Nationals Arm Race

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Nats Non-News: Non-tender deadline, FA (lack of) market and Ohtani


Are the Nats really in the mix for Japanese superstar Ohtani? Photo via

Are the Nats really in the mix for Japanese superstar Ohtani? Photo via

As many others have noticed … there isn’t a heck of a lot going on right now in the “hot stove” season.  But given where we are in the regular off-season calendar, lets bang out a couple of topics.

First: the Non-tender deadline.

For the first time in an awful long time, the Nats have no real obvious non-tender candidates on their roster.  They entered the off-season with just four arbitration-eligible players and they are all set to be crucial pieces for 2018:

  • Bryce Harper technically would have been arb-eligible but signed away his 4th year for north of $21M.
  • Anthony Rendon comes off easily his finest season as a pro (his numbers across the board eclipse his 2014 5th place MVP season) and he should be in line to more than double his $5.8M 2017 salary.
  • Tanner Roark struggled in 2017 (… perhaps caused/aided by the frequently-seen WBC hangover?) but is still slated to be our 4th starter on a rotation that doesn’t currently have a fifth and should be in line for about an $8M payday.
  • Michael Taylor has established himself as one of the premier defensive center fielders in the game, will be set to start in 2018, and faces arbitration for the first time (likely to get around a $2.5M check).

Compare this to previous non-tender years (with links to non-tender specific posts from years past):

  • 2016: we non-tendered Ben Revere, waived Aaron Barrett before having to make the NT decision, and declined Yusmeiro Petit‘s option as a way of “non-tendering” him.
  • 2015: we non-tendered Craig Stammen, but kept NT candidates Jose Lobaton and Tyler Moore (eventually trading Moore after waiving him at the end of spring training).
  • 2014: we did not non-tender anyone, though a couple weeks later traded NT candidate Ross Detwiler to Texas for two guys who never really panned out for us (Chris Bostick and Abel de los Santos).
  • 2013: we did not non-tender anyone, only Ross Ohlendorf was a candidate, and in retrospect he probably should have been NT’d since he didn’t throw a pitch for the Nationals in 2014.
  • 2012: we non-tendered three guys (Jesus FloresTom Gorzelanny, John Lannan) in the face of a huge amount of arbitration players (10).
  • 2011: we non-tendered Doug Slaten deservedly, but tendered candidate Gorzellany.
  • 2010: we non-tendered Chien-Ming WangWil Nieves, Joel Peralta.  We also outrighted 5 guys prior to the NT deadline, DFA’d two more in December, and DFA/dreleased four more guys prior to Spring training in a very busy off-season.
  • 2009: we non-tendered Scott Olsen, Mike MacDougal
  • 2008: we non-tendered Tim Redding, now the Pitching coach for our Auburn Short-A team, so I guess there was no hard feelings there 🙂
  • 2007: we non-tendered Nook LoganMike O’Conner.
  • 2006: we non-tendered or declined options for Ryan Drese, Brian Lawrence, Zach Day (it might have only been Day who was officially non-tendered)
  • 2005: we non-tendered Carlos BaergaPreston WilsonJunior Spivey.

That’s a long trip down random memory lane for marginal Nationals players from yesteryear.

Post-publish edit: as expected, the team formally tendered contracts to the 3 arb-eligible players on 12/1/17.

The FA market in general seems to be held up by two major names: Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani.  Jeff Passan argues there’s other reasons (see this link) for the lack of movement, but one has to think the big names are a big part of it.  I also believe that this year’s “crop” of FAs is … well kind of underwhelming.  Here’s Passan’s ranking of FAs: his biggest names past Ohtani are Yu Darvish (who just sucked in the post-season, is coming off TJ surgery and doesn’t rate as the “Ace” he once was), J.D. Martinez (who blew up in 2017 but who has normally gotten a lot of his value from defense and he’s not getting any younger), Eric Hosmer (a 1B only guy, even if he’s really good, who seems like a safe bet to get over-pad and age badly) and Jake Arrieta (who has taken a step backwards from his Cy Young win and has already entered his decline years).  Plus, the “price” for signing some of these QO-attached guys (Hosmer, Arrieta plus other top-10 FAs like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Wade Davis) will be quite steep for big-market and/or Luxury tax teams like our own Washington Nationals.

Frankly, between the higher price of forced loss of picks due to our over-spending last season, our current payroll tightness (we seem to only have about $17M to spend to stay under the tax for all of next year) and the underwhelming lot of available players … i don’t see us really participating in this year’s sweepstakes.    Do we want to pony up for a middling 5th starter type like Jaime Garcia at the likely going price of $10M/year?  Or roll the dice with a MLFA like we did with some success last year (Edwin JacksonJacob Taylor).  Or just stay inhouse and let Erick Fedde continue to mature every 5th day on the mound?

