Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Collier 5/22/17 (i’m back!)


Our newest little Nats fan!

Our newest little Nats fan!

So, after nearly a 3 week hiatus, i’m back.  And what better way to get back into the swing of things than to do a mailbag!  Nats beat reporter Jamal Collier was kind enough to post a mailbag last night.

(In case you were wondering where I was, we traveled to China to adopt a little girl.  The above is a picture of her the day after we met her for the first time as we were walking the streets of Jinan, the capital city of the province where she was living in an orphanage :-).  She’s a natural in the curly-W hat).


Q: Any sense of urgency from the front office to get pen support? could we see a trade soon or will Rizzo play it cool and wait a bit more?

A: I don’t know how there isn’t a sense of urgency at this point.  We’re nearly a third of the way through the season and the bullpen is in shambles.  As we speak, the Nats bullpen ranks 29th in ERA, 27th in FIP, and 27th in fWAR.  Their best reliever so far in 2017 was a scrap-heap NRI pickup in Matt Albers, who now seems to be closing.  Five different guys have saves.  The two guys who we thought would be in the “closer” discussion ahead of the season (Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen) have ERAs of 6.08 and 7.78 respectively.  The bullpen has 8 blown saves already, some of which were really, really egregious (like May 9th’s scuttling of Max Scherzer‘s 8 inning shut-down effort in Baltimore).

But its not exactly trade season yet.  You very rarely see trades during this time of year; front offices are preparing for the draft.  Then they’ll spend most of June negotiating with draft picks and making roster decisions on short season squads.  Then there’s the International Signing period leading up to the beginning of July.  Then there’s the all-star break.  Only THEN do you really get into “trade season,” the period in-between the all-star break and the trade deadline on 7/31.  So I’d be kind of surprised to see the Nats pull off a trade right now.  More likely you’ll see more of what they’re doing with Erick Fedde: looking at their AAA and AA teams and wondering who might be able to help.  Fedde could be a nice little 7th/8th inning helper, kinda like Koda Glover was last year.  Perhaps there’s another starter down there who might make sense to do the same in a pinch.  The team still has several options in AAA and on the 40-man roster that they’ve yet to explore: Austin Adams has 31 Ks in 19 innings with a 1.42 ERA for Syracuse so far in 2017 …. to go along with 17 walks (but hey, Enny Romero was able to fix his walk issue, right?).  Trevor Gott‘s numbers aren’t awful.  So perhaps there’s some options.

Oh Side note; the rumor that the Nats had a deal with the White Sox to move David Robertson (AND salary relief!?) for Jesus Luzardo and Drew Ward?   That came from Bob Nightengale from the USA Today, who is one of those reporters who seems to get a lot of “anonymous quotes” from unnamed front office types looking to air dirty laundry, especially from the slimy Chicago White Sox organization (go google his reporting on the Adam LaRoche situation for a decidedly pro-ownership take on that whole situation, trashing the player without anyone taking any credit for the quotes).  So i’m not sure how much credit to give it.  But if its true … then you have to scratch your head as to why the Nats didn’t pull the trigger on that one.  Ward is a limited prospect, completely blocked at the MLB level  and who is Rule-5 Eligible this coming off-season and Luzardo is a lottery ticket coming off TJ surgery who has yet to throw a pitch.  I’d have made that deal in a heart beat; you’re telling me the Nats balked because they didn’t get *enough* money coming back?

Collier says the team is well aware of the issue, is poking around, but as noted above its two months from the trade deadline so there’s not a lot of urgency from other teams.

Q: Does Eric Fedde have a chance that to join the Nats bullpen soon?

A: Duh, yes.  Why else would the team have taken its absolute best starting pitcher prospect  in Erick Fedde and put him in the bullpen mid-May?  I don’t think it was to see how he liked it.  I think it was clearly to fill a need at the MLB level.  And soon.  I’d say they’ll give him a call as soon as he a) shows he can handle pitching back to back days, and b) he clears the super-2 deadline.  When will Super-2 deadline be?  Well, its generally been falling in the 2yr, 135day range.   So we’re right in the range as we speak of being at the super-2 cutoff; to be really safe, teams could wait until the first week of June to do call-ups and likely be clear of the cut-off.  So that works  out well; Fedde gets 3 weeks or so in the bullpen, then gets the call.  That’d be my prediction.

Collier agrees; says absolutely Fedde is coming up in a relief role for 2017 to fill a need, similarly to the way the team moved Trea Turner last year.

Q: When can we expect solis to rejoin the team?

