Nationals Arm Race

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

Big Draft Bonuses: why you should always take the money


Carter Stewart just turned down more money than he's likely to see even if he's an All american in 3 years time.. photo via PerfectGame

Carter Stewart turned down more money than he’s likely to see even if he’s an All American in 3 years time.. photo via PerfectGame

Updated for the 2019 draft

In 2018, just four players from the top 10 rounds failed to come to terms with their drafting team.  This was slightly higher than the previous couple of seasons, but interesting this year because all four non-signing players were basically the same situation: high-end 1st round prep players with big price tags who in the end each turned down at least $2M each (and in some cases a ton more) to go off to school and lock themselves in for 3 years of playing for unaccountable, arm shredding, self-interested NCAA coaches who often could care less about player development and more about their next conference title and regional hosting bid.

And each of them probably made a huge mistake.

Its a common refrain among pundits in the amateur baseball world (Keith Law in particular) that HS players should “take the money” if they’re drafted high enough.   Certainly any first rounder would be a fool to turn away that kind of money, and mostly any prep player offered something in the upper 6 figure range should give serious consideration.  MLB contracts generally include college tuition … so even if you sign out of HS you still have 4 years fully paid for in case you wash out.  So instead of gambling on your health, or the fickleness of the baseball draft (where one bad start can cost you 30 spots in the draft and millions of dollars), take the cash when its offered.

But, don’t take our word for it.  Lets look at the empirical evidence of every player over the past seven drafts who has forgone the cash to see if there’s any trends.

Here’s a summary of the last few years of players who did not sign from the top 10 rounds.  This only goes back to 2012, since that’s the beginning of the new draft rules.

  • 2021: 3
  • 2020: ?
  • 2019: 2
  • 2018: 4 (all 1st or supp-1st rounders)
  • 2017: 3
  • 2016: 2
  • 2015: 6
  • 2014: 6 (two of which were Nats picks: Andrew Suarez and Austin Byler in that ill-fated draft class, and one more who didn’t sign thanks to Houston’s screwing up the Brady Aiken deal and who was eventually granted free agency).
  • 2013: 8
  • 2012: 8

These are the total non-signings for the top ten ROUNDS of draftees, meaning anywhere between 300 and 350 guys comprising the top 10 rounds and supplementals.  So in the seven years and roughly 2200 players drafted in the top 10 rounds in the last 7 seasons, a grand total of 37 have failed to sign.

Side note: each year we hear about all these players who aren’t going to sign or that negotiations are tough, when in reality the modern CBA rules nearly guarantee 100% signing among drafted players (unless there’s a huge misunderstanding on draft day, or a huge disagreement about medicals).  The draft pools are structured so that the penalties for NOT signing players can cascade and affect your ability to sign other players  (see Houston’s issue in the 2014 draft), so teams are now basically calling players in advance and saying, “If we draft you at X, will you sign for $Y?” … so the only reason players don’t sign is if there’s a serious breakdown or mis-understanding.

So, why do i say that you should always take the money?  Well, lets ask ourselves: out of these 37 players who didn’t sign.. who actually IMPROVED their draft status by not signing?  Lets go year by year and look at the players who failed to sign.

(a caveat here: I did not look at the dollar amounts offered here; this is basically draft round analysis.  Its possible that a 5th rounder in one year went in the 8th the next and got offered more money … but its quite rare with the new draft rules and bonus pools.  Everything changed with the new CBA that went into effect in 2012.  The Nats in particular spent $14.6M on draft bonuses in 2011.  The next  year?  $4.6M, with most of it going to one player in Lucas Giolito).

2021: 3 players did not sign from the top 10 rounds:

  • Kumar Rocker, RHP Vanderbilt, in a well publicized blow-up, the Mets drafted Rocker 10th overall and made a huge splash announcing a $6M over-slot bonus .. then ran into issues with his medicals, resulting in the two sides failing to agree on anything and the Mets passing on the Vanderbilt star altogether.  Rocker’s agent (ahem, “advisor”) Scott Boras of course refused to make his medicals available ahead of time, and of course claimed that there was no injury, but the damage is now done.  Rocker cannot go back to school, and will likely go to independent ball to re-enter the draft in 2022.
  • Jud Fabian, OF Florida; saw his draft stock fall from a possible top-5 pick all the way out of the first round.  But, he apparently had a $3M deal with some team in the second, but those plans were foiled when Boston selected him at the beginning of the 2nd round.  Fabian stuck to his bonus demands, and the two sides could not reach an agreement.  Fabian will go back to school.
  • Alex Ulloa, prep SS from Texas failed to come to terms with Houston as a 4th round pick.  He’s Oklahoma State committed, but rumblings he may go Juco to re-enter the draft in 2022.

