Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Off-Season Roster Considerations

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Do the Nats bring back this famous celebration couple? Photo via Brobible

Since we have no playoffs to discuss, we’re pivoting immediately into off-season mode.

The Nats procedurally on 9/28/20 activated all their 10-day DL players. They also procedurally recalled the last three remaining players from the 40-man alternative site for the purposes of off-season moves. Amazingly, they ended the season with 9 players on the 10-day DL and just one healthy player on the 40-man roster not already playing (Raudy Read).

https://www.mlb.com/nationals/roster/transactions/2020/09

Free Agents to-be are immediately declared FAs at 8am Central time the day after the World Series ends. The team doesn’t have to restore its 60-day DL players until 5 days after the World Series ends, which allows them to add them back after free agents are declared and after the team has a small exclusive window to negotiate. So, we have to wait for about a month to see the next dominos fall, but we can start to speculate now.

Based on my records, here’s how our roster will look in the off-season, which will drive the decisions to make. We’ll classify these players into 5 categories

Category 1: Players under a “veteran” contract for 2021 (7): Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Hudson, Harris, Gomes, Castro. Seven players but a huge payroll hit (per Cots, these 7 players count for $120M or so in cap space next year.


Category 2: Pre-Arbitration players under full team control (22): Voth, Fedde, Crowe, Finnegan, Harper, McGowin, Braymer, Espino, AWilliams (TJ aug 2020), Read, Garcia, Noll, Robles, Stevenson, Hernandez, Bacus, Rainey, Bourque, Kieboom, Sanchez, Romero, Barrera. That’s a ton of players on pre-arb deals, which is important since they will represent a huge chunk of the active roster in 2021. I think a few of these pre-arb guys are in discussion for “first 40-man guy to get DFA’d when the team needs room” territory (Noll, Williams, Sanchez) but for now, they’re all in play. Note: a couple of these guys were technically MLFA signings in 2020 so i’m not sure if they are now pre-arb or still FAs. Apologies if I got their status wrong).


Category 3: Arbitration-eligible players for 2021 (8). Here’s where we start discussions. Player by player:

  • Suero (A1); lock to tender
  • Turner (A3): lock to tender
  • Soto (A1): lock to tender. I saw something recently that seemed to indicate he may or may not be a Super-2 guy, but he was projecting to be Super-2 after last off-season so i’m assuming he’s Arb-eligible this year.
  • Taylor (A4); Nothing has really changed with Taylor; he struggled at the plate again but hit a few bombs, which drove his OPS+ figure up a bit from what you’d expect for someone who hit below .200. The change in Taylor in 2020 is that his defensive numbers COST him WAR this year instead of helped. Probably Small Sample Size driven, but Taylor’s bigger problem is that his direct competition as “4th outfielder” on this roster Andrew Stevenson just blew up in 2020, making Taylor an obvious non-tender candidate.
  • Guerra (A4); his contract status is odd; he has bounced back and forth on and off the roster and signed a combo major/minor FA deal this past off-season. But Cots lists him as arb-eligible, so i’m not entirely sure if he’s a FA or if he’s arb eligible. My guess is that the team cuts another deal with him and non-tenders him if he’s eligible then immediately re-signs him the next day.
  • Barrett (A3); another odd case; how much does sentimentality count? The team called up a slew of other prospects before recalling Barrett this year, he pitched in 2 games then hit the DL. It seems to me he’s a non-tender candidate and at age 32 could be facing one last shot at making a MLB roster next year.
  • Elias (A3); 2020 a lost season for Elias, who went onto the 60-day DL early and barely pitched in 2019 for this team as well (thanks to the idiotic decision in Aug 2019 to allow him to hit, which resulted in a leg injury with him running out a grounder in a meaningless at bat). The Nats didn’t give up a ton to acquire him (giving up two decent minor league arms in Taylor Guilbeau and Elvis Alvarado) so I can’t imagine them non-tendering him, but how do you do salary evaluation of a player who misses an entire year?
  • JRoss (A3); he opted out in 2020, and his absence was felt immediately when it became clear his 5th starter replacements could not cut it. I think you tender him and he goes back into the starter competition for 2021. Worst case he gets cut mid-way through spring training and the Nats escape with 1/6th of his salary.

Category 4: Players with Options for 2021 (5): here’s where we start having some tougher decisions.

  • Sanchez: $12M club option, $2M buyout: I’m not sure how you take this option if you’re the Nats after the season we just saw. Sanchez was lucky to post the numbers he did in 2019 (his FIP was more than a half a point higher than his ERA), and he bottomed out in 2020. Decline the option, pay the buyout.
  • Thames: $4M mutual option, $1M buyout. Thames posted just a 65 OPS+ playing primarily as a 1B/DH type. That’s just patently awful, considering how many options there were on the market for “non-mobile mid-30s slugger.” Decline the option, pay the buyout.
  • Holt: $5M club option, $750k buyout. He took a significant step back from his Boston numbers, which resulted in Milwaukee cutting bait on him a month into a 2year deal. Despite his positional flexibility (he played 6 positions in 20 games for the Nats) I don’t see how you guarantee $5M to a guy who didn’t “wow” you in his audition. Decline the option, pay the buyout.
  • Eaton: $10.5M club option, $1.5M buyout. Phew; what do you do here. His fourth straight year in offensive decline. He was awful defensively. But he’s only 31; does the team take the $10.5M option and roll the dice that 2020 was an anomoly? If they cut him, do they have a replacement minor leaguer that makes sense (not really no). So do they roll the dice that they can get comparable production on the FA market for the same price? How much does sentimentality factor in here? Clubhouse presence and managerial relationship? Again, he’s only 31, which is a lot different from 36 (see next). I think the team exercises the option.
  • Kendrick: $6.5M mutual option, $2.25M buyout. Word came out a few days ago that Kendrick was considering retirement until he got hurt. I’m not sure I buy that, not with a 6.5M option on the table and more gas left in the tank. Another sentimental pick here; a guy who can plug in multiple positions in a pinch and who now has the DH to settle into if need be. Also a factor here; much like in poker, if you’re into a hand already for the big blind, why not make a call for a little bit more? Declining the option only saves them $4M, and it may be worth the cost to keep a veteran presence around one more time. I mean, if Eaton is there, you gotta keep his buddy Howie right? Exercise the option.

Category 5: Unrestricted FAs (6). Now, there’s nothing the team can really do with these guys since they’re FAs. But we can talk about whether or not we think the team pursues them in the off-season:

  • Suzuki; do you re-sign a 37yr old catcher? He’s been amazingly consistent at the plate the last few years while splitting time pretty evenly with Gomes. Still sporting a decent OBP. Is he getting pushed out by rising minor league depth (hardly, unless you think Read or Barrera is an option in the majors in 2021). I might pursue a 1-yr deal.
  • Cabrera: reverted to his 2018-19 form at the plate, league average providing poor, slow, aging defense at multiple infield positions. I think you move on.
  • Harrison really showed a jolt for this team, but he’s a 2B on a team with a prospect seemingly installed there for the longer run.
  • Doolittle: tough one. Struggled last year, struggled this year. A huge part of the community, outspoken leader. Maybe bring him back on an incentive-laden deal?
  • Freeman (TJ Aug 2020); really bad timing on his TJ surgery, as he’s a FA and will be rehabbing on his own.
  • Zimmerman, the most difficult decision of all. The team was onboard with a $2M deal for 2020 before he opted out for completely understandable family reasons. 2020 was his age 35 season; I’d guarantee him a $2M incentive-laden deal to be a 1B/DH platoon with a lefty slugger for 2021 absolutely. When he’s healthy he can hit, and doing nothing but DHing will help keep him on the field. Its worth a flier for a guy who is either retiring to the Nats front office or playing in 2021.

If the team does exactly what I say here, what would be our needs heading into the off-season? First lets see how this would look from a roster perspective (not counting FAs):

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, JRoss (A3), Voth, Fedde, Crowe, McGowin, Braymer, Espino, Romero
  • RP: Hudson, Harris, Suero, Elias, Finnegan, Harper, Bacus, Rainey, Bourque
  • C: Gomes, Read, Barrera
  • INF: Castro, Turner, Garcia, Noll, Kieboom, Sanchez, Kendrick
  • OF: Soto, Robles, Stevenson, Hernandez, Eaton

Immediate thoughts on areas of need:

  • Another starter. I’m just not sure you can go into 2021 with your 4th/5th starters being Ross, Voth, Fedde and Crowe. I’m not sure I trust what I saw from McGowin or Braymer. Espino has never really succeeded in the majors and seems like the definition of a 4-A guy. And Romero? Maybe he can step up now that he’s gotten his debut out of the way.
  • Reliever help: I see 5-6 mlb-quality relievers here, but we’d need like 12 on the 40-man roster.
  • Catcher; as discussed with Suzuki above
  • Infield: well, right now your starting infield in 2021 is Castro/Kieboom at 3rd, Turner at SS, Garcia/Castro at 2nd, Kendrick at 1st (if they exercise his option), with Noll and Sanchez in AAA or released. They probably need more depth here.
  • Outfield: If they exercise Eaton’s option, then little needs to be done. If they don’t, then they’ll need a starting corner OF.

