Nationals Arm Race

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

Dodgers win the Series: Welcome to the off-season


ARLINGTON, TX – OCTOBER 27: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers holds the commissioners trophy after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game Six to win the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The end of the world series brings the beginning of baseball’s off-season, and the Nats wasted no time officially declaring its free agents to be.

I’m tempted to write about some of the hot-button stories that led from Game 6, notably surrounding Blake Snell‘s ridiculous hook (reminiscent of the Greinke hook in game 7 of last year’s WS) and Justin Turner‘s returning to the field after testing positive for Covid-19. But others have covered it far better than me (both on Snell and on Turner).

See the Nats transaction list officially for all the 9 declaration for 2020 players done on 10/28/20.

As of this writing, the 40-man is as empty as I can ever remember, having shed 9 FAs yesterday and another 10 outrights between Oct 10th and Oct 15th. By my accounting (and per the Big Board)

Notably, a number of players who had options were also declared FAs yesterday, as discussed here. We talked previously about possibly considering options for some of these guys, but none were taken. Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick, Anibal Sanchez and Eric Thames all declined.

As it stands now, the 40-man roster sits at just 28 players. Joe Ross will be the 29th once he’s restored. Technically its at just 25 players, as procedurally the team has not activated its three remaining 60-day DL guys (Strasburg, Castro, Romero).

Lots of work to be done this off-season and the first big decisions just passed by with little fan fare.

61 Responses to 'Dodgers win the Series: Welcome to the off-season'

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  1. Thanks for the links Todd, they’re very useful.
    Turner has to be suspended, doesn’t he? What a dumb jock!

    Mark L

    28 Oct 20 at 4:36 pm

  2. The makings, indeed, of a rather cheap bench: $1M for Harrison, about $560k for Stevenson, about $540k for Noll, and then we would need a backup shortstop and a backup catcher, neither of whom are very expensive.

    Probably you upgrade Noll with a lefty masher type of the sort the Nats love to sign to one-year deals with a mutual option, but 1) it’s not a must, especially if they add a starting first baseman who hits switch or left (a buzzy name at TalkNats has been Josh Bell, and some at MASN like to talk up Tommy La Stella), and 2) those guys are usually pretty cheap anyway.

    For the backup shortstop/MI spot, Freddy Galvis is interesting. He’s a K machine, but he has pop and he’s an above-average defender, and he also switch-hits. Ehire Adrianza had an awful year but was good in 2019, so maybe you try to buy low and hope he rounds back into form, and even if he doesn’t, he likely won’t be playing much anyway, so it’s a low-risk proposition. There’s also, of course, Brock Holt — whom I wouldn’t mind having back for about the same price as Harrison.

    For backup catcher, well, it depends on how the Nats want to go. I think Mike Rizzo will obviously be in on J.T. Realmuto, and I expect he’ll have the go-ahead from the Lerners to pursue this guy the Nats have coveted for the past, like, five years. If that doesn’t pan out, a cheap deal (even a split deal with no major league commitment) on someone like Robinson Chirinos, Sandy Leon, or Welington Castillo again makes sense, especially if the Nats like what little they’ve seen from Tres Barrera. A step up from those guys would be the likes of Jason Castro and James McCann, but they’d cost more and I’m not convinced they’re worth it.


    28 Oct 20 at 4:51 pm

  3. how does Turner test positive if both teams are “in the bubble?” It makes me wonder if we’re not about to find out tomorrow that it was a false positive… i’m sure MLB will suspend him starting next season, unless they can’t b/c it isn’t bargained for behavior.

    Todd Boss

    28 Oct 20 at 5:02 pm

  4. I also had that question, but methinks a guy who is careless enough to go out onto the field, hug people, and take off his mask like an hour after being informed he tested positive for COVID-19 and is shedding virus might be the type of guy who’s not too stringent about following health and safety protocols.


    28 Oct 20 at 7:31 pm

  5. Sao — LOL. You know, I’ve always liked/respected Turner as a player, even on the hated Dodgers, but this has to be pushed, and hard. Why? They’re still going to have to be dealing with virus protocols when the 2021 season starts, and a message has to be sent. Fine the Dodgers $5 million for letting him do it, and suspend Turner for 30 games. That might put a dent in his free-agent signability, but so be it. (For the right price, Turner would interest me as a 3B/1B option for the Nats who could transition into a DH, but he’s a SoCal dude and I doubt will be leaving that area. But he’s also not going to get anywhere close to the $20M he’s been making.)

    Noll isn’t even on my radar as a possibility to make the team. He had a flippin’ 78 wRC+ at Fresno in 2019. For reference, Difo’s was 99.

    Stevenson intrigues me, although I’m not sure whether we’re being conned. His big spurt at the end of a meaningless season reminds me so much of den Dekker at the end of 2015. I confess that I bought that one hook, line, and sinker. In 2016, he hit .176 in the majors and .207 at AAA. Fool me once . . .

    I do think Stevenson is good enough to stick on the bench. He’s also shown good ability as a pinch hitter, particularly down the stretch in 2019. But golly, he sure looked like he could be considered as a starter the way he played at the end of 2020. (Sucker bet, sucker bet . . .)


