Nationals Arm Race

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

Huge Over-Pay for Eaton


Eaton should be this excited moving to a playoff contender. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Eaton should be this excited moving to a playoff contender. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.”

So said Joe Sheehan, more than 13  years ago on Baseball Prospectus.

Well, the Nationals just traded three very, very good pitching prospects for one very good outfielder in a move that was shocking to baseball insiders, let alone Nats fans.

In case you’re not sure what we’re talking about: Nats acquired Adam Eatonhe of the 6-win 2016 season and his ridiculously team-friendly contract (he’s signed with options through 2021 for just a measly $38.4M).  In return we gave up three of our four best starting pitching prospects in the form of Lucas GiolitoReynaldo Lopez and 2016 1st rounder Dane Dunning.

To put things in a different way: we just acquired 5 years of Eaton for a combined potential of nearly *twenty* years of  rotation pieces for the south siders.  We likely made their rotation for the next decade with this move, even if you take an entirely pessimistic viewpoint of the ceilings of all three of these players.

For me; it was too much to pay (in case you couldn’t tell how I felt from the title of the post).  The Nats just traded away literally all their near-to-the-majors starter depth in a complete win-now move that, while I’ve been advocating for it, seemed like an overpay.  I could see/make the argument for Giolito and Dunning, or Lopez+Dunning, but all three seems gratuitous.  Ironic because i’ve just beek talking about not over-valuing your prospects.

The best case scenario for these three arms is a #1, #2 and #5 starter for years to come.  But since best case is never going to happen, lets take some worst-case scenarios for these three guys we just traded.  I know Giolito’s critics are large here, but bear with me:

  • Giolito never harnesses his control and turns into essentially Alex Meyers.
  • Lopez never develops a secondary pitch and is turned into a late-inning 100-mph reliever
  • Dunning’s craftiness only takes him as far as a 5th starter or middle-relief guy for a middling team.

Still, that’s three major league arms, cost controlled first round talents with their bonus money already paid for.  The reality will be somewhere in the middle.

What this deal says is the high price of a good contract.  Eaton is getting paid absolute peanuts compared to the value he’s producing, he plays (or can play) a valuable position, and that’s really what the cost was all about.  If Eaton was on a $18M/year contract he’s only costing one of those three arms in return.

The last time the Nats did this big of a prospects-for-players deal it was the Gio Gonzalez move.  And at the time I wasn’t nearly as negative towards the price as I am for this one.

Fallout/other observations from this deal:

  • The White Sox have now gone from having a farm system ranked in the 22-23 range to inarguably the #1 farm system in the game.  In like two days.
  • Lots of head scratching amongst baseball insiders, announcers, prospect guys.
  • Interesting that literally as soon as this trade occurred, you started seeing people “in the know” talking about how the Nationals had “soured” on Giolito.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about it soon; whispers about work ethic and approach.  Where were these comments yesterday?
  • Get ready for spot-starts from A.J. Cole and Austin Voth; you don’t get through modern baseball seasons on 5 starters anymore, and we don’t exactly have the most reliable rotation.
  • I suspect Danny Espinosa (who is now patently surplus to requirements) gets flipped for hopefully an optionable starter to give us some more depth.  I like Voth and am excited to see what he can do … but i’m not trusting him to give this team 4-5 starts and compete.
  • Our respectable farm system is now gutted: no matter what you think of these three arms heading the other way, they were #1, #3 and #6 prospects in our system.  We have mortgaged the future for the present in a large way.

Nats new Lineup:  Eaton (CF), Turner (SS), Harper (RF), Murphy (2B), Rendon (3B), Werth (LF), Zimmerman (1B),  Norris (C).  Decent lefty-righty balance which could be stretched a bit if you broke up Harper & Murphy.  Eaton makes a bit more sense at leadoff since Turner has proven to have a bit more power than we thought, and Eaton is a lefty, but I could see them switched and then going Harper-Rendon-Murphy or something like that so you don’t have 3 lefties in a row.  But this is now a pretty fast lineup at the top.

So, what say you?


64 Responses to 'Huge Over-Pay for Eaton'

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  1. Turner has to be leadoff. The speed and disruptiveness is not even comparable.

    I would bat Murphy 3rd. 5th is out of the question as he’d have significantly less ab’s over the course of the season and we’d hate to see him in the on deck circle when last outs are made with men on base.

    Marty C

    7 Dec 16 at 8:25 pm

  2. re-posted:

    This is an overpay with a delayed reaction. As Lopez is the only one we’ll even notice was gone from our team for the next year at least.

    But the bad guy in this is the whole organization that depressed Giolito’s value from Roger Clemens level to a trade throw in. Somebody on the inside should have known better than to call him up when he wasn’t ready or at least wasn’t ready at the time to display #1 type tools and talent. A year ago we could have traded him for a few Adam Eatons. That’s some criminal asset management.

    Eaton is a very nice piece though. He’s improved as a hitter at the big league level to exponentially increase his value, which is something a guy like Goodwin might also do now if he ever gets a chance.

    Marty C

    7 Dec 16 at 8:28 pm

  3. A big overpay, but an overpay from strength.

    There’s a gasp at first but the position players are still here.

    If you are a big WAR person this is a good trade for the Nats.
    If you are not,a lot of trepidation..

    They still have Robles, Stevenson, and Ward. the future still looks good.

