Nationals Arm Race

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

Operation Nats Off-Season; progress Report


Is Adams our savior?   photo via Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Is Adams our savior?
photo via Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of the Matt Adams signing, lets get a status update on the “needs” of the team and what they’ve done so far now that we’re past the Winter Meetings.

Needs/Off-season todo list: Here’s what I listed as the team’s “pressing needs” in a 10/16/17 post.

  1. Resolve Dusty Baker situationStatus Update: they whacked him and hired Dave Martinez to replace him.
  2. Should we bring back Jayson WerthStatus update: no update here, in that Werth has not signed elsewhere but the tea leaves definitely seem to indicate he’s moving on.
  3. What do we do at Catcher? Status Update:  Nothing yet; our former backup Jose Lobaton has already signed, penning  minor league deal with the Mets.  Not that he was going to really be an option for us.  We’ve seen some rumblings about how the team is going to manage Matt Wieters‘ playing time, and there’s a couple more options out there at catcher (not the least of which is J.T. Realmuto, who has expressed publicly his desire to be traded now that the new Marlins ownership group has gutted the roster.  I still don’t see any change here in direction; I think the team will stay with internal options.
  4. Will they pursue FA extensions with key players?  Status Update: there were brief rumors of extension talks with Harper/Boras, same with Rendon.  Nothing with Murphy.  So not much.
  5. Do they need to pursue a Starting Pitcher?  Status Updatenot much news here yet; they’ve gotten Tommy Milone to return to the fold, signing a ML deal that I would think includes an opt-out if he doesn’t make the team (but that’s an assumption).  Right now the 5th starter is the winner of an A.J. Cole/Erick Fedde/Milone spring training run-off.  I would expect to see something happen here at some point this off-season.  One complicating factor: Cole is out of options…
  6. What is the Nats 2018 outfield?  Status Update: no news and no trades from depth, so its still looking like Eaton/Taylor/Harper with Goodwin and Stevenson as backups.  They did intimate that Victor Robles will be starting in AAA so that he can play full-time, a decision I fully endorse.  Goodwin in particular got some mention from John Sickels in his prep post for the Nationals farm system, wondering aloud what Goodwin’s numbers would look like with a full season of ABs.  I don’t see that happening here … so I still think there’s a trade coming.  Another complicating factor here: Goodwin is now out of options.
  7. Do the Nats leverage their sudden depth of position players in trade this off-seasonStatus Update: nothing yet here … maybe Billy Beane has been on vacation and he just hasn’t returned Mike Rizzo‘s phone calls for the next big Oakland-Washington trade.
  8. What do we do with the benchStatus Update: so far we’re starting next year with Severino as the backup catcher, we just signed Adams to replace Adam Lind as the lefty PH bench bat.  I still think we need a RH bat to replace the Chris Heisey role, a guy who could play a corner in a pinch.  Otherwise we’re on track here.  Keep in mind; Murphy may not be ready for opening day so right now we’re looking at Wilmer Difo in the starting lineup.
  9. What do we do with the bullpen Status Update: the team re-signed Brandon Knitzler, which I think is a quality move but may also complicate the bullpen.  We now have three relievers who are out of options (Grace, Solis and Romero), all of whom were utilized last year.  If you keep the four guys now signed for big money FA deals along with the 3 out-of-option guys … then you’re leaving in particular Koda Glover in the minors.  Or on the D/L.

So, just 3 of the 9 categories really addressed at this point, though not all 9 categories were really Mandatory to do this off-season.

What does our 25-man opening day roster look like right now?

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Gonzalez, Cole
  • RP: Doolittle, Madsen, Knitzler, Kelley, Grace, Solis, Romero.  (4 of these guys have guaranteed contracts, the other 3 are out of options)
  • C: Wieters, Severino
  • Inf: Zimmerman, Murphy, Rendon, Turner, Adams, Difo (likely one more here with Murphy on the 10-day D/L to start the season)
  • OF: Eaton, Taylor, Harper, Goodwin, Stevenson

Does that look like a World Series winning team?

18 Responses to 'Operation Nats Off-Season; progress Report'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Operation Nats Off-Season; progress Report'.

  1. Derek

    21 Dec 17 at 10:17 am


    I suspect that roster looks WS winning-ish? You don’t have to squint THAT hard to see the following guys making a run* at the all star game in their home park:

    Scherzer, Stras, Doolittle, Zim (although REGRESSION ALERT), Murphy, Rendon, Turner, Eaton, Harper, maybe Taylor if he bops a few dingers early in the year…

    Now obviously only a fraction of these guys will even be in position to make it, but I think (as in recent years), the top talent on this team compares pretty well with anybody.

