Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Payroll Analysis for 2021


Newly minted Silver Slugger and MVP snub Soto is set for a big raise in arbitration; how will this factor into the Nat’s payroll plans? Source NYPost

Before giving real thought to what the Nats might do this off-season, you have to know where they stand from a payroll consideration.

Quick answer: they have about $50M to spend. See

More detailed answer: I have been maintaining a “Payroll worksheet” for the nats for years, which helps write t his particular post every year.

I’ve posted this at the Big Board, in a new tab called “2021 Payroll”

Here’s a breakdown of the Nats payroll right now (note; every figure in this article is Luxury Tax dollars: I honestly don’t care about real or actual dollars anymore since everything is driven by the Luxury tax limit in this game, and if the Lerners are looking at deferred dollars and making spending decisions in real-time based on that, then they don’t deserve to be running a team that earns them tens of millions of dollars a year).

$112,522,709 <– under contract
$18,850,000 <– arb est
$7,889,000 <– pre arb
$1,800,000 <– 40-man
$15,500,000 <– benefits
$156,561,709 <– total payroll estimate right now
$210,000,000 <– Luxury tax cap for 2020
$53,438,291 <– room under cap right now

By category:

  • The nats have $112M and change committed to its 8 current veteran players. Of course, the lion’s share of this is going to its big 3 starters in Strasburg, Scherzer and Corbin, who combine for $87M of this $112M themselves.
  • We have 4 arb-eligible players, who i’m estimating to earn $18.8M; the two biggest earners of course will be Turner and Soto, who are projected to be at least $10M and $5M each
  • The rest of the roster are estimates: 14 26-man roster players at roughly the MLB minimum comes out to $7.8M, a figure that will be a bit higher as 1 and 2-year guys get a bit of a raise. Plus the rest of the 40-man gets estimated at $150k per, so 12*$150K turns into $1.8M. Again, might not be exactly that b/c we may not have 40 on the 40-man all year.
  • the 2021 estimate for benefits is $15.5M this year.

So that leaves us around $156M committed right now before we acquire a single player. $210M is the cap for 2021, so we’re working with an operating FA budget of $53M. My figures are slightly different from Cot’s because of the arb estimates and 40-man estimates, but we’re within $2M of each other right now.

$53M is not a lot of money to acquire everything that this team needs. We need another starter, a catcher, a decent slugger to play 1B, we need another outfielder, and we need a few relievers. Catchers are rare and are not cheap, but we may be able to acquire a re-tread veteran starter for around $10-$12M. But for the rest of the roster we’re looking at taking fliers on MLFA/NRI types and edge of the roster $1M major league deals.

Written by Todd Boss

November 6th, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Nats in General

63 Responses to 'Nats Payroll Analysis for 2021'

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  1. Todd — Thanks for the rundown. The Nats traditionally have stayed $10-15M below the tax line in recent seasons to give them some deadline flexibility, as well as buffer for incentive contracts. I would be very interested in an incentive-laden contract for Kluber or Paxton. I think with Fedde/Voth in reserve, the Nats could afford to take the injury risk on one of those guys. Frankly, the Nats are going to have to take some high-reward risks to have a realistic chance of competing with the Braves and Dodgers.

    The other question that we really don’t know the answer to is how much the Nats are going to actually spend this season, considering the financial issues that have already had them laying off some staff. We don’t know the financial status of the Lerner real estate empire. On the flipside, one could argue for some now-or-never spending with Max on his last contract year (and not going to be great forever), Ted Lerner still alive, etc.

    It’s going to be a weird offseason overall from the financial standpoint. Who knows how much any team is going to be willing and able to spend. I’ve already suggested that Springer might have a hard time getting market value and might be waiting for a long time, but he won’t be the only one. Realmuto has a rare skill set and probably will get paid, but in Springer’s case, how many teams have both the need for a power-hitting OF and the money to pay him? He’d fit well with the Nats, but I just don’t see them making that kind of financial commitment to him. And I sure don’t see him having the leverage to get a Rendon/Harper/Betts type deal, particularly not in this market.


    6 Nov 20 at 2:54 pm

  2. I think I’d splurge for Realmuto if he can be had, and a medium bat for the OF. Make offers to Howie, Zimm, and an NRI for AsCab if Castro’s not healed.

    Or maybe DJ LaMehiu, a mid-tier OF bat, and a retread catcher.

    kevin r

    6 Nov 20 at 10:05 pm

  3. If they want to keep a cushion (which makes sense of course, to account for mid-season expansions and performance bonuses), that’d put their working capital more in teh $40M/range.

    I just can’t see splurging on any of the big time FAs; not Springer or Realmuto or Bauer. I like a one year flier on a veteran SP for a 4th, but lots of people are looking at famous names like Kluber and Morton too. I do like the idea of pairing Zimmerman with a lefty platoon bat at 1B, would love to get emotional leader Kendrick back. Was Eaton’s decline a one off? I mean, he’s only 31 and was the heart and soul of the clubhouse; wouldn’t be eurprise with a reunion there either.

    Todd Boss

    7 Nov 20 at 6:12 am

  4. Splurging on Realmuto. Man… that just gives me the shivers. Spending a ton of money on a Catcher. Who is turning 30. Who already has a lotta mileage on his legs. If it were me i’d rather go with a lesser option to split time with Gomes and spell him, just deal with he offensive loss, and get more flexibility elseewhere.