    Mark L

    7 Dec 16 at 8:45 pm

  4. This is a big price. I love Eaton though, so I’m just going to enjoy the next couple of years and let the future happen when it happens. Rizzo has been a quality GM and I’ll just hope he figures out how to replenish.

    It does have the feel of Rizzo going all in, and like KW said in the last post, I’m a little worried that he’ll trade Robles for Colome next. Which I definitely do NOT want to see happen.

    I’ll be interested to see what he does with the rest of the roster this winter. Where goeth Espy? Who closes? I’ll hang up and take the answer off the air


    7 Dec 16 at 8:53 pm

  5. One other point, kind of unrelated. But is it just me, or does it feel like the national media types look for ways to slam the Nats? Like they make up rumors of guys they are after, then mock them afterwards about never being able to sign or trade for them?


    7 Dec 16 at 8:55 pm

  6. What say me? Me say not pulling the trigger on Giolito-for-Andrew Miller last summer (in addition to acquiring Melancon) may well have cost the Nats a World Series title. What changed about Giolito to make him go from untouchable July to easily expendable in December? I don’t get it.

    Karl Kolchack

    7 Dec 16 at 9:00 pm

  7. I’m a big “prospect” guy, and I was insistent all along on trying to deal from the more expendable guys, but that’s not what teams want these days.

    I said during the summer that the Nats were bringing up Giolito and Lopez in part because they needed to know what they had for planning purposes. They found out, and Giolito got devalued a bit, but far, far from being considered a “throw-in.” He’s still the headliner here.

    Eaton had the #4 OF fWAR in baseball last year, behind Trout, Bryant, and Betts. That’s elite company, the “quiet superstar” as they called him on FanGraphs. The Nats now have him for five years for peanuts, which will give them flexibility to make other moves.

    It was a big price, but I think it will be worth it, maybe even if Giolito turns into the next Wainwright. As I said on the last post, Eaton extends the window. He and Trea are ours beyond Bryce, Murph, Zim, even Rendon. But he helps right away as well. An OF or SS was THE #1 priority, and the Nats got the best one available, as well as the one who is controlled the longest AND who gives them financial flexibility.

    But we don’t have to hope that the trio leaving fails so we can feel better about the trade. It seems like a win/win to me. With Trea, Eaton, and Bryce, there isn’t going to be a more exciting team in baseball. Let’s hope there’s also not one that’s any better.


    7 Dec 16 at 10:21 pm

  8. Having traded most of their SP depth, the Nats are now going to have to figure out what to do about the bullpen since they’ll only be an injury or two away from needing to over rely on it again. I have this recurring nightmare in which the team is battling for first place in late July and finds itself again getting held over a barrel while looking for a reliable closer or a decent lefty arm.

    A nine figure deal for Chapman would of course be ludicrous, and unlikely to happen. So far, nothing I’ve seen this offseason contradicts my previous assertions about the Nats holding down payroll because their attendance declined last year despite their great season.

    Karl Kolchack

    7 Dec 16 at 10:56 pm

  9. Maybe a big overpay, but I’ll agree with KW … this trade helps the team a lot in 2017. It also stabilizes that outfield as Werth leaves after next year, and potentially Harper after that, with a VERY team-friendly contract. I can dream on this being an acquisition much like Murphy last year, that seemed like a let-down at the time, but ends up being a nice step forward that allows us to not care at all about how well the White Sox are doing with all those guys.


    8 Dec 16 at 6:14 am

  10. I’m glad the Nats didn’t overpay for Chapman, and I’m glad that the top LH reliever is now in the AL. Looks like Jansen may end up in Miami, though, with the Fish making a bizarre allocation of resources. That means we’ll see him more in the regular season, but not with the Dodgers in the playoffs.

    Here’s a little statistical love for the trade, or at least for Eaton’s potential:

    Marty, you asked yesterday who the “next Murphy” is. This guy looks like a good candidate.


    8 Dec 16 at 6:19 am

  11. Dave, I was posting the “next Murphy” line at the same time you were.


    8 Dec 16 at 6:20 am

  12. Karl, as I tried to digest the trade, one thought was that the Nats really seem to be banking big on Fedde, and maybe Voth to a lesser extent, even though they did pass him over with the Giolito and Lopez promotions last summer. For comparison, here are the minor-league only stats:

    Fedde: 3.12 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .254 Avg. against, 123/29 K/BB, 9.1 K/9

    Voth: 3.15 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .232 Avg. against, 133/57 K/BB, 7.6 K/9

    Giolito: 2.97 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .239 Avg. against, 116/44 K/BB, 9.1 K/9

    Lopez: 3.21 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .220 Avg. against, 126/35 K/BB, 10.4

    I know that there are differences in levels and age to be considered, but it’s an interesting breakout nevertheless.


    8 Dec 16 at 6:35 am

  13. To clarify, those are the minor-league-only numbers for 2016.


    8 Dec 16 at 7:56 am

  14. Nats now said to be in the mix for Jansen, along with Marlins and Dodgers.


    8 Dec 16 at 8:24 am

  15. Yeah Eaton looks good. Think Rizzo appreciates the consistency now rather than the boom or bust streak hitters we’ve all suffered through. Eaton looks like what we all hoped Espi would evolve into.

    Todd must be livid though as he doesn’t think any of our 5″8″ prospects with bat skills could possibly make an impact in MLB.

