Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Collier: first mailbag of the 2018-19 off-season!

44 comments

 

The off season all revolves around Harper.  Photo via GQ Magazine

The off season all revolves around Harper. Photo via GQ Magazine

Hey there!  If its the Nat’s off-season, it must mean mail bag time.  We havn’t seen one from MLB.com beat reporter Jamal Collier in a while (what, was he busy or something? :-) but now we get one with some good discussion-generating questions.

Here’s how i’d answer the questions he took.


 

Q: As a fan of the great outfield we had at the end of the year. Are the Nationals considering trading Adam Eaton if they resign Bryce Harper?

A: Indeed, an outfield of Soto, Eaton, and Harper is pretty awesome, if (biiiiig if) all are healthy and producing at optimal levels.  And the on top of that we have a top-5 prospect in all of baseball Victor Robles who no longer can be kept in the minors.  So that’s four solid players who all would start for any team in this league on one team.  So what do we do?

Well … only one of these four guys is a Free Agent: Harper

And, only one of these guys is projected to make a ridiculous, franchise altering amount of money in free agency: Harper.

Harper has played for 7 nearly full-seasons: he has a total bWAR figure for his career is 27.4.   That’s an average of 3.9 bWAR per season.  Yes he had a monster 10 win season in his MVP season of 2015, but he’s also lost huge portions of several seasons to injury.  And that has to be part of the conversation when you consider whether you commit $200M to him for the next 7 years.

For me the answer is easy.  Juan Soto will make the MLB minimum (or near to it) next year; call it $600k.  He generated 3.0 bWAR in 116 games, which projects to a 4.1 Win season with 162 games.  I’d rather pay Soto $600k to give the team the same expected level of production as Harper would for 30-TIMES more money.   You let Harper walk, you go to war in 2019 with Soto in left, Robles in center, Eaton in right, finally have three outfields all in the “right” positions defensively, and then deal with a 4th outfielder from internal candidates.

NOW.  Letting a tranformative player like Harper go is … well its an “above the GM” decision.  Not only because of the impact on payroll, but because of his role with the team.  He’s a massively marketable star, transformative not just for the team but for the sport of professional baseball.  His $30M/year salary (or whatever he wants) is not just about payroll; you can’t put a price tag on the marketability of a player of his stature and what it means for the team.  He puts “butts in the seats.”  He is in national commercial ad campaigns.  He’s a foil (for better or for worse) across the sport.  Do you just let a guy like this walk?  They’re getting basically *nothing* back for him (a compensation pick between the 4th and 5th rounds, thanks to the criminally poor job the team did in managing the luxury cap over the last two years), so that barely factors into the discussion.

Now, lets say, for the sake of argument, that the team does re-sign Harper.  Yeah for me, if you re-sign Harper, you’re going to have to move either Eaton or Robles.  So … which do you move?   Eaton, like Harper, has been just crushed by injury the last two years, producing a fraction of his value the 3 years prior.  So even though he’s still quite affordable, trading him this off-season would be trading pretty low.  Robles is still the unknown; yeah he’s an amazing prospect, but is he going to have a Juan Soto-like 2019?  Robles can be the centerpiece of a trade that could return a significant player in an area of need for this team (mid-level Starter or quality starting Catcher).  Would you prefer to go that route?

For me; i’m on record.  I want to part ways with Harper, field a starting OF that costs less than half of a one-year Harper salary figure and allocate his projected payroll towards other areas of need.

Collier echos my concerns about trading Eaton low, but also notes that … well this is THE decision that the team faces, probably the biggest one in a decade.  We can’t know until the Harper decision is made.


Q: What’s Michael A. Taylor’s future with this team?

A: For me, despite Michael Taylorawesome 2017 season, he’s reverted back to form.  He’s a 4th outfielder.  Great defensively, poor offensively.  Can play all three OF positions, plays CF excellently.  But he still strikes out 33% of the time and cannot be trusted.  After his 2018, its not like he has real trade value, and he’s now also arbitration eligible so he’s not exactly cheap.  Is he a non-tender candidate?  Probably not, but assuming the team goes with my plan of letting Harper walk and going with a starting OF of Soto-Robles-Eaton, then for me Taylor is an ideal 4th and competes in the spring with Andrew Stevenson for that role.  He should win it, then be coupled with a corner-OF bench bat type who can play LF in a pinch.

Honestly, you learned everything you needed to know by looking at the amount of playing time Taylor got this past September once Robles came up.  Almost none.

Now, if the team reasigns Harper?  I don’t think much changes; the team moves either Eaton or Robles, still leaving Taylor as the 4th.

Collier thinks they’ll explore moving him “before his trade value falls anymore.” Uh … too late dude!


 

Q: Who are the free agent starting pitchers that Nationals will attempt to sign?

A: Taking a quick gander at the list of available starters …  there’s all kinds of interesting names.  Who knows who they may end up with.

Lets start with, what do they need?  They’re keeping Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, and Ross.  They can either go to war with a 5th starter like Fedde or McGowin or Voth or Jefry Rodriguez, or look at free agency to improve the back end.  I’d love to get a 3rd starter-quality guy to slot in behind the big two, then hope for a better season from Roark (something closer to 2016 than 2018), and hope for Ross to come back to what we know he’s capable of.  That’s a potentially solid rotation for me.

We also might be focusing on a lefty, since Gio Gonzalez was our only lefty starter.  But I don’t think that should be a huge factor honestly.  The team needs to find the best value and availability.

I don’t see them pursuing a $20M/year guy.  Not with the amount of money already going to their two #1 starters and certainly not given the possibilty of their re-signing Harper.

