Nationals Arm Race

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Non-Tender analysis for 2019

99 comments

To Non-tender or not to non-tender, that is the question for Taylor tomorrow. (AP Photo/Nick Wass via nbcsports.com)

To Non-tender or not to non-tender, that is the question for Taylor tomorrow. (AP Photo/Nick Wass via nbcsports.com)

We’ve already covered this topic a bit  in the payroll and options analysis spots, but since the official non-tender deadline is this week (tomorrow, 12/2/19 at 8pm EST to be specific), I thought i’d throw out the players, give some external opinions and then my own.

Like a lot of posts, this is an annual tradition.  Here’s versions of this post from previous years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  Must have been busy in Dec of 2016.

First, here’s our list of arb-eligible players; 9 in all.

PlayerCurrent or 2019 Contract2019 Lux Tax2019 Real dollarsMy Guess
Turner, Trea1 year/$3.725M (2019)372500037250008000000
Taylor, Michael1 year/$3.25M (2019)325000032500004500000
Strickland, Hunter1 year/$1.3M (2019)130000013000002500000
Elias, Roenis1 year/$910,000 (2019)9100009100001300000
Guerra, Javy1 year/$800,000 (2019)8000008000001200000
Difo, Wilmer1 year/$581,100 (2019)581000581000800000
Ross, Joe1 year/$1M (2019)100000010000001400000
Glover, Koda1 year/$564,300 (2019)564300564300750000
Barrett, Aaron1 year/minor league150000150000750000

Here’s external analysis links to the same:

 

——————-

So, lets go player by player and talk about what I think will happen (in the order of the table above):

  • Turner, Trea; obvious tender.
  • Taylor, Michael: I’m torn.  I just can’t see spending $3.5M or more (he made $3.25M last season) on a guy who you had to send to AA because he was so bad last year.  But, its also notable that he featured prominently in the playoffs, and not his likely replacement if we non-tender him Andrew Stevenson .  When Victor Robles went out, it was Taylor who played the entire LA series and performed well.  Maybe the team still rates him.  Its interesting that Taylor was specifically not listed by MLBtraderumors … maybe $3.5M for a 4th OF that you grew at home and who you know is a fantastic defender and who can string together solid streaks at the plate is worth keeping.  I’m coming around on Taylor and think we keep him.
  • Strickland, Hunter: i just can’t see non-tendering him a half a season after acquiring him.  Even if he wasn’t terribly effective in 2019 for us, he was also coming off injury and was a closer-quality guy for years in SF.  His salary only projects to about $2-$2.5M and that’s a good gamble.  Keep him.
  • Elias, Roenis: as with Strickland; we just got him and then he  got hurt.  Stupidly running the bases (please, can we have a universal DH yet??), he pulled a hamstring that basically never healed.  Easy tender for 2020.
  • Guerra, Javy: numbers weren’t great, but he handled his DFA with grace and apparently this won’t be forgotten by management.  Made the WS roster and pitched.  I like the guy, think he’s a fighter, and i think he’s a good middle relief candidate.  I’d tender him.
  • Difo, Wilmer; first year arb eligible; split time between AAA and MLB this year.  I mean, you need a backup infielder, and his numbers aren’t terribly bad for a guy who can play a number of positions.  I’m not sure why he’s a NT candidate; i’d rather have him at $800k than Adrian Sanchez at $550k.
  • Ross, Joe: obvious tender
  • Glover, Koda: tough one here.  Glover has closer quality stuff, but now has two straight seasons of injury and faces arbitration.  I’ve got him projected at just $750k (MLBtraderumors even less): why not tender him at that price then if you cut him in ST you’re on the hook for 1/6th of it ($125K).  That’s peanuts for a guy who you know can be an 8th-9th inning reliever.
  • Barrett, Aaron: well, it’d be pretty cynical for the team to call him up in Sept for the sob story of redemption then ruthlessly NT him to save $750k right?

One last note: even if you tender a guy, if you drop him mid-spring training you’re only on the hook for a small portion of his salary.  So some of these non-tenders may turn into “tender now, do arbitration then use spring training as a tryout on the cheap.”  None of our real NT candidates really are that expensive, so It wouldn’t surprise me to tender all of them in some respects.

I’m predicting zero non-tenders.  I thought initially we may NT at least 4 of these guys, especially Taylor, but team actions seem to indicate otherwise.

Agree?  Disagree?


12/3/19: post NT deadline, here’s what the team did:

  • Non Tendered Guerra and Glover (who announced his retirement)
  • signed Strickland and Difo to 1yr deals
  • tendered Turner, Taylor, Ross, Elias
  • ?? on Barrett; i thought he was arb-eligible but maybe not.

Written by Todd Boss

December 1st, 2019 at 8:36 am

99 Responses to 'Non-Tender analysis for 2019'

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  1. You make a compelling argument, but I’m still inclined to non-tender Michael A. Taylor instead of spending $3.5M on a guy who 1) spent more than half the year in the minors, 2) will only play regularly in 2020 if Victor Robles gets hurt, and 3) took the team to arbitration last winter.

    I’m also cutting Hunter Strickland loose. He was absolutely awful for the Nats and wasn’t even on the final two rosters of the year. Add that to his problems staying healthy and I just don’t see a reason to dump $2M down that particular drain. The Nats will need to upgrade their bullpen anyway, and the first step is clearing out flotsam like Strickland. Again, though, I can see the Nats taking your way of thinking on him. After all, he throws hard! What could go wrong?

    SaoMagnifico

    1 Dec 19 at 11:03 am

  2. Re: Wilmer Difo, Adrian Sanchez is a whole lot better defender than Wilmer.

    With Michael A. & Victor Robles, you can make a good case that the Nats have the two best centerfielders in all of baseball. Agree that $3 mil is a bit rich for Michael A.

    Mark L

    1 Dec 19 at 2:49 pm

  3. If you tender MAT and he makes $3.5M in arbitration, you can cut him part way through ST (like they did with Solis on 3/10/19) and only have to pay 1/6th of the salary. That’s $560k, or less than the price of one pre-arb player.

    Strickland its even better; he’s projected at about $2M; that’s $320k if you bring him to ST, evaluate him for weeks then cut the cord.

    I mean, lets be honest. This is the same team that signed Miguel Montero in the off-season, guaranteed him $1.3M, played him ALL SPRING TRAINING, then released him like 5 days into the season. You can basically keep every serious NT candidate and cut them in March for less than what the team wasted on Montero last year.

    Todd Boss

    2 Dec 19 at 8:37 am

  4. KevinR: the splits make for some interesting analysis. No one would know better about Taylor’s swing adjustments than internal staff, and if they believe he can hit, then you have a heck of a 4th outfielder.

    Todd Boss

    2 Dec 19 at 8:41 am

  5. […] Tonight is the non-tender deadline for MLB, which only matters to us from the minor-league perspective insofar as guys who get non-tendered are—in theory—fewer roadblocks to “our guys.” In practice, though, it’s like so many other things that turn off some fans (and fascinate others) it’s about cost-cutting. I defer to Mr. Boss by virtue of the links because I fall into the camp of folks whose eyes glaze over when it comes to refinancing. […]

  6. Nats sign Difo for $1M, I think mostly as insurance, probably with plans to trade him during the spring or cut him for the hit of only 1/6th, as Todd notes.

    Sao, I agree with you that Strickland was awful, but he and Elias have recent track records of being good that lead me to the thought that they’re worth the 1/6th gamble as well, plus they likely could be tradeable for a couple of broken bats because of those track records. Guerra hasn’t been particularly good in the majors since 2014. I don’t see a lot of potential there.

    Glover does have enough potential to tender, plus he still has options, so no reason not to keep him.

    Then there’s MAT, who I thought should have been non-tendered LAST year, only to get paid more than $3M to spend most of the season at Harrisburg. There’s no way I commit to a $3.25M projected arb number on him. Non-tender him and then offer him $1M. If he can find work for more somewhere else, with him good luck.

    KW

    2 Dec 19 at 9:47 am

  7. The one I disagree with is Glover: time to move on.

    What’s strange about him is his near-constant injuries have covered up the fact that, when healthy, he actually hasn’t been very good. In his 63 innings over now 4 seasons, he’s put up a 97 ERA+, 4.55 ERA (FIP of 4.0), and a K/9 rate of just 6.8.

