Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Jamal from 11/9/18

31 comments

To Robles, or not to Robles, that is the Harper question. Photo via milb.com

To Robles, or not to Robles, that is the Harper question. Photo via milb.com

MLB Nats beat reporter Jamal Collier did another mailbag last friday … which came out before reports about what Nats turned down for Bryce Harper at the trade deadline.

Which was a lot.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Nats turned down this offer:

  • RHP starter and 2017 1st rounder J.B. Bukauskas, who had matriculated to AA by the end of 2018 and is a DC-area native.
  • Catcher Garrett Stubbs, a 2015 8th rounder who was Round Rock (AAA)’s starting catcher in 2017 and 2018, hitting .310/.382/.836 last year
  • and another minor leaguer

So, let me get this straight.  The Nats could have gotten a much, much needed nearly MLB ready 1st round starter, a guy who looks like he could very well step into the 2019 starting Catcher conversation, and a third prospect instead of what they will eventually get for Harper (i.e., a pick between the 4th and 5th round in June 2019)?

You can call this revisionist history if you want.  But this report makes me sick.  It was clear in early July they were in trouble.  On July 26th their #2 starter Strasburg went back on the D/L and left an already struggling pitching staff relatively decimated.  They were 50-51 and thus needed to go 40-21 from that point to get to 90 wins (which, as it turned out, was precisely what they needed to win the division).  And the team turned down this package only to dump everybody just a couple weeks later.

I mean, Mike Rizzo still has a job, so to me this was an over-his-head decision.  Well fans, ask yourself how you feel now bout the entirely of 2018 at this point and the decisions they made from the first week of the season to the final trade of FAs to be in mid August.

Anyway, onto Collier’s questions:


Q: What are the odds the Nationals do the smart thing and sign everybody else they need before Bryce signs somewhere else rather than after?

A: Slim.  If the Nationals spend all their FA money before the Harper-bazaar gets going, then Scott Boras doesn’t have his baseline 10yr/$300M contract to use as leverage with other teams.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, the Nationals ownership seems to exist to enable Boras, hire his cast offs, give him his record-breaking contracts and generally serve to make sure Boras Corporation continues to gain new customers.

Here’s what’s going to happen: the Nats will hem-and-haw, miss out on all the top Starters, miss out on a Catcher, basically do nothing but acquire middle relievers (they’ve already got two there) and 1 year corner sluggers to provide cover for Ryan Zimmerman, all the while having daily breathless media reports about their negotiations with Harper.

What *I* want them to do is to be aggressive, assume Harper is going to Chicago or New York or Los Angeles liks we always though he would, and spend his salary fast and swiftly.  But this is not Rizzo’s team; this is Lerner’s team, and we’re beholden to that ownership group and their idiotic decisions.

Collier points at the Barraclough and Rosenthal signings as evidence that Rizzo will make moves.  I don’t buy it.  A $6M reliever coming off of injury is one thing; a $20M starter with significant competition from other teams is another.


 

Q: If Bryce is re-signed, how does the outfield shake out for next year? Or does he play first base?

A: If Harper signs, the team moves either Eaton or Robles (likely Robles since Eaton’s two injuries in two years has destroyed his value) to acquire a position of need (SP, C, 2B).

Will Harper play 1B??  What a dumb question.  This team has been bending over backwards for Ryan Zimmerman for years now; what makes you think anything changes for 2019?  Zimmerman isn’t riding the pine.

Harper, in theory, is a 26yr old athlete in his absolute prime of athletic ability.  As others have noted, he appeared to be “dogging it” in the outfield last year, which contributed to god-awful defensive stats.  But in years prior he’s proven himself to be more than elite defender, with one of the top outfield arms in the game.  Maybe the security of a long term contract enables him to return to form.  But he’s 10 years from being the kind of immobile player to waste at 1B.  I mean, Zimmerman is only there because he’s forgotten how to throw across the diamond; he’s still an excellent range defender.

Collier agrees.