So, lets think about middle-of-the road lefty veteran starters.  How about someone like a Jaime Garcia, or Hyung-Jin Ryu?

If they can’t land a lefty, there’s a slew of interesting names out there that are righties.  I like Nathan EovaldiWade Miley, Garrett Richards.

Collier hedges and says the obvious; we won’t know until they decide what they’re doing with Harper.  Yeah i get it.  He mentions that Patrick Corbin is probably out of the conversation (duh; he’ll be like the 4th most expensive player this off-season) and mentions re-upping with Jeremy Hellicksonwhich I don’t think happens b/c he pitched himself into a decent sized contract..  Its also worth mentioning; maybe the team goes the trade route, which opens up the realm of possibles to half the league’s starters if they’re willing to give up Robles or Carter Kieboom in trade.


 

Q: At what point will the Nats start looking for a more durable first baseman? Zim has averaged only 100 games a season over the last five years.

A:  Uh, the second Ryan Zimmerman isn’t guaranteed 8 figures a year?  And, by the way, what is this guy missing with the current roster construction?  We were nearly to the point of an 1980s Orioles John Lowenstein/Gary Roenecke type platoon this year between Zimmerman and the lefty hitting Matt Adams.  The team is already mitigating Zimmerna’s annual health issues with a backup.

And guess what?  They’ll do it again this off-season.  Look for the team to sign another Adams clone, someone like Lucas Duda or Steve Pearce or Pedro Alvarez.  Heck, maybe they’ll re-sign Adams.

Collier basically says the same thing I did.


Q: Will Riz let Difo and Kieboom fight it out for 2b in spring training or will he look for a veteran 2b, using Kendrick in a super utility role?

A: The question probably should have read: “Wil Rizzo let Difo and Howie Kendrick fight it out…”  Because Kieboom aint’ making this team in 2019.  For one, he’s never played 2B professionally.  Not that its a heavy lift going from SS to 2B (it isn’t) .. but he’s also just 60-some games removed from A-Ball.  Kieboom needs to go from the AFL back to AA and return his OPS figures back to the .880 level before even being considered for AAA.

Honestly, I think the team goes with Kendrick (assuming he’s recovered from his bad achilles injury) as the starter, with Difo as the utility guy.  Thanks to Kendrick’s injury and Daniel Murphy‘s prolonged recovery, Difo was essentially a starter this year.  And he did not impress, his average dropping 40 points from where it was last year.  I think that cements his status as a backup utility infielder who can cover middle infield positions in a pinch.  I’m glad we have someone on the bench who can at least hit at a 75 OPS+ figure; lets not push it.

That being said, for me Kieboom is the future here.  I think he might be ready after a half a season, and at that point you bring him up and slot him in at 2B.  He could eventually move to 3B if the team cannot retain Anthony Rendon, or can stay at 2B and be a Jeff Kent-style slugger.  I’d love to see that come together and have him join Soto and Robles as the core of the next generation of this team.

Collier thinks the team might look elsewhere for a starting 2B.  I think they can make-do from within and not waste money chasing another  Murphy replacement.

 

44 Responses to 'Ask Collier: first mailbag of the 2018-19 off-season!'

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  1. — Harper: honestly, I’ve reached the point where I’m OK with what they do either way. I do think they’ll make him an offer. I also think that Boras will find (should already know) that the market for Bryce isn’t really that big. My concern is that the Nats would be better served if they could get the Harper question answered at the start of the offseason, but Boras guys generally sign late. The Nats still have the exclusive window to be talking right now, though. We’ll see.

    If Harper re-signs, Eaton seems the obvious odd man out. Robles would have more trade value, but they need him to play CF. Eaton should still have enough value to bring back a decent player or two, though, particularly if he’s parlayed with some mid-level prospects.

    — Taylor is a goner, either by trade or nontender. Obviously they’d prefer to trade him and get at least a little in return. But that’s all it’s gonna be — a little. I was jumping up and down to trade him last offseason, when he still had some value. Now, he doesn’t.

    — Rotation: completely agree that Corbin is out of the price range, and Keuchel may be as well. I’m thinking more Ryu or Morton. I wouldn’t mind having Hellickson back for the right price ($5M or less). Eovaldi is interesting. Lynn didn’t have a good year, and might be available for a relative bargain. Tyson Ross might be as well. But when you start looking at those types of bargains, you have to wonder if those guys would be any better than Fedde/J-Rod/McGowin.

    — First Base: one more season with Zim, then the tough decision of whether to buy out the original Face of the Franchise. Zim really will be playing for his future in 2019, and considering the depressed market for 1B/DH types (just ask Adam Lind), that future may be somewhat bleak.

    — Second Base: Difo has had ample opportunity to prove that he can play every day, and he’s proved that he can’t. Kendrick’s recovery rate is actually an important story line for the Nats in the offseason. If he’s not bouncing back to be ready by the start of the season, they may look at someone like Lowrie. They got REALLY burned by counting on Murph, Zim, and Eaton to be healthy by the start of 2018, though, so I hope they learned their lesson to be more sure of such things in the new year.

    Kieboom is probably the future at 2B . . . unless he’s the future at 3B. I don’t think they’ll be trading either Kieboom or Garcia until they know what Rendon is going to do. Completely agree that Kieboom has to go to AA and prove himself there before there’s talk of bringing him up.

    KW

    10 Oct 18 at 1:26 pm

  2. great summary KW.

