Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Arbitration Review 2016


No arbitration hearings for the Nats this year (thankfully).  Here’s a quickie spreadsheet look at our Arb-eligible guys, my quick guesses at their salary,’s guess and what they eventually settled on:

Player 2015 Salary Todd’s Guess mlbtraderumors estimate Actual
Strasburg, Stephen $7,400,000 $12,000,000 $10,500,000 $10,400,000
Ramos, Wilson $3,550,000 $4,700,000 $5,300,000 $5,350,000
Rendon, Anthony $1,800,000 $4,000,000 $2,500,000 $2,800,000
Espinosa, Danny $1,800,000 $3,200,000 $2,700,000 $2,875,000
Lobaton, Jose $1,200,000 $1,500,000 $1,500,000 $1,378,500
Moore, Tyler $518,200 $1,200,000 $1,000,000 $900,000
Revere, Ben $4,100,000 $6,600,000 $6,700,000 $6,250,000
sums –> $33,200,000 $30,200,000 $29,953,500

So, one thing I notice here is just how amazingly close MLBTradeRumors’ estimates are.  $100k off for Strasburg, $50k off for Ramos.  Across 7 players they were within $250k total.  Pretty good stuff.

Rendon’s sub-par 2015 really hurts him; I was way off base thinking he’d jump to $4M in his first year of arbitration.

Strasburg’s figure seems crazy low; on the open market you have to think he’s worth $18M or more.  All the more reason the Nats need to win now with him, since they’re basically getting at half price.


Written by Todd Boss

February 1st, 2016 at 4:26 pm

24 Responses to 'Nats Arbitration Review 2016'

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  1. Strasburg will always get the press because of his potential, but he’s being paid exactly what he shouls be.
    He’ s deserving of the nickname ‘the orchid’.

    If Ramos could hit or catch balls thrown from the outfield he’d be a lot more valuable. Her’s hoping either Kieboom or Severino have a breakout 2016.

    Mark L

    1 Feb 16 at 11:30 pm

  2. I wonder if arbitration salary escalation will also be part of the next CBA. Most pundits that i’ve read think Strasburg is at least going to get something like 8yrs at $20M/year next off-season. You might think that’s crazy but that’s the going rate. Think that’s crazy? Look at this past off-season’s prices. Price got $31M/year, Greinke got $34M a year. So Strasburg isn’t a Cy Young winner, so he’s lower than that. But then you have Zimmermann ($22M/year) and Johnny Cueto ($21.6M/year). Who would you rather have? Strasburg or one of those two? Especially Cueto is an interesting comp. To that end, I think Strasburg gets MORE than $20M/year. More like $25M/year. That’s something like 6/$150M or 8/$200M.

    That’s just the going rate. meanwhile, in his last arb year (where in theory he’s supposed to be getting 80% of his FA value according to the way the system works), he’s “only” getting $10.4M. Its’ not even half of what he’s going to get next off-season.

    Todd Boss

    2 Feb 16 at 8:35 am

  3. I also thought Strasburg would get more money. Rizzo did fine with the arbitrations.

    Ghost of Steve M.

    2 Feb 16 at 9:14 am

  4. All the more reason why this team needs to “go for it” now. They’re gettting Strasburg at half price. They’ve got Scherzer with half his salary deferred. They’ve got Harper at $5M for 2016 coming off of a 10-win season. They’ve got Rendon and his 4-5 win capability healthy. they’ve got a 5th starter in Roark who had a 5-win season in 2014. they’ve got a starter in AA with two 70 grade pitches who probably is better than 3/5ths of the current rotation right now.

    Todd Boss

    2 Feb 16 at 10:17 am

  5. I would agree Todd. Need that MASN money!

    Ghost of Steve M. (

    2 Feb 16 at 8:31 pm

  6. Todd, any discussion of Strasburgs future value needs to factor in he has 5 years on his 2nd elbow already.
    The Nats front office feel, and I agree, that you get 8 years of use on that 2nd one. Zimmermann had a 25% regression in his 6th year. The Tigers will find out soon enough.

    Mark L

    2 Feb 16 at 10:12 pm

  7. Mark; i’m definitely not advocating to resign him, just to use him in 2016 to try to win! :-)

    I’m sure there’s someone out there who has done the research on life of TJ surgeries.

