Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats post-2016 “GM for a Day” Off-Season Priorities for filling Roster Holes


Ramos may be the toughest off-season decision the team makes. Photo via

Ramos may be the toughest off-season decision the team makes. Photo via

Another year, another playoff failure.  Beat it to death already.  Time to move on.

Lets talk about the post-season “To Do” list is for the Nats.  We’ll have eventual posts to talk about other stuff, like Tender decisions, 40-man decisions ahead of the Rule5 draft, etc.

In this post, we’ll squint at the overall roster, look at blatant holes that will need filling, and discuss how they might get filled.  Call it the cliche’s “General Manager for a day” post for the Nats this coming off-season.

Pending Free Agents we are waving good-bye to and the holes they thus leave (as per the invaluable Cots site at BaseballProspectus):

  • Mark Melancon: though i’d love to re-sign him … see later in the post.
  • Wilson Ramos: his injury is a shame for both player and team; he likely lost $50M in guaranteed FA money and the team lost a clear QO-compensation pick.  He may not even be able to catch again, which dumps him to the AL, where his market is significantly cut thanks to the lessening of demand for bat-only DH types.  Ramos is in serious career jeopardy right now; would he decamp back to the Nats on some sort of minimally guaranteed deal with performance incentives?
  • Stephen Drew: also one I hope re-signs; see later in the post.
  • Chris Heisey: one who I think is replaceable; look for another cattle call for RH bat options this coming spring training.
  • Matt Belisle: despite not making the NLDS roster, he was great for Washington this year and is worth another contract.
  • Mark Rzepczynski: He’s been very effective for us, and overall had a good 2016.  His 2015 was awful, but he was good before that.  Such is the life of specialist relievers.
  • Sean Burnett and Mat Latos: both given Sept 2016 tryouts; neither seem likely to be retained.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: worth mentioning if only for the payroll flexibility.

Total payroll “savings” from these FAs: roughly $22M.  Papelbon’s $11M, Ramos’ $5.3M and the rest total about $6M.

Guys who I think are clear Non-Tenders (probably a topic worth its own post).

  • Yusmeiro Petit: $3M option with $500k buyout for 2017; pitched poorly in 2016, didn’t make the post-season roster and should be replaceable on the roster by any number of our AAA starters.
  • Ben Revere: $6.25M salary this year, due an arbitration raise for 2017; struggled badly in 2016, lost his job to a guy who had about 2 week of CF experience and didn’t make the post-season roster.
  • Aaron Barrett: as heartless as it would be; he’s arb-eligible, still hurt, not likely to be ready by opening day and is completely replaceable as a RH middle reliever).

Total savings from these non-tenders: roughly $10M

Guys who I think its Time to Trade and the holes they thus leave.  This also may be worthy of its own whole post.

  • Gio Gonzalez: I think the Nats can take advantage of a historically weak FA market for starters and Gio’s very friendly contract (two $12M options for 2017 and 2018) and move him.  Yes he struggled this year, but if you look at what middle rotation innings eaters like him are getting these days, $12M is a bargain and he should fetch something we value.  Moving him lets some of the guys who are clearly biting on the heels of a deserved rotation spot earn it for 2017 and thus the Nats “save” $11.5M in salary for the 2017 roster.
  • Danny Espinosa: As much as I have argued against this, his 2017 playoff performance has solidified in my mind the need to move him.  He has his pros (a plus defender range wise, perhaps the best SS arm in the game, and serious power for a SS) and his cons (he hit just .209 this year, he strikes out at about a 30% clip, and his switch hitting capabilities are really in question).  Nonetheless, there has to be some demand for a 25-home run capable plus defender SS in a lineup that can afford one crummy batting average at the bottom of the order.  Perhaps an AL team that doesn’t have to also bat a sub .200 BA pitcher.

Total savings from these guys getting moved (not counting payroll received in return of course): $15-$16M.

So, adding up all three lines, assuming a steady payroll ceiling similar to this year’s and not counting arbitration raises (or Strasburg‘s new contract), you’d have roughly $47M with which to work.  Not bad.  Strasburg’s new contract will take $5M away from that flexibility (he made $10M last year, will make $15M next) and arbitration raises for Harper, Rendon and Roark will cost some cash, but that’s a post for another day.  Lets call it $30M in available FA dollars when all is said and done.

So, assuming you’re even reading this far and havn’t already started commenting and arguing about that list of players, here’s the presumed holes that losing these 10 players leaves (in order of mention above):

  • Closer
  • Starting Catcher
  • Backup Utility Infielder
  • Backup RH bench bat/corner outfielder
  • 6th/7th inning RH reliever
  • Loogy
  • Long Man/Spot starter/7th guy out of the pen
  • Backup Outfielder (CF capable)
  • Another 6th/7th inning RH reliever
  • #5 Starter
  • Starting Shortstop
  • (and not really counting the “loss” of Burnett and Latos for this discussion)

If we just filled these holes internally, what would it look like?

  • Closer: Make Shawn Kelley the closer and move up Treinen and Glover to be 8th inning guys.  This leaves a hole later on in the pen for the middle RH relievers (see below)
  • Starting Catcher: promote Lobaton to starter and install Severino as the backup.  Or switch them; honestly I like Severino’s at-bats; he looks confident.  I don’t think Kieboom is ready for the show, so it makes sense to tender Lobaton for one more year.
  • Backup Utility InfielderDifo becomes the first go-to guy to backup Turner/Murphy, but we’ll still need another utility guy.
  • Backup RH bench bat/corner outfielder: not much internally to go to; both the 2016 AAA and AA rosters are basically bereft of decent hitting prospects who might be candidates.  We’ll be trolling the FA market here for sure.  See the next section.
  • Two 6th/7th inning RH relievers: We have Gott and Martin on the 40-man; they could step up to replace these two guys like for like.  Right now we have five RH relievers under contract for 2017 (Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Gott and Martin) to go along with two lefties (Solis and Perez); that’s not too bad of a bullpen to start out with, but could be improved.  And this lineup doesn’t “really” have a long man, so you’d have to think one of Gott or Martin is in AAA to make room for a long-man (likely Martin at this point).
  • Loogy: its arguable whether we need another lefty with both Solis and Perez under contract, but they went most of the year this year with three.  Matt Grace is still on the 40-man and would be an internal option.
  • Long Man/Spot starter/7th guy out of the pen: loser of #5 starter competition (see below)
  • Backup Outfielder (CF capable)Michael Taylor, in what likely is his ceiling from here forward.
  • #5 Starter: have Sprint Training 2017 tryouts for the #5 starter between Lopez, Giolito, Cole and even Voth (who I’m assuming by that time will be on the 40-man, protected ahead of this coming off-season’s Rule-5 draft).  The winner is #5 starter, and one of the losers could be the long-man (well, if the loser is someone like Cole or Voth, who aren’t nearly as “big” of a prospect as Giolito).  There’s also the distinct possibility that Lopez’s arm is turned into a closer at some point if he can’t turn over lineups.  Check out Lopez’s 2016 splits, specifically SP versus RP and specifically the “Times Facing an Opponent” during the game; as a starter he struggles with the first time through the order, but not as a reliever.
  • Starting Shortstop: move Trea Turner to his natural position, leaving a hole in Center.

So, with my “all internal” fill-ins, your 25 man roster for 2017 looks something like this:

  • Starters: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Lopez
  • Relievers: Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Gott, Solis*, Perez*, Cole
  • Catchers: Lobaton, Severino
  • INF Starters: Rendon, Turner, Murphy, Zimmerman
  • INF backups: Difo, Robinson
  • OF Starters: Werth, Harper
  • OF Backups: Taylor, Goodwin

And we’re missing one-two spots that don’t really have natural in-house replacements: another backup infielder and a starting Center fielder.

So, looking at that 25-man roster, where do we see areas of need?  This feeds directly into the Off-season Priorities in the next section.

