Nationals Arm Race

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

Final Week of Spring training; placeholder for chatting


Robinson is out. Photo via

Robinson is out. Photo via

We’re getting down to the wire; still no idea who the last bullpen spots will be, who the last outfielder will be, nor who the closer will be, but we did get an expected if unfortunate piece of news today: fan favorite Clint Robinson given his outright waivers today.

Who do I think will get the call for these last roster questions?

  1. I still like Vance Worley for the 7th spot … though Enny Romero might be tough to cut.  We may see a “soft” D/L injury, or perhaps carrying 8 relievers for a bit.
  2. I am not entirely buying the buzz out there that Koda Glover will be “the closer.”  Dusty Baker is too much of a player’s manager to give that spot to a rookie (for all intents and purposes) over either of the other two candidates, both of whom have a ton more experience.  I still think its Shawn Kelley until otherwise proven inadequate.
  3. Final OF spot still goes to Michael Taylor even if Wilmer Difo is playing the OF this spring.

Otherwise, lets use this as a running commentary on the final moves as they happen prior to the 25-man roster announcement.

ps: Robinson’s waiving now leaves not one but two open spots on the 40-man roster … perhaps room for a NRI to slip in?

Written by Todd Boss

March 28th, 2017 at 2:52 pm

42 Responses to 'Final Week of Spring training; placeholder for chatting'

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  1. Chelsea Janes just floated that the Nats might be considering keeping only a four-man bench and 13 pitchers. That would leave room for Romero, Glover, AND Guthrie/Worley. That would also leave them very thin in OF reserves, with only Heisey, although Lind did take a turn or two in LF this spring.


    28 Mar 17 at 3:24 pm

  2. I don’t see how Romero doesn’t make the team. He’s been practically perfect all spring and throws 99. I’d rather seem them eat Perez’s $4M than cut Romero. If anyone needs a phantom injury, it’s Ollie.


    28 Mar 17 at 3:26 pm

  3. Makes sense to me.

    Todd Boss

    28 Mar 17 at 3:28 pm

  4. Romero has to make the cut, which is why I continue to maintain that Glover should be at AAA since there is no way they’ll let Perez and his relatively large salary go. At this point it is all about managing bullpen depth for the entire season, and cutting Romero would leave them with only Perez, Solis and Grace as MLB caliber lefty relievers–not just on the 40-man roster but in the entire organization.

    Karl Kolchak

    28 Mar 17 at 4:38 pm

  5. Wow, Glover in AAA? There’s more than a few people who think he’s going to be the closer, not in the minors :-)

    Todd Boss

    28 Mar 17 at 4:43 pm

  6. I also gather that Clint being waived outright meant they tried to trade him and found no takers, so they’re doing him a solid by not making him go through the DFA process so he can hopefully land somewhere before the start of the season. Even Tyler Moore was worth an org guy last year at this time.

    Karl Kolchak

    28 Mar 17 at 4:49 pm

  7. Todd–yep, I’m swimming against the tide to the bitter end. :)

    Karl Kolchak

    28 Mar 17 at 4:51 pm

  8. I’m in the same camp of sending Glover to AAA to start. It does look .i,e Dusty really wants him though.

    And the idea of starting off with Cole to burn the three suspension days seems relevant and something to consider.

    I am totally done with ST, and ready for the season.


    28 Mar 17 at 7:27 pm

  9. I think they keep Romero and Glover and no long man. If they were to keep a long man, I think it would be Guthrie, who has outpitched Worley in every category. I also hope Jacob Turner is willing to go to Syracuse.

    On the bench, I think it will be Taylor. I’m no fan, but if you go by the spring “competition,” he’s earned it. He also has a higher potential ceiling than Difo. At some point we have to stop talking about ceilings, though, particularly if he ends up much closer to the floor again this year.

    Of course my preference over Taylor would be to sign Pagan or even Bourn (just released by the O’s). But it’s not my money.

    No reason to fill the two 40-man slots now, unless someone interesting appears on the waiver wire. It’s good to have a little flexibility during the season.


    28 Mar 17 at 8:09 pm

  10. From Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs:

    “I’ll say this much: If Koda Glover is ready for the majors, the Nationals shouldn’t have to worry about their bullpen. Having four or five reliable arms ought to be enough for a World Series contender. If Glover comes up short — or, I suppose, if there’s an injury — the Nationals can say hello to the trade market again. David Robertson is still on the White Sox. That situation can’t last.”