    Taylor: do you really non-tender him? I wonder. Is the thinking, “hey we can get a 4th outfielder who can play CF on the FA market who can h it .230 for less than what Taylor will make?” If that’s the argument … well i guess that makes sense. On the flipside … he did have a great 2017. why was he so good offensively last year but not any other year? how do we get that back? Maybe the team decides his upside is better than none?

    Todd Boss

    10 Oct 18 at 2:24 pm

  3. Just can’t see them paying Taylor $3M+ after arb. He’s a terrible pinch hitter, and always has been. Dusty was his personal hitting coach/sports psychologist in ’17 and totally responsible for what he did then. As depressed as the market is for guys who aren’t big tickets, I think they can easily upgrade from MAT offensively for $3M or less. Defensively, he’s only an asset if he’s playing all the time, which he’s not going to be unless someone gets hurt.

    I’ll add that I’m not sold on Stevenson being on an MLB bench, either. Might be an interesting battle in the spring among Stevenson, Daniel Johnson, and Yadiel Hernandez, unless they bring in a couple of guys who trump all of them.

    Nats have just added Barraclough to the bullpen. Nice pick up. Perhaps it will keep them from overpaying to keep Holland around, although it’s hard to complain about what Holland did as a Nat.

    KW

    10 Oct 18 at 3:39 pm

  4. I was thinking at mid-season that Roark might be a non-tender candidate but have backed off of that now. Not sure what they’re going to do with Solis, who is out of options. When he’s healthy and not overworked, he has terrific stuff. He doesn’t have the loogy splits you would want, though.

    KW

    10 Oct 18 at 3:42 pm

  5. MLBTR estimates Roark getting $9.8M. Wow. I still think he’s probably worth it vs. trying to replace at the same quality. MAT estimated at $3.2M, or six times what Stevenson would make.

    KW

    10 Oct 18 at 3:44 pm

  6. MAT – I think he is right on the fence for non tender. I see arguments both ways, and its too close to call

    Zim – barring a total collapse, I’ll guess he is back in 2020 at a really reduced rate to chase 300 HRs. That is the kind of thing teams like, plus he’s also been a productive hitter the last two years, so $4m + incentives for PAs isn’t horrible and I think he’d do it.

    Kendrick – I think its foolish to count on an aged MI to come back from an Achilles tear to be a near full time guy. I’d assume he’s a bench guy and look elsewhere. And I agree that Difo isn’t the answer, even though I hoped he was. But 2bs aren’t pricey and I would look for a stop gap guy. Dozier, Lemahieu, Forsythe type.

    Turner – hidden in all this payroll planning is news that Turner may or may not be an Arb 2 guy. That could be a $5m swing. I’d look to lock him up. I don’t think he’s elite but he is above average (back half of top 10) and likely to stay there for 6 years.

    They need Roark back, and I think he showed enough to want him back. That being said, if they offered $8m, I think he’d take it rather than risk FA with so many pitchers out there.

    Solis – seriously, he isn’t worth $900k? It would be nuts to DFA him at that price. if they could get something decent in trade, sure, but that is so cheap and as to be crazy to pass up.

    barraclough – eh, who cares. I mean, they can’t use the int’l money, so I like that part of it but I am not too bullish on the guy. How many of these HRod, Daniel Cabrera, Cordero, Romero types do we pick up anyway?

    Wally

    10 Oct 18 at 5:08 pm

  7. Barraclough slash against in the 1st half: .126/.254/.217. Wow. But they used him in 44 games in the 1st half and he crashed (see Solis, Sammy). Yes, he has the control issues. But he also has a proven quality MLB track record when he’s right, unlike H-Rod, Cordero, et al. I think he’ll get first crack at being the 8th inning guy. He’s also controlled for three more seasons, plus he literally cost nothing, money we can’t spend anyway (as Wally noted).

    As for Solis himself, I don’t necessarily want to get rid of him, but I’m not sure how he fits, and he’s out of options.

    Let’s think about the bullpen. These guys would seem pretty likely: Doolittle, Barraclough, Glover, Miller, Grace. That’s five, with seven total slots. So here’s who you’ve got on hand for the last two: Solis, Suero, Cordero, Gott, and Adams, not counting J-Rod, Fedde, McGowin, and Voth. If they bring back Collins, it would be on a minor-league contract. Anyway, of those guys, Suero was probably the most consistent, and Solis has the longest MLB track record. But I could really see them keeping someone like J-Rod as a swing man over Suero or Solis. (I’ll add that I don’t consider Miller a mortal lock, and that Glover still has options.)

    So it’s already fairly tight numbers in the ‘pen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they add another arm or two along the way. The good news is that it’s a much less expensive ‘pen without the Kelley, Madson, and Kintzler contracts. Do they bring back Holland or Herrera? I doubt it, but they gave Kintzler a contract we didn’t expect. I really think Holland and particularly Herrera would probably want to be paid more than the value they actually have to the Nats. To me, that’s the biggest/best part of the Barraclough acquisition — it takes away their feeling of need to overpay for Herrera or Holland.

    KW

    11 Oct 18 at 9:58 am

  8. Wally, I chuckled at your reference to Dozier as a stopgap guy, but that’s what he’s become, isn’t it? What a terrible collapse for him from his monster years in ’16 and ’17. Forsythe probably has more defensive flexibility but not much of a bat.

    I could see them trying to keep Zim around, but the way they work it is going to be tricky. They’re not going to pay him $18M in 2020, just not happening. So I guess they will have to buy him out first and then try to re-sign him. If they got a 29-year-old Matt Adams in ’18 for $4M, Zim’s value in ’20 is going to be less than that.