    Seriously though, I think this speaks to the fact that Rizzo must consider we have some sneaky depth in our pitching prospects that are off the radar a bit. Specifically all the recent Dominican additions. There are so many of them with similar sounding names at the lower levels that it’s hard to focus on them. Maybe Fore can give us a real picture of all these DSL alumni to keep an eye on that may have real talent but are off the radar to most.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 9:25 am

  16. So, one thing I meant to put into the post but which I forgot (I was really scrambling to put that out there quickly yesterday), was the following observation:

    Here’s the starters that the Nats currently have and their contract expiration dates:
    – Scherzer: signed through 2021
    – Strasburg: signed through 2023
    – Ross: controlled through 2021 (I believe, 2020 if i’m wrong)
    – Gonzalez: signed with options through 2018
    – Roark: controlled through 2019.

    So save a massive injury, the earliest the team really “needs” a starter is the 2919 season. Yet here we stood with no less than four guys at the AAA level who really have little left to prove in the minors. Cole, Voth, Lopez, Giolito. (Ok yes all four could still use some seasoning of course, but the major point is that they all have shown they can get AAA hitters out for the most part). So you can make the argument that no matter how good you may think any of these arms are, we had no room at the inn for them and thus somebody was getting traded. I guess my “hope” was that we’d take advantage of the weak FA ptiching market and move Gonzalez to make room for the winner of a Lopez/Giolito spring training competition, but as the winter has rolled on it also seemed like the team was down on Ross, potentially opening up two spots for trade.

    Well, now we know what the team will do; instead of moving the established MLB players to make way for the budding rookies, they went the other way, flipping the budding rookies. Its hard to argue with their logic, especially when looking at what came back (in terms of talent and contract obligations of Eaton).

    And, as noted elsewhere, this now clears a path for Fedde as the “next big thing” coming up the pike. I had him projected as starting in AA with an eye to jump up to AAA, but now there’s two big rotation holes in Syracuse that weren’t there before. In fact, with Espino signing elsewhere the Syracuse rotation now looks barren for 2017.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 9:29 am

  17. I don’t for a second believe the Nats-on-Jansen rumors. Most likely that’s just “the Nats need a closer” being talked around a circle along with “Jansen is still available” through “they should call” becomes “Nats are in.” Nothing to see here.

    As for Eaton, the analytics folks (Brian Kenney, Fangraphs) really like the acquisition. The old school fans and talking heads are aghast with the Nationals. Which, as Wally noted, is pretty much their default position – so it’s neither new nor unexpected. They ripped Rizzo all last offseason, and have yet to apologize for being wrong. It’s pretty much an occupational hazard for a big league GM, particularly one that doesn’t schmooze the talking heads. Along with the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” reality about trading prospects.

    I don’t like the whisper campaign, and I wish they’d knock that off. I don’t know the source for that, though – and I bet Rizzo would like to know.

    John C.

    8 Dec 16 at 9:34 am

  18. For ESPN insiders, Keith Law’s take on the Eaton trade:

    he wasn’t quite as negative about it as I thought he’d be. He titled his post “Did the Nationals overpay for Adam Eaton?” but then doesn’t entirely answer his own question. He does basically allude to Eaton’s 4-6 win seasons and his contract and doesn’t kill the Nationals for giving up what they did. He confirms what i’ve repeated often about the cause for Giolito’s issues in 2016 … and mentions what is also well known in the industry (that the White Sox’ pitching coaching staff led by Don Cooper is excellent at developing pitching) and which gives me nightmares … that basically the White Sox will “fix” Giolito and he’ll quickly turn into the stud he’s long been projected to be and make the Nationals look stupid for making this trade in the first place.

    I’m not re-litigating this issue; just pointing out the facts. Giolito was absolutely in the running for 1-1 overall in his draft year and while yes sometimes those guys don’t pan out, more often they do, especially in the new modern age of drafting. If he turns into a top 10-15 arm in this league, that’s a heck of a lot more valuable than a good outfielder on a great contract who has never made an all star team.

    That’s how the narrative will go, especially for those in the media who trash the Nats management first and ask questions later (as noted elsewhere in this thread … yes I agree with you Wally that this team does NOT get the benefit of the doubt in the media. I think its due to early missteps from the Lerners being cheap and Bowden being an idiot. But then again the Nats continue to do just plain dumb things that bring negative light to the organization. Just in the last couple of years: Ramos’ leaked initial contract offer pre-injury was ridiculous, the Bud Black incident was ridiculous, the Matt Williams 3-part story made everyone look bad, and the echos of Shutdown-gate continue to be a point of mockery of this franchise thanks to the arrogance that played out (with the word being that the assumption was that the Nats would just always be in the playoffs so we could afford to shut Strasburg down). If you’re reading this you’re probably smart and realize that there’s another side to all of those events, one which we all understand and doesn’t make the Nats look bad, but that’s not the point. In today’s “passing-judgement-on-140-character-hot-take” society, that’s how things go. The team needs to stop having leaks that make the executives look bad.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 9:41 am

  19. Marty; count for me the number of 5’8″ impact players in the majors right now and get back to me.

    It is what it is. For every Jose Altuve there’s 100 height-limited players who get cut.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 9:42 am

  20. Todd… I would love to see both Voth and Cole make the opening day roster in our bullpen. Nothing more for them to learn or accomplish at AAA and it’s a good use of our talent in the system.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 9:45 am

  21. John, I actually read the rumor as “Nats attempting to drive up the price on Jansen.” It seems that the Dodgers may well be off of him now, which will put them in a pickle. Or maybe they intend for Kershaw to close on the days he’s not starting . . .