    28 Mar 17 at 8:12 pm

  11. Also see their starting pitching rankings, since Todd likes to do his own rankings:


    28 Mar 17 at 8:15 pm

  12. I saw those rankings, and think the Nats are a little too high. I’d go Mets, then LAD.

    And yeah, Pagan would be a nice fit but I read he wants $5m, which isn’t happening.

    My last offseason comment is this: they ought to try to extend Rendon. 6/$80m or so has to be a real consideration for him. There are a ton of great 3b out there, so it likely depresses his market somewhat and makes the Nats offer worth thinking about. But he is still a great player with 5-6 years of prime left.


    28 Mar 17 at 8:49 pm

  13. Wally–it makes real sense for Rendon to do it now given his injury history. The Nats should also get a discount for just that reason.

    KW–scrolling down in that fangraphs article, I saw where JZ’s average fb velocity has dropped all the way to 91.8 MPH. Looks like he ended up doing the team a real solid by not wanting to extend.

    Karl Kolchak

    28 Mar 17 at 10:15 pm

  14. Yeah, I was on the JZim extension train, albeit only at a reasonable rate, which I thought the team offered. We had no way to know at that time that they would get Max and Stras would extend. Both of those moves surprised everyone. I didn’t want Desi extended and would be crying if they were stuck with the contract he turned down. All the folks celebrating his “comeback” last year conveniently ignore how bad he was in the second half.

    Chris Coghlan is now on the streets. He might be an upgrade on the last bench spot, although he can’t play CF.

    As for the last pitching spots, it occurs to me that Ollie Perez has barely pitched, only 4.1 IP, and hardly at all since coming back from the WBC. Maybe he’s been logging some innings on the back fields, but you’d think they’d want him to get at least a little work against MLB hitters. Yet he’s gotten almost none. Maybe he is in fact a DL candidate. Haven’t seen it mentioned by the beat writers, though; in fact, he’s hardly been mentioned at all.

    If they do keep a long man, I think it’s Guthrie. He looked pretty solid last night. So did Jacob Turner, after he got out of the first inning. He retired 12 in a row and was consistently in the mid-90s. I don’t see him making the big club, but I sure hope he’s willing to go to Syracuse. Right now, I’d ticket him as the 6th starter. He’s only 25, not turning 26 until May. He looks a lot better than Cole does right now.


    29 Mar 17 at 8:56 am

  15. Worley released, Cole and Gott sent to Syracuse. When they signed Worley, I thought he was the odds-on favorite for the long man role, but he didn’t have a good spring. He struggled nearly every outing.


    29 Mar 17 at 8:58 am

  16. Jacob Turner listed as reassigned to the minors. That’s great news if he stays with the organization. He’s a legit 6th starter to have at AAA.


    29 Mar 17 at 9:00 am

  17. Neal Cotts also listed as accepting assignment to Syracuse. With him there, and with Tim Collins rehabbing, perhaps we won’t have to give up another Hall of Famer to get a mid-season loogy. Collins said in a piece on him in the Post a couple of days ago that even though he has a mid-season opt-out, he intends to stay with the Nats.


    29 Mar 17 at 9:29 am

  18. I’m surprised that Worley’s performance last year didn’t Carey more weight. They must not have liked his velocity or movement this spring.

    Almost down to the wire. Looking forward to Monday.

    As for JZim, it is surprising, even shocking, how lucky the Nats have gotten that they lost out on some of their admitted pursuits. JZ and Desi would have been horrible deals at their rumored numbers, and likely precluded Max and TT. How about fielder? Heyward? That might have been crippling. Even Tex would have been terrible, because what would you have done with Zim. All of those deals Rizzo admitted making an offer and the Nats are very fortunate that it didn’t work out.


    29 Mar 17 at 9:35 am

  19. Apparently Collins lives in NoVa which should help keep him. He intrigues me. I’m a believer that it helps a bullpen to have a few guys with totally different looks to keep hitters off balance in a series.


    29 Mar 17 at 9:37 am

  20. I havn’t seen transactions yet htis AM but trust all the prior reports are accurate. I liked what I saw from Guthrie too and I hope they all stick around.

    Todd Boss

    29 Mar 17 at 10:06 am

  21. They are down to 27 officially assigned to the big-league camp. There are 13 pitchers, still including Guthrie and Glover, and 14 hitters, still including Taylor and Difo.

    My guess is that they wouldn’t have sent everyone else packing and not Guthrie if they aren’t planning to keep him. So they’ll either carry 13 pitchers, put someone (probably Perez) on the DL, send Glover to AAA, or release/trade someone (probably Perez). My guess is that they carry 12 and do something with Ollie.