Verdict: Its hard to believe Rocker will be able to beat $6M, but who knows.  Fabian will lose leverage coming back in 2022 as a senior, and Ulloa will have some time to improve on his 4th round bonus dollars.

2020: in a shortened 5-round Covid-related draft, not one player picked in the 5 rounds failed to sign.

2019: 2 players did not sign from the top 10 rounds

  • Brandon Sproat, RHP Fla HS 7th/205 overall by Texas.  $222,100 slot value, which wasn’t enough to buy Sproat out of his commitment to Florida.
  • Wyatt Hendrie, C from Calif Juco 10th/312 overall by Chicago Cubs.  $142,200 slot value.  Cubs seemingly ran into slot issues with both 10th and 11th rounder, and Hendrie wouldn’t take under slot.

Verdict: both players are still in College as of mid 2021; Hendrie was draft eligible in the shortened 2020 draft but was not taken and is now enrolled at San Diego State, presumably not eligible until 2022.

2018: 4 players did not sign

  • Carter Stewart, RHP Fla HS. 1st/8th overall. Atlanta didn’t like Physical, offered 40% of slot value ($1.9M); initially slated to Mississippi State.  Update: However, he did an about face, went to a Juco instead with the plan on re-entering the 2019 draft.  When he struggled in Juco and fell to a mid 2nd round projection … he attempted an end-around of the MLB draft rules and signed to play in japan, a situation I detailed in this space.  2021 update: he has graduated the Japan minor leagues into the majors at this point but has not found his foothold there yet.
  • Matt McLain: 2B Calif HS. 1st/25: Asked $3M, Arizona offered $2.6M didn’t budge, going to UCLA.  Update: picked 17th overall in the 2021 draft and signed for $4.63M.
  • JT Ginn: RHP Miss HS. 1st/30th: LA dodgers offered $2.4M, asking $2.9M, going to Mississippi State.  Update: drafted 2nd round/52nd overall in 2020 draft, signed for $2.9M with the Mets in a well over-slot deal.  So two years later he got his asking number.
  • Gunnar Hoglund: LHP Fla HS. 1supp/36: Pittsburgh didn’t like physical, low-balled and he declined. going to Ole Miss.  2021; was projected as a top 10 pick, hurt his arm, had TJ but still got drafted 19th overall by Toronto and signed for $3.25M.

McLean drastically improved his stock, Ginn got what he wanted, and Hoglund (despite his injury) got paid.  I already detailed why I think Stewart’s deal is smart.

Verdict: All four made the right decision.

2017: 3 players did not sign

  • Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State, 1s/31st overall. Failed to sign with Tampa, who (I guess) didn’t like his medicals.  He was coming back from TJ and only had a few weeks of action before the draft. Went 6th round in 2018 to Milwaukee in 2018
  • Jack Conlon, RHP, Clements HS (Sugar Land, Texas). 4th round/128 overall. Failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Texas A&M.  Update: left TAMU, went to San Jacinto, then enrolled in Rice and sat out 2020.  However, he wasn’t on the 2021 roster, and its unclear where he’s playing at this point.
  • Jo Jo Booker, RHP, Miller HS (Brewton, Ala.). 5th round/145 overall. failed to sign with LA Angels, with to South Alabama.  Was not drafted in 2020 or 2021 out of USA; unclear if he will return for a 5th season or if he is done.

Two players who ended up playing themselves out of any bonus dollars.  Rasmussen didn’t turn down the Rays as much as they refused to tender him a contract … they must have tendered him something because they got a comp pick in 2018 draft.  So he turned down 40% of first round money in 2017 to sign an under-slot deal in the 6th round of 2018 ($135k, just $10k more than the non-top 10 rounds minimum).  I’d say this was a bad move by the player unless Tampa flat out refused to pay a dollar.

Verdict: 1 worsened his draft position, 2 missed out on any draft money.