    And Marty, let there be rejoicing in all the land: Matt Skole has survived his third Rule 5 draft. Interesting to see several contending teams making picks, though.


    8 Dec 16 at 9:48 am

  22. If the Nats were going to buy a reliever, Jansen is the best option. No DV, no baggage, younger, less traffic on his arm. But there’s just no reason for him to leave LA. And …. there’s no reason to waste any more money or resources on a closer.

    I’d hope that Rizzo has by now learned his lesson on closers. After being smart about them fora while (especially with the Capps signing and flipping for Ramos), he has lost the plot. In fact, the opportunity cost of his pursuit of closers starting in 2013 is getting more and more ridiculous. to whit:
    – Signs Soriano for $28M in 2013, costs himself a 1st rounder that was projected to be Sean Manaea (now Oakland’s #2 starter).
    – Soraino supplants a perfectly fine Storen and is only effective for a year and a half before basically being sent out to pasture.
    – So he puts Storen back in for 2015 and he’s doing great … then feels the need to trade a perfectly good SP candidate for a headcase in Papelbon. That SP (Pivetta) made it to AAA last year with solid numbers and could feature for the Phillies rotation in 2017.
    – Papelbon doesn’t even last a year, forcing him to have to buy Melancon at the cost of Rivero and Hearn …
    – … and losing Rivero means he has to buy Rzepczynski at the cost of future hall of famer Max Schrock

    And now here we are in 2016 off-season with no named closer.

    At some point we need to get off of this train. Find someone who has two pitches and throws upper 90s and MAKE HIM the f*cking closer. And then remind yourself that closers don’t f*cking matter; go read this Joe Posnanski piece where he basically proves that teams with 3 run leads have won the SAME PERCENTAGE of those games for the last 7 decades with or without high-priced closers. . Please don’t spend $15M on a closer.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 9:53 am

  23. Todd… whatever the number we can +1 sometime next year for the A’s. ha ha

    C’mon Todd, you don’t have to take the bait every time I lay it out there. But we did just trade about 19 feet of our very best prospects for Eaton.

    btw.. you were asking how a player could suddenly suck without injury… How about Jason Heyward? Another big lefty with questionable swing mechanics that went haywire on him.

    I think there is something about those tough left on left match ups that can really mess up a lefty’s swing for some reason in a way that’s more severe than right on right. I think most of Harper’s deep slumps have happened after he’s had some very tough left on left experiences. I’m pretty sure it happened this year and I know it happened early in his career when Andy Pettitte sombreroed him. He wasn’t the same for a couple months after that one.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 10:01 am

  24. The interesting thing to me is that the more nuanced, advanced stats guys (FG, Law for example) are not panning this trade. They kind of see it as fair value. The traditional guys are crushing the Nats. De Rosa, one of the few that I like amongst that group, primarily panned it because he thought the BP was the bigger need.

    I can’t imagine that the nats pay up for Jansen. I agree its a tough value proposition, although he’d look great in a Nats uni though.

    This is an excellent team right now. Biggest risk is health – Stras is #1 on that list, and Kelley #2. BP additions would help, but I’d also be ok going in to the year as is. maybe trade Espy for something, and re-sign Drew.


    8 Dec 16 at 10:01 am

  25. KW… i think given the chance Skole could be exactly Jay Bruce. Hope he gets it. Maybe he will Wally Pipp Zimmerman if Zimm gets a boo boo. Harder to send those HR’s back to the bench than Robinson’s stranded singles.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 10:07 am

  26. Heyward’s value as a player has always been driven by his defense first, offense later. You can see it in the splits between his oWAR and dWAR at But yeah, in-arguably he fell apart at the plate this year. Its kind of like the first year of the Werth contract; he went from being a 144 OPS+ guy to a 97 OPS+ guy in his first Washington year, then reverted back to his form in subsequent years. Perhaps the pressure of trying to “earn” his big deal, one which was widely criticized as being an overpay? Lots of similiarities between Heyward’s contract/first year performance and Werth’s… I’d bet on a bounceback for Heyward. not that he was ever the 2nd comign of Babe Ruth or anything, but i’m grabbing him in a late round in fantasy next year.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 10:08 am

  27. I’d say its easier to see how a batter can lose his mechanics mojo than a pitcher. Especially a batter that has a lot of movement in his swing – which Harper, heyward, Zim have. Without seeing any studies (or heaven forbid trying to do it myself) – I’d be willing to wager that guys with a lot of movement go through longer slumps than more stationary types. Pujols, Murphy – those guys move much less pre swing and seem to be more consistent.


    8 Dec 16 at 10:10 am

  28. I wouldn’t hate it if the Nats end up using the money saved on Eaton for Jansen, although that will be a lot of scratch to commit to a one-inning guy over five years.

    The Nats have internal options, though. Glover has “badass closer” written all over him. I’m surprised he didn’t come up more in trade rumors. When he’s healthy, Solis is also wicked. Treinen has the stuff but doesn’t seem to have the makeup to be THE guy. Kelley has the makeup, but maybe not the stuff.


    8 Dec 16 at 10:26 am

  29. Better to have him on your fantasy dollars than being the one paying him the real $184 million cash Todd. I think Heyward set back the defensive value movement for real $$$ for a while.