Quick diversion: Notice I didn’t say what position Bryce Harper is playing.  Honestly, if Turner is vacating CF and we’re waving good-bye to Espinosa, then I think you have to put Harper in center.  Here’s my main arguments for putting him in center (most of which are “anti-arguments” for those who for some reason think he cannot play center):

  1. He’s young.   He just turned 24 for crying out loud; there’s no reason he doesn’t have the youth or athleticism to handle center.  Mantle did it while hitting for power.  So did Mays.  So did Griffey Jr and Aaron for the early part of his career.  Trout plays center.
  2. He’s got the arm (he has the 2nd best statistically rated arm in the majors in 2016), he’s got the speed (21 Stolen bases this year).  And now he has years of OF experience on which to depend.
  3. He’s played there before and played well.  Here’s his career fielding stats from He had more than 700 innings in CF in 2012 and played it to a fantastic UZR/150 figure of 19.1 and 13 DRS.  He was also great there in more limited sample sizes in 2013 and 2015.  I leave out 2014 since that was his injury season and its clearly skewed as compared to his other seasons.
  4. By putting Harper in Center, you vastly open open up the roster possibilities on the FA market.  Look at the pending FA last at and compare/contrast the available options at CF versus LF/RF.

Top FA/Trade Priorities in 2016-2017 Off-season

Fantasy: I view these as not really possible but are listed as “fantasy” wish lists.  Both fixate on moving unmovable contracts, so they’ll probably remain fantasies.

  • Upgrade 1B: dump Zimmerman and upgrade offensively at that position.
  • Upgrade LF: dump Werth and the last year of his deal and find a LF-capable bopper.
  • Acquire a leading CF: back up the farm system and dump it out for a leading center fielder.  Charlie Blackmon or Andrew McCutchen are names often mentioned thanks to the precarious position their teams face.  Mike Trout is the funny name you also hear since he’s so good he’s virtually untrade-able.  Unlike Tom Boswell, and as discussed in comments here before, re-signing Ian Desmond to man CF poorly would not be my first choice either.  I’d rather go with my “Bryce to Center” plan as laid out above.


  • Corner Outfielder.   See above Harper->CF logic.  If you want to splurge (and hurt your #1 divisional rival) sign Yoenis Cespedes.   Or you could make a big splash and sign Jose Bautista to a 3-yr deal that ends the same time Harper hits FA.  Werth remains serviceable in left, where he is mitigated defensively while Bautista still has value in RF.  This is where I could see a big chunk of the $30M of FA dollars going.  Lord knows we could use another clutch hitter in the middle of the order.
  • Closer: Above I said i’d love to re-sign Melancon, but more and more it seems like he’s going to be the 4th prize in a 4-closer musical chairs race.  And he’s gonna get paid.  And I’m not sure that the Nats are going to pay him.  Per the same previously mentioned FA list there’s 5 “active” closers hitting FA: Melancon, Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman,  Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo There’s a whole slew of guys who are FA who are former closers though, names like Andrew BaileyJoaquin Benoit, Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz, Jason Grilli, Greg Holland, J.J. Hoover, Jonathan Papelbon (haha, just making sure you’re still reading), Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, and Brad Ziegler.  There’s probably even more frankly; these were just the ones who stood out as I read the list.  Now, i’m not saying most of these guys are legitimate options, but some of these guys were perfectly good as closers and got “layered” by better closers.  Take Ziegler for example: he was just fine for Arizona for a while, then got moved to Boston where he got demoted to 8th inning duties.   I’d take him as a late-innings bullpen option.  
  • Bullpen arm: middle reliever: Now, all that being said about Closers, I think maybe what the team does is install one of their existing options as “the closer” and then maybe  hire one of these former closers to be an 8th inning/emergency closer kind of guy.  That’s essentially what they got last year with Shawn Kelley and that’s worked out ok.  I’d go after some of the ex-closer guys listed above, try to get them on an affordable deal (like halfway to closer money maybe) and that’d help off-set the losses of Melancon and Belisle.
  • Veteran utility infielder: as noted above, there’s not much in the farm system here.  If you keep Espinosa and put him in this role, then this is moot .. but we’ve read over and again about his disposition when he’s not playing.  This is kind of why I think we need to move him.  He’s more valuable in trade than he is in this bench role.  I hope the team re-ups with Stephen Drew honestly; he was solid, can cover all infield positions as needed, and can probably be had for a similar deal as last year.  I’d be happy with Difo and Drew and wouldn’t be opposed to perhaps another veteran utility guy to pair with Drew and compete with Difo if we don’t think Difo is up to the task.

Less Likely:

  • Backup LF/IB bench bats: While I like Robinson and I think Heisey did a good job this year, one struggled and the other is a FA with no guarantee of returning.  I absolutely expect to see another spring training cattle call of veteran bats of the LF/1B type to compete for roster spots.  I’m appreciative of Goodwin‘s completely unexpected line at the plate upon his call up; do we think he’s a better lefty bat option off the bench than Robinson?  I’m not sure.  I also sense (based on anecdotal evidence read over the years) that Robinson is a clubhouse and teammate favorite, which might make it tougher to cut him when the time comes.  Especially with a player’s manager type like Dusty Baker.  I know this is where MartyC will cry about Matt Skole (likely to depart in MLFA this coming off-season) and I understand; its all about potential versus production and Skole never produced enough during these annual spring training “tryouts” to win his spot.
  • Catcher: Here’s where the most arguing may occur.  I’m of the belief, after watching Severino down the stretch, that he could slide right into the starting spot right now.  I thought he looked good at the plate, took confident at-bats, never looked over matched, and (here’s the kicker) *puts the ball in play!*   This lineup has too many strikeouts; Severino struck out just 3 times in his 34 PAs down the stretch.   That correlates to about 50 punch-outs over a 600-plate appearance season; that’s awesome.  He was known for years for his defense, not his bat, so if he can provide even competent ABs he could be a starter.  So i’m up for saving money on the FA market (where the catcher ranks are thin and the prices will get bid up badly as a result).  Now, I could absolutely see us re-signing Wilson Ramos to an incentive-laden deal to keep him in house and hopefully get a good second half out of  him.  Why not?  If he signs for $5-6M (basically his salary this year) and then has games played incentives that could take him up to $7 or $8M why wouldn’t he do that here instead of elsewhere?   We go into the season with Severino and Lobaton with Kieboom in AAA and when Ramos shows up we (finally?) cut bait on Lobaton and have the two remaining guys platoon.  I’d be onboard with that plan.
  • Loogy: Why spend money here?  Solis and Perez ably fill the need.  Do we need a third lefty in the pen at the expense of one of the aforementioned righties?  I liked Rzepczynski this year; would he re-sign for reasonable dollars?  Would you want him back?  There’s several interesting names on the FA list; maybe one of them can be had for cheap.


What can we get in Trade versus buying on the FA market?   Payroll implications?

  • I suspect that Gonzalez can fetch some seriously valuable resources.  He’s an innings eating 4th starter who probably thrives in a pitcher’s park and is significantly less expensive at $12M/year than what something comparable costs on the FA market this year.  So can he fetch maybe one MLB-ready player that fits a need above plus maybe one decent prospect?  Is that too much?
  • Espinosa probably fetches less, unless you can get a GM to fall in love with his power/defense combo and somehow miss his BA and his K rate.  By way of comparison, Yunel Escobar (a lesser defender with less power but more contact) fetched us two upper-level pitching prospects in Trevor Gott and Michael Brady (by upper-level I mean AA/AAA level, not top 100 prospects).  I’d guess that Espinosa could fetch a bit more since he plays a premium position.  So that could end up being more of the needs above plus maybe an additional prospect.

But who knows what we can and cannot get.  In Mike Rizzo we trust when it comes to trades; no matter how much we bitch about prospects heading out the door, you’re really hard pressed to find a trade where Rizzo got the short end of the bargain or “lost” the deal.  So lets see what he can do.

Payroll implications.  I think we could get a $20M/yr corner OF slugger, a former closer at like $6M/year, resign Ramos at $5M, find a utility infielder in the Drew $3M/year range, and then sign a couple of guys to $1.25M conditional deals like what Belisle and Heisey got and fit right into the $145M payroll budget, even after arbitration raises.


