Nationals Arm Race

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

Strasburg Extension Shocker!


Wow. Photo via

Wow. Photo via

Woke today to check the score from last night (we have a toddler, ergo we are sleep deprived and go to bed early).  After reading about Bryce Harper‘s mouth and ejection and Clint Robinson‘s walkoff, there was a small little link at the bottom of the article…

Stephen Strasburg signs a 7yr, $175M extension to stay with the team, as broken last night by the Washington Post’s Chelsea James.

Wow.  Did not see this coming.  I never thought this team would re-sign Strasburg frankly, because I thought there’d be a feeding frenzy when he hit free agency this coming off-season.

Strasburg’s representation (Scott Boras) is not exactly known for having his players sign extensions.  The 2016-17 free agent market for starters was so bare that Strasburg likely would have inspired a bidding war and you have to think Strasburg just left a bunch of money on the table.  The next best starter hitting free agency next off-season now might be Rich Hill.  Rich Frigging Hill, as in the guy the Nats had on a MLFA deal last summer and cut him loose so he could go re-make his career out of the Oakland bullpen.

What kind of value did the team just get?  Here’s a quick look at the other SP deals in the $150M or higher range:

  • David Price: 7yrs/$217M starting in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw: 7yrs, $214M starting in 2014
  • Max Scherzer: 7yrs/$210M starting in 2015 (albeit with significant deferred money that brings the net present value down to around $185M)
  • Zack Greinke: 6yrs/$206M starting in 2016
  • Felix Hernandez, 7yrs/$175M starting in 2014
  • Masahiro Tanaka: 7yrs/$155M (but with his $20M posting fee its a $175M deal all told)
  • Jon Lester: 6yrs/$155M starting in 2015.

So, this is the selection of contracts to compare this Strasburg deal to.  Other big deals signed last off-season include Johnny Cueto (6yrs/$130M) and Jordan Zimmermann (5yrs/$110M).

There’s already a bunch of hot takes; some like the deal, some think its a mistake.  On the one hand, Yes, pretty much any big long term free agent deal eventually looks like a stinker, so in that respect you can be a cynic and say that every long term FA contract is a mistake.  But that’s just not a realistic way to look at team building in this modern era.  Unless you’re willing to completely punt on your season for several years running (see Chicago Cubs, see Houston Astros, see the Atlanta Braves right now, even look at what our own Nats did for two seasons so they could acquire both Strasburg and Harper in the draft), then keeping your team consistently in the upper division requires spending on the FA market to paper over what your farm system may  not be developing.

But looking at (specifically) the Cueto and Lester deals … I can’t help but think that the Nats got a steal here.  Who would you rather have, Cueto for 6/$130M or Strasburg for 7/$175?  Same question for Lester. Strasburg, to me, is a better pitcher (a far better pitcher) and they got him for basically the same AAV as those guys.  Would you rather have Strasburg for $25M AAV or Price at $31M AAV?  Honestly?  Give me Strasburg and I can use that $6M to buy more bullpen guys.

I know Strasburg has his detractors out there, people who with a straight face don’t think he’s an “Ace” or one of the best 10-15 arms in this league;  you people are fools.  Look at nearly any metric you want over the last 3-4  years and you’ll find that Strasburg is in the top 10-15 league wide.  Here’s a helpful link to fangraphs individual pitcher stats from 2012-now; in this time frame Strasburg is (among qualified starters): 13th in fWAR, 13th in ERA, 9th in FIP, 2nd in xFIP, 9th in SIERA, 4th in K/9, 11th in K/BB, 5th in FB velocity, 20th in wFA, 7th in wCU, 6th in wCH.  That’s pretty rare air to be that high up in so many different categories spanning the various statistical ways to measure pitching these days.  He’s not Clayton Kershaw … who is?

Interesting question to ponder: is this Strasburg/Boras “payback” for “shutdown-gate” in 2012??  Their way of saying “thank you” for looking out more for the pitcher than the team in that case?   Because it seems so to me; that’s my “hot take.”

I leave you with this before debating the merits of this move: Here’s our projected rotation in 2017:

Scherzer, Strasburg, Giolito, Ross, and Gio Gonzalez or Tanner Roark.

Yeah; that could be pretty frigging good.