    Those few extra plays he makes out there a month sure are expensive. And if he makes an error it costs 10X.

    Think I’ll trot Goodwin out there for league minimum.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 10:29 am

  30. I reflexively hate the idea of mortgaging the future, but I understand it completely if you couple it with the alleged 10-year, $400M contract demand from Harper. This team has two years to win the WS, then it’s back to the drawing board to retool. Scherzer will be getting older, and the Strasburg extension may well turn out to be among the most disastrous contracts in MLB history, considering his health. So it’s WS or bust in 2017-18. After that, maybe a fire sale. Am I being too dark here?


    8 Dec 16 at 10:30 am

  31. I agree on the closers. Go in house or go outside cheap. So many new ones pop up every year, just by getting their opportunity that there can’t be any real magic to it.

    Treinen though I don’t trust there as his ball moves too much. He won’t get as many of those all important calls on the edges vs. batters that are walk hunting.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 10:40 am

  32. clark17; can’t disagree. I’d be all-in for the next two years as well, hoping for the Cubs pitching to regress, trying to win while we still have Harper.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 10:46 am

  33. Yes Clark I would tell Dusty to take it easy on Max and Strasburg this year. Just because you can pitch the 8th or even 7th in a blowout in midseason doesn’t mean you have to. Put some of that wear and tear on the relief scrubs even if you blow a game or two.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 10:48 am

  34. Reminder; don’t forget to vote at Luke’s site: direct link here:

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 11:07 am

  35. One of the National writers (Rosenthal or Heyman, I believe) said the Nats had an offer on the table to the Pirates of Giolito and Dunning for McCutchen. My instinct is to prefer that deal to the one for Eaton because I’ve been counting on Lopez as bullpen insurance. The Nats didn’t need to play in the expensive closer market because they have one in in Lopez. Of course there’s a risk that Lopez doesn’t perform well as a closer, but I tend to prefer that risk to the risk associated with giving a closer 5 years and $15 million a season.

    I see two main reasons to prefer Eaton to McCutchen: (1) the contract; and (2) performance trends. McCutchen is underpaid, but Eaton is criminally underpaid. McCutchen has been a better player, but Eaton is younger and was better last year. Eaton doesn’t have to bounce back to be good, and his offense has been very consistent (meaning that almost all of his fluctuations in overall value relate to the quality of his defense).

    What all this means to me is that it’s too early to pass judgment on whether the higher trade cost for more cheap years of Eaton is better than the lower trade cost for fewer more expensive years of McCutchen because we don’t yet know what the Nats are going to do with the financial flexibility Eaton provides. Right now, the Nats’ biggest (apparent) need is in the bullpen. I hope they don’t spend a lot of money there because the risk of getting nothing or very little for your money is just too high for my blood. I also hope the Lerners just don’t sit on the extra money.


    8 Dec 16 at 11:09 am

  36. Also, I like Todd’s lineup: Eaton (L), Turner (R), Harper (L), Murphy (L), Rendon (R), Werth-Zim-C-P. Ideally you’d prefer to have Turner lead off and Eaton hit second, but I don’t think it’s wise to stack three lefties, and Harper-Murphy probably need to hit 3-4 in this lineup. This is another reason McCutchen is a slightly better fit – that lineup could be Turner, Harper, McCutchen, Murphy, Rendon.

    Anyway, using Todd’s lineup, here are the Steamer projected OBPs for our 1-5 hitters: .355, .347, .413, .362, .353. There are going to be a lot of guys getting on base a lot of the time, and 4 of the 5 can really run (with Murphy being the exception), so I don’t expect too many rally-killing GIDPs.


    8 Dec 16 at 11:20 am

  37. Eaton career K percentage, 16.8%, replacing Espinosa’s 28.1% in the lineup and hopefully kicking Taylor’s 31.9% elsewhere.

    Wow, just checked Dusty’s career K percentage, and it was 11.5%! Dusty may not “get it” on all the new stats, but this is one he should appreciate.

    Incidentally, I’m not sure Danny will be traded. Re-signing Drew after his strong year would probably cost about the same. I like his bat better, but he’s older and more injury-prone.


    8 Dec 16 at 11:24 am

  38. If the Nats had traded Giolito, Lopez and Dunning for Andrew McCutchen, would there have been a single squawk from the pundits?

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 1:32 pm

  39. There would have been a squawk from me! And I was the leader of the pro-Cutch camp. The five years and payroll flexibility are big for me on the Eaton end of things. I really haven’t seen him play much so am looking forward to it.

    Svrluga’s inside take on the Nats’ thinking:


    8 Dec 16 at 1:41 pm

  40. Todd, good point about the squawking. Myself, I just don’t care what 90% of the talking heads say. People – many pundits (especially ex players) and fans – just don’t understand that a player’s value is a function of BOTH his performance and his contract.

    At this point, Mike Trout is unambiguously the best player in baseball. He’s been the best performing player and is likely to continue to be the best performing player in the short term. His current contract is a bargain, but if he made $50 million a year, his value on the trade market would be much lower. Many of the talking heads are unable to look past Eaton’s performance and consider how valuable it is to get that performance for the contract he has. This isn’t to say that the Nats didn’t overpay, just that Eaton’s value is inextricably linked to his contract.

    Jim Bowden especially, is an idiot.