    Todd Boss

    3 Feb 16 at 8:33 am

  8. For the last week or two, I have been hoping to log on to MLBTR and read that Desi signed with someone. Getting worried for the guy. I hope he at least pulls out a Kendrick deal. Sure, he got himself into this position but I feel bad for him. He is still one of the top 15-20 SS in the game right now, and should be playing somewhere.


    3 Feb 16 at 6:23 pm

  9. With regard to your comment about how close MLBTR’s estimates came, I have to think it has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. At this point, players and teams that get close to that number must feel justified in just signing to be done.


    4 Feb 16 at 8:10 am

  10. Pretty good write up here on the system. They seem like fans. Of the various top 10s that I have seen, I’d say this one is closest to my own. Severino might be my only quibble. I was a bit surprised at the Abreu mention in ‘Others’.


    4 Feb 16 at 6:30 pm

  11. Hey guys. Sorry for being out of the loop a bit. One other factor I can interject here is that 2017 FA class SUCKS! Stras could win only eight games this year (heaven forbid!) and still be the #1 pitcher on the market. He’s going to get paid . . . a lot, probably more than $200M plus opt-outs.

    As far as is publicly known, the Nats have never made an extension offer to Stras. They did make such an offer to JZim despite the TJ and him being older. Stras has always had great “peripherals” but still hasn’t had that break-through dominant season we all expected. Can Maddux coax it out of him? It has always seemed more mental than physical.

    For the Nats to make a bid to keep Stras, he’s have to take the next step, and the MASN money would have to come through. And those still may not be enough reasons, particularly if Giolito continues to progress. In some ways, it has always seemed that Giolito was the “Stras replacement.”

    Still, it’s hard to believe that we’re already to the last ride with Stras, with Desi and ZJim already having disappeared over the horizon.


    5 Feb 16 at 6:55 am

  12. Stras was so good after he changed his mechanics and added some deception to hide the ball more last year. Best he’s ever been I think. If he stays healthy could be a monster season, and we’d have coddled and fixed him for somebody else’s benefit the rest of his career.

    I sure hope Giolito puts it all together this year. From my limited views on him last year his mechanics seemed really sloppy. Didn’t look close to polished yet. But let’s hope that’s cleaned up and he’s ready now.

    Marty C

    5 Feb 16 at 12:03 pm

  13. Thanks for the link Wally; i’ve lost my BP rss feeds somehow. Their rankings more or less are like BA handbooks. Fedde a bit lower. Stevenson a lot lower. I did like that they said that Washington’s top 4 are “the best top 4 in the league,” hence why the system is so highly ranked.

    Todd Boss

    5 Feb 16 at 1:08 pm

  14. Strasburg: someone asked Keith Law in his latest chat about Stras and he had a fairly frank assessment. Cutting and pasting from and cleaning it up for our pg-13 discussions here:

    Question: Given that this is likely Strasburg’s last year in DC, how would you assess his career so far? What does he need to do to become an elite pitcher—probably somewhere else in 2017?

    Klaw: He’s never really pitched as aggressively as his stuff would indicate. He should be going after guys like “here it is, f**k you, try and hit it.” He nibbles, he pitches away from contact, he gets tentative when there are men on. That’s a perfectly fine approach for guys with lesser stuff. I want him to pitch like peak Verlander, who looked like he might tear your head off and was happy to just blow guys away with power, whether it was velocity or just some hellacious breaking ball.

    And I gotta say … its hard to argue with Law. How frustrated have we been in his approach? It this entirely due to McCatty’s emphasis on weak contact and less K’s? What do you think happens under a different pitching coach?

    Todd Boss

    5 Feb 16 at 1:10 pm

  15. But is Law’s criticism born out? For a guy with his K%, Strasburg’s BB% has always been very low. His swinging strike% has also been very constant. The one “flaw” in his game is one aspect of his batted ball profile – he gives up a lot of line drives (OTOH, he also gets a lot IFFB to go with the K’s). If he was nibbling, tentative, or whatnot, one would expect that his BB% would be higher and that his LD% would be lower.

    John C.

    5 Feb 16 at 1:40 pm

  16. Oh, an article that made this point (I didn’t just look them up for my comment):

    John C.

    5 Feb 16 at 1:41 pm

  17. I thought Cat was an excellent pitching coach, but for the last couple of seasons, and certainly in ’15, it sure seemed like the staff had tuned him out, heard everything he had to say. It was time for a change.