    I mean, we had a guy named Sandy Leon for years in our system; never could do much more than be a 4-A guy. He has a career 61 wRC+, which is incredibly bad. But the year Boston won the world series, Leon started a bunch of their post season games and constantly filled in as a late inning defenisve replacement. I’m ok with someone like that.

    Todd Boss

    7 Nov 20 at 6:56 am

  5. Two words haunt me when I think of a big contract for Realmuto: Buster Posey. Yes, some catchers do manage to continue to hit well into their middle 30s, but that’s an awfully big risk/reward bet. As I’ve previously noted, Realmuto also had some concerning secondary stats in 2020 — higher K rate, lower walk rate, fewer hard-hit balls, etc.

    The “problem,” of course, is that there are so few options of catchers who can hit. McCann is about the only other one of the market, but I fear he will get bid up over $10M per, which just isn’t worth it, particularly since the Nats already have a viable semi-regular option in Gomes. They may just end up bringing back Suzuki for $2-3M, but with the understanding that Gomes is going to get two-thirds of the starts.


    9 Nov 20 at 9:08 am

  6. If you invest in a Catcher in his 30s, you need to be prepared for the day he can no longer Catch and moves to 1B … then ask yourself, is that player worth his offense playing 1B?

    Boston won 108 games and the Series in 2018 starting catchers who hit a combined like a combined .190. . If they start Gomes and back him up with a 4-A guy, is it the worst thing ever?

    Todd Boss

    9 Nov 20 at 10:09 am

  7. I completely agree. I’ve made the point before that while Realmuto is an above-average hitter for a catcher, he’d already qualify as just average for 1B/DH. Guys who hit like him for those positions are available for around $5M. 2020 slashes: A) .266/.349/.491; B) .265/.342/.551. Who would you take? Very close in first two slashes, but you’d likely sign B because of the power. A is Realmuto; B is Mitch Moreland.

    I don’t want to roll with Barrera as the backup, though. Gomes doesn’t need to start more than ~110 games. But you should be able to get a Suzuki/Ramos/Flowers/Avila type for $3-5M. (People who think Ramos will get 2/$20M are delusional.)


    9 Nov 20 at 10:24 am

  8. Was just looking at the draft order and thinking about what the Nats might have to surrender if they sign a QO’d player. Right now, before compensation picks are included, the Nats would pick #46 in the second round. There have been six QOs extended; if none are accepted and all of those guys sign, the lowest the pick could be would be #52. So they likely would be surrendering pick #50-52.

    The Nats probably aren’t players for Springer, Realmuto, and Bauer. Stroman’s price tag is probably going to be much higher than what the Nats are willing to pay for a #4 starter. So that leaves LeMahieu and Gausman. Most of the world thinks Gausman should accept the QO, and LeMahieu might as well, but probably won’t. I don’t know that I would be thrilled about giving up the draft pick for Gausman, but I wouldn’t mind for LeMahieu, if his price is right. But then he doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Nats if it isn’t. I can’t see them going over something like $14M AAV for him. Craig Edwards at FG has him at 3/$31M, which could make sense for the Nats even with losing the pick. But MLBTR’s 4/$68M estimate wouldn’t work for the Nats at all.

    So really, I think the QO question will only come down to LeMahieu as far as the Nats are concerned, unless the economics are constricted even more than we know, and someone else miraculously drops into their price range.


    9 Nov 20 at 10:51 am

  9. Qualifying Offer-associated players and some projections on AAV salaries for them from mlbtrade rumors:
    – JT Realmudo; 5yr/$125M or $25 per
    – Trevor Bauer: 4yr/$128M or $32 AAV, though he has frequently stated he wants one year deals only, so i’d guess 1yr/$35M
    – George Springer: 5yr/$125M or $25 per
    – DJ LeMahieu: 4yr/$68M or $17 AAV
    – Marcus Stroman: 4yr/$68M or $17 AAV; i think he gets more.
    – Kevin Gausman: no estimate; they think he’ll take the QO so 1yr/$18.9M

    So, under the theory that all 6 take the QO, it would end up costing the Nats their 2nd rounder. We’ve already established that the team has $50M max, more likely $40M to play with this coming off season, and that’s before considering the fact that the team might be looking at purse tightening thanks to the loss of revenues. It is also worth noting that by my records the team is on the hook for $26.5M in deferred payments in 2021, which doesn’t show up in the luxury tax calculations. A huge worry would be the team going: “well we’re at $150M now committed, and we have $26.5M of deferred money, so if our actual internal budget is $200M or so, well now we’re down to just $25M of actual money to play with.

    Either way, Signing Realmudo, Bauer or Springer would eat up far too much of their working capital this off-season to be realistic in either scenario.

    LeMahieu makes no sense; they already have Castro under contract and are grooming Garcia.

    Stroman? He’ll be 29 in 2021. He missed all last year so he’s had a ton of rest on his arm. He pitched against the Nats right after his trade to the Mets in Aug 2019 and got hit. He’s also all over the place; one year he’s great, one year he’s mediocre to bad. Even given that, I think he gets more than $17M/year AAV; he’s a #2 starter when he’s good. Honestly, i’d rather go with a veteran guy one a one year deal for $10-$12M to slot in as our 4th than chase the super rotation.