Q: What’s a fair expectation for Victor Robles next season?

A: Great question.  Things go one of two ways:

  • Harper signs elsewhere and Robles plays a full season of CF for this team, hits 6th in the order right after Anthony Rendon, posts an .830 OPS figure, threatens 20/20, puts up nearly 4 bWAR or perhaps more if he’s really as good defensively as advertised and is a Rookie of the Year finalist.  All for about $575k in salary.
  • Harper signs here for $30M/year and the team has to move Robles.   They can’t move Eaton b/c they’d be selling low, and they’d be completely morons to move Juan Soto.  So its Robles out; he goes onto star for some other team (Miami?) and becomes a force of nature for 6 years for some other franchise while we get like 2 years of some veteran player and play a different “what if” game related to a hamstrung payroll and an aging team.

Can you tell which way I want this to go?

Collier kinda says, well he could be good, no idea which team.


Q: Should the Nats be looking at a second baseman/utility man (a Josh Harrison type) given the lack of production at second and the unknowns of Howie Kendrick‘s rehab?

A: I think Josh Harrison might be an excellent piece.  I’m more confident of a Kendrick return than others.  So my answer is kinda like this: there’s a slew of good 2B on the market and I woouldn’t mind getting one of them … but for me its priority 3 of 3 in terms of major acquisitions for this off-season.  I’m ok going to war with Kendrick as my starting 2B and 7th hitter.  HE had a 112 OPS+ in 2017, 110 in 2018 before getting hurt.  That’s fantastic for a 7th or 8th hitter (depending on what we get for a C).

Collier notes that Rizzo has been on record saying he’s ok with 2B too.  So we’re in line.  Collier also notes that there’s two significantly good prospects coming up soon in Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia, both of whom could play 2B and one of whom (Kieboom) was in the AFL getting some time at 2B, perhaps in preparation for a mid-season callup to do just this.


Q: Do you feel it’s more realistic for the Nats to address an everyday catcher via the free-agent market or via a trade?

A: Usually the answer here is trade, since the FA market will bid up services of good players and thus you overpay for what you get.  If you can even get them.

FA signings just cost money.  Trades cost players.  This team has been shedding players for a long time in pursuit of playoff glory … and this off-season are in a great position to use MONEY to get players and not shred their depth any further.  I think they should go after Yasmani Grandal hard and make him their starter for the next 3 years, and then should focus heavily on developing a catcher from within from the draft or from somewhere.

Collier says FA is more likely.

 

31 Responses to 'Ask Jamal from 11/9/18'

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  1. Dude, everything ok? No joy in Mudville with this post, you seem cranky :-)

    If they trade Robles, unless they got an elite pitcher with 3+ years of control, it will be a big mistake that might cost people their jobs at some point. But I don’t see Rizzo doing it, not even for Realmuto. I see him as a 3WAR guy annually (i.e. borderline all star) through his control years, with the chance for an occasional elite, MVP-votes season or two. Can’t trade that unless you get something big back.

    Hard pass on Grandal. He’s still pretty good but I don’t want to lose the pick. I’d go cheapo on C cause no one is a difference maker.

    I like Harrison and am not confident in a quick Kendrick recovery, but i’d Also go cheapish at 2B since there are too many options. So if Harrison was willing to do 2/$12m or something, i’d Bite but not much higher. I’m ok with one of the other vets.

    Wally

    12 Nov 18 at 3:00 pm

  2. They have to move Eaton if they keep Harper as they need Robles in CF. Eaton could go to Cleveland with a package for Yan Gomes.