    Contrast that with another oft-injured blast from the past – Christian Garcia – who at least showed he could dominate in his basically one healthy month back in 2012. 193 ERA+, 2.13 ERA (3.73 FIP) and K/9 rate of 10.7.

    There’s nothing in Glover’s history that says “closer material” or even late-inning material to me, even if we could guarantee he’d be healthy. At best, he’s “just a guy” and we can easily find a guy who’s likely to be available for 60+ innings next year. Javy Guerra, for example, who’s ERA+ last year was 99…

    NG

    2 Dec 19 at 2:08 pm

  8. Glover retired. what a shame, was hoping he would have a chance to show himself what he can do. I wish the players made more money earlier in their careers, especially pitchers, who are so susceptible to injury.

    Wally

    2 Dec 19 at 3:20 pm

  9. Difo, Strickland signed, Glover retires. 3 down, 6 to go today.

    Todd Boss

    2 Dec 19 at 3:27 pm

  10. Yes, sad news on Glover. And yes, like NG, I also thought of Christian Garcia, the Sidd Finch of the early contending period, who was indeed very good during those rare times when he was healthy.

    I’m quite fine with the contract for Strickland. If he shows up still sucking, they only owe him $270K. When last fully healthy, in 2017, he had a 2.64 ERA, 3.63 FIP.

    Souza got non-tendered. Sure would rather give the $3.25M to him than to Taylor.

    The lack of news on the others leads me to believe that they’ve all been offered contracts, but likely at less than projected arb value.

    KW

    2 Dec 19 at 7:15 pm

  11. Not really giving Souza that much after missing all of 2017, but he is interesting if healthy. The Nats seem to be avoiding high-K guys, though.

    Looks like Moose is signing with the Reds, taking one of the Rendon options off the table.

    KW

    2 Dec 19 at 7:19 pm

  12. Wow, Moose finally got paid. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that contract but I’m glad he finally got a quality payday.

    Aaron Sanchez was non tendered. He has some injury and performance issues, but also real upside. I try him on a contract structured like the TJ guys – low first year with incentives with a higher option year for Y2. See if Menhart can get him figured out.

    Souza – meh, I think I actually prefer Taylor if the cost was equal.

    Wally

    2 Dec 19 at 7:33 pm

  13. Treinen non tendered too.

    Wally

    2 Dec 19 at 7:44 pm

  14. Treinen fell apart last year. I’d only be interested in him if he’d take a minor-league deal.

    Travis Shaw is an interesting, versatile bench bat who got non-tendered. The price is really low on corner boppers right now. (Really, even $4M per for Zim would be an overpay in this market, but the Nats will probably give it to him.)

    KW

    2 Dec 19 at 8:52 pm

  15. You will never, ever convince me that tendering Taylor was a smart decision. There are plenty of OFs available for less who are as good or better. For a team that likely will be tight against the CBT, there just aren’t extra dollars for sentimentality. And if there are, they should go to Zim, not MAT.

    I would imagine that they will offer Guerra a minor-league deal.

    Was Elias not actually up for tender? I haven’t heard anything about him.

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 5:11 am

  16. https://www.masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2019/12/guerra-non-tendered-nationals-will-bring-back-others.html

    Well, we were close. Tendered everyone except Glover (who retired) and Guerra. Slightly surprised by NT of Guerra if only b/c he seemed popular in the clubhouse.

    Todd Boss

    3 Dec 19 at 8:05 am

  17. OK, I do see that the Nats tendered Elias, and Ross.

    I’m still in shock about Taylor. They shouldn’t have tendered him LAST year, much less this one. He’s just not a $3M+ player in today’s market, all the more after spending half a season in the minors.

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 8:06 am

  18. I wonder if my records were wrong on Barrett. He’s not listed anywhere in the analysis pieces. I’ve got him at 2.170 days of service time and on the 40-man roster; that should make him arb eligible and thus subject to the non tender deadline, but perhaps b/c he was on a MLFA contract the rules don’t apply? weird.

    Todd Boss

    3 Dec 19 at 8:37 am

  19. Re: Barrett. Don’t you need 3 years of service time to be arb eligible (absent “Super Two” status)? That would mean eligible next year (assuming he stays on the roster all year).

    NG

    3 Dec 19 at 9:51 am

  20. I agree with KW on MAT. He is simply not a MLB-caliber hitter, and we shouldn’t expect that to change. He’s great on defense and good running the bases, but “CF who runs well and can play defense but can’t hit” is like the literal definition of replacement player. Many guys who get you 98% of MAT’s value ought to be available for the league minimum. There’s just no way MAT is on the roster in 2020 at $3.5 mil; I have to believe this was a move to buy time.

    I think it’s fine to prefer MAT to Stevenson for a fourth or fifth outfielder spot. But that’s not the appropriate comparison because MAT will make upwards of 6x what Stevenson makes. The right question is whether you prefer MAT to Stevenson (or someone else at Stevenson’s salary) plus a $2.5-3 million relief pitcher.

    Derek

    3 Dec 19 at 10:14 am

  21. I am also confused about Barrett, who looks like an obvious Super Two. Baseball-Reference previously listed him as Super Two, now saying he is pre-arb. So I don’t know what the deal is there. At two days shy of three service years, he should clearly be arb-eligible unless there’s some arcane loophole…which there may well be.

    It’s dismaying to see the Nats are so tolerant of failure that they are retaining Strickland and Taylor. Strickland was horrendous for the Nats. Paying Taylor is worse considering he was a well-paid minor leaguer most of this season. I’m sure Rizzo knows what he’s doing, but tendering Taylor seems like a sentimental decision to me.

    SaoMagnifico

    3 Dec 19 at 10:26 am

  22. Even if the Nats cut MAT in the spring, they’ll still be on the hook for around $600K, basically the cost of Stevenson. I don’t get it. Yes, there was a lot of talk about how Taylor was so encouraging and helpful to the AA players while he was at Harrisburg. Good for him. Pay him back for that with a coaching gig when he’s done, not with doubling down on your mistake of paying him last season. (Can you imagine if the Nats had gone over the CBT for ’19 for $3M or less, basically the price of the Taylor salary?!)

    I don’t get it. There are better players who are available for much cheaper, which also means that there’s no real trade market for Taylor, particularly since he’s also out of options.

    As noted above, I’m OK with the $270K gamble that Strickland will be better in the spring. He has an effective MLB track record. Relievers seem to ride up and down so quickly. Treinen could have gotten a fortune had he been on the open market last offseason but will be lucky to get a major-league contract after his crash and burn in 2019.

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 10:52 am

  23. Todd has written a fair amount about the collective bargaining agreement and how it has hurt the players in general. It seems in this offseason that the haves vs. have-nots scenario is coming into play even more. Teams — at least the half of MLB that is actually trying (can we get a salary FLOOR in the next CBA?) — are devoting an increasing amount of their cap space to a few big contracts, compensating by filling out their teams with a lot of cheap, controlled talent, and totally stiffing the “middle class.” Now, it’s possible to argue that this is simply a market correction and that FA-eligible players contributing only 1-3 WAR have been getting overpaid. But I would also point out that the Nats very likely wouldn’t have won their title without a heavy investment in this middle class — Kendrick, Cabrera (who cost them virtually nothing), Hudson, Suzuki, Gomes (now cut and re-signed at a depressed rate).

    If the Nats want guys like Kendrick, Cabrera, and Hudson back, now’s the time to strike with the market so flooded with a surprising number of non-tender guys from this middle class. In the same vein, though, it sure seems like it becomes harder and harder to justify paying Zim 2/$8-10M in this market. But then there’s no justification whatsoever for paying Taylor . . .

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 11:32 am

  24. Re Treinen, here’s an interesting take from Eno Sarris: “Treinen is a huge clubhouse positive and his stuff did not actually erode: merely his command of it. I’d want him on my team next year.” Of course Nat fans would point out that Blake has ALWAYS had the stuff; it’s the control, and the emotions, that have been sporadic.

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 11:37 am

  25. Barrett’s service time is 2.170. Well past super 2 status (by way of comparison, Turner got super 2 status with just 2.135 last year) and practically to 3 full years, and noted as much on the Cots xls: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Au_xTIni1eJbDGzravS1482wBbzN9DBQaOY1wwo2Mr0/edit?usp=drive_open&ouid=102402795225850924380

    who knows why he’s not listed. Must be some weird rule with MLFA signings. Maybe he signed a multiple MLFA deal?