    Thus; i don’t think we’re in jeopardy of losing a draft pick in 2021.

    Todd Boss

    11 Nov 20 at 11:05 am

  10. I think LeMahieu is the best value, and I would sign him. He can play third, second or first — all of which are holes right now. Great two way player, clutch, a winner all the way. And cheaper than Springer or Arenado, I would think. If there is a DH, I’d sign LeMahieu even if they bring back Howie.

    If they need to turn Garcia into trade bait (let’s see them sign Turner), so be it.


    11 Nov 20 at 12:05 pm

  11. Stroman accepted the QO, which just makes the NL East that much tougher.

    My thought with LeMahieu for the Nats is primarily for 1B, with him also being an option at 3B if Kieboom keeps cratering. LeMahieu isn’t a traditional “big bat” — which I hope would keep his price tag down a little — but he’s an incredibly efficient hitter. I mean, Turner-Soto-LeMahieu would put a lot of pressure on pitchers.

    Among the RH hitters the Nats might have a shot at signing price-wise, I also see less risk with LeMahieu than I do Ozuna. I’ve also expressed some interest in Nelson Cruz if there was any way for him to stand at 1B (where he’s never played in the majors) or in LF, but that seems like a long shot. Skills-wise, Puig would be a good option on paper, but man, he’s got a bad clubhouse reputation, and most of the Nats’ Latin elder statesmen are gone.


    11 Nov 20 at 1:49 pm

  12. Yasel Puig makes Papelbon look like Howie Kendrick. That will never happen. He’s a mental case.


    11 Nov 20 at 7:17 pm

  13. Growing chatter that the Nats will be awarded a Triple-A franchise in Richmond. It’s an aging facility that will probably need to be replaced sooner rather than later, but the geographic fit is fantastic. I’d like to see it pan out this way. Rochester would be fine but it has the same issues as Syracuse, where it’s just a miserable place to be for the first month or so of the season.


    11 Nov 20 at 8:15 pm

  14. Nats AAA in Richmond would be tremendous. I would think/hope that the local connection would also increase interest and help grease upgrades. That is, if the fair city of Richmond isn’t still feeling terribly burned by the millions it pumped into training camp for the local dumpster fire of a football franchise.


    11 Nov 20 at 10:51 pm

  15. Now if the Nats could just pick up Frederick as their low-A location . . .


    11 Nov 20 at 10:52 pm

  16. It changes hour to hour, but here’s roughly what I’m looking at right now for MiLB (of course, I am virtually guaranteed to be off the mark to some extent):

    Pacific Coast League (AAA)
    West: Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake
    East: Iowa, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Round Rock, San Antonio, St. Paul

    International League (AAA)
    North: Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, Rochester, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Syracuse, Worcester
    Central: Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Norfolk, Richmond, Toledo
    South: Charlotte, Durham, Gwinnett, Jacksonville, Memphis, Nashville

    Texas League (AA)
    North: Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas, Springfield, Tulsa, Wichita
    South: Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Frisco, Midland, Sugar Land

    Eastern League (AA)
    West: Akron, Altoona, Bowie, Erie, Harrisburg, Lake County
    East: Brooklyn, Hartford, New Hampshire, Portland, Reading, Somerset

    Southern League (AA)
    North: Birmingham, Bowling Green, Rocket City, Tennessee
    South: Biloxi, Mississippi, Montgomery, Pensacola

    Northwest League (A+)
    North: Everett, Tacoma, Vancouver
    South: Eugene, Hillsboro, Salem-Keizer

    Midwest League (A+)
    West: Beloit, Peoria, Quad Cities, South Bend, Wisconsin
    East: Dayton, Fort Wayne, Great Lakes, Lansing, West Michigan

    Middle Atlantic League (A+)
    North: Binghamton, Hudson Valley, Jersey Shore, Tri-City
    South: Aberdeen, Delmarva, Frederick, Wilmington

    Carolina League (A+)
    North: Carolina, Down East, Fayetteville
    South: Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach

    California League (A-)
    North: Fresno, Modesto, San Jose, Stockton
    South: Inland Empire, Lake Elsinore, Rancho Cucamonga, Visalia

    South Atlantic League (A-)
    North: Fredericksburg, Greensboro, Lynchburg, Salem, West Virginia, Winston-Salem
    South: Asheville, Augusta, Greenville, Hickory, Kannapolis, Rome

    Florida State League (A-)
    North: Bradenton, Clearwater, Dunedin, Lakeland, Tampa
    South: Charlotte, Fort Myers, Jupiter, Palm Beach, St. Lucie


    12 Nov 20 at 1:09 am

  17. Oddly, the linchpin here ends up being the humble Northwest League. Spokane is one of the league’s top draws, but it’s also in the middle of nowhere, with its closest neighbor in Pasco (Tri-City) facing the axe. That means travel for the Spokane ballclub really becomes a nightmare; even Everett, while at the same latitude as Spokane, is a five-hour drive with no traffic. Boise, which has also been rumored to have made it onto the kill list, is seven hours from Spokane (and even further from everywhere else).

    And then we get into the fun part that I don’t think anyone actually bothered thinking about, which is that if the season starts in April, there’s still going to be snow in the Cascade mountain passes. Buses and icy, winding mountain roads are not friends. This is not an issue for the times from Vancouver to Eugene along the I-5 corridor, but for Spokane and Boise, it is very much an issue. Of course, you can say you will just schedule around it so there’s no travel between Spokane and the rest of the league in April…the problem being that Spokane needs to play games in April, and the rest of the teams are a mountain range or two away.