    I agree with the sentiment of trying to buy out Turner’s arb years plus a couple of more. (And by the way, if he does turn out to be Super 2, that’s yet another screw-up by the front office to go along with failing on the luxury tax the last two seasons despite being close. Miller’s head has already rolled.)

    KW

    11 Oct 18 at 10:14 am

  9. I forgot Austen Williams in my bullpen list. He’s a legit 2-3 inning guy, something I’d like to see them have more of.

    KW

    11 Oct 18 at 12:42 pm

  10. On the bullpen, I don’t see Cordero, Gott, or Adams as getting in the way of anyone. I like several of the other young arms, but for the bullpen to be a strength, which I’d argue is a good idea with a thin rotation, they need another quality high leverage arm. Someone in the $6-8m range that can close if needed, or get big outs otherwise. Bet on a Cody Allen rebound? If they get that guy, this could be a strong pen with young depth. Would not like to count on the young guys to pitch a lot of high leverage innings though.

    I admit, I do like Solis. To me, when used right, he has stuff that gets out quality hitters. If I was a manager, I’d want that option in the pen. You definitely need solid, workmanlike guys like Grace too, but to get out of those tight spots, you need big time stuff and Solis has it. And he will basically make the minimum. I think you have to keep that guy.

    On Zim, I think we agree. To come back, he has to want to come very cheap with his hometown team to chase a record or two. Anything more than a low, single digit million salary just won’t work.

    Dozier – yeah, it’s a shame because he was great but he fell off fast, imo. And I think it’s a real decline, too, so he wouldn’t be first on my list. Just feels like Uggla, doesn’t it? But Lemahieu could be interesting.

    OT – I’m kind of optimistic that they could get Rendon extended too. He seems the type to be reasonable (if a $100m contract is ever ‘reasonable’), plus there are a ton of elite 3Bs right now, yet he fits the Nats perfectly too. There should be a 5/$100m kind of deal there.

    On the young guys, I agree, I like A. Williams. I also like McGowin as starter depth, a 6/7 type who maybe gets lucky for a few years.

    Wally

    11 Oct 18 at 8:26 pm

  11. Dozier was dealing with a lot of injuries this season so could be a good bounce-back candidate . . . if you want to take that risk. I see that Lowrie, who is from the area, is making it clear that he wants to stay with the A’s. I think it does get tricky if the Nats try to sign one of the decent FA 2B’s, though, as those guys are going to want two or three years at least, and the Nats will be projecting a Kieboom or Garcia arrival before then. Maybe they string that spot along and try to get someone who is falling through the cracks in Feb. for a better deal?

    I agree that I’d like to see them add another high-leverage arm for the bullpen. I’m actually more curious about Allen’s mate, Andrew Miller. He gave up four runs in his last outing, which blew up his ERA, as well as three runs in his last appearance in May before he went on the DL. He was pretty dominant otherwise. Would it work having two lefties as your main back-end guys? I don’t know.

    KW

    12 Oct 18 at 8:09 am

  12. Talent is talent. I think ‘handedness’ is more important as the player’s skill sets gravitate to the mean.

    Miller is great if healthy. That’s hard to gauge from what we read but I’d be good with a flyer on him

    Wally

    12 Oct 18 at 11:33 am

  13. Short write up on the Nats Top 10 on Fangraphs.
    https://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/washington-nationals-top-10-prospects-updated/

    I have to say, I’ve completely slept on Bourque. I barely recognize the name, but 76Ks in 53 IPs with pretty good GB% is very strong. Seems like an older guy who popped going to the pen? What’s the general consensus – legit break out or just a 1 year wonder?

    I also like this kid Irvin of the recent draftees, moreso even than Cate or the strong armed kid from Vandy whose name escapes me.

    Wally

    12 Oct 18 at 1:59 pm

  14. Sonny Gray on the market. I’m intrigued

    Wally

    12 Oct 18 at 5:33 pm

  15. Rizzo should go hard for Gray. His numbers outside of NY are still very good and Nats stadium tailors to his game well.

    Mark L

    13 Oct 18 at 4:51 pm

  16. FWIW, Gray’s #1 career comp on B-R is . . . Roark. Let’s just say that I would be interested if the price is right. The Yanks gave up a lot to get him, but he’s only got one year of control left and is due an arb raise. FIP still thinks Gray is a lot better than his ERA. Here’s the biggest point that bugs me, though — the Yanks will be desperate for starting pitching this offseason, yet they’re looking to give this guy away (or maybe even non-tender him). They obviously don’t think much of him, for some reason.

    So . . . he might be nice to have, but only if they don’t give up much to get him. Otherwise, there are plenty of guys on the FA market in the same price range.

    KW

    15 Oct 18 at 8:28 am

  17. Buchholz is a FA starter I keep forgetting. He was terrific the last half of the season for AZ. Recent injury history and age should keep his cost and years reasonable.

    KW

    15 Oct 18 at 8:39 am

  18. KW, have you seen the dimensions at Yankee stadium?
    In many ways, it’s a high school field. If you’re a fly ball pitchers, like Scherzer, you will never do well there.
    Some people just can’t pitch in NY. Maybe the Nats pick him up for a song.

    Mark L

    15 Oct 18 at 11:15 am

  19. Oh, I agree that both the RF porch and LF power alley in Yankee Stadium are jokes and never should have been allowed by MLB. And yet the Yanks seem to have horded RH power hitters . . .

