Nationals Arm Race

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

Thou shalt not overreact to a blown save…


This is the only photo I have of Papelbon where he's not grabbing his nuts or Harper's throat. Photo Keith Allison via wikipedia/flickr

This is the only photo I have of Papelbon where he’s not grabbing his nuts or Harper’s throat. Photo Keith Allison via wikipedia/flickr

Look, I get it.  We’ve watched Jonathan Papelbon blow two saves rather egregiously in the last week.   We know his fastball is down (average of 90.9 this season versus 91.4 last year and 93.8 in 2012).  We know his “stuff” is down (K/9 is “just” 8.35 this year versus career peaks north of 10 K/9) and his walks are up (3.34 BB/9 this year, a stark increase over last year’s 1.71 BB/9).

But did you know that the Nats bullpen is still one of the best in all of baseball?  Here’s some quick team stats for you from fangraphs; the Nats bullpen is:

  • 4th in the MLB in ERA
  • 2nd in FIP and 3rd in xFIP
  • 6th in K/9
  • 4th in BB/9
  • 6th in fWAR
  • 4th in Blown Saves.

So, optically yes we would like to have a better arm throwing in the 9th.  But overall, we have (against all odds) crafted a brand new bullpen from 2015’s dumpster fire version that has been pretty darn effective.

So what do we do with our embattled “closer?”  Well, I think Fangraph’s August Fagerstrom has put it best.  I think its time to flip-flop the roles of Papelbon with Shawn Kelley.  Kelley’s peripherals are ridiculous: 13.9 K/9, a 58/7 K/BB ratio.   By way of comparison, Aroldis Chapman has “only” a 12.6 K/9 rate this year (though to be fair, its a down year for a guy who has a career 15.2 rate … yes i’m cherry picking stats a bit).

I do think its promising (at least from a player management perspective), that we’re hearing Dusty Baker addressing these questions with what seem like real quotes from Papelbon that show him to be a team player and cognizant of his struggles, as opposed to the defiant petulant bastard that he has appeared to be elsewhere in his career.  Numbers don’t lie; if he’s not getting it done, and he knows it, then its time to step aside.  There’s no shame in getting old (he’s in his age 35 season and he’s got nearly 700 high-leverage “I’m the guy” appearances on his C.V.).

No, I wouldn’t have wanted to trade my #1 system prospect for Chapman like the Cubs did.  In fact, I wouldn’t trade a starter or a position player for a reliever, ever,  unless it was a lesser guy completely blocked by someone that I had signed to a long-term deal.  The value trade-off is just not there.  As Fagerstrom points out, we can shuffle roles and then perhaps find a bullpen spot for the electric arms of Lucas Giolito and/or Reynaldo Lopez for the stretch run if we run into injuries.

Mike Rizzo; please, please resist the temptation to trade valuable assets for the “proven closer” (insert trademark here).  Please.  If you’re tempted … I hear Drew Storen is available.  Or at the very least trade someone from our logjam of 4-A starters instead of a valuable piece that we’ll need a few years time.

PS readers; apologies for 2 weeks of radio silence; was OOO visiting family and going through a stretch of business at work that prevented such fun things as spitting out opinion pieces about relievers who will contribute a fraction of a WAR over the rest of the year.  Thanks for sticking in there.  MartyC; next post I’m teeing up a glowing review of Giolito just for you 😉

64 Responses to 'Thou shalt not overreact to a blown save…'

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  1. Todd, welcome back!

    Mark L

    27 Jul 16 at 3:27 pm

  2. Yeah, I agree mostly. I do think it’s time to pull the plug on Paps, because he’s just running out of smoke and mirrors to get the job done. He’s going to get worse and it’s going to get harder. Call it now and see who else can tolerate the job. In the interim, find a way to manage Rivero’s innings and add one of the kids to the bullpen as the last arm to be sufficient. I think they’ll be fine if they do that. Otherwise, for god’s sake don’t pay for rentals.

    kevin r

    27 Jul 16 at 4:06 pm

  3. Thanks Todd! Don’t forget to rehash your resistance to call up Turner!

    Marty C

    27 Jul 16 at 6:35 pm

  4. I guess P-bon is no dummy. He knows he royally screwed the pooch by attacking Harper a year ago, and has to know he’s unlikely to ever be a closer again after this season. If he wants to keep pitching at all, however, it is in his best interest to be seen as a team player.

    I’m not in the trade a top starting pitching prospect for a closer camp, but I do think the Nats need some kind of relief help. Too many of their relievers look shaky right now beyond just P-bon. Could they trust Lopez and Glover in the bullpen down the stretch? Seems like an awfully big risk.

    Karl Kolchack

    27 Jul 16 at 6:40 pm

  5. Marty – as one who advocated that they stay with Espinosa back at the end of May, I still think they made the right decision. Espinosa’s offensive explosion fueled their June hot streak.

    Now he’s gone just as cold as he was hot then–such is the nature of streaky hitters. No matter, he bats eighth and is in the lineup for his glove. Harper, Rendon and Zimmerman’s underperformance is the real problem with the offense.

    Karl Kolchack

    27 Jul 16 at 6:44 pm

  6. KK, particularly Zimmerman.
    Back when it was obvious that he was going to be a permanent 1st baseman, there was a lot of grief over the fact that his career .820 OPS wasn’t really good enough for 1st base.