    29 Oct 20 at 8:59 am

  6. Oops, Turner has to be “punished,” not “pushed.”


    29 Oct 20 at 8:59 am

  7. This offseason, for me, is the most difficult in memory to project.

    I have, enough times to be redundant, ridiculed the pundit class as pitiful, altogether lazy and less informed than we are, and for that reason not getting hung up in prospect rankings and their sense of what is to come. That seems almost secondary now; there are forces that impact the Nationals planning that we just cannot account for:

    1) Payroll – How COVID-21 and the contraction of the real estate marketplace impacts the Lerners. I think payroll will not change for the Nationals because the owners are sensitive to give the community a top product on the field. They are running the Nationals to create a profit, but MLB is not a money losing business for a team that recently won a World Series and has the star power of Juan Soto and Trea Turner.

    2) Baseball economics – At this point, the Nationals’ failures in developing position players can be better masked than ever before, because the free agent merketplace will be more flush with talent than ever before, and that includes younger talent that is cut loose because of arbitration eligibility. Among these players are those whose 2020 seasons were outliers because of the season conditions, and for whom knowing a player is essential to knowing their ability to bounce back. For all we know, and he will be doing it elsewhere, Adam Eaton has an excellent 2021. I think the Nationals do a generally excellent job of identifying major league players that are undervalued and due to rise. Some of their most memorable misses have been players (primarily pitchers and in particular relievers they correctly identified when available and then gave up (sometimes necessarily) on when the players underperformed (T Rosenthal, G Holland, Gott, Austin Adams, X Cedeno, Y Petit, Rich Hill). But then there are players like Suzuki 2, Harrison, Lind, A Cabrera, & Kendrick who were excellent bargain buys, and Rizzo specials from the minors like T Rainey, J Ross, C Robinson, Turner, and Finnegan. So there is, right now, unmatched inventory from which the Nationals can meet their needs. The team has acted very quickly to open up its roster, which tells me that they intend to capitalize on the immense reshuffling of talent this winter and to capitalize on bargain buying early. In this regard, the team’s major league scouting apparatus will serve them well, because they know who they like and Martinez and Rizzo have a proven eye for flagging talent that helps the team — at least among supporting and role players. What is yet unproven and may hurt the team in 2021 is less success in identifying players who can step in, from a lack of opportunity with other teams, and be starting players for a championship team. That may be an unfair criticism since the Nationals won the WS with Suzuki, Gomes, Kendrick, and Eaton, but I am also thinking of Brian Dozier, Castro, and Harris. The Rays in particular, and someone like Brian Cashman sets the standard on that. But that is a skill the team needs in its roster building based on its holes for 2021.

    3) Prospect development – No one outside the organization can assess how big a developmental leap players whom we did not see did, in fact achieve. The team’s injuries pushed some players up from Fredericksburg unexpectedly (Garcia, Romero); others that we might have expected never surfaced despite apparent opportunity (Cronin), and others only late (Stevenson, McGowin). What we do know is that a raft of players from different levels were cultivated in a way that is totally different from a typical minor league season. And then, others went to the Instructional League. There is no AFL in which to watch A+-AA showcase talent. So we don’t even know what we have.

    What this means, from a roster standpoint, is that we really have no idea how close to the majors several starting options are. But we know that there are outstanding starting pitcher prospects in the pipeline. Strasburg remains here, Corbin remains here, Scherzer has one year committed. And then ?? Are the starting pitcher treasures in the system AA caliber yet? If so, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should be preparing for the entrée of Cavalli/Rutledge at the beginning of 2022? What is the plan is for Seth Romero? If the plan is for him as a starter, another long-term signing clogs the pipeline (and payroll) and sets up another prospect, whomever it may be, to be jettisoned to another organization to blossom. There is no reason at this point to invest in a meh 4th or 5th starter. There are other options as well – Ross, Crowe (who always struggles when he goes up a level), Cate, even McGowin (in addition to Voth and Fedde). To me, if investment is to come, better to target a “sure thing” like Bauer with the idea that Scherzer transitions into a #3 or #4 and eventually, the next coming of John Smoltz, hopefully as a National.

    There’s also organizational bullpen talent we cannot account for. Cronin is the most heralded, but any of the above, or Fedde/Voth, may be headed for the bullpen. And with Finnegan available for us last year, and Harris and Hudson underperforming as pricey sign, the adage of “What the hell do you got to lose?” seems a good fit.

    As for the position players, it’s a common exercise to trash the Nationals’ inventory at every position. But we really don’t know how far along Jakson Reetz is. Or where Tres Barrera will be after winter ball. That thinking affects catching decision-making with Gomes coming off a good enough year to claim a starting catcher role – or to be traded high. We know that Kieboom’s star has fallen, and we also know that Donaldson would have been a mistake to sign regardless. Should he not have broken a wrist, Castro moved to third (rather than Brock Holt/Josh Harrison) might have put the Nationals in the playoffs.

    4) What we do know – Eaton is out and likely won’t return. He’s just too high risk at any salary to be a starter or even a bench player – even if 2020 was a COVID aberration. This makes Springer a natural target and complement to Soto. It gives Robles a chance to develop and even fits well with an expanded role for Stevenson. We also know that third base is a hole, as is first base. No help is coming in the immediate future from within the organization. Does Kendrick come back cheaper after showing he is rehabbed? Does Castro play 3B? Does DJ LeMahieu fit as a steady star player? Does Justin Turner (all mask sanctimony aside)?

    5) Conclusions – Rizzo is very aggressive and has been so this off season. Sentimentality has been aggressively rinsed. There is a LOT of inventory, which helps the Nats. Rizzo moves in his targets. So once we know who will be available, I think we’ll start to see the nationals try to jump to the front of the line to implement a plan for who plays where.


    29 Oct 20 at 11:36 am

  8. So, Turner broke protocols, came back out on the field, celebraeted with his teammates w/o a mask, etc. after testing positive.