    Imref

    12 Nov 18 at 3:14 pm

  3. Eaton has destroyed his trade value. They’d be trading him at absolute rock bottom of value.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 18 at 6:21 pm

  4. Much as it pains me to say it as someone who defended him in the past and putting aside his obviously considerable talent, Harper has indeed been the cancer to this organization that many sportswriters predicted he’d be when the Nats drafted him–just not in the way everyone expected. Instead of a guy with his head so far up his rear end that he completely bombed as a player, the Nats ended up with someone who in a subtle way may actually have been worse. Unfortunately, Harper has turned out to be JUST good enough to allow the powerful Scott Boras hype machine to sell him to casual fans as one of the game’s great players, when in fact he’s not even close to it. Now the Nats are stuck in that if they let him go they’ll take a considerable hit to their bottom line from fewer fannies in the seats, but if they keep him they are likely to experience many more disappointing seasons without ever sniffing a World Series.

    Of course, it has been their own fault for bending over so far to accommodate both Boras and Harper in the first place–even going so far as to give bad contracts to other Boras clients like Weiters and Rafael Soriano in an apparent attempt to woo the agent for exactly this moment.

    I completely agree with just about every point you’ve made above about what the Nats need to do to retool–let go of Harper, use the money to fill other holes and market the team going forward around Soto and Robles. But until the day I hear Harper has signed elsewhere, I’m not going to believe they have the fortitude to do the right thing.

    Karl Kolchak

    12 Nov 18 at 8:14 pm

  5. Open question; is this team really going to take that big of a hit if they let Harper go? I mean, really that big? Yes he’s a marketable star. Yes he’s the leading jersey seller.

    But fans root for laundry. If Harper leaves and this team wins 100 games next year and goes to the WS, is there really going to be that big of a difference in attendance, interest, ST sales, etc? I don’t think so. I think fans root for winners. The Nats can take the $30M it takes to buy Harper, spread it around to 3 players, gain value, replace Harper’s production with Robles, and may very well catch a number of breaks that really they havn’t had in the last couple of years injury wise and maybe just race away with the 2019 division.

    Here’s some food for thought:
    – Eaton’s bWAR the 3 years prior to coming here: 5.3, 4.0 and 6.1. For us he’s posted a 0.4 and a 1.1. What happens if he returns to form? that’s 4 wins right there.
    – Soto should repeat his feat and build on it; he projects to a 4 win season. that’s a win right there.
    – Robles should be able to be a 3-4 win player.
    – they have to be able to get more out of C than they got this year; combined their Cs in 2018 gave them a combined -0.4 bWAR. I mean, just a halfway decent catcher gives them a couple more wins.
    – You replace Gio’s 0.4 barely a replacement level starter with maybe a 3 win pitcher; two more wins there.
    – You replace a TON of sh*tty innings from relievers who struggled in 2018 (Madsen, Solis, Cole, Gott, Cordero, Torres combined to throw more than 140 innings and they all had ERAs in the 5s or worse) with guys who don’t have ERAs in the 5s or 6s. That’s going to be worth a couple wins.

    Just these easily achievable player goals total up to 14 more wins. Then you factor in better luck (the Nats were -8 in pythag last year so that’s 8 more wins there). And you factor in a manager who has now learned on the job for an entire year (his 1-run record was 18-24 and his extra inning record record was 4-10; both of those are generally .500). that’s 6 more wins there just averaging those two things out.

    20 more wins. We go from 80 win team to 100 win team. There’s your blue print.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 18 at 9:24 pm

  6. Another Robles possibility: the Nats base their offseason on his potential, and he becomes Byron Buxton II

    John C.

    12 Nov 18 at 11:27 pm

  7. Sure it’s posible, but what would you do?

    Wally

    13 Nov 18 at 7:17 am

  8. I don’t think Eaton “being at the bottom of his trade value” is an impediment to trading him if they re-sign Harper. Nor is the fact that they gave up so many pieces to trade for him two years ago. That already happened. The costs are sunk. Bygones are bygones.

    Also, even if Eaton wasn’t hurt the last two years, his value would have gone down. Eaton was valuable not because he was a superstar, but because he was a good-to-very-good MLB outfielder who was being paid very cheap salaries for five years. Two of those years – the very cheapest two years on his deal – are gone. Now he’s effectively on a three year deal (two are option years) and below market but not rock bottom prices. He’s a good player, and I hope he’s healthy and plays like he’s capable if he’s on the Nats next year. But he’s simply not that valuable a trade piece now. And his injuries are only a part of his lack of value (in my view, the passage of time is the much more significant reason).

