Nationals Arm Race

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

Rizzo gets his 4th starter in Lester


Lester to feature the curly W in 2021. photo via Grantland

One of our most obvious roster gaps heading into the off-season was a veteran 4th starter, and today Mike Rizzo got his man.

Jon Lester. 3-time World Series winner, cancer survivor, noted wine aficionado, signs a one-year $5M deal with the ubiquitous mutual option that is never mutually agreed to, to be our 4th starter for 2021.

Lester joins an esteemed list of “veteran 4th starters signed to pillow contracts” under the Rizzo regime. To wit:

  • 2010: Jason Marquis (though to be fair he signed a 2 year deal to probably be more than our 4th starter).
  • 2011: Chien-Ming Wang
  • 2012: Edwin Jackson, the first of the “real” 4th starter FA assassins
  • 2013: Dan Haren
  • 2014: Doug Fister
  • 2018: Jeremy Hellickson
  • 2019: Anibel Sanchez

To be fair here, Fister was of course a trade acquisition, and was much more than a 4th starter, but his acquisition, plus Scherzer signing and the eventual rise of home grown products like Roark and Ross led to several years without a need to pursue the veteran 4th starter. Not surprisingly, they made the playoffs 3 of 4 years in this timeframe … inexplicably missing the playoffs in 2015 in a season I hand squarely on the incompetence of Matt Williams. But I digress.

Clearly Rizzo’s strategy in building a rotation goes like this: splurge for the top of your rotation, sign a veteran for your 4th starter, let the kids compete for the 5th starter. What I’d LIKE it to be is, grow a couple of stud starters, pair them with your $30M/year guys, and dominate. He’s had had a slew of misses in the 1st round in the last decade, gave up too early on others (ahem Giolito), and now seems to have put their eggs into the Cavalli/Rutledge basket. Lets hope.

Anyway, back to this post. What do I think of the Lester signing? Well…. i think he’ll be a great clubhouse guy. But i’m tempered on what I think he can provide on the field, unfortunately. Lester went from being an #1/#2 kinda guy to being a #4 starter right starting with the 2017 season. He saw a sustained bump in his WHIP starting in 2017, which he somehow danced around in 2018 to put together a smoke-and-mirrors 18win season where his FIP was a full point higher than his ERA. This run of luck came back to bite him in 2019, in the form of a .347 BABIP that ballooned his ERA to ugly territory. 2020 was a wash; he was bad across the board, which could be a pretty bad sign for 2021.

Now he’ll be in his age 37 season with a whole lotta mileage on his known torn UCL elbow. He’s also famous for his inability to keep runners on first base … which will put pressure on his catchers. Gomes is pretty decent at caught stealing percentage (.305 pct in 2019, which was 6th or 7th or so of “regular” catchers in the league), but who knows about whatever backup we pick.

Do we think Lester is a bounce back candidate? Can he flourish when he’s not “the man” in the rotation? How much does he have left in the tank? All interesting questions. At the worst case its a very small price tag to take that gamble.

Payroll implication; not a heck of a lot. $5M doesn’t really change anything else the team might be doing, which makes this a positive. I now have their projected 2021 payroll at $181M, leaving them a shade under $29M left to work with. Notably, they have about $11.5M in deferred dollars this year, plus their “real” 2021 payroll (i.e. actual dollars heading out the door versus cap space dollar figure) is another $9.5M … so that’s $20M of money that the Lerners may be removing from consideration … which means they only want to spend about another $9m. Maybe. Just throwing that out there; there’s a real versus cap space payroll consideration here as the team starts to see a lot of its deferred dollar contracts catching up to them.

My conclusion; proceed with caution. I would have liked to roll the dice with another candidate on the FA market.

218 Responses to 'Rizzo gets his 4th starter in Lester'

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  1. This signing is a bad sign for payroll, IMO. It’s certainly true that we need to see what other veteran starters (e.g., Hamels) sign for before we can truly evaluate this signing. And one-year deals are almost never bad, especially one-year deals for $5M. But there are many starters available. The fact that the Nats “struck now” has to mean they think “the iron is hot” – in other words, that Lester for $5M is such a good deal that it’s worth foregoing the opportunities they would have to sign a starter later in the free agency period. That, to me, thinks that this deal is a lot more about the $5M than it is about Lester.

    Prediction: when spring training rolls around, there will be a lot of one-year deals for starters that we like a lot better than our deal with Lester.