    Strickland: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.fcgi?id=strichu01&year=2019&t=p . He was just fine in August, then was terrible in September. Is it possible he has a recurrence of the injury that cost him most of the early part of the season? Maybe that’s why the team tendered him, thinking or knowing something we don’t.

    Todd Boss

    3 Dec 19 at 11:49 am

  26. Todd, FWIW, Barrett was a free agent in both 2016 and 2018: http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?player_id=502578#/career/R/pitching/2019/ALL

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 12:29 pm

  27. True … but i thought that arbitration still applied. and if he was a FA … then why isn’t he one now?

    Todd Boss

    3 Dec 19 at 12:40 pm

  28. Maybe Barrett signed a two-year contract?

    KW

    3 Dec 19 at 12:59 pm

  29. On Barrett, I think it’s this (from mlbtraderumors): “In order to reach Super Two status, a player must be in the top 22 percent of players with between two and three seasons of MLB service (in terms of total service time) and must have spent 86 days of the preceding season on a Major League roster or disabled list.”

    He has the service time but not the 86 days last season (was only added after 9/1).

    NG

    3 Dec 19 at 4:12 pm

  30. Interesting pull NG. that has to be it on Barrett.

    Todd Boss

    4 Dec 19 at 3:40 pm

  31. The Nats slashed .291/.368/.445 against Wheeler last season (5 games). The Braves absolutely torched him: .343/.405/.525 (4 games). Good luck with that, Phils!

    I’m rolling on the ground laughing at Rizzo using Boras’s main mouthpiece — Nightingale — to float that the Nats are hot after Donaldson. Well played, Riz, well played. Now, is Rizzo serious, or just putting a shot across the Boras/Rendon bow to let them know he’s not waiting much longer?

    Rendon does know that the Rangers finished TWENTY-NINE GAMES behind the cheatin’ Astros, right? And that it’s hotter than hell in Arlington in the summer? And I’m sure he hates Dallas, because nearly everyone from Houston does. Also, I don’t know that the Rangers have much protection for him in the lineup, so he may walk 200 times.

    We’ll see. Frankly, if Rendon and/or Stras leave, I won’t be mad, just sad. They absolutely got it done when we needed them to, and that flag will fly forever. And, well, both will be somewhat risky contracts wherever they sign, particularly for the projected length. We’ll see.

    KW

    4 Dec 19 at 7:36 pm

  32. Nice job, NG. Mystery solved. Wonder what the future has in store for the Bear.

    SaoMagnifico

    4 Dec 19 at 8:34 pm

  33. FWIW, Barrett still has two minor-league options left, so he’ll very likely end up as minor-league depth. There will figure to be at least two or three opens slots in the Nats ‘pen in the spring, though, maybe more than that if we don’t consider Strickland and Elias as sure things, which we probably shouldn’t.

    Let’s see, Doolittle, Rainey, and Suero would seem like fairly sure things, unless the latter two were to really struggle during the spring. I also think at least one from Ross/Fedde/Voth will be in the MLB ‘pen. That’s four of the eight slots (max of 13 pitchers under the new 26-man active roster). I expect the Nats to sign at least one quality later innings guy along the lines of Hudson or Harris, possibly two of them. For better or worse, I would think that Strickland and Elias will be given every chance to stick. So unless they really stink, there may only be one or two slots open at best — and they may keep all three from Ross/Fedde/Voth and clog up even those.

    I’m sure they will sign four or lottery tickets looking for the next Albers/Miller miracle comeback. In house, relievers figuring to be in big-league camp include Barrett, Austen Williams, Bourque, Istler, Braymer (who I think will end up as a reliever despite his recent starting in the minors), Condra-Bogan, maybe Andrew Lee. They likely want McGowin, Crowe, Sharp, and Mario Sanchez to stay as starters.

    KW

    5 Dec 19 at 8:05 am

  34. What about Alex Claudio? Lefty, strike-thrower, seems to kind of fit the mold for Rizzo. He hasn’t been amazing the past couple of seasons, but he’s a workhorse and he’s tough on lefties. With the new three-batter minimum, lefty specialists will be devalued, so he is probably signable for cheap.

    Blake Parker would be an interesting target. He’s been homer-happy the past couple seasons, but his WHIP and K/BB rates have stayed pretty solid. I wouldn’t shell out a ton for him, but he could be a good buy-low option.

    Other, more conventional options: Joe Smith is getting old, but I’ve always liked him, and he had a great season in Houston this past year. Edubray Ramos might be my favorite buy-low option, since he’s still young and was a monster as recently as 2018; obviously, the big question is whether he’s healthy. Junior Guerra was cut loose because the Brewers are miserly, but he had a very strong season, he chews up innings, and he’s a hard thrower.

    SaoMagnifico

    5 Dec 19 at 1:58 pm

  35. Blake Parker was someone I was keen on the Nats pursuing a couple of years ago, as they had a couple of trades with the Angels during that time. He struggled somewhat in 2019, though, although his K number still looks strong. Would he take a minor-league contract for a shot with the World Champs? I doubt that Nats are going to want to tie up a lot of 40-man slots with these types of guys who may or may not make the team.

    Joe Smith’s numbers were really good, albeit with a very limited workload. Of course the last aging reliever who had a really good year in limited work with the Astros was, um, Tony Sipp . . . who I thought was a great signing for the Nats. Oh well.

    KW

    5 Dec 19 at 5:51 pm

  36. I must admit, I’m still struggling with the question of whether the Nats should re-sign either Stras or Rendon. My heart says “yes,” of course. My head has visions of this team getting old very fast, a la the Phils of almost a decade ago. My hunch is that Stras is going to have a great early-30s run like Max did, but there are no guarantees, and there are many good starters who are pretty used up by 33-34, even without a TJ. And of course we’ve got the local example of a 3B with a big deal gone bad with Zim’s struggles for most of the years of his contract.

    We’ll see. The market for contracts as big as the ones discussed isn’t as wide as most think. It’s probably going to come down to just two or three teams. Both Stras and Rendon like their comfort zones, don’t like dealing with the media, I’m sure like the feel of winning big, and have never known another organization.

    KW

    5 Dec 19 at 8:59 pm

  37. Well, for all of you who keep holding on hope that the team will blow past the luxury tax…

    https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2019/12/05/mark-lerner-says-nationals-cant-afford-both-anthony-rendon-and-stephen-strasburg/

    Like i’ve been saying; there’s been zero evidence this team has the appetite to do so before (almost as if their broaches of the tax before were mistakes not deliberate), and now you have your principal owner saying this. Is it a red herring? Is it a calculated media move meant to put pressure on Boras? I doubt it; this was a really, really stupid thing to say on a hot mike/on the record. You just say “no comment” to any such questions while you’re still negotiating.

    Todd Boss

    6 Dec 19 at 8:33 am

  38. for those of you with The Athletic subscriptions, Brittany Ghiroli really puts it to the Lerners here for having the audacity to cry poor.

    https://theathletic.com/1437447/2019/12/05/the-poor-nationals-im-not-buying-it-and-neither-should-you/

    – they just won the WS and got a windfall probably in the $40-50M range (the owners get significantly more than what the players get in revenues, and the players got $30M…)
    – They’re soon in line to get another windfall from MASN deal finally getting close to completion, in the $100M range
    – they’re going to get a bump in attendance, not only b/c they won the series but because lots and lots of people bought 2020 season tickets to secure 2019 playoff tickets
    – they were already on the hook for $25M/yr for Strasburg plus $10M/year deferrals starting in a couple. now suddenly his projection of maybe $30M/year breaks the bank??
    – they just reset the luxury tax penalties so the crime for going over in 2020 is basically just money. And not a lot of it at that.

    its all teh same points you all have made of course. It just continually dismays me how stupidly shortsighted the MLBPA was when allowing the luxury tax to go in. Just ridiculous.

    not surprisingly, boras (you know, the Lerner’s best buddy) has reacted, saying the Nats are having a “revenue festival”.

    https://theathletic.com/1438877/2019/12/06/rosenthal-scott-boras-responds-to-mark-lerner-saying-nationals-are-experiencing-revenue-festival/

    Todd Boss

    6 Dec 19 at 8:44 am

  39. Ugh, I didn’t even make it six weeks from the WS before getting angry at the Lerners again. The only reason I can think of that Mark Lerner said this is to prepare the fanbase for the fact that ownership has decided they are *unwilling* to spend the money it will take to sign both. Okay, fine. But to frame it as “we can’t afford both” is laughably disingenuous. I am worried that they are actually miffed at Stras for exercising his opt out clause, despite the fact that he took a team-friendly deal last time, and the whole reason the clause exists is so it can be used by the player if he peaks mid-contract. Moreover, by announcing that they can’t (read: won’t) sign both, they actually reduce the chances of signing either player. Stras returning would be an incentive for Rendon to come back, and vice versa, because it shows the team’s continuing commitment to winning. Anyway, this is incredibly disappointing, and goes to show that the tone-deafness of the Lerners is still a running problem.