In other words, they need help basically everywhere.

Thoughts? did I get anything wrong?

108 Responses to 'Nats Off-Season Roster Considerations'

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  1. I think declining the options on Sanchez and Thames are no-brainers: you can get Sanchez-quality innings for the MLB minimum (or you can pay more and get better quality), and there are many substitutes for what Thames does out there that you can expect to do better than Thames (surely Thames will be better next year, but will he be good?).

    I also think picking up Kendrick’s option is a no-braner. If he wants to play, that price is a good price for what you might expect him to produce. Who knows what Howie will end up doing? But that doesn’t really matter for purposes of deciding whether to pick up the option.

    Re Holt, I have a few observations: (1) $5m is not a lot when the budget is $200m; (2) positional flexibility is valuable. I think he’s probably a decent bet for a mid-90s WRC+ next year, which is fine for a guy who can play 2B/3B and the outfield corners. For a team with playoff aspirations, you like him much better as a bench guy. Do you pay $5m for a bench guy? I don’t know – I think it depends on what else is out there. Still, I don’t view this as a consequential decision. Also, anything that makes it harder for Wilmer Difo to appear in MLB for the Nats is worth considering…

    Eaton is the toughest choice, IMO. I think he will hit well next year – I think a 110 WRC+ is comfortably in range. On the other hand, I think you can do just as well as that, plus better defense and/or baserunning for $10.5 million on the free agent market. I think they *should* decline the option, but I predict that they will exercise it, and defend the decision on “clubhouse chemistry” grounds.

    Derek

    1 Oct 20 at 11:34 am

  2. It’s nuts to even think about picking up Eaton’s option. He can’t field his position at all and his OPS was terrible.(.661)
    If Stevenson regresses totally you’d have the same offense with 5X better defense.

    Aren’t the Brewers responsible for Holt’s option? Just wondering.

    Mark L

    1 Oct 20 at 11:46 am

  3. Mark — I had the same thought: since the Brewers cut Holt, aren’t they still responsible for whatever they agreed to pay him? I have no idea how that works. If the Nats had traded for him, they would be responsible, but they didn’t trade for him; he was released. I do want him back, although I’d prefer it not be at $5M. He has played every position at the MLB level except catcher.

    KW

    1 Oct 20 at 11:59 am

  4. I non-tender Roenis Elias under the “fool me once/fool me twice” principle. How many times is this guy gonna take a pile of the Nats’ money and light it on fire in the parking lot? He’s pitched three innings since the Nats acquired him and allowed three earned runs. No mas.

    SaoMagnifico

    1 Oct 20 at 1:34 pm

  5. I can’t in good conscience endorse picking up Kendrick or Eaton’s options. Eaton was one of the worst defenders in baseball this year, his walk rate went down, his strikeout rate went up, and he just generally wasn’t very good. Kendrick (who is one of my all-time favorite players) put up a .705 OPS and couldn’t stay healthy even as a designated hitter. There’s no guarantee the National League even has a designated hitter in 2021, and if it does, I think the Nats need to find a bigger bat without chronic leg issues. But I’d love to bring him back as a coach or commentator if/when he decides he’s done playing.

    And I don’t even consider bringing back Suzuki, who turns 37 this weekend and has been a replacement-level player as a National. He’s a roughly league-average hitter, which is nice, but he’s the worst framer in the game (something that matters at least until we finally get automated ball/strike calls, which can’t come soon enough, IMO) and he just cannot control the running game. It’s time to move on. We will always have the walkoff against the Mets.

    Incentive-laden deals for Doolittle and Zimmerman make all the sense in the world, though, if they are healthy. They’re two of the most beloved players ever to wear a jersey in Washington, D.C., and if they’re right, they can help the team in 2021. There’s no real downside here unless their contract demands are not reasonable, and both have been vocal about wanting to return for another season.

    SaoMagnifico

    1 Oct 20 at 1:35 pm

  6. Mark L: you have a great point about Holt’s contract. I think the Nats are only on the hook for MLB minimum of it. Does that change your mind on him? Probably. If its $600k not $5M? heck yeah. Because cutting him costs you almost nothing.

    So, I did write this assuming we’re now full time DH going forward. If someone like Zimmerman or Kendrick has to be in the field? Much, much harder sell.

    Suzuki; i forgot just how bad he’s gotten throwing out baserunners. That’s probably a decided.

    Todd Boss

    1 Oct 20 at 1:51 pm

  7. Todd, you made me look it up. Suzuki had an OPS of .745 this year, catcher averages are about 704. It’s his defense that drags down his value. FWIW, his WAR is either 0.1 or 0.0 depending on which WAR you use.

    Mark L

    1 Oct 20 at 2:04 pm

  8. Catcher FA market: https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2020/09/2020-21-mlb-free-agents.html

    Lots of replacement level mid-30s catchers out there.

    Todd Boss

    1 Oct 20 at 3:14 pm

  9. Howie played exactly 25 games this year. I wouldn’t draw any signal from how he hit in his 25 game season, nor would I conclude that he’s unable to stay healthy because he missed the other 35 games. It’s entirely possible that Howie is cooked – he is 37 after all. But he hit incredibly well just last year (146 WRC+). He’s a steal at $6.25 mil, esp. if you think he can fill in competently at 2B and 3B (which might be a stretch). But my major point is not to draw strong conclusions from really small sample sizes (and yes, I recognize that my breathless comment about Soto’s next five years is doing just that – at least in part).

    Derek

    1 Oct 20 at 4:04 pm

  10. Off topic. but MLBpipeline now lists Jackson Rutledge as our #1 prospect. https://www.mlb.com/prospects/nationals/

    Kieboom and Garcia graduated.

    This is the first time I can find a record of a prospect not named Kieboom or Robles listed as our #1 prospect since….October 2016. At that point it was Giolito #1, a title he basically had held since April 2013 in basically every prospect ranking pundit. Who did he take over from? One Anthony Rendon, who got called up in mid 2013.

    So for 7 years its been basically Giolito, Robles and Kieboom at the top. that’s a long time.

    Todd Boss

    2 Oct 20 at 9:20 am

  11. . . . and quite worrisome with both Robles and Kieboom seemingly teetering on the brink of not really panning out.

    KW

    2 Oct 20 at 12:17 pm

  12. Do we know whether this expanded playoff system is here to stay? A team from each league made the playoffs with a .483 winning percentage, which would be 78 wins out of 162. That’s a much lower bar to get into the playoffs than with just two wild cards. The lower wild card in the NL for the three previous seasons won 89, 91, and 87 games. I’m not saying that you could make the playoffs with 78 wins every year, but if you’ve got a good shot by playing around .500, it could affect how you build your team.

    For example, for the Nats to win 90 games in 2021, it’s much more likely that they need to add a Gausman-level starter and an Ozuna-level bat. If they’re shooting for 81-85 wins, maybe they can get by with not adding a starter to the back-end Ross/Fedde/Voth mix, and with cobbling together a lineup with mid-level retreads like they’ve done the last couple of years. (Worked like genius in 2019, sorta fell apart in 2020, particularly after Howie and Castro got hurt and Cabs forgot how to hit left-handed [he still clobbered LH pitching.)

    I must say, I look at the lineups of teams like OAK and TB and really start to question the need for overpriced hitters. Maybe a bunch of parts like Holt, Harrison, and Castro are enough if you use them wisely.

    KW

    2 Oct 20 at 2:08 pm

  13. Hitters . . . Ozuna had an insane career year, built on .391 BABIP luck. His BA spiked 97 points over 2019, OBP up 103, and SLG up an astounding 164 points. Would you pay 5/$125M for someone who hit .241 in 2019? I sure wouldn’t. He’s only topped 30 HRs once in his career.

    Lots of buzz about Realmuto, but not from me. He’s a catcher who turns 30 next March. In 2020, his K rate went up 4%, hard contact down 8%, line drives down 9%, ground balls up 9%. He hit .266. He’s a good hitter for a catcher, but who thinks he’ll be catching regularly on the back end of a four- or five-year contract? At that point, he’ll be an overpaid and very average 1B/DH. I think he will get more than Grandal, so 4/$80M is probably the starting point of Realmuto conversation, with him more likely looking for 5 or 6 years.

    Springer will have a QO attached and hit .265 this year without the trash can. He’s still a significantly better hitter than Realmuto overall, career wRC+ 134 (vs. 117 for Ozuna, 109 for Realmuto).

    Incidentally, LeMahieu’s career wRC+ average is only 100, despite all those years in Coors Field, so there’s a serious caveat emptor if you believe in what he did with the Yanks. He also turns 33 next July.

    Once you get past those guys, the list thins very quickly if you’re looking for someone who might offer a modicum of “protection” for Soto. Pederson? Puig?

    I know Mark keeps mentioning Michael Brantley, who is still a heck of a hitter but is on the verge of being a defensive liability. In other words, he’s pretty much a DH more than anything. He’s been making $16M. Would you give him 2/$30 plus an option/buyout? That would certainly be much less of a commitment than what Ozuna, Realmuto, and Springer will want. But you could probably sign a Pederson/Puig platoon for the same price.