    So now every single person on that field that night has been directly exposed, should immediately get tested and should quarantine for 14 days under federal guidelines.

    So here’s a question; EVERYONE on that field should have had a rapid test done that night. If not the next morning. Those rapid tests return results in like 45mins.

    how come we havn’t heard about ONE single additional positive case yet?

    Todd Boss

    29 Oct 20 at 11:38 am

  9. Ahhh, yes.

    And if we hear about another positive case (of many), how is it that not one positive case from MLB this year, even those who felt awful as they had it, required even hospitalization? The same to be said among those playing college football?


    29 Oct 20 at 11:52 am

  10. Good analysis fore.

    KW, agree completely on the suspension. Give Turner 45 games and let him appeal it to 30. The Dodgers were complicit in all this.

    den Dekker had over a .930 OPS that September. We didn’t really know him that well though, and the Nats have known Stevenson for awhile now. This year his defense was better than Robles and he hit a LOT better.

    Mark L

    29 Oct 20 at 12:39 pm

  11. I wrote a lot about Nat economics in the last set of comments so won’t repeat myself too much. I also laid out sort of a tightest-belt scenario. I don’t think they will be at that level, but if I had to guess, I would say they only spend $25-30M more, which would take them out of the Realmuto/Ozuna/Springer conversations.

    Here’s the thing, though — while Realmuto and Springer would be nice additions to the Nat lineup, they don’t meet THE fundamental need: being enough of an offensive threat to keep teams from walking Soto. The only two guys I see in the FA class who could effectively hit behind Soto would be Nelson Cruz or the 2020 version of Ozuna (but not the 2018-19 version — buyer beware). Could Cruz learn 1B (where he’s never played in the majors) or not do too much damage in LF?

    I do think the Nats could shop in the Cruz/LeMahieu/Justin Turner range, maybe $13-15M AAV. LeMahieu could be slotted in at 1B but available if 3B remains a problem. He might not be as much of a “threat” hitting behind Soto, but he’s also almost guaranteed not to kill a rally and could end up driving in 120 batting behind Trea and Juan. To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought that much about LeMahieu because he isn’t a big bopper, but the fact that he isn’t might in itself keep him affordable, and with his age, his contract won’t have to be that long. (As noted, I don’t think Turner is leaving Cali.)

    It’s going to be a weird offseason, though. I think most teams will start off with tentative (low-ball) offers, afraid that they’ll end up bidding against themselves, or way overbidding. Players who don’t play at the offered level and make a deal early may be waiting a long time. Guys at the lower end of the spectrum are probably going to feel compelled to take some very low deals or risk waiting until March for the phone to ring. (That’s why Harrison jumped now, so he can have a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.)

    It will be interesting to see if the Nats re-sign any of the declined option or FA guys in the exclusive period through this week. I would take Eaton back for the MAT price, $3.25M or so, but with no promise that he’ll start, although you would figure that they would prefer a RH OF bat opposite Stevo. They’ll probably make Doo a low offer, maybe Howie, maybe even Sanchez. They’re probably having conversations with Holt, and maybe Cabrera, with the Harrison offer on the table for them as well. Did they actually “go after” re-signing Harrison, or was he just the only one who took their low-ball offer?

    Sao hit on most of the second-tier catchers who could get in the conversation. As I’ve said, I wouldn’t sleep on a possible Suzuki or Ramos reunion, either. Not my preference, but they could do worse.


    29 Oct 20 at 2:27 pm

  12. If I had to guess, I would say that Zim, Howie, and Sanchez probably retire. (Nats to Oblivion alert!) I think Eaton and Doo get better offers elsewhere, and that the Nats don’t show much interest in Cabrera. I do think the Nats would like to have Holt back, although he faded after his hot start. So my guess would be Holt comes back and maybe Doolittle, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they just wipe the slate clean.


    29 Oct 20 at 2:34 pm

  13. Cleveland just put Brad Hand on waivers. He’s due 1/10M on a 2021 club option, which they are apparently too cheap to pay despite his dominance this season. The Nats have priority over just about every other team that could feasibly claim him. We don’t have unlimited money, obviously, but that’d be a hell of a way to kick off hot stove season.


    29 Oct 20 at 2:55 pm

  14. Thanks Mark L, but I’m afraid everyone is missing the bottom line point of what I was suggesting, which is happening today. There are a lot of good players being cut loose right now who are arb eligible, and when the market shakes out, the selection will be bigger – including bats — than expected.

    If Rizzo/Martinez do their homework and ID those players that really fit, they can make a waiver claim of a particularly good fit or lure someone in who clears waivers. But the pool is still expanding so we’re figuratively “adding Derek Norris” when we should be p-a-t-i-e-n-t for a few days.


    29 Oct 20 at 2:59 pm

  15. I would do cartwheels to get Hand. But yes, $10M is a big chunk if you’re only going to spend $25-30M overall . . . particularly with the breaking news that Soto is probably a Super Two (which shouldn’t come as a surprise to them). Roberto Osuna is also afloat in the same outright waivers boat, although he has a lot of baggage.


    29 Oct 20 at 4:36 pm

  16. And yes, Fore is right, the current economics are forcing some unexpected releases/opportunities, like Hand. So Rizzo and friends are sitting there debating whether you get more bang from a dominant closer than you do a fourth starter for about the same price. (When I went to look up Hand’s stats on Fangraphs, he was the #1 trending player name in the search box, so I guess a few folks are looking at him!)