2016: 2 players did not sign

  • Nick Lodolo: 1S/41st overall; LHP from Damien HS in California. failed to sign with Pittsburgh, went to TCU instead, draft eligible in 2019.  In 2021, drafted 7th overall, signed for $5.43M.
  • Tyler Buffett: 7th/217 overall; RHP, failed to sign with Houston. returned to Oklahoma State, drafted in 6th round in 2017 and signed with Cincinnati

Lodolo went to school (an arm-shredder program in TCU even) and went from 41st overall to 7th overall, with probably 3x the bonus.  Furthermore, by 2021 he was one of the best pitching prospects in the game.  Meanwhile Buffett improved his draft position one round by going back to school.

Verdict: 1 drastically improved his draft pick and money, 1 improved his draft position one round.

2015: 6 guys did not sign.

  • Kyle Funkhouser: 1st/35th overall: RHP from Louisville, failed to sign with LA Dodgers, turning down an above-slot $2M. 4th rounder in 2016, signed with Detroit.
  • Brady Singer, 2nd/56th overall: RHP Florida HS. failed to sign with Toronto, went to Florida and was 1st rounder in 2018, signed with Kansas City
  • Jonathan Hughes, 2nd/68th overall: RHP Georgia HS. failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Georgia Tech and not even drafted in 2018…
  • Kyle Cody, 2nd/73rd overall: RHP U Kentucky. failed to sign with Minnesota, drafted in 6th round in 2016 and signed with Texas
  • Nicholas Shumpert, 7th/220th overall. SS Colorado HS. failed to sign with Detroit. Went to San Jacinto CC, drafted in 28th round 2016 by Atlanta and signed.
  • Kep Brown, 10th/311 overall. RF South Carolina HS, failed to sign with LA Dodgers. went to Juco, then to UNC-Wilmington, not drafted in 2018.

Funkhouser was the biggest “whoops” here; a poor spring took him from his pre-season top 10 draft position all the way out of the first round, but he still demanded upper 1st round money.  He didn’t get it … and then fell to the 4th round the next year.  That was a big fail.  Singer clearly improved on his 2nd round status by going to college.    Cody slipped from being a 2nd rounder to a 6th rounder.  The other three guys drastically fell on draft boards; one of them going from a 10th rounder to not even being drafted.

Verdict: 1 improved, 5 hurt draft stock

2014: 6 failed to sign

  • Brady Aiken: 1/1 overall, RHP from San Diego HS. failed to sign with Houston, went to IMG Academy in FL, drafted 1/17 by Cleveland
  • Andrew Suarez: 2nd/57 overall LHP from UMiami, failed to sign with Washington. Drafted 2nd round/61st overall in 2015 by San Francisco
  • Trevor Megill; 3rd/104th overall RHP from Loyola Marymount. failed to sign with Boston, drafted 7th/207 in 2015 draft and signed with San Diego
  • Jacob Nix: 5th/136 RHP from Los Alomitos HS; couldn’t sign when Tampa lost bonus money, sued, FA, signed with San Diego
  • Zack Zehner: 7th/204 OF from Cal Poly, failed to sign with Toronto. Drafted 18th round 2015 and signed with NYY
  • Austin Byler, 9th/274 1B from nevada-Reno. failed to sign with Washington, drafted 11th round in 2015 and signed with Arizona

Aiken became quite the rarity; the first #1 overall baseball pick to fail to sign in 30  years.    But his lack of signing cascaded and cost the Astros both their 5th rounder Nix and another player later on thanks to the new draft rules on bonus pools; Nix ended up being declared a FA in a face-saving move by MLB so as not to admit that their new bonus cap circumvention rules were BS.  Aiken had no where to go but down from 1-1 so he obviously cost himself money.  The others all fell, if only slightly in Suarez’s case.

Verdict: 1 didn’t count, 5 lowered draft stock

2013: 8 failed to sign

  • Phil Bickford: 1/10 RHP California HS. Toronto failed to sign. went to Southern Nevada juco, drafted 1/18 by SF and signed.
  • Matt Krook 1s/35 LHP calif HS. Miami failed to sign, went to Oregon State, drafted 4th round by SF in 2016
  • Ben DeLuzio 3rd/80 SS from Fla HS. Miami failed to sign. Went to Florida State, played 4 years … undrafted out of college, NDFA with Arizona
  • Ben Holmes, 5th /151 LHP Oregon State. Philly failed to sign. went 9th round in 2014
  • Jason Monda 6th/181 OF Washington State. Philly failed to sign … then accused him of NCAA violations. he wasn’t drafted again and quit to go to Med school
  • Stephen Woods 6th/188 RHP NY HS: Tampa failed to sign, went to Suny-Albany, drafted 8th round 2016 by SF and signed
  • Dustin DeMuth 8th/230 3B from Indiana, Minnesota failed to sign, became 5th rounder in 2014 and signed with Milwaukee
  • Ross Kivett 10th/291 2B from kansas State. Cleveland failed to sign, became 6th rounder in 2014 and signed with Detroit

Bickford fell 8 slots year over  year but still fell.   DeMuth and Kivett both improved their stock.  The rest fell, drastically in some cases.

