Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Collier 1/11/18



how successful will Martinez be here? Photo via

how successful will Martinez be here? Photo via

Another week, another slow news week.  So lets see what questions MLB Nats beat reporter Jamal Collier took.

Q: How will the Nats respond to the new coaching staff? They won so many games with the previous one, why wouldn’t management try and retain more of those coaches (besides Bob Henley)?

A: Well, lets take the 2nd question first.  Because its a good one: why the heck didn’t the ownership group give Dusty Baker and his staff another shot?  We have talked this to death of course, but to review: My opinion is that the ownership made an over-reaction/rookie mistake and and under-valued what Baker brought to the table.  I don’t put the 2017 play off loss on Baker.  Baker completely turned around the clubhouse after the Matt Williams debacle, and it made more sense from a roster transition stand point to make a staff change after 2018, not after 2017.  But whatever.

I can’t see how a veteran team of professionals would respond badly to Dave Martinez in particular though; he was a player, he had accomplishments on the field that will speak to the vets, and he comes from a well respected staff in Chicago.  But, sometimes you never know.  Maybe Martinez comes in and is totally rah-rah and turns off the vets like Murphy and Zimmerman, which sends the clubhouse into a death spiral.  Maybe he makes some bone-headed mistakes early with the pitching staff and turns off the two aces Scherzer and Strasburg.  I don’t know if anyone can predict what will happen here.  It isn’t like there was a huge obvious problem with the previous manager that they immediately get respite from; the prior staff by all accounts was respected and successful.

Collier mirrors what I said; we just don’t know what will happen.

Q: What are the most realistic options to improve at catcher or do you see us sticking with Matt Wieters all season?

A: I’m going to ask a different question, because it relates here.  Is the team willing to blow past the luxury tax threshold or not in 2018?  Because if they’re not … then people need to stop asking about upgrading at catcher.

That being said … my take on his ownership group is that they still cling to the notion that you run a team like a business to a certain extent.  And as a business owner, if you were in the hole for $10M in salary would you continue to throw good money after bad or would you just stand pat with what you have?  Furthermore … Wieters is a Boras client and i’m sure Boras has already bent their ear about layering his client and effectively destroying his FA value.   Plus, in case you’re clamoring for a trade for J.T. Realmuto, the Nats have already emptied the farm system, so any further prospect trades will be cutting deep.  Would you give up Soto or Robles for a mediocre catcher?  I wouldn’t.  I’d just suck it up, play out 2018 with Wieters hitting 8th and learn from my mistake (and this is no hindsight is 20/20 statement; everyone knew Wieters was a bad signing when it happened).

So, for me, i’m guessing they stand pat.

Collier notes that Wieters is in better shape , but also notes the team is pursuing a better backup catcher option than the untested Pedro Severino.

Q: For years we’ve seen Joe Maddon hit players such as Addison Russell ninth in the order behind a pitcher. With how dense the middle of our lineup is, could you see Martinez taking this approach with Michael A. Taylor or Trea Turner?

A: Well, the numbers are definitely there: batting the pitcher 8th definitely makes a difference over the course of a whole season.  But it isn’t much of a difference.  And you need a contact guy at the 9-hole to take advantage.  Is Michael A. Taylor that guy?  I don’t think so; I think Taylor is hitting 7th and Wieters hitting 8th all year, forcing the pitcher to the 9-spot with Eaton/Turner 1-2 in some combination.  This lineup kind of writes itself.

Collier disagrees, thinking Taylor could be that “second leadoff” guy in the 9-hole behind a pitcher.  Uh … have you seen how much he strikes out?  He lowered his rate year over year and was still striking out 31.7% of the time in 2017.  

Q: Do the Nats have genuine interest in bringing Howie Kendrick back?

A: I’m sure they do; Kendrick filled a bunch of nice holes and hit so well that many were clamoring for him to play over Werth last post-season.   But there’s no starting position for him, this team when healthy is stacked and he’d be riding the pine.  So i’m sure he’s holding out for a starting role, trying to parlay his excellent 2017 into a full time gig.  Maybe he fails and the Nats get him on a one-year pillow contract … but I doubt it, since he’s got more than just corner defensive capabilities.