    *Now if you want me to make some BOLD PREDICTIONS on who will actually make it… Max – yes (starting the AS game in his home park); Stras – no (misses a couple weeks early on, giving me a nervous breakdown); Doolittle – no, not enough save opportunities; Zim – no, that regression monster; Murphy – no, injury issues effect playing time; Rendon – i suspect yes, in a bit of a late reaction to his year last year, but it’ll be as a bench player given the NL’s absurd 3B depth; Turner – nah; Eaton – no, loses defensive value playing LF and that knee probably wont be 100% for a while; Harper – yes, and probably yes every year he plays >50% of the pre-break games; MAT – no, although i DO think he’ll mash some dongers! So 3 All Stars. Seems about right. Maybe you swap Stras and Rendon. That seems about right.

    Additional PIPING HOT TAKES, per Todd’s issues above. Come get ’em while they’re hot:

    1. sigh.

    2. I actually know exactly what to do with Jayson. Dunno if people saw this, but for some reason we’ve taken garbage third base coach No Stop Sign Bob and decided his job wasn’t difficult enough, so now he’s our outfield coach. A position, I’ll note, that he has never played or coached. His assignment to this role was something to the effect of “uhh… I guess I’ll do what I’m told? *shrug emoji*” Instead of that inevitable tire fire, why not let Jayson coach the OF! He seems to know about how to do things out there, even if his rapidly decaying body can’t really do them anymore…

    3. I suspect that we will stand pat at catcher. I think the assumption probably is that Weiters is do for a bounce back – he cant be the worst in baseball again, right?! Now I don’t believe that he will bounce back, but I guess it’s not the worst idea. If he’s still hitting like a middle school student by the summer, I suspect Rizzo pokes around for an upgrade (or hopes one of the guys on the farm is crushing it).

    4. They’ll probably ask, offering low-ish deals. Boras will say no, and that’ll be that. I think this is a HUGE mistake, but the Nats are unlikely to overpay in this circumstance. Of course it’s not my money, but I’m all in on making harper and rendon lifetime Nats. That’s how you build a generation-spanning team and fanbase, but again, not my money.

    5. We’ll probably bring in somebody late in the winter who’s not getting the offers they wanted on a one or two year deal. At least I hope so. AJ Cole being out of options complicates things, but I don’t think you can trust him to be a big league starter. His peripheral numbers on his kinda ok ERA in the show last year point to a pretty trash pitcher, even for a 5th starter. Maybe they also try to see if they can get Ross back for a few innings next fall.

    6. I’d like to sell high on Goodwin, but I suspect they won’t. He has one partial year of kinda ok production. Other GMs aren’t idiots, so I don’t know that he has a ton of actual value as a stand-alone acquisition. He’s also 27 so it’s not like he’s some sort of youthful lottery ticket. Stevenson isn’t really a MLB player, so replacing him with a Heisey/whoever RH bench hitter type is fine with me.

    7. See above. I’m not even sure there is really that much of a glut here… I guess if you think Goodwin and MAT are real. Otherwise, what you have are two bench OFs, a guy coming off a knee injury, a guy who will be a FA next fall, and a talented prospect who can’t legally drink yet. Not a ton of value to be had in trade (outside of Robles), so I think it’s tough to move any of these guys, really. Just play the three that play the best!

    8. Pretty much agree with Todd. To start the season, it’ll be Severino (who, by the way, sucks – please do @me on that one), difo, goodwin, adams, and RH PH-guy. If Murphy isn’t ready, then Difo flips to second and we get more Adrian Sanchez (sigh).

    9. The option crunch is kind of why I think we’re done making significant moves here. Particularly if you bring in a 5th starter and have to shove Cole to the pen, you’re already over-subscribed on bullpen spots (Doo, Madsen, Kintzler, Kelley, Solis, Romero, Glover, Grace, Cole – you dont have spots for TWO of those guys…) I’m sure we’ll see some minor league contract type guys brought in, but nothing too exciting.

    Wow I just typed for a long time. Happy to argue with you guys about the Nats during the holidays season! Way better than work!


    21 Dec 17 at 10:51 am

  3. Many thoughts, but a quick question for Todd: what’s your latest calculation of where the Nats are total-salary-wise? I remember seeing between what Todd had said and what some folks at Nats Talk thought that the Nats were roughly $17M to $25M under the 2018 luxury tax (including projected arb numbers) before they started signing anyone. They’re now on the hook for an additional ~$9M for Kintzler and Adams, although it may be more than that if it’s based on Kintzler’s AAV.

    Anyway, if we’re believing the estimates, we’re now down to only $8M to $16M left under the luxury tax, maybe even less because of all the fuzzy stuff about counting benefits cost. The Nats still need at least three more players: starting pitcher, catcher, and RH bench bat.

    The overriding question that will define what the Nats do the rest of the offseason is whether they intend to stay under the luxury tax. And frankly, part of that answer may lie with whether they went over in 2017, which is still unclear.