A: Beats me.  Sammy Solis just can’t stay healthy, and his current injury is listed on as having “no time table for return.”

Collier reports that Solis is not even throwing yet; i’d say we’re at least a month from seeing him back.  Not good.

Q: Are Trevor Gott, Joe Nathan, and Bryan Harper being considered for call ups in bullpen? 

A: I discussed Gott above: his numbers aren’t stellar but they’re not awful either.  Joe Nathan has been looking his age in AAA: 1.60 WHIP, 5.65 ERA but getting a K/inning.  Does this sound like the bullpen savior?  Bryan Harper had TJ Surgery in November; he’s out the entire year for sure.  So he’s not an option either.

Collier notes that both Gott and Nathan’s numbers are from earlier struggles and both have pitched better lately.  Fair enough; the team has gotten lucky with NRIs so far this year, perhaps Nathan is another possibility.  

Q: When is Dusty going to name Glover as the closer? I think it needs to happen. Let him have a real shot since there are no better options.

A: Who cares who the “Official Closer” is?  You know who has the best bullpen in the Majors?  Cleveland.  You know who Cleveland’s best reliever is?  It isn’t the “closer.”  Its time people started realizing that bullpen usage is evolving.  I don’t care who the guy is getting the useless “save” statistic; I want my best arm pitching in the highest leverage situations, irrespective of what inning it is.  Does Dusty Baker get this?  Probably not … which holds the team back.  But at least  he’s not Matt Williams in terms of bullpen usage idiocy.

Right now Glover seems to be pitching well, but Albers is pitching better.  So those are my late-inning/high leverage go-to guys.

Collier says Baker danced around the issue when most recently asked.  Which isn’t a surprise for a team with 5 different guys who have gotten saves so far this year.

Q: The RHH bench consists of Chris Heisey (0-14 as PH) and Wilmer Difo (1 PH hit?). Upgrades?

A: SSS.  You’re grasping at straws if you’re worried about this team’s offense right now.   Nats team offense is #1 in the majors in BA, #3 in OBP, #1 in Slugging, #1 in wOBA and #3 in wRC+.  For a National league team, that’s astonishing considering that they’re basically punting the Pitcher slot in the order while AL teams have beefy designated hitters in their stead.  So if you asked me if i’m worried about the right handed pinch hitting options, i’d say no.  Heisey was just fine last year, earned his spot this year, and he’ll be ok eventually.   You can’t expect your bench guys to be awesome, all the time; if they were, they wouldn’t be bench guys.

Collier agrees; its early.


Q: With Adam Eaton out even as Zimmerman makes a resurgence doesn’t it make this team the exact same team that lost in NLDS?

A: Not really; last year’s team was good offensively but not this good.  Last year  Bryce Harper struggled most of the year; this year he’s back in 2015 form.  You replaced last year’s empty ABs given to Ben Revere and Danny Espinosa with theoretically “better” at-bats from Trea Turner and Adam Eaton to start.  Even with Eaton gone, Michael Taylor hasn’t been completely awful.   But this team won’t go far in the playoffs without some reliability in the bullpen, no matter now many pitchers their starters throw.  That’s your concern right now.

Collier thinks its pretty much the same team, also noting the bullpen as a weakness.





30 Responses to 'Ask Collier 5/22/17 (i’m back!)'

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  1. Welcome back Todd and congrats on your cute little new Nat’s fan!

    Marty C

    23 May 17 at 10:25 am

  2. Thanks Marty! You’re just buttering me up so I won’t argue with you any more right 😉

    Todd Boss

    23 May 17 at 10:37 am

  3. Congrats on the new daughter!!! Just make sure she goes to bed every night early enough so she doesn’t learn all kinds of new words while daddy watches the bullpen . . .


    23 May 17 at 10:40 am

  4. I agree that the Nightingale report doesn’t pass the smell test. A corner INF who hasn’t shown enough power in Ward and a HS TJ lottery ticket in Luzardo for 2.75 years of Robertson AND ~$25M of salary relief? FWIW, Boz seemed to believe the report and went off in his chat yesterday on the belief that the Lerners had scuttled the deal because the Chisox weren’t kicking back enough cash.

    I’m not that big a fan of Robertson, although he’s been very good this year. I am pleased to see that there are at least prospective deals out there that don’t involve Robles/Fedde/C. Kieboom/Soto.

    Boz seems to think that if the Nats get a true closer, the rest of the pieces will fall into place as guys return to more comfortable roles. I’m not sure I’m buying that, but I also don’t buy that most of the guys are as bad as their numbers say they are, either.