    As far as postseason pedigree is concerned, that’s all in the past. CC Sabathia has a lot of postseason pedigree and I don’t want him pitching for the Nats in 2021. I think the same is true of Lester.


    19 Jan 21 at 12:27 pm

  2. Isn’t saying someone is “a great clubhouse guy” like saying the girl has a good personality? Fornisicane keeps telling us that he’s a proven champion. Well, so is Howie Kendrick, who is the same age as Lester and knew when to retire.

    I’ll be the first to say that I hope I’m wrong, that Hickey gives Lester the change-up secret to turn him into Jamie Moyer. But on paper, Lester has been in decline for a few years, with some ugly numbers in 2020: his “heater” was 89. He lost 2.5 off his K/9, FIP 5.14, WHIP 1.33. HR/9 was at a career high.

    Also, what the flip is going on with his contract? Lester is getting just $2M in 2021 with $3M deferred until 2023. We keep talking about Hamels and some other guys who might have been possibilities at $5M, but hardly anyone else would have taken that contract. Lester just finished a $150M contract so presumably isn’t hurting for money. I’ll give him credit for taking a small amount to chase a championship with a reasonably good team, but the Nats may have scared off others with such a screwy contract offer. How can you have a team with a payroll approaching $200M but nickel-and-dime a $3M deferral?

    As I said, I hope I’m wrong. I hope Lester miraculously wins 15. But I wouldn’t count on it.


    19 Jan 21 at 12:53 pm

  3. KW, if Howie Kendrick reversed himself to come back and play for the Nats, I would be thrilled. He retired for reasons that may have nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with fatherhood. Injured though he was, let’s not pretend that he was a liability to the Nats in 2020. He simply wasn’t on the the field when needed. You can’t homogenize situations. And he had the proven ability to hit at an All-Star level in 2019 and to rehab his body from an Achilles tear in his 30’s, which is amazing. He retired because he wanted to retire. He did not retire as a fading player – many would have gladly signed him.

    I think what Derek says as criticisms are true. Did the Nationals strike when patience would have yielded even greater value. To that I say, “maybe.” And we will find out. At the end of the day, a team has to answer for the decisions they make on the choices available.

    The most analagous situation to this, in a critical way, was the Dozier vs. Lemahieu choice pre-2019. The Nats signed Dozier for 9m, betting on a bounceback. They got the 2018 Dozier. The Yankees committed 24m to LeMahieu and got a super return on investment. To be fair to the Nats, they also picked Dozier over Marwin Gonzalez (2/21), Jedd Lowrie (2/20), Mike Moustakas (1/10), Asdruba Cabrera (1/3.5 – who then took Dozier’s job as a steal pickup), Josh Harrison (1/2), Ian Kinsler (2/8). So it wasn’t the best pick, but it turned out better than others.

    So while we do not yet know how this will play out, the reality is that the commitment of 5m is even less than Dozier and certainly less than Anibal Sanchez (to which this is being compared).

    Derek, I understand what you are saying about Sabathia but my point is premised on the supposition that Lester can still pitch. No one yet knows this. I am old enough to reember playoff yips from less experienced Nationals pitchers and the “viejos” idea helped them in 2019, including the contributions of Sanchez. So, yes, experience counts.

    Todd’s points are well taken about the signs of decline and whether they are so readily crossed off as “2020 doesn’t count.” Again, we’ll find out.

    But what I would also predict is that there will be Jeremy Hellickson pitchers who emerge for the Nats as non-roster invitees. One year, he really came through and helped immeasurably. Nothing stops Rizzo from making a similar sign especially if he trades away the starter depth that the Nationals now have for a bigger piece. Agents are shrewd and they can see opportunity and can ask the same questions we do of Lester (and for that matter, Scherzer and other 2020 underperformers). So yes, the inventory means that come 2/8 (when Hellickson signed), someone will fall to the Nats who meets that criterion (especially if they deal one of Fedde/Ross/Voth by then).

    Hickey knows more about pitching than all of us. He also knows pitching development, having been watching Dodgers minor leaguers before coming to DC. So if he wants to pull the trigger on Lester, I defer to his talent assessment.


    19 Jan 21 at 1:26 pm

  4. KW, if Lester took only 2m and deferred 3 m, that does not say nickel and dime to me; it says that the Nats are marshalling resources for other building blocks to come. We have one month to find out whether that is right. And if so, good for them both.


    19 Jan 21 at 1:29 pm

  5. The team now has several “bounce back” candidates. Bell was bad in 2020. So was Schwarber. So was Lester. so was Kieboom. So was Robles.