    Also, as Boz pointed out in his column yesterday, the team needs to extend Rizzo asap, and I always worry about how weirdly cheap the Lerners can be when it comes to the FO and managers, considering how much they spend on payroll.

    Clark17

    6 Dec 19 at 9:32 am

  40. Yes, absolutely, the MLBPA totally screwed up by allowing the luxury tax line, and doubled down on the screw by having it creep upward by only a couple of million a year. Any negotiator worth his salt also wouldn’t have even allowed discussion of a ceiling without the inclusion of a floor. The NFL has one. It’s a little complicated, but basically, teams are required to spend at least 89% of their allotment under the cap. So the NFL basically has only an inconsequential 11% difference in spending among teams. MLB has a difference of more than 200%!

    Forget all the Selig-generated BS about “competitive balance” picks and the like. There will be no competitive balance until all teams are forced to spend a certain amount of money.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 9:44 am

  41. Clark — Yes, by all means, the Lerners look bad for not already extending Rizzo.

    I see there’s been a big debate at Nats Talk over whether Mark L. was an idiot for his remarks, or cagey. I’d actually lean toward cagey, basically trying to force one of the two, most likely Stras, into coming home before the window closes. Rizzo had already fired the shot across Rendon’s bow the the Nightengale story about the Nats hot on Donaldson.

    As with last offseason, the Nats can’t wait for the Boras circus to play out into February. They’ve got 12.7 fWAR to account for between those two players. I’m glad that both Stras and Rendon have been making the rounds now. Bryce didn’t even show much activity until after New Years. One problem I do see with alternatives is that Boras also represents Ryu, who would be my preferred Stras replacement.

    And of course the Lerners could afford to bring back both Stras and Rendon. As I’ve laid out elsewhere, having both would put them over the tax line for one year, but only by $10-15M, and they probably could get under for 2021 due to several expiring contracts.

    We’ll see. I still think Stras will be back. No one knows about Rendon, perhaps not even Rendon himself. Like Harper, he’s probably facing the Faustian bargain of whether he wants to trade winning for a little more money.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 9:58 am

  42. The Nats just signed Howie! Hip Hip …. Hooray!

    Mark L

    6 Dec 19 at 10:10 am

  43. I definitely want Howie back, plus Cabrera and Hudson.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 10:33 am

  44. Oh, they HAVE signed Howie, for $6.25M, which is quite reasonable. I had about $7M in mind. Now the question is whether he’ll share 1B with Zim, or some LH bopper. I imagine that Zim will be back, but I sure hope they don’t pay him more than $4M. He’s already gotten $2M from his buyout.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 10:36 am

  45. Glad to have Howie back. It’s hard to see how Zim fits on the roster now. Some have suggested that Zim and Howie can platoon at 1B because Howie hits rightys very well. That makes some sense – Howie would be the strong side of the platoon and Zim the weak side, which lines up with their current abilities to hit (Howie is better, and you want him to play more). I think I prefer a different approach, with a LH 1B taking the strong half of the 1B platoon, and Howie getting his ABs against righteys by filling in at 2B, 3B and OF.

    Regardless, $4 million for Zim is way too rich for my blood. Would he even get a guaranteed roster spot from a team other than the Nats? I am skeptical…

    Derek

    6 Dec 19 at 1:19 pm

  46. Agree with Derek here, unfortunately. Kendrick can’t really play 2B, let alone 3B, OF is set unless we lose a corner guy (Kendrick could only really play LF).

    I wonder what kind of conversations Zimmerman is having with the team right now. This has to be a shot across the bow for his career.

    Todd Boss

    6 Dec 19 at 1:34 pm

  47. I don’t think I want Howie playing 100 games at any position other than 1B, but I think he can spot start at 3B and LF, and can take 2B for a few weeks if necessary. I mean, if Soto goes on the DL for two weeks, I think I’d rather have Howie in LF than any of our other OFs…

    Derek

    6 Dec 19 at 2:52 pm

  48. I assume they’re signing Howie primarily to play 1B. He looked pretty creaky at 2B by the end of the year. He’s still one of the best all-around hitters in baseball, though, if he’s not overused, and he looks like he keeps himself in fantastic shape. If he’s close to as good as he was in ’19, he’s good enough to “protect” Soto from being pitched around too often.

    I said somewhere above that on the open market, I don’t think there’s any way that Zim would get the $4-5M that there are hints that he’s seeking. As I noted, he’s already been paid a $2M buyout, so if he could consider that half of $4M and sign for $2M, then it’s probably justified. I assume that Kendrick is going to get about two-thirds of the time at 1B, so whoever they sign would only be getting one-third, plus PH duty. I don’t know that someone like Thames would want to come for such a limited opportunity. Moreland might. Adams really swooned in the second half, but the price probably would be right for him.

    The other 1B option is Cabrera. I’d really like to have him back as the super-utility guy, plus as insurance if Kieboom craters.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 3:50 pm

  49. Kendrick was already hitting well with the Phils in ’17 when the Nats acquired him, but I wonder how much Kevin Long has had to do with supercharging him. His K rate is the lowest it’s ever been in his career, and his BB rate is the highest. So is his ISO.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 3:56 pm

  50. Lets assume for a minute that Kendrick was signed to be the starting 1B. that’d mean, right now, your infield and bench is:
    – Kendrick 1B, Difo 2B, turner 3B, Kieboom 3B. Sanchez and Noll are backups.

    That’s it. so yeah, clearly the team needs more depth. I’m not sure you want Difo starting at 2B: I think he should be your utility infielder, Sanchez DFA’d eventually and Noll back in AAA. So that still means we need a starting 2B, and two bench bats (one lefty, one righty). I think Zim could be the RH bench bat still, and someone like Adams could be the lefty bench bat. They’re playing 1B in a pinch, that’s it.

    Todd Boss

    6 Dec 19 at 4:37 pm

  51. I think Kendrick is going to need days off, as he said earlier this year he just can’t physically play every single day. He’ll turn 37 next year. He started just 70 games this year during the regular season, and seven of those were as the DH in interleague games.

    It seems weird to put a guy making $6.25M on the “short” side of a platoon, but it’s less weird when you consider he could slot in at 2B or 3B against righties sometimes, and he’ll be coming off the bench in a lot of games (51 this season). So I think signing someone like Eric Thames to be his platoonmate at 1B, or Travis Shaw or Brad Miller to be the “lefty version” of him as a utilityman, still makes a heck of a lot of sense.

    As for Rendon/Strasburg, I would really, really hate to see one or both end up with Atlanta or Philadelphia (which is making a push, if you can believe today’s conveniently timed reports). I don’t think it is realistic to expect both back (regardless of your thoughts on the wisdom of Mark Lerner saying the quiet part out loud), so the Nats only have so much control here, but I hope they can sign one and the other signs outside the division, ideally in the AL somewhere.

    SaoMagnifico

    6 Dec 19 at 6:28 pm

  52. I thought I saw after the Wheeler signing that the Phils were only around $20M under the tax line. Not sure how they would even fit into SS/TTB conversation. Plus both of those guys would be absolutely miserable there. The Wheeler contract certainly confirmed that the Phils are good to their word of spending “stupid money,” though.

    Difo will never, ever start for the Nats to begin the season. I don’t think he should even be on the roster (wRC+ of 60 in ’19). It would be embarrassing for the defending champs not to come up with someone better.

    Thames Ks too much to interest me. The Nats seem to have moved away from the high-K players over the last few year. Brad Miller is an interesting suggestion. Shaw was awful last year at the MLB level but has some good seasons in his past. As bad as he was, he’ll probably have to take a minor-league contract.

    I heard at some point that there was “mutual interest” in a Cabrera return, and in a Hudson return. I hope those come true. The Howie re-signing came out of the blue, as did Gomes. I’m sure Rizzo sent those guys home with a favorable word and told them to keep in touch.