Well; that’s a lot to argue about.  Maybe I should have split this up.  But let the discussions begin!

(did I forget anyone?)

65 Responses to 'Nats post-2016 “GM for a Day” Off-Season Priorities for filling Roster Holes'

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  1. Lots of good stuff here, but no time at the moment to dig in deeply. Two quick notes, though:

    — The Royals have a team option on Wade Davis and of course will exercise it. They are said to be widely shopping him, but they wanted a huge price for him at the trade deadline, as I recall.

    My general fear on the closer front is that the Dodgers and Cubs aren’t going to let Jansen and Chapman get away, so Melancon will become the #1 target. Plus he won’t have a QO. My fear of the Nats considering re-signing him is that he’ll want a five-year contract, taking him until he’s 37.

    — Bryce likes to play CF and once lobbied that he should bump Span from there. The thinking has been that the team hasn’t wanted him there for greater fear of injury.


    20 Oct 16 at 11:12 am

  2. — Forget Cespedes. He’s going to be walking away from 2/$47.5M left with the Mets. He’s going to want something like 5/$150M. I also don’t think he’ll age well.

    — I’m intrigued by McCutcheon: RH bat, can play CF, signed for three more years, Nats just did a deal with the Pirates.

    — The Angels desperately need pitching and prospects. The Nats have more pitching to deal than anyone else. We laugh about a Trout deal, but the Nats could put together a legit package that would be tempting. I made the case for trading Danny, Cole, and whatever else for Simmons and leaving Trea in CF. Or, if Bryce moves to CF, they could target Kole Calhoun, who won a Gold Glove in RF in ’15.

    — I wonder what the price tag will be on Carlos Gomez. He rocked for 33 games with the Rangers after almost a full year of wandering in the wilderness. It’d be a huge risk to bet on him, though.


    20 Oct 16 at 1:01 pm

  3. — I want Melancon back. It might take something like 4/75 to do it, though. Is that too much for a closer?

    — My heart wants Ramos back, but a heavy catcher coming off his second knee injury? I think we have to let the Buffalo roam off to the AL. If the Nats do sign him, I wouldn’t think it would be for more than three years.


    20 Oct 16 at 1:04 pm

  4. Major Closer destinations: I’ll bet Chapman hits the open market but with a QO attached. I think Melancon to the Giants makes sense. Jansen sticking put makes sense too. And I missed the Wade Davis option; missed that in Cots, my bad.

    Todd Boss

    20 Oct 16 at 1:40 pm

  5. No QO for Chapman or Melancon since they were traded during the season. Jansen will have a QO. Giants DEFINITELY will be in closer/bullpen market. The ‘pen likely cost them the division.


    20 Oct 16 at 1:43 pm

  6. dammit i keep forgetting these details! 🙂

    Todd Boss

    20 Oct 16 at 2:20 pm

  7. C’mon, where’s everybody else? I didn’t intend to be dominating this discussion.

    Anyway, here are the questions that will guide the offseason:

    1. Are the Nats satisfied with Trea in CF and Danny at SS, or will they seek to move Danny? I join Todd in the “trade Danny” camp, but trade to get better, not just to move him along (which is sort of what they did with Escobar).

    2. Sign a closer/re-sign Melancon, or go with Kelley/Glover/Treinen/Solis? I don’t think it would be the “wrong” decision to just go with what they’ve got, but they would be better if they could get Melancon to return for a reasonable deal.

    3. Go with Severino/Loby, or deal for a catcher, and/or re-sign Ramos? I think I’m in the go with Sevy/Loby camp, although there’s a big step down offensively. Which leads to . . .

    4. Do they need to add another big bat, ostensibly to replace Ramos? Or do they just cross their fingers and hope for better seasons from Zim and Bryce, in addition to a full season from Trea, to cover the hole? I don’t know. I don’t see them getting a big-money bat, like Cespedes/Trumbo/Bautista, but they might trade for someone like McCutcheon or Blackmon.

    5. Do they trade a starter, perhaps Gio, to open a rotation spot for Lopez/Giolito/Cole? I don’t know. If they trade Gio, they’ll be without a lefty starter for at least two seasons, unless they acquire one or stretch out Solis, who was a starter for most of his injury-plagued minor-league career. My bottom line on this would be that I wouldn’t trade Gio just to move him; they had better be getting a significant everyday player in return.


    21 Oct 16 at 7:37 am

  8. Great stuff, Todd. Lots to chew on.
    Much as I dislike watching Gonzalez and his 10cent control tower pitch, he is the only lefthander the Nats have who is above A ball.
    Trading him means trading for another lefthander.

    Mark L

    21 Oct 16 at 9:35 am

  9. Here’s the weird thing that occurred to me in trying to anticipate the Chapman/Jansen/Melancon closer market: there are no current comps. There’s not a top-tier closer who has signed a FA contract as a top-tier closer. (Miller wasn’t a closer when he got his 9/9/9 deal.) The closest I can come is the arb buyout/post-arb deal that Kimbrel signed with the Braves, which will pay him 13.25/13 over the next two seasons. Pap was getting 13 per from the Phils when he was traded. Rivera’s highest years from the Yanks were at 15.

    So what’s the number for this year’s guys? Is it 13? Is it 15? Is it more? The QO number is 17. I would guess that the number for Chapman and Jansen will be around 17-18/per. That’s a luxury price for only the richest. I would guess that Melancon will have some next-tier suitors in the 13-15/per range, and probably pushed out for five years, until he is 37. So that would be somewhere between 5/65 and 5/75. Is he worth that to the Nats? I’m sure he would be to the Giants, and possibly some others.


    21 Oct 16 at 10:24 am

  10. Maybe that was too much to digest for one post. I thought it may be honestly. But i’ll bite on your questions.

    1. I think you kind of have to put Turner back at short. He’s more valuable there, its his natural position, etc. All kudos to Turner for being flexible and doing what it took, but i’m not the only person who has questioned whether Justin Turner’s blast in NLDS game 5 would have been caught by a top-notch CF.

    I’m also not in the “trade Espinosa just to trade him” camp of course … but i’m also quite hesitant to keep him given what we know about his proclivities. he just started a whole year and hit 25 bombs; is he going to be happy sitting on the bench and getting a few ABs a week? No he won’t. So you move him. Maybe Rizzo just publically says he wants to keep things at the status quo so as not to tip his hand and then does his best deal.

    2. Signing a closer. My thinking is that i’d rather buy a bat than buy a closer on the FA market. Rizzo used to be smart about closers, but his Papelbon and Melancon deals show that maybe he’s now got a weakness for them. Why wouldn’t Treinen or Kelley make a good closer? Both throw hard, both throw a tough pitch to hit, both can get 3 outs effectively without throwing more than 2 distinct pitches.

    3; save money, go in-house and then ..
    4. spend money on a bat. I’m not sure we have what it’d take to get Blackmon but maybe Pittsburgh cuts bait on McCutchen. Then again maybe not; he’s only got 2yrs/$28.5M on his deal; he’s costing Pittsburgh what we’re paying Zimmerman. Why would Pittsburgh make that deal? Only if they’re waving the flag and doing a rebuild. Which I don’t think they are; they’re still quite good. Bautista’s decline scares me a bit but maybe he can be had for 3/$60 or something. Cespedes will be pricier. Trumbo is a one-trick pony and is an AL player unless you (shudder) put Werth in RF, Zimmerman in LF and Trumbo at 1B.

    5. I’ve made my case for trading Gio and if he fetches value then so be it. Consider what we paid for him to acquire him; Milone, Peacock, Norris, Cole. That was two AAA starters, a top C prospect and a decent younger SP prospect at the time. Now that he’s got less control, you’d have to think that a package of at least half of that would be fair trade value. So a AAA starter prospect and a decent younger prospect, or perhaps two closer-to the majors prospects (one pitcher, one bat). Except we don’t need more SP we need bat depth, so maybe an INF and an OF that we could plug in as bench pieces immediately and compete with Difo and Taylor.