    KW

    2 Oct 20 at 2:50 pm

  14. Nats’ team options and FAs. I would bet on Howie still having more left in the tank than Zim. I don’t think there’s room enough on the team for both of them. Despite his general struggles in his very short 2020, Howie’s hard-hit % was still above his career number.

    You certainly decline Eaton’s option. He did have awful BABIP luck (.260), but his body language wasn’t good all year. He seems too young to declare “done,” though. I wouldn’t mind having him back as a reserve for around the amount they waste on Taylor every year, but not for $10.5M.

    I also wouldn’t sleep on the thought that they may make Sanchez an offer ($5M range) after they decline his option. That’s not what I would do, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    I’m going to go against the conventional wisdom here and say they tender Elias. He’s a lefty who has closed in the majors who they can keep for $2M. That’s not an expensive risk, and they’ve got no LHP reliever experience unless they bring back Doo. (Doo seems to love DC, so I could see the Nats offering him a year with an option, maybe $4M or so.)

    I don’t know about any of these, though. I’m doing that dang sentimental thing. At the same time Rizzo believes SO much in chemistry that I can’t see him completely blowing out his championship clubhouse.

    KW

    2 Oct 20 at 3:16 pm

  15. Sentimentality was for 2020. I think Rizzo has to move on from some of these 2018-19 performers who have aged out of their former roles, if only because I’m not sure the Nats will be able to resist the temptation of pretending they can still fill those roles the moment someone else gets injured.

    SaoMagnifico

    2 Oct 20 at 3:31 pm

  16. Sao — In general, I agree. On a certain level, I’m glad that the Nats didn’t just limp along, make a playoff cameo with a .500 record, and not really force any tough decisions. Now they’ve got the evidence, for Mark Lerner and the fans, that a lot of guys are past their primes . . . and perhaps more troubling, that some of the prospects who were supposed to carry us into the next generation may not be up to it (Robles, Kieboom, Fedde).

    Will Rizzo truly make a lot of tough decisions? It will be interesting to watch.

    Really, who is untouchable? It’s a very small group. Soto and Turner are the only field players I would include, although Gomes is a sensible piece as a starter or reserve. I’m not sold on Robles or Kieboom, and Garcia faded. I wouldn’t lose sleep over a trade for a significant piece that involved any of them.

    Pitchers: Max and Stras will be here, and probably Corbin as well, although he certainly slipped back to his pre-2018 caliber. Rainey has a future in the back end, and Finnegan was an impressive surprise. But that’s about it. Include Hudson or Harris in a trade if you wish.

    KW

    2 Oct 20 at 4:31 pm

  17. The Nats only had five players who had at least 90 plate appearances who had wRC+ over 100: Soto, Turner, Harrison, Gomes, and Suzuki. They had only two regular starters with FIP under 5 (Max and Corbin) and three relievers with FIP under 4 (Suero, Finnegan, and Rainey). That’s it (not counting Stras, of course). The rest is just projecting/hoping for better things from guys who didn’t show it in 2020 (plus Stevenson, whose showing was probably far above what he could actually do as a regular).

    KW

    2 Oct 20 at 4:42 pm

  18. When do we find out if there will be a DH in the NL next year? It changes how we look at Zim, etc.
    I hate the DH but herr Manfred is not asking me.

    I agree with KW that Kendrick probably has more left than Zim. Harrison is the one guy you bring back regardless of the DH question. Davey says he is a great mentor to the younger players.

    Mark L

    3 Oct 20 at 11:28 am

  19. So Menhart gets canned?!? The skeptic in me immediately thought that since Davey got the contract extension outside of the Lerners normal MO, they felt the need to shake up something else. Tell me I’m crazy…

    MG

    4 Oct 20 at 12:18 pm

  20. Letting Menhart go was incredibly stupid. Someone woke up yesterday and took a ‘moron pill’.

    Mark L

    4 Oct 20 at 2:59 pm

  21. I love Paul Menhart as a person. Though the results are not impressive, and there is no way they would have fired him without approval from Max and others.

    But Ray Searage is available, and he was a wizard with Pirates. And there may be others who would be an upgrade. I’ll reserve judgment until I see whom they hire.

    I’d love to keep Howie. He’s got gas in the tank, and having come back from a ruptured Achilles, I’d never bet against him. I’m reluctant to bet against Castro, but he’s a short term option. I would not bet against Harris, either.

    Otherwise, for me, goodbye Eaton, Suzuki, Thames, Zim, Sanchez, Doo, Elias, Taylor.

    I generally agree with KW’s willingness to trade the younger position pieces for the right deal, but that’s the RIGHT deal.

    The team needs a big stick to overcome the loss of Rendon. A big big stick. If they keep Howie, great, but they still need a hammer or even two if Howie does not come back.

    As far as I am concerned, the team was one game off the pace of 2019 and without Strasburg. They finished strong. They have big holes, but have promise as Well.

    forensicane

    4 Oct 20 at 5:19 pm

  22. mG – I don’t think you assess the Lerner’s personality right. Clearly they bet on Rizzo and Martinez. So it may indeed be that one of those two cingered Menhart to go. But after those votes of confidence, if Rizzo really wanted to keep Menhart, for better or worse, he’d still be here.

    The whispers on Mike Maddux may be real. Or other proven quantities. Maybe Steve McCatty.

    forensicane

    4 Oct 20 at 5:24 pm

  23. OMG, Searage would be fantastic. Please, please, please. I don’t think they would have let Menhart go if Davey Martinez and Mike Rizzo didn’t have a guy in mind, and Searage fits the bill, absolutely.

    SaoMagnifico

    4 Oct 20 at 11:17 pm

  24. Pirates fans lost confidence in Searage in recent years, FYI.

    Another name mentioned on Ghost’s blog was John Hickey, who coched with Martinez in Chi and TB and was well liked on the Maddon staff. That would make sense, actually.

    forensicane

    5 Oct 20 at 3:15 am

  25. There are other talents who are out there who might fit what the org wants.

    Dave Righetti won multiple WS with the Giants. John Farrell was respected with the Red Sox.

    there’s a lot to be said for pitching coaches who’ve had real success elsewhere

    forensicane

    5 Oct 20 at 3:27 am

  26. A lot of Nats talk from Boz in his chat today:

    https://live.washingtonpost.com/ask-boswell-20201005.html

    He has extended answers in a couple of places about Menhart. Says he was well liked, but thinks that no one must have stood up for him among the Big Three. Also thinks he’s sort of taking the fall for the failures of Fedde and Voth.

    Boz also has an extended thought on how the White Sox reinvented Giolito (and how the Nats couldn’t have done it) and on who the Nats should chase. I don’t agree with his thought that the Nats should be willing to go up to $125M for Realmuto. Interesting that Boz mentions Anthony Rizzo. I’ve speculated about the potential availability of Rizzo and/or Bryant from the Cubs. I’d prefer Bryant, though.

    Also says this: “There’s no way Zimmerman is coming back, imo.”

    KW

    5 Oct 20 at 1:12 pm

  27. Byron Kerr is pointing to the Nats’ minor-league pitching coordinator, Brad Holman, as a potential candidate. Um, he was our AAA pitching coach in 2018 and 2019, where a whole lot of guys struggled. Hard to completely blame the PCL effect on him, but look at 2018 at Syracuse: Voth with a 4.37 ERA, Fedde with a 4.41 ERA.

    Meanwhile, the real recent miracle worker in the Nat system has been Michael Tejera at Harrisburg (now promoted to AAA for 2020 [and beyond] with Holman as the system-wide coordinator). So many guys blossomed under Tejera: Braymer, Bourque, Sharp, McGowin, Fuentes, Mario Sanchez. Austen Williams had been given up for dead, and Tejera got him to the majors.

    Those things said, I think the Nats probably need a veteran MLB pitching coach at this point, not someone from the minors. Menhart was sort of a one-off because of his long experience in the system.

    KW

    5 Oct 20 at 1:24 pm

  28. Interesting thought from a Boz chatter: how about Corey Kluber for #4 starter? He has a cheap $1M buyout the Rangers likely will exercise. That certainly would be a high-risk/high-reward move. I have no idea what the price point or market will be for a guy who has barely pitched since 2018. The chatter made the good point that Kluber would have experience working with Gomes. And of course there should be a lot of appeal for a pitcher with arm issues to come to a franchise with a long track record of coddling arms.

    KW

    5 Oct 20 at 1:35 pm

  29. Meant to add that the downside with Kluber would be the risk that we end up right back with the Fedde/Voth show.

    Of course the more talked about option, Kevin Gausman, hasn’t thrown a lot of innings in recent years, either. In fact, he’s never gone more than 186 innings in any year, even the year he led the majors in starts. Sounds like another five-inning Sanchez type to me.

    KW

    5 Oct 20 at 1:40 pm

  30. I’m on board with Kluber. Sure, it’s a risk, but we’re not going to go anywhere in 2021 just playing it safe.

    SaoMagnifico

    5 Oct 20 at 3:05 pm

  31. Menahard axing: I think the development of Giolito might be front and center here. It has to be pretty embarassing to a development organization when they basically give up on a player and he goes elsewhere and shines. I mean, the quotes about Giolito as he was heading out of the org were not pretty. Now he’s a cy young candidate.