    If they carry 12 pitchers, they can still take Taylor or Difo for the bench . . . or someone just released like Coghlan or Bourn. Both Taylor and Difo still have options.

    They’ve got two spots on the 40-man, so presumably Guthrie is getting one of them. He’s the only NRI still left in camp. But they’d have another slot if they want to pick up someone.


    29 Mar 17 at 10:26 am

  22. No way they eat Perez’s salary. I’m guessing he gets phantom D/L stint so they can keep both Glover and Romeo.

    Difo may be a great OF coverage option … but not with just a couple of weeks in ST. I say he goes to AAA, plays some OF, Taylor gets another opening day roster spot but better produce if/when called upon.

    Todd Boss

    29 Mar 17 at 11:08 am

  23. Todd–JZ makes for a good potential post topic: the fact that so far in Nats history, not offering long extensions to their young stars has by and large been the way to go, especially if you look forward from the first year of what would have been the extensions. Consider:

    Ryan Zimmerman–1st extension (2012, 2 years): Great value–when the Nats bought out RZ’s first two free agency years, they also got his last two years as a plus performer.

    Ryan Zimmerman–2nd extension (2014, 6 years): Disaster–after 3 injury riddled seasons which forced him from a plus defensive position, RZ is now rated by Fangraphs as the worst starting 1B in MLB.

    Ian Desmond (2016, 5 years): Huge overpay–even his Rockies contract is way too much for such an inconsistent if versatile player.

    Jordan Zimmermann (2016, 6 years): Huge overpay–especially if his drop in fb velocity is permanent.

    Stephen Strasburg (2017, 7 years): Jury is still out, but the injury risk is huge.

    For all of that, I’d still be on board with the Nats buying out the first 2 or 3 years of Rendon’s free agency, but beyond that history says it isn’t a good idea to lock him up well into his 30s.

    Karl Kolchak

    29 Mar 17 at 12:10 pm

  24. Perez on a back field somewhere right now, working hard to rub a blister . . .

    Seriously, though, something is up with him. He just hasn’t pitched much at all this spring, even after coming back from the WBC.

    Why not just let him go and eat the $4M? The upper echelon of MLB just laughs at such rounding errors. The Dodgers had $114M in dead money last season. That’s stupid, yes, but they also made the NLCS. (For the record, I didn’t like the Perez signing in the first place. They paid way too much for a guy with a long track record of mediocrity. They’ve had several NRI arms in camp this year on minor-league deals who had better recent records than Ollie did when when they signed him to a two-year MLB deal.) Everybody needs lefties, though, so if the Nats would just pay $1-2M in a deal, someone would probably take him.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into Ollie not getting innings, though. Treinen has only 4.2, and Kelley has 6.1. The Nats know what they can do.


    29 Mar 17 at 12:53 pm

  25. Karl, I’ve always favored shorter-term extensions over longer ones. The ground rules seem to be changing, though. Players are demanding the security of longer extensions AND the opt-out flexibility to remarket themselves if they wish. Generally, I’m glad for players to get what they can get, but the equation seems to be drifting out of whack.

    Plus you have several examples of guys turning down good offers. Desi would have made FAR more if he had taken the Nats’ extension. JZim didn’t get much more by going on the market than the Nats offered. And of course Ramos got hurt and lost all his leverage.

    All of that said, I would love to get Rendon extended for a couple of years . . . but he’s a Boras client, so I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, I seem to be the only one who still thinks it is possible they get something done to keep Bryce. It will have to be Yuge, but it will have multiple opt-outs, so it will be similar to a shorter-term extension.


    29 Mar 17 at 1:02 pm

  26. I would love a post revisiting all the big deals that they pursued and lost, and seeing how they would have turned out (and also what the unintended consequences would have been, like if Desi, then no Trea). But that’s a massive undertaking without a readily available data base.

    I don’t even know if I want a Harper extension, let alone if they could do it. If it is in the $300-400m range, then I would pass, even if the Lerners are willing. Just too much tied up in one guy, regardless of who he is.


    29 Mar 17 at 1:28 pm

  27. Glover just had a messy third of an inning, perhaps complicating the decision-making process.


    29 Mar 17 at 1:53 pm

  28. Wally–Harper’s situation is in a whole other universe. On the one hand, $400 million or so is almost certainly an insane amount to have to pay. On the other, the Lerners have to balance that amount against how much they will lose in future gate receipts and television ratings by not having him on the team. Similarly, I suspect the reason they were amenable to extending Strasburg is that he’s still a very marketable player despite all the injuries.