    They might try to force it, but especially with a six-team configuration, which will require more travel, it seems untenable to me. It’s bad enough that teams already routinely have to spend the entire day on a bus to get to the next ballpark; starting the season in April and leaving Spokane on even more of an island than it already is, while cutting a centrally located team in Salem-Keizer, would be a logistical nightmare.

    Anyway, why does this matter for the rest of the leagues? Because if the powers-that-be agree with me and decide to reconfigure the Northwest League as a six-team league situated west of the Cascades, you either need to create a brand-new affiliate (unlikely given the circumstances) or relegate Tacoma from Triple-A to make the numbers pencil out. If Tacoma, which has a tiny, elderly stadium that doesn’t come close to meeting Triple-A standards, is bumped out of the Triple-A ranks, there’s suddenly a corresponding move to keep the number of PCL teams even as Wichita falls down to Double-A…and a corresponding move in the International League for Richmond, as Jacksonville is set to be promoted to Triple-A as the Miami affiliate.


    12 Nov 20 at 1:30 am

  18. I’d love to see the Nats get Frederick as a Low A city.
    Sao, why would you push Fredericksburg to Low A? They have a new stadium and a growing area.

    Mark L

    12 Nov 20 at 8:03 am

  19. Would love to see Nats slate of minor league teams go Richmond, Harrisburg, Fredericksburg, Frederick. I mean, why the heck not? Literally every affiliate within a 2 hour drive of DC? What a fantastic way to drive interest amongst Nats fans to go out and support the minor leagues and see prospects.

    I don’t really care if Richmond’s stadium “isn’t AAA standard.” It was a AAA city for decades and is growing (not shrinking) as a city.

    Frederick’s stadium was built in 1990. Still don’t understand why its on the chopping block.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 20 at 9:52 am

  20. However things shake out at the lower levels, Richmond would be a tremendous “win” for the Nat AAA location. Well, at least until some call-up gets stuck on I-95!


    12 Nov 20 at 9:54 am

  21. Organizationally speaking, it would be insanely good to have all the locations so close. Roving instructors could all live in the area. Rizzo and others in the front office could see prospects on a regular basis. Players who get promoted wouldn’t have the stress of having to move everything right away. And rehab assignments could be done at higher levels of play.

    As far as stadium upgrades in Richmond, I would think that there would be a lot more local interest in a Nat farm team than a Giant one. It should be easier to monetize Nat support into money for upgrades.

    Now if the Nats only had any prospects who would be worth traveling to Richmond to watch!


    12 Nov 20 at 10:01 am

  22. QO final tally: two accepted the offers, so the lowest the Nat 2d round pick in 2021 would be is #50, if four comp picks are added.

    A number of folks had the Nats targeting Gausman, but I’m not surprised that he accepted a QO at almost twice what he was valued.

    LeMahieu turned down the QO, so he’s on the market. He strikes me as somewhat of an undervalued type of player right now, a high-contact, low-K guy in the era of “three true outcomes.” It’s not like he’s underpowered, though, as he posted a .590 SLG in 2020, 11th in the majors, higher than Acuna, Tatis, Machado, and Betts, to name a few. Springer’s SLG was .540.


    12 Nov 20 at 10:17 am

  23. Why Frederick to High-A and Fredericksburg to Low-A? It’s just geography.

    You’ll notice the High-A league is entirely made up of teams in: Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. That’s a nice, compact grouping of states that minimizes travel time and is clearly distinct from the Carolina League, which is entirely made up of teams in South Carolina and eastern North Carolina.

    The Low-A South Atlantic League, meanwhile, doesn’t stray north of Virginia, with either Fredericksburg or West Virginia figuring as its northernmost outpost (depending on which West Virginia team makes the cut, since there’s one in Charleston and one in Morgantown).

    Given the fact they’re both A-ball levels, it doesn’t seem like a big deal either way. Maybe MLB will decide geography is a lesser consideration when it makes its final configurations, but that alignment is what makes the most sense and seems the most likely to me.


    12 Nov 20 at 12:41 pm

  24. Frederick versus Fredericksburg, high vs low; don’t care. Just want both teams close.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 20 at 1:11 pm

  25. Also notable; the Yankees have abandoned Charleston. Not that Charleston to DC is a common move … but there’s a twice-daily direct flight National->Charleston, likely because there is (was) a huge military base down there.

    I wonder if Charleston doesn’t get play as our new low-A replacing Hagerstown like for like.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 20 at 1:12 pm

  26. Flights maybe, but the bus ride to Charleston along the WV Turnpike part of I-64 would be a bit of an adventure.


    12 Nov 20 at 2:25 pm

  27. No no, Charleston, South Carolina. Why we need to have two Charlestons is beyond me, but the Charleston RiverDogs play in South Carolina.

    I think Charleston ends up as a High-A team within the reconfigured Carolina League, but still an interesting option for the Nats.