    Obviously if the Nats decide to move an outfielder, they’ll compare what they get vs. what they give up and make the best choice based on the offers they get. If the choice is Eaton v. Robles, I think it’s far more likely the team trades Eaton.

    Derek

    13 Nov 18 at 11:23 am

  9. If the Nats were to re-sign Harper (very unlikely), Eaton would be traded. No doubts. They would need the salary relief to fill out the rest of the team. The return wouldn’t matter that much. Ditto with Roark and his salary.

    I don’t think the Nats would/should take that big of a PR hit if Bryce leaves. They made a perfectly legit offer — frankly, right at about the level he deserves, perhaps even a little high — plus the separation cum divorce has been developing for a couple of years, so this isn’t a sudden and unexpected departure. I just hope as he watched his beloved Cowboys on Monday that Bryce took note of the Super Bowl champs being booed off the field in Philly. There’s more to life than money. Even when DC fans have gotten frustrated with Harper, there’s never been anything like that here. That’s everyday life in Philly . . . or the Bronx.

    I keep saying that I don’t think there’s as big a market for Harper as Boras wants the world to believe, and that 10/300 will end up looking pretty good in hindsight. We’ll see.

    KW

    13 Nov 18 at 1:17 pm

  10. A few hot takes on what’s been said thus far:

    — Josh Harrison was NOT good in 2018. There’s a reason the Pirates let him go. OBP of .293, wRC+ of 78. In short, he was basically Difo.

    — John, I’ve the same concern about Robles. The Buxton and Lewis Brinson “can’t miss” examples are fresh and recent. We certainly hope that Robles is more Acuna than Buxton, but there’s no way to be sure.

    — I know that I’ve said that the Nats might think about moving MAT rather than paying him an arb-overinflated salary, but the more I think about how little OF help the Nats have as reserves, and about the injury histories of Robles and Eaton, the more I’m thinking they may have to keep Taylor. If not, they may be looking at signing someone like Jon Jay for about what Taylor would make.

    — Grandal caught in 135 games in 2018. Ramos caught in 96. I prefer the Buffalo’s bat, but I just don’t see him as a full-time catcher. Is Grandal worth the premium over someone at the Suzuki/Wieters/Lucroy level? I don’t know. The catching market is so tight that Grandal is in a position to get a contract bigger and longer than the projected 3/36. He’s also a high-K guy who could hit a Desi-like regression at any time.

    — I don’t think the Nats will be trading for a quality starting pitcher because I just don’t think they have that much of quality they’re willing to trade. Maybe Garcia becomes available if Rendon signs an extension, but I can’t see them parting with Soto, Robles, or Kieboom. That’s “the future.”

    — Maybe I’m being too sentimental, but I would still like to see them pursue Murph as the LH bat, primarily looking at a future at 1B, but also as the insurance policy at 2B if Kendrick isn’t completely healthy.

    KW

    13 Nov 18 at 1:41 pm

  11. Looks like the MASN dispute has a big event this week: a rehearing before the owners committee to review (and award) the last and current 5 year payment periods. Hopefully this thing comes to an end now, everyone is tired of it. Although you can’t really complain about the spending levels the Nats have been at. Maybe how they’ve spent it, but not how much.

    On Robles, so what would you do? Build around him, or trade him?

    Wally

    13 Nov 18 at 10:27 pm

  12. I don’t hate Robles, and I don’t particularly expect him to fail. I would hope that he can be better all around offensively than Taylor right away. But will Robles be extraordinary immediately? I think the Steamer projection is reasonable, but not exciting: .273/.334/.415, wRC+ of 101, 13 HRs, 2.1 fWAR. If you’re looking for a peak expectation level, I’d point to his SSS of 21 MLB games in ’17: .288/.348/.525, wRC+ of 131.