53 Responses to 'Strasburg Extension Shocker!'

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  1. A few additional takes from all of this:

    1) The narrative that the Nats are not a team that free agents want to play for is obliterated. It was always specious garbage that was fueled by WaPo’s efforts to validate their own flawed “scoop.” But the message that the Nats got a destination discount — and from a player who would have been handsomely paid in LA — is an important one for those on the fence who have no trade clauses or who are also in a position to negotiate.

    2) With no resolution of the MASN litigation, the structure of the deal has to account for the anticipated and eventual remedy. But until then, the Nats remain cash challenged. Does the team spend on an Andrew Miller or Chapman? Or does it acquire said closer in waiting on the cheap for other moveable talent, and the Nats clearly have that?

    3) Trout is the talent with the contract and control one never has access to. The Nats can do a lot with that, and he would be an important catalyst to the lineup. It would be great to bring him in at whatever cost. That includes young, controllable starting pitching like Ross (selling high) and Roark. Taylor is undervalued right now and important insurance. We cannot undervalue our own players and fortunately, Rizzo does not. He did get Revere for Storen when we would have taken a bag of balls.

    4) One has to wonder what the Nats free agent plan is for Wilson Ramos, and how long they will wait to resolve it. Severino is now hitting. But so is Wilson and we have always hoped he could be a heavy lineup presence. Only last year he was a cleanup caliber bat. We obviously need thump.

    5) The Strasburg contract also shows the Lerners will pay to keep the marquee saleable players. So they will not fold on the Bryce negotiations. They did not pay for Zimmerman, they did pay more for Strasburg. And with an optout. This franchise does respond to the movement of the industry.

    6) My feeling, ultimately, is that the braintrust will not act immediately on any trade option but will use time. And it should. We are around first place and the season has its ups and downs. A major move would be precipitated by panic and can backfire — as we all know too well from last year. The bullpen may yet gel and settle down – we have had worse meltdowns in seasons past. And players now at AAA (Davis, Gott, Martin, Grace) may prove to be worthwhile additions.

    7) As for needs, there are too many players who need more at bats to assess their body of work for 2016. That is a must before making a Trout move. Werth gets hot in July, Zimmerman also often starts cold, Turner comes up at the end of the month, Revere’s effect on the lineup is still unclear. Bryce has been unusually cold. Things will only get worse for the Angels and less talented teams with saleable assets.

    8) On Giolito, count me among the skeptical of those who impugn Maddux by what they hear. Only in sports punditry, useless as it typically is, is expertise acceptable from people who “hear things.” Giolito is on film. His body of work from last year is on film. If there is a mechanical issue, look at his film or watch him in person and see. That is what Keith Law is paid to do. People like Ryan Sullivan, who is paid nothing at Nats GM, do that. What’s the mystery? So much of what people like Law serve up is rewarmed gossip. It’s like Svrluga all over again, and never having to concede you were wrong for lack of diligence and were unfair in doing so. When Giolito comes around, I doubt Law will be apologizing much for telling tales.


    10 May 16 at 10:48 am

  2. Interesting how the supposed window for TJ arms to last after the surgery is suddenly no longer a concern. I always figured they were just blowing smoke with that excuse and were using it knowing that JZ at a minimum was going to walk.

    That said, this goes a long way toward tempering my concern as a season ticket holder that they were going to let all the big names walk even as prices have been going up. It also makes me think better about Strasburg as a player, given that he apparently likes pitching for the Nats, whereas JZ apparently hated it here. It’s also cool that Stras apparently doesn’t mind being the second banana behind Scherzer both in terms of money and the rotational pecking order.

    All of that and the fact that he’s only 27 and just entering his prime years ought to overcome any lingering negative feelings about him.

    Karl Kolchack

    10 May 16 at 11:18 am

  3. Giolito, although a monster physically and incredibly hyped is not ready and maybe not all that close. He has not dominated AA yet, this year or last, and he actually gets hit hard + walks a lot. Look at his stats compared to similar aged Strasburg in the minors and it’s not near on the same level of performance. ERA, K rate, BABIP etc….

    Hopefully Giolito’s stats may be skewed by team dictating his sacrificing performance for development to work on a particular pitch etc… As mentioned last year they didn’t want him throwing the breaking ball much. But so far it’s glimmers of domination in a game here or there. Nothing consistent. Hope he’s great. Might be great. But can’t bank on that yet per the results so far. MLB would tear him apart right now.