Collier basically says the same thing I did, but with better quotes from Mike Rizzo.

Q: At this point, what other offseason moves do you think would be necessary? More bench players? Adding another to the rotation? Bullpen help?

A: Rotation.  Its all about the 5th starter at this point honestly.  We can live with this bench: Severino, Matt Adams, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and a RH corner bat to be signed or discovered in spring training.  I also think any additions to the bullpen mean difficult decisions given the options status of players this coming spring; the bullpen has basically has 4 guys signed to guaranteed contracts plus 3 guys who have no options left.  Not much room for wiggling there.

So that really means two more moves at most.  Do you want your 5th starter to be A.J. Cole?  If not, we need an arm.  Do you want your last bat off the bench to be Andrew Stevenson?  If not, we need a Chris Heisey like character.

Collier agrees.

18 Responses to 'Ask Collier 1/11/18'

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  1. If the Nats don’t go past the luxury tax threshold, then the Kintzler deal was dumb. That money would have been better spent toward a 5th starter or a catcher.

    We’ll see. I still see catcher as a need (which we debated on the last post), but there’s no way I’m giving up one of the top three prospects to get two years of Realmuto. The deal I’ve proposed is that the Nats take on Prado’s salary in exchange for getting Realmuto for some second-tier guys. (I keep pointing out that Cole is out of options and really needs to be traded.) But again, trading for these guys, or signing folks like Avila and Kendrick means taking on salary and probably going over the tax line. Will they?

    I would also invest in an INF bench bat (Kendrick or someone else), all the more so with Murphy’s status uncertain. I’m not one who is convinced that there’s a lot offensive upside to Difo than where he is (wRC+ of 76). Sanchez isn’t much of a safety net.

    And totally agree with Todd that batting Taylor 9th would not have the desired effect.


    12 Jan 18 at 12:25 pm

  2. I have no idea what they’re going to do for another starter. It’s not Cole. It can’t be Cole. Unless they sign or trade for someone, I think it’s Fedde or bust, with Milone and now EJax as the safety nets. Fedde doesn’t have a full season of innings in him, though, so they’d be banking on Ross or a trade-deadline deal.

    Can the Nats win the division with this arrangement? Yes. There’s less margin for error, though, and the team would take a bigger hit (and probably have to make a trade) if any of the other starters went down for an extended period.

    We’ve been over the options before. I’d probably be up for a big trade for Archer. I wouldn’t for just two years of Gerrit Cole. Among the upper tier of FAs, all with yellow-to-red flags, I’d probably vote for Lance Lynn. But again, that’s more money over the $197M line.


    12 Jan 18 at 12:37 pm

  3. Looks like the Nats saved a million on the arb projected for Roark. If they are trying to stay under the cap, that gives them a little leeway. But just a little . . .


    12 Jan 18 at 12:52 pm

  4. . . . but Rendon goes almost a million over estimated. So it’s a wash.


    13 Jan 18 at 12:08 am

  5. Well, a couple of surprises. I would have liked Reed at that contract (2/$17m). A tuslly kind of shocked, to be honest. I liked him 2nd best this year after Davis.

    And color me underwhelmed by the return for Cole. I’m surprised that NYY didn’t beat it (we don’t really have the middle prospects like that; high end or short season wild cards).

    Still, Kendrick will be the most impactful thing they can do, and he is still available.


    13 Jan 18 at 7:08 pm

  6. I agree with the surprise at the limited return for Cole. The Yankees have to be kicking themselves. If the Astros end up with the Cole of 2016-17, though, this isn’t exactly a game-changer.

    The Nats had no place for Reed. Their bullpen is full. Davis, as a true closer, may have piqued their interest more.

    I’m scratching my head over A-Gone to the Mets, even though they do get him for the minimum. It tells you all you need to know about the Mets that Harvey is so diminished that he got less in his final arb year than Roark did in his 2d one. Three years ago, you would have thought that Harvey’s final arb year would be in the 20s. They’ve absolutely ruined a true ace.


    14 Jan 18 at 7:58 am

  7. If Darvich is truly available in the 5/$80-90M range, as is rumored, shouldn’t the Nats try to get into that conversation? It’s tempting.