    8 Dec 16 at 1:48 pm

  41. Nats apparently still in the conversation for Jansen. I was somewhat surprised to find that he had the best fWAR among relievers in MLB last season.


    8 Dec 16 at 2:08 pm

  42. There’s a reason Bowden is on TV and no longer in a F.O., and “idiocy” has as much to do with it as “corruption.” I do enjoy reading his stuff that he puts on Espn though; can’t really speak to his TV opinions.

    A criticism of this Nationals F.O highlighted by the Svrluga article; if they knew that Giolito was having mechanical issues (all they had to do was ask him, as a reporter did later in the year), and they knew he was struggling, then why bring him up and let him diminish his trade value by letting him get creamed in the majors without his best stuff? Why also leak it to reporters (as what clearly happened) that you had “soured” on him, thus further diminishing his trade value? Doesn’t that seem dumb?

    I am obviously a proponent and defender of Giolito. What I don’t know though is what can only be known by Nats FO insiders; did he not make it all the way back from surgery? Is that what this trade is all about? Moving him because he’s already peaked?

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 2:18 pm

  43. Todd, I generally thought that Giolito’s mechanics and stuff would straighten out, and his minor-league numbers were quite good despite the mechanical struggles (see above). What worried me more from his MLB starts was his reaction to adversity, which seemed even worse than Stras’s back when he used to be really bad about it. Lopez was a stark contrast, as he looked unfazed. He’d give up a homer and then just blow the next guy away. Giolito would get more cautious and walk the next two.

    I do wish them well. As I said above, it doesn’t make the trade any “better” if they don’t pan out.

    Derek, I don’t even waste my limited time on what 90% of the talking heads think. I don’t care. The Nats needed an OF more than anything and got one with five years of very affordable control. I’m much more comfortable with them paying that price to fill a real need than going over that price for Sale, who seemed like more of a luxury item to me.


    8 Dec 16 at 3:01 pm

  44. And yes, Sale would have been quite an upgrade on Gio, but the prospect price of the upgrade would have been astronomical.


    8 Dec 16 at 3:02 pm

  45. 21 innings. That’s what Giolito threw in the majors last year.

    Here’s a debut line for you to consider. At his age 22 season in 2005: RHP gets 2 starts, 11.1 innings. 7.15 ERA, gives up 15 hits and 9 runs. 7 ks and 5 walks for a 1.765 whip.

    Sound about what Giolito did this year? Giolto’s era was better, his whip basically the same, but he had slightly worse K/BB ratio.

    that line was Justin Verlander’s debut season. The next year he went 17-9 and won the Rookie of the Year.

    I’m not saying Giolito is going to become Verlander. My point is that there’s an awful lot of people reading an awful lot into a very, very small sample size.

    Todd Boss

    8 Dec 16 at 3:46 pm

  46. Totally agree, Todd. It would be idiotic for Giolito’s 21 innings in MLB to cause the Nats to have lowered their opinion of Giolito by any significant amount. I also think his performance in the minors was consistent with his performance in prior years, when the Nats and the world thought he was an ace in the making. So there are two plausible explanations for the revised view of Giolito’s future: (1) the Nats’ brass is full of idiots who overreacted to a tiny sample; or (2) the scouts saw something in Giolito’s performance in 2016 that’s not reflected in his minor league numbers. I really hope the explanation is #2 and not #1.


    8 Dec 16 at 5:10 pm

  47. Think it was the radar gun that scared them the most. And maybe he’s one of those guys that tightens up and the harder he tries to throw it, it actually comes out slower and straighter.

    And that curve ball of his is so large in arc that it’s tough to count on the precision of it to truly be his #1 pitch.

    Have never heard anyone argue that his stats were the problem in the short sample size. Everyone was just set up to witness Thor II and instead saw average skills guy, at least at that particular time. Can’t promote the three ring circus and only show up with one ring. Hope the change of scenery and new coaches can coax the best out of him.

    Marty C

    8 Dec 16 at 5:39 pm

  48. Monday-Tuesday: tons of Nats buzz resulting in nothing.

    Wednesday: not much Nats buzz, resulting in mega-trade.

    Thursday: lots of Nats buzz, but nothing yet.

    Giolito: I hope he turns out to be great. I ready do. Just as long as Eaton is great as well!


    8 Dec 16 at 7:30 pm

  49. Looks like Fowler to the Cards, making insanely more than Eaton will make . . . but costing the Cards no prospects. That CF market completely closed in three days, with Fowler, Desi, Gomez, and Eaton all claimed.


    8 Dec 16 at 8:38 pm

  50. Recently on this site I listed whom I thought were the Nats top 50 prospects. Lopez was my #2, Giolito my #4, and Dunning was in the 30’s. I say this for necessary perspective in reflecting on the trade.

    2) Lopez – I am high on him. He has the capability of dominating, either as a starter or as a reliever. His domination of AA and some of his body of work with the Nats engendered confidence. He has an attitude on the mound. He’s going to be excellent. Everyone in baseball knows him. Selling high.

    4) Giolito – He underdelivered, his velocity dropped, and did not have the movement he needed to have. All correctable problems. The Nats made an assessment that his value was about to fall off a shelf. This may be analagous to holding onto assets like Taylor Jordam too long and getting nothing.