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 16 at 2:35 pm

  11. How about 4yrs/$72M for Chapman? $18M a year. would you do that for him?

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 16 at 2:36 pm

  12. MarkL: why do you need a lefty starter? 7 of the 8 starters in last year’s World Series were righties. DeGrom/Snydergaard/Harvey/Matz* for NY, Volquez/Ventura/Cueto/Young for KC.

    Yeah it’d be nice to have more competent lefty starters but If you have 5 solid RHPs that works for me too as long as you have plenty of LH relievers…

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 16 at 3:22 pm

  13. Closer: Here’s the thing on the closer. We’ve essentially got the same resources we had in July when everyone was screaming that we needed to replace Pap with a real closer. Glover now has a little MLB experience, and Solis is a little more established (and also proven yet again that he’s injury-prone), but it’s essentially the same crew. It’s a good bullpen when complementing an established closer.

    Now, it’s possible that the Nats have enough in-house to close decently. But if they’re wrong on that issue, it will cost them at least 5-7 games blown before they decide that they’ve got to make a move, plus some good players to get said closer.

    The Nats’ best hope in the closer dept. is getting Melancon back. They’ve got a period of exclusivity to negotiate with him. He knows the team, and they know him. I say he’s their best hope because I think the Dodgers and Cubs will open the bank to keep Jansen and Chapman. The Cubs paid a big price to get Chapman, and I can’t see them letting him walk.

    Unfortunately, if I’m reading the market that way, so are 28 other GMs. They don’t all need/can’t all afford high-priced closers, but my concern is that if Jansen and Chapman aren’t seen as really being on the market, all that will be left for the others to bid on will be Melancon (or a trade for Wade Davis), driving up the Melancon price.

    So heck yeah, I’d pay 4/72 for Chapman. But if he’s getting 5/90 from the Cubs, where will that leave us?


    21 Oct 16 at 5:22 pm

  14. SS/CF: I don’t have a problem with Trea staying in CF. The dude has NEVER had any training out there before they started sticking him in MLB games. (I also don’t blame him for not getting to the J. Turner drive, which was up against the wall. Most other OFs wouldn’t have had the speed to make it close.) So if the Nats can get a better deal on a SS than they can on an OF, get the SS. The odds are that there will be more OFs available, though. We’ll see. The bottom line is to replace Danny with someone better, or stick with what you’ve got. I’d rather have Danny in the lineup than “replacing” him with Taylor (with Trea to SS), for example.

    I hope they trade Taylor. If they keep him, Dusty will keep playing him. He’s just not going to make enough contact.

    Whatever they decide, make the deal before Christmas, so Trea has plenty of offseason time to work out at whichever spot he is going to be playing.


    21 Oct 16 at 5:30 pm

  15. Trading Gio: I agree that having a LH starter isn’t particularly essential. The main unknowns for me are 1) how healthy can we expect Stras and Ross to be? and 2) how confident are we in a full season of Lopez or Giolito in the rotation?

    On the flip side, I wouldn’t downplay Gio’s value too much. There’s going to be desperation on the starting pitching market this winter. The Nats hold a number of cards with Gio, Cole, and Voth, all of whom could eat innings in an MLB rotation. They’ve got those guys plus a 24-HR SS available without even dipping into what should be the core stock moving forward.

    I’m not sure they’re going to actively shop Gio, though. Just a hunch. They’ll listen to offers, however, but those would need to be better than what you’d expect if you’re the one doing the shopping.


    21 Oct 16 at 5:38 pm

  16. According to MLBTR, the record for a closer is Pap’s 4/50. They’re expecting that number to be shattered this year.


    21 Oct 16 at 8:42 pm

  17. I’m not sure I pay an aging closer like Melancon big money with Dusty Baker as manager. Dusty just shreds arms. He didn’t spare an inning on anyone who was going well all year. If I was Melancons agent, I would be angry at how Dusty overused him end of season – pitching almost every day and pitching in quite a few non save situations. He was being abused like a rental. Rivero too was abused early season.

    Oddly I think Treinen is a better asset not in the closer role. He is better coming in to put out fires in the middle of an inning than he is starting clean innings. He got a ton of DP ground balls this year coming in mid inning as the hitters were feeling hitterish to drive in those guys on base. But given a clean inning against a leadoff hitter, i think he’ll give up a lot more walks. His ball just naturally moves so much, especially down that I don’t think he has the pinpoint control to avoid walks to guys that are patient and hunting for them. He has amazing stuff but it’s just hard to keep all that movement in the zone. So I think he’s heartburn waiting to happen in the closers role.

    Hopefully Gott will be healthy next year and ready to pitch meaningful late inning relief too.

    Let’s get a couple bats. In case Harper doesn’t turn it around , we’ll need the potential insurance of several good hitters to support Murphy since Ramos is gone. Goodwin may deserve a long look to see if this year’s promise was not a mirage. Please just move Turner to SS and call me in 10 years. Let’s end this Espi -Taylor nonsense. No room for it if you are forced to start a very middling Werth and potential disaster in Zimmerman every day. Not to mention offense at catcher will be a complete question mark. Man am I hoping Zimm shocks us with a huge turnaround next year.

    Marty C

    21 Oct 16 at 9:52 pm

  18. I think Melancon will be good 2-3 more years. When his fastball dips under 90 in his mid-30s, it will be a new ballgame. Is he worth signing for the 4-5 years it may take to sign him knowing that he may only be what you truly want for half the contract? I don’t know. What I do know is that the Nats should be close to championship level at least the next 2-3 years, and that’s the focus period right now.

    Bats: I don’t know where “a couple” of bats would play, unless there’s some undiscovered good-hitting catcher out there somewhere. Unless the Nats trade someone from their core, the only “open” spot would be Danny’s, the OF-SS one. If McCutchen is truly available, I want him. But it would take a big deal to get him. Danny, Gio, Taylor, and Cole for Cutch. Would that be enough? Too much? Cutch is only signed for two more years.


    22 Oct 16 at 8:24 am

  19. Marty, sounds like you don’t have a lot of confidence in ‘Blow it out’ Baker.
    The F.O. sure seemed to provide Dusty with more direction than he previously had. Among other things, he was no longer doing things this year that would make Earl Weaver laugh out loud, like sac. bunts in the 2nd inning.

    Mark L

    22 Oct 16 at 9:33 am

  20. I think Dusty is fine. But it doesn’t make sense to pay out big money to a guy’s 37 year if Dusty is intent on burning him out in year 33. Dusty plays for the now with his pitchers so I’d just pay for the now.

    Even Matt Williams would have pulled Scherzer, Stras and Roark an inning earlier in a about a dozen each of their starts this year.

    Yes there is seemingly no room for “a couple” bats but we better plan to make room even if feelings get hurt. Especially those of Werth and Zimmerman. Those guys need to be platooned or marginalized if they are stinking it up the first couple months. Assuming Turner at SS, we can’t count on above average production right now at Catcher, 1b, LF, CF, RF.

    A resurgent Harper would change everything of course. Circa 2015 Harper would make up for a couple holes in the line up.

    But overall… I’m most worried about Strasburg’s elbow holding up.

    Marty C

    22 Oct 16 at 11:06 am

  21. I thought the plan in ’16 was to ease Werth into being the 3.5 OF, maybe only starting 120-30 games or so. But Revere hurt himself on the first swing of the year and was never the same, and Taylor was awful, so the alternatives to Werth weren’t very good. As it was, the wolfman had 21 HRs and 28 doubles, which is far better production than we should have ever expected from the age-37 year of his contract.

    If you want to talk about managers who overused arms and had that luck run out on them, the name you meant was Dave Roberts.


    23 Oct 16 at 8:12 am

  22. Well we did end up with a hurt Strasburg and a whole rotation of starters that pitched average to lousy in the series. But like I said, I have no real problem with Dusty. He and the staff are probably bewildered that Harper could crater like that on them right off MVP. Seems like we won the division easy, but really we still had to press everybody to the end to win the home field from the Dodgers.