    How does it look now that he’s hitting .675 OPS for a premium offensive position.

    Harper at # 2,3,4,5 in the batting order is hurting the team a lot.

    Mark L

    27 Jul 16 at 7:05 pm

  7. Yes Karl… I advocated calling up Turner because he’s a special talent. Probably the true #1 prospect in all of baseball. A calendar does not lie, and holding him back to gain extra service time is wasted if you don’t play him at the beginning of that service time if he’s obviously ready. I don’t understand why people are so scared of prospect struggle when over half our veteran line up struggles for months at a time.

    Espi has tricked us all more times than Harry Houdini. He gets hot for a few weeks showing unusual power for a shortstop, them reverts to sub .200 production for literally months at a time. I’d like Espi better if he was more or less average at the plate all of the time instead of stuffing his entire years stat line into 3 weeks then horribly sucking for the other 16 weeks.

    The point then in the Spring was that a player like Espi should not block perhaps the real #1 prospect in all of baseball. Espi’s spot was the obvious place to put him then. but now every player on the lineup except Murphy and Ramos should take their turn sitting to make room for Turner. That includes Zimm, Espi, Rendon, Harper, Werth and
    Revere.. You have to make room for your #1 prospect in a team full of under-performers. This is the easiest incremental improvement the team can make. Turner is not even 25% comfortable at the plate yet, but he is still putting up multi tool great games despite that – including clutch. And doing it having to play horribly out of position. Last year many made excuses for Rendon, saying the poor guy had to play out of his comfort zone of 3rd base, and that’s why he didn’t hit at all last year.

    To all the defense arguments… Murphy is probably the 5th best defensive 2nd baseman his own team behind Espi, Turner, Drew, Rendon, and Difo. Would you rather have any other player in baseball manning 2nd base for you right now? Espi might make one play every 2 weeks that Turner wouldn’t at SS. But I also think Turner might make some that Espi does not because his range with his elite speed and quickness has to be better than Espi’s. Over 95% of the plays are still routine any pro should make. How many extra hits has our team gotten this year from the opposing shortstop booting one? I would bet just a few more than we have booted. Didn’t we make the playoffs and win tons of games with Desmond booting balls all over the diamond by the dozens?

    Offense matters! A lot!

    And final point… I think Espi is fine on defense but he still is not what I would call a smooth fielding natural looking shortstop. There is no smoothness to his game. He waits on every ball then has to gun it 100 mph to first base. I would hate to play first base for him. I’d rather have a smooth moving fielder who covers some ground on the ball and usually makes a nice normal throw over there on routine plays.

    Marty C

    27 Jul 16 at 10:54 pm

  8. Thanks for writing this Todd. I agree 100%. Never buy into an overheated market. We have great arms in the system and if we can’t find a “Proven Closer” at the right price, then we should promote from within for high lev spots… we can use our trade assets to get another big hitter.

    Andrew R

    28 Jul 16 at 1:01 am

  9. Well, I’m a bit mixed on the post. Pap has been mediocre for his whole tenure here, not just the two saves. So upgrading from him wouldn’t be an overreaction to the blown saves, but a legitimate way to improve the team. Maybe the single biggest way.

    But, the prices are so astronomically high that I wouldn’t pay them. Erick Fedde isn’t bringing back anyone that’s clearly better than the current pen. It’s going to take something like a package of Lopez, Robles, Glover and Soto to get one of the elite relievers, and I can’t bring myself to think that’s better for the Nats than sitting tight.

    What I’d do in the pen is go to co-closers with Pap and Kelley, so I could alternate them and avoid them pitching consecutive days. I might even go to a short bench and have an extra reliever until Sep. and I would definitely call up Lo-Ed and Giolito and put them in the pen as 2-3 IP guys.

    I think that could be effective, but I question whether Dusty could manage it well. Dusty has lost me as a supporter. I think he’s charismatic and has good rapport with the players, but has poor pitching management skills and too beholden to the vets. In other words, he’s exactly as advertised. On balance with Dusty, as my daughter says to me whenever I ask her to play with her little brother, ‘I’m not feeling it’.

    So I’d switch to seeing if a quality CF like Eaton is a better deal, then find a way to get Turner 5 starts a week at 2b/SS by rotating Zim, Espy and Werth through rest.


    28 Jul 16 at 7:20 am

  10. The Jays ended up swapping Storen for Benoit — garbage in, garbage out. But still sad that Storen has fallen so far so fast.

    The Nats have a number of very good bullpen pieces. For marked improvement, they’d have to get an elite closer, and the price for those has gone through the roof. Kilgore has a piece up arguing that they should pay it. Not sure I agree, all the more so if the price really is two or three of your top talents. That’s insane . . . unless you have doubts about those top talents. Still, the Nats got Span for one top pitching prospect, three years of a quality everyday player, and now we’re expected to believe that a reliever would cost Giolito, Fedde, and Robles combined? It just doesn’t make sense.

    Marty, I agree: Turner looks special, really special. Watching him skim around the bases in Cleveland reminded me of young Lofton, who was a disruptive force. But it’s not just his speed; Turner plated the last two runs with a big two-out hit. When will he get a look at SS? I don’t know. Espinosa looks really lost at the plate right now.