    33) Dunning – A college product who pitched in Auburn and the GCL. For reference, he did not even post the start that Andrew Lee did the year before. Dunning was a well regarded first round pick. The longer one gets from that first round selection and the scouts’ enthusiasm, the more one gets exposed for the holes in his game. Moreover, there is so much starting pitching talent in the Nats lower minors that he is replaceable. I cannot get my pants wet over a prospect that has barely played pro ball — especially one who in college was thought underutilized. Perhaps he will be a major league pitcher — so what? We traded Nate Karns and he has developed a nice career for himself, and the Nats got some continuing value for him as well.

    Bottom line – one cannot hold onto ripening assets that may overripen. The Nats had eleven starters capable of helping the team this year and now have nine. Scherzer, Roark, Strasburg, Ross are all controlled long enough for there to be a ceiling for prospects for the next three years that will make for only one spot, barring the obvious injuries.

    Voth is ready. Cole may still have it in him to make it – one has to overlook prospect fatigue and remember other players like Roark who made it and stayed. Cole can get guys out. Fedde is coming, and with the reigns loosened, he may be ready to come in as early as this year. And I am a fan of John Simms, who doesn’t pop radar guns but is advanced in how he pitches and has proven his success at AA. Some people see Tyler Mapes as a sleeper. He’ll get more of a chance to showcase, now.

    I don’t see AAA as gutted. Voth-Cole-Fedde-Simms-Mapes are five options, barring one of them matriculating above. I don’t know the options meter on Cole. But all of those players would deserve to be there.

    Bottom line – Rizzo moved a lot of inventory. But he moved surplus. Even Lopez. No way would Lopez have displaced Gio Gonzalez in the rotation. No way would Ross have his max trade value coming off injury. No way does Rizzo do this deal and the planned Sale- Gio Gonzalez to the Yankees without knowing the health of Strasburg and Ross. No way.

    Robles was not traded. Position players were not traded. Soto’s power was not traded. I feel good about that.

    The obvious hole in the system that needs to be remedied is a championship caliber LH starter. There is tremendous depth of LH starting talent in the low minors. But otherwise the system is bare at AA and above. I am sure Rizzo got calls on some of the LH starters below, and he nixed.

    So I liked the Sale push, even though what he was offering was VERY aggressive. And perhaps the ownership was influenced by the Epstein-Dombrowski style of trading for final pieces. I’m glad it was the Red Sox who got Sale, and the Nats got a starting position player.

    Eaton. There is no precedent in the Rizzo years for his trading for a young, controllable, and well-established position player. There is a lot to like on Eaton, and why people here have been pushing to acquire him. A tremendous amount of OF assists. Great OBP for a team that cannot abide its strikeouts. Great speed. Steady production with lots of extra base hits.

    And the contract. Werth MAy be gone after this year; after all, never say never, and he is certainly capable of putting up a tremendous showing in his contract year. No one says this about Werth, and I’ve never been a big advocate of his, but he gets his big hits, can take a walk, and is a team leader. If he has a big year in 2017 — and the chances of that happening are better in my mind than for Ryan Zimm — the Nats get a home team discount and he stays a bit. But let’s assume he does not. Either way, the steadiness of a controllable Eaton, still only 27, is good for the long term health of the franchise.

    As for Harper, I’ve raised the possibility of his being traded in the last thread. I bought into the argument to move him to CF and I hope Baker massages that with an OF like Eaton on board. But I still feel Harper may well be gone and his value also may be on the verge of dipping. The Nats have a lot leveraged in the potential of Robles. If he does not have it, there is no power bat poised to step up within the system to replace Harper. And Eaton does not replace Harper.

    That’s why the very unusual situation of Eaton’s controllability makes him more valuable to THIS franchise. The Nats will not have a high draft pick this year, or next year, really. So there not be that 1-10 pick that is a ready for ML big bat.

    With Eaton, the Nats acquired the 10-year-contract-stability they sought with “sure thing” production like Jason Heyward. At a FRACTION of the cost. And perhaps a more sure thing.

    McCutchen was a two year player. And the Pirates wanted Robles. Fowler is not the player Eaton is, and far more expensive, and for far more years. Brett Gardner? On the downswing, not controllable. Blackmon? A star. Would the same trade price have netted him? Perhaps. But I would take five years of Eaton over two years of Blackmon, especially given the uncertainty of how Coors field translates elsewhere.

    I haven;t said this, but I continue to believe in Michael Taylor and think this trade enables him to play every day in AAA and to hopefully recapture his mojo to translate into major league staying power. I can’t help but continue to dream on his power-speed-arm-range combination, especially with Harper and Werth uncertain as they are. But it won;t happen for him on a major league bench.

    What the Nats do to get that championship caliber controllable LH starter will be interesting to watch. This team still has tradeable commodities.

    So in summary, I think the Nats got a terrific stabilizing everyday piece that fits the economics of baseball and their team in a mindset of having to compete every year for championships. They gave up no one who was integral to their 2017 success, and that makes them improved overall, whatever our and my own enthusiasm about prospects. Given the free agent and trade market, they got the best player they could (and that includes Pollack, whose price we don’t know).

    I am happy to hear the trashing of Rizzo. Perhaps it makes other execs more open to dealing with him.

    And if the money saved on Eaton opens up the coffers to bring in Kenley Jansen so we can stop grousing about the ninth inning, count me way in.

    Always interesting to watch Rizzo operate.


    9 Dec 16 at 5:14 am

  51. Fore, I was surprised that I didn’t see Soto’s name in any of the trade rumors. He’s a long way away from The Show, but he dominated right out of the box in the GCL and continued to hit against the college kids in the NY/Penn League.