    Yeah I agree Werth had a decent year for age 37. It still seemed empty somehow. I just hate his ab’s where he usually watches the best pitches go by then takes a lot of awkward swings as he’s guessing. Total gag job in that last game when it really counted. Interesting that FP alluded to the D-backs throwing at Werth in their series as maybe retaliation for him leading the mutiny on Matt Williams and getting him fired. Anyway… seems like Murphy is always looking for the first fat strike to hit, where Werth is looking for last fat strike.

    Marty C

    23 Oct 16 at 6:37 pm

  23. 1. Turner to SS
    2. CF
    Plan A: filled by a quality trade for Eaton or LoCain or Calhoun.
    Plan B : Harper to CF, big bat for RF
    Plan C: Revere plays CF
    3. Closer/bullpen: in house, small adds like Kelley last year, maybe pick up a Tyler Thornburg type
    Trade candidates: espy, Gio if good return, otherwise keep him

    Resign Drew, Heisey and replace CRob with a RHB version


    24 Oct 16 at 6:44 am

  24. A comment about Baker the supposed arm-shredder. What evidence do we have that this reputation is true anymore? I mean, one of the biggest complaints about him in the game 5 was him PULLING Scherzer too quickly.

    Here’s Scherzer’s game logs for 2016: in 11 of his starts he got lifted before he even hit 100 pitches! Never hit 120, which is the magic number where there’s demonstrated harm in subsequent starts. Do we suspect he over-worked the Pen? Treinen lead team with 73 appearances, followed by Kelley and Perez (67, 64 respectively). Clippard had 70+ appearances 5 years in a row for this team, and the prior two managers were all arguably worse with their usage than Baker this year.

    I don’t buy it. I think the Narrative of him being the manager when both Prior and Wood’s arms broke down gave him a bad rap that exists to this day.

    Todd Boss

    24 Oct 16 at 4:07 pm

  25. Werth on “empty at-bats.” Why is it a “good” thing that Werth is always near the league leader in pitches seen but its a “bad” thing if he … lets a lot of pitches go?

    Here’s the 2016 top 10 list for pitches seen per PA:

    Werth #1, followed by Napoli, Trout, Fowler, Mauer, Votto, Goldschmidt, Saunders, Martin, Bautista and Wil Myers.

    That’s pretty good company all in all.

    All in all, I think Werth is doing as much as he can at his age. 99 OPS+ figure, positive offensive war. No he’s not “earning” his contract but what 37yr old does?

    Todd Boss

    24 Oct 16 at 4:11 pm

  26. Because all those guys you listed get pitched around. That’s why they see a lot of pitches. Werth does not get pitched around. He’s just overly protective of his see a lot of pitches rep. if Trout and the others mentioned got the early count meatballs Werth watches, they would be crushing them. Just him being included in that list of players shows how odd it is.

    Also probably why Werth choked in the last game. We needed a hit but he’s not used to trying to get a hit. He’s used to trying to get a walk or maybe work himself into a late count mistake pitch against bad pitchers. That kind of stuff plays better empty stats wise over a 162 game season, but not so much when you need a hit right now.

    Rendon and Zimm also watch too many early count strikes. Our guys who play see ball hit ball (Murphy and Turner) both hit over .340 this season and were also the most impactful players in the playoff series.

    Marty C

    25 Oct 16 at 12:07 am

  27. A couple of additional thoughts:
    1. A part of the typical Rizzo “MO” has been to upgrade pitching even when it doesn’t seem required. It wouldn’t shock me to see him take a run at Rich Hill. That would make it easier to trade Gio for other needs.
    2. I really don’t think he will go after one of the big (older, more expensive) FA bats (Cespedes, Bautista, Encarnacion), and I think the ship has sailed on Harper in CF (at least as part of Rizzo’s planning). So … I think he’ll try hard for a CF upgrade through FA or trade (Fowler, Cutch, Gardner, Cain, Blackmon, etc.). A package with Gio plus others could be attractive for several of those.
    3. Ramos injury clearly hurt him significantly, but I still think he’ll get a decent 3-4 year offer, esp. since the Nats can’t QO. If he wants to stay here I could see the Nats still coming close to the 3/30 range they offered before, especially if they think he could play 1B if Zim’s bat never comes back.
    4. I agree with all that a strong, closer capable, addition to the back end of the BP would make me feel a lot better (obviously especially if they have any concerns about Kelley’s “numbness”). Melancon would be great, but I think Greg Holland seems like he might fit Rizzo’s style.


    25 Oct 16 at 6:25 am

  28. Is Center field Rizzo’s blind spot? I think it is. Well that and Loogys as we’ve discussed plenty in the past. But he just cannot help himself trying to fill the magical “lead off Center fielder” spot.

    Rizzo became GM in March 2009. Here’s the progression of “starting CFs” since and what Rizzo has done to get them:
    – He acquired Nyjer Morgan in June of 2009. Stuck with him for the rest of 2009 and all of 2010 through sh*tty performance and even sh*ttier attitude. Flipped him Mar 2011.
    – Signed Rick Ankiel in Dec 2010 and he split time with Bernadina in CF for the 2011 season.
    – By 2012 it was clear Ankiel wasn’t going to hit well enough to start, so they got smart and put Harper there. Harper, as I’ve noted many times, was a superior center fielder defensively that year.
    – In 2013 Rizzo couldn’t leave well enough alone and traded for Denard Span. He hit an empty .279 in 2013, was excellent in 2014, but was injured constantly in 2015.
    – To cover for the injured Span, the team gave 511 ABs to Michael “strike-em-out” Taylor. That was clearly enough for Rizzo, so for 2016…
    – He traded for Ben Revere. Who was awful.
    – So we took our best SS prospect and turned him into a patch-work centerfielder.

    Throughout this whole ordeal you had Bryce frigging Harper in his low 20s with great speed and demonstrated excellent outfield defensive skills (not to mention one of the premier arms in the game) camped out in right field wasting his talents. Look at the progression of acquistions above just to find a center fielder that fits his “image” of what a CF should be.

    Todd Boss

    25 Oct 16 at 9:53 am

  29. Marty: “Because all those guys you listed get pitched around

    You know lineup protection is a myth right? Numerous studies have showed that it is one of those long-held baseball statements that just don’t hold water when studied.

    Werth’s NLDS slash line: .389/.522/.667 . That’s a 1.188 OPS for the series. He was 7 for 18 in five games; how can you say “he’s not used to trying to get a hit” with a straight face?? He got on base in two of his five plate appearances in the final game. Yes it was tough that he couldn’t get a crucial RBI in the final game, but he did his part in the series.

    Todd Boss

    25 Oct 16 at 9:58 am

  30. I’m not talking about lineup protection. Just that fact that those players get pitched more carefully than Werth, especially early in the count.

    Werth is okay, but for the season bone average. And if we weren’t prisoner to his contract, we’d have looked to upgrade to a real offensive threat long ago. I’m not a ten year old kid, so I’m not so enamored of his wolfman personna and clubhouse savior rep as others. The production doesn’t match the arrogance. I bet some would label him as a clubhouse problem in fact. I’m sure some ex coaches would. But I will credit him for upping his game for the playoffs. He had more energy and played faster in the OF than he did regular season. But again, what everyone else lauds him for is what bugs me about him these last 2 years. I don’t like that passive approach at the plate for a 6′ 6″ corner outfielder. He hits long home runs. if he’s going to hit .240 anyway with few RBI’s, i’d rather he swing early for those HR’s more often.

    DaveB.. on the starting pitching front, yeah I am expecting some big signs there. Our starting pitching is on a little shakier foundation than it seems. This Strasburg injury is worrisome as it looks like something that could reoccur or pop even worse. They were probably hoping Maddux could fix Gio but that didn’t happen so he’s a weak spot. Ross’ shoulder issues at such a young age is another yellow alert spot. So that’s 3 spots you have to at least ponder having some insurance for with only the unproven Lopez, Cole and Voth poised to backfill those. Rizzo’s MO is to have that covered or even double covered.