    The Post beat writers say Solis doesn’t seem anywhere close to starting rehab. Of the guys at AAA, Gott has been the best recently. Adams was very good but is on the DL. Nathan had a scoreless streak but gave up three on Sunday. He would require a 40-man move and couldn’t be optioned. We had a good discussion on the various permutations on Luke’s site yesterday, before Ross got recalled to fill the only easily fillable slot (I assume with Grace going back to Syracuse, where he needs to stay).


    23 May 17 at 10:51 am

  5. Woo hoo, congrats on the adorable little Nats fan.

    Don’t worry about the bullpen- starters have agreed to throw 125 per game, with the ability to up it to 150 if it’s still close. On an unrelated note, Nats also planning for a full scale rebuild in 2017 🙂


    23 May 17 at 10:57 am

  6. To be clear, Ward + Luzardo seems like a reasonable request for Robertson straight up. It’s the $25M that makes NO SENSE. Part of their reason for trading Robertson would be to get his salary off the books. Ward + Luzardo seems like a small price compared to what changed hands for Miller and Chapman . . . but then Robertson is no Miller or Chapman. He’s not even Melancon.


    23 May 17 at 10:57 am

  7. Btw, I thought that was a decent return for CWS. Luzardo is well regarded, even with the injury and youth.

    Plus, Remember how bad Robertson was last year?


    23 May 17 at 10:58 am

  8. To me, Boz’s chat yesterday showed how much of a dinosaur he is. His answer where he said “get a damn closer” shows how far out of touch he is. He misses the point; the team needs quality relievers, not focusing on the stupid closer and save statistic accumulator. If you find 5 guys who can relieve effectively, then the guy who happens to pitch the 9th will sort itself out.

    Todd Boss

    23 May 17 at 11:26 am

  9. I’d happily give up Ward + Luzardo for Robertson and salary relief. The problem with Robertson on the trade market, in a vacuum, is that he’s accurately paid – he’s not worth any prospects at all if you have to pay him $25 million over two years because that’s what he’s worth on the open market. Of course, we’re not in a vacuum and Robertson isn’t on the open market. There’s scarcity in good relievers, so the Nats are going to have to overpay to get one. I’ll support almost any deal for a good reliever – and Robertson is definitely good – that doesn’t involve one of our top guys (Robles, Soto, Fedde, C. Kieboom). I’d rather not have to give up Luzardo, but you’ve got to give up something to get something and a HS lefty coming off surgery is the right kind of piece to sell when you’re a win-now club.

    I bet they’d do this deal now if the CWS still had it on the table (I’m sure they don’t).


    23 May 17 at 11:26 am

  10. Robertson wasn’t that “bad” last year … but he’s a ton better this year and his price probably has gone up. Especially in a world where top-notch closers now get contracts on the open market (Melancon 4/$62M, Chapman 5/$86M, Jansen 5yr/$80M). Robertson is 4yr/$46M through 2018 ($12M this year, $13M next year).

    So yeah Robertson is probably “overpaid” slightly when you compare him to what those guys got paid. But is he really that much overpaid? Yeah probably, but isn’t every “closer?” He had a 1.0 fWAR last year, ranking him 41st among all relievers, for his $11M 2016 salary.

    What are you going to do? that’s the going rate for the “proven closer” (TM).

    Todd Boss

    23 May 17 at 11:59 am

  11. Reliever A: 2.77 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 1.077 WHIP
    Reliever B: 2.81 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 1.063 WHIP
    Reliever C: 4.26 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 1.263 WHIP
    Reliever D: 2.75 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 1.475 WHIP
    Reliever E: 3.31 ERA, 1.81 FIP, 0.980 WHIP
    Reliever F: 1.53 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 1.245 WHIP

    Take your pick. Who do you want?


    23 May 17 at 12:09 pm

  12. Reliever E is probably the best of that group (and Relievers C/D the worst) but to be confident, I’d want to know K%, BB%, and GB%.


    23 May 17 at 12:15 pm

  13. F is actually the best known/most established, and the only one not likely available.


    23 May 17 at 12:23 pm

  14. In order, i’d want E, F, A, B, C, D. But its probably a coin flip between E/F on the surface. Its a coin flip between A/B.

    But yeah i’d want to see K/BB rates; FIP has a tendency to over-rate K guys.

    Todd Boss

    23 May 17 at 12:25 pm

  15. OK, I won’t tease for too long. F is Cody Allen, added just because his numbers are pretty close to some of the better ones on the list. (These numbers are current 2017 stats, by the way, not career.)