    KW

    6 Dec 19 at 9:11 pm

  53. As we think about what types of players the Nats might want to add, it’s instructive to look back at how 2019 was sort of the culmination of how the squad has been reshaped over the last few years. The Nats have definitely moved away from the free-swinging days of Desi and Danny the K.

    The Nats led the NL in OBP and were second behind the cheatin’ Astros in MLB. The top seven teams in this team batting stat made the playoffs, and 9 of the top 11 did. The Nats were second in the NL in lowest K rate and fourth in the NL in walk rate, just hairs behind. The Nats were second in the NL in runs scored (behind the almighty Dodgers) but only sixth in homers, so they generated more of their runs the old-fashioned way. Despite the lack of homers, they were second in the NL behind the Dodgers in SLG, so they piled up the doubles. They tied with the Cards for the NL lead in stolen bases.

    So . . . the profile for the prototypical Nats player is someone who gets on base, lower K numbers and higher BBs, and has at least gap power if not particularly big-time HR power. (And yes, I’m fully aware that I just described Rendon. Most of these traits also describe Kieboom, although he sure K’d a lot in his brief MLB trial.)

    Anyway, these numbers are why I don’t think the Nats will have a lot of interest in guys like Thames with big K numbers (30.5% in ’19). That’s why guys like Cabrera (12.3% K rate with the Nats) replaced guys like Dozier (21.8%) in the lineup when things got down to cases, and Adams and his 34.5% K rate entered the witness protection program, despite 20 HRs.

    Rizzo scoffed at Moneyball, but in terms of the types of hitters the Nats have come to value, these are Moneyball guys.

    KW

    7 Dec 19 at 8:31 am

  54. Interesting thoughts. I like Thames a lot, but it’s true that his K rate is “up there”. That first base position has a lot of free swingers, and I think that is a position where we’re just going to have to live with some strikeouts.

    A notable exception? Justin Smoak. He batted only a few points over the Mendoza line this year, but he walked so many times that his OBP was still well into the .300s and he rated out as just above average by OPS. He switch-hits, but he’s considerably better from the left side of the plate. An interesting buy-low option to consider for Mike Rizzo.

    SaoMagnifico

    7 Dec 19 at 11:26 am

  55. I looked up Smoak, and the stat that jumped out at me was a .223 BABIP. Dude had to be one of the unluckiest hitters in the majors. Walk rate shows some serious plate discipline. He would seem to be a good candidate for a little Kevin Long fine-tuning. Looks like he hits much better from the left side, so he would fit the platoon. I’d be willing to take a $2M flyer on him. Those corner bopper types have no market leverage right now, and haven’t for two or three years.

    KW

    7 Dec 19 at 12:36 pm

  56. . . . which makes me wonder why 3B big hitters are getting a fortune, while 1B guys are getting pennies on the dollar.

    KW

    7 Dec 19 at 12:38 pm

  57. Smoak had the second-lowest BABIP, “behind” only Profar (min. 400 PAs). Another non-tendered name that catches my eye from the low BABIP list is Maikel Franco, at .236. He sure looked like he was going to be something when he came up a few years ago, but he never fully panned out.

    KW

    7 Dec 19 at 5:44 pm

  58. I don’t think Smoak is worth a roster spot, I’d rather have Zim. He’s also 30 HRs from 300, which is a nice story.

    If they let Rendon go but bring back Stras, they should sign Didi to play 2B, and give CK a shot at 3rd, with maybe an AssCab security blanket. I think Didi will bounce all the way back this year and will be a big time player, and on a reasonable contract.

    If they don’t sign either Stras or Rendon, they should at least take a call or two on what Max would bring back. Heresy, I know, especially after the WS, and I do love the guy, but their team without those two guys will have a hard time making the playoffs. Max is still playing at a high level, and whoever loses on Cole and Stras would likely pay up big for two years of Max. they could add two pretty good controllable types to Soto, Turner, Corbin, Robles and CK, with another two lottery types. That could align better with their current core, especially with a sparse farm.

    I doubt anyone agrees with that last one, and the media would certainly kill them for it, but I’d at least have a few conversations to see if someone overwhelmed me.

    Wally

    8 Dec 19 at 9:15 pm

  59. Carter Kieboom has played all of ten games professionally as a third baseman, and he somehow managed to make four errors in that time. Besides, his bat isn’t ready. If the Nationals thought he was ready, they would have called him up in September, but they didn’t. Mike Rizzo will be looking to find real major league-caliber infielders this winter so Kieboom can get more seasoning in the minors, which is where he belongs for right now.

    SaoMagnifico

    9 Dec 19 at 2:44 am

  60. Wally, Max may also have a no-trade clause, but I don’t know. I don’t outright agree that the Nats can’t make the playoffs without Stras and Rendon, though. They can, but obviously it will be harder. There’s also no guarantee they make the playoffs WITH them, though. It’s a tough division, one of the few where four teams are actually trying/buying.

    That leads to a broader point that we all need to remember — there hasn’t been a repeat champion in two decades. Few teams have even made the WS in consecutive years (Dodgers and Royals relatively recent exceptions, but generated only one title between them.) Considering all the lightning in a bottle that the Nats managed to generate to win theirs, over and over, round after round, it’s very unlikely they can do it again.

    Part of the reason teams struggle to stay on top is that it’s hard to navigate the current financial situation, where the price of a few top stars, combined with the tax line, can combine to constrain teams from completely filling all of their holes, even the richer teams. The Bosox didn’t make the playoffs a year after their WS win. The Dodgers spent to keep their core pieces in place, but they haven’t really signed any big outside FAs recently. Would one more top arm have won them a title or two? The Cubs seem on the verge of a sell-off just three years after their championship, despite plenty of resources.

    Young, cheap, controllable talent has become essential as a balance, and to break in such talent, there are often growing pains. The Nats let Robles roll through a fairly mediocre season in ’19 in the hopes that he has learned the ropes and can be a higher-level contributor going forward. Despite Sao’s concerns, I think they’re probably going to do the same with Kieboom in ’20 unless he totally tanks (which is why I’m also on the bring-back-Cabrera bandwagon, for insurance). It remains to be seen whether they will trust someone from among Voth/Ross/Fedde as a cheap 5th starter. Some of that may be predicated on whether Stras comes back. If he doesn’t, they may spread that $30M across two starters. Sure would be fun to add both Ryu and MadBum.

    My more realistic hope is sort of the Giant model. If the Nats can strongly contend for a title every other year across the coming half decade, I’ll take it. But part of that story is just making the playoffs, where it then becomes a crap shoot. As we well know, the Giants in ’14 weren’t a great team. But they knew how to gut out wins, even if it takes, oh, 18 innings or so.

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 8:31 am

  61. Max is now a 10-5 guy, so he has full no-trade protection. That was the reason some people said you had to at least consider moving him after the slow start last year — it was the last theoretical chance to trade him (spoiler alert: good thing they didn’t!)

    NG

    9 Dec 19 at 10:54 am

  62. I think you are all making good points, but I don’t think the no trade protection would be a hindrance. Do you really think Max would veto a trade to NYY or LAD, which are the teams who’d be interested in him? Being the final piece that leads them to a championship? I suspect it would appeal to his competitive nature.

    I think Rizzo and ownership are the bigger reasons it wouldn’t happen. They’re thinking legacy and HoF cap, which aren’t small things, I’ll admit. I’m just trying to highlight that they have an odd old/young dynamic to their roster, and restructuring around the youth isn’t a crazy idea. Locking up turner has to be part of this strategy, whereas now its problematic (as is Soto) because you will be adding AAV to the lux tax calculation at a time when it is problematic.

    Wally

    9 Dec 19 at 11:50 am

  63. Yes, I noted somewhere earlier in the offseason that while signing Soto to an extension makes sense theoretically, exponentially increasing his AAV right now would really hurt the team’s efforts to stay under the tax line and add other pieces.

    On another note, every Rendon-to-Phillies rumor makes me laugh. I wonder what kind of a premium he’d make them pay to get him to agree to go back to putting up with the Harper circus. I don’t ever remember seeing those two talking, and Rendon made several thinly veiled remarks this season about the change in culture. We’ll see. I didn’t think Bryce would be dumb enough to go to Philly, either.

    The Rendon bidder who concerns me more is the Braves. I think they’ve got more money available under the cap than the Phils, and of course they’ve got a much better team. If he doesn’t end up back with the Nats, I’m hoping he’s a Ranger.