    Marty C

    25 Oct 16 at 10:34 am

  31. Well, the infernal quest for for the “prototypical leadoff man” should be over, at least for the next six years. But the Nats *still* seem to be on the hunt for a CF . . .

    I’m the only one I’ve seen suggest a trade for Simmons at SS. I’ve seen suggestions of a trade for Villar, but he isn’t very good defensively, and he does essentially what Trea does — run a lot and pop an interesting amount of HRs. I also imagine that the Brewers would want a big package for Villar. Frankly, he’s the kind of player they need to keep and build around. Simmons, on the other hand, is a bit of a luxury for a team that isn’t going anywhere.

    The odds are higher that Trea goes to SS and the Nats fill an OF slot, though. The in-house options are Revere (likely to be non-tendered), Taylor (I hope traded), Goodwin (no way they make him a starter with no experience; might be good for splitting time with Werth, though), or Bryce. I’m on board with them moving Bryce to CF to give them more flexibility in who they can bring in, but I doubt it will happen.

    FA candidates: Desi (no) or Fowler, eh. I would think Fowler will want something like 4/50-55 or so. Then there would be plenty of trade candidates. I don’t think they would get Ozuna from a division foe, as some have floated. My fear with Blackmon is that he’d be overpriced coming off a career year, plus he’d only be in the fold for two years. Eaton is controlled for five years but of course doesn’t offer nearly as much pop. He had a huge positive defensive spike this year. Cain is only signed for one more year. McCutchen has one year plus a team option, so two total. I still think he’d be my favorite . . . unless Trout is available . . .


    25 Oct 16 at 12:48 pm

  32. Marty, I shared your hope that Maddux would get through the Gio, but the Gio slide seemed to continue. As noted, they had better be sure with how Stras and Ross are doing before they trade him, though.

    As for Werth, anything from him now is gravy. We all knew that when he signed the contract. Just thank your lucky stars it wasn’t Carl Crawford, the other big FA OF that year. The Dodgers ate $43M to release him. Unbelievable.

    As the Nats consider an OF move now, they’ve also got to think a step ahead to 2018 when they’ll have to fill Werth’s spot, and, perish the thought, 2019 when RF might be open. In fact, a good argument could be made that they would be better off playing Bryce in CF for ’17 so they can get a power corner OF bat to be the heir for Werth in ’18. The next two OFs up from the Nat farm would figure to be Stevenson, who has no power, and Robles, who everyone is still waiting to show some. Goodwin doesn’t have that much, either, in the grand scheme of things.


    25 Oct 16 at 1:00 pm

  33. Heyward, hitting .063 in the postseason, not in Cubbie WS lineup vs. RHP. Wow, talk about a bullet dodged there. Sometimes the best deals are the ones not made. The Cubs still owe him $162M!!!

    I’m still on the fence with Ramos. His surgery was done as a Nat, and his rehab has started as a Nat, so the Nats have the absolute best scoop on his prognosis. The catcher landscape is terrible. I see mentions of Wellington Castro, who is only under contract one more year. I’d be more interested in Vogt from the A’s, although he didn’t have a good year. He could be a platoon option with Severino. Or they just roll with Seve. Or they see if Buffalo would take the 3/$30M now. Is that too much for 2.5 seasons? Man, if the ’16 Ramos showed up after the All-Star break, though, fresh from not having caught half a season . . .


    25 Oct 16 at 7:32 pm

  34. I have no idea how the whole league valued Heyward as a $200 million player. Corner OF defense is not worth $160 million.

    Nats should experiment with some real platoons. This year if you platooned Heisey and Drew in a corner OF spot, they would probably have hit 40 HR. (just for example. I realize Drew not an OF)

    I just would not sign any more position players to long term mega contracts unless they are bonafide young superstars. Not because of the money but because you absolutely have to play them. We were having to play play Zimm, Werth and Harper through long slumps at the same time every single day. I’d value more offensive roster flexibility and spend the $$ on starting pitching.

    Marty C

    25 Oct 16 at 8:25 pm

  35. I agree Marty, but would take it further. I dislike signing guys to mid-level contracts of $5-10MM as those guys require playing time also. I don’t see a $6MM difference between Revere and Goodwin, or between Espy and Difo, or $3MM between Petit and Cole. If you built a roster that has young players and save the money to sign “bonafide young superstars” I think you field a much more competitive team long-term. Not just in payroll mgmt, but also by better cultivating young players.

    Andrew R

    26 Oct 16 at 12:35 am

  36. KW – I like the idea of acquiring Simmons. LAA may be one of the teams, because of Trout, that values Gio highly. Would a Gio, Espy plus a pitcher like Cole or Voth get it done? That would be a good move for the Nats, and Turner stays in CF where I’d bet he eliminates some of the defensive issues that he had.

    Then just sign Hill to replace Gio in the rotation.


    26 Oct 16 at 7:07 am

  37. The only real “downside” I see to trading for Simmons is that the Nats wouldn’t be adding a “big bat.” But do they really need another “big bat,” or just more contact, after 63 Ks in five playoff games? Simmons has phenomenal contact (7.9% K rate in ’16; 8.9% for career), although somewhat weirdly, it hasn’t translated to above-average BA or OBP numbers.

    And of course his defense is off the charts, even more so than Heyward, who was overpaid for his defense:

    I would think that Gio, Danny, and Cole for Simmons would make a lot of headway toward getting him, as well as clear more than enough cash to cover Simmons’ salary. The Angels would get two starting pitchers in a pitching-starved year, so those chips should be seem as more valuable now than usual.

    The other thing about Simmons is that he’s signed for four years, so you’d get a longer-term return on him than you’d get on a lot of the other options.


    26 Oct 16 at 12:26 pm

  38. Oops, that Anon was me, as might be suspected.


    26 Oct 16 at 12:27 pm

  39. Taylor, Cole, and Voth for McCutchen? I don’t know that the Pirates would want Gio’s contract, but they might. He’s still quite reasonably priced for a veteran starter. McCutchen is only signed for two more years, so I wouldn’t want to give up a huge haul.


    26 Oct 16 at 12:30 pm

  40. I can’t see the Nats paying the premium that Rich Hill will command in this tight pitching offseason. Hill will turn 37 in March, but I could see him getting something in the ballpark of 3/40M.

    If Gio leaves, the rotation spot would be an open spring battle among Lopez, Giolito, Cole (if he’s still here), Voth, and maybe even Fedde. Those five guys right there would be a better rotation than a quarter of the league has.


    26 Oct 16 at 12:35 pm

  41. Cutch worries me, frankly. I wouldn’t mind paying that price if I felt confident he would rebound (it isn’t a significant one), but I’m not. His d is slipping and if he doesn’t hit, is he even a Starter ?

    I don’t think the Nats need a big bat. By year end and prior to Ramos injury, I thought the line up was solid and dangerous. C is a hole right now and I’d like a solution better than seve/lobo, but no doubt it will be subpar next year. But if they improve at SS, I could live with it.


    26 Oct 16 at 1:41 pm

  42. Putting aside the question of whether the Pirates would trade Cutch after a down season (they would be selling low), why on earth would they trade him for Taylor, Cole, and Voth? Taylor has lost all prospect luster, Cole is a 5th starter with 4th starter upside, and Voth is a AAAA starter with 5th starter upside, who’s probably a long man in an MLB bullpen. This is a pupu platter of mediocrity. Taylor is the only one of these guys that still has any star potential, but the probability of him ever being an above average regular is incredibly small. Even with the down year, Cutch at $28/mil for two seasons is a bargain. To get him, you’d have to trade these three guys PLUS a real asset like Lopez or Giolito, and even that probably wouldn’t get it done.

    The package for Doug Fister blows this package out of the water, and, although he has had a fine career and was a good Nat, Doug Fister is no Andrew McCutcheon.