    C is Herrera and D is Tony Watson. These guys just aren’t that good, and I wish people would stop talking about them as options.

    E is Osuna. I think the Jays would want a lot for him. At age 22, he could still be around and be very good even after a rebuild. At the same time, he might be worth the most investment in a trade.

    B is Robertson. Most of his numbers this season are more back in line with what they were before last year, when he looked like he had hit a wall. (Leaving me not too interested in him in the offseason, despite all the scuttlebutt.)

    Robertson’s back-to-being-good numbers look very close to those of A, don’t they? A is the most available of all. His name is Glover. Might be a good idea to give him a chance before giving up a lot to get someone just as good.


    23 May 17 at 12:55 pm

  16. “If you find 5 guys who can relieve effectively, then the guy who happens to pitch the 9th will sort itself out.”

    This is exactly why I was complaining all the way back in ST about how screwed up it was that they didn’t pursue a lefty/righty middle relief combo after losing out on the high paid closers. In fact, I would have preferred they do this rather than blow a huge amount of money on one guy given how shallow their organizational depth had become.

    Of the current options, Gott has pitched very well in the past month (1.20 ERA, 13/2 SO/BB, .211 BAA in 15 IP since 4/16). Cotts has also been pretty good lately, and given that it seems like Dusty would rather have a root canal than use Perez at this point would seem to be a better LH option. On the other hand, Nathan had been pitching better but gave up two HRs in his last outing.

    As for Fedde, so far he has given up an ER in each of his three relief outings, so it doesn’t sound like he’s taking well to his new role.

    Karl Kolchak

    23 May 17 at 2:22 pm

  17. RHB slash against Perez this season: .421/.429/.842. Yet miraculously, he has only given up runs in three of his 13 appearances. They can’t carry him all season, though, no matter if they owe him $4M. He’s just a huge liability.


    23 May 17 at 3:22 pm

  18. Back when everyone was assuming Robles was gone for a reliever, I offered Osuna as maybe the only person who you could get (plus Biagini, IIRC) where it would cause the least amount of vomit.

    They might sell him if they don’t turn it around soon.

    Good table, KW. Makes it interesting.


    23 May 17 at 4:25 pm

  19. Congratulations on the addition to the family, Todd! I’m glad to see that you’re bringing her up wearing the Curly W and rocking the red. Huzzah!

    John C.

    23 May 17 at 4:28 pm

  20. Congrats Todd! Enjoy your little lady! Fortunately she missed the Guthrie fiasco as well as Drew Storen and Papelbon and she will be around for the 2017 World Series win. The lucky charm we needed.

    Andrew R

    23 May 17 at 11:48 pm

  21. Congratulations Todd. You will begin every day with a smile, no matter how much she roots for the Nats. And bless you for spreading the love…

    1) I remain confident in the internal resolution of the Nats bullpen issue. They are seven games up and their competition is in free fall themselves. Why panic, especially because that afects the market.

    Bob Nightingale is a “spitball” rumormonger who has been proven incredible too many times to count. I don;t believe anything he writes.

    As for Bosworth, the Lerners are cheap idea has just gotten old. They went all in for Jansen, and perhaps they had reason to think they would get him with a high bid. I read the last offseason that he was their target. That does not make Melancon inferior, but perhaps they decided that the fourt year on his deal was a risk based on their own internal formulas. We are not three years in yet to see. But if I was spending that kind of money, I would remember the sunk cost of Papelbon’s last year, and more importantly Soriano’s. I find the Lerners are cheap argument obscene and suspect it is instigated by the front office when they feel the ownership is tying their hands too much.

    But the press manipulation of Wapo hysterics like Bos and Svrl often works — it did precede the trade of Gonzalez and Eaton. So we may yet see Robertson. I prefer to wait and see, because there is a lot of talent on this roster, like Treinen and Glover. Impatience would have written off Joe Ross.

    2) The sky has not fallen with Taylor, and I expect him to continue to improve on his production. This is not surprising to those of us who supported the Nats not giving up on him.

    3) With s much underperformance in pitchers system wide, so far, and the selling off of assets Giolito, Lopez, Dunning, Avila, and Hearn, I would hope the draft brings an infusion of pitching, and lefthanded pitching. Looking forward to Todd’s predraft and draft coverage.

    Also, a big shout out to Ryan Sullivan, who has been posting interesting prospect analyses on NatsGM. Always a great draft stop, he is.