    Marty C

    10 May 16 at 11:34 am

  4. If nervousness about Giolito’s struggles this year were a factor in getting Stras re-signed, then the utter lack of power hitting prospects system wide (other than maybe Drew Ward) sure ought to be an impetus for getting a Harper extension done at some point.

    Karl Kolchack

    10 May 16 at 11:42 am

  5. We often forget that athletes are people too. While it’s easy to see Harper bounding into a new clubhouse with little concern (unfortunately), not so for the introverted Stras. This is the only team he has ever known, and it has taken good care of him and built a contender around him. Plus could you ever imagine Stras willingly signing with a New York team and facing that media every day? No way.

    And while many pundits are rushing to point out how much Stras is “losing” by taking deferrals, let’s point out a few things on the flip side. Money in those amounts takes an incredible amount of management and requires a lot of decisions. There are only so many intelligent places to invest it. Spreading it out helps ensure that it won’t be gone when you need it. Also, taking the deferments shows that you want to win. Stras left Rizzo with plenty of flexibility to keep the team competitive.

    Are there risks? Sure. Dave Cameron points out that part of the reason the Nats got a bit of a “discount” is the TJ issue. That said, considering the total lack of other top-tier starters on the market next winter, TJ concerns would have been off the table in the bidding war.

    There are many other things out there, most of which we’ll probably never know. You know Stras and teammates have had to have been talking about what happened to Desmond. Then there’s the long-cultivated relationship between Boras and the Nats. They’ve always done right by his clients, even when it meant swallowing a few QOs along the way. Perhaps some quid pro quo is finally upon us.

    But I didn’t see this coming, at all. I assumed Stras was gone, like nearly everyone else did.

    Oh, and media folks, PLEASE spare me of the JZimm comparisons. He had a contract on the table VERY close to what he got in DET. Stras saw that, too. JZimm can say all he wants that he wanted to be here. The truth is that he turned down market value not to be.


    10 May 16 at 12:37 pm

  6. What now? Does having Stras locked up suddenly make Giolito available? Only if we’re fishing in a stream stocked with Trout . . .

    But the Nats have A LOT of young arms now seemingly blocked. Load up two or three of them for the Bronx and bring back Andrew Miller, signed through 2018 at a very reasonable $9M per. (Chapman isn’t signed and still claims he didn’t do anything wrong.) A bullpen upgrade is the one big thing they need. We can talk about a big bat, but we’d have the same issue of what position he can play, unless they’re willing to sit Werth or Zim or move Harper to CF.

    Oh, and is it too early to start talking about extending Murphy? Yeah, yeah, there’s that other extension that needs to be done first and foremost. The Stras deal certainly injects a little hope into that scenario.


    10 May 16 at 12:47 pm

  7. Giolito: fwiw, Strasburg got hit a ton harder in AA than he did in AAA while he was doing his half season in the minors. His periperals are still good. And it wasn’t just hype that got him to the esteemed position on prospect rankings; remember this spring when long-time MLB national reporters were saying that Giolito’s curve was the best curve they’d seen all spring … as compared to ANYONE. The kid is huge, has a huge fastball and an 80 curve. That’s a guy who, on most any other team in the majors, would be pitching every 5th day and not be sitting in western PA “working on his changeup.”

    Here’s a link to his advanced stats in AA: .. FIP is more than a point less than his ERA and his BABIP is crazy high. His walk rate is huge right now, much much moreso than he’s every had. That’s supported by both the narratives in this thread (changed his delivery or working on his change up). He’s clearly been unlucky in terms of hits falling and so his numbers should start to look better. It should also be noted that he’s nearly FOUR years younger on average than anyone else in that league. That’s crazy. I’m not worried about Giolito.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 1:32 pm

  8. At some point recently, a number leaked out that Zimmermann turned down and it was a significant number. more than he signed for in Detroit, though I don’t remember if the years worked out or if it included deferred money (likey).

    This Nightengale article supports what Iw as saying about this being kind of a “payback” move for Shutdowngate. As much as I don’t like Nightengale’s reporting…

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 3:06 pm

  9. Hard to decipher BABIP without having eyeballs on the games. He could be giving up rockets or bloopers. In any case, Strasburg’s 2010 AA stats were miles better than Giolitos if you look closely. 11+k vs 8+k per 9 for starters. Believe me.. I’m hoping he’s amazing. We need it and lots of time and effort invested in him. But if he was just a guy in the system named Joe Smith and not the mythical rep, we would not be clamoring for him based on performance. Yes he’s younger than his comp but at some point he has to start dominating if he’s as legendary as they say. Or he could be an amazing tool guy who’s still somehow hittable like Blake Treinen.