    Are these coaches miracle workers? 🙂

    Todd Boss

    19 Jan 21 at 1:46 pm

  6. on the subject of NRI, I could see a Hickey-Matt Moore reunion on a NRI taking place. I suppose there are those who would like to dream on a Hickey-Chris Archer reunion as well, but he is going to get a major league deal from somebody. Then there is Jordan Zimmerman. So the NRI tree is still full of fruit.


    19 Jan 21 at 1:49 pm

  7. Deferring the $3M doesn’t change the $5M AAV hit, or any subsequent moves the Nats can make now. It’s just a weird thing, unless Lester’s camp asked for it for some reason, for tax purposes. If the Nats asked for it, it really does make you wonder about their actual cash-flow issues right now.


    19 Jan 21 at 2:10 pm

  8. The Nats had so many holes to fill this offseason that they’ve had to take on a number of risk/reward bounce-back guys. I like the odds on Bell, particularly for the price. I’m a little more skeptical on Schwarber, but he’s only a one-year deal. Both of those guys are in their 20s, though, with a chance to hit 35-40 homers. Hellickson was 31 when he had his bounce-back in 2018 (before cratering in 2019). With Lester, I just don’t like the bounce-back odds as much. But as I said, I hope I’m wrong.


    19 Jan 21 at 2:16 pm

  9. So now what? Fourth starter was one thing the Nats HAD to do. But there are still things they COULD do, with a number of directions they could go. Budget left probably $10-20M total.

    The biggest place I see as potential add is LF/DH. Will Schwarber be primarily DH and they sign another LF? Do they sign Zim to platoon with Schwarber and/or Bell? Or is Harrison that RH platoon guy? LF still seems like perhaps the best place to add a good bang-for-buck guy in Rosario or Pederson. Or maybe they look at a cheaper RH OF like Pillar. But Tomas also could be in that DH/LF mix.

    I have a hard time seeing how the money would work for adding Bryant ($19.5M), unless they dump some salary in the trade (they don’t have too many guys to trade who would lower it) or have the Cubs eat some of it. Suarez would fit better AAV-wise but would probably take a bigger package acquire. But it’s also quite possible that they roll with a 3B of Kieboom/Harrison/Castro.


    19 Jan 21 at 2:30 pm

  10. This signing certainly does seem to leave money in the bank for another serious offensive upgrade. I don’t think it’s enough to squeeze in Bryant, but Bryant was never my favorite option out there anyway.

    The cheaper options will be guys like La Stella, Gyorko, and maybe Rosario whose markets haven’t gotten hot. Next rung up the ladder would be someone like Semien or maybe Gregorius if they’re willing to move to third base (which is a big “if”, although it may be a moot point for the Nats anyway). Then there’s trade options like Suarez, whose acquisition cost may be prohibitive, and Colin Moran, whose acquisition cost would…not be. (Moran’s not a *terrible* option, with an .800 OPS last year and a first-year arb contract, although his defensive marks at third base in 2019 were ooooogly and the Bucs didn’t deploy him much in the field in 2020.)


    19 Jan 21 at 3:36 pm

  11. Honestly, I’m concerned this is it for guys who will make more than $2M. We need a RH OF and a few bullpen arms. The Nats are going to be shopping at TJ Maxx for those, I think.

    I’ve said it before, but I think Bryant is a really good fit: he plays 3B against righties, LF against lefties (Schwarber sits), and Kieboom gets to be a part-time 3B against LH starters. It really shouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects to get Bryant. But I think it’s clear now that his salary is just too high for the Nats in 2021. Oh well. It shouldn’t matter that shopping malls and commercial real estate have taken it on the chin over the last 10 months, but I guess it does.


    19 Jan 21 at 3:53 pm

  12. That could be the case, but I don’t necessarily think this is a sign it will be. It’s a backloaded one-year deal for a shade under $5M in total commitment. That leaves quite a bit of headspace, even if we think the final payroll lands in the $190-195M range.


    19 Jan 21 at 5:00 pm

  13. I’m going to split the baby and agree with both of you. Like Sao, I think this would be a significantly better team if they were to add a couple of guys like Rosario and La Stella. But like Derek, I’ve been fearing for some time that we’re deluding ourselves if we think some other bigger, or even midsized, deals are coming. Ghost at Nats Talk has been reporting for months that he’s heard their salary target line is around $190M. But for just $10-12M more, they could be a much better team.