    One other quick point: I don’t get the narrative of the offense needing to do more. Dusty has been saying that himself. They scored SIX runs apiece in the two blown-save games. Yes, there are a number of individuals who are struggling offensively, and they did have the stretch last week when they only seemed able to get three runs a game. But collectively, the offense is still producing. It’s the guys on the mound who need to hold their line.

    But as much as we think we’re struggling, the Giants are on a 2-8 stretch. Time to do a little kicking while they’re down.


    28 Jul 16 at 7:55 am

  11. I wonder if Trea’s play in CF has calmed the Eaton or Blackmon consideration. It’s hard to see either adding more to the lineup than Trea is right now.

    In fact, I’m really wondering whether the Nats will trade at all, or if they should.


    28 Jul 16 at 7:57 am

  12. I think there could be a time where that kind of price is worth it, like a situation the Cubs were in where they were very good already and this move clears up a glaring weakness, and distances them from the field. But that isn’t us right now.

    I don’t t really agree with you (KW) about the offense. It feels like they beat up poor pitchers, and waste many, many good scoring opportunities. Which will bite hard in the playoffs.

    Lastly, I do think a CF makes sense because Zim and Espy shouldn’t be guaranteed playing time at this point. It’s time to make some cold blooded decisions about what lineup gives the Nats the best chance to win, and Eaton > Espy/Zim. Probably. 🙂


    28 Jul 16 at 9:01 am

  13. Salazar and Carrasco are “poor pitchers”???

    My point is that collectively, the Nats’ offense is good. It’s fourth in the NL in runs. Could it be better? Heck yeah. But when you lose games in which you score six runs, it is not the offense’s fault in any way, shape, or form.

    I’m not arguing at all that there aren’t individual offensive performers who are currently a drag on the operation. There are. I have very little faith that Zim can bounce back. Danny looks like Danny of old, in a not-good way. But it’s a collective thing. Turner is certainly injecting something into the offense. Werth and Rendon are looking more comfortable at the plate these days. And of course a Bryce explosion would do more for the team than any 10 trades could.

    Am I totally comfortable with the hand the Nats currently have? No. But other than getting Turner in the lineup, which they’ve done, I don’t see much in the way of affordable upgrades that would make them significantly better.


    28 Jul 16 at 9:29 am

  14. My resistance on Turner call-up earlier in 2016 was a combination of factors: I was still pissed at the mis-management of the player’s service time from the end of 2015; i don’t know if it was on Rizzo, Williams, or both. But I think keeping him in the Minors past late May to gain the extra year was the prudent thing to do … now that being said, I also was kind of “reading the tea leaves” on our new manager Dusty Baker, who clearly is a veteran player favoring guy and I just kind of figured he was going to go with Espinosa at short no matter what happened in Spring Training. And … I was right. And I also figured Espinosa would have a really, really long leash; and he did. Here’s his 2016 splits: . April batting average: .185. May BA: .208. Then just as the time came to really start thinking about a like-for-like switch … Espinosa explodes. His OPS in June was north of 1.100; that’s like Babe Ruth territory. Can’t sit the hot hand right?

    And to comment on a nother point I saw; yes I’d rather have an extra service year at Turner’s peak at age 28 than 2-3 months of him as a 22-yr old rookie adjusting to the league; just think about the difference in added player value (WAR) that’d be; you sacrifice a couple of months and a win now for the potential of a 5-6win season if he’s really that good.

    Its harder NOW though to continue to make that argument; he has cooled badly in July; he’s back hitting at april sub .200 levels. But we also have a gaping hole in production at leadoff/CF. So here we are; if we could find a reliable center fielder, maybe we’d be talking about benching Espinosa instead of demotiong Taylor/benching Revere.

    When is Victor Robles going to be ready?? 🙂

    Todd Boss

    28 Jul 16 at 9:31 am

  15. Going into Cleveland series, I thought the Nats may get shut out two nights in a row: the 5 cleveland starters are collectively great; top 5 across the board for rotations this year. So they’re no slouches. Instead the put runs on both guys and were in a position to win both games on the road against a tough AL team. Bully for them; this gives me hope heading into their toughest road series of the year.

    Todd Boss

    28 Jul 16 at 10:37 am

  16. Robles is hurt as he keeps getting hit on the wrists.

    Todd I agreed they needed to keep Turner down to get the extra year. but i wanted him in the starting lineup the very day the clock turned over. We sent him back down and kept him there for another month after his 3 for 3 season debut. If I remember though Todd.. you were arguing that Turner was not an elite player. You thought he was middle of the road compared to the other good young SS in the game.

    Turner was an easy call. I would review every box score daily since we acquired him. Baseball is a really hard game and he just consistently dominated month after month at every level, in different leagues, different coasts, playing as lame duck PTBNL, upon promotions, dominated the futures game … everything!

    And as I mentioned a couple months ago here… Syracuse sucked and often got held to 5 hits or less a game. But Turner invariably got 1 or 2 of those hits. Just like he did yesterday when he got 3 of our only 6 hits. So he’s not one of those that only piles up his stats against sorry pitchers when the team piles up a dozen plus hits. Of course he is going to have some struggles adjusting to seeing all the MLB pitchers first time around, but he is the safest bet i’ve seen in a prospect in a long time. That speed plays every day. We need to coddle this kid like we have Harper.