    Marty C

    10 May 16 at 3:13 pm

  10. From the Nightengale article:

    “Bryce Harper is a scenario where this ownership certainly has the financial wherewithal to do what they want to do,” Boras said. “It’s really up to the Lerners what they want to do with Bryce Harper.”

    Sounds like a conversation that’s already started, doesn’t it?


    10 May 16 at 3:16 pm

  11. I missed the game last night, but what a nice surprise to see first the walk off, then the Stras extension.

    Complete shock to me, but I choose to see it primarily as a feel good story emanating out of the 2012 shutdown. Not only that they acted in the player’s best interest for long term health, but also that they did it in a way that shielded the player from direct media scrutiny. I mentioned last year during the Harvey fiasco that I hoped that Stras appreciated that the Nats never left him hung out to dry in the media like the Mets did – and it appears that he did. I still feel bad for Harvey how the Mets painted it as ‘his’ decision, and ‘I thought that he was tough’ kind of background noise.

    From the Nats standpoint, given his age and performance levels, I see the contract as a huge win assuming (i) they have medical insurance on it, and (ii) they do not give in to the temptation to give him another 7 yr deal when he opts out. I love it now because he starts it in his age 28 season; I wouldn’t like it three years later.


    10 May 16 at 3:17 pm

  12. ok, I guess that I should have read some articles first before posting, since most others have already written a similar take.

    Anyhow, glad to have Stras on board. I’m a little worried about what the financial resources look like in the 2020s, but that is far enough away to not worry about right now.


    10 May 16 at 3:24 pm

  13. Marty … Strasburg was a polished college starter by the time he hit AA. And he was 2 years older. You just can’t compare. The only way you can compare those performances apples to apples would be for Giolito to hang out in AA for 2 more seasons. The Age thing is massive. Its why Jose Urias in AAA throwing well as a 19yr old is perhaps even more amazing. Most 19yr olds are sitting in extended spring training right now because they just finished their first season of rookie ball and would have gotten trounced in low-A.

    Are you cynical about Giolito because you somehow don’t trust that literally every pundit out there who studies prospects thinks he’s a top 5 prospect in all of the minors? Why be cynical about that?

    If, as is widely reported, the team told him to go to AA to work on a change up…. and he’s actually working on it, and the other team knows that he’s working on his changeup … do you think maybe they’re sitting on his change-up and pounding it? That’d certainly explain why he’s got an inflated BABIP and he’s walking a ton of guys; he hasn’t mastered the pitch, so he either misses with it or it gets pounded.

    I dunno. I don’t know where you can get stuff like LD% or pitch frequency for minor leaguers like you can for major leaguers.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 4:43 pm

  14. The deferred money that he accepted has now come out; $15M/year for 7 years then another $10M/year for an additional 7. Another interesting wrinkle here.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 4:44 pm

  15. It’s important to emphasize that this extension is something that Scott Boras did NOT want to do.

    The only way this happens is Strasburg went to him and told him to get an extension done and not fight for the last dollar.

    A shocker and good for him.

    Mark L

    10 May 16 at 5:31 pm

  16. Only an idiot (or a baseball writer) would ever criticize a player for taking deferred money when there are so many examples of athletes who are bankrupt before they turn 40. In fact, I’ll bet you start seeing more of these kinds of deals as players start to realize it’s a better way to secure their long term futures. Stras may not have gotten the very last dollar possible, but this was a very wise move on his part.

    Karl Kolchack

    10 May 16 at 5:44 pm

  17. Incidentally, Strasburg and Giolito were both 21 as pitchers in AA. Giolito turns 22 in July this year, Strasburg turned 22 in July 2010, the year he pitched at Harrisburg.

    The difference between them is that the latter has lost a lot of development time because of having his TJ surgery so early and may well still be having TJS-related control issues.

    Karl Kolchack

    10 May 16 at 5:49 pm

  18. Jared Weaver (Boras client) took so much grief from everybody when he signed below market extension with the Angels. He said at the time he was happy and liked having his family watch him play.