    Robles isn’t as disciplined a hitter as Soto (few are!), so it’s reasonable to expect him to have some boom and bust periods as the league figures him out. He’s still got to learn the limits of aggression on the base paths. With Eaton and Turner on the team, there will be no need to put the extra pressure on him of batting him at the top of the order.

    The Nats have bet big on Robles. They’ve turned down a number of significant deals in which he would have been the featured piece. I would be very surprised if he’s traded now . . . unless Harper re-signs. I also think Robles’s trade value is currently not what it was last year, after the year missed to injury. There was some scuttlebutt that he’s no long a “top 10” prospect, although I think he put some of that to rest with his strong Sept. in DC.

    We’ll see. I think it will help Robles a lot that Soto has already arrived and been so successful. There shouldn’t be talk/pressure of Robles having to “replace” Harper when they’ve already added another significant young bat to the OF.

    KW

    14 Nov 18 at 8:01 am

  13. So you wouldn’t trade Robles for Realmuto? What about in a package for kluber?

    And if you trade robles, Eaton plays CF?

    Wally

    14 Nov 18 at 10:09 am

  14. Well, they still have Taylor . . . I doubt they want Eaton in CF if at all possible. I don’t know.

    I’m not keen to trade Robles. The Nats need to move into the next generation of cheap, controllable talent, and that’s Soto/Robles/Kieboom/Garcia. I do think Garcia becomes available if they extend Rendon. I don’t see an obvious replacement for Robles, though. MAT has had several opportunities to prove that he should be a regular, and he hasn’t been able to do so.

    I wasn’t as fond as some in the Natosphere were last year about Robles straight up for Realmuto, although the Nats apparently offered that deal. Now, Realmuto has only two years of control left. I wouldn’t hate it if it happens, but I sort of think that ship has sailed.

    I haven’t heard a Kluber rumor, but wow, I’d have to think about that one. The down side is that he’ll turn 33 in April. The upsides are that he’s signed for three more years, and if he starts to suck, he can be bought out for only $1M in years two and three. Very nice contract. And I think that despite age, I’d trust Kluber to be likely more reliably good across those three years than I would Corbin or Keuchel. All of that said, if Kluber did become available, I think other teams could offer more appealing packages than the Nats could.

    Because they’re so limited in what they can offer, if the Nats do trade for a starter, I’m thinking it likely would only be for a rental like Bumgarner or Sonny Gray.

    KW

    14 Nov 18 at 11:52 am

  15. I agree with everything Karl said here. Harper sabremetrically was the worst or 2nd worst outfielder in baseball this year. His future is as a 2nd baseman.

    Todd, you were able make me feel even worse about not trading Harper than I felt before. And it was the Lenders overriding Rizzo. I’ve always said Boras has the Lerners fitted with a nose ring to yank when it’s best for him.

    Like KW, I like picking up Sonny Gray as a rental who won’t cost much.

    Mark L

    14 Nov 18 at 5:24 pm

  16. Sorry, typo. Harpers future is at 1st base.

    Mark L

    14 Nov 18 at 5:44 pm

  17. KW

    15 Nov 18 at 10:29 am

  18. Ok so using mlbtr’s predicted contracts, which FA do you want?

    Wally

    15 Nov 18 at 1:52 pm

  19. Harper defense. Here’s his blended OF defensive metrics by year (2012-2018) from https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=11579&position=OF#fielding
    DRS: 14,4,0,9,-3,4,-26.
    UZR/150: 9.0, 4.2, 1.7, -4.0, 5.9, 4.6, -16.7

    So, for comparison purposes, the NL leader in DRS this year among qualified candidates was Yasiel PUig with 6, Harrison Bader with 8 for all RF candidates.