Stanton, according to the tea-leaves i’m reading this week, seems like he’s heading to San Francisco, who is in desperate need for offense, outfielders and a franchise makeover after last year’s debacle.  Stanton could fit all three.  Which is great for him (he’s born and raised in California and would be joining a franchise that, despite its 2017 season, still has 3 WS titles in the last decade and a slew of marquee players to build around), great for the Nats (getting him out of the division), great for the “franchise” of Miami (who rids themselves of perhaps the 2nd worst contract in baseball behind Albert Pujols‘ and lets them get a relatively clean slate to start over for the new franchise ownership group), and of course awful for the “fans” of Miami, who thought they were finally getting rid of one of the worst owners in professional sports only to get slapped in the face with comical missteps by the new Derek Jeter-led ownership group, who managed to embarrass themselves in the most ridiculous way (by firing ceremonial Marlins legends for no good reason) early and then put themselves on the defensive needlessly by immediately crying poor and saying that they needed to pare payroll within a few days of taking over.  If i was a Miami fan I wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I also think its notable that the first ex-Nat ranked on Passan’s list comes in at #43; the “ripe for regression” Matt Albers.  Brandon Knitzler comes soon after him (who could be a re-signing candidate frankly for us, to put the “law firm” back together), then you have to get all the way down to #62 to find Jayson Werth.  As compared to next off-season, when the Nats will have the #1 guy on the list.

Coming back to Ohtani (I’m going with the h in the name since after much research that’s what seems like the right way to spell it) ….

First things first: I desperately hope the Nats get him.  Anyone who thinks that they’re better off without Ohtani is a fool; he’s set to become one of the biggest bargains in baseball.  For the small price of a $20M posting fee, you get a guy who throws 100, is an 80 runner, and hits the crap out of the ball.  For a miniscule bonus figure (the max any team has seems to be about $3.5M; the Nats only have $300k) and then a MLB min contract.  Its just amazing.  His presence could literally change the face of a franchise for a decade for about the same amount of money we will have paid Gio Gonzalez this year and next.  I doubt he picks us though; it seems more likely he picks either a major market team (NY, Boston) on the east coast or (more likely) one of the west coast teams for better proximity to Japan and a larger Asian native market (LA, SF, Seattle).  But its all speculation.

Hey, did I mention that the Nats need both another starter AND a lefty-bat off the bench, right now??  Ohtani would be perfect!

Side Note: why the heck is he coming over now and subjecting himself to MLB minimum contracts and arbitration??  He’s literally leaving $100M on the table by not waiting just two years and coming over un-restricted.  I just cannot believe he’s doing this and costing himself so much money.  I get the lip service comments about wanting to challenge himself, yadda yadda, but when there’s literally 9 figures of money on the table, I just don’t understand the decision.  He’s projected to be better than Daisuke Matsuzaka, better than Darvish, both of whom got many times more money (Dice-K got $52M to him, $103M in total cost plus his posting fee), while Darvish got $60M to him and cost the Rangers $111M total with posting fee).  It seems crazy.

Can’t wait to see where he goes, and I can’t wait to see if he’s the real deal.

61 Responses to 'Nats Non-News: Non-tender deadline, FA (lack of) market and Ohtani'

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  1. Interesting fangraphs piece on the enigmatic Michael A:

    We’ve talked at length about how his plate discipline numbers didn’t improve last year, so his quality of contact had to explain his improved batting performance. The article suggests launch angle (increased) may have something to do with the better contact. If that’s true – his 2017 launch angle is his new normal, which it may be – then I would expect less BABIP regression for him (I don’t think his .363 BABIP is likely to repeat). Even after the good 2017 I thought of MAT as a sub-league average bat, but maybe he’ll keep drinking the Daniel-Murphy-launch-angle kool aid and be something a little better?

    The Nats are in an interesting spot vis-a-vis Taylor. I think Robles is already likely a better player overall (probably a better hitter already, better baserunner, probably not as good a fielder). If we’re maximizing 2018 wins, it probably makes sense to trade Taylor for something else we could use more (i.e., a starting pitcher). But keeping Taylor allows the team to hold Robles back, definitely getting an extra year of control for him and probably saving money (if they keep him down long enough to pass the super-2 deadline). Even though I think Robles is probably better already, I don’t think it’s by much at this point. And, as the Fangraphs article notes, keeping MAT makes replacing Bryce easier next year.

    What they should do almost certainly depends on what MAT could fetch in a trade. I’d be shocked if they’re not exploring it.


    1 Dec 17 at 1:40 pm

  2. Taylor; Steamer and Depth charts projection systems just murder him for 2018: . I guess we have to ask ourselves: if you had a .230 hitter who gave you 20 homers/20 steals (or more, since he had 19/ and 17 in 118 games/432 ABs last year so he’d project a few more in each category in a full season) but also gave you elite/best in the league defense (8 DRS last year, that’s nearly a “win” all by itself, plus fantastic range by UZR factors) is that “enough?”

    I don’t think Robles is ready. I’d rather start with Taylor in CF and if he’s flailing at 2016 levels half way through the season, you bring up Robles and put him on the bench.

    That being said … I think right now you’d be “trading high” on Taylor, Goodwin, even Difo to a certain extent, so yeah you have to explore it. If you could flip Taylor for a quality 5th starter … i think you do it.