    The Kintzler and Adams moves don’t strike me as those of a team on a tight budget. Kintzler was a nice-to-have, not a necessity. If they had wanted a cheaper LH bat, they could have played the same game they did last year and hoped that a Lind type would fall to them for $1-2M in February. They’ve also been rumored to at least be talking to Wade Davis, who would guarantee that they would be over the tax line. If they’re going to spend that much, though, I’d rather see them spend it on a starter.


    21 Dec 17 at 11:44 am

  4. The remaining #1 issue is to find another starting pitcher. The two questions are whether a #5 type is good enough vs. looking for a playoff #3, and free agent vs. trade.

    I’m still not convinced the Rays are in sell mode despite the dump of Longoria, so I don’t know how available Archer is. The Nats have the pieces to put together a trade to get him, but it would gut what’s left of the top of the farm crop. So I doubt that’s the direction they look.

    But I also don’t love any of the free agents. Arrieta has had three years of regression, and yet I’d trust him more with a postseason start than Darvish. Cobb and Lynn have very suspect peripherals. I and some others have mentioned Jaime Garcia as an affordable option, if Lilliquist recommends him.

    One word on Cole: no. He needs to be traded. He was fine as a #7 starter in waiting on the farm, but he’s out of options and not what this team needs, even in the bullpen. He could eat plenty of innings at the back end of a rotation for a bad team.

    The greater curiosity is whether the brass thinks Fedde is ready for a legit rotation shot. I can’t see them going into the spring with just Fedde/Cole/Milone, though.

    MadBum remains my pipe dream. By Aug. 1, when he’s only got just over year left on his contract and the Giants are 40 games out, maybe he’ll be available.


    21 Dec 17 at 1:34 pm

  5. Catcher: the Wieters/Severino combo sucks, but I’m not losing too much sleep about it. We’re stuck with Wieters, and of course it would be nice to have a viable alternative to share time with him.

    As nice as it would be to get Realmuto, signing Avila would be much less complicated. Avila as a LH hitter would also be more of a complement to Wieters. If they truly platoon them, Avila would also get a lot more starts than Wieters.

    We’ll see. Realmuto would cost at least one of the top prospects, unless they can finagle something by taking Prado’s contract.


    21 Dec 17 at 1:50 pm

  6. 2017 FA starter stats:

    Darvish: 3.86 ERA, 118 ERA+, 3.83 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 K9

    Arrieta: 3.53 ERA, 123 ERA+, 4.16 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 8.7 K9

    Lynn: 3.03 ERA, 129 ERA+, 3.44 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 8.6 K9

    Cobb: 3.66 ERA, 113 ERA+, 4.16 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, 6.4 K9

    Vargas: 4.16 ERA, 108 ERA+, 4.67 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, 6.7 K9

    Cashner: 3.40 ERA, 138 ERA+, 4.61 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 4.6 K9

    Lackey: 4.59 ERA, 95 ERA+, 5.30 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 7.9 K9

    Dickey: 4.26 ERA, 100 ERA+, 4.72 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 6.7 K9

    Garcia: 4.41 ERA, 99 ERA+, 4.25 FIP, 1.41 WHIP, 7.4 K9

    Volquez: 4.19 ERA, 97 ERA+, 4.35 FIP, 1.42 WHIP, 7.9 K9

    Cahill: 4.93 ERA, 86 ERA+, 5.26 FIP, 1.62 WHIP, 9.3 K9

    Nolasco: 4.92 ERA, 86 ERA+, 5.10 FIP, 1.45 WHIP, 7.1 K9

    These are the only guys I’m finding with ERAs under 5.00, although it’s possible I missed a couple.


    21 Dec 17 at 8:27 pm

  7. Let’s add a couple of guys said to be available:

    G. Cole: 4.26 ERA, 101 ERA+, 4.08 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 8.7 K9

    Archer 4.07 ERA, 101 ERA+, 3.40 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 11.1 K9

    Archer is controlled through his prime years at the insanely low price of 4/$36M. Cole is controlled for two arb seasons.


    22 Dec 17 at 6:31 am

  8. 5th Starters from last year: Ross (.4), Cole (.1), Guthrie (-.1), Ejax (-.1), Fedde (-.3) and Turner(-.5). That’s a collective -.5. Still won by 20 games and the division does not look appreciably better. So I don’t think getting a fifth starter is necessarily the most important thing.

    Adding a good catcher would be the dingy most impactful move. Replacing Kendrick is #2. Then maybe another reliever.