    12 Nov 20 at 2:40 pm

  28. A potential RH bat I forgot to mention in the group above was Justin Turner. I used to respect him quite a bit as an opposing player, but his WS stunt was BS and really endangered his teammates and their families. Anyway, I’ve noted before that Turner is a SoCal native who probably will be looking to stay in that area. But if he’s willing to come eastward, he could be another 1B/3B/DH option. I imagine that he, LeMahieu, and Cruz will be within $2-3M of each other AAV-wise.


    12 Nov 20 at 3:09 pm

  29. Charleston, S.C. is a excellent town for a long weekend. Lots of fun. The Naval base has been gone for 20+ years now. When the Navy was deciding whether to close Norfolk or Charlston John WARNER had a lot more clout than Strom Thurmond.

    Mark L

    12 Nov 20 at 3:09 pm

  30. The Charleston based got BRAC’d … but now it is occupied by a massive federal government presence of office workers. i traveled there often while working for DoState.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 20 at 3:55 pm

  31. Voth and Sharp for Gary Sanchez — who says no? Would you risk a probable arb price of $5.5M for a guy who hit .147 and struck out 36% of the time? When he did make contact, he did hit the ball hard, 41% of the time (as opposed to 22% for both Robles and Kieboom). Would you bet that both with Gomes to share time and KLong to put some loft with that power that you’d end up with something better than, say, another Suzuki reunion tour? Sanchez will turn 28 in December, is controlled for two more seasons, but is out of minor-league options.


    12 Nov 20 at 6:55 pm

  32. Isn’t Gary Sanchez the goon who punched a guy on the Tigers after, not before, he’d been taken to the ground during a brawl? Never been much of a fan of his game and would have a tough time rooting for someone like that anyway.


    12 Nov 20 at 8:08 pm

  33. I barely watch AL so don’t know that much about Sanchez. Just running it through my mind since he’s a catcher who is said to be on the trading block. In those types of situations, I think the game is smaller than we think in that from among coaches and scouts on a team, somebody is likely to know somebody in the Yankee organization who can get the skinny on what kind of person he is really quickly. The Nats certainly have been super-focused on chemistry in the last few years, with obviously good results.


    12 Nov 20 at 8:41 pm

  34. But wait, he was better in ALL slash categories than Betts, Machado, and Tatis. Fooled you — I’m not talking about Soto, I’m talking about TREA. Soto of course was off the charts ahead of everyone. But look it up — in each slash category, Trea was better than those three who finished ahead of Soto. So was Ozuna, for that matter, and he also out-homered all of them.

    Look, I’ve got no huge beef with Freeman winning. His team won the division easily, and Soto missed some time. Freeman posted the #92 all time OPS season. Soto, um, posted the #25 all time best.

    HOWEVER, it’s an absolute crime that Soto wasn’t #2 in the voting . . . or #3, or #4. In fact, he got no first-place votes, and only three second-place votes.

    But folks shouldn’t lose sight in all of this of how good Trea was, either. Now let’s get a real lineup to put around those two!


    13 Nov 20 at 9:08 am

  35. I thought the NL mvp voting would go Freeman, Betts, Soto. I figured for SURE Soto would be everyone’s #3 candidate, recognizing his season but dinging him for missing time. nope.

    Freeman: 60 games, 262 PAs.. Soto: 47 games, 196 PAs. I mean, its 13 games but its 20% of the season. I get it. This year was always going to result in oddities. Kinda lika guy winning the ROY for th rowing 27 innings.

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 20 at 10:42 am

  36. here’s some award-trivia for everyone: when was the last time a Washington National won a Gold Glove award?

    Todd Boss

    13 Nov 20 at 11:15 am

  37. Betts in the NL was 16th in BA, 17th in OBP, 13th in SLG, and 13th in wRC+. Soto led the NL in all of those categories, and led the majors in all but BA (topped by LeMahieu). Betts is a heck of a player and had a darn good season on a good team, but Soto was better, any way you slice it. And Soto certainly was more important to the Nats than Betts was to the Dodgers and their stacked lineup.

    In the future when folks look at Soto’s BR page and see all that bold ink for 2020 then look over and see MVP-5, they’re going to go “WTF?!”


    13 Nov 20 at 11:25 am

  38. Guide for MVP voting.
    1. Make list of best teams in league/division winners. Atlanta, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego
    2. Identify best hitter on each team. Atlanta=Freeman, Cubs=Ian Happ, Dodgers=Betts, San Diego=Machado or Tatis
    3. Check WAR lists and league leaders for candidates not on winning teams: Soto, Turner, Ozuna, Yaztrzemsky, Swanson
    4. Add in incredibly dominant pitchers, if any. None for 2020, though Bauer was the dominant starter.
    5. Apply appropriate “discounts” for non-division winning players and those who have already won (I call this the “Narrative” adjustment).

    Results? your 2020 NL MVP voting, which went: 1. Freeman, 2. Betts, 3. Machado, 4. Tatis, 5. Soto, 6. Ozuna, 7. Turner, 8. Yaz, 9. Seager, 10. Bauer

    Look how well my 5-step processed literally predicted the entire top 10. The only outliers anywhere in this analysis were:
    – Happ for the Cubs (when a no-name player outperforms your stars like Kris Bryant, they get ignored)
    – Swanson for the Braves (most of his value is in defense, hence why voter’s don’t care).
    – Seager as a down ballot contributor.