    I would trade nothing but the Coles and Hills at this point for relief. Just manage our own pen better and see if the young guys can come through. Just because Storen and Co. wet the bed in the past, doesn’t mean Solis and Kelly will with proper use. Rivero should have been our swing guy this year that went up and down to AAA to cycle in some fresh arms BP throughout the season. Dusty and Rizzo didn’t have the balls to utilize their whole 40 roster. Who would we actually move out to make room for a middling relief acquisition? Belisle has been good. Treinen has been good. Solis good. Kelly good. Perez good when used properly. Solis has real swing and miss stuff, great mound presence and should be groomed for the high leverage spots.

    Marty C

    28 Jul 16 at 10:49 am

  17. Corey Seager == elite SS prospect. Turner in my mind … maybe i’m just not as sold on him as a complete player yet. I still see a skinny kid whose speed is his best attribute. I value power more than slap hitting. I’m looking at his Syracuse line … i mean there’s some power there (lots of extra base hits, 6 homers in 83 games projecting to 10-12 for a full season). Contrast that to someone like Seager; he has 17 homers as we speak, a slugging percentage above .500 for a full season.

    Who is a better SS prospect? Who would you rather have?

    Todd Boss

    28 Jul 16 at 10:57 am

  18. We don’t have enough 8 slots in our batting order. In a totally objective world, non entitlement world – Zimm, Harper, Revere, Espi, Taylor and Revere deserved to bat 8th virtually all year long.

    We would have by far the best offense in the league if Harper and Zimm didn’t kill dozens upon dozens of rallies in their entitled slots in the order this year. Murphy and Ramos have been so special that even average production around them should have wrapped this division up already.

    Marty C

    28 Jul 16 at 11:00 am

  19. I’m not sure who I would rather have as I didn’t follow Seager closely coming up as I did Turner. But I would have taken either over Espi, and let Espi be utility guy. Would you have Espi block Seager too?

    If you have both Turner and Seager play them both somewhere and move some scrub out of the lineup.

    I’ll take some speed though. And the many triples. And stolen base singles that are virtual doubles. And pitcher’s and catchers driven batty by the threat of Turner on the base paths.

    We thought Revere had speed, and he does, but Turner’s speed plays on the baseball field like very few I’ve ever seen. I would coddle him and not have him waste his energy and legs running miles all over the outfield – for the same reason they didn’t want to burn up Harper out there in center.

    Tuner will burn through enough energy and wear and tear diving back to first on all the hundreds of pick off attempts he’ll face throughout the year. Coddle him. Keep him fresh and healthy.

    Marty C

    28 Jul 16 at 11:17 am

  20. Here’s the question, now that Dusty finally seems convinced that Trea should play (perhaps with a nudge or three from Rizzo):

    – Turner in CF; Revere sits

    – Turner at SS; Espinosa sits

    – Turner at 2B, Murphy to 1B, Zimmerman sits

    Turner is a different animal than Seager. His future is more the Lofton/Raines/Henderson type. Can he be that much of a disrupter, with gap power and clutch hitting to go with it? I think he’s already better than the Dee Gordon type, who can run but has little pop (despite the ‘roids). We’ll see. It will be invaluable for Turner to have Lopes in his ear as he figures out how to use his speed for maximum effect.


    28 Jul 16 at 11:22 am

  21. KW – no, the CLE guys are excellent pitchers. I just meant in general, seems like they get shutdown by better pitchers and feast on the medium to low velocity guys. Maybe that is an impression not borne out by facts though.

    Best thing the Nats have going for them this year is a great starting rotation and a weak field. Hard to see the Mets and Marlins acting like last year’s Mets team.


    28 Jul 16 at 11:29 am

  22. Speed kills and (as an old guy) watching Turner blur around the bases is exciting to watch and disruptive to the opposite team. The Nats problem is not hitting home runs…the Nats problem is getting base runners around and Turner’s speed makes that prospect more doable. Who would i rather have? For me Turner looks like he can develop into a Ricky Henderson-lite type terror on the bases. That plays forever. I’ll take speed anyday as a prime building block.


    28 Jul 16 at 11:30 am

  23. I am a Turner fan, but I’d take Seager and Correa over him, and probably Lindor.

    Still, no shame there. Those are three All Stars


    28 Jul 16 at 11:32 am

  24. Yeah I’ll take all of those guys on my ream and find a place for them, even if they can’t all play SS. That is kind of the point .. that we have enough average to sucky players and under-performers – that anyone elite should get on the field for us rather immediately.

    And wow was Dusty slow to warm up to Turner. Perplexing.

    The other thing to note is that this coaching staff has not shown the ability to fix anyone who’s game is broken on offense. If you chalk up Ramos’ improvement to lasik and Daniel arriving as a beast, then Zimm, Harp, Rendon, Revere, Taylor, Espi all have under performed and have not shown much glimmer of successful adjustments or fixing their problems. So you better bring your game with you to this team as Dusty, Schu and Co. are not miracle workers.