    24 May 17 at 9:48 am

  22. Todd, first of all congratulations on your successful trip. You’ve saved a life and will be forever rewarded.
    The chinese don’t adopt anyone so your daughter could have been another sad story if not for you and your wife.
    As someone who raised 3 children who don’t look at all like me, I say you will be forever glad you did this.

    On to baseball! I get great enjoyment at all the people who are having panic attacks over the 1st place Nats. KW has done a great job of showing how foolish all this panic is. Rizzo is too smart to make a panic-induced trade now, thankfully.

    While you were gone, Todd, I mentioned we were going to have to think of Michael Taylor as Rob Deer with great defense. The great news is he’s actually. been hitting very well, so well that even KW can’t complain.
    His defense tonight was spectacular and it looks like he’s even learned how to bunt. Oh my!
    Looks like Heisey is out for 2-3 months; how are they ever going to replace his .128 hitting? He’s a beloved clubhouse guy so his return in August/September will provide a boost.

    Mark L

    24 May 17 at 10:47 pm

  23. Can’t Heisey still provide that great clubhouse presence now and we don’t have to bother with the Half-Mendoza hitting?

    Andrew R

    24 May 17 at 11:07 pm

  24. 🙂

    Mark L

    24 May 17 at 11:30 pm

  25. Oh, sure I can complain! Look, I’ve conceded that Taylor is probably good enough to fill the gap for this season. But he’s still proven nothing to show that he should be a starter in subsequent years. He’s striking out at a record pace, even for him, fluctuating around 35-36%. That’s just a staggering number for any player at any level of baseball. He’s also on a career-low BB pace. The K impact has been disguised thus far by career-high “luck”: a BABIP of .413. But “luck” at that level rarely holds for a full season, all the more so for a guy who is only putting a batted ball in play 60% of the time.

    Overall, OF depth is fast becoming an issue. Heisey was 0-for-2017 as a PH before going on the DL, and if he’s got a torn bicep, he’s going to be gone for a long time. Goodwin is coming back up, but he’s scuffled all season as well. Stevenson is only hitting .169 at Syracuse. I don’t know that there are many encouraging trade possibilities out there, though, maybe Lo Cain, McCutchen, or even a Span reunion. All of those guys are looking prematurely old, however. Would the Marlins consider trading one of their OFs within the division? (Any of those would have to include one or more of the Nats’ Big Four prospects.) As with everything, there’s no cause for panic, but I think the chances that the Nats trade for an OF have increased.

    Meanwhile, the last three games have provided a good deep-breathing exercise. Joe Ross looked about as good as he’s ever looked. Roark scuffled but got back to being efficient. Tony Fourbags has now posted more than half of his HRs and RBIs in just three games this season. And oh, the bullpen has looked pretty good. If Glover can stay healthy, I still think he could be the back-end answer.


    25 May 17 at 8:39 am

  26. I’ll bet we see that older Cuban guy they signed. Can’t remember his name but think he’s at harrisburg.

    I don’t see him as a high quality impact player but I think he is a defense and obp guy


    25 May 17 at 1:31 pm

  27. Yadiel Hernandez. He had gotten off to a very slow start but has been putting things together over the last couple of weeks. Currently slashing .254/.347/.365. Like Goodwin and Stevenson, he also bats LH, so there’s not much RH help available internally unless you want to look at Brandon Snyder.


    25 May 17 at 2:52 pm

  28. Jose Marmolejos is emerging as a viable trade chip to an AL team. If not, we’ll see him in September.


    25 May 17 at 3:46 pm

  29. Bets on next five promoted:

    1) Robles
    2) Wander Suero (closing well)
    3) Crownover (upward mobility)
    4) Gott (bullpen and consistent)
    5) Yadiel Hernandez (veteran Cuban player acclimating after layoff, in cold weather, new country, and now coming on)


    25 May 17 at 3:49 pm


    Lucas Giolito throws a no-hitter … against syracuse. The world is over, we lost the trade! 🙂 Just kidding; the no-hitter is a red herring; Giolito has continued to struggle and is dropping on prospect rankings as expected .. though some evaluators are still preaching patience (Keith Law) with his mechanics issue. Lopez looks better so far in 2017. dunning was started in Low-A for some reason; once he got to High-A he started getting hit (5.79 ERA in first four hihg-a starts). Its still way, way too early to fully evaluate the trade, but Eaton’s season-ending injury and its longer-term effects on him certainly is a blow to the ledger.

    Todd Boss

    26 May 17 at 10:19 am

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