    Mike Maddux’s baby brother (who I sure wish the Nats would invite to camp, like the Rangers did) was one of the most mentally tough pitchers in the history of baseball. And the whole Brave staff improved when he joined the team. There’s no doubt that they learned from him. I had hoped that Scherzer, another bulldog, would have the same affect on the Nats, although perhaps there was resentment about his signing by guys like JZim and Fister who probably thought he had taken their money. (He had, but only because they left it on the table.)

    All of this to say that I hope Mike Maddux is also of the bulldog family and can teach that mentality to guys like Stras and Gio. I’m looking for the most improvement in those two, and for fine-tuning for Max to avoid another mid-season lull.

    As for Marty’s comment, was there ever any public credit given for the Stras mechanics rebuild last season? If there was, I never heard who did it. It seemed to be too radical a makeover to have come from McCatty. I always wondered whether Menhart and/or Milacki were in on it. That pair did a good job on Treinen when he was down at Syracuse.


    5 Feb 16 at 1:42 pm

  18. Good points, John, posted at the same time I was writing. My memory is that balls off Stras are either hit very hard, or blooped. He doesn’t give up a lot of “regular” hits.


    5 Feb 16 at 1:48 pm

  19. Nibbling criticism; is it the difference between “control” and “command?” Strasburg clearly has good control, in that he doesn’t walk a ton of guys. But does he command his fastball where he wants it? Harder to say.

    Let me as a different, broader question. All of Strasburg’s advanced stats list him as a top 10-15 pitcher in the league. No argument. So why hasn’t he put together a season good enough to even garner cy young votes? Isn’t that kind of the point of KLaw’s criticism and the article?

    Todd Boss

    5 Feb 16 at 2:59 pm

  20. I isolated Strasburg’s last 10 starts (after coming off of the d/l) at 8-2, 1.90 ERA, 66ip, 42 hits, 92/8 K/BB, .179 BAA. 7 of the 16 runs he gave up were homers.

    that’s great. THAT is Cy Young/Clayton Kershaw kind of numbers. Question is; where the f*ck was that all year? Why isn’t that 10 game stretch what he’s ALWAYS doing?

    10 opponents in that stretch: Col, @SF, @Col, SDP, Mia, NYM, @Phi, Mia, Phi, @Atl. So not Exactly a murder’s row of good teams (@SF, home to Nym two hardest games), but also not the easiest slate; away games in two pure hitters parks, home games against a couple of pretty good hitting teams. But hey you can only play who is in front of you right?

    Todd Boss

    5 Feb 16 at 3:07 pm

  21. Noted headline in FanGraphs today “Could this be Strasburg’s Year?”

    Does this make it 4 years in a row for this type of headline.

    Mark L

    5 Feb 16 at 4:39 pm

  22. like I mentioned… When Stras came back off rehab… he had a different set up, arm angle etc.. and he was dominant. A guy with his raw stuff, i always thought he lacked deception with the long arm lever delivery. He finally fixed that, started hiding the ball and just blew guys away. Took too long but finally got it fixed. if he stays healthy should be all world next year. Worth more than a season and a comp pick right?

    But what do you guys really think of Giolito? I’m praying for this guy but… omg.. his mechanics. his arms and legs are all over the place.

    Marty C

    6 Feb 16 at 2:06 am

  23. As I said, I still want to know who did the “fix” on Stras . . . and whether it’s maintainable.

    One of the SABR mantras is “wins don’t matter.” Yet Stras has always seemed like that guy who pitched just well enough to lose 3-2 or 4-3. We talked about some of this on this site a couple of offseasons ago, when we found that his run support was a run less than the other starters and that more than half of his starts had come against .500+ teams. (I think that was in the 2013 season.) But ultimately, no matter who he is facing, he’s got to do what’s needed to actually win the games.

    Marty, I meant to get out to Potomac last year to see Giolito but never did, not that I consider myself any type of a scout. One guy who did see him a lot was Luke Erickson, who is still quite effusive about him in his Watchlist write-up:

    Luke is still very much on the Lopez bandwagon as well.


    6 Feb 16 at 12:16 pm

  24. Giolito mechanics: i’ve always thought they were really clean actually. I saw some scouting video on him from the side a while ago and thought he was pretty clean. Here’s some from last year in Potomac, from behind home plate: . Marty; do you think these are bad mechanics? I mean, I don’t think every pundit in the game would be listing Giolito as the best pitching prospect in the minors if his mechanics were a mess…

    Todd Boss

    6 Feb 16 at 3:40 pm

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