    If they truly only have $9M left to spend, I’d probably get Pillar for $5M and offer $2M contracts to Zim and Doo. (I think Zim will have an offer if he wants one; I’m not so sure about Doo.) Like Fore, I think they will be handing out minor-league/NRI deals to two or three once-“known” pitchers, and Moore could indeed be a good idea.

    If they were to commit to spending $20M more, I’d go Rosario $8M, La Stella $7M, then probably Zim and Doo as well, or some other $2-3M reliever. As I’ve written before, I don’t think Gyorko will be in play with two other RH infielders in Castro and Harrison.

    Either Semien or Didi would be intriguing at 3B . . . for the right price. With either, I think it would have to be a one-year show-me contract, no more than $10-12M. I don’t think they want to commit any extended money in to INF with the hope that Kieboom and Garcia will bloom.


    19 Jan 21 at 5:26 pm

  14. I’ll take your split baby and split it further: I think the Nats will probably sign ONE more player like Rosario or La Stella (maybe, possibly, if the stars align, splurging on a Suarez trade or a Semien/Didi signing for 3B) but not two, plus they’ll bring back Zim and maybe Doo. Not sure on catcher — I think Rizzo’s probably feeling OK about what he has but still monitoring the market.


    19 Jan 21 at 6:18 pm

  15. I’ve been wrong many a time, but I don’t see the Nats parking Kieboom on the bench and using him on the short side of a platoon. Kieboom stunk to high heaven in 2020, and the only way he’s going to get better is with more playing time. Now, since more playing time for Kieboom probably means more losses for the Nats, I think the easiest and safest place to do that would be in Rochester, assuming the Nats can’t trade him for value this winter.


    19 Jan 21 at 6:20 pm

  16. I have yet to give up on Kieboom’s bat. This is the same player who hit two HR off Justin Verlander in the spring. But he has to play every day and get confidence on both sides of the ball. That can best happen in Rochester.

    We presume that Kieboom goes in any deal for Suarez or Ramirez. But if the Nationals can further upgrade the team this winter and park Kieboom and Garcia in AAA to start the season, we can consider that aspect of the offseason a success.


    19 Jan 21 at 6:50 pm

  17. I don’t think Suarez is happening, but man, look at the power this lineup would have. Counting home runs and slugging over the past three seasons:

    Turner – 50 HR, .474 SLG
    Soto – 69 HR, .557 SLG
    Bell – 57 HR, .472 SLG
    Suarez – 98 HR, .538 SLG
    Schwarber – 75 HR, .484 SLG
    Castro – 36 HR, .420 SLG
    Gomes – 32 HR, .429 SLG
    Robles – 23 HR, .405 SLG

    Bop City.


    19 Jan 21 at 7:00 pm

  18. What we think about Kieboom matters a lot less than what Rizzo thinks about him. Thus far, he hasn’t made a big move to replace him. If he does, my bet would be that it would be with a one-year deal for someone like Semien, Didi, or La Stella (all of whom are certainly looking for multi-year deals but may be getting desperate). Castro may be capable of nearly that same level of production, though.

    Based on the SSS in 2020, Garcia looks more ready to contribute sooner than Kieboom. Both could start the season at AAA. At the same time, I don’t think they’ll be forced to the minors if they shine in the spring. With a very narrow needle to thread for the playoffs this year, they can’t afford to play games with service time.

    If they do still have one big, err, mid-sized move left, I think I would lobby for Rosario. I’d even give him a three-year deal, as they have no other OF options in the pipeline for years to come. He has good splits and could play every day. Schwarber could DH pretty much full time.

    Here’s my hunch with catcher: there are several of the marginal guys still unsigned. I think Rizzo will try to get one of them on a minor-league deal to compete with Castillo. Don’t forget that Castillo knows the Cubbie secret handshake, though, which apparently means a lot now.


    19 Jan 21 at 9:34 pm

  19. Also worth noting Schwarber is a former catcher and can still handle himself back there. The Nats won’t want to actually deploy him as a catcher, but he’s the most credible “emergency catcher” they’ve had on the roster in years, if you don’t count precious Bryce Harper.

    Something like a 1/11M for Semien would be really, really great, and the Nats can still fit that into the budget right now. That deal for Semien plus spread $4M between Zimmerman and Doolittle and you’ve got this team for $195M:

    Rotation: Scherzer, Corbin, Strasburg, Lester, Ross
    Bullpen: Rainey, Harris, Hudson, Suero, Finnegan, Doolittle, McGowin, Voth
    Catchers: Gomes, Castillo
    Infielders: Bell, Zimmerman, Castro, Turner, Semien, Harrison
    Outfielders: Schwarber, Soto, Stevenson, Robles, Tomas

    That’s not bad. Can I say with confidence it’s a 90-game winner? No. But I can say with confidence I think it might be.


