Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Brittany 9/10/20


Rizzo (finally) gets paid. Photo via

Man, it seems like its been forever since we’ve seen a Nats beat reporter do a mailbag. And unfortunately the one I found is behind the Athletic’s paywall, By Athletic Nats beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli. No worries though; you’ll get the gist.

Q: What are your reactions to the (Mike) Rizzo contract?
A: It’s about damn time. I just do not understand why either Mike Rizzo or Davey Martinez entered this season w/o an extension. The only thing I can think is that both had had informal discussions with the ownership group that promised them extensions at a later time.

Brittany’s take: Finally. 3yr extension, with a big bump in pay from $4M/year on his previous deal. But she also notes how disrespectful this delay was to the rest of the front office staff, who live and die by Rizzo’s contract status. Hard to disagree.

Q: Have you heard about any extension talks with (Juan) Soto?  
A: I hope they have … but it seems unlikely. Juan Soto has already established himself as one of the league’s elite players, so there seems to be little incentive for him to sign away any flexibility. He got a “big” pre-arb raise, which frankly is still peanuts compared to his value, and he’s already guaranteed to be a Super-2 guy, meaning four arb years. If i’m the Nats maybe i’m doing what they did with Harper and Rendon; buy out the arb years with sizeable raises so they’re not arguing every off-season, see if they can get one post-arb FA year thrown in (he’s FA after 2024 season), and make it worthwhile to both sides.

Brittany notes that Soto’s agent is Scott Boras, so forget about an extension. She is unaware of any extension talk, but points out a couple of Braves deals that could serve as landmarks.

Q: Any details on whether the front office has moved on from competing this year to preparing for a stronger ’21 season?
A: Well, we saw no trades this year, meaning zero attempts to shore up multiple areas of need on the current roster. But then again, that might have been a factor of the price tag and our own depleted farm system. I mean, would you have wanted to give up Cade Cavalli or Jackson Rutledge for a month of a #3 starter hitting free agency after the season? Hell no. Meanwhile on the field, the team has been frisky this week, but (as of this writing on 9/11/20) remain 5.5 games out of a wild card spot and still projected for either the #6 or #7 overall pick next July.
Brittany notes the same thing: the lack of moves at the trade deadline tipped their hand.

Q: Any insight on moves Rizzo should consider in 2021 free agency?
A: man, it exhausts me to even start considering this. But here’s 2 minutes on their FA outlook. Using COTS site, they are set to lose Eaton, Sanchez, Doolittle, Suzuki, Kendrick, Thames, Holt, Cabrera, Zimmerman and Freeman to FA (yes some of these guys have options but … right now its hard to see any of these options exercised).

So that means the team is in need of: 1-2 Starting pitchers, a corner OF, two veteran lefty relievers, a starting quality catcher, and a big chunk of their infield depth. Assuming they go young in 2021 the infield could be anchored by Kieboom, Turner and Garcia, so they’d be in the market for a 1B/DH platoon, plus a couple of utility guys who can move around. So, not a ton but also some work to do. the have $126M committed before arb raises of roughly $25M (could be more depending on how much Soto gets), so that leaves about $50M of FA room to work with. We can’t get a good SP and a solid catcher for that, but we should be able to get the edges covered.

Brittany repeats the same list of players, and says the priorities will be similar to what I put.

6 Responses to 'Ask Brittany 9/10/20'

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  1. As far as Soto, we’ll just have to enjoy these next 3-4 years. The minute he switched agents to Boras he was as good as gone. It takes someone educated as Strasburg to dictate to Boras, the rest of the players it’s the other way around.

    There is going to be an avalanche of non-tenders this off-season. Rizzo can overhaul his team if he wants.

    Mark L

    12 Sep 20 at 7:04 am

  2. **If** he wants? I’m not sure he has much choice. More than half of the current 40-man roster is 30 or older. Sixteen were born during the Reagan Administrations.

    I’m not watching every night, but I can’t possibly be the only one who sees that Adam Eaton has turned into Adam Dunn in the outfield? Or that the book on both Fedde and Voth is closed: They’re not starters, they’re–at best–middle relievers?

    It’s great that perhaps 2B has been solved for the time being with the unexpected ascendance of Garcia, but unsettling that Kieboom can’t get off the Interstate, when everyone and their grandmother thought that we’d be worried about his defense, which has turned out to be good enough.

    I know we’re supposed to think “but we have three aces in Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin.” But you’re fooling yourself if you haven’t noticed that Scherzer is starting to slip. Not to mention 2021 is his walk year.

    But what worries me more is that we have no idea how the “next men up” are doing. I’m not buying the bill of goods that the scrimmages they’ve been having are functionally equivalent to real games against other teams.

    Luke Erickson

    12 Sep 20 at 9:03 am

  3. Hard to disagree with Luke’s sentiment here.

    Todd Boss

    14 Sep 20 at 9:41 am

  4. With the current season, I’m really pissed that Max was left out there on Sunday, well beyond 100 pitches, to get hammered. He had pitched five innings and the team took the lead, so he was in line for the win. Corbin and McGowin had been the only pitchers used on Sat., so the entire bullpen was relatively fresh. SAVE MAX FOR NEXT YEAR. Also, save him from himself.

    Also, why are they using McGowin in relief when he sure looks like he deserves a shot at starting?


    14 Sep 20 at 9:53 am

  5. Kendrick has a mutual option, right? I could see the team picking up Howie’s option, but I have no idea whether Howie would do the same. Not a great year for him, but I would probably pick up his option for next year.

    I think Max is declining, but let’s be honest about how minimal the decline has been. His FIP is 3.32, which is elite for a starter (he won the Cy Young in 2016 with a 3.24 FIP). The K rate remains extremely high. He’s had a large bump in his BB rate, which is concerning, but the sample is small. He’s sporting a .375 BABIP this year, which is insanely high for a guy who gets so many fly balls. If Max finishes the season like this, I think you’d clearly predict him to be one of the five best starters in the NL next year. That’s different from predicting him to be in the top two, but still pretty good.


    14 Sep 20 at 10:08 am

  6. Kendrick’s option is mutual, which honestly i’m not sure why they bother with. If the player is good, the team offers the option but the player declines. If the player sucks, the reverse happens. Fangraph’s Wendy Thrum could only find a handful of times in a 2012 article where both sides executed the option:

    Todd Boss

    14 Sep 20 at 12:41 pm

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