    29 Oct 20 at 4:40 pm

  17. Sao, be a little kinder to Cleveland. There are some teams that were significantly affected by this year. Not everyone is worth 6+ billion like the Lerners.

    I agree with fore on being patient. One exception would be Brad Hand, who has game changing stuff.

    There are a lot of teams that will be shedding payroll this month and next. The Nats need players and there will be lots of choices.

    Mark L

    29 Oct 20 at 4:46 pm

  18. Oh, no, I mean WE should be patient. I think Rizzo learned his lesson from the Derrick Norris and Trevor Rosenthal experiences, that he need not overvalue a risky asset when the overall market has not even filled yet. Rizzo strikes fast and knows whom he wants (and the Nats got good value on Suzuki and Gomes that way), but we on the board need to recognize that the inventory we see now is not going to be the inventory a week from now, etc. So long as the team knows whom it REALLY wants, then they can snap up folks who fit the production/clubhouse/lineup/roster need.


    29 Oct 20 at 5:08 pm

  19. FWIW, Rosenthal was lights out . . . in 2020. I also heard universal praise for what a nice guy he is. So the instinct was good on him. He just couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at the time. He’s available again, though . . .

    I agree that the Derrick Norris thing smacked of undue desperation, and it blew up on them, perhaps because of lack of due diligence.

    A play for Hand wouldn’t surprise me. The Nats have been rumored trying to trade for him several times, particularly when he was with the Pads. It would really solidify that bullpen to add him to Hudson, Rainey, Harris, Finnegan, and Suero. That truly would give them three innings of A and B bullpens.


    29 Oct 20 at 5:35 pm

  20. Agreed KW. Gives them a year to figure out where Cronin is headed in his development, as well as Romero and lesser knowns like Evan Lee. Doolittle is gone and the team should move beyond the annual Sam Freeman/Fernando Abad cattle calls.

    The problem, however, is that he will likely be claimed before the Nats get a chance. Arte Moreno would like him as much as we do and would write a fat check.


    29 Oct 20 at 5:44 pm

  21. Regarding Hand, we are 11th in line to grab him. Without looking who’s ahead of the Nats, agree the Angels are probably the most likely to do it, BUT they don’t even have a GM right now so that could muddy the waters.

    There are a lot of teams looking to subtract, not add this off-season.

    Mark L

    30 Oct 20 at 7:35 am

  22. On the one-year anniversary of the Nats’ one and only glorious world championship, and at the same time in the midst of roster turnover that really seems like the end/passing of an era, I think we should pause to remember that team, and a lot of guys who have probably made their last appearances in Nat uniforms:

    By my count, only 11 of the 25 on that roster are still with the team — 7 pitchers and only 4 field players, including just 1 infielder (Trea). This is just 366 days later, and 56% of the championship roster is gone.

    A few are legends. Rendon, of course left for a life-changing contract, one goosed by tens of millions because of his postseason performance, with an unbelievable number of late-inning clutch hits and homers. Ryan Zimmerman, forever Mr. Nat, had a couple of big moments, from his shrug-inducing bloop single before Soto’s heroics in the wild card to his three-run blast off of Cole in Game 1 in the World Series that loudly announced that we didn’t give a damn about the Astros’ gaudy record. Howie Kendrick hit what might stand forever as the two greatest home runs in Nationals history, following a regular season in which he hit .344. Cabrera has 40 RBIs in 38 games, an almost-forgotten key to the run to secure a wild-card spot. Parra, of course, had juiced the reboot, aided and abetted by his fellow dugout DJ, Sanchez, who served his own notice with a dominant NLCS performance. Doolittle struggled some later in the season after injuries, but during the big mid-season turnaround run, he was the glue of the otherwise struggling bullpen. Over his Nat career, he posted 75 saves.

    Happy trails to these guys, and thanks for all the memories.


    30 Oct 20 at 8:52 am

  23. I’m not so sure we’ve seen the last of Kendrick. As I read it, he is rehabbing injuries and is in a “show me” mode. The team has been very very fair with him — they paid him 8.25 m to be a part time and under-performing player last year. He is loyal, part of the Nats culture, and if Gomes would come back on a team friendly deal, I see Howie doing the same – eventually. He is a champion, a winner, and a safe bet, even with a slight overpay.


    30 Oct 20 at 10:51 am

  24. As for Doolittle, I’m reminded that Hudson signed very late. I think Doolittle will wait to see how the market shakes out and then there will be a circle back discussion about a reunion at a team friendly price.

    Remember, the narrative of the Lerner-Rizzo nobody wants to play for the racist Nationals who fired Dusty Baker bullshayt purveyed by the Washington Post has been demolished. The Nationals are one of the marquee franchises people WANT to play for. That helped in the draft with the signing of undrafted FA (the Nationals signed more than all but four teams), it has helped with free agents in earlier years, I’m sure it helped with Josh Harrison re-upping affordably, it is helping in the international marketplace in Latin America, and watch how it helps the Nationals now amidst market spasms.

    We will see the goodwill pay off at the major league level in the competitive marketplace, especially now that the Nationals clearly have holes. Does that matter? Maybe not, because the Nationals outbid the competition for the people they want. But they did that once for Jason Heyward, and he went elsewhere (thank the Lord). They did if for Corbin, and he came here. So yeah, if they want Springer, Lerner and Rizzo will get him. The more I think about it, the more I think that is the play, because the contract he signs will be cheaper than that of Bryce Harper, he will give better defense, and he may well give better production (playing under Kevin Long) when all is said and done.