    Harper is on another level up from Strasburg. My young nephew who lives in central VA, for example, has become a huge Nats fan despite his father’s indifference because of Harper. There’s a kid who’ll likely spend a lifetime watching on TV, buying Nats gear and occasionally going to games because of the star power Bryce brings to the team. It is almost impossible to put a price tag on that.

    Karl Kolchak

    29 Mar 17 at 1:56 pm

  29. I don’t fear a Harper deal precisely because I don’t expect it to last for more than three years (before he takes an opt-out). It may cost them $120M for the four years, but he should be more than worth that WAR-wise in the absolute prime years of his career.

    The other reason I think they have to at least consider a Harper extension is that they don’t have a lot of good options to replace his production. Robles isn’t going to be Bryce, no matter how well he plays. As much as some folks keep wishing on Taylor, he’s probably who his stats say he is — not an MLB regular. Rizzo can only pull off so many deals to get guys like Trea and Eaton. I’ve been begging for years for them to draft some college hitters with power, but they’ve got very little power in the system. Maybe they just move the fences back 30 feet and start the track team of Turner, Eaton, Robles, and Stevenson.


    29 Mar 17 at 2:06 pm

  30. Oops, meant to say $120M for three years of Harper. I’d take 4/120 in a New York minute.


    29 Mar 17 at 2:09 pm

  31. KW–I don’t think moving the fences back at Nats Park is even possible. There’s no room. You make a very pertinent point, however, in that without anything resembling real power in the system they’ve put themselves in a position where they almost have to keep Bryce.

    Karl Kolchak

    29 Mar 17 at 2:09 pm

  32. Yeah, I was mostly kidding about the fences. Perhaps they could just trade parks with the Marlins . . .

    I hate to make the comparison with the mismanaged dumpster fire of a team based in Ashburn, but the Harper situation strikes me as similar to the Cousins one: both teams hate the thought of having to pay inflated market value for a longer-term deal, but they don’t have much in the way of in-house alternatives. Harper is a much bigger and more important brand to the franchise than Cousins is, though, as Karl described. He’s also a higher-tier star. I doubt Captain Kirk will be getting any national commercials anytime soon.

    I know all of this may not matter if Harper plays out his option and truly hits the market. Even then, the Nats will probably feel like they have to bid on him, for PR purposes if nothing else. But I expect them to make him a large, legit offer at some point before he hits the market, perhaps next offseason. Whether it’s the right thing for the future of the franchise, I still expect them to do it.


    29 Mar 17 at 2:23 pm

  33. Great topic on “deals not made.” Soriano, Dunn, Zimmermann, Desmond some good examples.

    Todd Boss

    29 Mar 17 at 5:10 pm

  34. Todd, great point, all those names you mentioned signed deals that were pretty dumb for the club that signed them.
    The Rockies win the prize for the dumbest signing of this offseason.

    Mark L

    29 Mar 17 at 8:12 pm

  35. Matz already having elbow problems and probably won’t be ready for the start of the season. The Mets’ great rotation only exists on paper.

    Meanwhile, Familia only got a 15-game suspension.


    29 Mar 17 at 9:00 pm

  36. I think the Mets still have enviable depth, and I would rank them as the best overall rotation in the bigs still.

    I agree with Karl’s comments about Bryce, but you still have to put a price on it. And I believe that winning will cause more fan support than personality, even though I agree with Karl’s take about Bryce’s popularity.

    So until the MASN revenue is cleared up in a favorable way, I just can’t see them being better for giving one guy 30% of their payroll. So I’ve been thinking that they lock up Rendon, and add him to Turner, Eaton and hope Robles comes up in two years as advertised. Then you’ve got 1/2 of a good lineup at low prices, and maybe you buy a decent bat or two on the market, whomever is the next Napoli or EE type, and hope to hit on one more guy internally, like Stevenson or Carter Kieboom. That isn’t as strong as now but it’s still a good lineup and gives them a chance.

    If you extend Bryce, you probably cant keep Rendon nor add those additional bats from the market. So is it worth it? Is that a better lineup? I dunno, tough call.

    But if MASN gets resolved like the Nats think it should, and payrolls can consistently be $170-180m, then I think $35m/yr for Bryce can work.


    29 Mar 17 at 9:30 pm

  37. Todd…. are you at all worried about Strasburg going stretch only? I think it’s a strange way to go as I never thought he was nearly as good out of stretch as he is in full windup. This will be interesting to watch and also sad that he has to go to such a radical change to supposedly guard his health at the very beginning of a monster contract.

    Very defensive and skittish way to manage him. And sort of a no going back situation either since he hasn’t pitched from windup all Spring.