    Vary cute that at the presser, Strasburg’s 2 year old had a curly W bracelet.

    Mark L

    10 May 16 at 6:21 pm

  19. Very cute that the Nats talked to the Angels today. About Brendan Ryan, of course.


    10 May 16 at 7:17 pm

  20. Todd… one day we’ll agree about something with this team. I was one of the first to write on this blog months ago what a godsend the Murphy signing would be for this team. Anyway… yes Giolito is in fact is just about the same age in AA as Strasburg was. Not sure why you thought he was 2 years younger. Some might even argue that the 4 years of pro pitching coaching he’s gotten should be more valuable than Strasberg’s college coaching. But I do realize Lucas doing his on a restrung elbow.

    I’m not a Giolito basher. I’m a huge Nat’s fan.. just a little more realistic than some and I watch the players instead of just the stats. So I can tell you for example that to my eye Rendon looks just as bad as his stats look. Late on fastballs, spinning off pitches, shies in clutch, etc… So just to be realistic on Giolito… while everyone wants him in the rotation asap based on reputation and pitch tools, I’d prefer to see him dominate some actual minor league hitters consistently before proclaiming him the chosen one. I don’t make excuses for players… in this game where you play so many games, the results don’t really lie.

    if Giolito had a 2 seamer with the speed and darting movement of Treinen’s, they’d be talking about that as the best pitch in baseball prospect history as well. But that pitch hanging on Treinen, still makes Treinen a hittable marginal performer.

    And if the coaches are asking Giolito to marginalize himself in real games to work on a specific pitch, I’d say that may do more damage to his confidence and psyche long term than just letting him throw his “A” stuff in games.

    Anyhoo.. I hope Giolito improves and starts to dominate. I’ll be first in line to cheer him on. But he doesn’t look ready yet.

    btw… so i can have a real life too those 162 days a year, I do tend to record the games then speed watch them most nights. Life’s too short to watch these guys adjust their batting gloves after every single pitch in real time.

    Marty C

    10 May 16 at 7:17 pm

  21. Someday Marty, someday. Its funny how all the guys you have a problem with i’m patient with and vice versa. It is entirely possible that Rendon peaked 2 years ago along the same lines as how Zimmerman seems to have peaked with his 30/100 season a few years back. Zimmerman looks *awful* right now; anyone still want to argue about lineup protection? 🙂 Baker’s gotta go Harper-Murphy, even given Zim’s homer tonight.

    On Giolito and the edict to “work on” some stuff … i recall reading a story about Tom Glavine once; he got absolutely shelled in a spring training game once and the reporters were asking him, “wow you got hit hard are you concerned?” and he responded (paraphrasing) that his goal that day was to work on a changeup away. That was it; changeup away. It was spring training. Who cares what the score was. It took the opposing team about 3 batters to figure out what the heck he was doing and started sitting on changeup away. So while i’m pretty sure he’s not throwing 100% changeups you have to think the other team knows that it can sit on them. I’m sure the Nats executives probably told him “we don’t care about your stats; just fix the pitch.” I mean, that’s what the minors are for right?

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 10:11 pm

  22. Well I sure hope that’s the issue with Giolito. I wouldn’t do that with a young guy though in these games consistently. I’d work on that stuff more on the side. I think young guys in minors different than a vet working in Spring training.

    Yeah Zimm cranks two blistering homers tonight. Good to see. Everytime I rail on Rendon he gets a hit or two so maybe I should keep at it. Maybe he’s reading your blog and has it out for me. Harper still not seeing it well. You know my theory on slumps. Would have been a good time to give him a couple days off during this steak before he grooved it for the worse. Maybe the commish will give him a day instead. Slump management the next wave of analytics! Tough to do when we’ve had 3 straight managers (at least) that won’t tinker with their lineups no matter how bad guys are struggling.

    Thought Dusty went too long with Ross tonight.

    Marty C

    10 May 16 at 10:49 pm

  23. While all other managers are plying chess, Dusty is plying checkers.
    Cost the Nats the game tonight.

    Didn’t help that MLB has people in NY that need to find another line of work.