    30 Oct 20 at 10:59 am

  25. I also think a signing of DJ Lemahieu is worth it. I’m no scout, but living in NYC and watching Yankee games in person, I found myself dispassionately coming to the conclusion that he was the best player on the field. Hits, hits for clutch, defense is outstanding, and he plays heads up all the time. A real spark and leader who upgrades his team. Yeah, that’ll work.


    30 Oct 20 at 11:02 am

  26. I tend to look at year to year transition as an Expos fan. The team had a great farm system such that it truly reloaded when big contracts were moved. Ron LeFlore was an exciting player. When he moved on, Tim Raines took over atop the lineup! Jeff Reardon was a dominant closer. Who was replaced by other dominant closers in succession. And so on. When the replacements ran out, the losses were p-a-i-n-f-u-l. Like catcher after Gary Carter.

    And so it is with the Nats. Ian Desmond the fixture was ultimately (not immediately) replaced by Trea Turner. Ryan Zimmerman, no longer able to play third, was a real loss until Rendon settled in there. Gio Gonzalez by Patrick Corbin, and the Nationals signed Scherzer knowing a peaking JZimmermann was headed out of town a year later.

    So here we are. Harper has not yet been replaced. Eaton did well in the championship year, but the loss was more exposed this past year. And clearly the team has not yet replaced Rendon. I respect them for not panicking with Josh Donaldson. One could also argue that catcher has been a gap since Wilson Ramos left on a high (but a busted knee). And the solution, Suzuki-Gomes, worked well enough (though that problem remains). Hell, you might even say that back end of the bullpen was not the same since Clippard left town (though again, it pulled together for September-October 2019). Let’s hope the Harris 2020 was a COVID aberration.


    30 Oct 20 at 11:25 am

  27. The Nationals ranked eighth in MLB by catcher OPS this past season.

    WSH catchers, 2020: .286/.792 (8th)
    WSH catchers, 2019: .240/.742 (10th)
    WSH catchers, 2018: .214/.624 (25th)
    WSH catchers, 2017: .208/.594 (30th)
    WSH catchers, 2016: .297/.833 (1st)
    WSH catchers, 2015: .223/.609 (27th)
    WSH catchers, 2014: .247/.642 (24th)
    WSH catchers, 2013: .239/.661 (21st)
    WSH catchers, 2012: .237/.659 (23rd)

    Our aversion to being in the middle of the pack is remarkable. And that whiplash from getting elite offense from our catching (best in MLB) in 2016, when we lost Wilson Ramos on a play at the plate days before the playoffs, to the disastrous catching (worst in MLB) in 2017, a year that ended with Matt Wieters having one of the worst games of his entire life…


    30 Oct 20 at 11:38 am

  28. It may be obvious, but I would loooove Charlie Morton (whom the nationals bid hard for two years ago) and JA Happ would look good here, too.


    30 Oct 20 at 11:41 am

  29. Morton would be a great addition for sure, if the price is right and he doesn’t just retire (which I half-expect him to).


    30 Oct 20 at 12:32 pm

  30. Yeah, I had seen some hints that Morton might retire. He’s turning 37, and Happ is 38. Would you rather pay $8-10M to one of those guys, or to someone like Gausman? Or would you be better served by getting Hand?

    That gets back to one of the questions that will shape the Nat offseason: are they satisfied with two starters at the back end of the rotation from among Ross, Fedde, and Voth? They may not even have that answer yet as Hickey watches tape of all of them and looks to see what he might be able to fix. If they decide that they aren’t going to spend on another starter, then that will give them resources to shift to other areas, maybe sign two better hitters instead of just one. But if the back end of the rotation falls apart, better hitters aren’t going to matter that much.


    30 Oct 20 at 12:45 pm

  31. LeMahieu has made $12M per with the Yanks. I would pay him that in a heartbeat. Does he want more? Can he get more in a depressed market, particularly turning 33 next summer? I honestly don’t know how baseball values him in these days of “three true outcomes.” Also with D.J., there’s the question of how much you trust his mid-career Murph-like improvement and new-found power. Maybe 3/$40M, or 2 plus an option that would collectively guarantee him around $28-30M?

    I wonder whether LeMahieu was an LSU teammate with Walt Harris. Just looking for a connection that might be a selling point.


    30 Oct 20 at 1:33 pm

  32. With Howie, I imagine the Nats have left the door ajar for him, but for only a small salary. He’d certainly be better off in a situation where he could just DH.


    30 Oct 20 at 1:43 pm

  33. And Kluber hits the market. I have no idea for what price or years. His $18M option got declined, and there are the injury issues, so what would you say, maybe $12-15M range? Or something like 1/$12M with a $12M option/$5M buyout so he’s guaranteed $17M? Or will teams just say that he’s Corey Friggin’ Kluber and pay him $25M? (Highly doubtful in this market.)

    I dunno, man. I mean, a healthy Kluber could make the starting rotation insane. But an unhealthy Kluber would tie up a lot of cash that could be spent on a hitter or two.

    I think that’s where I ultimately end up: the Nats probably need to spend more on hitters than they do on pitchers. If they’ve only got one $12-15M slot open, it needs to be on a hitter.


    30 Oct 20 at 7:05 pm

  34. Speaking of Brad Hand, No One claimed him and he’s now a free agent. I’m hoping the Nats go after him. At what price?

    As for hitters, we have to to wait for the Q O before we see who’s available.