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 12:41 pm

  64. Stras deal: WOW. On most levels, I’m glad he’s coming back, but that’s a lot of money and a lot of years. Hope I’m right that he’s about to go on an early-30s run like Max did.

    Do they also come up with the same deal for Rendon, or was that their one big shot?

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 3:02 pm

  65. At least no one can say that the Lerners are cheap, whether they bring back Rendon or not.

    Should we look up all the folks who panned Stras for taking the hometown discount with the Nats and all the deferred money? I guess that worked out OK for him.

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 3:07 pm

  66. Have we finally reached the offseason when several teams are going to say “screw it” to the CBT to remain competitive?

    I don’t think the door is totally closed on Rendon. But I would be surprised if the Nats go over the CBT line for anyone else but Rendon (so no Donaldson). I also think we’re now very likely to have Voth/Ross/Fedde as the 5th starter.

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 3:13 pm

  67. With Strasburg signing, i’ve got them now with $39M under the cap for 2020.

    can you sign Rendon at the price he’s likely going at ($35M/year? slightly less?) and still fill out the roster with their holes? I just don’t see it unless ownership goes over cap.

    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 19 at 3:40 pm

  68. Sure they could. They could give Rendon $35M, sign Hudson for like $4M, trade Michael A. Taylor and give the $3.5M savings to Zimmerman. I think they are likely trade one of Ross/Voth/Fedde for a slightly lesser young starter that still has options to be the “sixth starter” above McGowin.

    That’s exactly $39M in new money, and a totally credible roster, basically what they had last year, with the $9 million they save on Dozier and the ~$15M they save on Zimmerman going to Stras and Rendon. The risk is you don’t have a backup plan if Kieboom tanks at second, but honestly, a cheap glove-first Difo or Sanchez is probably enough. I mean, would you rather have Anthony Rendon or a better backup second baseman?

    Turner
    Eaton
    Rendon
    Soto
    Kendrick/Zim
    Robles
    Kieboom
    Gomes/Suzuki
    Pitcher

    Bench
    Zim/Kendrick
    Sanchez or Difo
    Stevenson
    Gomes/Suzuki
    Min salary 5th outfielder (Banks? Hernandez?)

    Max
    Stras
    Corbin
    Sanchez
    Ross

    Doolittle
    Hudson
    Elias
    Strickland
    Rainey
    Suero
    Finnegan
    Min salary reliever like Bourque

    NG

    9 Dec 19 at 4:48 pm

  69. I’ve said all along that I think that if they can get both Stras and Rendon back that they would be willing to go over the cap by $10-15M for one season, then be able to get back under for 2021 with several salaries coming off the books. They’ve certainly got the cash after the playoff windfall. And there’s little penalty since they’re now CBT reset.

    Would they be better off spreading that $39M across several positions? In theory, yes, but in practice, I don’t know that there is great shopping in the $8-12M range.

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 5:25 pm

  70. I know people hate to hear it since the Braves only won one WS across their nearly two decades of division dominance, but ultimately, the core that they paid to keep around was four players: three starting pitchers and a 3B. Sounds very familiar to where the Nats would have their big bucks invested if Rendon were to re-sign. The Nats may not have four first-ballot HOFers, but they may have one or two. We’ll see.

    Speaking of the HOF, it’s way, WAY past time that Marvin Miller finally got in, a story that will be obscured by Stras signing. Stras and every FA owes a lot to the guy who changed the system.

    KW

    9 Dec 19 at 5:35 pm

  71. Yikes. Speechless with that contract.

    Btw, when doing the lux tax analysis, because of the deferred money this won’t quite count as $35m per.

    Let’s sign Didi and AssCab for $20m and a couple of relievers. Rendon is going to get $280m guaranteed and I don’t think it will be WAS.

    Wally

    9 Dec 19 at 6:13 pm

  72. I’m happy to have Stras back, even with a contract that will require a Max-level of performance to live up to. I think he can do it, but am still nervous that he has a new found durability. Another championship during the contract will make it worthwhile no matter what, just as the 2019 championship justified every penny of big deals like Zim, Max and Corbin. Mostly I’m happy that one of the home grown stars is guaranteed to stay and that Stras seemed to care about being with one team for his career. I have tons of respect for that.

    MG

    10 Dec 19 at 1:48 am

  73. KW, why do you keep assuming that the team can go over the luxury tax this year and then easily get back under next year? To me that requires a conscious decision that would be no different than saying you can’t sign Rendon now. Are you content with rookies and/or vet minimum replacements for Suzuki, Sanchez, Eaton, etc? There will be get more raises in arbitration next year, specifically Turner who is getting close to FA when arb prices get much closer to market value, and will Soto be a Super Two next year? Those will more than exceed the year to year increase in the luxury tax. So to sign Rendon and then go back under would require some creative Rizzo trading or to graduate a few talents from the minors.

    MG

    10 Dec 19 at 1:54 am

  74. MG — Boz has made the same argument all offseason in his chats, pointing to all the money that will be coming off the books after next season. Barry Svrluga pretty much says the same thing in his column about Stras’s deal, although not in as much detail. Yes, you’re right, the Nats will have to replace those guys coming off the books plus will owe an arb bump to Trea and probably Super Two arb to Soto. I hope they can replace Sanchez from within the organization for virtually nothing. They have no internal, everyday replacements for Eaton and Suzuki, though. People who are hyping Barrera haven’t looked very closely at his AA stats. Hard to see Stevenson replacing Eaton as a regular, and Yadiel Hernandez will be 33 by 2021.

    All of that said, look at how little the lower-middle class of MLB players is getting these days. There are a number of pretty darn good players available for $5M or less (which is also about all Eaton will be able to expect to get next offseason). The Nats aren’t the only team trying to balance a few big contracts with several bargain guys.

    Also, since we’re counting pennies, the chatter on Nats Talk seems to indicate that because of the deferrals, Stras’s AAV will only count as $32.7 against that cap. That will leave them with a huge number (around $41M according to Todd’s numbers) under the CBT line if they don’t sign Rendon. It will be interesting to see how they spend all of that cash if they don’t put a large chunk on Rendon, or Donaldson.

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 8:23 am

  75. So, setting aside what the team does with $41M or so of spare payroll remaining; here’s a question: indeed, how “easy” would it be to blow the salary cap in 2020 then get back under in 2021?

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Au_xTIni1eJbDGzravS1482wBbzN9DBQaOY1wwo2Mr0/edit#gid=1520401900

    What is really coming off the books for 2021?
    – Anibal Sanchez $9M/year
    – Sean Doolittle $6.5M
    – Kendrick maybe (he has a 2021 option) of 6.25M
    – Suzuki $5M

    Thats only $26.75M. Meanwhile you’ll have arb eligible starters like Turner, Taylor, Elias, Strickland, Ross, Difo, Barrett, Suero and most importantly Juan Soto all coming due in arb with pay increases. How much of that $26M will JUST be to pay for arb increases for those of htese guys who remain? A big chunk. Meanwhile with what remains you have to replace your 4th starter, your closer, your starting catcher and your utility guy.

    Thats’…. a lot. Especially if you commit $30M/year to Rendon.

    Todd Boss

    10 Dec 19 at 8:45 am

  76. Nah, in this market, Rendon is going to get $35M. And you’re right, there would be a lot of wiggling to do to get under the tax line in 2021. But there are going to be more one-year contracts coming (or one-plus-option), for guys like, or similar to, Cabrera and Dozier. So I think the Nats will have $10-12M more tied up in only one-year deals. Still, that’s probably just the delta of what they would be over the CBT line in 2020. Or maybe you commit to being over for two years until Max’s contract is up. After all, the Nats were over the line for two years and it hurt them so badly that they, um, won the championship the following year. (But yes, I know, the lost higher draft picks and international money may haunt them down the road, although considering how poorly they’ve drafted in general, maybe not.)

    Really, I think we’re looking at a financial arms race among the big-spending teams. It’s sort of surprising that it hasn’t happened before now, but the collusion of the past few offseasons has kept things at bay. The gloves are off now, though. And there are only two game-changing hitters on the board: Rendon and Donaldson. Ozuna hasn’t been anything special in his last two years in STL, and he wouldn’t fit with the Nats anyway unless they moved Soto to 1B. But that’s it. The next level is literally guys like Dozier and Cabrera. A few folks have high hopes for a Didi resurgence, but I don’t. He’s had one above-average year his whole career.

