Nationals Arm Race

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

Spring Training conversation Place holder


Maybe its the inverted W that keeps causing Glover shoulder issues? Photo via

Maybe its the inverted W that keeps causing Glover shoulder issues? Photo via

Hey guys.

So … in case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been swamped and have not been posting.  Its a job transition thing; I’ve gotten hit on all fronts and just have had no time to do much of anything outside of work.

At some point this spring, I hope to do a review of the non-roster invites, like I do every year, since we’re almost guaranteed to get an NRI making the roster.

Big news so far in camp, of course, Koda Glover lasting about 5 seconds into spring training before getting shut down due to shoulder soreness.   I’m beginning to think Glover is the latest incarnation of Christian Garcia, a guy with an 80 arm and a 20 ability to stay healthy.

I guess the other big news is non-news; Bryce Harper preemptively telling reporters to not bother asking him about  his pending free agency.  Fair enough; good luck having that directive stick as Harper (the biggest personality in the sport) travels to all the major baseball cities with beat reporters looking to fill inches.  Harper also made an off-hand comment about the Marlins, quickly retorted by Don “get off my lawn” Mattingly, who was subsequently ridiculed for  his over-reaction by none other than frequent Nat-hater Craig Calcaterra over at Hardball talk.

Chalk all that up to “slow news day.”

Glover’s injury quickly led to a 40-man deal for the ageless Joaquin Benoit, which will require a corresponding 40-man move.   I’m wondering if Glover to 60-day D/L won’t be the play, since they were pretty quick to shut him down post-MRI.  Actually, it probably makes more sense to officially move Joe Ross to 60-day D/L first,  since we won’t be seeing him til August  at the earliest.  (Post-publishing update: yup, that’s exactly what they did when the signing became official; moved Ross to 60-day d/l).

Speaking of Benoit, even given his guaranteed signing, I don’t see a pathway to the 25-man roster for him.  As I’ve noted before, the Nats bullpen is pretty full:

  • four veterans on guaranteed contracts in Doolittle, Madsen, Knitzler and Kelley.
  • three younger guys, all of whom have zero opens left: Grace, Solis and Romero.

Soooo, unless there’s another injury, or a DFA, I’m not quite sure how Benoit makes this team.

In other non-news … the Nats still don’t have much of a 5-th starter competition.  Mike Rizzo was quoted a few weeks ago “naming” A.J. Cole as his 5th starter.  And why not?  Also out of options, Cole makes the team or faces the waiver wire.  So it only makes sense for him to break camp with the team as its 5th starter.

Not much else to report for now.  Can’t wait for games to start so we can have our typical over-reactions to stat lines!

Written by Todd Boss

February 21st, 2018 at 10:15 am

14 Responses to 'Spring Training conversation Place holder'

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  1. Welcome back Todd :-)
    There has been some speculation around on whether Solis might have an option left (i.e., was his 2016 option shorter than the limit to “count” as an actual option year?). You’re always good at tracking these things down … what do you think?


    21 Feb 18 at 11:44 am

  2. Solis and options. I’ve got that he burned them 2014, 2015, 2016.

    Lets look at his 2016 movement. I use ESPN’s transaction list as reference:
    – march 14th: Solis optioned to AAA
    – april 27th: Solis recalled from AAA

    So. A Minor league option is burned as per this quote: “When a player is optioned to the Minors for a span of more than 20 days, he loses an option.”

    3/14 to 4/27 is definitely more than 20 days, but honestly its about when the season starts. So in 2016, The nats played their first game on 4/4. 4/4 to 4/27 is STILL more than 20 days.

    So therefore, I think he burned an option. Just barely … but he did.

    Todd Boss

    21 Feb 18 at 11:57 am

  3. I don’t like Cole as the 5th starter; see comments by both Derek and me on the last post. I do think Glover’s injury opens up a potential spot for Cole in the bullpen. There’s a Catch-22 with that thought, though: to make the bullpen, Cole would have to pitch well in the spring, but if he pitches well, he’ll probably be the 5th starter, not in the bullpen. If he sucks, he’s probably getting DFA’d/traded.

    There are going to be a lot of issues with options among pitchers. I hope Todd has a chance to run the remaining-options preview at some point in the spring. I’m pretty sure Cole, Solis, Romero, and Grace are out of options, and I would think that Grace is the most vulnerable of that group. I also think Gott would be out of options, unless he wasn’t added to the 40-man until the Angels brought him up in 2015. He’s burned options with the Nats in ’16 and ’17. I would guess that Austin Adams still has an option, but I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure Fedde still has an option.

    FWIW, Kelley claims he’s healthy, healthier than he ever was last season. Kelley in ’15 and ’16 was a heck of a pitcher. If the Kelley of ’16 reappears, he’ll be a serious weapon.

    I’m also curious to see if Martinez understands the serious reverse splits Kintzler and Romero have. Dusty never did.


    22 Feb 18 at 10:06 am

  4. Also, don’t discount Benoit. His velocity stayed up last year even as he struggled. He was the real deal before ’17, basically 2010-16. There may only be one or two bullpen slots open, but there’s going to be some serious competition.