Verdict: 2 improved, 6 fell

2012: 8 failed to sign

  • Mark Appel 1/8 RHP Stanford by Pittsburgh. failed to sign, was 1/1 in 2013 with Houston
  • Teddy Stankiewicz 2/75 RHP from Texas Hs. failed to sign with Mets, went Juco, 2/45 in 2013 by Boston
  • Alec Rash, 2/95 by Philadelphia from IA HS. went to Missouri, 2015 drafted in 23rd round by Washington but still didn’t sign; quit baseball and started playing NCAA basketball
  • Kyle Twomey, 3/106 LHP Calif HS Oakland. Drafted 13th round 3 yrs later out of USC by Chicago Cubs.
  • Brandon Thomas 4/136 OF from Ga Tech; didn’t sign with Pittsburgh, drafted 8th round one year later and signed with NYY
  • Colin Poche 5/162 LHP texas h s. failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Dallas Baptist, undrafted Jr year, drafted 14th round 2016 by Arizona
  • Nick Halamandaris 8/251 1B Calif HS. failed to sign with Seattle, played 4 years at cal, undrafted jr and Sr year, NDFA with Seattle, played one season
  • L.J. Mazzilli 9/280 2B from UConn. 4th rounder in 2013 signed with NY Mets

Appel managed to improve from 8th overall to 1st overall.  Stankiewicz also improved his stock about a round’s worth.  Mazzilli improved from a 9th rounder to a 4th rounder.  The others all fell.

Verdict: 3 up, 5 down.

Summary: of the 37 players who failed to sign:

  • 7 too early to tell yet (7 hs, 0 coll)
  • 22 hurt their draft stock by failing to sign (12 HS, 10 coll)
  • 7 improved their draft stock.  (1 HS, 6 coll).  Of those who improved:
    • Two improved one round (1 HS, 1 coll) HS kid was Brady Singer
    • Two improved slightly within the same round (2 coll): Mark Appel, Stankiewicz
    • One went from 8th round to 5th round (1 coll)
    • One went from 10th round to 6th round (1 coll)
    • One went from a 9th rounder to a 4th rounder. (1 coll)
  • 1 didn’t really count b/c of the Houston 2014 draft bonus shenanigans (Jacob Nix, HS)

So there you have it.  7 of 37 turned down money and look like they slightly made out (19%).   22/37 (60%) did not … and in some cases clearly cost themselves millions of dollars.  And even those 7 who did improve their ranking … not one of them in my opinion drastically improved their stock by going to college.  In fact, you can make the argument that getting drafted in the 8th round in one year, playing another year in college and then going in the 5th round probably *hurts* a player’s pro prospects because now he’s a year older versus his peers and has lost a year of pro development time.  A 22 yr old college senior draftee is already “old for the level” until he gets to at least Low-A, which is no guarantee even in his second pro year.

Now, has it ever worked out for a player to turn down significant 1st round money?  Yeah a couple times; Mark Appel gambled and improved his stock just before the new CBA took hold; in fact he managed to go 1-1 despite being a college senior with zero leverage.  Garrett Cole also made out by going to school.  So did a few others in the pre-2012 CBA eras.   But its a rarity; I’ve got another post that goes over these and some of the biggest nightmares for a later date.

Food for thought.

18 Responses to 'Big Draft Bonuses: why you should always take the money'

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  1. Great stuff, Todd. Quite a lot of food for thought.

    You’re quite right about some of these coaches as arm shredders, sometimes what they do is just disgusting.

    Mark L

    12 Jul 18 at 8:21 am

  2. Todd, this is an awesome post. Great work!


    12 Jul 18 at 12:15 pm

  3. Thanks for putting together a detailed analysis of something that seemed pretty obvious. It would be interesting to know if a lot of the “gamblers” were represented by the same incompetent agent.