    Todd Boss

    5 Oct 20 at 3:12 pm

  32. With Menhart, I’d say it was the more immediate failure of Voth and Fedde. I’ve maintained all along that I thought Menhart was the one who got Voth the extended MLB look last season. Now, whether it’s all Menhart’s “fault” it hard to say. I’ve never been a Fedde fan, and if the organization has overvalued him, that isn’t Menhart’s fault.

    Make sure to read Boz’s take on Giolito’s reinvention. He doesn’t think that most in baseball would have been able to do with him what the Chisox have. What he doesn’t mention is that the Nats, as a perennial contender, also couldn’t have allowed Giolito that awful 2018 season at the MLB level (6.13 ERA) to “find himself.”

    KW

    5 Oct 20 at 3:24 pm

  33. For the old Expo and Oriole fans out there:

    https://baseballhall.org/discover/card-corner/1974-topps-ken-singleton

    I looked up Singleton’s stats, and his career wRC+ was 134, which is pretty darn impressive.

    KW

    5 Oct 20 at 4:42 pm

  34. Clearly there are organizations that are “known” to be better or worse at pitching development.

    – Pittsburgh has a history of seeing its pitchers leave and star (Gerrit Cole) and taking former studs and destroying them (Chris Archer)
    – Houston is well known for getting the most out of its arms (see Cole, Peacock, etc)
    – Tampa: good
    – Chicago White Sox: good
    – Baltimore: awful; see Arrieta, Bundy, Gausman to some extent as examples of pitchers who flourished the moment they got out of Baltimore
    – San Franciso, Dodgers, St Louis: all have a seemingly endless pipeline of arms and have for years.

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 20 at 11:02 am

  35. Yes, but the STL pitching coach during those golden years was Derek Lilliquist, the guy we fired before Menhart, although a lot of the Card pitching groundwork had been laid by Dave Duncan. Never saw or heard about Lilliquist making any significant adjustments with the pitchers while he was with the Nats. He always looked perplexed in the dugout, particularly in the first part of 2019.

    I can’t see the Nats elevating someone to pitching coach from within the organization who doesn’t have MLB experience. It worked (for a while) with Menhart because he had been around the organization for so long and had known Stras since he was a draftee. That’s a tough rotation for anyone to deal with, though. You’ve got a certain Hall of Famer who the manager keeps letting pitch an inning or two too long. There’s also a HOF-conversation guy who has dominated in a postseason but also is prone to injury. You’ve also got a highly paid star in Corbin who nevertheless sure looked out of kilter at times in 2020 and needs some adjustments to regain his big-contract form. Beyond those guys, though, you’ve got a trio of late-20s guys in Ross, Fedde, and Voth who still haven’t consistently made it. They need a lot of guidance. So does Crowe, who didn’t look MLB-ready at almost 26. Not far down the pipeline is Rutledge, who may have some gangly delivery issues like Giolito, although who knows how he looked at the Fredericksburg Magical Mystery camp.

    As Boz noted in his chat, if Max/Stras/Corbin had wanted Menhart back, he would have been back, despite lousy starting pitching overall in 2020. There have been some mentions of a Mike Maddux reunion, but again, what did Max and Stras think of him? Why wasn’t he retained at a time when Rizzo hired the staff completely independent of the novice manager?

    Who would be Davey’s guy, if he actually gets asked? Chris Bosio was with Madden (and Davey) in both TB and CHI, although he’s been out of baseball for two years since a bizarre incident with a clubhouse attendant in DET.

    KW

    6 Oct 20 at 3:47 pm

  36. My understanding is that Rizzo wanted to keep Mike Maddux, but there was a managerial vacancy and he didn’t want to rehire Maddux to a new contract before filling it, and Maddux had other offers and didn’t want to wait around. That could be off-base, but that’s what I’ve heard.

    I’ve seen Jim Hickey’s name mentioned several times, but I’m not sure if he’s still interested in coaching. He didn’t have a major league job this year.

    SaoMagnifico

    7 Oct 20 at 7:29 pm

  37. If you commit to Dave Martinez, you have to let him have his say in choosing his staff. The way he was hired in and kind of inherited a staff probably wasn’t workable longer term. Maybe that’s part of this too.

    Todd Boss

    8 Oct 20 at 8:14 am

  38. Todd, I would bet that was a significant part of it. In fact, one could speculate that such a say-so was part of Davey’s contract demands, since Menhart was let go just days after Davey’s extension.

    Sao, you’re right, Hickey was more connected with the TB/CHI Maddon connection than Bosio was. They inherited Bosio in CHI (and won the WS with Bosio). Hickey handled some prickly characters on his staffs over the years, including Clemens and Lester, so he would have no difficulty standing up to Scherzer. He also spent several seasons developing young, and sometimes marginal, starters into decent staffs in TB.

    I don’t know if Hickey or Maddux is the “right” guy, but I would prefer a veteran MLB coach at this stage. Scherzer in particular needs some firm guidance to maximize what he still has left in the tank, and it’s hard to see how someone new to the MLB level would be able to do that. There wasn’t much evidence that Menhart could tell him anything.

    KW

    8 Oct 20 at 11:04 am

  39. Just for the record, I hate the Astros. I do like Dusty, but he’s riding with the Devil. It’s particularly galling that the below-.500 Trashstros had no business being even considered for the playoffs.

    I think the eight-team playoffs are too much, but I could get on board with six teams from each league, like the NFL does it. The three wild cards plus the division winner with the worst record would meet in the first round, which I think should be best of three. Also, it really bugged me that all four LDSs this time turned out being intra-divisional.

    KW

    9 Oct 20 at 9:26 am

  40. KW: agree and agree.

    Todd Boss

    9 Oct 20 at 2:12 pm

  41. PHew, had a site crash this weekend and if you tried to come here the last couple of days you got an error.

    we’re back now!

    had some outrights recently to free up some space. NO real surprises: Austen Williams, Adrian Sanchez, Aaron Barrett, and Paolo Espino. I’d say the first three were probably the first three guys off the 40-man per my running notes. Espino slightly surprising, but not really in that he’s probably 11th or 12th on the system starter depth chart.

    There’s some discrepancy as to whether Elias has been released: he was in the mlbtraderumors.com story about getting outrighted and refusing assingment …. but i think its a mistake. He’s not on the nats transaction official list and he’s still listed on the 60-day dl, which generally doesn’t get reinstated until after the WS is over and FAs are decalred.

    Todd Boss

    11 Oct 20 at 2:07 pm

  42. Welcome back Todd. When I pulled your site earlier it reminded me of the old DOS days. ☺

    There’s a lot of conflicting information about Elias. As for Barrett, he has refused assignment and is now a free agent. Have to at least applaud him for what he did accomplish. The Nats thought highly enough of him to have him visit all of our troops with the WS trophy this off-season.

    Mark L

    11 Oct 20 at 3:42 pm

  43. Mark — Yes, Barrett will long be remembered for his comeback. He’s probably got enough to stick in the back end of an O’s-like team, but not with the Nats. It’s time for the Nats to be getting younger where they can anyway.

    No surprises among those released. Austen Williams had a miraculous career turnaround/run to the majors but then couldn’t stay healthy. Sanchez is out of options and would have been cut both in the spring and in July if things hadn’t played out the way they did. He was never really “supposed” to be a major-leaguer but ended up as one because of the flame-outs by more highly touted infield prospects like Abreu, Mejia, Hague, and Perez, plus the inability of Renda and some others to play SS.

    KW

    11 Oct 20 at 6:24 pm

  44. Rest of the postseason: this has to be the Dodgers’ year, right? They’ve added Betts, they won’t run into the likes of Verlander (’17), Price and Sale (’18), or Stras, Max, and Corbin (’19), plus the known cheaters they faced in ’17 and ’18.

    I don’t particularly like the Dodgers, but I’m sure not pulling for the Braves or the Trashstros, and it sure is hard to contemplate rooting for the Damn Yankees.

    KW

    11 Oct 20 at 6:32 pm

  45. I missed that Long and Hale are now gone. I have no feelings about Hale, but man, how do they get rid of Long with Soto and Turner turning into two of the best hitters in baseball? I think Long had a lot to do with Howie’s late-career surge, too, and with getting Gomes turned around this year. They weren’t Davey’s guys, though, and this sure seems like a Davey power play, probably connected to his contract extension.

    KW

    12 Oct 20 at 8:46 am

  46. I didn’t realize until this past week what a ball & chain the Nationals coaches were last year to winning the World Series. All these terrible coaches were a huge hill to overcome in 2019.

    On the other hand, this smells of ego and incompetence.

    Mark L

    12 Oct 20 at 9:44 am

  47. Yeah, the coaching shake up has to be a Davey power play. Hopefully he knows what he’s doing. I was surprised by Menhart, but brushed it off hoping that they have a handshake deal with someone well respected (Maddux, Searage, etc). Hale was nothing special in my mind, but agree with KW that Long seemed to be a difference maker. Who do they look for now? Chili Davis after good results in BOS but run out of CHI?