    Anyway, I’m not anti-Gray. I was very interested in him for the Nats when he was on the market before being trade to NYY. Perhaps the Nats could “pick him up for a song.” That said, he’s really struggled recently, is only controlled for one year, and will make $8M+. Would that amount be better spent on someone like Ryu or Buchholz? Neither would cost any prospects, although both likely would be looking for at least 2-3 years.

    I don’t know. I think there are going to be some good mid-market pitching options, which is what the Nats need. I would love to have Corbin, but as I’ve said, I think the bidding on him starts at Lester’s $150M, and the Nats don’t need that contract. Keuchel really reminds me of Arrieta and the beginning decline.

    Here’s something I’ve been kicking around in my mind — would you guys trade six years of control of Fedde for one year of either Gray or Bumgarner? Right now, I’m not sure I would be willing to bet that a year of Gray would trump whatever Fedde is going to become, but I’d do the MadBum deal in a minute (although it would probably take Fedde-plus so the Giants can save face).

    KW

    15 Oct 18 at 12:15 pm

  20. Just kicking around some back-of-the-envelope stuff over lunch. The thinking seems to be that the Nats have $50-60M to spend and stay under the luxury tax. Let’s be conservative and say $50M, and also say that their target is really $40M so they have flexibility to take on some salary during the season if they’re contending. So . . .

    — Re-signing Bryce is out. If they re-sign him, it’s going to squeeze everything else if he’s getting $30-35M. They could do it, but they’d have to go with what they’ve got with only some very minor additions.

    — I would put $20M in a pot for two pitching additions, one starter and one late-inning reliever along the lines of Allen/Miller like we’ve discussed. I think $10-12M will get you a really good starter in this market, and I wouldn’t mind three or four years for the right guy to bridge the loss of Roark after 2019.

    — I would spend $7-8M to re-sign Matt Adams, which would probably take a three-year deal, again bridging the post-Zim transition. They could sign a “Matt Adams type for less” (Morrison?), but why not pay for the real deal? He REALLY seemed to benefit from his time with Kevin Long.

    — I think $5M would bring a good 2B/INF bat, as we’ve discussed, as Kendrick insurance.

    — Catching is nuts, and I still don’t have it figured. I think Grandal and Ramos would both require overpays, and Ramos can only catch half a season at best. I’m OK with Kieboom as the backup, and I don’t know that any catcher on the market is worth more than around $5M per, unless they trade for someone (it’s not going to be Realmuto).

    — That’s $37-38M spent to this point, which is roughly around $40M. They might look to add another OF/PH in the $3-5M range if they trade MAT, although Kendrick and Adams can at least stand in LF. I could see them adding another $2-3M reliever as well. If I’m Rizzo, that’s the winter budget I’ve got sketched, at least until Ted and Scott blow it up behind my back.

    — I know we’ve colored Murphy totally gone, but would it be nuts to consider him as the 2B stopgap/1B LH bat? I know he has NO range, and he couldn’t play LF, but coming off injury, I can’t see him getting a big contract, although he’d still be looking in the $8-10M range at least.

    KW

    15 Oct 18 at 1:15 pm

  21. I wouldn’t pay that much for Adams, as much as I like him. I’d go 2/$12m or so, but that’s about it.

    I agree that re-signing Bryce isn’t the best use of their money, but they might do it anyway.

    Here is an out of the box idea: would you extend Roark at 3/$24m? I think I might.

    Would Eaton bring back a C? What about to STL for Carson Kelly? Make do with a MAT/+ a LH platoon and play matchups. Probably could get a CarGo type for $3-4m, so you retool at two positions and save $5m. If not, I don’t see them doing more than a Suzuki type @ $5m. maybe Lucroy or even Weiters if they take that.

    Love Murphy but don’t think I’d bring him back for $8m unless he also took the Adams 1B spot and played 50 games at 2B. That’s a maybe.

    Its all about pitching to me. The lineup right now isn’t perfect but I would improve the pitching depth first and foremost, and then add some cheap guys to fill lineup holes in Feb.

    Wally

    15 Oct 18 at 1:55 pm

  22. To clarify, I meant that they would sign Murph instead of Adams AND instead of another INF, with the thought that he would primarily play 1B whenever Kendrick is healthy. I wouldn’t rule it out. I think Murph is going to run into the very tough 1B/DH market and not get a lot of serious offers.

    As of the All-Star Break, I had Roark on the non-tender list. He wasn’t good in ’17. That lack of consistency makes it hard to consider an extension. However, if you’re really talking an $8M AAV, that’s not a bad deal at all.

    I think talk of extending Roark and talk of signing a better starter for three or four years are both tied to what one thinks of internal starter development. Does anyone believe in Fedde as a starter for a contender? Seems like a big gamble right now. J-Rod and McGowin would be even bigger gambles. (I don’t see Voth as under consideration.) Crowe was never dominant at A+ and really struggled at AA. Romero is off the radar and Denaburg is four or five years away. Maybe one of the other ’17 or ’18 draftees emerges over the next year or so, but it’s more likely that none of them do. So . . . I don’t believe in Fedde for ’18, and I don’t think Roark’s replacement is on the internal horizon for ’19.