    Thanks also for the reminder of how the Nats blew the entire 2014 draft on the Fedde gamble just two years after blowing the 2012 draft on gambling on Giolito. Maybe an analysis of why a team constantly gambling with its high drafts picks is a recipe for disaster is also needed. 🙂

    Karl Kolchak

    12 Jul 18 at 12:29 pm

  4. This idea that the Nats are “gambling” with their high draft picks is wildly overstated. All draft picks are a gamble, and especially so when you are picking late. You just can’t have the expectation that if a late 1st round pick doesn’t become a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the pick was a disaster.

    Most recent research I could find suggests that for a pick in the 16-20 range (Giolito was picked 16th, Fedde was picked 18th), the likelihood of a bust is 85%.

    Look at the Fedde pick, the guy picked right behind him was Nick Howard. He is the epitome of a “safe” pick. He was UVa’s closer, a 3 year performer at a well-regarded D1 college program, no medical issues. Basically Drew Storen, a safe, quick to the majors relief pitcher with a high floor but low ceiling.

    Where is he? He had TJ surgery in 2016 and is scuffling with a 6.12 ERA in his third year repeating A-ball. Light years behind Fedde…

    The next two guys drafted were both college hitters — Casey Gillaspie and Bradley Zimmer. Both are scuffling at AAA with OPS<700.

    There are no sure things in the draft. Everyone is gambling. The Nats are absolutely no different than anyone else in this regard.


    12 Jul 18 at 5:30 pm

  5. karl: its funny that you put it that way … its obvious to us, but it clearly isn’t obvious to kids who are turning down $2.5M to go to school. Bad advisors? Greed? Overconfidence? I dunno; i’m sure its a combination of stuff. The two most egregious examples (karsten Whitsen and Matt Harrington; more on them in a future post) showed a combination of all the above.

    2012 and 2014 gambles: i’m kind of thinking that they really didn’t know how to handle the new draft rules. For a few years they spent massively in the draft: $14.6M in 2011, $11.4M in 2010, $18.8M in 2009, $7.6M in 2007 (2008 is when they blew their #1 draft pick, probably would have been in the $6.8-$7m range had Crowe taken a reasonable bonus for his draft pick). Now are they adjusting? taking more depth? Not this year where (again) the whole draft is centered around Denaburg.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jul 18 at 9:42 am

  6. NG: great point. MLB drafts are 40 rounds, teams generally sign 29-30 of them, and with no ability to throw stupid money anymore a “successful” draft really is now defined as getting 3 MLB debuts out of your class.
    – You expect your 1st rounder to make the majors and contribute
    – You hope your 2nd rounder does the same.
    – You look for one of your 3rd-5th rounders to at least become a bullpen arm or a utility guy
    – 6th-10th rounders are throw aways
    – 11th-20th are fillers for short A
    – 20th-30th are fillers for GCL

    If you get a major leager out of 11th round or up these days … bravo.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jul 18 at 9:45 am

  7. Karl — the 2012 and 2014 drafts were indeed awful, the 2014 one made worse by not signing Suarez, who is pitching effectively in the Giants’ rotation. Maybe he wanted some overslot that the Nats didn’t have because they were giving every extra penny to Fedde. Maybe the Nats were trying to get Byler at a discount and he messed up their efforts to have extra for Suarez. Whatever happened, failure to get Suarez looks very bad now. (They passed on redrafting Suarez again in 2015, taking Stevenson three picks ahead of where the Giants took Suarez. Oops.)


    13 Jul 18 at 10:07 am

  8. NG, thanks for the link. I had been looking for some research on what qualifies as a “successful” draft. As this piece confirms, there isn’t much, which is surprising. This piece confirms just how much of a crap-shoot the whole exercise remains.

    It has been known forever that the better bets in the draft are college players. However, it has remained an article of faith in front offices that you can get higher-end talent by drafting high-schoolers, even though you have to pay them a premium to sign, commit to significantly extra time (and resources) to develop them, and take on the additional risk of failure or injury.

    Beyond the draft, which I still can’t believe the players allow to go to 40 rounds (look at how much the NFL and NBA have scaled back their drafts, increasing FA opportunities for those not drafted), there’s baseball’s seemingly antiquated insistence on massive farm systems. Each team has around 250 players in its system (including the majors), paying for years and years of development of those players . . . even while colleges do the same things. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to have a couple of levels of the minors and defer more to colleges and independent leagues?