    Now if you’re talking about trading for a starter controllable for the next few years, so that you extend the window, like archer? That I can get my arms around, but your are acting for a different reason


    22 Dec 17 at 9:04 am

  9. I posted all the pitcher data because I looked it up trying to get a handle on the obvious choice . . . and there isn’t one. Not even close. It’s clear as mud. I’m honestly almost back around to thinking that it wouldn’t be terrible to just roll with Fedde, which I never thought I’d say. Not A. J. Cole, though; I don’t trust him as a starter, even to be as “good” as EJax. Cole had a 1.75 WHIP at AAA last year, 1.50 in DC.

    I’d say no to Gerrit Cole as well. The Bucs have been asking for Torres from the Yanks so would want Robles, for two years of a guy who was pretty darn average the last couple of years. Not happening. Robles-plus for four years of Archer would be a conversation more worth having, but you’d still have to consider whether he’s SUCH a difference-making element to be worth giving up such a piece of the future for.

    Among the FAs, I don’t see any reason for the Nats to make the risky overpay for Darvish or Arrieta. On the other end of the spectrum, let’s eliminate Lackey and Cahill. Lynn looks pretty good on paper, but is he worth a 4- or 5-year commitment? Probably not.

    I almost couldn’t bring myself to include Dickey, but if you want a guy would would take a one-year contract, he’s your man. Wouldn’t it be fun to slot him between Max and Stras to totally screw up opposing hitters all weekend?

    Among the guys left on the list, Vargas and Cashner seem a little better than Garcia and Volquez, but not much. Any of them could be had for less than $10M per year, but all probably want at least a couple of years. But would any of them be that much better than a Fedde/Ross combo?


    22 Dec 17 at 9:42 am

  10. Oops, forgot to mention Cobb, who is probably in the same price range as Lynn . . . and probably not worth 4/$60M to the Nats. Or maybe he is. If you could get Cobb or Lynn at more like 3/$45 with an option/buyout for the fourth year, either could be a decent bridge beyond the loss of Gio. Just don’t expect either to make much difference in the postseason . . . which plays right into Wally’s question of whether such an investment is worth it for the Nats.


    22 Dec 17 at 9:48 am

  11. Salary estimate: i have the Nats somewhere in the $183M-$184M range; $184 in “real 2018” dollars, which means including the $11.5M of deferred dollars they’re paying this year. I have them at $183M in luxury tax estimate based on the way i think MLB calculates luxury tax payments. But that should be “under” the tax threshold as I know it. Cots has a xls that apparently shows how the Nats are currently over:

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 17 at 10:41 am

  12. And don’t forget Ross should be back by August, and maybe Romero or
    Crowe fly up the system. None of that is high probability contributions but it’s in the mix.

    All that being said, I think that the Nats do go after a starter with a bit of control for 2019+


    22 Dec 17 at 11:08 am

  13. Good stuff, Todd. If you’re correct, the Nats have around $13-14M left to play with to stay under the tax line of $197M.

    Of course the question of whether they will stay under the line is the BIG one. If they do, then the Kintzler signing makes me mad. He was a nice-to-have, not a necessity. That $5M could have been better used toward a starter, catcher or RH bat.

    If they are staying under the line, here’s where we are: basically, they can’t afford to fill all three of those slots. Avila and Kendrick both figure to command ~$5-6M apiece–and I would have rather had either of them instead Kintzler.

    Among the three areas, they have the “best” in-house option in starting pitching with Fedde. Catcher is Severino and Read, so basically nothing you want in the majors right now. RH bat could be Raburn or Bautista, neither of whom quicken the pulse. If the RH bat needs to be able to play INF, then you’re left with Sanchez.

    So, if they’re staying under the tax line, my take would be to spend the remaining money on the bench and maybe sign a couple of more Milone-like retreads to compete in the spring. That’s not ideal, though, and if there was ever a year for the Nats to say “screw the tax,” this one is it.


    22 Dec 17 at 11:35 am

  14. Except it’s nit only dollars, you get lesser picks next year for Murphy, Harper, Gio (maybe) leaving.


    22 Dec 17 at 1:24 pm

  15. You already get lesser draft picks under the new CBA, I think second-rounders at best. That’s no compensation whatsoever for losing a Bryce Harper type of player.

    If there was ever a year for the Nats to say “screw it” and go over the cap, it’s this one. However, the penalties do compound, and there’s still uncertainty whether they went over in 2017. The ruling on that may have something to do with how willing they are to go over in 2018.


    22 Dec 17 at 2:08 pm

  16. I think the picks are lowered even more, or maybe forfeited, if you were over the cap. But not sure and maybe it isn’t a significant deterrent this year anyway.


    22 Dec 17 at 5:08 pm

  17. KW

    22 Dec 17 at 6:11 pm

  18. There’s a good link at cots that shows the luxury tax calculations; they don’t just look at the payroll of the 25 man roster … you’re looking at all 40 men plus some staff salaries. That’s why they’re already over.

    Todd Boss

    29 Dec 17 at 4:49 pm

Leave a Reply