    Easy as 1 2 3

    Todd Boss

    14 Nov 20 at 10:05 am

  39. In fact, just for sh*ts and giggles, i’m doing this same analysis for the AL. At this moment i only know that Abreu won. I have no idea who else finished in the top 10. So lets see how my logic looks.
    1. Make list of best teams in league/division winners. Tampa, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago WS, Cleveland, NYY
    2. Identify best hitter on each team. Tampa=Lowe. Minn=Cruz, Buxton. Oak=Canha or Grossman? WS=Abreu, Anderson. Cle=Ramirez, NYY=LeMahieu
    3. Check WAR lists and league leaders for candidates not on winning teams: Trout every year.
    4. Add in incredibly dominant pitchers, if any: Bieber
    5. Apply appropriate “discounts” for non-division winning players, non-famous players, and those who have already won (I call this the “Narrative” adjustment). Before cheating and looking i’ll guess these guys get dinged or elevated:
    o Lowe, Canha, Grossman, Anderson; nobody knows who they are, lower
    o Trout; already won, lower
    o Buxton; lots of his value tied up in defense, lower.

    Now; here’s your AL mvp voting. 1. Abreu, 2. Ramierz, 3. LeMaihu, 4. Bieber, 5. Trout, 6. cruz, 7. Anderson, 8 Lowe, 9. Voit, 10. Rendon

    So, my theory accounted for the first 8 of the vote-getters. Missed on Voit and Rendon (both of whom were top 10 in offensive WAR and could have been there along with Trout).

    As expected, the voters basically ignored anyone from Oakland, only had Lowe come in 8th despite being the best hitter on the best team.

    Todd Boss

    14 Nov 20 at 10:20 am

  40. Yes, but explaining why wrong-headed thinking happens doesn’t make it right. Soto had a season similar to what deGrom did in 2018 when he won CYA while posting a 10-9 record on a losing team. By OPS/OPS+/wRC+, even Trout, the greatest offensive player of this era, has never done what Soto did in 2020. No current player has. It was an all-time season, the type that has gotten Trout several MVPs while his team wasn’t winning.

    As I said, I respect the season Freeman had, which was outstanding in all categories. If folks wanted to vote for him for MVP since his team won and Soto’s didn’t, that’s fine. But Betts wasn’t anywhere close to either of them. He gets his “participation trophy” in the postseason. Yes, he had a high WAR, but the offensive difference was too great to vote him 2d based on defense. And it’s even worse to compound the crime by also putting Machado and Tatis ahead of Soto.

    I’ll wager that Soto will end up winning an MVP or two on down the road with seasons that statistically aren’t quite as good as this one. The same thing has happened to Trout a few times. The difference is that Trout at least finished 2d in the voting those times he got screwed.


    14 Nov 20 at 3:55 pm

  41. Shifting gears, I’ve been looking through the Steamer projections for FA starters compared to the guys the Nats already have. Honestly, it’s hard too get too excited at the potential marginal improvement. Among the guys the Nats might be able to afford, it’s really hard to see that much improvement beyond the Morton/Kluber/Paxton level.

    Steamer FIP projections, 2021

    Scherzer 3.47
    Strasburg 4.04
    Corbin 4.11
    Voth 4.64
    Fedde 4.98
    Ross 5.01
    Crowe 5.33
    Braymer 5.35

    Morton 4.00
    Kluber 4.01
    Bauer 4.09
    Tanaka 4.31
    Paxton 4.31
    Smyly 4.51
    Archer 4.57
    Richards 4.67
    Quintana 4.67
    A. Wood 4.70
    Odorizzi 4.71
    B. Anderson 4.74
    Happ 4.75
    Shoemaker 4.76
    Minor 4.77
    Porcello 4.93
    Wainright 4.93
    Walker 5.00
    Gio Gonzalez 5.05
    Hamels 5.05
    Chatwood 5.06
    Leake 5.07
    Arrieta 5.12
    Lester 5.14
    A. Sanchez 5.45
    Foltynewicz 5.55


    15 Nov 20 at 1:46 pm

  42. Unfortuantely, MVP is about the story, not the numbers. It is what it is. It’d be pretty boring if we just looked up the WAR of the players and gave it to #1 every year. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 20 at 3:56 pm

  43. KW, looking at those numbers it’s a good thing the Nats don’t need more than a #4 starter.
    The most intriguing name there for me is Paxton. Terrific if healthy but thats a big if.

    Mark L

    16 Nov 20 at 6:42 am

  44. Paxton is a Boras client, so the Nats definitely will get a call about him. What’s his number, though? MLBTR put him at 1/$10, while FG has him at 2/$15M. There’s a huge difference between those two, particularly for a team like the Nats that might be able to add Moreland or Pillar for that $5M delta. More likely, 2/$15M is the price in November, while 1/$10M will be the price in February.

    The problem laid bare by the list above is that there aren’t many good-and-cheap options. I don’t think the Nas can/should afford Bauer or Tanaka (unless Tanaka’s price falls for some reason), and the only guys who look like a substantial upgrade over Ross/Fedde/Voth are Paxton, Kluber, and Morton, all of whom have injury and/or age caveats, and each of whom probably would cost $10-12M (probably 25% of the Nats’ offseason budget).