    KW

    15 Oct 18 at 2:15 pm

  23. Recent reports have the Nats with a much lower payroll next season, about or below $180 million. The Nats current commitment is about $112 million with an estimated $40 million in arbitration salaries. That leaves about $28 million to spend. If the Nats sign Harper, there goes the $28 million. So then we have to look at in house solutions, perhaps some trades. At 1B you have a decent platoon split with Zimmerman and Kendrick. At 2B you have a less palatable platoon split with Difo and Sanchez. MAT stays on as the 4th OF and Stephenson the 5th OF. Starting catcher, starting pitchers, and bullpen help is where the Nats will have to spend. I’m not a fan of this solution, and trades could help things along, but with the kid of payroll that’s being reported there aren’t a lot of choices. Side note, Carter Kieboom started at 2B in the AFL yesterday.

    mr buck

    15 Oct 18 at 5:10 pm

  24. I agree with you about the pitching options, meaning I’m not bullish on any of them. I think they are either bullpen candidates or 6/7th depth types, although oddly enough, I might be most bullish on mcGowin adding value.

    People have talked about Fedde about being a starter and I can’t rule it out, but he hasn’t shown enough in his limited times that I would want to bet on him as Plan A.

    Wally

    15 Oct 18 at 5:12 pm

  25. Wally — I tend to agree with you that I’m more bullish on McGowin at this point from among the internal starters. He was generally more consistent and more effective in 2018. I think Fedde, McGowin, and J-Rod all still have option years, and I think they’ll be more valuable to the Nats in ’19 as staters-in-waiting in Fresno than as swingmen in DC.

    Mr. Buck — Welcome to the conversation. I’m curious where you’re getting your numbers, as both Todd Boss here and Ghost at NatsTalk have come up with figures somewhere in the $50-55M range that the Nats can spend and stay under the tax line. I’m not sure anyone really knows, though; heck, the Nats themselves seem to have miscalculated the last two seasons! (Goodbye Bob Miller.)

    If the number is indeed closer to $30M than $50M, I think the big cut would come in the level pitching help they seek. The good news is that this is a very deep FA class (except in catching!) I could see the Nats shopping at the Morton/Ryu/Buchholz/(Gio?) level of $8-10M per, but they could probably get by with someone at the Hellickson/T. Ross/EJax level. An Allen/Miller-level bullpen piece would be nice to have, but with Doo and Barraclough in the fold, they don’t have to break the bank for a “name” back-end arm.

    If Kendrick is healthy, he’s spending most of his time at 2B, not 1B. Sanchez has no place on the roster of a contender, and Difo is only barely passable as a reserve. I don’t think the Nats will pay the arb price for MAT, so I think he’s leaving by either trade or non-tender. I’d much rather spend about the same amount Taylor would be owed on someone like Jon Jay. I’m still not convinced that Stevenson is a major-leaguer, but it sure would give them a nice cheap bench option if he can prove that he is.

    One thing I haven’t seen widely discussed, here or elsewhere, is how they’re going to fill the offensive production hole if/when Harper leaves. Yeah, I know that WAR didn’t highlight his contributions that much, but you don’t take 34 HRs, 34 doubles, 103 runs, and 100 RBIs out of the middle of the order and not miss them, no matter how great Robles and full-season Soto turn out to be. That’s why I bring up guys like Adams and Murphy. Maybe they try to fill some of the power by going after Grandal. I don’t know.

    KW

    16 Oct 18 at 10:39 am

  26. I’ll add that I’ve never really been on the Grandal bandwagon, and he’s struggling in the playoffs, both offensively and defensively, to the point that Roberts is benching him.

    The catching options really suck. Chelsea Janes has an article up that says that if Wieters comes back, he wouldn’t be the starter. Not sure about that, as he sure WOULD start over Kieboom or Sevy. (By the way, by my count, Sevy is out of options. Can’t see him making the big club, so what are they going to do with him?)

    Formerly good players like Lucroy and Huntley are worse than Wieters now. I really can’t see Ramos catching more than 80-100 games, if that, plus he’s a constant injury risk and can’t catch throws from the OF. Maldanado has looked bad defensively. I keep coming around to Suzuki, Wieters, or trade (but not for the big expense Realmuto would take), but I don’t think Suzuki or Wieters are worth even $5M, certainly no more than that.

    KW

    16 Oct 18 at 11:08 am

  27. I haven’t seen much discussion of the possible Kershaw opt-out, which could really rock the FA market. Here’s the overriding point, though: why SHOULDN’T he opt out? He’s currently guaranteed 2/$70M but has had some injury issues and has only topped 200 IP once in the last five seasons. If injuries/decline really catch up to him over the next two years, he stands to lose tens of millions for subsequent seasons that he could sign for now.

    What would a contract for him look like? I’d say that considering injuries and age, teams won’t be willing to go above where he is now, $35M per. Teams may want some buyout options, with the level of bidding determining whether Claw has to settle for a contract that includes them. I could see 5/$175M, with a team buyout option of ~$20M in the 4th season and $15M in the 5th. That would $130M guaranteed, almost double what he’s guaranteed now.

    There may not be a higher risk/higher reward deal out there. Sure would be fun for the Nats to have two HOF guys at the top of the rotation, wouldn’t it? Could they swing it? Yeah, maybe, if their spending level really is around $50M. In fact, they could probably swing $35M for a starter more easily than they could for Harper because if they got Bryce, they’d still need to spend significant $$$ for a starter as well.

    I’m not saying it’s going to happen; in fact, I’d be totally shocked if it did. But then I was totally shocked when Scherzer showed up, so you never know. It sure would be fun! . . . at least until Claw and Stras are on the DL at the same time and the Nats can’t afford to replace them . . . or when Max and Claw both become 10-win pitchers for their last couple of years . . .

    KW

    17 Oct 18 at 1:19 pm

  28. This is a good format. I still can’t believe Rizzo didn’t sell high on MAT last off-season. Now you have to wonder if they non-tender him.