    MG

    12 Oct 20 at 10:13 am

  48. Don Cooper, the pitching coach who worked miracles with Giolito with the Chisox, is said to be out there along with Renteria. Some good possibilities coming on the market.

    In Nat personnel news, Guerra and Sam Freeman have been outrighted, cleared waivers, and elected free agency, clearing more roster spots. I would not be surprised to see one or both show up with the Nats again in the spring, though.

    KW

    12 Oct 20 at 1:59 pm

  49. Zuckerman’s article also mentioned Elias being gone.

    I have 40-man roster at 34/40 right now, with 2 more on the 60-day DL that Zuckerman might be counting.

    Todd Boss

    12 Oct 20 at 3:02 pm

  50. Don Cooper has been with the Sox for over 20 years; I’d be surprised if they let him go.

    Mark L

    12 Oct 20 at 3:27 pm

  51. I stand corrected. After 32 years with the White Sox, including 19 as major league pitching coach, Don Cooper is indeed a free agent.
    Would Martinez’s fragile ego allow someone like him Cooper around. Color me sceptical.

    Mark L

    12 Oct 20 at 3:44 pm

  52. It is official and the Nats will draft at #11 overall in 2021, per The Athletic and other reports.

    SaoMagnifico

    12 Oct 20 at 6:41 pm

  53. With the #11 pick, the Nats will redraft their 35th-round pick in 2018, Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville. Although they need Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami, more. But who are we kidding? They’re gonna take some oversized college pitcher, Jaden Hill (if he falls that far) or Gunnar Hoglund.

    KW

    12 Oct 20 at 10:09 pm

  54. There seem to be competing stories on whether Long wasn’t going to be renewed, or if he asked to be released to seek other opportunities.

    I find Cooper quite interesting, but he’s also 64 and has lived in Chitown for a long time. Who knows whether he still wants to be gone for nine months a year.

    Mark, I don’t know whether we’ll ever know if this had anything to do with Davey’s ego, or even if Davey was calling any of these shots. Nothing ultimately happens without Rizzo signing off on firings or hirings. Sometimes shakeups work; sometimes they don’t (see the Capitals’ disaster). I do think they’ll miss Long. Soto will continue to rise even if I was hitting coach, but if Trea falls back to earth, Long’s departure will have been a huge mistake. Maybe Long is being blamed for Kieboom’s struggles?

    KW

    12 Oct 20 at 10:30 pm

  55. Good old Blake Treinin, some things never change. A high pressure tied game, facing 4 hitters and getting only 1 out.

    I hope, KW, that you’re wrong about next years draft. The Nats desperately need bats in their system. You’re probably right.

    Mark L

    13 Oct 20 at 7:19 am

  56. Yes, for all of those who still regret trading Luzardo, we have yet more evidence that good ol’ Blake (who by all accounts really is a tremendous guy) was never going to be Da Man for us in tight situations.

    For all the money the Dodgers have, and the ridiculous deals they’ve been able to pull off for guys like Machado and now Betts, they’ve never properly accounted for Jansen’s regression on the back end. Of course they paid for it last October with Kershaw and Kelly in relief in a certain Game 5 that we’ll never forget. At least this year, the cardboard fans won’t stream for the exits.

    KW

    13 Oct 20 at 9:56 am

  57. Jansen spurning the Nats’ free agent offer to stick with LA is one of a long list of free agent offers we’ve got to be happy were not accepted. Heyward and Cespedes come to mind, but there are many others (including probably some we don’t know about!)

    Derek

    13 Oct 20 at 12:47 pm

  58. Derek — That might be a good post for Todd to add to his best-of-the-Nats series over the winter: Best Deals Not Made. Certainly pluses not re-signing Desmond or JZim. I know Murphy was the third option, but I’m trying to remember the other two — trading for Tony Phillips was one of them, and maybe the other was signing Zobrist? (Zobrist did fine but wasn’t the near-MVP Murph was.) Melancon struggled the year after the Nats didn’t succeed in re-signing him but has been decent but not spectacular since (and not worth anywhere near his contract). Teixeira had three solid years after spurning the Nats, but being on the hook for eight years with him would have been a next negative. He was in decline by the time the Nats would have gotten good.

    KW

    13 Oct 20 at 2:42 pm

  59. I think Plan A was Zobrist. Supposedly they had the highest offer out for him, but he picked the Cubs instead (I’m sure there was deferred money involved; I don’t know that the public knows how much). And I think Plan B was a trade for Brandon Phillips. Plan C definitely worked out better, though Plan A would have been ok (a lot of Zobrist’s value is in his defensive flexibility).

    Re Davey’s staff, I just don’t know whether the public is in a position to say much about coaches. It’s hard enough to evaluate a manager; evaluating his subordinates is even harder. It’s certainly possible a good coach can make a difference; I doubt outsiders to the team can predict whether a different coach will improve things. Still, I’m a bit surprised the team is (apparently) giving Davey so much authority.

    Derek

    13 Oct 20 at 4:17 pm

  60. Yes, Brandon Phillips, not Tony; Tony was better, and long-retired.

    Long is the only coach over whom I might lose a little sleep. Only a few coaches seem to stand out as somewhat better than others, and he was one of them, . . . at least for some players. The others — meh. It always seemed awkward to force a bench coach on Davey who he didn’t know (Hale). He’s obviously more comfortable with Bogar, FWIW.

    KW

    13 Oct 20 at 5:17 pm

  61. Now Bourque and Read DFA’d. Both have passed through waivers and been assigned to AAA (wherever the Nats’ AAA may be). I don’t remember them being so aggressive so early in the offseason with clearing off the back end of the roster, particularly when they’re going to have a number of open 40-man slots due to free agency. I hope this means that Rizzo plans to be aggressive early in free agency.

    KW

    13 Oct 20 at 6:51 pm

  62. Yeah, it’s unusual. By my count, that’s nine DFAs now with likely ten more free agents pending (assuming no options are exercised), plus the curious case of Michael A. Taylor, who looks awfully redundant on a 2021 roster.

    SaoMagnifico

    13 Oct 20 at 11:47 pm

  63. So it’s an open question how Mike Rizzo manages the roster after the Nats’ first losing season in nearly a decade. With the amount of roster-clearing moves now, I’m studying the list of upcoming Rule 5 eligible prospects. It’s…not a robust list, as you’d expect from one of baseball’s weakest farm systems:

    C Jakson Reetz
    C Taylor Gushue
    C Israel Pineda
    C/INF K.J. Harrison
    INF Gilbert Lara
    INF/OF Cole Freeman
    OF Nick Banks
    OF Rhett Wiseman
    RHP Steven Fuentes
    RHP Sterling Sharp
    RHP Mario Sanchez
    RHP Andrew Lee
    RHP Malvin Peña
    RHP Joan Baez
    RHP Bryan Bonnell
    RHP Ronald Peña
    RHP Jhonatan German
    RHP Jackson Tetreault
    RHP Brigham Hill
    RHP Gabe Klobosits
    RHP Trey Turner
    LHP Alex Troop
    LHP Nick Wells

    So, yeah, I can’t see many of those guys cracking the 40-man roster this winter, and that’s a fairly selective list (focusing on guys who have been in major league spring training, the player pool, or the AFL, or otherwise had prospect buzz at some point or another). Pineda seems like a possibility, and maybe Freeman, but the rest probably don’t get much of a look in the Rule 5, and Rizzo hates using up roster spots on guys he doesn’t think are ready to contribute right away. It’s easy enough to tab some of these guys for looks in spring training, whether as NRIs or split-squad callups, without committing anything.

    So, yeah, I dunno. There’s no obvious reason to clear out the likes of Bourque, Barrett, Read, Espino, etc., before we have to, but that’s what we are seeing.

    SaoMagnifico

    14 Oct 20 at 1:52 am

  64. As always with the Rule V, you worry about losing pitching. Only Fuentes and Sharpe are candidates as they already added ‘knucklehead.

    So that leaves them with 32/40 with 2 on injured list?

    Mark L

    14 Oct 20 at 7:00 am

  65. I’ve never seen the team do so much roster cleaning so quickly into an off-season.

    Todd Boss

    14 Oct 20 at 9:07 am

  66. Todd – what do you think are the best leading explanations for the early roster cleaning? Are there any specific advantages to doing this sort of work now versus later? 2020 is different from prior years along many dimensions, but is there a dimension we can identify that would be relevant to the early roster cleaning? Nothing comes to mind for me, but you guys on here are much more knowledgeable about 40-man roster issues.

    Derek

    14 Oct 20 at 9:51 am

  67. Fuentes and Sharp were eligible last winter too and the Nats didn’t protect them. Maybe they do this time (anyone know if Fuentes earned credit toward games served for his suspension being in the player pool?) but maybe not.

    SaoMagnifico

    14 Oct 20 at 11:54 am

  68. Sao — I’ve asked the same thing about whether Fuentes got suspension time credit in the 60-man camp. No one seems to know. As I recall, he had less than a month’s worth of time left to serve anyway.