    Among the others, Archer has a career-threatening injury concern, although if reasonably healthy and willing to work for $4M or so plus incentives, it might not be surprising to reunite him with Hickey. Interest in Smyly is based on an extremely SSS in 2020 after an awful 2019. Richards hasn’t topped 80 IP since 2015. By that point on the list, I think we’ve reached the point where it’s hard to justify spending $4-7M on someone with only a marginal chance of being better than Fedde.

    So . . . for me at least, unless they can get Kluber/Paxton/Morton for around $10M, I’d probably rather put that cash toward another hitter than a suspect starter.


    16 Nov 20 at 10:20 am

  45. Oops, I mistyped — FG puts Paxton at 2 for $30M, with a $15M AAV. That’s what I meant as the difference $10M vs. 15M.


    16 Nov 20 at 10:21 am

  46. The other issue in that dance is that Kluber or Morton (if he’s not retiring) might be available now for $10-12M, while Paxton’s price might not drop to that level until February. I don’t think the Nats can wait around on their offseason allocation until February. They need to go on an add a quality hitter or two now.

    MLBTR reporting that tweets indicate that Kendrick might still be looking to play in 2021. No smoke signals yet from Zim. A Kendrick-Moreland platoon at 1B might be an option.


    16 Nov 20 at 10:27 am

  47. My two cents: Soto’s case in the MVP voting was hurt more by the short 60-game season than anything else. If he put up a 200 WRC+ season and played ~130+ games, he’d win the MVP. In such a scenario, the voting (in my opinion) would resemble 2015 when Bryce won unanimously with similar (but ever-so-slightly worse) numbers.

    Soto’s MVP case is purely statistical: those numbers are astonishing. But when the season is short, the statistical argument OUGHT to carry a lot less weight than it would in a full season because the numbers are so much less reliable. This means other things – playing for a good team, clutch performance, etc. – ought to matter more in 2020 than other years.


    16 Nov 20 at 11:23 am

  48. Also, Todd, is Zim’s lone gold glove at 3B the answer to your question?


    16 Nov 20 at 11:24 am

  49. +1 on Soto lack of MVP support. He missed 20% of the season due to the apparent false positive covid test.

    Answer to gold glove question: Adam LaRoche. Gold Glove in 2012. Zimmerman’s GG was in 2009. Amazing that he only won a single gold glove; multiple years where he was just stupendis statistically at the hot corner. He lost to David Wright and Scott Rolen in that time frame before his arm gave out and Arenado got his current stranglehold on the award.

    As you might imagine, a look at Wright’s stats in the years he beat out Zimmerman show that Zim’s case was far superior. Rolon’s career defensive numbers are outstanding across the board.

    Todd Boss

    16 Nov 20 at 11:42 am

  50. I’m scratching my head about where the whole “trade for Arenado” thing at Nats Talk started. He’s owed $199M, and his salary by itself would be most of what the Nats have in cap room right now. Oh, and he just posted 76 wRC+ season, getting on base at an Espi-like clip of .303. (He did have miserable BABIP luck for a guy who only K’d 10% of the time.)

    I did float the thought of trading for Kris Bryant. That’s only for one season, though, at about half the cost of what Arenado is owed. I’m not a big fan of that idea, either, just put it out there for discussion, several weeks ago. For less than what Bryant would cost (AAV-wise), you could sign LeMahieu.

    We also have to remember how stubborn Rizzo is. To trade for someone to replace Kieboom would be an admission of failure. I don’t think he’s ready to admit failure on Kieboom and spend to fill that slot.


    16 Nov 20 at 11:47 am

  51. Boz thinks the Nats will give Kieboom every opportunity. He also leans toward thinking that Zim is retired (whether he knows it or not):


    16 Nov 20 at 1:28 pm

  52. Drew Smyly just signed for 11m with the Braves. Seems like that is the floor for what the Nats will need to pay for their #4.

    Mark L

    16 Nov 20 at 4:57 pm

  53. Rizzo didn’t exactly dilly about before admitting failure on Giolito and fencing him to the South Side.

    Kieboom is bad. Like, really bad. I still have hope he will ultimately improve to the point at which he can at least hold down a spot in the starting lineup, but if the Nats are intent on contending again before Max Scherzer reaches free agency, they really cannot afford to go into the season expecting Kieboom to have suddenly turned the corner.

    I think Riz really likes Arenado and the fit there makes some sense, although guys who openly trash organizational higher-ups to the press give me some heartburn, personally.


    16 Nov 20 at 6:08 pm

  54. Sao — I’ll sort of split the baby and agree that I don’t think the Nats can waste next season still waiting for Kieboom. It’s just Max; this is peak time for Stras and Corbin as well. That’s a big part of my reasoning for looking at someone like LeMahieu or Justin Turner, who could play 3B but also could slide over the 1B if/when Kieboom pans out.

    That said, I see more to “like” (a term I use loosely) toward Kieboom’s redemption than I do Robles’s. Both were really bad in 2020, but at least Kieboom has a batting eye. But everyone seems intent on filling 3B but letting Robles play his way out of it.

    I don’t see how Arenado fits, at all. He’s got a massive contract. If the Nats take it all on, they would only have around $15M left under the cap to fill out the rest of the team. For the Rox to pay a lot of the freight, we’re talking a deal that starts with Rutledge and a whole lot of other stuff, from an organization that is woefully short on good stuff.