    Mark L

    10 May 16 at 11:06 pm

  24. Poor interpretation of that slide … even if there was just no way Espinosa would have turned that DP. But we’ve seen that called already this season for less egregious slides than that. Tough break.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 16 at 12:47 am

  25. The MLB App video clip of the slide used the Tigers’ broadcast (they usually use the broadcast team of whichever side the play worked out for, although sometimes they’ll give both). Once they saw the replay, they were totally “oh, he’s going to be called out, the rule is very clear, so unfortunately the inning will be over and the game still tied.” They (like the rest of us) were totally flabbergasted when the call was upheld. Even after the call they were in disbelief. All they could think of was that the replay official was “sticking up for his buddies on the field.” And maybe a little Bryce payback?

    I had two problems with the after-the-fact “he didn’t interfere with the throw” rationale: (1) on its own merits, it’s questionable – I thought that the reason that he didn’t interfere with the throw is that Espinosa jumped six feet sideways to get out of Gose’s way before throwing; and (2) it’s just making [stuff] up. If you don’t like the impact of the rule, tweak the rule – but interpret it as written until it’s changed, whether formally in the rulebook or by guidance put out to the teams. As Todd has noted, less egregious slides have been upheld.

    John C.

    11 May 16 at 10:49 am

  26. If MLB is going to be all over the map on how they interpret the rule, they should just chuck it and go back to the old way of handling those plays.

    John C.

    11 May 16 at 10:50 am

  27. You mean Trout isn’t going to be the PTBNL in the Ryan trade? Maybe we’ll just take the cash option to add to the Harper fund . . .

    As for Bryce payback, remember that the umps also forced the Nats to go to replay early in the game to overturn the play at 1B where he was clearly safe by a step, even to the naked eye. At least Bryce kept his cool on that one.

    The slide rule has a reasonable purpose but clearly no uniformity in interpretation.


    11 May 16 at 12:34 pm

  28. Do you think Harper was secretly hoping to get to third so he could get in another jab? 🙂

    How much cash do you think the Angels gave us for Ryan? $100? i’ve heard these kinds of deals between clubs (for veteran 4-A type guys) are usually for very nominal amounts of money, almost basically give aways to help each other out.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 16 at 1:26 pm

  29. Could the Nationals have played last night under protest after that slide ruling? Probably not since its an opinion.

    Apropos of nothing; if you havn’t seen this, click now:

    Todd Boss

    11 May 16 at 1:34 pm

  30. The Ryan deal is also the type of thing that make the Nats the type of organization that guys want to play for. They’ll let you showcase and not stand in your way if another opportunity presents. Chris Young and Rich Hill are two guys who owe the second acts of their careers almost completely to the Nats. (The reverse of Nats to Oblivion.) Sometimes you find a diamond in the rough, like Clint Robinson. Usually you don’t, but the good karma and good contacts never hurt.


    11 May 16 at 2:32 pm

  31. KW – very true about the Nats and the respect they carry as an organization. Tyler Moore is another such example.

    The payoffs are both tangible and intangible. Rizzo was able to essentially get Kelley to sign a “take it now” offer. Fortunately, Mike Leake did not!

    Rizzo will get additional style points for that when his options are picked up.


    11 May 16 at 3:08 pm

  32. The Leake gambit seemed to confirm to me that the Nats didn’t think Stras would stay. Sometimes the best deals are those not made . . . See also Heyward and JUp, who leads the majors in Ks. Zobrist sure put the hurt on us over the weekend, though. However, our “consolation prize” (Murphy) has worked out pretty well (to say the least).

    I really, really didn’t think Stras would extend. I wasn’t even sure whether it was worth discussing when people would bring it up. I also wasn’t sure that it was the best thing for the Nats to do, for a couple of reasons. There’s the TJ shelf-life thing, which has been well-discussed. The other thing was the concern that the Nats would hamstring themselves somewhat salary-wise with a big contract. The deferred money eases that issue. We may curse it 10 years from now, but the hope is that revenues will go up significantly between now and the to the point that they’re a smaller drop in the bucket.

    Now extend Ramos. It’s chump change in comparison. The catcher market is so bad that they’re not going to be much in the way of options. Severino might be able to replace Lobaton, but not Ramos.


    11 May 16 at 8:15 pm

  33. Dear Tom Verducci: Max has not — repeat, NOT — gone off your pitcher’s cliff. He may frustrate all of us with his inconsistency and gopher balls, but what he did Wed. night was even rarer air than his near-perfectos. Has an easy ground-out to end a game ever been so anticlimactic?