    If the Nats don’t sign either Rendon or Donaldson, the only real market worth spending significant money in is pitching. I think Ryu is an undervalued asset because of his injury history. Can you imagine adding him to the Nat rotation? Sign Hudson and Harris for the ‘pen, maybe take a flyer on Betances just for the heck of it since you’ve got the extra bucks.

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 10:01 am

  77. There are also some interesting trade options, of course, including Yates and Giles among relievers, and possibly even Kris Bryant among hitters. (I think Bryant would be more available than Betts.) A Bryant deal likely would have to include Kieboom plus some of the top pitching prospects, although the Cubs ask might be mitigated a little if the Nats would take one of their turkey contracts off their hands: Kimbrel, Heyward, maybe even Darvish.

    Hmm, Bryant + Heyward for Kieboom, Eaton, Denaburg, Sharp, and Taylor? The loss of Bryant would be a big minus from the Cub offense, though, and the Nats aren’t really in a position to swap offense for offense. But the Cubs would gain a lot of financial maneuverability and possibly could add Donaldson for less than Bryant’s arb number.

    Just playing around. ‘Tis the season!

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 10:18 am

  78. Just saw Sao’s piece at Nats Talk where Bryant was one of many 3B possibilities he mentioned. Obviously a lot of Bryant’s value is going to be tied to the outcome of his grievance and whether he is under two years of control, or just one. The trade value I proposed was for two years of control.

    A real outside possibility would be the potential availability of Justin Turner if the Dodgers were to sign Rendon. He’d have 10-5 trade refusal, though, plus he’s a SoCal guy and probably wouldn’t be eager to leave. There might be some appeal of making a run with the defending champs, though.

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 11:11 am

  79. Yeah, I thought of that, and I didn’t mention Justin Turner for similar reasons I didn’t mention Evan Longoria: They can veto any trade and there’s no indication they’re inclined to go anywhere.

    Bryant is going to be extraordinarily costly in any trade, and Luke Erickson over at NationalsProspects.com suggests the Nats could end up having to trade both Kieboom and Garcia in such a scenario. That isn’t a very appealing thought, nor is taking on that much additional payroll to cover one (1) position.

    Someone at TalkNats.com mentioned a little-known quirk of Kyle Seager’s contract in which his 2022 club option turns into a player option if he’s traded. If it does, that certainly impacts his value (negatively).

    If Bryant’s bowl of porridge is too hot and Seager’s bowl of porridge is too cold, it might be Eduardo Escobar who is “just right” — but it would still probably take Kieboom to persuade the Dbacks to give him up, and that’s a difficult call.

    SaoMagnifico

    10 Dec 19 at 1:38 pm

  80. Sao, that’s why I suggested that the Nats might have to take on one of the Cub turkey contracts to mitigate the return a little. I think taking on Heyward, if we give them Eaton, wouldn’t have an overall effect on the lineup . . . just the bottom line. But if they’ve only got one year of Bryant to offer, their potential return would be a lot less, of course. Theo apparently is PO’d that MLB is taking so long with the ruling, as it will significantly affect his offseason, either with trade timing or arb hit.

    Escobar is an interesting thought, but I fear two years of a great contract would “cost” a lot in terms of prospect return.

    Longoria has been about league-average for three years and has a not-great contract. I don’t think the Nats would have to surrender much to get him — if he’d agree to the deal — but I hope Kieboom can be about that good himself, even as an up-and-down rookie.

    All interesting thoughts, though. I do think Rizzo will be dealing. It may just be guys like Fedde and Taylor, though.

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 3:20 pm

  81. Wait, the Phils non-tendered a 29-year-old middle infielder with a career 97 OPS+ and .352 OBP to pay more to a 29-year-old middle infielder with a career 99 OPS+ and .313 OBP who is coming off a major injury and just had an awful half-season? Genius!

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 8:38 pm

  82. So how much of the farm would you sacrifice for two years of Correa? The excellent part on him is that he’s only estimated to make $7.4M in 2020. Obviously the cheatin’ ‘stros would be making the move to cut salary so would want cheap, young talent. The conversation would probably start at Kieboom + Garcia + Denaburg or Rutledge and might also include Fedde and/or Ross.

    Nuts? I don’t know. The big plus would be how little he would count against the AAV compared to someone like Bryant or Donaldson. The Nats would add a major talent but still also have room under the tax line to sign some other significant folks.

    KW

    10 Dec 19 at 9:11 pm

  83. You just have to shake your head. The Phillies, man. I guess they’re banking on Didi shoring up their infield defense. But still, this is the same time that pays Rhys Hoskins real American money to put a baseball glove on and embarrass himself daily in front of a crowd of angry drunks.

    SaoMagnifico

    10 Dec 19 at 10:18 pm

  84. Gregorious; most of the analysis i’ve read of the signing are positive. He was a 4win player in 2018 before he hurt his arm; was 2019 an aberration or the new normal? Many pundits were surprised when the Yankees did not give him a QO … if he turns around and does even a 3 win season this is a great signing. Its a useful experiment, especially coming from someone (me) who liked last year’s similar one-year experimental signings at the time (Rosenthal, Dozier, etc).

    Todd Boss

    11 Dec 19 at 9:59 am

  85. Why would the Nats want Correa?

    We have an arb-controlled all star calibre SS home grown in Turner. Correa has not played a single inning at a position outside of SS in the majors. So aquiring him means you move one or the other to 3B; who makes way? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just buy a FA 3B?

    Todd Boss

    11 Dec 19 at 10:01 am

  86. Much of Didi’s WAR value has come from playing SS. The Phils already have Segura, so they didn’t need a SS. They could have signed Cabrera or Dozier for half the amount and probably gotten just as much offense from someone playing 2B . . . or just kept Hernandez.

    I looked at Didi’s stats as a potential 3B for the Nats and just didn’t like what I see. He has a weird, unusually low relationship with BABIP, and combined with rarely walking, he chronically has a low OBP. He’s only had two MLB years with wRC+ over 100, and he hasn’t stayed healthy since 2016.

    Correa hasn’t been able to stay healthy, either, which would be my main concern about him. (Well that, and whether he can hit without trash cans.) He has the legit power to play a corner position, though — 21 homers in only 75 games last season. The biggest appeal would be his cost, which would be a third of Donaldson, and perhaps a fifth of Rendon.

    After Rendon and Donaldson . . . um, there’s nothing approaching a top-flight offensive option on the FA board. The Nats do have a lot of trade chips. I do think they will try to hang onto Kieboom, though, and probably Rutledge and Cronin among the arms. Nearly anyone else could be fair game.

    KW

    11 Dec 19 at 11:51 am

  87. Cole contract — it’s amazing, but perhaps not necessarily surprising considering what Stras got. It’s actually only for $1M more a year than Stras, with the age difference accounting for the two extra years.

    Ah yes, the years, NINE years, basically a decade. In part, I think these outrageously long contracts are a penalty MLB is paying for the CBT tax line. Instead of giving these guys $45M per year or so for a shorter term, teams are forced to spread the total amount over a longer time to lower the AAV. The more time, the greater the risk, and the more decline years that teams are having to invest in.

    I’ll reiterate what I’ve said about these few big contracts also depressing what the middle class/lower middle class of players will get. Teams will be looking for bargains to offset the few massive AAVs. This is part of the reason I think $14M for Didi was an overpay. (It’s also nuts if the Phils, as some had said, only had about $20M under the CBT line before they signed him.)

    KW

    11 Dec 19 at 12:04 pm

  88. I’m ecstatic over the Strasburg signing and bringing back Kendrick with an option year attached. Even the Gomes signing positions the team for the next two years to exploit the talents that won the World Series without overcommitting in the event of decline. In the meantime, fruits on the farm team vine can ripen, and they are there (with the conspicuous exception of a high caliber catching talent).

    As for the 3B plan, I’m all in for bringing back Rendon. He is capable of a Hall of Fame career and clearly fits the chemistry of the ballclub. He is worth the investment for many reasons. And, when a guy like Strasburg comes and lobbies him to return, that helps. When a guy like Cole switches teams and has a championship in mind, you have to wonder whether Rendon has to factor in going to Arlington or Anaheim and how many years it will take to win a World Series — if ever.