    Mark L

    31 Oct 20 at 12:41 pm

  35. I don’t understand Hand going unclaimed. At least in “normal years,” Hand would be looking at an AAV in the $13-15M range, if not more. He’s still almost guaranteed to get more than $10M. This is all a blessing for him. I would say that he’s get at least 3/$36M, which is too rich for the Nat’s needs right now.

    QOs for hitters — you only have to give up the 2d-round pick now, so not as big a deal, although it’s still likely to be a top-50 pick considering how low they finished. Realmuto and Springer will have QOs, and Ozuna and Cruz can’t since they’ve been tagged before. I see LeMahieu and Branley as a QO question marks. The tag line is probably $3-6M more than LeMahieu is going to get paid somewhere in salary, so it would be a risky play by the Yanks to tag him and potentially get stuck paying almost $19M. In this market, LeMahieu would be smart to accept the QO. Craig Edwards at FG puts the FA price for LeMahieu at only 3/$31M. (If so, then Rizzo should cut that check this week.) I wouldn’t hate Brantley but am sort of skeptical of him for the Nats because of his DH-level defense now.

    Edwards sees 1/$12M for Cruz. There’s some serious bang for those bucks. I would be somewhat surprised if he doesn’t stay in the AL, but goodness, I’m intrigued by that bat in the middle of the Nat lineup. For the price of Realmuto by himself, you might be able to have a top of the order of Turner, LeMahieu, Soto, and Cruz. By wRC+ in 2020, that’s #’s 1, 4, 8, and 12. The Braves had #’s 2, 3, and 11, so that’s the type of firepower it would take to compete with them.


    31 Oct 20 at 2:43 pm

  36. Fuentes added to 40-man. I was finally right about something! Will he be the only one before the Rule 5 deadline?


    1 Nov 20 at 12:17 am

  37. Lots of interesting/formerly very good starters not having options picked up or already FAs: Lester, Archer, Morton, Happ, Wainright, Arrieta, Gio, Sanchez, et al. Kluber is in the same boat, although he may qualify for a bigger contract, but who knows? Anyway, this looks like a real glut in this particular segment at the time of an already-depressed market, all the more with so many slightly starters already as free agents.

    Would one or two of these guy who probably could be had for $5M (or less in some cases) be better than Ross/Fedde/Voth? I honestly have no idea. A number of the FAs look “done,” or at least on the slippery slope in that direction. Perhaps a couple will recapture a little past magic, but most won’t.

    I know there’s talk of the Nats shopping at the $10-12M level for a Gausman/Tanaka/Kluber/Porcello level starter. On one hand, I do think there’s more likelihood that one of these guys would be “better” than Ross/Fedde/Voth than there is that one of the guys from the previous paragraph would be. On the other, I see this level as less of an economic reality/possibility for the Nats, particularly with starting players needed for the OF and 1B. We’ll see. My heart just gives an extra thump when I see a big name hit the market . . . only to look at their stats and see how far they’ve fallen recently.


    1 Nov 20 at 1:42 pm

  38. Well, free agency period starts now, so if there is anyone teams are targeting to snap up before demand builds, we’ll see it over the next couple of weeks, and what it sets for price points.


    1 Nov 20 at 4:25 pm

  39. QOs: Bauer, Realmuto, Springer, and Stroman make perfect sense. All theoretically have enough of a market to safely turn down the offer.

    As I noted above, there was a possibility the LeMahieu would get tagged. The QO is probably $4-7M more than he likely would get AAV on the market. However, he’s probably in line to get a three-year deal that would double the QO overall. Any regression of note and that would fizzle. I say he turns it down, but that it’s a close call. Wouldn’t be surprised if he takes it.

    Then knock me off the couch with Gausman getting QO. This is a $9M guy getting a $19M QO. He’ll probably take it, but as with LeMahieu, this might also be a brief window for him to get a three-year deal that would pay him significantly more over time. If he reverts to his 2019 ERA of 5.72, he might be lucky to get a $5M offer for 2022.


    1 Nov 20 at 8:20 pm

  40. Agree, KW, on Gausman. If he’s smart, he’ll take it and after looking at his 2019 numbers the Nats would be nuts to even talk to him.

    With no QO Brantley is looking good. There are some good arms available for the front office to choose from, will Rizzo strike fast or not?

    Mark L

    2 Nov 20 at 5:32 am

  41. Here’s your laugh for the day. Go to this page and search “Nationals”:

    They have the Nats listed as a possible landing spot for basically half of the top 50, including 8 of the top 10, yet they only directly project Ozuna as ending up with them.


    2 Nov 20 at 1:35 pm

  42. Gausman accepts QO (didn’t have to ponder that one!) and Stanton decides not to opt out.


    2 Nov 20 at 1:38 pm

  43. I think Realmuto will get paid, between $20 to 25M per, because he has a unique skill set. (At least until it goes bad, then he becomes Buster Posey.) But I think there’s so real overestimation of the market for the rest of them. You have to have multiple teams willing to bid to get up to the $22-25M AAV level projected for Springer, and I have a hard time seeing a lot of teams jumping in at that price level in this market, particularly when guys like Ozuna and Brantley can be had for fewer dollars and years. I would vote Brantley the most likely on the upper part of the board to still be sitting at home in Feb. unloved.

    Both MLBTR and FG project Kluber 1/$12M. Dang, that would be tempting, even with the injury risk. If there is an injury, the Nats would still have Fedde/Voth in reserve. If there isn’t, they could have an epic rotation. Plus with the one-year deal, Max will be coming off the books next year (and presumably re-signing for a lot less), so maybe they could keep both of them for a couple of more years going forward.