    Todd Boss

    1 Dec 17 at 1:47 pm

  3. — I may be wrong about every other offseason prediction, but I’m getting this one right: the Nats are going to blow by the luxury tax threshold. Ted Lerner is 92. Mark Lerner just lost a leg to cancer. Bryce, Murph, and Gio may be on their last ride. They’re going all in.

    — Taylor: I’ve been talking all offseason about trading him. I don’t know how much he would bring in return by himself, though. I think a viable trade for someone substantive enough to bring anything to the Nats’ championship aspirations would have to start with Taylor + Fedde and probably include more.

    — Even if Taylor were to be traded, I think the Nats would stand by their age-old practice of setting the clock back on Robles, which means they wouldn’t bring him up until July. (I assume he has about as much time to make up in the minors as Trea did in 2016.) I think he could use a little more seasoning anyway. That is, unless they don’t trade him. He has insane trade value right now.

    — The thinking with Ohtani seems to be that he hopes to make up the lost on-field revenue with endorsements. If he wants to do that, he needs the locker next to the MLB king of personal branding, Bryce Harper.

    — If Stanton and Ohtani both end up on the Dodgers, the Grinch truly will have stolen Christmas.


    1 Dec 17 at 2:11 pm

  4. I’ll move forward the reminder to vote for your favorite minor-league bats at Luke Erickson’s Nationals Prospects site.


    1 Dec 17 at 2:29 pm

  5. Also, I don’t think the Stanton contract is awful. Unless he suddenly starts sucking or gets hurt, it’s only for 3/$77M for his age-28/29/30 seasons. Those three years of Harper may cost a team nearly twice that much. I would LOVE to add Stanton to the Nats. It would be the ultimate all-in move.


    1 Dec 17 at 2:34 pm

  6. Welington Castillo to Chisox. The 2/$15M was probably more than the Nats wanted to pay for a time-share. Eyes turn toward Avila and Iannetta . . .

    Ohtani will formally be posted today, although isn’t already tomorrow in Japan?


    1 Dec 17 at 3:16 pm

  7. Stanton’s contract is entirely backloaded; there’s NO WAY he’s opting out. that’s the problem with it. Sure its ok now, but he’s guaranteed payments through frigging 2028!! And he’s brittle; for five straight years prior to this one he missed significant time. He’s played 150 or more games just twice in his career.

    Todd Boss

    1 Dec 17 at 5:18 pm

  8. Stanton is owed 10/$270M if you count the $10M buyout of his last year, 11/$285 if you don’t. Figuring 1 WAR = $10M (probably more by later in the contract), Stanton would have to generate 27 WAR over 10 years (2.7 WAR per year) or 28.5 WAR over 11 years (2.6 WAR per year). Thus far over 8 seasons, despite the injuries, Stanton has generated 34.1 fWAR, 35.1 WAR. Without attempting the full Fangraphs-type regression, I would say that the odds are very good that Stanton will reach full valuation of his contract and will possibly be worth 10+ more WAR than the valuation of his contract. He’s a MUCH better bet to be worth full value than any of the top FA pitchers on the market this year.


    1 Dec 17 at 6:19 pm

  9. Also, in the post Harper/Machado/Kershaw world of contracts, I still think Stanton will opt out in three years.


    1 Dec 17 at 6:20 pm

  10. Meant to say 35.1 bWAR thus far.


    1 Dec 17 at 6:22 pm

  11. I don’t see them trading Taylor. He provides value and insurance for them in, as everyone keeps saying, a must win season and also beyond as a transition guy. Seems very hard to think that, even if someone valued him at 2017 levels, it could be a net positive for 2018. How much value would a better #4 starter add to 2018 over him in CF? Nothing if you think he performs at a similar level to 2017, a lot if you think he is the 2016 version. Right now he hedges against a rookie (albeit one I also think will be a star) and a guy coming off a significant knee injury.

    Plus, I don’t think the idea of trading him is logical. If he is as good as he was last year, could they find someone who will provide more value than he would in 2018? A 3rd/4th starter? Is that really more impactful than a 3-4 WAR CF for next year, when they have two awesome top guys plus a likely 10 game projected win over the next closest team in the East? I don’t think so.

    If you don’t believe his improvements in 2017 are real, then you won’t get much for him, certainly not anyone that moves the needle on a team as loaded as the Nats will be. So the only way a trade makes sense is if the other team values him at 2017 levels but he really is a 2016 model. And I just don’t think that’s logical when all these teams are not only very smart, they tend to think similarly. To say nothing of what happens when the Nats, the team that knows him best, are willing to trade him without a sure fire replacement.

    The Nats are just too loaded and still lack competition for them to trade him. Sure they need a 5th starter, J.T. honestly, they could make do with a few NRIs and Fedde/Cole/Ross. It won’t be great but they don’t need a Great 5th starter.


    1 Dec 17 at 7:19 pm

  12. I don’t want to re-fight the Taylor fight. As I noted, I don’t know that he would have that much trade value by himself, so unless they can get creative with him as part of a trade, I don’t know how much he would actually bring in return.