    26 Oct 16 at 2:15 pm

  43. No way players like Lopez or Giolito would be in a deal for two years of Cutch, or two years of nearly anyone else. Fedde might be included, since he’s a bit farther from the majors and from the top of the prospect charts. As for Voth, he’s been hit hard in the AZ Fall League, leading one to wonder why he’s there at all after a pretty solid AAA season. His value has gone nowhere but down.

    The deal I put out there was mainly thinking the Pirates would want to cut salary. A deal of Gio, Cole, and Taylor, and maybe Danny on top of that, would be much better in terms of MLB-ready talent, but I don’t know if the Bucs would want to take on the Gio and Danny salaries. Taylor is in there simply to back-fill CF for the Pirates.

    Wally, Cutch’s defensive stats look like a roller-coaster well before last season. I don’t know if that says more about his defense, or about defensive stats.


    26 Oct 16 at 2:34 pm

  44. The last four years, Andrew McCutchen has been worth 8.4, 6.8, 5.8, and .7 WAR. This averages to 5.4 WAR a season. The Fangraphs projection has him at 3.7 for next year, so we’ll use that and assume a .5 decline for 2018. You’re getting 6.9 WAR over two years – the same two years you still have Bryce – for $28 million. On the open market that would be worth roughly 2x as much at $8 million/WAR. I would happily give up Lopez plus the pupu platter for that, and I think Rizzo would too. Giolito is a tougher sell for me, but a player like Andrew McCutchen is what you want when you sell your best prospects.

    The reason you wouldn’t trade Lopez/Giolito is because you think McCutchen’s 2016 is his new normal. Given the precipitous decline – he was worth almost 6 wins the year before his clunker – I’m bullish on him next year. In general, multi-skilled players don’t fall off a cliff like that. The guys that crater tend to be one dimensional Ryan Howard types.

    Notwithstanding all of this, even if the Pirates wanted salary relief, they could do much much much better than Taylor, Cole, and Voth. They could probably do significantly better than Lopez, Taylor, Cole, and Voth. And Gio + Danny is more salary than McCutchen. From the Pirates’ perspective, the reason to deal Cutch is to move some of the value he has in the present to the future, and to benefit from the fact that his salary is well below his market value as a player. Guys like Gio and Danny don’t really get you the future value part. And neither do Taylor, Cole, and Voth because they’re just not that good.

    A package that does get the deal done probably starts with Lopez AND Robles, or Giolito and a lesser piece, which probably makes it too rich for the Nats’ blood.


    26 Oct 16 at 3:24 pm

  45. I think McCutchen still has considerable value, otherwise I wouldn’t be advocating that the Nats consider trading for him. But he’s only got two years left on his contract (at a very good rate for a player of caliber). He’s also coming off a “down” year, and the Pirates would know that they’re selling low.

    For the Nats, I don’t think two years of McCutchen are worth guys at the Lopez/Giolito/Robles level. Six controllable years of one or more of those guys is a high commodity on today’s market. As I said, I might throw Fedde into the mix, but not the top-level guys. I’m not saying that they’re untouchable, but you would need to be getting more than two years of control in return.

    The other piece of this puzzle is that the Pirates are still a very good ball club who are in a position to contend, at least for a wild card, with a few tweaks. What they really need is starting pitching, and the Nats hold all the cards on that front. Yes, Gio would have a higher salary, but where are you going to sign a guy of that caliber for 2/24M? Cole is an MLB-ready back-of-the-rotation guy. Yeah, he’s not going to get the world on fire, but for a comparable arm from the FA market this year, it will cost you something like 3/30M. “Pu-pu” arms like these all you wish, but a lot of teams will be killing for them this offseason.

    Perhaps not so much with Voth, I agree, but I still think he’ll be a major-leaguer, probably not with the Nats, and maybe a Milone type who kicks around with several teams, but he’ll pitch in the show for a few years. But I’ll agree that not all teams will value him like others will.

    Oh well. I’ve probably staked out the Rizzo side of the argument, and you’ve got the Buc side, so who knows if there’s middle ground. Personally, I’m not sure that the Bucs should be looking to trade the heart of their lineup, but there’s been a fair amount of speculation that they may be.

    So who would you give up more for, two years of Cutch, or two (arb) years of Blackmon?


    26 Oct 16 at 7:26 pm

  46. I’ll add that the reason I started looking at shortstops is because I thought the general CF market is going to be overpriced for what teams will want in return.

    The Nats do have a fair amount to offer, but I really don’t see them dipping into their top prospects or their everyday core, other than Danny. But you’ve got Espinosa, Gonzalez, Cole, Taylor, Revere (before the non-tender), Goodwin, Difo, and Voth who are tradeable without really damaging the core or the prime prospects. Those are a fair number of chips.


    26 Oct 16 at 7:35 pm

  47. From MLBTR: “If the Pirates do explore dealing McCutchen, it’s unclear what kinds of proposals they’ll get. The team could point to his fine performance down the stretch (he batted .284/.381/.471 from Aug. 1 through season’s end) as evidence that the old Cutch is back, although it’s not clear how convincing that line of argument will be. There’s also the possibility that the Pirates could receive underwhelming offers but make a deal anyway, figuring it’s better to deal a player who might continue to decline before more poor performances and/or the ticking clock of free agency further depress his value.”

    Yes, I’m making an “underwhelming offer.”


    26 Oct 16 at 8:33 pm

  48. If I was the Pirates, i’d basically say “I’m selling low on McCutchen if I try to trade him this off-season” and may try to reload instead of blowing things up. They still have good arms under contract at good rpices and a good core

    Todd Boss

    26 Oct 16 at 9:17 pm

  49. Without considering salaries, I think the next two years of McCutchen are likely to be more valuable than the next two years of Blackmon. Neither is great in the field, but both can play a passable CF (FWIW, I think Bryce can play a passable CF). Cutch has a much stronger track record with the bat, and I have real concerns that Blackmon’s production has been inflated by Coors. The main things in Blackmon’s favor are (1) his best season was his most recent whereas Cutch’s worst season was his most recent; (2) he’s a good baserunner now whereas Cutch hasn’t been for a while; and (3) he’s lefty and Cutch is righty, which is good for the Nats’ lineup balance (though getting more lefty is less important to the lineup in 2017 than it was in 2016). Shockingly (to me, anyway), Cutch is actually a few months younger than Blackmon, though he’s got a lot more miles on the tread.

    MLBTR projects Blackmon’s salary in arbitration to be $9 mill this year and I’ll just guess and say he gets $12 mil in 2018. I still think two years of McCutchen is worth quite a bit more than two years of Blackmon plus $7 million.

    I would love to get McCutchen for the underwhelming offer. But I have to think the Pirates will need to get somebody back who has a chance of becoming an above average regular, and I don’t think any of Taylor/Cole/Voth fit that bill.


    27 Oct 16 at 10:32 am

  50. I pretty much agree with the Cutch vs. Blackmon breakdown. I fear the trade cost of Blackmon might actually be the higher of the two since he’s coming off a career year, which is part of the reason I’ve been more interested in Cutch. The other, of course, is the thought of having two MVPs in the middle of the lineup.

    Blackmon is .900 career OPS at Coors, .727 on the road. Curiously, he’s hit 37 HRs at home and 37 away. He actually hit 17 of his 29 in 2016 away. He also hit basically a third of his career HRs in one season.

    The other name I’ve seen is Adam Eaton, who is younger than the other two, signed for five years, and better defensively. He’s not as much of a big pop guy, though, and would probably bat #2 in a Nat lineup.

    I don’t know, as I mentioned above in connection with Simmons, how important is another “big bat”? If you add a trade of Espinosa on top of a prospective loss of Ramos, that’s 46 HRs gone from the lineup. But improved contact might generate runs in other ways.

    FWIW, I would also be on board with a move of Bryce to CF. I wonder if that will be less of an issue in the calculus since they now have a prototypical leadoff guy who doesn’t have to play CF.


    27 Oct 16 at 12:00 pm

  51. Here’s another thing that is probably worth discussing, and maybe even a separate post during the long winter: how do the Nats build to extend the “window”? How much is that a part of potential trades now? Two-year guys like Cutch or Blackmon might help during the window but then also contribute to its more rapid closing. That’s part of the appeal to me in looking at guys like Simmons (4 yrs.) or Eaton (5 yrs.).