    I know that stats aren’t nearly everything, but at (barely) age 22 way back in 2019, Fuentes posted outstanding numbers at AA. Yes, he got caught juicing (with some strange circumstances), but he had been consistently good before then. He had a 2.64 ERA, 2.24 FIP, a K/9 of nearly 9, and a BB/9 of only 2. Most interestingly, they gave him 11 starts, the first time he had started regularly since rookie leagues. He would be my top name on the Rule 5 list to protect, with the caveat that they should have gotten a long look at him in Fredericksburg this summer and should have a pretty solid opinion of what they’ve got in him.

    Sharp is sort of a curious case, because he didn’t stick with the Marlins, but their young pitching and their playoff chances turned out to be better than expected, so their return of him doesn’t look like as much of a diss in retrospect as it did at the time.

    KW

    14 Oct 20 at 12:20 pm

  69. Maybe the Marlins were surprised that they were contending and didn’t want to stash someone.

    Some team that is not interested in winning,like the Pirates or Orioles, would like at least Fuentes at his age.

    Mark L

    14 Oct 20 at 12:47 pm

  70. With so many roster spots open, my thinking is “why not?” But Mike Rizzo and I seem to think about this sort of thing differently, which is probably why he just got a three-year multi-million-dollar contract extension and has three division pennants and a World Series ring, and I’m poor.

    SaoMagnifico

    14 Oct 20 at 1:56 pm

  71. Sao or Todd — Do you have handy a list of who actually ended up at Fredericksburg, over time, to cross-reference with the Rule 5 “contenders”? Frankly, I lost track. There were some who were surprise omissions at the start of the camp who got added later. I know Reetz was there. Maybe they add him. Gushue has been passed over for a number of years, so there shouldn’t be much threat of losing him.

    I’m not sure what Rizzo has in mind for the back end of the 40-man. At the same time, they’ve got NOTHING in the way of hitters in the upper part of the system, and they obviously weren’t too thrilled at the quality of their AAAA pitching, either. Maybe Riz is planning to be aggressive for second-tier/bench guys, particularly ones who might still have options left.

    KW

    14 Oct 20 at 2:15 pm

  72. The Michael A. Taylor era has ended. He was DFA’d, went unclaimed, and elected free agency instead of accepting an outright assignment to the minors. Best wishes to him wherever he ends up. It was time for us to move on.

    SaoMagnifico

    15 Oct 20 at 12:19 pm

  73. RE: player pool. Here’s what I have for the final iteration of the player pool, excluding players who saw MLB time with the Nats this year:

    RHP Joan Adon
    LHP Tim Cate
    RHP Cade Cavalli
    LHP Matt Cronin
    RHP Tyler Eppler
    RHP Steven Fuentes
    RHP Jake Irvin (injured)
    RHP Jackson Rutledge
    RHP Sterling Sharp (injured)
    LHP Nick Wells
    RHP Austen Williams (injured)
    C Taylor Gushue
    C Israel Pineda
    C Raudy Read
    C Jakson Reetz
    C/INF/OF Brandon Snyder
    INF Yasel Antuna
    INF Jackson Cluff
    INF Drew Mendoza
    OF Jeremy De La Rosa

    SaoMagnifico

    15 Oct 20 at 12:25 pm

  74. A fond farewell to Michael Taylor. A class act his whole time here, I hope he hooks up with Dusty Baker, who was the one guy who made him a consistent hitter.

    The great defense, terrific baserunning and a 1.000+ OPS in 16 playoff games will be his mark here. Stevensen’s impressive year made Taylor expendable.

    Mark L

    15 Oct 20 at 2:14 pm

  75. Taylor was already expendable, and they never should have tendered him for 2020, and possibly not for 2019. I just hope that Robles doesn’t turn into the next Taylor, with tantalizing “tools” that never totally add up.

    Sorry, but my lasting memory of Taylor’s defense will always be Puig’s Little League walk-off “homer.”

    Yes, I followed him for a long time, seeing him at ages 19 and 20 at Potomac, but I just never believed that he was ever going to overcome all those strikeouts and become legit. Maybe he’ll end up with Dusty again and find the magic pixie dust.

    KW

    15 Oct 20 at 2:41 pm

  76. I’m still scratching my head about some guys who never got invited to the Fredericksburg camp. I mean, they sent Freeman, Banks, Andrew Lee, and Condra-Bogan to the Arizona Fall League, and at least Banks and Lee had invites to the first Spring Training (as did German), yet they didn’t rate being in Frederickburg over guys like Antuna, Pineda, and de la Rosa? And don’t get me started on the positively bizarre Nats’ career of Andrew Isler.

    Frankly, one of the things that the Nats did to shoot themselves in the foot in 2020 was to make Fredericksburg more of a prospect camp than a usable-piece camp. I don’t know whether Lee, German, or Istler would have been anymore MLB-ready than guys like Bourque or Barrett, but there was more likelihood of them making an MLB appearance than Cronin (and I think highly of Cronin). Mario Sanchez was better at AA in 2019 than Crowe was. Maybe Banks or Freeman wouldn’t have looked MLB-ready, either, but Antuna and particularly de la Rosa are years away. And Cluff really struggled after being drafted last year. It took a while before they invited Mendoza, who I would call a better hitter prospect than any of the others (although who knows about the teenager, who struggled in the GCL in 2019).

    Anyway, if they didn’t invite guys to the Frederickburg camp, they sure as heck aren’t going to protect them from Rule 5. To me, that narrows it down to probably Reetz, Sharp, and Fuentes who they think about protecting . . . even though they left all of them exposed in 2019.

    KW

    15 Oct 20 at 3:00 pm

  77. Kudos to the nats for cutting Taylor loose now, instead of waiting for the non-tender deadline.

    Todd Boss

    15 Oct 20 at 3:27 pm

  78. Todd, I had the same thought, about Taylor and some of the others. It’s a classy move and will give them some opportunities before other players hit the market.

    KW

    15 Oct 20 at 4:19 pm

  79. Sharp is hurt (had leg surgery last month) so I wouldn’t expect him to be under R5 consideration.

    Fuentes is a maybe. Tetreault is a maybe, even though he wasn’t in the player pool; he got some buzz pitching in instrux.

    SaoMagnifico

    16 Oct 20 at 1:38 am

  80. I didn’t know about Sharp’s injury, I wonder if that scares off everybody.
    In about 3 weeks we could be looking at a roster of only 28-29 players. What a strange year.

    Last year my concern in the Rule V was losing Fuentes. Same this year.

    Mark L

    16 Oct 20 at 7:55 am

  81. I haven’t given up on Tetreault, but it’s hard to see them being worried about losing a guy who couldn’t stick at AA on his first try.

    Speaking of guys with injuries, does anyone know anything about Brigham Hill? He missed all of 2019 and I think the last half of 2018. Of course the same was true of Romero.

    It will be interesting to see if they keep Romero in the bullpen or stretch him out. Sorry, but they passed on a lot of starter talent to draft him, so assume they envisioned him as a starter at that time.

    KW

    16 Oct 20 at 9:59 am

  82. So which World Series match-up does MLB fear more: Braves vs. Rays, which no one will watch, or Braves vs. sub-.500 Hated Cheaters?

    And man, Kershaw sucks in the postseason! He’s the greatest regular-season pitcher of this generation, but he’s failed time and again in the playoffs.

    Also, how many chances does Dave Roberts get? He’s gotten them deeper into the postseason than Donnie Baseball did, but still no closer to a crown. Justin Turner in particular has done nothing for them in the postseason. His fat contract is up, and he turns 36 in November, so his future would seem uncertain. I’ve seen some folks mention him as a possible Nat target, with some 1B/3B flexibility. He’s a SoCal guy, though, so hard to seem him crossing the country for a swan song.

    KW

    16 Oct 20 at 10:14 am

  83. I just noticed that the guy who used to wear #34 here turns 28 today. We thought of him as “the kid” for so long, so that’s hard to believe. He’s played nine seasons. Boy, we sure thought in the beginning that he was going to be a Hall of Famer, and particularly after his great 2015 season (during which the team collapsed). Now, perhaps not so much. His top career comps on B-R are Kevin Mitchell, Josh Donaldson, Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, and J.D. Martinez, all good players, but not even mentioned in HOF conversations. His 7-year peak WAR is 30.9, far below the HOF RF average of 42.7. He has 232 HRs through nine seasons, so he’s still got a chance at 500, particularly playing in the Philly bandbox. He still has only topped 40 HRs once, though, in an era of relatively big power. WAR-wise, Harper is on a trajectory that would put him in the career neighborhood of someone like David Winfield, although Winfield topped 3,000 hits. Bryce is only at 1,122, making 3,000 almost totally out of the question.

    Assuming that he stays healthy and doesn’t decline too early, Harper figures to get to WAR of around 60 (give or take), top 400 HRs, maybe around 2,500 hits. His OPS is at .900 now, but those tend to be brought down in players’ 30s, so let’s say .850ish for career. His career BA is .276, and those go down in the 30s as well, so .260-.265 territory. Reggie Jackson, to whom Boz has often compared Bryce, had a .262 BA and 2,584 hits, but Reg had 563 homers, 74 WAR, and a postseason rep that was off the charts. Bryce won’t be close on any of those.