    MW at least worked one miracle last year with Harp! And some unknown pitching coach retrofitted Strasburg’s mechanics to transform him to truly elite in one short DL stint. And the lasik doc worked another this year.

    Marty C

    28 Jul 16 at 12:59 pm


    This was published a month ago by Dave Cameron at fangraphs; its apropos to the conversation at hand.

    Todd Boss

    28 Jul 16 at 2:48 pm

  26. Marty, I’ve asked on several forums since last year about who did the retrofit on Stras’s mechanics. No one seems to know. I haven’t seen it mentioned in any of the stories or interviews, despite the dramatic impact. I really don’t think it was McCatty, so my guess has always been Spin Williams or Bob Milacki. Spin has the reputation for saving a lot of careers with similar adjustments.

    I’ve never quite seen the Rick Schu magic, despite what FP (his BFF from high school) would have us believe. I totally credit MW with the Bryce breakout (if little else!). I do think Lopes has had an impact on the base-running this year, and that he and Speier have tightened up the INF defense. Defensive positioning has also been considerably better; I think that’s part of Speier’s portfolio, but I don’t know. Maddux seems to have gotten through to some of the hurlers more than others, but the overall affect has been good. He certainly doesn’t hesitate to trot out to the mound.

    Wally, I’ve got no issue with the Nats getting bested by top-tier pitchers. That happens. You tip your hat and get ’em the next day. The games that kill me are when we can’t hit the #4/#5 guys from bad teams (see Brewers, Milwaukee) and anyone not named Kershaw with the Dodgers. The Nats SHOULD have a pitching match-up advantage in most series, but that doesn’t work out if we don’t clobber the back-benchers.


    28 Jul 16 at 3:39 pm

  27. Just catching up on MLBTR. Yanks apparently wanted to start the Chapman conversation at Giolito or Ross. Must have been a short conversation. For a two-month rental? That’s insane. The Royals want to start the Wade Davis conversation at Giolito as well.

    Are we looking at another Lopez start in SF on Saturday?


    28 Jul 16 at 4:03 pm

  28. That Strasburg change was so dramatic that I posted after his first or second game back that we should sign him long term right there. I’m sure Todd disagreed with me at the time. ha ha !

    Anyway… just amazing that whatever they did deception or mechanics wise turned his fastball from quite hittable to rather invisible overnight! And even more amazing since Stras was so awful last year until the switch.

    And it’s kept on working to historic proportions for over a year now. Exciting stuff. And such a happy surprise that nobody saw coming for him to re – sign with us midseason.

    Marty C

    28 Jul 16 at 4:05 pm

  29. Apparently Pap struggled again last night. Sigh. Wade Davis has been struggling as well, though, so he’s certainly not worth the big price tag right now.

    Dusty started Trea again, again still saying that it’s situational and he’s not necessarily the regular. Um, what does he have to do to prove that he’s a regular? Getting on base three times, stealing a base, scoring, and getting a two-out RBI hit off the All-Star starter on the road in a playoff environment aren’t enough for you? Really? Trea’s OBP is now .382. Revere’s is .297. That seems situational enough for me.


    29 Jul 16 at 8:32 am

  30. Strasburg: I would not have signed him, no. In fact, based on his performances over the years and injury history, I figured the Nats were going to QO him and let him go to LA. But clearly whatever was done during his mid-season DL trip did the trick; since his return in early august last year (and yes this is arbitrary endpoints to a bit): 24 starts, 16-2 w/l record, 186 IP, 240/43 K/BB ratio, a 2.51 ERA and a 0.91 whip.

    The question for me is going to be durability; yes he’s awesome in 2016. Can he keep it up? I’m not a fan of paying for a half a season … and i’m cynical of any long-term deal (who is going to like it when we’re paying Scherzer $15M to play golf for 7 years on the back side of his deal?). But its the cost of doing business these days; if you can’t develop Aces, you have to pay for them.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jul 16 at 10:28 am

  31. Bowden proposing this trade in a column today ( Wade Davis for Reynaldo Lopez and Koda Glover. We’d get Davis for 2016 (roughly $3M prorated) plus he has a $10M option for 2017.

    I’m not quite sold on liking this proposed deal. I’m personally not quite convinced that Lopez is a starter, but his stuff is electric. So perhaps you make the argument that Lopez for Davis is a like for like assuming worst case for Lopez (that he flames out as a starter but he takes his electric stuff to the back of the bullpen). Glover is clearly found gold; an 8th round pick who has rocketed up the charts; do you cash him in now? I don’t think so; i think Lopez and Glover could be 8th/9th inning guys for the next 5 years.

    Is that worth a year and a couple of months of the vaunted “proven closer” (insert TM here)?

    Todd Boss

    29 Jul 16 at 10:32 am

  32. Turner: every day he goes 2-4 at the top of the order is another day that you can’t sit him. He’s not hitting homers but his gap speed is giving him enough extra base hits to now push his slugging above .500. I’m in. I love that he’s athletic enough to immediately step into CF, or cover at 2B or play his natural SS position. I love that his career SB stat line in majors and minors is an astounding 85-14 (that’s an 85% success rate … by way of comparison, Rickey Henderson’s career SB success rate was 80.7% and even at his peak powers wasn’t stealing at an 85% clip).