    What I do wonder is how much Rizzo & Co. are gleaning about what other teams think of the Nats’ players’ value from the array of new coaches they’ve gathered from around the league. They could also get some insights into what those teams thought were Nat weaknesses.

    I do think the Nats need another starting pitcher. I think it would be very risky to roll with Fedde, and with Cole out of options, I’m not even sure he’ll still be with the organization.


    1 Dec 17 at 10:14 pm

  13. Also, it looks like former Nat Aaron Boone is about to be manager of the Yankees. What a bizarre managerial search they had, interviewing almost no one that any other team had interviewed. They end up with a guy with no coaching/managerial experience.


    1 Dec 17 at 10:19 pm

  14. Too good not to share:

    Curiously, Grant doesn’t seem over the moon at the chance that his Giants might be getting Stanton . . . for four guys named Todd. Maybe he just doesn’t believe it.


    2 Dec 17 at 3:04 pm

  15. Sounds like Stanton is getting close to going to the Giants or Cards. I’d prefer him in the AL but am fine with either, as I don’t think he makes either team a particular threat. As long as it’s not the Dodgers . . .

    The Nats haven’t been listed among the Ohtani-eliminated teams thus far, but he’s not among the favorites, either. Of course you wonder whether some of these teams like the Giants are leaking a lot of Stanton/Ohtani rumors just to string along their fan base.

    So when do we get the Rizzo offseason bombshell? There’s always at least one, generally when you least expect it.


    3 Dec 17 at 8:20 pm

  16. Nats now said to be out of the Ohtani sweepstakes. Sigh. It’s going to be funny if he goes to some sucky West Coast team not named the Dodgers. The sad part for baseball is that he would then become this late-night novelty act, only seen on highlights the next morning by the rest of the country, like Trout. If he throws 102 but no one sees it, does it really happen?


    4 Dec 17 at 5:23 am

  17. Yep, not surprising. But with this slow market, I was hoping they would proactively cut deals with a few low cost SPs and maybe Kendrick/Lind


    4 Dec 17 at 9:27 am

  18. I would really like to have Kendrick back, all the more so because of his 2B experience if Murph isn’t ready for the start of the season. Alternatively, I’ve indicated an interest in Cozart in a similar role, if he’d be willing to learn a little OF as well. I think Lind really wants a full-time gig somewhere, but with so many 1B/LF/DH/PH types on the market, it’s possible he’ll come crawling back in our direction by February.

    I have no idea what they’re looking for in a starting pitcher, but I think they’re going to sign or trade for a legit one . . . at some point. As long as no one other than Fister has signed, there’s no rush. The prices will go down after Christmas!


    4 Dec 17 at 10:00 am

  19. I doubt Lind gets a full time gig anywhere. He could be good at a strong side platoon job, so maybe he can find that, but if he can’t, I’d think the Nats gig is as good as any he’ll find. But it almost seems as if they don’t want him back? That’s just reading tea leaves and could be way off base.

    You’re probably right about what they’ll actually do on the SP, I just don’t agree with it. I don’t want their farm depleted any more to get someone good. To get a Sean Maneau type, which I’ve seen speculated on TalkNats, it has to be Soto or Robles, right?

    Though I’d be intrigued by a prospect challenge trade – something like Robles for Mejia (the C from CLE) or even a lesser but good C prospect like Carson from STl for Antuna or someone like that.


    4 Dec 17 at 1:12 pm

  20. Will the prices go down after Christmas, or is now the ‘Black Friday’ of the MLB offseason? Maybe a bubble guy like Lind or a pitcher like Fiers or Garcia wants the security of knowing they have a 25 man spot, especially on a team like the Nats where maybe the postseason check is $300k, and agrees to a deal with a $2m base plus incentives?


    4 Dec 17 at 1:15 pm

  21. But Kendrick would be the most valuable addition this offseason. he just covers so many areas – Murph, Zim, Taylor (by letting Eaton slide over) and unexpected injuries to Rendon. I’d see him getting 400-500 PAs


    4 Dec 17 at 1:22 pm

  22. Travis Sawchik came up with a great idea for ohtani – he should eliminate 1 team per day from his list.


    4 Dec 17 at 2:58 pm

  23. . . . starting by eliminating the Dodgers and then the Cubs! After that I don’t care. Put Stanton and Ohtani on the Giants and they’re still not going reach .500.


    4 Dec 17 at 3:50 pm

  24. No, I wouldn’t want to give up one from among Robles/Soto/Kieboom for Manaea. I’m actually still not sure what to think of Manaea, who was really good in 2016 but pretty average in 2017.

    I’d be more tempted if the rumors of a Royals rebuild are true and they put Danny Duffy on the market. The huge caveat with him is that he’s never pitched more than 179.2 innings in a season.

    Among the free agents, Cobb’s deal is probably going to be right around what Duffy is owed. He’s RH and probably not as good, though. I think Darvish and Arrieta are going to get overpaid, and I have a hard time getting excited about the next tier of Cobb and Lynn. Then there’s Sabathia and . . . and . . . a bunch of lottery tickets, none of whom are guaranteed to be much better than Fedde/Cole, or than guys like EJax who could be had on a minor-league deal.