    So you have a guy in Harper who has posted more than adequate defensive stats in his career, and recently (his 2017 numbers were both far better than the 2018 gold glove winner’s). So it isn’t like he’s an awful defender. No idea what the heck happened in 2018; we’ve got reports of purposeful slacking in the OF, maybe there was an injury that he was hiding that hindered him, or maybe he just didn’t want to risk running into another wall in his walk year. But I don’t think he’ll be banished to a corner (1B or LF) for a while.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 18 at 3:12 pm

  20. Using this link: https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/11/mlb-free-agent-predictions-2019.html

    I’d go with Keuchel at 4yrs/$82m. he’s extreme groundball pitcher, we have a great infield defense to gobble them up, he’ll be playing his 31-35 year so we’re not etirely getting his good years but we should get a tleast 2 good and a 3rd ok year out of him.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 18 at 3:23 pm

  21. I wouldn’t touch anyone with a QO because of the two picks, so no Keuchel for me.

    I’d go Eovaldi at 4/$60m. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I know he doesn’t have the track record, but he’s young and his stuff is all the way back. If he can’t keep it together as a starter, he’d at least be a 90 IP high leverage reliever. Not ideal, but a decent fallback.

    Morton then Ramos would be my next two. No way I’d go near Harp nor Machado at those numbers.

    Wally

    15 Nov 18 at 3:35 pm

  22. I’ve been playing around with some groupings of secondary stats with the FA starters. The way I’ve sliced it, Corbin*(QO) and Morton are a cut above the others. If so, then Morton looks like the better deal because there’s no QO, he won’t cost as much or as many years, and he has a much better record of consistent success than Corbin does. Morton is older, though, and averaged fewer innings per start.

    The next tier, closely bunched, is Keuchel* (QO), Eovaldi, Happ*, Cahill, and Buchholz. The last two are the potential bargains here (and look to be better discount options than Hellickson). Neither pitched a full season, but then neither did Eovaldi, who is going to make more than those two put together. All five were very close in xFIP. Keuchel and Eovaldi were a tick higher than the others in WHIP. Frankly, I don’t think those two are worth the premium over the others in their class, particularly with the QO penalty on Keuchel. I could be more easily sold on Eovaldi than Keuchel.

    The next grouping is a small one, the overachieving Anibal Sanchez and the oft-injured Brett Anderson*. I think Sanchez is due for a regression, but Anderson could be very interesting to the Nats. He strikes me as the best of the bargain lefties.

    The final group is Lynn, Miley*, D. Holland*, Harvey, Hellickson, and Gio*. For comparison’s sake, when I ran Roark, he placed right in the middle of this bunch. I think it’s very fair to say that Roark could be replaced in the rotation with someone who would make considerably less than his projected $9.8M. Of this group, Lynn and Gio had WHIPs that scare me, yet they will probably get the biggest salaries of these six. Holland and Miley are interesting budget lefties and have similar numbers to Anderson. Of those three, only Holland pitched a full season.

    So . . . the guys who I find interesting are Morton, Eovaldi (maybe), Cahill, Buchholz, Anderson*, Miley*, and Holland*. Of those, only Morton and Holland pitched a whole season. I’d risk $16M AAV on Morton before I would on Eovaldi. The other five all figure to be in the $5M (or less) ballpark and could yield a real bargain or two if you pick the right one.

    So . . . I’d trade Roark for peanuts and sign Morton and one or two from among Cahill, Buchholz, and Anderson. Of that trio, Buchholz had the most dominant stretch, so I’m really curious about him. Do you believe his 2.01 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, or the 4.01 xFIP and the 4.70 Steamer-projected xFIP for 2019?

    Another takeaway is that if the Nats really want to put a lot of bucks toward a hitter or two, including Bryce, there are some legit budget options in this deep starter class. It’s quite possible they could get Cahill and Buchholz together in place of the $9.8M of Roark and still have the full $50M or so left over to spend elsewhere.

    KW

    15 Nov 18 at 9:23 pm

  23. Among the bullpen lefties, Tony Sipp is the discount version of Andrew Miller. Sipp was really, really good in 2018. But if Miller is healthy enough to get back to his multi-inning ways, he might be worth the premium.