    So as I see it, it’s really between the Nationals and the Dodgers. And I don’t see him playing for the Dodgers in the same way that I could not see him playing for the Phillies. I think the Boras group is trying to squeeze what they can out of the Lerners and both sides are playing that game of chicken.

    With that noted, I think the capabilities and role of Asdrubal Cabrera is underrated and I do hope he returns. He is an older Latino player whose mentorship to Soto-Robles will be helpful. He gives them a lefthanded bat and he has proven to thrive in the NL East – and on Kevin Long teams. For those who impugn his age, he certainly did not falter in the stretch run, hit well with men on base, had pop, pinch hit, and played surprisingly capable defense.

    I also think that IF Kieboom is the future, and I think he can be, the presence of Cabrera in the starting lineup enables Kieboom to get defensive reps that he needs in the minor leagues without any pressure to bring him up before he is completely ripe. He is also still very young and still physically developing. But anyone who can hit 2 HR off Justin Verlander in any game has something to dream on.

    So if Rendon does NOT return, I think the in house options are better than trading for two years of Kris Bryant and maybe even better than a large and lengthy commitment to Josh Donaldson, although I am impressed with his defense and hard hit ball skills.

    I am still squarely in the Yadiel Hernandez corner, and hope that he gets his shot with this team. There is a lot to like for Adam Eaton, but he makes over 10m/year and has two years of control remaining. Moving him is a risk, given the importance of outfield defense, but the big lefty bat that Hernandez continues to showcase in the Mexican League and mature on base skills and low strikeouts should not be overlooked, along with the opportunity in plain sight to have another starter take the field with a league minimum salary on a higher payroll team.

    It’s also exciting to watch the potential starting pitcher progress progress of Voth vs. Ross vs. Fedde vs. someone else, be it McGowin or Sharp or Crowe or Sanchez or Cate or Teel or Fuentes, over the next year. Coming out of 2020, Sanchez is an option and over 10 m that can come off the books, and the Nationals will have one more year of development out of the upper minors talents as well as potential fast risers like Rutledge. The same can be said of how the Nationals approach the 2021-2022 offseason with Max’ contract winding down.

    As for Zimm, it’s easy to overlook that in 2017, he had one of the best seasons of his career — and that was after three subpar years in which many of us, myself included, gave up on him. If the Nationals can get him for very “cheap,” and he can put up adequate numbers for 1B in tandem with Kendrick and Cabrera or another person, and give good defense, leadership and clutch hitting off the bench, this will also provide excellent bridging to a next generation talent like a Drew Mendoza.

    I think Hudson benefits the team coming back in whatever role he takes on. And if he gets a multi-year contract, the team has cover post-Doolittle and pre-Cronin or pre-emerging surprise (like Bourque or Bogan or Finnegan).

    It’s hard for me to see other players not currently in the Nats orbit, therefore, that necessarily add to the roster. One I like is Ben Zobrist, with or without Rendon. Will likely be affordable, but how affordable? Another is Blake Treinen — without having to pitch to Matt Weiters, and with Menhart (who developed him), can he be a buy low re-discovery?

    Otherwise, like everyone else, I’m sitting here waiting to welcome Rendon back and to see what Rizzo discovers under a rock. By not adding Sharp to the roster, as low as the numbers are now, I think the Nationals are signalling whom they already have in mind for the 40 man, including the resignings.

    forensicane

    11 Dec 19 at 12:22 pm

  89. So I go off for a few hours and come back to find that Roark got 2/$24M and Treinen got 1/$10M. Holy smokes! They’re both good dudes, so good for them, but neither deal makes much sense. I also fear that the Treinen windfall just drove up the price for a reunion with Hudson, not to mention a possible dabble with Harris.

    Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerman is reporting that Fedde and Read have been granted a fourth option year. I scratch my head as to why, particularly with Fedde, but if true, that’s very good news. Neither lost extended time to injury like Solis did when he got his fourth option; the longest extended time between the two was, um, Read missing half a season due to PED suspension. Anyway, if true, this news is excellent for the Nats, who can keep both of these guys on the shuttle to Harrisburg, unless Fedde (finally) makes an overwhelming case in the spring.

    KW

    11 Dec 19 at 8:53 pm

  90. Meanwhile, things seem to be progressing with Rendon, although no one seems sure in what direction. Dodgers are said to be out. Leading teams seem to be Rangers and Angels, neither of which is particularly a contender. Nats still thought to be lurking. My hopes aren’t high. It would hurt to lose him, but it’s mostly fine if he ends up in the AL. We’ll see. I just hope there’s some decision within the next few days so the Nats can move on to Plan B, whatever that is.

    KW

    11 Dec 19 at 9:00 pm

  91. Well, if Rendon goes, I would make getting Arenado plan A.

    forensicane

    11 Dec 19 at 9:54 pm

  92. And Rendon is now an Angel. Should be a fun team to watch with Trout and Ohtani! Very sad to see him go but like KW mentioned, at least it’s not Philly, Atlanta or Dodgers.

    MG

    11 Dec 19 at 11:04 pm

  93. Could the Nats get Arenado for a package of Kieboom and multiple pitching prospects? I would probably prefer that to the likely Donaldson bidding war that will ensue.

    MG

    12 Dec 19 at 12:26 am

  94. Farewell, Tony Two Bags. We’ll always have 2019 and perhaps the greatest clutch-hitting streak ever in the five elimination games, seventh inning and later. It was the stuff of legends. I’m glad he ended up in the AL, but with Halos? Really? The bunch that finished 72-90, a whopping 35 games behind the Houston Trash Cans? OK Anthony, name your new starting rotation. Can you name ANY of those guys? Good luck with that . . .

    Moving on . . . I’m having a hard time getting excited about paying Donaldson $25M+, particularly since it’s looking like he’ll get a fourth year, taking him to age 38. I want absolutely no part of Starlin Castro or Miakel Franco. Please stop wasting your time with those losers and get on with re-signing Cabrera. If you want an additional bat for the infield and also Kieboom insurance, bring back Dozier as well. I’d bet on him and his .340 OBP a lot more than I would Castro (.300 OBP) or Franco (.297 OBP).

    So with no Rendon and if they don’t get Donaldson, where do they spend all that extra money? Pitching, pitching, pitching. There simply aren’t FA hitters left who will replace a top bat, so don’t try (unless a trade possibility comes up). I’ll now jump up and down for Ryu. I know he has difficulty staying healthy, but if he’s ostensibly the 5th starter, who cares? He’s miles and miles better than MadBum, who clearly seems to be regressing. Get Harris and Hudson for the ‘pen as well and compensate for the loss of Rendon by allowing fewer runs to the opponents.

    KW

    12 Dec 19 at 6:47 am

  95. MG, I would love to have Arenado, at least in theory, but his AAV would hamstring the Nats just as much as Rendon’s projected one would have, plus they’d have to decimate the farm to get him.

    I’d be less interested in one year of Bryant than two (depending on the outcome of his grievance), although if it’s just one, the package it would take to get him would be less. He’d still bring a significant AAV hit, too, though. That’s why I find Correa and his projected $7.4M salary so appealing, even if there is a perpetual injury risk.

    For any trade, I would hope they wouldn’t have to deal Kieboom. They have openings at both 3B and 2B, and it would really help the bottom line/tax line to have a cheap, controlled guy in one of those slots.

    KW

    12 Dec 19 at 6:59 am

  96. These are massive contracts being signed. Good for the players, although I’d feel better if it was spread around more to the lesser types. Maybe raising the minimum salary becomes the focus in the next CBA.

    Tony will be missed, for sure. I’m really not sure what happens at 2B and 3b now, though. Dozier and Cabrera seem like as good an option as what the market offers. I cant imagine they get Arenado – wouldn’t it really beg the question of why not pay up for Rendon? And not as much a fan of Donaldson as others appear to be.

    Hopefully, though, this frees them to extend Turner and Soto this offseason, at least

    Wally

    12 Dec 19 at 7:07 am

  97. Trade for Andujar?

    Wally

    12 Dec 19 at 7:07 am

  98. I keep forgetting Sao’s favorite, Eduardo Escobar from the DBacks. How much would they want for those 35 homers? His AAV hit would be very low, which is quite appealing. Maybe we get them to toss in Robbie Ray as well, or is that just getting greedy?

    KW

    12 Dec 19 at 7:09 am

  99. new posted on Rendon and 3b options for 2020. Basically the same convo already happening here.

    Todd Boss

    12 Dec 19 at 10:50 am

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