    Dear Dusty: You’ve found your cleanup hitter. Don’t over-think this. You’ve got George Brett to bat behind Bobblehead.

    Dear Marty: Pretty cool that Rendon seems to be reading your stuff. Anyone else under whom you can light a fire?

    Dear Espi: I know that was a really big HR and you hit it a really long way, but purge it from your memory immediately. Every time you hit a big fly, you start swinging like you think you can hit 40. You can’t.


    12 May 16 at 5:16 am

  34. KW

    12 May 16 at 5:19 am

  35. KW followup on your comment related to the Ryan deal; I absolutely agree and think that it continues to play a role in the players we acquire. Look no further than Oliver Perez, who the Nats basically gave a rotation spot for after he crashed out of the Mets contract, and he was able to remake his career. I might be mistaken, but I believe he made mention of this as one of the reasons he re-signed here.

    Contrast that with the disarray and “destructive clubhouse” issues that supposedly kept players away last offseason. I was certainly guilty of asking the question whether the current state of the clubhouse played a factor in our losing out on so many targeted FAs … in the end though, as the contract details came out and every Nats offer contained a ton of deferred cash, it was easier to understand.

    Todd Boss

    12 May 16 at 9:17 am

  36. KW: has Verducci mentioned Scherzer as a risk candidate? He’s never appeared in any of his Verducci/Year After effect columns (i have an XLS of them going back to 2012). If he mentioned Scherzer by name elsewhere I must have missed it.

    Todd Boss

    12 May 16 at 9:39 am

  37. Verducci – he wrote a short column on the Stras contract (lot’s of risk for Nats) and listed a bunch of 30+ pitchers who are struggling, including Max.


    12 May 16 at 9:53 am

  38. Boy, ya think Max was motivated not only to beat his old team but to show that the Nats did the right thing by giving him the big contract even if it cost them JZ?

    There is a Tigers fan in my season ticket group who said early last season that Scherzer wasn’t really all that great. Perhaps that was sour grapes his part, but last night JZ vs. Max demonstrated the difference between a very good pitcher and a truly great one.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 May 16 at 10:00 am

  39. Regarding Verducci’s assertion that Max is “struggling,” here are a few pertinent stats:

    WHIP – 2016: 1.173, Career: 1.172
    H9 – 2016: 8.0, Career: 8.0
    BB9 – 2016: 2.6, Career: 2.6
    SO9 – 2016: 11.4, Career: 9.8

    His K rate now sits at the highest of his career. The only thing out of whack is his HR rate, which is also the highest of his career.

    It seems like Max’s determination to cut down on his walks (his BB9 rate last year was half his career average) to pitch deeper into games (4 of his 5 career complete games have now come as a Nat) has made him more HR prone. But otherwise, I don’t see any statistical evidence that he’s declining.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 May 16 at 10:14 am

  40. I just wonder how tempted Rendon was to bobble that last grounder and give Max one more chance to own 21 by himself. Can’t do it in a one-run game, though. Awesome performance.

    Wally, thanks for linking to the Verducci piece. It’s sobering in general, but he’s undercut some of the power of his argument by conflating some guys who are just off to bad starts (Max, Price) with ones who truly are done.


    12 May 16 at 10:17 am

  41. Yeah, the trend towards younger performance is undeniable but I think its easy to write an alarmist piece, which is what he did. There is no accountability to any writer for being wrong.

    Off topic – anyone notice that Desi has come on for the Rangers? OPS > 800, 1.3 WAR (positive in all three elements – offense, defense and baserunning) and most shockingly, cut his K % to 20% and raised his BB% to 9 %. I am happy for him, and hope he gets a nice contract next year.


    12 May 16 at 10:31 am

  42. Verducci link; i listen to a ton of podcasts and all i keep hearing about is gloom and doom over the starts of some guys (Scherzer being one of htem). Its a month. Look up the definition of SSS. Just like you shouldn’t overreact to great starts (Joe Ross) you shouldn’t overreact to bad starts either.

    Todd Boss

    12 May 16 at 10:53 am

  43. The idea of Strasburg and Scherzer pushing each other to greater heights in the coming years sits well with me. Scherzer can and will figure out what to do about the gopher balls. In the meantime, at 4-2, he’s part of the solution and a tremendous catalyst for the pitching staff and for the team. Hard not to feel euphoric after a night like that. I wish I was in the stands. Must have been electric.