    KW

    15 Nov 18 at 9:32 pm

  24. Catcher: Ramos caught 96 games in 2018, starting 91 of them. At best, you’d probably get 110 games from him behind the plate. Is that enough for what he’d cost? It wouldn’t be for just one year, either, probably for three or four. Do you really want to bet he’s going to catch 300 games over the next three seasons? And do we all remember that he’s incapable of catching a throw from the OF?

    Really, of the good catching options, it’s Grandal (with the QO penalty and a big price tag), Ramos, or a mega-trade for Realmuto. That’s it. When you get beyond them, the FA’s I keep coming up with are Wieters and Suzuki. The staff knows and likes Wieters. In the second half, he hit .257/.343/.401. He wasn’t worth $10.5M, but if he’d come back for $5M, we could talk.

    So for me, it’s basically bite the bullet for Grandal or go back to Wieters.

    KW

    15 Nov 18 at 9:46 pm

  25. If Ramos can reliably catch 95 games a year, that’s enough to sign him as the #1 C. And starting next year, 30 games at 1b could be in the cards so $10m/yr is a reasonable deal for that bat. Just my opinion.

    On Harp, I’d been open to a return if the price was acceptable (he will be well beyond reasonable). But I’ve changed my view. This new perm is unacceptable and I wouldn’t take him back at any price. Horrifying.

    Wally

    16 Nov 18 at 10:07 am

  26. On the hairy issue of Harper, I’ve been playing around with some spending scenarios for the Nats. The Nats can come up with the $30-33M for Harper, but even with trading Eaton and Roark, they’re going to be left filling out the rest of the roster with 2d or 3d-tier players. They won’t get a starter in the $15M range (Morton/Eovaldi/Happ), while without Bryce, they might even be able to afford two of them (with Roark off the books). With Bryce, forget Ramos or Grandal; they’ll be shopping at the Wieters/Suzuki level. In short, if they bring back Bryce, they’ll be shopping at the replacement level at most other positions.

    As I’ve said over and over, the Nats can’t afford to wait on Bryce. There’s a lot of quality on this market, and they need to jump in and get their choice of the goods. The first signing of a player by the Nats at an AAV of $15M or above likely puts the final nail in the Bryce Era.

    KW

    16 Nov 18 at 11:54 am

  27. The TalkNats guys came up with an interesting idea – trade Stras to SDP. While I think the two opt-outs significantly limit his trade value, his injury history also makes him less likely to utilize it fully, and maybe just threaten the second one to get an extra year tacked on, like Kershaw did. Or, maybe you grant SDP the ability to restructure the contract prior to trade to give them 4 years of control?

    But if you put aside the opt out for a minute and assume he plays out his contract, this could be a brilliant way to re-tool. First, since Stras is so controversial, let me say that I am among his biggest supporters. I acknowledge that he doesn’t put up the yeoman innings like Max, and therefore is less valuable than Max, I also think he is a top 15 pitcher right now, a strong #2, even if he continues to pitch the 160-170 IPs that he averages. It helps that trends are moving his way anyway, in terms of IPs by starters. And i’ll Go one step further: I think most of the baseball people agree with what i’ve Said, but the media doesn’t which is why there is this perception that he isn’t that good.

    So Stras on a 4-5 year contract, where he is young enough to project to be good: what could we get back? Maybe two of their quality SP prospects, like Paddack/Allen/Baez, plus Hedges (TN wants Mejia, it I don’t see it happening and think Hedges could be pretty interesting although the bat is a question, admittedly). He’ll, they might even through in Pedro Avila because he’s on the 49 man bubble.

    Then you spend Stras’ savings by signing Morton (2/$30m) and Eovaldi (4/$60m) and wind up with Ross and Roark rounding out the top 5, with Fedde, Baez, Paddack as 6/7/8 and JRod the long man in the pen. You are a little worse this year by replacing Stras with Eovaldi, but deeper and better positioned for the future. your time horizon with Soto, etc looks better too, you haven’t waste a draft pick or prospect depth which is thin. And if you let Harp go, you have plenty of cash to add depth for lineup and pen without getting near the Lux tax line.