    14 Jan 18 at 2:09 pm

  8. Nats nearing agreement with Hendrick–hooray! Said to be a two-year deal. He may be starting in 2019 as a bridge to Kieboom.


    15 Jan 18 at 1:16 pm

  9. If that Kendrick deal holds up, it is an excellent deal for WAS. Also love that it’s two years.

    Still think some decent 5th SP options and even bullpen guys will be available cheaply. Can’t say I feel good for the players, but it sure helps team building. Nats are in a very good position to capitalize.


    15 Jan 18 at 1:46 pm

  10. Todd — with the Kendrick signing and the arb numbers, where do you have the Nats relative to the $197M line? I think they’re still under it.

    Are they “done”? I hope not, although Nightengale is reporting that the Nats are saying they’re done signing free agents. We’ll see. I don’t think they are.


    15 Jan 18 at 2:30 pm

  11. MLB Trade Rumors had pegged Kendrick as getting $12 million over 2 years at the start of the off-season so this was a smart ‘waiting for the price to come down’ scenario.

    Rizzo looked like he played this one perfect.

    Mark L

    15 Jan 18 at 4:55 pm

  12. With the Kendrick signing, the Nats are about $5mm over the cap, including projected medical benefits. I think Rizzo will try to package a few mid level prospects with some salary (Kelley? Wieters?) to get under the cap.

    Andrew R

    16 Jan 18 at 8:41 am

  13. With Kendrick signing (assuming he’s getting $3.5M this and next versus something like 2 and 5, which very well may be the dase) i’ve got payroll figures as follows:
    – $185,350,000 in “real 2018 dollars)
    – $184,326,190 in luxury tax dollars
    – $173,850,000 in payroll w/o payments due to former players ($10M to Werth, $500k buyout to Lind, $1M to Blanton)
    – $176,022,856 is what Cots estimates right now, before the Kendrick contract. (

    The thing is … the luxury tax estimates force teams to count the entire 40-man roster, PLUS player benefits. So take those numbers above and tack on about $16M. That’s how you get above the $197M payroll threshold.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jan 18 at 9:29 am

  14. I don’t see any salary they can easily jettison. No other team is going to take Wieters or Kelley without the Nats assuming part of their salary, which defeats the purpose of unloading them in the first place. I guess it’s possible that you could get a team to take $5M of what Wieters is owed . . . but then your catchers are Severino and Read. They’re too much in need of pitching to trade Gio. In what is obviously a go-for-it year, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to intentionally weaken the squad just to cut a few million. As I’ve noted before, when they signed Kintzler, I thought they would go over $197M, as he wasn’t a “need” investment.

    If they’re going to be over the number, then go on and invest what you need to invest. To me, that means signing Avila; one of the better starting pitchers; and maybe Albers. The bullpen is already pretty full, though. The best deal for price/performance in a starter is probably Lynn, about whom they would have a detailed read from Lilliquist. As noted, I’d be increasingly curious about Darvich if his AAV is dipping below $20M.

    I do think some minor trades will be coming. Cole, Grace, and Solis are out of options, and as of right now, Solis is the only one of that group I’d project on the MLB roster. The bullpen is Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler, Romero, Kelley, Glover, . . . and one of those three. Glover still could be optioned, but if he’s healthy, he’s got more of an upside as a reliever than Cole does.


    16 Jan 18 at 11:54 am

  15. Is it just me, or do the SF Giants now seem to be taking the Dan Snyder approach to roster construction. “Hey, we traded for two All-Stars,” or at least guys who were All-Stars a few years ago.


    16 Jan 18 at 11:57 am

  16. I think each of those guys will be 2-3 WAR players this year, but I also don’t think they gave up much. Seems rational for a team in that market with those contracts.

    The luxury tax stuff is a head scratcher, hard to understand it fully. But I don’t see a big move left for the Nats


    16 Jan 18 at 12:55 pm

  17. In his chat today, Boz mentioned Avila specifically and also a starter who is better than EJax.


    16 Jan 18 at 7:54 pm

  18. New posted on 5th starter competition given Jackson and other signings…

    Todd Boss

    17 Jan 18 at 10:57 am

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