    If they’re looking to get someone via trade, the package I would be floating would be some variation of Taylor/Fedde/Cole. A team trying to rebuild but remain competitive while doing so could do a lot worse than that trio. Heck, we’ve watched the Phils and the Barves field guys “a lot worse” for years!


    4 Dec 17 at 4:05 pm

  25. What do you think of the challenge trade? Mejia and Robles are comparably ranked prospects, each at a position of surplus for their own team. Swap them and they each have a quicker path to MLB and the teams benefit too. If you don’t think they are comparable then it obviously doesn’t work.

    I know these never happen but I like it the more that I think about it. I’ll pose it to the fangraphs guy tomorrow in his chat to see his reaction.


    4 Dec 17 at 6:35 pm

  26. That would be one way to get another catcher . . . The Nats actually have a good-hitting catcher in the upper minors in Read, but the reviews of his defense are pretty brutal.

    People fuss at me when I suggest trading Taylor or Robles, but it seems to make sense to trade one of them. (And yes, I know Bryce likely will be gone in a year.) I would prefer to trade Taylor, but Robles currently has two to three times as much trade value as Taylor.

    I also have people fuss at me when I suggest that I don’t think Robles is going to be a superstar. I voted for Soto over Robles in Luke Erickson’s poll because I think Soto has a higher ceiling. Don’t get me wrong: Robles does a lot of things well, and I think he’ll have a fine major-league career. I wouldn’t trade him for a #4-5 starter. I’m only talking about trading him if he can be the centerpiece in bring back a star-level talent who is ready to contribute now.

    We’ll see. From among the Nats’ top prospects of Robles, Soto, Kieboom, Fedde, and Romero, I’ll bet at least one is traded this offseason.


    5 Dec 17 at 8:31 am

  27. Wally, Ghost is now floating the idea of a deal for Mejia on Nats Talk.


    5 Dec 17 at 1:42 pm

  28. Yeah, just saw that but they are trying to get it done for MAT +, which I don’t see happening.

    I agree it makes sense to trade an OF if it fills an important need, but (without rehashing he previous discussion) just don’t see MAT’s value as being very high.

    I’ve been reading reports on Mejia, though. I think he’s a guy that you can get as excited by as Robles. And I’m not fussing with your view on Robles. I do think he’s an allstar guy, but who knows who is right. those are both judgment calls.


    5 Dec 17 at 2:07 pm

  29. Robles for Mejia certainly makes sense in theory. The two have similar market values in that they’re consensus top 10 (probably top 5) prospects in baseball. And the Nats have need at catcher and a surplus of OFs whereas the Indians are in the opposite position.

    BUT, when you’re dealing with unique assets, how the individual teams value the players matters more than the market value. How the Nats rate Robles and Mejia matters quite a bit. Same for the Indians. So if the Nats think Robles is going to be a (much) more valuable player, it may make sense to hold on to him even though C is a position of need.

    But still, a very interesting proposal that could work.


    5 Dec 17 at 3:53 pm

  30. Let me attempt to clarify my position on Robles a bit.
    I don’t “doubt” Robles; what I see with him is a very, very narrow path to elite success. But that’s a very fine distinction to try to make in a blog comments section. Heck, even our friend Fore got upset at Longenhagen’s comp of Lo Cain for Robles. Cain has produced 27.8 bWAR, 23.5 fWAR. He is an above-average MLB player by overall production. He’s never hit more than 16 HRs or stolen more than 28 bases in an MLB season, though. He’s not a “typical” star. Our own Adam Eaton has never hit more than 14 HRs or stolen more than 18 bases, yet it took a “star”-quality
    package to acquire him and the 6.2 fWAR he posted in 2016.

    In the minors, Robles has never hit more than 10 HRs. He did have 37 SBs one season, but his averages are in the mid-20s. Obviously he’s not going to be a big HR power guy, and he doesn’t look like a Trea-like threat to steal 70. He’s going to have to make his living with lots of doubles, triples, and great defense. I’ve suggested a Starling Marte comp for him. Yelich is a comp who pops up high for both Cain and Marte.

    These guys are all really good baseball players, but none of them are household names. I think Robles’s ceiling is along the lines of these guys. But the guys mentioned also show comps like Alex Ochoa and Felix Jose. That’s the fine line I mean. We would be pretty pissed if the Nats traded the next Cain, but we’d be thrilled if they got a quality player in exchange for the next Ochoa. The safe guess is that Robles is probably somewhere in between. You make the call on which end of the spectrum he’s going to be.


    5 Dec 17 at 5:32 pm

  31. So we might be closer on him than thought. LoCain, Yelich, Marte, Eaton (and I’d add Cutch) have had periods of play at all star levels and I see Robles in that group. Any of those outcomes would be a win for the Nats. Will he be 10% better or worse, who knows. And could he wash out? Of course it’s possible.

    But Rizzo has to plan and so he has to make bets, and I’d bet on Robles to reach or exceed that level. I’d guess he puts up 25 + WAR during his control years which is huge.