    Could really be a non conventional but valuable exercise. Where I usually go wrong is overvaluing trade value, and I think that’s also true here because of the opt outs, but it’s very interesting if you can get past that (or Preller is super anxious)

    Wally

    18 Nov 18 at 9:43 am

  28. Wally, while do like the out-the-box thinking, and I do hope Rizzo is at least looking for some bigger move, I doubt this is going to happen. I’m also not sure the Pads have the star-level quality the Nats would want/need in return. And frankly, I also don’t think the Lerners would go for it (unless Boras talked them into it!)

    I think the best way to prepare for the potential of a Stras opt-out is by signing two top-flight starters to multi-year deals (and jettisoning Roark). If Stras wants to test the market, he’ll have no bargaining leverage with the Nats. The Nats could probably afford two of the $15M AAV-class starters, guys like Morton, Happ, and Eovaldi.

    KW

    18 Nov 18 at 2:15 pm

  29. I’ll add that I’m not sure at all what the Nats SHOULD do this offseason. I’ve messed around with who they might be able to sign with the cash on hand and stay under the tax line, but I keep coming back to my old question of does it make them demonstrably better? Or are they just trying to tread water?

    Some needs are clear: catcher, one or two starting pitchers, LH bench bat, probably another LH reliever (unless they’re hoping that Solis comes back better than ever). I was thinking they should get a 2B but have backed off that after C. Kieboom’s fine fall in AZ and Rizzo’s insistence that Kendrick will be ready. Still, if that LH bench bat happened to be that Murphy fella, the extra 2B insurance might help. (To be clear, I don’t expect a Kieboom promotion until June, hopefully one day AFTER the Super Two date, not one day BEFORE).

    I have focused a lot on the starting pitchers, but I have to keep reminding myself that as bad as the pitching meltdown seemed to be, the Nats overall only surrendered 10 more runs in 2018 than they did in 2017. It was the 48-runs-scored deficient in ’18 from ’17 that hurt them a lot more. But other than at catcher, are they really in a position to boost themselves significantly on offense? (Well, other than not having Difo get 456 PAs again.)

    Radical offense suggestion: sign Donaldson, move Rendon to 2B, and trade C. Kieboom and Garcia for Realmuto. It’s not gonna happen, but I’m just trying to think of more aggressive ways to improve the offense.

    I don’t know. Yes, they’re adding Robles, but they’re also losing Harper and Murphy, the core of the offense in ’16 and ’17 (and Harper still in ’18). I think the pitching is easier to fix, and that they’ll be some addition by subtraction with the departure of Gio and perhaps of Roark. A healthy year from Stras would help the pitching, just as a healthy year from Zim would boost the offense.

    KW

    18 Nov 18 at 2:32 pm

  30. Oh sure, it was a <5% chance, it was just a fun exercise.

    I actually think it’s clear what they need to do: (2) SPs, preferably with more than a year of control. I think Eovaldi will be priced out of their range, but I’m hopeful for Morton and Happ is ok as the other. 2 yr deals preferably. That’s a must do.

    Next important is a quality, high leg reliever, preferably a LHP. Sipp is ok, it Miller, if healthy, would be ideal.

    Then just fill in some depth at OF, 2B and the annual uninspiring C option.

    Be great to get those SPs locked up early.

    Wally

    18 Nov 18 at 9:44 pm

  31. The one thing we know about Rizzo is that, somewhere in all his moves, he is going to buy low on a reclamation guy. So if you assume that’s a given, what about Drew Pomerantz? It’s all about health, but he’s very effective when healthy, youngish and maybe you get him for 1/$5m + incentives for IPs with an option for 2020?

    It would be horrible if he was the main add, but if they got a quality plus him and kept Roark, I could live with that. He could always go into the pen.

    Wally

    19 Nov 18 at 7:56 am

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