    Steve Mears

    17 Oct 18 at 6:07 pm

  29. I’m not so sure it’s a done deal on reupping with Roark who two years in a row failed to get back to his 2016 form. Mid-4’s ERA righties are everywhere and some are named by Collier and they won’t cost what Roark will.

    There’s a reason Roark is seen in video and photos doing squats and sweating it out. He knows what’s what.

    Steve Mears

    17 Oct 18 at 6:13 pm

  30. Roark:

    1st half: 3-12, 4.87 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
    2nd half: 6-3, 3.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

    He walked only seven in the 2nd half in 65.2 IP.

    I agree that it’s not a done deal, particularly if he’s likely to net nearly $10M after arb. Are the Nats willing to bet that much that he’s truly figured out the problems that have plagued him for essentially a season and a half?

    However . . . teams aren’t going to be lining up to trade for him at that price, so non-tender isn’t totally off the table. But if the Nats get rid of him one way or another, they’re then left with filling two starter slots instead of just one. Maybe they’re willing to bet that Fedde can be just as good as Roark for 1/19th of the price. We’ll see.

    KW

    17 Oct 18 at 10:43 pm

  31. Hooray, things seem to be fixed!

    KW

    25 Oct 18 at 9:32 pm

  32. Turner is a Super 2 by 1 day. I am happy for the kid, but I assume the team wishes he weren’t and seems like bad payroll management, a mistake they seem to be making repeatedly. Probably an $8-10m issue over the course of his controllable time.

    Wally

    26 Oct 18 at 9:41 am

  33. I assume Bob Miller got fired for bad management of this and the luxury tax. Really, these things are inexcusable in this day and age. I know Super 2 is a moving target, but between the fruitless call-up in 2015 and the two days of covering Zim for paternity leave in 2016 — which Ghost mentions at NatsTalk — the front office totally misplayed the handling of Turner all the way around.

    So now they’ve got nearly $5M less to spend for 2019 than they thought they would. You can get some pretty darn good players for $5M.

    On the flip side, as Wally said, you sorta have to feel good for Turner on this issue, as the front office really jerked him around in 2015-16, and MLB in general jerked him around because of the trade rule that then got changed. So good for him.

    Now . . . can the Nats buy out the arb years plus a couple of extra in a deal similar to what the Braves gave Simmons?

    KW

    26 Oct 18 at 12:39 pm

  34. I think they’d be smart to do it for him and Rendon. Adding them for the next 5 years alongside Robles and Soto is an amazing core to build a team from, and let’s them fill some spots, like 2B and a slugging corner OF, from a market that undervalued them. And their payrolls align in that when the kids are getting expensive, Turner and Rendon are nearing the end of their contracts. All this is especially true with a relatively weak farm system outside Kieboom.

    Then just mostly need to find pitching.

    If you assume Turner goes $5, 9, 13 and 17, that’s $44 million through arb. If you add 2 years @ 18, to bring it up to 80 and then maybe 2 option years at 20? So something like 6/$80 escalating to 120 if options are exercised? that might get it done but the issue may be lux tax. As is Turner costs $5m this year. With this extension, that goes to the average of his deal, which is $15. I think that’s how it works. So maybe this isn’t the year to do it.

    Rendon Is trickier to value but easier to accept for lux tax. Let’s say he gets $18m in arb. A 5/$100m deal only adds $2m to the lux calc. Would thT get it done? Based on stats and age, probably not but there are so many good 3bs out there, his market may not be as robust as it should.

    Wally

    27 Oct 18 at 11:18 am

  35. Happy (?) Opening Day of the offseason, although the Nats got an early start this year. Where to begin . . .

    — It all starts with Bryce, doesn’t it? Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where I basically consider him gone, but there’s just enough chatter on the re-signing side of things to think that it’s at least still in play.

    I do think the Nats could get a Bryce deal done, although it would mean trading Eaton and probably Roark as well. Would they have enough on top of such a deal to extend Rendon? Todd keeps saying “no.”

    Yes or no on Bryce, the most important aspect is that the Nats need a decision quickly. That’s a huge wad of cash that they may or may not have available to spend elsewhere, and it will do them a lot less good if they hold out for Bryce and miss out on some other top-rank guys while waiting.

    — Catching HAS to be solved/upgraded. Grandal seems to have devalued himself. I wouldn’t mind Ramos’s bat, but I fear that the Buffalo’s squatting days are numbered.

    — They’ve got to make the right call on whether Kendrick will be ready by Opening Day. They basically blew 2018 by misreading the returns of Murph, Eaton, and Zim. Kieboom has had a mini-surge in the AZ Fall League after a slow start, but Difo can’t start while they wait on Kendrick/Kieboom. A Bryce-less lineup can’t afford a Difo/Sevy black hole or two.

    — They’ll add a starting pitching, but the quality level will be determined by whether they spend on Bryce.

    KW

    29 Oct 18 at 12:42 pm

  36. I’m with you, i’d Say <5% that Bryce returns, and hard to see how the team overall will be better, given the expected concessions necessary to afford him. But Bryce’s free agency is going to be interesting, since he could get squeezed. Worth watching. I think Phils/Dodgers are 1 and 1A.

    But pitching. Where is it coming from?

    Wally

    29 Oct 18 at 6:01 pm

  37. Boz was jumping up and down in his chat today that he’s heard nothing to indicate that Bryce is coming back. But he also questions the market for him. The Dodgers have a lot of OFs, and a lot of LH bats that seem to go cold at bad times.

    Really, if the Nats aren’t playing for Bryce and aren’t getting in the bidding for Corbin (which I keep saying starts at the Lester deal), then they’ve got a decent amount to spend on several mid-level players.