    12 May 16 at 1:19 pm

  44. Neil Greenberg deconstructs Arrieta’s claim that he’ll get more than Stras . . . when he’s a free agent at 32:

    Stras’s relative youth are what he and the Nats have going for them (at least if we ignore that TJ thing).

    It’s clear that pitchers, particularly starts, seem to decline younger and much more steeply than hitters. The problem is that most starters don’t hit free agency until they’re around 30. So teams are either forced to develop their own, or take big gambles that their free agents won’t decline as fast as others.

    The Nats are supposed to be really, really good at drafting and developing pitchers, yet the only Nat draftees on the 25-man are Stras and Solis. Four of the five starters came from outside the organization, three in trades (and really some incredible luck in how Roark developed).

    Anyway, just something that got me thinking. I’m not sure what it all means.


    12 May 16 at 1:22 pm

  45. Here’s a bet that Harper drops his appeal sometime on Saturday and sits out one of the games of the double-header.


    12 May 16 at 1:24 pm

  46. KW, remember that a lot of the pitchers on the roster were acquired with players that the Nationals drafted. Gio, Papelbon, Revere, Rivero and Lobaton were all acquired in trades involving Nats’ pitchers. Two years of Doug Fister and three years of Denard Span were acquired using Nats minor league pitchers.

    There’s more than one way for the organization’s talent to be used.

    John C.

    12 May 16 at 4:54 pm

  47. Nats’ draftee currently pitching for other teams:

    Jordan Zimmermann – Starter, Tigers
    Nate Karns – Starter, Mariners
    Robbie Ray – Starter, Diamondbacks
    Marco Estrada – Starter, Blue Jays
    Tommy Milone – Starter, Twins
    Drew Storen – Reliever, Blue Jays
    Ross Detwiler – Reliever, Indians

    Given that most of those guys save JZ and Estrada are having lousy seasons, I think the Nats for most part made the right decisions as far as whom to keep and whom to trade/let go.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 May 16 at 6:11 pm

  48. On a related note, two other draftees that many fretted about losing via trades, Brad Peacock and Alex Meyer, are laboring at AAA right now. At 28, Peacock looks like a true bust, while at 26 Meyer has been absolutely shelled in his two MLB cups of coffee so far.

    Again, Rizzo has demonstrated what a shrewd trader he is, especially getting three years of Denard Span in his prime straight up for Meyer.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 May 16 at 6:20 pm

  49. I was musing much more than lamenting. After all, what’s there to lament about not having the great Alex Meyer to anchor our rotation?

    Yes, trades are important, as is being brutally honest with the talent you have. That shows itself in the Nats “winning” most of the transactions they have made, as Karl detailed. That’s how franchises that have stayed on top for extended runs have done it. The long Brave run was built on such things. They didn’t miss badly until they included an A-ball arm named Adam Wainright in the J.D. Drew trade. They also didn’t become too attached to their aging stars, a la the Phillies. Chipper was the only one to spend his whole career in ATL.

    The Gio trade and Span trades proved to be big building blocks in the Nat empire, and the Ross-Turner one may end up being as important as those two put together.


    13 May 16 at 7:26 am

  50. “Don’t think of the Nationals as a team willing to pay $50 million for the top two pitchers in their rotation. Think of them as a team willing to pay a cool $75 million or so for their entire rotation, from Strasburg to Max Scherzer to Joe Ross to Tanner Roark to Gio Gonzalez to (eventually) Lucas Giolito. Spread the money around evenly, and it looks like a reasonably priced rotation.”


    13 May 16 at 11:44 am

  51. Sign of the apocalypse: the Phils are in 2d.

    Nats seem to be stumbling along.

    Mad Max vs. Thor on Tues. (pick ’em), Gio vs. TBD on Wed. (advantage Nats), Shutdown vs. Not Shutdown on Thurs. (advantage Nats).


    16 May 16 at 7:48 am

  52. Anyone else shocked to see the White Sox call up Matt Purke this past week? I guess he just needed to be in a new system to become servicable?


    16 May 16 at 8:03 am

  53. Purke called up to the major leagues? Wow, missed that and hugely surprised. Good for him though; sometimes it is all about change of scenery.

    Todd Boss

    16 May 16 at 8:41 am

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