    Ah, but what of the international players, signed at the insane age of 16. First of all, they’ve long needed to be subjected to some sort of draft, and at an older age. Second, much could be accomplished if MLB would collectively invest in baseball academies, instead of leaving individual teams to such things. Colleges in other sports, particularly basketball, recruit internationally, but there’s no sense in it for baseball since nearly all the players of any caliber sign pro contracts between 16 and 18.

    I don’t know. From the outside, not a lot of this makes sense.


    13 Jul 18 at 10:23 am

  9. Redrafting Suarez: I am pretty sure re-drafted players have to give permission to the originally drafting team to re-draft them. If there was acrimony … i’m sure Suarez’s camp told the nats to Pack sand.

    International draft: I have mixed feelings about this. I’m in the camp that forcing Puerto Rico into the amateur domestic draft effectively killed baseball development there. No big surprise; why would teams invest money into facilities if they ended up with a 1/30th chance of drafting the player. Watch what happens to the DR pipeline of IFAs if there’s an international draft; poof it’ll be gone and our sport will be significantly worse off for it.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jul 18 at 1:24 pm

  10. I don’t claim to understand it, and I may have this entirely wrong, but the NHL seems to have a system where they draft players, but then those players can continue to play for their amateur teams for two or three more years, or something to that effect. (In fact, the Caps had an already-drafted college player join them for a few games after his college season ended.)

    NCAA sh-amateurism is going to crumble at some point. It would be an interesting thought if baseball players could be drafted and signed out of HS but then go on an play at the college level, rather than the trials and travails of life in the low minors. The downsize for player development would be the NCAA-mandated practice limits, but those might not be such bad things. And some connection to the pros would end the college abuse of pitchers very quickly. I know this is just a pipe dream, but it’s a thought, for more than just baseball.

    Carter Stewart case: if he really is top-10 special, it does seem like a reasonable gamble that he can be drafted in the top 40 or so picks in three years and make at least $1.9M. But it is a gamble, doubly so for a pitcher, whose arm is his livelihood. On the flip side of that equation, I HATE that a team can retain the pick with only a 40% offer. Sorry, but if the team hasn’t done its due diligence, tough tooky. To retain a pick, an MLB team should be expected to offer at least 75-80% of slot.


    13 Jul 18 at 1:53 pm

  11. Here’s a question about the big club: is the start tonight (Fri.) Roark’s now-or-never time? His record is 3-11, and the team’s record when he has pitched is 5-14. He’s gotten shelled in his last two starts. If the Nats were to trade for a starter, Roark most likely would be the guy replaced. The way Roark is going, he might even get replaced by Fedde whenever Fedde is healthy.

    All in all, I’m uneasy with the upcoming rotation of Roark-Voth-Hellickson, all the more so with the Phils playing the O’s and likely to win out over the weekend. Time for the bats to warm up and help out.

    (Very encouraging on Thurs. to see Murph looking much more mobile at 2B.)


    13 Jul 18 at 2:59 pm

  12. Law seemed to think in his thurs chat that Stewart fell to #8 thanks to a slight injury in the spring, which then led to the MRI argument. And next year’s draft class is reportedly weaker. So he thinks if Stewart went to a Juco, played one year and stayed healthy he’d vault into the top 2-3 players easily next year.

    Roark falls apart yet again in the 1st; i’m just about done with this team this season. Just don’t seem to have it. If you can’t win games when guys not-named Scherzer pitch you’re not winning the division.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jul 18 at 8:09 pm

  13. Roark steadied himself after the disastrous 1st. I’m not as ready to give up on him as I thought I was going to be. The 1-for-12 with RISP was just as painful, if not more so. The offense has no clutch. Guys only seem to be able to hit in blowouts.

    This afternoon we get the Austin Voth experiment. By nearly every measure, Voth has been better at Syracuse this season than Fedde has. Let’s hope that translates to the next level.

    Thus far in the big 11-game push against sub-.500 teams before the AS break, the Nats are a mediocre 5-4. Not seeing much sense of urgency.


    14 Jul 18 at 9:05 am

  14. The Phils got shut out by the lowly Marlins. The Braves are in the midst of a 2-8 skid. There is hope. It just doesn’t seem like it when you actually watch the Nats play.


    15 Jul 18 at 8:17 am

  15. Well, back from vacation and I see nothing has changed except the calendar. It’s getting late early this year. I’m going to state the obvious, but in addition to losing, they aren’t playing well. Lack of timely hitting, base running, etc makes it unwatchable for me. I could take it as tough luck if they were playing better but losing.