    Honestly, I love that this option exists. It makes you wonder; will Rizzo look at Turner as the solution in CF for the rest of the way, or will he be tempted to acquire another OF bat (Jose Bautista?) and push Harper to CF and Turner back to the bench?

    Todd Boss

    29 Jul 16 at 10:48 am

  33. Isn’t listening to Bowden on trade proposals like having Charlie Sheen help pick dates for your daughter? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Where have you gone Wily Mo, Lastings, and Elijah . . .

    The Cubs said that the Royals wanted more for Davis than the Yankees did for Miller, who has an extra year of control. For the Nats, the packages that either the Royals or the Yanks want start with Giolito or Ross. That sound you hear on the other end of the line is the dial tone after Rizzo hung up.

    The Padres just gave the Marlins TWO starters for a 19-year-old who isn’t in Robles’ class plus junk. (A reliever with a 5.95 ERA is the definition of “junk.”) Yet we’re told that a reliever controlled for one year should cost at least two prospects who are better than the one who just netted two starters?

    I don’t know whether Lopez can stick as a starter, but I do think he’s “special.” Glover seems to be as well. They both have major-league stuff. There’s a reason other teams want them. The Nats need to hang onto them for the same reason.

    Lopez presumably is starting on Saturday. Perhaps Pap goes on the DL for that (high blood pressure, perhaps?), and then Lopez either stays in the ‘pen, or they flip him for Glover after the start. Really, considering the options, I think we’ve got to roll with what we’ve got and hope someone like Solis or Treinen steps up to claim the 9th.


    29 Jul 16 at 11:10 am

  34. KW: fair point on Bowden; at this point he’s searching for eyeballs and maybe i’m the sucker for reading it and re-peating it.

    Tangent: on Buster Olney’s baseball podcast, he floated an interesting theory; the cubs overpaid for 2 months of Aroldis Chapman, givingup a young but very good prospect. Did they do this knowning overpay specifically so as to disrupt the reliever market? Because now appaerntly when teams call the Yankees and ask about Miller the answer is “more than what we got for Chapman.” When teams call KC and ask about Davis the answer is “More than what the Yankees got for chapman.”

    Would it be secretly evil and brilliant if the Cubs did this overpay on purpose so as to completly foil the plans of any of their potential October competitors to acquire a closer-quality guy at the trade deadline?

    Todd Boss

    29 Jul 16 at 11:30 am

  35. Papelbon to the DL would be the solution the Nats have been praying for. Per pitch f/x last night, Papelbon’s average FB velocity on 10 fastballs was only 90.3, maxing at 91.3 ( This as compared to his fangraphs season-long figures of 90.9 average and 95.2 max (per Average is mostly the same even if the announces were talking about how it was “88-89.” But the fact that he couldn’t dial it up to even the 94 range was … well pretty concerning. The DL trip could be simply for “shoulder fatigue” or some BS, call back up glover, put Kelley in as the closer and boom there’s your bullpen.

    Kelley the closer. Glover, Rivero and Treinen the stoppers. Oliver Perez and Solis are the situational lefties and Petit is the longman. Like it! This plan leaves out Belisle … perhaps Glover is 8th guy out of 7 since Belisle has been effective too.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jul 16 at 11:44 am

  36. Don’t sell Solis short. He’s got some of the nastiest stuff in the ‘pen.

    I don’t know that the Cubs set out to intentionally screw the rest of the teams in need of bullpen help, but they can’t hate that that’s how it turned out. The Cubs wanted Miller but were horrified at the price, as everyone else has been. I think there were some reports that the Cubs wanted both Miller and Chapman, which really would have locked up the market. The Cubs did have the chips to overpay for Chapman, and when they did, they had to know that they were blocking others. Their top NL rivals — Nats, Giants, and Cards (and even the Dodgers) — all have been looking for back-end help.


    29 Jul 16 at 11:59 am

  37. Thinking more about it, maybe the Nats SHOULD more or less stand pat and go with the rookies. Their blueprint should be the 2003 champion Florida Marlins, who had a lot of veterans on their team (Ivan Rodriguez, Derek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, Carl Pavano), but were led in the playoffs by ROY Dontrelle Willis, 2nd year guy Josh Beckett & a young rookie call up named Miguel Cabrera. Even better, they got to the World Series by knocking off the heavily favored Cubs.

    If Turner, Lopez, and Glover are really that good, let ’em play, especially since it seems they have the potential to fill in the Nats’ holes almost perfectly.

    Karl Kolchack

    29 Jul 16 at 12:43 pm

  38. OK, here’s the ultimate how-much-do-you-trust-Giolito question. The Yanks are said to be willing to do Miller for Giolito, straight up. Gotta admit, I’d be tempted. This isn’t a two-month rental. It would basically lock down the 9th for the rest of the Bryce window.

    This strikes me as similar to the Shields-for-Myers quandary that we discussed a year or two ago as Shields had the Royals in the WS (twice) as the world still waited for Myers to show his talent.

    On the flip side, you’ve got all the “experts” who rate Giolito so highly, even though we haven’t really seen it (that goes double for Marty). I do think it’s safe to say that he’s not the next Thor. It’s also uncertain that he would go into the Nats’ rotation even next season.