    22 Feb 18 at 10:33 am

  5. Tim Collins will also be in the mix.


    22 Feb 18 at 10:34 am

  6. Benoit was also solid with the Phillies (3.80 FIP, 1.143 WHIP) last year; those numbers were in line with his career numbers. His velo and swinging strike % were also unchanged. He got blown up in eight innings with the Pirates though, and when you only pitch 52 innings, that tilts your numbers.

    I’m not saying I want him at the back end of the bullpen. But he’s worth a $1M chance to be a contributor.

    John C.

    22 Feb 18 at 6:25 pm

  7. I’m not “in love” with Cole as 5th starter either …. but acknowledge that he’s in pole position to start the season as the 5th thanks to his lack of options, the Nats’ lack of FA acquisition, and the lack of a real viable contender. I did more and better research on this a month ago when i posted about the 5th starter competition. Cole’s numbers were really no better than Jacksons last year, better than Milone’s and obviously better than Fedde’s (who needs more seasoning).

    how do I eventually think this shakes out? I think cole holds his own for a few weeks, but gets exposed during the tough-looking west coast swings the team is doing in mid-april and early May (have you ever seen them do two west coast trips that early??)

    In fact, lookign at the team’s schedule is unusually tough early on, with series against playoff contenders Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona in April, then Arizona, the Yankees, Dodgers and an away series against Baltimore in May. That’s a lot of statement games early on. Mid June doesn’t look much easier with all the AL East interleague games in a row; all of them scare me as an NL team even if Baltimore is stagnant and Tampa is waving the white flag… i digress.

    Todd Boss

    23 Feb 18 at 11:06 am

  8. Benoit as the 6th or 7th guy out of the pen for $1M is found gold. I’ll take his Philadelphia stat line any day. K/9, 3 Ks for each walk, a 4.00 ERA. Only question is durability; he doesn’t seem like a swing man/rubber armed type. He’s a one-inning guy. Who in the bullpen soaks up a short start?

    Todd Boss

    23 Feb 18 at 11:08 am

  9. My understanding is that Benoit would only get around $600M if cut before the season, a number that would go down to ~$400M if another team picks him up. So there’s virtually no risk. If Benoit, Kelley, E. Romero, and Solis all pan out, that’s four guys with nasty stuff. As Todd notes, though, there’s not really a long man. I guess Solis might be tagged to go multiple innings, but he’s not the type you would want to go four or so.

    I have always loved Solis’ stuff, but he wasn’t good overall last year, and he’s always had difficulty staying healthy, so he’s not a lock at all. Grace has more “long man” potential than Solis does, although I never though Grace’s stuff was anything special. It’s still possible that neither makes the roster and that the bullpen spot goes to Cole, or Adams if he throws strikes, or Collins if they want a third lefty.


    26 Feb 18 at 8:39 am

  10. Todd, not to beat this horse to death, but Cole’s stats are obviously better than Fedde if you look only at each pitcher’s few innings in MLB (just 15 in Fedde’s case). When you look at the much larger sample of minor league innings, Fedde is pretty clearly the better pitcher, in my opinion. The projection systems agree: Zips pegs Fedde at ~4.50 ERA/FIP and Cole at ~5.00 ERA/FIP. This is not a huge difference, and I wouldn’t expect either pitcher to light up the majors in 2018.

    I don’t have a huge problem with Cole starting the season in the rotation over Fedde, if that’s the only choice. My view, is that I still think it’s worth finding a way to get someone outside the organization to be the 5th starter (Milone and E-Jax are no better – and more expensive – than Cole and surely no better than Fedde).


    26 Feb 18 at 9:58 am

  11. Very good news if Fedde really was throwing 93-96 yesterday. Barring the Nats signing another starter, my vision of a best-case scenario would be for the Nats to break camp with Fedde as the 5th starter, Cole as the long man, and EJax and Milone willing to go to Syracuse. Fedde has a higher ceiling than Cole, and it’s time to start finding out what that ceiling is. They’ve got to get a read in 2018 on whether Fedde is a rotation piece for 2019, with Gio probably leaving. Not sure what to think about two rotation slots filled in 2019 from among Fedde/Ross/Cole, but that’s a worry for next offseason.

    The “problem” right now with FA pitchers still available as a potential 5th starter is that there’s no second tier. Even if they could get someone like Arrieta on a pillow contract, it’s really sounding like they don’t want to give up the international bonus money and draft picks. I’m not sure I agree, considering that 2018 is an all-in year, but that seems to be the party line. Arrieta, Lynn, and Cobb all have QO baggage, not to mention red flags that make everyone wary of contracts for more than a couple of years.

    The second-tier guys have already signed, and probably the third tier as well. The remaining options out there are guys like Lackey, Dickey, Cahill, and Nolasco. It’s hard to see too much difference with that group from Fedde/Cole/EJax.

    Whatever became of that Archer trade?


    27 Feb 18 at 9:56 am

  12. Dickey might be a cut above, but yeah, there isn’t much middle ground.

    it was awesome to see actual baseball the other day. Robles really does just look the part of a major leaguer. That being said, he could use some time in AAA ironing out the wildness.


    27 Feb 18 at 11:32 am

  13. Wouldn’t it be fun to slot Dickey between Max and Stras and watch the other team’s hitters totally screw up their timing?


    27 Feb 18 at 12:27 pm

  14. Dickey is an intriguing idea, although I have’t a clue how adept Wieters/Severino/Montero are at catching the knuckleball ….


    27 Feb 18 at 5:21 pm

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