    I’ve felt like you’ve wanted more power so that’s why you like Soto over him. And maybe there is a case that he’ll be a better bat with more power. But I’d take the added advantage of quality defense at a premium position and base running (which is more than just steals) of Robles

    It’s nice not to have to choose.


    5 Dec 17 at 6:19 pm

  32. I can’t make the leap of Robles to Cutch (and you’re not the only one to suggest the comp). Cutch had 17 HRs in the minors at age 19, and he has 203 in the majors through age 30, including a 31-HR year. I just can’t see Robles getting to that level of HR power.

    I also think 25+ WAR over 6-7 seasons is ambitious for Robles. It’s not out of the question, but without a lot of HR power, it’s aggressive, all the more so until we see how his defense grades out at the MLB level.

    I do see a higher ceiling for Soto, in large part because power is easier to project. It also gives a player more latitude to cover up for other sins. Soto has also shown more plate discipline thus far than Robles. But he’s also a lot farther down the food chain, plus missed most of 2017.

    Of course there’s no real need to decide between Robles vs. Soto unless you want to choose which one to trade. Robles has a higher value right now.

    Huge caveat: they’re both still “prospects,” which by definition means they haven’t really done anything yet. Robles has more of a track record, and thus the higher value.


    5 Dec 17 at 7:18 pm

  33. I actually think Soto has a much narrower path to elite success than Robles does. If Soto is going to be an MVP candidate, he HAS to be a top 5 bat in MLB. He plays a corner OF position (and we have no idea whether he does it well) and he doesn’t appear to add much baserunning value because he doesn’t steal bases. In his limited minor league career, Soto has hit like a guy who could end up being a top 5 bat in MLB, but of course the list of guys who hit like MVPs in A-ball is much longer than the list of guys who hit like MVPs in MLB. Robles other skills give him a significantly larger margin of error with the bat.

    As for Robles’ power, homers in the minor leagues is a poor way to measure power. Robles’ slugging % and ISO compare favorably to McCutchen’s (McCutchen lived in the .110-.130 ISO range whereas Robles lives in the .175 range, including a .200 stretch in 77 games at Potomac this year). And let’s not forget that Robles is 20 years old. Unless you’re myopically focused on homers, he’s shown A LOT more power than McCutchen had at the same age. Robles could very easily age in to McCutchen like power at the MLB level (or he could not). On the other hand, Yelich showed more power than both Robles and McCutchen did in the minors, so things could go the other way too. The broader point is: there’s no reason to put a ceiling on Robles’ power.

    Having said all that, I take the under on 25+ WAR in Robles’ years under team control. But if the over/under is 25 WAR, I would take the under for practically every prospect.


    6 Dec 17 at 11:19 am

  34. Am I too fixated on HR power? Maybe. But at some point, you’ve got to get the ball out of the ballpark before people start comparing you with guys who have hit more than 30 in an MLB season. It’s sort of the same thing with all that’s been predicted, and predicted, and predicted for Buxton.

    In fact, Buxton has been in the back of my mind on all of this. He was the uber-prospect for three seasons. He finally sorta established himself offensively in 2017, but with a wRC+ of only 90 and a frightening K% of 29.4. He was stellar defensively, which helped his WAR. He’s only got four years of team control left and thus far has accumulated a grand total of 4.6 fWAR. Is he getting to 25 WAR during his years of control? That seems increasingly unlikely. Would the Twins have been better off to trade him for ready-now quality major-leaguers a couple of years ago? That’s still hard to know.

    We’re talking about Robles’s potential ceiling, but there’s a floor as well, even for the best prospects. Buxton hasn’t “failed” by any means, but he also hasn’t succeeded at the level or in the time frame that so many had predicted.

    To reiterate, I’m not “hatin'” on Robles or jumping up and down that he be traded. I’m just pointing out that if you hold on to him past his current point of peak value, you had better hope that the Nats’ own scouting department has made the right call.


    6 Dec 17 at 12:17 pm

  35. Of course after all the poking I’ve done on the Robles can of worms, I’ll flip the script and ask whether there are guys out there worth trading him for. Mejia probably, but I think he’s unlikely, and I don’t know how much he would contribute right away.

    So . . . Chris Archer? I’ve never been a big fan, plus with the Rays not far from wild-card pace, I don’t see them being big sellers on Archer, Odorizzi, or Colome.

    Manaea? Robles would be an overpay based on what Manaea did in 2017. Duffy? Why not pay essentially the same deal to get Cobb and not trade anything? Bumgarner? Yeah buddy . . . but not happenin’. The Giants seem to be trying to do everything to avoid rebuilding. Grandal? For only one year? No way. I don’t think the Dodgers will be too willing to give the Nats an upgrade anyway.

    Fulmer? Now we’re talking, but I imagine the Tigers would want a ridiculous package for him. Gerrit Cole? For only two years for a guy with a disturbing negative trend line? Nope.

    So . . . even though I say I’m willing to trade Robles, I’m struggling to come up with a worthy deal. What am I missing.

    I just asked Dave Cameron in his chat, and his answer was Archer.