    The Nats have long runs left with the starters with Max, Stras, Ross, Lopez, and Giolio, and still three years with Roark. But the everyday lineup is going to turn into pumpkins much faster: Ramos (0), Werth and Danny (1), Murphy and Harper (2), Rendon and Zim (3) (with an option on Zim for a 4th year). That’s everyone in the everyday lineup except Trea potentially gone by 2020.


    27 Oct 16 at 12:18 pm

  52. I’m not at all concerned about getting another “big bat.” I’m concerned about getting good players. Position players can contribute value in many different ways – power, batting avg., OBP, speed, defense, etc. The point is to score a lot of runs and to prevent the other team from scoring a lot of runs. So long as the output is improved by a particular acquisition – the team is likely to score more runs and/or allow fewer runs post-acquisition – I don’t really care whether the output is improved by a “big bat” or by a “speed and defense” guy.

    In terms of position players, how can the Nats improve. Even if there are better players in MLB at 2B, 3B, and RF, it’s really hard to improve upon what the Nats have at those positions (even if Bryce underachieved last year, how many guys in MLB would you bet money on being better than him in RF in 2017? Not many for me). The Nats are somewhat hamstrung at LF and 1B even though both positions are eminently improvable (1B especially). So that leaves three up the middle positions for the Nats to improve – C, SS, and CF.

    Unfortunately for the Nats, these are the three hardest positions in baseball to fill with good players. Fortunately for the Nats, they can fill two of these spots with in-house players. They have one guy who can play SS (Turner) and two guys who can play CF (Turner and Harper). They need to get somebody who can play SS or CF/RF. I think there are more guys who can play MLB-average RF, so there have got to be more options out there to fill RF than SS or CF. And because there are more choices for those slots, the competition among buyers of those players is (probably) less likely to result in a huge overpay. So I’d prioritize looking for someone who can play RF, but open to anybody who can play RF, CF, or SS. I’m afraid the options/solutions at C are just not very good and am resigned to that being a black hole next year.

    As for Andrelton Simmons, he’s DEFINITELY better than Danny because his defense is exceptional, even if his offense is not (it’s comparable to Danny’s – career 85 WRC+ to 86, though Simmons is more consistent). I would be open to trading for him, but I wonder if the cost will be too high.

    And Eaton is great and a good target, but I suspect the price will be really high (higher than Cutch or Blackmon for sure). I’d love to have him though.


    27 Oct 16 at 1:36 pm

  53. I’d love Eaton and would pay up for him. Either he or Bryce could bluff their way through CF for a year until Robles is ready.

    I just don’t see Cutch happening. Too much risk to pay up for him as a premier player. And, If the Pirates sold low on Cutch, that’s a red flag since they are quasi-contenders who could really use a star. So it looks to fail either way.

    I’ve never loved Blackmon, although I know many do. I’d target Cain instead. 1 year of control is ok and at least he has an injury excuse to explain the poor performance.


    27 Oct 16 at 1:40 pm

  54. Simmons’ overall offensive value is similar to Danny’s, but he’s far ahead in my book because he almost never strikes out. The Angels really need starting pitching and prospects, and they did a deal with the Nats last offseason, so they could be a potential partner for discussions about Simmons or Calhoun.

    We haven’t talked much about free agents, other than closers. I’m assuming that Cespedes will want 5/125+, and I want no part of that, although Rizzo chased him last year and when he came out of Cuba. I have no inclination to see the Desi show again. Carlos Gomez doesn’t make enough contact, either, although he might come for something like 2/14 after a couple of years of struggle and could play CF.

    Then there’s . . . Reddick. He likely won’t have a QO, he has a relatively low K%, and has had decent pop in the past. I could see him available in the 3/27 type neighborhood. Bryce would have to play CF, but you’d fill one of the OF slots with a solid 2-3 WAR guy without giving up anything.


    27 Oct 16 at 2:53 pm

  55. KW

    27 Oct 16 at 4:03 pm

  56. Jeff Todd at MLBTR has Reddick getting more like $11M per year. That’s still not bad, all things considered.

    But could Goodwin do similar things? I don’t know, but I doubt it. I’m not that bullish on Goodwin ever being a starter, at least not with the Nats.


    27 Oct 16 at 7:44 pm

  57. Drew Ward may have some value with a strong showing in the AFL. I also think Gio is exactly the type of guy the Pirates like to reclaim with a reasonable salary and a decent track record. Those two start the deal for Cutch and perhaps two guys like Soto and Cole along with them? Or sub Goodwin or MAT for Soto if they’d prefer.

    Andrew R

    27 Oct 16 at 8:55 pm

  58. I don’t think Soto is going anywhere unless the return is along the lines of Trout or Goldschmidt. He may be a faster riser than even Robles has been.

    To me, I’ve got enough concerns about Ward (Will he hit for enough power for a corner guy? Can he stick at 3B?) that I would be willing to include him in a trade for a significant player, but others may not. The Nats are pretty thin on position players in the upper minors who are legit prospects, and he’s one of the few. He’s hitting better in the AFL than he did at AA, and showing good plate discipline, but still no power. Doesn’t turn 22 until next month, though.

    I’d trade Taylor in a heartbeat. The 31.9% career MLB K rate is a killer for me.


    28 Oct 16 at 7:14 am

  59. As for my own deal suggestions, upon further review, would signing Reddick and benching or trading Danny really get the Nats ahead over just playing Danny at SS one more season and keeping Trea in CF? I don’t know. That should be the bottom line in all of this: if they make a deal, it should be one that makes them demonstrably better. The same goes with trading Gio.

    At the same time, I do understand making certain trades while a player still has some value. I understood why they traded Clippard with one year left. Two years of Escobar should have gotten them more than it did. But I get why they make these deals. Danny won’t get a QO, so they’d get nothing for him after ’17.


    28 Oct 16 at 7:58 am

  60. I’m more open to Bryce in CF than I was in the past. I thought it would tire him out and affect his hitting. This last year presented enough questions about the level of player that I’m more willing to run that risk. Plus I no longer think they have much chance of extending him,
    So I’d maximize his short term value. And switching to CF so they can bring in a big bat for RF opens up a lot of opportunity

    I agree with KW that Soto is only going for a surer thing than Cutch.


    28 Oct 16 at 9:34 am

  61. In looking at the free agent list, I came up with an idea that I’ll call the Brandon Moss Concept. I would prefer that the player at the center of it strike out less than Moss does, though, although he’s the archetype until we come up with someone better.

    Here’s the deal: the Nats need a LH hitter who can play LF and 1B and platoon some with both Werth and Zim, perhaps start a third of the time for each of them or so. Robinson can’t do it because he hasn’t hit well enough to be a pseudo-starter. Drew might could do it, but he hasn’t played the positions (and is a free agent).

    I know that Werth and Zim will still be here and will still be the primary starters. But being the primary starter could mean 120-30 games, not 150 . . . unless Zim really turns it around. Zim only played 115 games in ’16 anyway.

    Would Werth, Zim, and the Lerners buy this concept? If so, is there a better quasi-regular available to fill the role than Moss?


    28 Oct 16 at 2:47 pm

  62. While I like the idea of improving on CRob, I’m not sure Moss will be cost effective. What if they picked up a Travis Shaw type in a trade? I haven’t looked around to see others in that category but there have to be several. You’d think some young pitching would make that work.


    29 Oct 16 at 8:18 am

  63. […] An analysis of the roster/GM for an Off-season post […]

  64. […] 2016: we non-tendered Ben Revere, waived Aaron Barrett before having to make the NT decision, and declined Yusmeiro Petit‘s option as a way of “non-tendering” him. […]

  65. […] 2016: we non-tendered Ben Revere, waived Aaron Barrett before having to make the NT decision, and declined Yusmeiro Petit‘s option as a way of “non-tendering” him. […]

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