Nationals Arm Race

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

Anibal Sanchez as #4 starter; I like the risk


Sanchez joins the Nats on a 2 year deal. photo Atl official via ESPN

Sanchez joins the Nats on a 2 year deal. photo Atl official via ESPN


Well, now we can have the argument; was the Tanner Roark salary dump worth it?  Because just a few days later the team signed his replacement; Anibal Sanchez last night to a  deal to be his replacement.  Contract details are a bit complicated by the reports i’ve seen: 2 guaranteed years, $19M of guaranteed money, with $6M deferred and a 2021 option worth $12M, and some unspecified details that could add $4M to the package.

From what I can tell, the luxury tax implications are just the guarantees; $19M over two years means $9.5M of a luxury tax hit this season … which is almost identical to the $9.8M we’d been using to project Roark.

So, is the team better off?  Probably.  Roark has had flashes of brilliance (2014 and 2016) … but his last two years he was losing velocity and had plateaued as a slightly below league average pitcher.   Despite being much younger, we all kind of saw where he seems to be going, and the team clearly didn’t think his potential performance was worth the money.

Sanchez was a solid, familiar opponent in our division for years, always a solid competitor, an under the radar solid rotation piece.  He was god-awful in the AL, then suddenly found a new pitch and a new approach upon returning to the NL and pitched like a #2 starter most of last season.

So the Nats are betting on his 35-year old resurgence continuing, and paying him for it.

Implications for the team:

40-man: this is the 40th guy on the 40 man; the next move requires us to cut loose someone.

Salary Cap: We’re basically treading water from where we were a week ago; i’ve got the team at $188.8M in luxury tax dollars for fy2019, versus a cap of $206M, still leaving $17.6M of room.  I’ve seen other reports saying the Nats are now above $200M for the year and I don’t really see how people are arriving at that conclusion:

  • $134M for 12 signed players for 2019
  • $32.75M estimate for 6 arb eligible players
  • $4.6M for the other 7 pre-arb players that will make up the rest of the 25-man roster
  • $2.25M for the other 15 guys on the 40-man in the minors
  • $14.5M for benefits

That totals $188.8M, leaving the $17.6M of room.  I know some people want to use “real” dollars instead of lux tax dollars, but the difference really isn’t that much.

Rotation: obviously this bumps Erick Fedde to AAA, where he probably should be.   This makes for a pretty solid rotation improvement over where we were yesterday.   I’m not sure where this places the Nats rotation in the pantheon of the league right now; i have a worksheet that I’ll turn into a blog post that ranks them 1-30 once the remaining impact starters sign (Dallas KeuchelYusei KikuchiWade Miley, Gio Gonzalez, Drew Pomeranz, Mike Fiers, etc).  But I think there’s a clear top 5 of rotations in the league in some order: Chicago Cubs, Boston, Washington, Cleveland and the Dodgers.  Right now i’ve got them roughly ranked in that order.  This move bumped up the Nats a couple of slots by replacing a sub-#5 starter in Fedde with at least a #3 quality guy.

Verdict; I think they did pretty darn good considering what’s out there and what they have to work with.   I’ll take Sanchez and his 2018 performance as my 4th starter any day.  The question is … is it sustainable?  Is it a one-off?  Scouting reports seem to indicate he found a new pitch and worked it heavily, but that his numbers had some luck involved w/r/t BABIP and soft contact.  He’s also 35, so we’re counting on an older guy to continue a sustained late-career surge.  Kinda like what the Dodgers have done with Rich Hillso it isn’t out of the realm of possible.

10 Responses to 'Anibal Sanchez as #4 starter; I like the risk'

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  1. Great signing. Roark was one of worst pitchers in the league except for a few starts where Kinzler helped helped him find something mechanically. But even that didn’t last as he reverted back to awful at the end of year. He’s a serious threat to lose 20 games at $10 million! I’d like to see his stats without that 5 game hot streak to see how bad he really was for 90% of the season.

    I don’t quite get the people valuing him as an innings eater. Who cares if you lose all his starts? Might as well waste those innings on a kid getting some experience if you need to.

    Rizzo really is reverting back to starting pitching being the most important part of a team. I’d like to see him dumpster dive for a few more reclamation types as we may need them and one or two might work. And they really need to pull the big 4 now earlier in games if they are winning by a lot or losing by a lot. Keep the milage down to preserve them. Use the scrubs or call up revolving door to eat the extra innings and save these guys arms.


    21 Dec 18 at 11:18 am

  2. Whelp, there goes Harper. LAD just unloaded two outfielders and a bunch of money. Kind of don’t get it from CIN’s position, but maybe it’s just that I don’t get the decision to go for it.


    21 Dec 18 at 5:29 pm

  3. I’m fine with Bryce in LA. That’s the primary destination we’ve always assumed. Just didn’t want him in the division. I’ve been a Bryce fan all along, if they’re truly going to pay him $30+M a year to play 1B, that’s incredibly bad management. As it is, I think they’re going to hamstring their payroll.


    21 Dec 18 at 10:33 pm

  4. Only time will tell whether the Sanchez deal is a smart one or not. I was fine with letting Roark go. The Nats got four looks at Sanchez in 2018 and hit .159 against him. Max was a teammate for a couple of seasons in DET. And they can actually buy him out for 2020 if he turns into the second coming of Dan Haren.