    6 Dec 17 at 12:57 pm

  36. Four years of Archer at reasonable prices for 7 years of Robles, four of which are essentially free and three of which may be progressively more expensive if Robles turns into a star? I’d do that 1:1 swap in a nanosecond, though I’m sure the Rays would want more.

    Archer has a Max/Stras-like K% and has pitched in the AL East bandboxes his whole career. He could be even better than he has been after moving to the NL


    6 Dec 17 at 1:19 pm

  37. I don’t think anyone thinks you’re ‘hatin’ on Robles. You’re taking a position that’s plausible, as are other ones. Time will tell which one he plays too. My 25 WAR goal was guessing he averages 4 WAR during his 6+ years; I agree its an ambitious standard and the safer bet is under, but I’m pretty bullish and don’t think it is completely unrealistic. it all depends whether he has an extended adjustment period, like Buxton. I think Buxton had much more swing and miss in his game, which can be severely exploited by major league pitchers.

    That being said, I’d traded him for Archer if the rest of the package wasn’t too onerous. Don’t think I’d trade him for Fulmer though


    6 Dec 17 at 1:23 pm

  38. I agree that the Rays would want more than just Robles for Archer, although I don’t think “more” would have to include Soto or Kieboom.

    I’m still skeptical that the Rays would trade their inexpensive ace, though. As always, it never hurts to ask . . .


    6 Dec 17 at 2:10 pm

  39. Wally – I don’t think your 25 WAR estimate is unreasonable for a guy like Robles. If he’s slightly better than league average with the bat (105 WRC+), plays solid defense, and stays healthy, that’s a 4 WAR/yr player. I don’t think he’s a candidate for big K numbers like Buxton and Taylor, though. The offensive risk with him, as KW has pointed out, is that he’ll hit an empty .275. That, with sub-elite defense and just ok baserunning is how he turns into a 1-2 WAR guy instead of a 4 WAR guy. And he has a probably-higher-than-average injury risk because of how many HBPs he takes. All of these possibilities make the “under 25 WAR” the smarter bet, though it’s certainly not ridiculous to take the over for him.

    Still, I’d trade Robles + any two guys in the system that aren’t Soto and Kieboom for Archer in a heartbeat. I bet the Rays could do better for Archer, and Robles doesn’t seem like the kind of guy the Rays target (my sense is that they’re OBP uber alles). Max-Stras-Archer would be a great rotation, and Archer is so cheap that you probably don’t have to trade Gio.


    6 Dec 17 at 2:41 pm

  40. Robles, Fedde, and Seth Romero for Archer. Who says no?


    6 Dec 17 at 3:04 pm

  41. Nah, too rich for me. Three top 5 guys, when one of them is in the top 10 in all of baseball.

    maybe Fedde plus somebody like Baez or JRod.


    6 Dec 17 at 3:43 pm

  42. My only hesitancy would be including Fedde. I’m not a Romero fan and hope they can get something for him before he does something stupid.


    6 Dec 17 at 5:06 pm

  43. I’m NOT liking the increasing chatter about the Dodgers and Stanton.


    6 Dec 17 at 5:28 pm

  44. Ive realized that I don’t think too highly of Stanton. I don’t care much if he goes to LaD and partially think he’ll be a net negative wherever he goes (due to Contract, trade cost and the fact that you will always have to keep a spot for him, regardless of health).

    Ohtani, on the other hand, is likely to be a big, big asset. So I hope the rumors of SEA or SDP are correct.


    7 Dec 17 at 10:00 am

  45. I disagree. Putting Stanton in the middle of that Dodger lineup would be lethal. I don’t think he’s going to end up costing a lot in the way of prospect value in return because the Fish have no leverage. I’ve already made my case that the Stanton contract isn’t bad, all the more if he opts out. It’s certainly better than whatever contract Harper is going to get.

    I’m just hoping that the Dodgers decide not to play and Stanton ends up with the Giants. Anything thoughts that he will bring the Giants back to contention are delusional.


    7 Dec 17 at 11:54 am

  46. Wally gets Keith Law to answer the Robles-Mejia trade question:

    Wally: If you were a GM, would you do more prospect challenge trades than we see generally? Mejia for Robles seems like one that might make sense, given the roster composition of CLE and WAS. Would that be fair, or would one side need to top it up a little?
    Keith Law: Both top ten overall prospects, reasonable from a value sense, but Cleveland could also move Mejia to another position rather than trade him.


    7 Dec 17 at 3:59 pm

  47. Ha – just saw that.

    Man, stuff is starting to happen. Wonder what the Nats will do


    7 Dec 17 at 7:02 pm

  48. Well, technically Law didn’t answer the question, which means he would fit in well in DC!

    And so the Marlin dump begins. I’m sorry, but don’t buy a team and then dismantle it. That’s totally bush. If you don’t have the money to run a team as a competitive MLB franchise, then don’t buy it. They got nothing for Gordon, just gave him away for some very marginal prospects to dump his salary. They’ll get very little for Stanton as well unless they’re willing to take on at least some of the salary. I guess I should be glad that the Nats are in the same division with two franchises that have already destroyed themselves with another now follow suit, but it’s terrible for baseball.

