $1,375,000 $2,250,000 $2,400,000 $2,400,000
Espinosa, Danny 1yr/$1.8M (15) (arb2) $540,000 $1,800,000 $3,200,000 $2,700,000
Lobaton, Jose 1yr/$1.2M (15) (arb3) $950,000 $1,200,000 $1,500,000 $1,500,000
Moore, Tyler 1 yr/$0.5182M (15) (arb1) $507,900 $518,200 $1,200,000 $1,000,000

Lets go one-by-one, giving scant analysis to the more obvious tender candidates.

  • Strasburg, Stephen: obviously he gets tendered; bigger question is what his 2016 salary ends up being.  My guess is a bit higher than mlbtraderumors because i’m going more off of his presumed FA value versus a projection of his 2015 pay vs performance.  Might be an ugly arbitration battle if the two sides come in very far apart.
  • Storen, Drew: obvious tender since he’s getting shopped heavily.  Here mlbtraderumors thinks he’s worth quite a bit more than I projected.  Maybe i’m undervaluing saves.  But the Nats would certainly like to rid themselves of this arbitration case headache.
  • Rendon, Anthony: obvious tender and hoping for a return to 2014 levels.  What do you pay him?  I said $4M … and that might be pretty high considering his 2015 performance.  Could also be an ugly fight in the arbitration hearing.
  • Espinosa, Danny: made himself a bit of money in 2015 by improving his average a bit; still has L/R split issues but he will continue to have a job as a utility infielder for years to come thanks to his plus-plus defense.
  • Stammen, Craig: unless his recovery has been fouled up, he’s a tender candidate and frankly should probably look to sign another cost-controlled 2-year deal with the team instead of fighting it out in a hearing.
  • Ramos, Wilson: may have struggled at the plate but he’s the only starting catcher we have.

Now for the real Non-tender candidates.

  • Lobaton, Jose: Is Lobaton worth $1.5M (both my estimate and mlbtraderumors) given how poorly he hit in 2015?  Yes he is; unless you can tell me that either Pedro Severino or Spencer Kieboom is ready to be an every 5 days MLB catcher (or potentially more given how historically brittle Ramos has been) then Lobaton has to be tendered.  If the team signs a catcher in the next two days, maybe you can cut him loose.  But you generally keep ahold of MLB-competent (if not quality) catchers, not get rid of them.  So I’ll guess we tender him.  No options available, so he’s either all-or-nothing on the MLB roster for 2016.
  • Moore, Tyler: to me the only real non-tender candidate we have.  No options available, had his worst season yet at the plate (.200/.250/.364) and is positionally limited to 1B and LF (two slots filled by guys on $100M contracts).  He posted a -1.5 bWAR in 2015 and now has a -2.1 bWAR for his career.  I just don’t see how he’s tendered a contract frankly; wouldn’t the team do better to have a cattle-call of MLFA NRIs next spring to find a more useful RH-off-the-bench bat, which is essentially what Moore has become?  I think so; in fact some of the recent signing activity (Reed Johnson, Scott Sizemore, Chris Heisey) seems to indicate exactly this; the team thinks it can find a player who has a better MLB track record and who is more positionally flexible than Moore.  My prediction: non-tender.

Thoughts?  Would you do something different?

PS: after publishing, published their comprehensive list of non-tender candidates for the year.  They list Lobaton, Moore and Stammen as their non-tender candidates.  I think non-tendering Stammen would be pretty heartless, but that’s the business.

12/2/15 results: the team pre-negotiated two deals with Lobaton and Moore, but ended up non-tendering Stammen.  Lets hope they can find a way to bring him back.

12 Responses to 'Non-Tender deadline 2015: do we have any candidates?'

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  1. I completely agree with the analysis. My one difference is that I do expect that Tyler Moore will be tendered a contract … for now. If they do this, it will be because they may use him as (minimal) filler for a trade, and because right now they aren’t in a crunch for a 40 man roster spot. They can always pull back a contract tender later if they need the spot or find that he’s still around as Spring Training approaches.

    Of course, it’s very much in Moore’s interest to be non-tendered so he can find a team (Pittsburgh? Minnesota?) that will be able to give him some kind of a shot. The Nationals may cut him loose simply to do him a solid since he’s been yo-yo’d around so much the past few years.