    But the heat on Martinez is overstated. Managers don’t have that much impact. This is on the players, and Bryce + injuries remain the largest culprits. In Bryce’s case, even if he turns it around in 2H, I think he has already lost the chance at a record setting contract. He’ll still get paid extremely well, but it’s going to start with a 2 at best now, and I think Machado gets a bigger contract. Bryce has just had too many seasons now where he goes into funks for long stretches. He is still an exceptional player that I would take back on a 10/$250m deal, but he isn’t a guy to give the largest contract ever to.

    From an organizational perspective, not including just this year but looking ahead, pitching is an issue. I think the lineup will transition post Bryce/Murph/Zim fine with a few tweaks, but I don’t know where the pitching is going to come from if not on the free agent market. Which is pricey and fraught with mistakes.

    I think a sell off has to be considered if they aren’t playing better AND within 5 games by Jul 20.


    15 Jul 18 at 11:24 am

  16. There are few things more fun in baseball than having your team in a pennant race. The Nats have been relevant for seven seasons but haven’t been in a real race, mainly because they didn’t engage in ’13 and ’15.

    Will they this year? I think so. Stras and Doo will be back after the break. Murph is finding his timing, and Eaton is getting healthier. Glover, Robles, and even Zim (at Potomac today) are on the rehab circuit. The pieces will be in place. It’s more the mentality that needs to improve.

    The whole NL is wide open, both to make the playoffs and to advance in them. There is no dominant team. Three teams are in the race in the East, and up to four could be considered in it in the Central and the West. That’s 11 of 15 teams contending at the break. The wild card race is going to be as wild as the divisional one.

    It’s possible that the East can be won with a record worse that what it would take to qualify for the wild card. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it’s possible. The Phils closed out 4-5, with two bad losses to the lowly Fish. The Braves went 3-8 over their last 11. Their closer is on the DL. Both teams have a bunch of guys playing way over their heads. Anibal Sanchez with a 2.60 ERA? Not gonna hold.

    What do the Nats need to do? First, don’t panic. Second, find some sense of urgency, which I’m still not seeing. Are they going to make any big moves? They could replace Roark in the rotation, but there aren’t any great deals to be had on the starter market. Heyman is trying to resurrect Robles for Realmuto, but I don’t see it. Buffalo just went on the DL so is probably out of the picture.


    16 Jul 18 at 9:08 am

  17. Wally, I will agree with you on a couple of things. First of all, I don’t see Harper getting a record contract. Right now, it’s hard to see any team committing to more than Stanton’s $325M, although Bryce might get a higher AAV for a shorter period. I do think it’s possible that Bryce and Boras really hold out for a big deal, though, perhaps into February.

    I don’t know that we have the final evidence on Harper’s case, either. All of baseball is watching to see how he responds to adversity. It’s possible that the response starts tonight. If he wins the HR Derby, does it spark a second-half renewal? If he flounders, does he continue to spiral?

    I also agree that much of the criticism of Martinez right now is overblown. I said at the time of hiring that there is no Bill Belichick or Greg Popovich in baseball. Maddon, the alleged “genius,” nearly blew the WS. What can Martinez do? The issue right now is mostly about motivation, . . . at which Dusty was a master, although few are pointing that out. But it’s also possible that even a “great” manager would struggle with the symptoms this team has. After all, the last Davey was flummoxed with what to do with the 2013 Nat squad as it flailed similarly to what this one is doing.

    One thing that is beyond the manager is that the Nats have never had the greatest team makeup/leadership/chemistry. Rizzo has been great at assembling talent, but it often has been laid-back talent, except for Max. Soto has some fire, and Difo does as well, but Difo doesn’t need to be playing regularly. Robles has it as well. Bryce has swagger when he’s playing well, but awful body language when he isn’t.


    16 Jul 18 at 11:04 am

  18. Saw a report that the Nats may be considering Robles for realmuto. I really hope that is just normal rumor mongering. I would not like that deal.

    I think the Nats future is still entirely in their control. if they play even to 90% of their capabilities, they can overcome the Phils/Braves. I think they are that much better. but they haven’t and I don’t know if it is bad luck, injuries that can be recovered from, or slippage due to age. Time will tell. But they need Robles, Soto, Turner, Rendon, Eaton as part of the next wave. That’s a solid core lineup.


    16 Jul 18 at 11:52 am

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