    KW

    29 Oct 18 at 10:12 pm

  38. Here’s a good FA list, ranked by WAR:

    https://www.mlb.com/news/2019-mlb-free-agents/c-293292274

    I see a number of good options at nearly every position . . . except catcher. I wouldn’t go more than $8M AAV for Grandal, and he’s not great defensively. I don’t think Ramos could catch more than half a season. He really needs to be in the AL. There’s no logical solution here.

    In noticing that Matt Adams had such a low WAR, I didn’t realize that he fell off a cliff in STL (OPS+ of 43!). Obviously his price went down, and he really seemed to click with Kevin Long. Also wouldn’t mind them at least kicking the tires on Murph, more as the 1B/LH bat, but at least for some 2B cover as well. LeMahieu is a Gold Glover at 2B but didn’t hit much in ’18 so shouldn’t be too high-priced. But do they even want to invest in someone at that price level with C. Kieboom fairly close to ready?

    Or sign Donaldson, move Rendon to 2B, and trade Kieboom or Garcia for Realmuto. Simple, right?

    I know Wally wants to trade for Gray, but I want to trade for Bumgarner. He’s only got one year left, so the Giants can’t expect to get too much. Taylor, Solis, and Voth for Bumgarner? The Giants would probably want a little more prospect grease, but he’s not worth a top-tier guy.

    KW

    30 Oct 18 at 8:52 am

  39. Actually my first trade hope is Jon gray. I think he could explode with a change of scenery. I’m negative on trading for a big ticket 1 year guy like MadBum. That’s no longer their horizon.

    I do like the Murphy reunion as a 2b/1b hybrid this year and 1b platoon next year. But he’d have to accept something like 2/$15m to make it work. Failing that and assuming no rendon extension, what about a trade for Whit merrifield? Depends on cost but he could fit their profile nicely. Then move Kieboom to 3b when Rendon leaves.

    As for C, there are no good obvious options. I wonder see if they could find a diamond in the rough with a good hitting minor leaguer who is blocked? I haven’t scoured the prospect ranks but that might be an option.

    Wally

    30 Oct 18 at 9:12 am

  40. I’m with Sally on Gray. A logical move that won’t cost much as the Yanks just want to offload the contract.
    Anyone looking to resign Harper has to know that most of that contract will be for a 1st baseman, as he can barely play the outfield now.

    Mark L

    30 Oct 18 at 11:35 am

  41. Sorry Wally, auto correct nightmare.

    Mark L

    30 Oct 18 at 11:36 am

  42. Wally is talking about Jon Gray, not Sonny, although I think we’ve also discussed Sonny. I wouldn’t mind taking a chance on Jon G., but the problem I see is that the Rox would want decent compensation for parting with a 1/3 pick who is controlled for three more years (despite the 5.12 ERA). The Nats don’t have much of a “second tier” of prospects from which to deal, and Gray isn’t worth the Kieboom/Garcia level of prospect. Now, if they could agree to swap failing pitching prospects, with Fedde the central part of the return, I could get interested in that. (FWIW, Fedde is a Vegas/UNLV guy used to pitching at altitude . . . which should serve him well in the PCL.)

    The other issue I have with either of the Grays is that with so many reasonably decent FA starters on the market, why give up much of anything to take on a guy who is struggling? Admittedly, the “why give up much of anything” argument could be used against a MadBum deal as well. In that case, I would argue that the one-year commitment is a good thing, as opposed to giving a four- or five-year contract to the next Alex Cobb.

    However, with a bunch of mid-level guys on the market, I doubt teams will have to give too many Cobb-like deals, particularly at the Buchholz/Miley/T. Ross/Harvey/Hellickson level. Will either of the Grays be better than those guys? Can anyone be sure?

    I don’t have the answers. I do think the Nats need a starter upgrade, one or two of them, maybe even three if they’re thinking of unloading Roark.

    The other related question is whether, in this day and age, it’s worth it to spend more on a five-inning starter, or to stock the bullpen?

    KW

    30 Oct 18 at 1:02 pm

  43. Catching: Sal Perez is owed 3/$39.6. I don’t think it would take too much to convince KC to offload that contract. Is Perez what the Nats need? He had a painfully low .274 OBP, but 27 HRs. I imagine that Grandal’s contract is going to be similar to what Perez is still owed, although considering the general need for catchers, he may be able to get a 4th year.

    Cervelli is owed 1/$11.5M, is coming off a career year, but only played 104 games, only 94 behind the plate.

    Of the FAs, the happy zone is probably Wieters/Suzuki, although for not nearly as much as we’ve been paying Wieters. Neither is worth more than 2/$10M.

    No good options. Also, the Fish really blew it by not trading three years of Realmuto last offseason. Will they double down and refuse to trade him again this year? They obviously haven’t found a team willing to pay at the Robles + Soto level yet.

    KW

    30 Oct 18 at 1:22 pm

  44. 2B: The only “problem” with Merrifield is that the Nats are already going to have a truckload of similar speed-first players in Turner, Robles, and Eaton. Also, Merrifield would take a big package to get, including one or both of Kieboom and Garcia, plus other stuff like J-Rod.

    If they pay a 2B, I think LeMahieu is a decent bounce-back candidate and great defensively. AssCab does have SS capability, which most of the others don’t, plus pretty good offense. As noted, I’m curious what Murp is going to get. I think his bat still has a couple of more high-quality seasons in it, if he can stay healthy and not be too much of a defensive liability.

    KW

    30 Oct 18 at 1:29 pm

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