    John C.

    30 Nov 15 at 11:34 am

  2. Johnc: a good point; i did not consider the whole “cut someone by 3/15/15 and only have to pay him X dollars” move. Nor as a consideration for trade fodder. Do you think Moore is tradeable? I mean, I know there’s a dearth of “right handed power hitting” options, but he’s done nothing but regress since his debut.

    Todd Boss

    30 Nov 15 at 12:06 pm

  3. Unless the Nats need the 40-man spot for some impending mega-deal (highly doubtful), I’d tender T-Mo *if* he still seems to have any trade value. Does he? I don’t know. He did last offseason, even with no options left. Dave Cameron featured him in a Fangraphs article about cheap RH bats who might be available. (If memory serves, he projected Moore with ~20 HRs.) Now? It’s a tight call. There should be no place for Moore on the Nats’ MLB roster in 2016, and it’s doubtful he would make it through waivers for a DFA.

    One way or another, this seems like the end of the line Nats-wise for another Curly W folk hero.

    I hope the Nats can upgrade on Lobaton (J. P. Arencibia is on the streets), but Sheriff Lobo would certainly have trade value if the Nats find someone better, so they’ll tender him, particularly at that price.

    If the Nats do non-tender Stammen, the bullpen scramble will get even crazier.


    30 Nov 15 at 12:25 pm

  4. MLBTR includes Moore, Lobaton, and Stammen in its list of potential non-tenders:

    There are some players on there who might be of interest to the Nats if they get set free, including Brandon Moss and Ben Revere. I’ve never been a big Revere fan, but I’ve seen him mentioned as a potential Nat trade target.


    30 Nov 15 at 3:16 pm

  5. Yeah, I tried waiting for that post (which they do every year as well) but wanted to publish what I had.

    Todd Boss

    30 Nov 15 at 8:19 pm

  6. I’ve argued on Federal Baseball that Lobaton should be considered a non-tender candidate. His hitting was terrible and Ramos is the undisputed starter. Further, I don’t think Rizzo would let Lobaton start a bunch of games if Ramos was injured – Severino would probably get the starts or a trade would happen. So, why spend even $1MM more on Loby when a guy like Butler/Leon is always available.

    Andrew R

    30 Nov 15 at 11:24 pm

  7. AndrewR: I thought the same, but then concluded that I don’t think Severino is *quite* ready for prime time. Butler is a MLFA, Leon got traded to Boston last spring (unless you meant someone else). Maybe the nats are doing a cost-benefit analysis of Lobaton’s defense (honestly i have no idea if he’s a “good” catcher or a “bad” catcher … all we know is that he’s awful at the plate) to make this determination. Maybe they’re looking at FAs. Maybe they’re looking at finding a starter and moving Ramos to be backup.

    Todd Boss

    1 Dec 15 at 9:21 am

  8. Todd, I’m suggesting guys like Butler & Leon are always available cheap. When the payroll is $160MM, $1MM isn’t much, but I’d always consider saving it if I can – a sub Mendoza backup catcher can’t be worth much.

    Andrew R

    1 Dec 15 at 9:41 am

  9. I do think that Lobaton may well end up being replaced, but I don’t think it will be by Severino or Kieboom at this point. I think that the Nationals would prefer to have those guys starting at AAA and AA rather than sitting on the bench and playing a couple of games a week.

    And let’s face it – $1,000,000 (the difference between Lobaton’s anticipated salary and the MLB minimum) is essentially chump change. Will they look to see if there is something better out there? Absolutely! Will they jettison Lobaton in a heartbeat if they find something? You bet! But there’s no real urgency to non-tendering him, either.

    John C.

    1 Dec 15 at 9:43 am

  10. I know we say that $1M is nothing with a $160M payroll … and then the team goes out and fights arbitration cases over $200k.

    Todd Boss

    1 Dec 15 at 10:04 am

  11. […] 2015: we non-tendered Craig Stammen, but kept NT candidates Jose Lobaton and Tyler Moore (eventually trading Moore after waiving him at the end of spring training). […]

  12. […] 2015: we non-tendered Craig Stammen, but kept NT candidates Jose Lobaton and Tyler Moore (eventually trading Moore after waiving him at the end of spring training). […]

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