    Bryce certainly could have a career surge ages 28-32 or so, but it’s difficult to see him exceeding my rough projections by THAT much. He’s also always going to be compared to Trout, and unfavorably. Now he also has several other young Turks in the NL as well in Soto, Acuna, and Tatis. It’s going to be harder to lead in offensive categories, or to win MVPs (or even make the playoffs). Hall of the Very Good, here we come, unless he has a real power surge and gets to 500+ HRs.

    KW

    16 Oct 20 at 12:18 pm

  84. Note: All Bryce stats above are bWAR. fWAR is slightly more generous, with him at 36.7 WAR. Still, it’s hard to see him getting to counting-stat career milestones, unless he plays into his 40s or something.

    KW

    16 Oct 20 at 1:55 pm

  85. One thing the Nats could do immediately to boost the value of their farm system: sign Ha-Seong Kim, the 25-year-old Korean shortstop/third baseman being posted this offseason. But that would require Mike Rizzo to make a serious play in the Asian market, which…well, I’m definitely not holding my breath. (Still, we did supposedly have interest in Yu Darvish when he came over, and like 29 other teams, we at least made a pitch to Shohei Ohtani.)

    SaoMagnifico

    16 Oct 20 at 2:53 pm

  86. Sao — I think/hope that 2020 was the wake-up call that the Nats needed to realize that they’ve got to do some things differently. Yes, they’ve gotten almost nothing out of the Asian market. That’s one “inefficiency” they can address. It’s going to be hard to rebuild the farm system, though. I mean, when you spend very few upper picks on hitters, over more than half a decade, it catches up with you.

    I think they’re going to have to try to come up with a big hitter somewhere — trade for Kris Bryant, sign Ozuna, something. (I personally think Ozuna is going to get overpaid somewhere for a career year.) As I’ve noted, I’m not particularly on the Realmuto bandwagon, all the more since he’ll have a QO attached.

    KW

    16 Oct 20 at 10:50 pm

  87. If Rizzo was interested, he could pitch to Kim that Northern Virginia has the 2nd biggest Korean population in America. It would be great for marketing and the Nats need a 3rd baseman.

    Stay away from Ozuna, he plays DH-quality defense.

    Mark L

    17 Oct 20 at 6:14 am

  88. The Nats’ historic indifference toward the Asian market has long baffled me. But with a top player at a position of need coming available, maybe this is the winter that changes? Maybe? Like I said, I’m not holding my breath.

    SaoMagnifico

    17 Oct 20 at 4:07 pm

  89. I’ll pose the question I asked over at TalkNats: How low would Realmuto’s price have to go for you to like the deal for the Nats? I absolutely think we’ll pursue him heavily; it’s not up to us, obviously, but it isn’t an academic question either.

    SaoMagnifico

    18 Oct 20 at 2:41 pm

  90. Grandal got 4/$73M. I think that’s going to be Realmuto’s absolute baseline. My guess would be that his asking price at the start of the process is going to be 5/$100M. He will turn 30 in March. Odds are that he’s not going to be catching full time by the last couple of years of a five-year contract. At that point, he becomes a very overpriced and slightly underpowered 1B/DH.

    Also, I see some very concerning things in Realmuto’s stats. His hard contact declined by 8% and is K rate increased by 4%. His line-drive rate decreased by 9%, while his ground-ball rate went up by the same number.

    I’ll add that projecting any free agent numbers this offseason is going to be hard. Because of the lost revenue from 2020, a lot of teams are going to climb into spending shells, with some already publicly indicating that they will. Big/long contracts are already harder to come by anyway. Look at Ozuna taking a one-year deal from the (CHOKIN’) Barves for 2020. I think we’re going to see more of that this year, and also perhaps more QOs accepted by guys who want to wait for a potentially better market in 2021. I could see Realmuto as a candidate to accept the QO, although I doubt he will.

    For the Nats specifically, I think they only have the money to add one truly big bat, either in free agency or by trading for someone like Kris Bryant. Frankly, I don’t think Realmuto gives them the level of bang-for-buck that they need to add to the lineup for what he would cost. Maybe the Nats would bid in the $16-18M AAV range, thinking they could still add another bat on top of that, but I have a hard time seeing them going into the $20M+ range that Realmuto likely will be seeking.

    KW

    19 Oct 20 at 11:07 am

  91. Well, I’m happy with Hickey. He’s respected, been successful, and the Dodgers hired him so he’s been hired by people who have the means to spend on anyone. This means we can expect the best hitting coach available.

    Obviously there was a problem with Menhart. I’d love for him to be part of the organization, but there are jobs opening up and he’ll be well recommended by the people he coached.

    forensicane

    19 Oct 20 at 2:17 pm

  92. I absolutely think the Nationals will pursue Realmuto. What he brings is unique in baseball, and to a team that values pitching, it’s a big step forward. It would also enable the Nats to sell high on Gomes, who is a next tier but who evoked the hopes that made him very much in demand when the Nationals snapped him up pre-2019.

    If they do not go after Realmuto, it’s because they are pursuing Springer and they will not be able to afford both. I love Springer’s bat in big time games, and the guy’s a winner.

    I’m very happy that the nationals are shedding roster spots rapidly. To me, they are expecting a lot of non-tenders from elsewhere and some of their roster planning derives from there.

    There are a number of folks whom the Nationals can sell higher if they want to, depending on whether they are targeting someone big time. And you need to if you want to win a World Series (See Mookie Betts, rather than Randy Arozarena). This off season has the feel of a Rizzo deal coming like a Gio G/Eaton piece, a starting piece acquired for multiple pieces. Given the inability to scout minor league talent, unless the Nationals are trying to pry a former ultra high round pick that they scouted from the Phillies or Angels (teams that changed GMs), I can’t envision a deal for minor league talent (or depth).

    The variables we don’t know are the expectations for Castro and the signing plan for Turner. I would think that an exciting signing or acquisition will make the signability of Soto greater.

    forensicane

    19 Oct 20 at 2:31 pm

  93. And now the Harrison signing. Nationals taking care of low hanging fruit, very prudent move. Using the veteran formula as it should be.

    forensicane

    22 Oct 20 at 11:36 am

  94. Harrison is a nice returning piece, and the price is right. The price also offsets my primary concern: his only good seasons in recent years have been in 2017 and 2014. If we count 2020 as the next one in his three-year cycle, he’s not due again until 2023! Weirdly, Harrison’s hard-contact rate was only 23% in 2020, but the last time it was that low was in 2017, his last good year. He hit .278 with only a .288 BABIP, which is remarkable.

    Hickey is certainly an experienced pitching coach, perhaps an above-average one. We’ll see. He’ll have the manager’s confidence, and maybe the manager’s ear. Will he be the one who can break it to Davey, and Max, that Max is no longer a seven-inning starter? (Actually, the splits for Max in 2020 that he’s not even a six-inning starter, as his ERA for the 6th was 8.64, with 4 of his 10 homers surrendered.)

    Realmuto — OK folks, I’m open-minded on him. I wouldn’t mind having him on the Nats for the right contract. But I don’t understand the J.T.-or-bust sentiment that’s growing, and my concerns about his declining secondary stats are covered above. Yes, he had 11 homers in 2020, but 8 of them came in his Little League home park. The Nats have a returning catcher who hit .284 (vs. .266 for J.T.). They have a lot of areas of need. And I think the big bucks they need to spend on a hitter should be on someone who can “protect” Soto. I don’t see Realmuto as that level of threat. What am I missing? Convince me.

    P.S. — Maybe they have the money for Realmuto and another big hitter, but probably not if they also go after a #4 starter (although a Gausman isn’t going to cost nearly as much as Realmuto). I don’t know.

    KW

    22 Oct 20 at 2:03 pm

  95. If the DH truly is staying the NL, how about Nelson Cruz for the Nats? (He’s never played 1B in the majors so would be DH-only.) His last contract was 2/$26M and presumably would be looking for something similar, so short-term commitment and low AAV for a genuine impact bat. Also no QO. Yes, he’s 40, turning 41 next July, but he’s still clobbering the ball (#14 ISO in baseball in 2020, #7 wRC+, which tied him with some stiff named Trout). He also has a good rep as a clubhouse leader so could be good for the Latino youngsters.

    I don’t know. I’m just trying to think of a true behind-Soto type impact bat who wouldn’t break the bank or have a QO. Heck, even without the DH, I might try to teach him to play 1B!

    KW

    22 Oct 20 at 2:19 pm

  96. KW, I agree with you. Realmuto is great, but signing him means being willing to pay a 35 year old $20 million, when he probably won’t be able to catch anymore. There’s enormous value in having a good fielding catcher who can hit better than league average, which is what Realmuto is right now. I’m not confident he will be that for much longer, and if he’s not playing catcher, he’s just not a special player. I could be wrong, of course. But it’s a lot of money to risk…

    Derek

    23 Oct 20 at 7:27 am

  97. Kevin Long back, which I see as good news. It was interesting that they left him with a clear path/break to pursue other opportunities while also leaving the door open to come back.