    Meanwhile, the Cubs paid above expected market value for a starter with two TJs. They have many more pitching moves to make, starters and bullpen.


    7 Dec 17 at 7:22 pm

  49. The Chatwood contract was a surprise, wasn’t it. Pitching values are going through the roof.


    7 Dec 17 at 9:43 pm

  50. I’m curious to see whether the salaries are in fact going to go through the roof, or if the Cubs just got desperate/a little over-eager. The suspicion should be that the salary offers are going to go down the longer teams wait to sign guys . . . unless the teams that need pitching (lots of them) get desperate all at the same time when names start coming off the board.


    8 Dec 17 at 10:52 am

  51. And Ohtani shocks the world by choosing the AL team in (suburban) LA. Poor Trout will just have to play in his shadow, I guess. Really, it makes sense for him to go to the DH league. The Halos desperately need arms anyway. They just became a wild-card contender.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you that the Dodgers or Cubs didn’t get him.

    Neither did the Giants. If they don’t get Stanton either, they’re screwed. Well, they were already screwed, just more screwed.

    I see that Stanton has officially kissed off the Cards, which isn’t surprising. If there’s a darkhorse, I’m pulling for the Yanks over the Dodgers. But I’m fine if he goes to the awful Giants.

    In other news, sorry to see Iannetta off the board, but the Nats weren’t going to pay 2/$8.5 for an old backup catcher. Still pulling for Avila, who could also be a LH bench bat and 1B.


    8 Dec 17 at 5:38 pm

  52. KW – agree with all of that. Was intrigued by Ianetta. Glad to see LAA and Trout get some help, maybe they should double down with Arrieta or Darvish, then add Santana.


    8 Dec 17 at 6:05 pm

  53. Was just reading the Chelsea/Jorge mailbox, which might be good for Todd to unpack if he’s looking for grist for a new post. According to Castillo, the Nats aren’t looking to re-sign Albers, maybe because they expect him to get paid more than they want to pay. Too bad. I can’t understand folks who want Kintzler back over Albers. I do expect them to sign at least one hard-throwing RH middle man, though.


    8 Dec 17 at 7:05 pm

  54. It will be a very Merry Christmas if Stanton joins Ohtani in the AL. Doesn’t it sort of smell like the fix is in if Jeter trades him to the Damn Yankees, though? As long as it’s not the Dodgers, life is good!

    Rosenthal has the Nats kicking the tires on higher-end starters like Arrieta and Gerrit Cole. Arrieta’s regression over the last two seasons is frightening, though. With Cole, I fear they would overpay for just two years of control. Two years of a guy with a 4.26 ERA last season isn’t worth giving up any of the Big Three prospects.


    9 Dec 17 at 9:06 am

  55. Oh, I don’t know. Pretty sure I’d trade Kieboom for Cole, he is a legit 2, in my book, ERA aside.
    It just comes down to what elseneeds to be included (as is often the case with me. If it’s Romero + Garcia, then I think I’m out.

    I don’t think Jeter did anything nefarious, it’s just a good story line. The thing with these enormous contracts is that there are only a few teams that are real players for them. So I do agree with the corollary stories that this helps us keep harper. I hope it happens. Gotta say that I’m gonna watch a few NYY games this year. That’s a fun team.


    9 Dec 17 at 11:22 am

  56. I was really, really afraid of the Dodgers getting Stanton. Very glad he’s not going to LA. And scratch NYY off the list as potential destinations for Bryce!

    My big hesitancy with Cole is more the lack of years of control. Yes, I would give up a big package for two years of Bumgarner, but Cole hasn’t exactly carried teams to rings.

    And I’d be glad to include S. Romero in any trade.

    Speaking of minor-league arms, Luke Erickson has opened voting for best arms on his site.


    9 Dec 17 at 1:28 pm

  57. Man, the Cubbies are just throwing money at people.

    I wanted Shaw at the outset, but I now think he’ll be too pricey (i’m guessing 4/$30m territory). So I’ve shifted to Joe Smith. I’d be willing to give him a Kelley contract. The guy has been sneaky good for a while, even though he is getting up there. And I like the different look he gives.


    10 Dec 17 at 8:14 pm

  58. Ohtani and Stanton not going to the Cubs or Dodgers is (likely) more significant for the Nats than any free agent signing. Two major offseason bullets already dodged.

    I am officially very interested in a Robles for Archer deal.


    11 Dec 17 at 10:05 am

  59. Was thinking about Archer, and doesn’t it just make too much sense for NYY to overwhelm TAM for him? They are on the cusp of the best teams in baseball, have the farm system to absorb losses and still be good, and he is young and controlled enough to fit in with their core. AND he let’s them fit under the luxury tax.

    I’d like to have him, but think NYY starts with Frazier and Sheffield and th h. Says take 3 more outside the top 10. Very hard to beat that.
    Severino, Archer, Gray, Tanaka. Damn, pretty good.


    11 Dec 17 at 11:41 am

  60. […] 2017: No non-tender candidates; all arb-eligible players tendered contracts at the deadline. […]

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