    I was high on Dunning. If we had made it to Luke’s arms list, I would have had him pretty high, probably #6-8 range. The big question with him is the same as with Lopez: can he stay a starter?

    I don’t share your continued optimism on Taylor. He has an atrocious 30.9% career MLB K rate. That’s hard to fix. Also, much of what the Nats have done over the last couple of offseasons — Murphy, Revere, Eaton — have been moves toward high-contact guys, and moves away from Desmond, Taylor, and Espinosa, guys who are great athletes but miss the baseball far too often.

    I’m still hoping that Taylor gets traded this offseason, for his sake. If he’s still with the Nats, he’s probably headed back to Syracuse.


    9 Dec 16 at 7:05 am

  52. Michael Taylor now has 791 major league plate appearances across three years. His OPS+ figure in those three years: 75, 73 and 72. His K% in those three years: 39.5%, 30.9% and 32.5%. That’s pretty consistent, and pretty consistently bad. This is no longer a small sample size. This is who he is.

    If someone is still on the “Michael Taylor can still work out” train but is also on the “Lucas Giolito is sh*t because he under performed in 21 MLB innings as a 21 year old” then the obviousness of your hypocrisy need not be stated.

    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 16 at 8:09 am

  53. For those who are interested, Luke has the results posted of the top 10 minor-league bats list. I’m actually the guy who voted for Soto over Robles at #1. I think he’s going to be better overall in the long run, admittedly based on a very SSS.


    9 Dec 16 at 8:30 am

  54. I did not trash Giolito. Read again. He was the fourth best Nat’s prospect, to me, and I asserted the potential that the decision to trade him was a gamble that the Nats were selling higher, if not at his height.

    Taylor may deserve his lower value, but he is low. After seeing Espinosa collapse, and reestablish value, I am not suggesting that Taylor can get his K percentage to Daniel Murphy territory. But my not giving up on him relates to the skills he does have and the prospect that he hits another level playing full time in AAA this year.

    You are better than to call people names who visit your house.


    9 Dec 16 at 8:59 am

  55. KW, there was plenty of action on Soto.

    What we don’t hear is what the national reporters don’t ask.


    9 Dec 16 at 9:01 am

  56. Taylor, Espi, Desmond, etc… shows this organization cannot develop a hitter. We can buy one, we can draft one that is very talented to start with, we can get them eye surgery… but we sure don’t develop or improve them – or have the ability to fix them when they are going bad.

    We should either fix this with a completely new hitting staff and hitting philosophy throughout the system, or trade guys like Taylor early while they still have value and teams might be enamored with their athleticism.

    Who has ever really improved to big value in our system ladder beyond the initial talent they showed when we acquired them? Maybe Souza for one season?

    Marty C

    9 Dec 16 at 10:42 am

  57. Marty, are you talking about hitters who overachieved in the Nats’ organization? I can think of several pitchers, Roark first and foremost. Lopez signed for $17K and overage (for Latin players).

    With hitters, yeah, it’s hard to think of a lot of overachievers. (See my post on Luke’s site under the Eaton trade about the overall failure of Taylor/Goodwin/Hood as the OFs of the future.) To me, Stevenson has shown hints of developing better offensively than I thought he would, more so in the fall league than what he showed at Harrisburg. We’ll see.


    9 Dec 16 at 11:00 am

  58. Oh, Difo developed better as a hitter than many expected, although the hit tool has been very up and down and hasn’t really been sustained above A-ball.


    9 Dec 16 at 11:03 am

  59. That comment wasn’t necessarily directed at you forensicane.

    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 16 at 11:27 am

  60. Bowden absolutely trashed both Eaton personally and the Nats trade in his winter meetings wrap-up:

    I mean, a complete negative review of both the player and the move. I know Bowden isn’t exactly the fan favorite here, but i’ve generally found his analysis to be good (at least in print).


    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 16 at 12:58 pm

  61. You mean that baseball supergenius who built a team capable of losing 205 games in just two years? Who thought Lastings, Elijah, and Wily Mo were superstars?


    9 Dec 16 at 2:17 pm

  62. I only mention it because of the lengths to which he trashed Eaton. I know its insider-only so here’s the quote:

    And yes, Eaton has high energy, a positive baseball edge to him, and he’s scrappy, but to say he has good baseball makeup is questionable. He’s certainly a great interview, and I’ve always enjoyed my talks with him, but his reputation with his teammates doesn’t equal to his having good makeup. He overstayed his welcome in Arizona, where his teammates wanted him traded, because they felt he was extremely selfish, and many of his White Sox teammates felt the same way. The biggest criticism has been that if he goes 4-for-4 and his team loses, he’s happy, and if his team wins, but he goes 0-for-4, he’s not. There have been too many players during his career who say the same thing to think there’s not validity to it.

    That’s not just a casual remark citing things like “well, i’ve heard such and such.” That’s multiple sentences he took the time to write to trash the player.

    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 16 at 3:00 pm

  63. I am sure the Nat clubhouse network has already talked with LaRoche about Eaton. Heck, Rizzo might have called ALR before making the trade. Rizzo also has plenty of D-Back contacts. I would trust Rizzo’s contacts — and instincts — better than Bowden’s. Plus it’s not like the Nat clubhouse doesn’t have experience dealing with egos!


    9 Dec 16 at 4:44 pm

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