    It’s always hard to know how much to credit or blame hitting or pitching coaches. Trea’s advancement certainly seems built around the Long “approach,” and Long also seems to have honed Soto to another level. Gomes really turned it around. On the flipside, everyone thought Thames would thrive under Long’s influence, but he cratered. Kieboom and Robles looked totally lost. Garcia didn’t adjust well as the league started to figure him out. The franchise is really counting on that trio succeeding. Frankly, when it was thought that Long was leaving, my thought was that he was being shown the door because of the failings of Robles and Kieboom.

    Personalities and stubbornness have a lot to do with things, though. Soto and Robles often train together. Soto is one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball, while Robles is anything but. Does he not watch his friend’s ABs? Is part of the problem that Robles and Kieboom were both hot prospects for so long that they came to believe the hype and didn’t think they needed to improve anymore? I have no idea. But I sure hope 2020 humbled them into being open to new approaches.

    KW

    23 Oct 20 at 11:13 am

  98. As an alternative to Realmuto, a trade to the Royals for Salvador Perez might be a great fit, especially since he is a pending FA. The Nats may not prefer such a deal for a less controllable player, but his lack of team control will make him a lot more approachable in trade price. The guy has won a WS and so he will also come in with the right pedigree. The Nationals gave the Royals what they wanted in the Herrera trade, so there is no reason to think they could not pair up again.

    forensicane

    23 Oct 20 at 3:01 pm

  99. Am I nuts . . . to have an interest in Kris Bryant? He’s a Boras client who had his best seasons with Davey as his bench coach. He’s due $18.6M in arb after an injury-riddled, gosh-awful season, then will become a free agent after just one year. The Cubs are in win-now mode and would be looking for immediate help, and the Nats don’t have much in the way of win-now pieces to offer, other than maybe Fedde or Voth (with whom the Nats decidedly did not “win now” in 2020). Maybe the Nats could dangle Joe Ross if they really are going to sign a #4 starter. Maybe they would think about giving up Kieboom if they think he’s not fixable. To me, though, the best deal from the Nats’ point of view would be something like Cavalli, Sharp, and Irvin for Bryant. Really, that would be a nice return for just one year of a guy who really sucked in 2020.

    Is it worth it? I dunno. Bryant should be available (the Cubs are crazy if they don’t at least dangle him, as they’re sure not going to extend him right now coming off that season). He’d be, or could be, an impact bat to put behind Soto. He’d have the flexibility to fill in LF or 3B, depending on whether Kieboom pans out. Yes, he’s only signed for a year, but in some ways that would be a positive, particularly with Max coming off the books at the same time.

    I’m more floating this than strongly advocating it. But the Boras and Davey connections make it intriguing. And the $18.6M price tag wouldn’t make it prohibitive for them to also sign someone like Cruz if the NL keeps the DH. Trea, Soto, Bryant, and Cruz at the top of the order? Hmm . . .

    KW

    23 Oct 20 at 3:05 pm

  100. Fore — Perez is an interesting thought. He had a monster (for a catcher) 2020 (wRC+ of 162, 11 HRs in only 37 games) but is only under contract for one more year, at a somewhat inflated $14.2M. However, . . . he benefited from a crazy .375 BABIP and had only a 2% walk rate while jumping to a career-high 23% K rate. In 2019, he hit .235, and his career BA is .266.

    With only one year left on his contract, and the Royals not really close in a fairly stacked division, it certainly would make sense for the Royals to float Perez. If they could get him for around the return that they sent for Gomes, then yeah, I could be interested. But I really wouldn’t want to give up too much for a guy who is going to get paid a good bit to only play half the time.

    KW

    23 Oct 20 at 3:18 pm

  101. Scuttlebutt is the NL will *not* have the DH in 2021. Of course, I’ll believe it when it’s confirmed, but it sounds like neither side (the owners and the players) unanimously wants it and they’re anticipating it will take more extensive negotiations to agree on implementing it as a permanent measure. Officially, the line was always that the DH would be in both leagues only for health and safety reasons in 2020 and then revert back to being AL-only in 2021. (Of course, it’s far from clear we’re going to have a normal, 162-game season in 2021, if the coronavirus has anything to say about it…)

    I just read the posting period for Ha Seong Kim opens on November 10. While I don’t expect much from the Nats when it comes to Asian imports, I would really like to see them make a bid here considering he’d come in at a position of need and would instantly give the Nats a consensus top-100 prospect at a time they don’t have one. Leveraging the D.C. area’s sizable Korean community would be an interesting play here, and a signing like this would really put Washington on the map for Korean talent going forward. Like I said: I don’t expect much of anything, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

    If Rizzo mortgages the farm to pay for one year of Bryant, Perez, or anyone else, then he’s an idiot. Sorry. It just doesn’t make sense for a team on the cusp of rebuilding to trade away one or two of the few blue-chippers it has in order to acquire a waning superstar in his walk year. If Rizzo can swing something for Bryant that doesn’t include Garcia, Rutledge, Cavalli, Henry, Lara, or Yean, that’s great. Maybe the Cubs would like Kieboom as the headliner, supplemented with some lower-level pitching talent like Irvin and/or Crowe? It’s just one year of the guy coming off a really bad season…I really wouldn’t want to move off one of the guys we’re desperately hoping develops as a frontline starter and then end up getting ~50 games of a .240 hitter.

    SaoMagnifico

    24 Oct 20 at 12:08 pm

  102. Sao, I’m with you 100% on Kim. It’s better than a trade and there are sizable marketing opportunities.

    Considering how bad Bryant was, you can make an argument that he be non-tendered.
    Perez is the face of the Kansas City franchise.

    Mark L

    24 Oct 20 at 4:32 pm

  103. Since the Nats haven’t really played in the Asian market, I haven’t paid that much attention to the details. Do bids there count against international pool money? They’ve already got a rumored $4M committed to Armando Cruz.

    I would be pleased if the Nats took a shot at Kim with the idea of upgrading their overall prospect quality, but my guess is that they won’t get involved with him because they think they already have a 3B. Rizzo is pretty darn stubborn with insisting that he’s right about prospects, long after the bloom is off. I expect Kieboom to go into next spring penciled in as the starting 3B . . . but with Harrison told to work out a good bit at the hot corner in the offseason. Some of their interest in Kim may also be predicated on what they did or didn’t see from Antuna at the magical mystery camp this summer.

    Bryant is way too valuable a piece for the Cubs to non-tender, but I think they’ll try to trade him. Maybe he ends up replacing Turner at 3B and in the middle of the lineup for the Dodgers. (I do expect SoCal native Turner to re-sign with the Blue, though, although I imagine they will only offer him a much-reduced Zim-type rate, though.) It will be interesting to see how desperate the Cubs get for a Bryant trade as the Dec. 2 tender deadline approaches, though. Perhaps they could get down to Crowe/Irvin territory.

    Irvin, BTW, was a better pitcher at OK than Cavalli was — same school, same conference, same everything. Crowe was better than Cavalli in college as well, in a tougher conference. Why people think Cavalli is such a hot commodity is beyond me. Trade him before folks realize that he’s like Irvin and can’t even get promoted from low-A.

    KW

    24 Oct 20 at 8:31 pm

  104. My understanding is no, at least in Kim’s case, that money does not count against the international bonus pool. I would certainly expect him to get more than Cruz.

    SaoMagnifico

    25 Oct 20 at 11:37 am

  105. KE – on Perez – I should have said that I hate rental player deals and would only be interested if it were a deal in the vein of a Goldshmidt – trade to sign.

    forensicane

    25 Oct 20 at 2:30 pm

  106. The other disclaimer is that no one knows what expectations there should be for Barrera or Reetz. The Nationals know, and if either projects as a starting catcher, we will not be seeing this as a high priority for the team to invest in.

    forensicane

    25 Oct 20 at 2:34 pm

  107. By this I mean a Realmuto or other big catching move

    forensicane

    25 Oct 20 at 2:35 pm

  108. Oh, I also expect Kim to get more than Cruz. Just didn’t know whether it was the same pot of money.

    One interesting thing about Kim is that I see him listed as only 5’9″, 165. That might work at the MLB level at SS/2B, but hard to see him sticking at 3B, even coming off 30 homers in the Korean league.

    Nat catchers: I don’t see Barrera as anything more than Spencer Kieboom’s replacement on the AAA shuttle. There’s value in that, but I’m not counting on much more of a leap. Reetz’s development has been as s-l-o-w as Christmas, but he finally showed some signs of life at Potomac in 2020 (while also striking out a quarter of the time). He was one significantly hurt by the loss of 2020, as they really have no idea whether he can hit at the AA level after it took him three years to master A+. If pressed, I would say that I have a wee bit more long-term developmental optimism for Reetz than Barrera, but not much more. Still, the bar for MLB-level backup catcher is very low, although it’s higher if you’re going to truly split time like the Nats have been doing. Even if Reetz is going to develop into MLB bench level, I still think he’s a couple of years away, so they’ve got to fill for the interim.

    I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Suzuki comes back. He can’t throw or frame, but he can still hit pretty decently, and the pitchers seem to love him. Even with a drop off in 2020, he still hit better than Wilson Ramos, another reunion option lurking out there, as I assume the Mets will buy him out.

    KW

    25 Oct 20 at 5:15 pm

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