    So . . . I’d be tempted. I really would. Remind of that when Giolito turns into Adam Wainwright.


    29 Jul 16 at 7:14 pm

  39. KW

    29 Jul 16 at 7:20 pm

  40. Not me, either. I think the only reason writers can say it with a straight face is his first couple of starts, which I don’t put nearly the stock in that others apparently do.

    I’d like to give the kid a chance to mature and get his command under control, and see what we have. There’s no doubt that he has command issues, but many young pitchers do, especially big guys. I see a lot of Gerrit Cole in him.

    It’s not to say that he wouldn’t be available in the right trade. Anyone would. But I wouldn’t do it straight up for Miller. If they threw in a CF, maybe.


    29 Jul 16 at 7:57 pm

  41. If Giolito is not ready until 2018, how many years do we still control him from 2018 on? I’m not sure how these contracts work.

    And how many years is that from his TJ surgery? Would that be six years already on the new elbow?

    Marty C

    29 Jul 16 at 8:11 pm

  42. Six years from 2018. Maybe 7 if he doesn’t show up again until then.


    29 Jul 16 at 8:13 pm

  43. Giolito’s TJ was in the late summer of his draft year, 2012, so we’re at four years. It will be 2018 before he’s built up to 200+ innings, at least following the Nat protocols.


    29 Jul 16 at 9:23 pm

  44. As the Nats think “need,” they also have to take the standings into account. They wake up this morning +6 on the Fish and +7.5 on the dying Mets. It’s hard to get inspired to give up one or two of your top prospects when the danger in the standings isn’t clear and present.


    30 Jul 16 at 8:36 am

  45. Even a 3rd or 4th starter far eclipses the WAR values of a “pitch-three-times-a-week” reliever, even if that reliever is Andrew Miller. I’m 100% in concurrence wiht Law; if Rizzo flips his #1 starter prospect for a year and a month of Miller I’ll be beyond pissed.

    There’s also this: Miller makes $9M! If you commit to Miller for 2018 that means one less positional FA that we can afford. For what? You’re telling me you don’t think Reynaldo Lopez at $500k/year can’t do what Miller does for $9M a year? Does he give you 18 TIMES the value of what we can get internally?

    Todd Boss

    30 Jul 16 at 10:25 am

  46. Giolito; if he hadn’t been called up to start his service clock, we would have exhaused our minor league service time on Giolito 7 years after his drafting, or after the 2019 season (of course, he would have become Rule-5 eligible so it wouldn’t nave entirely been 7 years likely). Anyway; now that he’s been added to the 40-man in 2016, he was added late enough in 2016 that he likely has missed super 2, so he’ll get 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 before becoming arb-eligible, then 3 years of arb; 2020, 2021 and 2022 before hitting FA.

    I think i have that right.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jul 16 at 10:28 am

  47. I thought Super 2 was an arbitration (ie money) function of being on the 25 man, not 40? I thought 40 man was for years of service time/control.

    I do not want to trade Giolito for Miller, but no, Lopez should not be expected to provide what Miller provides over the next 2.5 years. I also wouldn’t use the ’18 X’ analysis, because the question (to me) is whether getting Miller makes it likely enough that you won a WS. Not whether it is the better value play in the abstract.

    I think that with a good manager, Kelley can be a perfectly good closer, but he needs to not be worked back to back very often. So maybe Pap becomes Closer B, like Davey used to do, and neither works back to back. But they need 1-2 more reliable 8th inning options then they currently have. Maybe that is Lopez/Giolito but that’s a lot to ask of rookies, and Giolito at least has shown that he gets a little too amped right now.

    So i’d like to see an arm or two added to the bullpen. Could Fedde, Watson and Soto bring back both Smith and Jeffries from the Brewers?


    30 Jul 16 at 12:15 pm

  48. For the record, Miller is signed for two seasons beyond this one, at $9M per. That’s not a bad rate for a top-end closer and significantly less than Chapman and Jansen will be seeking on the open market.

    The Nats seem to be holding firm on their top four prospects, though, and I don’t blame them. It’s hard to believe that Fedde wasn’t enough to get in the game for a top reliever. That seems nuts.

    But the conversation would probably be different if the Nats had gagged all over themselves this week and the lead was down to a couple of games . . .


    30 Jul 16 at 1:34 pm

  49. Wally, I’ve seen a fair amount of buzz about Smith and Jeffress, but I just don’t see what guys at the “very good” level add to a bullpen where everyone is already “very good,” for the most part. Part of the problem with the Nats’ needs is that it would really take “exceptional” to be an upgrade, and the price on “exceptional” has gone through the roof.


    30 Jul 16 at 1:41 pm

  50. Looks like it’s Melancon, in a package that includes Rivero, or Rivero straight up, depending on whom you believe. I’ll take it, particularly if it’s straight up. Rivero is controlled for five years and has a chance to be very good, but Melancon is good enough on the back end right now and might be re-signable. And no prospect blood was shed . . .