    2 Nov 20 at 2:43 pm

  44. I like the Ozuna->Nats projection (especially if the DH stays as I suspect it will). He isn’t terrible in LF and the Nats could go Ozuna left, Robles center, Soto right. Plus it weakens a divisional rival in Atlanta.

    I like the idea of taking a flier or two on a SP. Kluber, Walker.

    I love the idea of going with Joc Pederson and platooning him with Ryan Zimmerman another RH bat. I think Zimmerman can still hit lefties, and Pederson can still hit righties.

    Todd Boss

    2 Nov 20 at 4:39 pm

  45. Oops, I just read what I miswrote. I think SPRINGER could still be home in February, not because he’s a bad player, but because of bad economics right now combined with other viable OF options.


    2 Nov 20 at 10:05 pm

  46. FG has Ozuna at 17.5 AAV for four years; MLBTR has him at 18 for four. I think that’s at the very upper end of where the Nats might go, but still possible. SHOULD Ozuna be the guy? Damned if I know. He was a monster in 2020 but helped immeasurably by a ridiculous .391 BABIP. It was .257 in 2019, when his OPS was 260 points lower. He was still a decent player in 2018-19, but probably not a $70M one.

    Still . . . as I’ve said, the only two traditional big bats I see on the FA board in this market who truly could “protect” Soto would be Nelson Cruz and the 2020 version of Ozuna. (I just don’t think of Springer as that guy, but maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think the Nats will be in the Springer market anyway, though.)

    LeMahieu would be a non-traditional approach to someone behind Soto, but still an extremely effective hitter.

    Mark keeps advocating for Brantley, and I wouldn’t be against him. I’ve mentioned Pederson as well, not as efficient a hitter, but cheaper, although not as cheap as he would have been before the postseason.

    The overriding question, of course, is how much the Nats are willing to spend. There’s a big difference even between $30M and $40M. I’m thinking that’s as high as they will go. I see a big hitter or two as priorities over a starter. It’s going to be interesting. Will Rizzo leap early, or try to ride out the market and hope the prices fall?


    2 Nov 20 at 10:25 pm

  47. Was just looking through the list for Boras clients. This is an amazingly slow offseason for him, perhaps by design, as maybe he sensed what was coming. Anyway, he has none of basically the top 20 guys, which is amazing in this day and age. Boras clients: JBJ, Paxton, Rosenthal, Profar, and G. Holland. Unless I missed anyone, that’s it among the MLBTR top 50. Rizzo might get calls about Paxton and Profar in particular. Paxton at $10M might be worth the gamble I mentioned of Kluber at $12M. Or maybe you offer either of them 2/$20M with the second year with a $2M buyout, so they’re guaranteed the $12M but only count $10M against the tax line.

    However, . . . I’m not interested in spending that much on a pitcher if it takes us out of the $15M ballpark for a hitter.


    2 Nov 20 at 10:40 pm

  48. Ozuna IS terrible in the field. Todd might be remembering his early days in St. Louis when he was rated a above average fielder. He then had shoulder issues and has since been a total liability in the field.

    Brantley has averaged an OPS of .800-850 his whole career. No super stud but consistant.
    Springer is a better player but he has that Houston smell to him.

    KW, Paxton is very intriguing. Hes terrific when healthy but….

    Mitch Moreland was just dropped by San Diego. Hes a 1B/DH type, 35 years but his OPS IN 2020 was .894.

    Mark L

    3 Nov 20 at 9:57 am

  49. I love the mlbtraderumors hot 50. Always one of the best features of their great site. That said, there projections about the Nationals are way off and reflect that they don’t know the team.

    The Nationals will NOT sign a bad defensive outfielder, period. So forget Ozuna. They will ONLY add two way talent. So as I see it, this team will bid high on Springer unless character issues spook them away.

    Tajuan Walker? They will not allocate payroll for a #5 starter who could be #4. They would allocate more payroll for a Doug Fister type (Charlie Morton).


    3 Nov 20 at 10:44 am

  50. Ozuna’s defensive stats in LF:

    He had POSITIVE UZR and DRS figures the last 5 years running. Only in 2020 did we see a dropoff, a partial season that should be ignored.

    Besides…. who frigging cares what the left fielder’s UZR rating is. Does he hit homers? is he a potent bat in the middle of the order? That’s all I want out there. I mean, we had Adam Dunn in left field his first year here.

    Todd Boss

    3 Nov 20 at 11:05 am

  51. I like a 1 year flier on Kluber, or Morton (still can’t believe he had his option declined).

    Todd Boss

    3 Nov 20 at 11:05 am

  52. Fun fact: Jim Bowden did his run through of top 25 FAs ..

    not ONE Nationals free agent made his top 25, and only three even made his honorable mention list (Zimmerman, Suzuki, Doolittle). No mention of Eaton, Kendrick, Thames, etc.

    Todd Boss

    3 Nov 20 at 11:08 am

  53. If you find a good defensive outfielder out there, let us know! Springer, Ozuna, Brantley, Cruz, Pederson, and Puig all have generally negative defensive ratings. There seems some likelihood that Soto will move to RF and leave LF to some DH type. I have heard both Ozuna and Brantley described as playing “DH-level defense” in recent times, and of course Cruz does as well. Profar has good defensive numbers in LF, and JBJ has mostly played CF (with good success), but those are much lower-impact bats. Who knows, though, that might be the basement where the Nats are having to shop for bargains.


    3 Nov 20 at 11:16 am

  54. Was posting at the same time as Todd. I share his lack of concern about LF defense. I would put Nelson Cruz out there (not kidding).