    Overall, I’m thrilled with Rizzo’s aggressiveness this offseason. He got the #1 starter on the board, and probably the top starter from the second tier as well. He got two catchers who collectively hit 38 homers. He added two bullpen pieces and brought back a well-liked reserve in Adams, who thrived here.

    I’m still somewhat concerned about offensive firepower and the bench, particularly OF reserves. Eaton and Robles both have had trouble staying on the field, and Taylor and particularly Stevenson are serious downgrades. The starting rotation has a chance to be special, and pushing the loser of the Ross/Fedde spring dual to AAA (or to long man) strengthens the rotation depth. I would think Rizzo will try to add another Hellickson/EJax type to the Fresno rotation as well, although those two in particular pitched well enough to likely land MLB contracts.

    There’s a huge difference between Ghost saying the Nats have $6M left and Todd saying $17.6. They do still have several potential DFA candidates they could trade, although they wouldn’t save much on most of them. The consensus seems to be that they’ll add at least one more bullpen piece and probably an INF reserve, I hope someone who can play more than just 2B.


    21 Dec 18 at 10:47 pm

  5. Outstanding–I’ve always hated the Dodgers. Let Harper be a cancer there. I hope the Nats knock him out of the playoffs at least two or three times. Should be easy enough–just throw him pitches outside the zone with the game on the line and watch him swing out of his cleats. 🙂

    Karl Kolchak

    22 Dec 18 at 1:19 am

  6. KW – I don’t think they can buy Sanchez out for 2020, I think it’s locked in for two years. 2021 can be bought out , if that’s what you meant.

    I agree that the difference between $6 and $17m to spend is a big deal for this roster. $17m let’s them add an Ottavino or Britton with a weak 2B type. $6m adds maybe the 2B. Plus we haven’t even discussed accounted for the impact of a Rendon extension.

    If they only have 1 more add, I’d like to see another high leverage reliever. I think that could make the bullpen very strong and able to absorb some reasonable injuries, while letting the young guys learn in low pressure situations and be used to shuttle up and down to take advantage of the 10 day dL. Since there are many that have various degrees of promise, this could be a big deal to actually have a development plan, and see who are the keepers going forward.


    22 Dec 18 at 5:40 pm

  7. Wally — I’m with you on adding another bullpen arm first. I find the 2B thing difficult to figure out. Kieboom could be ready by June, possibly May, . . . or possibly not until 2020 (he struggled at AA but found his groove in AZ in the fall). I don’t want Difo starting, but I also don’t want to overpay be needed for half a season (but also who could end up starting the whole year if Kendrick doesn’t bounce back and Kieboom isn’t ready). As noted, I would prefer someone who can play multiple positions, but I think Marwin G. will be out of their price range. LeMahieu would be limited to 2B and is asking for more than they want to pay. I imagine Lowrie is too pricey as well. I think Dozier has better bounce-back potential than Harrison. Dietrich would make a lot of sense, both with price and with flexibility, but scuttlebutt is that they’re not even talking with him.

    We’ll see. Prices will start dropping come the new year.


    23 Dec 18 at 9:22 pm

  8. Assuming that Harper is gone, I wonder how his absence will change the national perception of the team. Bryce has made them a high-profile show for seven seasons, but I think the team in general got sort of a cocky label because of him. I’d also add Werth’s too-cool-for-school attitude to the cocky mix. But they’re history now (presumably). Will the view of the team change? Will the grittiness of Max and Eaton become what the nation sees? Of course Soto and Robles are pretty darn cocky themselves . . . but perhaps they won’t come be be seen as spoiled brats, like Harper more or less got labeled. Nat fans will debate until the end of time how accurate they think that label was.


    23 Dec 18 at 9:27 pm

  9. I don’t think the team will have a “National presence” any longer. Soto, Eaton, Robles are so far very “low profile” players. Do their jobs, stay out of the limelight.

    Scherzer now becomes the national face of the franchise … but like most every other SP in our game he’s only in the spotlight once every 5 days no matter how good he is.

    Honestly, I think this team totally flies under the radar next year and suddenly people wake up and realize its a 95 win juggernaught. At least that’s the hope.

    Todd Boss

    24 Dec 18 at 10:41 am

  10. Here’s the bullpen: Sean Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough, Justin Miller, Matt Grace, Wander Suero, Sammy Solis and/or Koda Glover.

    Now imagine Doolittle blows out. How do you feel about the pen (worried), and what are the chances it requires them to make a move (high)? Then add Britton, and do the same analysis. Much better, right?

    Then add Miley, and assume Stras blows out. How much does he help? Marginal at best, and there is no guarantee in my mind he’s better than Ross, or even Fedde (although I’d probably prefer Miley to Fedde).

    Ditto for 2B. Assume Kendrick never gets back to his former 2b skills, but they add Dozier. Unless Dozier blows up like two years ago, does it matter that much? With the improvement at C, their lineup should be ok with a weak bat at 2B.

    So its pretty clear that all remaining money should go to a good reliever first and foremost, and anything else is gravy.


    24 Dec 18 at 2:16 pm

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