    30 Jul 16 at 3:21 pm

  51. Now also seeing that Hearn may be part of the package, talented but very raw at A-.


    30 Jul 16 at 3:23 pm

  52. Great trade by Rizzo given the overinflated market. He got the closer they needed, and traded away a reliever in Rivero who probably needed time back in AAA but was out of options, as well as a Low A guy who wasn’t even able to stick as a starter this year. Rivero may end up giving the Pirates plenty of long term value, but the Nats needed a guy they can count on right now.

    Karl Kolchack

    30 Jul 16 at 4:33 pm

  53. The only downside is that it depletes their stable of lefthanded pitching even more. Currently, Gio, Perez, Solis and Matt Grace are the only lefties on the whole 40-man roster, and the only lefty on their Top 30 prospects list is the injured recent high schooler, Luzardo. At some point, they are going to have to trade for or sign some lefty pitching, but that’s an issue for another day.

    Karl Kolchack

    30 Jul 16 at 4:43 pm

  54. I’ll probably new post on it, but love the deal for Melancon. didn’t give up that much, dealt from depth, etc. I liked both Hearn and Rivero, but both showed their limitations this year and I like the move.

    I certainly like it more than Giolito for Miller.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jul 16 at 5:14 pm

  55. I think it is ok, not great. I like closers with big time stuff, and Melancon isn’t that. He has certainly been effective, but honestly, so was Pap before we got him. They just seem eerily similar, and so I have some concern there. And I really like Felipe a lot, and think Dusty handled him very badly. But I’m relieved Rizzo didn’t sell out for Davis or Miller. If Melancon performs, it’s all good.

    But I don’t think I’d say all the current relievers are ‘very good’. I know their ERA is great, but it feels like you could upgrade from Belisle, Perez and Pap fairly easily (Pap in his new role, that is). I’d still do that Brewer trade


    30 Jul 16 at 5:25 pm

  56. Count me in as one of those who is happy with the deal. Rivero, however, he was used, reminded me too much of an HRod type whose potential may never add up to results. I think they tested him enough. As for Hearn, it is Melancon, and the depth of left handed starters emerging at Auburn this year is impressive (Mills, Watson, Ramirez). So the organization dealt from depth, whatever the 40 man. I think Bryan Harper has a future as well.

    To see the Nats get the late inning help they sorely need without busting up their top prospects and tradeable assets is encouraging. I’d still like to see them mega package for a big big bat (bigger than Bruce).


    30 Jul 16 at 10:13 pm

  57. Hearn wasn’t demoted this year; he had a foot injury and had a GCL/Auburn rehab stint on the way back to Hagerstown. He’s a big guy with a big arm but probably profiles as an eventual reliever. He’s also raw and I would guess at least three or four years away from the show. So he’s the lottery ticket here. I’m fine with giving up someone who is still that unrefined.

    I think Rivero is what he is. There was a lot of talk about him having “closer stuff,” but I didn’t see a lot of progression in that direction. Dusty really overused him, so I’m not sure how much he has left in the tank for this season for the Pirates.

    So yeah, I think it’s a good trade for the Nats. Wally’s right that Melancon is Pap in how he pitches, albeit Pap four years younger, when he was much more effective. I would have preferred one of the overpowering guys, but the price was going through the roof. (I don’t know enough about the prospects the Yanks got for Miller to be able to compare the package that they wanted from the Nats, but I’m sure it wasn’t Giolito level.) And hey, Chapman got rocked in his first Cub appearance, so there are no sure things.

    It will be interesting to see if Pap becomes the 8th inning guy, or more of an alternate-day closer. He’s still been effective with rest, but not used every day. It will also be interesting to see if the Nats can extend Melancon so this isn’t just a rental.

    I’m not convinced that we just added the championship piece, but there’s no doubt that the trade makes us better.


    31 Jul 16 at 9:18 am

  58. Cashman has really done a nice job, and it might not be over. Gets those prospects and can resign some great relievers after the season. Pretty wild. I also think the rumors of them going after Sale aren’t crazy.


    31 Jul 16 at 12:24 pm

  59. That last post was me. I didn’t notice that my log in stuff had deleted


    31 Jul 16 at 12:25 pm

  60. Oh, I don’t blame the Yankees for getting all they can, all the more so for overvalued assets like relievers.

    Then Lucroy drops the no-trade bombshell. It was curious to see the Nats pop up as one on the teams on his no-trade list.

    One other thing about the Melancon deal: Rizzo apparently got the Pirates to chip in cash as well. That’s just amazing to me. It also worries me that we’re still doing the can’t-take-on-payroll-during-the-season thing. I thought the Werth deferral was supposed to give them some latitude on that front this season.


    31 Jul 16 at 12:40 pm

  61. Unbelievable stat: the Pirates haven’t lost a game Melancon entered in a save situation since April 2015, a total of 80 straight games.


    31 Jul 16 at 12:44 pm

  62. A Latos sighting with the GCL Nats, a month after he signed. I never thought I’d say this, but with Giolito and Lopez looking not quite ready for prime time, Latos may end up being a good insurance policy down the stretch for the starters.


    31 Jul 16 at 1:06 pm

  63. KW – Yep, it looks as though Latos is going to fill the role they originally envisioned for Arroyo.

    Karl Kolchack

    31 Jul 16 at 7:19 pm

  64. new posted on the three reliever trades.

    Todd Boss

    31 Jul 16 at 9:01 pm

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