    16 Nov 20 at 7:05 pm

  55. I’m in shock over the Smyly deal. I mean, prices are supposed to be depressed this year, and he was valued at about $5-8M. I guess the Barves are afraid enough of the #5 guy in the MVP race to overpay. We just need to also make them afraid of the RH bat we put behind him.

    Smyly is a huge gamble anyway, based on 26 nice innings in 2020. He was awful in 2019 and didn’t pitch at all in 2017-18. Frankly, I think this was an overpaying-at-Goodwill move by the Braves . . . unless they step up and put Bauer or Tanaka with Smyly. They needed higher-in-the-rotation help. But Smyly is more like a typical Brave starter of recent vintage, as he might have a good run but then get injured, completely lose it, or both.

    Mark, if you’re right that this sets the price of what the Nats will have to pay a #4 starter of that caliber, then I’m out. I’m saving that $11M toward a second higher-profile hitter.


    16 Nov 20 at 7:16 pm

  56. Also, the Nats aren’t trading Robles in the Arenado deal (as much I’m worried about Robles). They have NOOOO OF prospects who have even played at the full-season lower-A level. So if they were to trade Robles, they’d then have to spend significant money for two OF starters.

    Arenado money — even if the Rox could be convinced to chip in $15M a year, the Nats would still owe him $20M a year . . . which would make it really hard to extend Trea and Soto, even with Max coming off the books. Plus Arenado tanked at the plate in 2020.

    Also, his career split away from Coors is .263/.322/.471. He’s only “worth” $35M if half his games are in Denver.


    16 Nov 20 at 7:32 pm

  57. Looking at the away splits for Arenado; that’s 30-40 points below Brantley’s career norm. He brings elite defense but not worth it at those prices.

    Mark L

    17 Nov 20 at 7:59 am

  58. Mark, I like Dr. Smooth in general, but with his not-great splits against LHP, I’m just not sure he’s the $15M guy the Nats need. I’m just not sure who is.

    I’m also not sure whether the Nats will afford a $15M hitter. As Todd shows in this post, they CAN afford that guy, but Ghost keeps insisting that he’s hearing that their internal cap is about $190M. By Todd’s math, that would give them $33M to fill out the roster. As we’ve discussed, there’s an $8-12M question of whether they need to spend a third of what they have available on a 4th starter. If $190M is indeed the number, I’d be inclined to say no. If they’re going to $200M, then yes.

    By my count, they need to sign four or five position players and maybe a reliever or two. They need a catcher to split time with Gomes, a 1B or two, and an OF or two, at least one of whom is starter quality. Although they could add someone who is 3B-capable, they do have internal options in Castro and Harrison. Harrison also could be a part of a platoon in LF or at 1B if need be.

    McCann would be the best option at C, but he’s likely to be the best option for about 10 teams, and beyond a certain price point, the Nats likely are out. As discussed, Suzuki may still be the best hitter among the lesser options, but he’s not much defensively.

    The math is hard, though. If you need to sign seven guys, at $3M apiece, you’re already to $21M with no premium paid to any of them. The “priciest” that they can go might only be in Profar/Moreland territory. That’s no fun at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being the 2020-21 reality.


    17 Nov 20 at 1:32 pm

  59. KW, agree on McCann. Somebody will move fast on this; I hope it’s the Nats. There is such a shortage of catching in baseball.

    Maybe the reason for the slow pace so far is everybody is waiting for the non-tender deadline. So far, out of the top 60 free agents there are 56 still available.

    Mark L

    17 Nov 20 at 2:58 pm

  60. The Nats should sign Ha-Seong Kim. And I do wonder whether we might be atypically active in the Asian market this winter given Rizzo’s bias toward in-person scouting (which was allowed in Korea and I think Japan, but not in MLB).


    17 Nov 20 at 10:10 pm

  61. I agree that Kim could be a relatively low-cost opportunity to improve a system almost devoid of positional-player talent. However, I don’t know that Kim could/should be counted on at the MLB level in 2021 any more than Kieboom, as there’s no way to know if he’s MLB-ready. Kim does have very good plate discipline, which should translate well.

    The answers for the Nats aren’t going to be easy, even if there isn’t as great a restriction on their spending. Springer and Realmuto probably are too expensive to be in play anyway. Ozuna would be at the very expensive edge of possible for the Nats, but he’s a real potential overpay based on a career demi-year. Plus the Braves have expressed a lot of interest in bringing him back and likely will be bidding up his price. Cruz’s bat would fit well in the middle of the Nat lineup, but he has no position unless the NL adds the DH. LeMahieu would fit at either 3B or 1B, but he’d cost a draft pick and international money. It’s possible that the Yanks’ QO on him means that they’d like him back and will bid for him. Brantley and Pederson have bad splits against LHP, and Puig is a cancer.

    Did I miss anyone? Carlos .199 Santana? Based on his ridiculously low .212 BABIP, do you bet that he can change his Evil Ways of 2020? He’s been so erratic that it’s hard not to fear that he’d be another Thames in waiting.


    18 Nov 20 at 10:09 am

  62. Its rule 5 week. I’m posting soon on our projected protection candidates.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 20 at 10:14 am

  63. Huge number of guys potentially exposed to Rule 5, but not a lot for whom there will be a rush to add to the roster. They already added Fuentes to keep him from becoming a minor-league free agent, but they let several others technically become free agents and then re-signed them, including Reetz.


    18 Nov 20 at 10:46 am

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