    Geez.. I hope he doesn’t get rocked his first few outings or this could get complicated.


    Marty C

    29 Mar 17 at 9:34 pm

  38. The Nats in general have been a well-run organization over the recent years. They have an Achilles heel, though: their total inability to draft and develop hitters beyond elite players they picked high (Harper, Rendon, Zim). Beyond them, the only pick-and-develop regulars have been Danny and Desi (all the way back to being an Expo pick). Only a few have even done much on the bench: T-Mo, Lombo, Taylor. They’ve covered a bit for this deficiency with a few trade heists, like picking up Ramos and Turner, to still have young, controllable talent.

    Now the chickens of picks like Kobernus and Renda and the AAAA development of Taylor and Goodwin are coming home to roost. Even dating back to Span, they’ve twice had to trade top prospects to fill CF. Werth is about to finish his long contract with no heir in sight. Harper will leave an even bigger hole in two years. Maybe Robles can fill one of those slots, maybe he can’t.

    There are some parallel stories to this on the pitching side as well, where the only homegrown starter was a 1/1 pick. But with Ross and Roark and Gio’s long, friendly contract, they’ve been able to stay good and relatively affordable.

    I’m not one who necessarily thinks the Nat “window” has to close in two or three years, but because of the player-development failures, it’s going to get a lot costlier to keep it open. Yes, the Cubs, Dodgers, and Red Sox all have a lot of money, but they also have a pipeline of young talent that should support them in the coming years, as do the Yankees.


    30 Mar 17 at 7:52 am

  39. As for the MASN money, yes, getting it would help. Heck, the boost there might pay the Harper contract all by itself.

    While I’m certainly in the Nats’ corner in the MASN fight, I’m not sure they’re as hamstrung for cash as they would like the public to believe. If they were, they wouldn’t have a stadium whose naming rights haven’t been sold for nearly a *decade* now. This will be the Nats’ tenth season in Nats Park, and it’s still Nats Park. The Lerners’ at times quirky ideas of how money should be spent on a baseball franchise have had nearly as much impact as the missing MASN money, if not more. It’s a wonder Rizzo hasn’t pulled his hair out having to deal with them. Oh, wait . . .


    30 Mar 17 at 7:59 am

  40. Hi Marty.

    Strasburg in the stretch; his reasoning for going to stretch only made sense to me; have more consistent mechanics. I didn’t get the sense it had anything to do with his health. If he can maintain velocity, maintain mechanics and pitch effectively from the stretch entirely, then why not? Nearly every reliever in the game is stretch only for similar reasons right? Here’s a quick look at this splits from last year with stretch/no-stretch: . I see that from the stretch:
    – his K/9 went down from 12 to 10.
    – But, his BB/9 went way down, from 3.4 to 1.61. And his K/BB rate went to more than 6 to 1; that’s fantastic.
    – HR/9 up a bit from the stretch versus windup; something to watch.
    – His FIP was up … but his xFip was slightly lower.
    – I can’t find off-hand velocity in windup versus stretch. But hte above numbers tell me what I need to know.

    Summary: we’ll see. I’m sure he didn’t do this change lightly. But he’s been pitching from the stretch his whole life, so it shouldn’t be too weird. I certainly wouldn’t characterize it as a “radical change.” Changing his wind-up or his arm slot? That’s radical.

    Bryce extension: even given the chummy relationship between Lerner and Boras, I can’t see Harper not going to FA. And players always get overpaid in FA. Literally every list of “bad contracts” in the game is the result of a bidding war in FA. So… i’m not really counting on an extension at any price.

    Todd Boss

    30 Mar 17 at 10:28 am

  41. I thought there was a 100% chance that Stras would go to free agency. He didn’t go. So I’ll make Bryce’s chances at “only” 97%. Yeah, he’s very, very likely to go, but that doesn’t mean that the Nats shouldn’t make an offer anyway. Even though Bryce is wired completely differently than Stras, he has the Stras example right in front of him. He also has the example of his good friend Desi (who was in his wedding), who screwed himself royally and ended up leaving a place he loved by chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


    30 Mar 17 at 12:32 pm

  42. Thanks for those stretch/non-stretch numbers, Todd.

    One point: in Strasburg’s case, it isn’t an apples to apples comparison because all pitchers have worse results with men on base. Relievers, most of whom always pitch from the stretch, show a decline in performance when men are on base. Strasburg in the past only pitched from the stretch with men on base; the numbers from his past performance with men on base can’t pick up whether the stretch or having men on base is the causal factor for the difference in outcomes vs windup numbers.


    30 Mar 17 at 1:15 pm

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