    3 Nov 20 at 11:18 am

  55. Some have called me nuts for suggesting this a couple of weeks ago, but I’m apparently not the only one who has had this thought:


    3 Nov 20 at 1:27 pm

  56. So, Carter’s defense at 3B in the shortened 2020 season was trending to the positive … certainly showing that his 2019 stint at short was proof enough that he should never return to the position. So a Bryant buy would be basically telling Carter you have another year in the minors to work on hitting. Is he gonna learn that in AAA Fresno hitting moonballs all day long?

    I’ve also seen someone say we sh ould get Bryant and stick Kieboom in left. Well… that’d be a waste of what looks like a decent 3B … for someoen who has notproven they can hit at the mlb level.

    Todd Boss

    3 Nov 20 at 2:02 pm

  57. The main problem with Bryant is you can not lower a players salary more than 10% in arbitration. Since Bryant made $18 million (prorated) this year so you’re looking at $16+ million next year for someone who had a terrible year in 2020.

    Mark L

    3 Nov 20 at 5:46 pm

  58. I don’t think Bryant’s salary would fit, either, unless there’s some dump in the return trade.

    I think I have a bit more positive view of Kieboom’s chances to pan out than the majority of the Natosphere. He does have plate discipline in his favor (unlike Robles), and as Todd noted, his defense did seem to be trending in the right direction. I don’t know that he will figure things out over night, though. The Nats do have somewhat of a safety net with both 3B and 2B with Castro and Harrison. It certainly weakens the overall structure of the team if both of those guys end up having to start fairly regularly, though.


    4 Nov 20 at 2:53 am

  59. I had been doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations on how much money the Nats do have to spend, and I see that Ghost at Nats Talk has been doing the same thing. He’s moved his own bar, though. He had been saying that the Nats wouldn’t go over $190M, but now he’s saying to estimate spending $39M on top of roughly $161M already committed, which would get them to their typical comfort zone of $10M under the cap. That gives them a little leeway.

    One thing that has messed with the economics a little is Soto’s Super 2 news. Ghost has him penciled in at $10M, although the MLBTR arb guru has it between $4.5 to 8.5M. I’m sure it will be closer to the high side, so $10M is probably close enough.

    Even if we’re playing with $39M — and I’m not at all sure that much is fully in play, considering the staff layoffs and whatnot — the Nats have 10 slots to fill on the 40 man. They need a regular 1B or platoon, a catcher capable of starting at least 70 games and not embarrassing himself at the plate, a starting LF, a bench utility guy or two, and four or five arms, at least one of whom might be a starter. A decent catcher is going to cost at least $4M, possibly double that if you want someone like McCann, or maybe even Ramos. I’d pencil at least $4M apiece for decent Moreland/Zimm/Kendrick-level 1Bs. So that’s $12-15M for C and 1B (unless 1B ends up being covered by a bigger signing, like LeMahieu). Then you have to figure another $10M or so to fill out five lower-end roster slots. So that’s $22-25M spent and money for two larger purchases.

    How much left? Not that much. Even going all the way up to $39M, that’s only $14-17M to split two ways. Yes, they could skimp a little on some of the others and maybe get up to $20-22M to spent on two, but that’s the absolute utmost, and only if they’re spending up to the tax line, which I’m not convinced that they’re doing.

    This is why I keep saying that Springer and Realmuto aren’t in play. The Nats just don’t have $22-25M to spend on one player, no matter how you slice it. I’m not sure they’ve got the around $18M for the Ozuna territory. If they shop at the LeMahieu/Brantley/Cruz/Turner level, they might be able to get that one guy, but perhaps not a second decently priced player. Your starting pitcher addition might end up being someone like Gio.

    So, realistically, we may be down to Pederson/Puig/JBJ/Profar/La Stella for an $8-10M hitter, leaving room for a $7-9M starter. Yes, it’s not nearly as fun to think in terms of those levels of guys. But that’s where I’m ending up on the back of my envelope.

    Now, if they gave up on the starting pitcher, and signed LeMahieu primarily for 1B (negating the need to spend that extra $4-6 there), I could still see them adding a Pederson/Puig/JBJ/Profar for LF. If they could get LeMahieu, Pederson, and McCann, but no real starting pitcher, I think I’d be OK with that. Or would you rather have a combo like Pederson/Moreland/Suzuki, but then money left for Kluber or Paxton?


    4 Nov 20 at 3:30 am

  60. Looking through the catchers, and honestly, they’re an awful lot. If you’re looking at where Rizzo needs to strike first, this is it. I say that Realmuto is out of price range and that Molina (who can’t hit now anyway) isn’t leaving the Cards, so McCann is basically it among quality two-way guys. He’s bound to have several suitors, though, which might drive up his price beyond what the Nats want to pay for a part-timer.

    After him, um, I think we’re quickly back to Suzuki, even though he can’t throw or frame. But he hit .270 with a 101 wRC+. We mention Ramos, but he hit .239 with only an 89 wRC+. That still makes him one of the “better” hitting catchers on the market. Tyler Flowers has had some decent years in the past, but in 2020, he hit .217 with 86 wRC+.

    Anyway, VERY slim pickings behind the plate, unless there’s a trade possibility.


    4 Nov 20 at 12:14 pm

  61. Thinking the exact same way on McCann. He seems to be about it as far as catcher free agents go. I hope Rizzo has a sense of immediacy here.

    As always, there’s a shortage of catching everywhere.

    Mark L

    5 Nov 20 at 7:37 am

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