    19 Jan 21 at 9:53 pm

  20. It would have been fun to see Harper and Werth fight over who got to be the emergency catcher . . . even though some random utility infielder usually had that official designation. But goodness, there were years where the manager wouldn’t pinch hit that precious backup catcher for fear of having to use an emergency one. Davey seemed to have no issue with that, though, particularly with Suzuki as a PH option.


    19 Jan 21 at 10:21 pm

  21. If we only have one quasi-big thing left, I think I would vote for Rosario over Semien, in part for defensive reasons. Soto will still be feeling his way in RF, and Schwarber is a known butcher in LF. Let him just DH.

    On the cheaper side, we haven’t discussed Duvall much, but if he falls into the $2-3M range, he could be an interesting platoon guy for LF/DH. He might duplicate Tomas, although Duvall has more of an actual MLB track record. I’ve mentioned Pillar more, mainly as insurance if Robles tanks, but I guess Stevenson could be that insurance . . . if he’s capable of playing every day.


    20 Jan 21 at 9:44 am

  22. Jays are now Braves North, with a ton of offense but perhaps not enough pitching. They’ve now become to the Yanks what the Pads are to the Dodgers: a real threat to put the blue bloods into the wild card game.


    20 Jan 21 at 9:47 am

  23. I’m still in the camp of a backloaded JTR deal, trading Gomes bundled with pitchers to free up salary and to bring back JD Ramirez.

    Swap Will Harris to the Blue Jays to free up more salary if need be.


    20 Jan 21 at 1:19 pm

  24. I’m just not sure Realmuto is enough of an upgrade over Gomes for it to be worth it. Gomes was our third-best hitter last year, plus he has familiarity with a pitching staff that will already be missing Kurt Suzuki. The Nats could sign Realmuto and keep Gomes, even deploy them both in the lineup if there’s a DH (maybe even a rotation between C/1B, with Bell mostly DHing or playing 1B when one of them gets a day off?). But while Realmuto is a very good hitter, he’s going to be paid for more than his offensive value, and we can spend less to make a similar upgrade to the lineup and defense at another position.


    20 Jan 21 at 1:28 pm

  25. I’ve never thought that Realmuto was worth, to the Nats with their limited cap space, how much he would cost. They probably will get more offensive production out of Bell, for $6M, than they would get from Realmuto for $20M. And as Sao says, Gomes isn’t a sucking hole in the lineup. I am surprised that they didn’t pony $3M for a better backup catcher, but the pickings were very slim, and I understand the thinking that Castillo might be as good as any of them. For the cost of Realmuto, they’ve got Bell + Schwarber + $6M or so that still could be spent.

    I’m not saying that Realmuto isn’t a good player. For 3/$36M, he’d look terrific as a Nat. But that isn’t his price, or his years. And when he’s mostly a 1B/DH in three or four years, his true market value would only be about $5M.


    20 Jan 21 at 1:39 pm

  26. I would LOVE Jose Ramirez. But with that good of a contract ($5.2M AAV, controlled for three more seasons), I don’t know why the Indians would trade him unless someone really blows their doors off with a deal, like multiple top-100 prospects. The Nats have zero of those. So I don’t think Ramirez is even in play.

    The word was that Suarez was in play but that the Nats wouldn’t part with Cavalli or Rutledge. I personally would make that deal if they’d do it with Cavalli plus stuff.


    20 Jan 21 at 1:47 pm

  27. Is there anybody on planet earth who would rather have Lester at 1 yr/$5M than Quintana at 1 yr/$8M? The Nats didn’t even ink the best 1 yr deal for a left-handed ex Cubs starter signed within the last 48 hrs. I’m shaking my head – the Lester deal is going to make me angry every time another pitcher signs


    20 Jan 21 at 2:49 pm

  28. Derek — You’re pretty much thinking like I’m thinking. I would have taken Chatwood ($3M) over Lester as well. Lester may be a GREAT guy . . . but there are a lot of questions about whether he can still do it on the fiel.


    20 Jan 21 at 2:59 pm

  29. A couple of points for consideration. Yan Gomes will be 34 this year, and we are all comfortable with him as the starting catcher. So JT Realmuto is 4 years younger. Why the servations about a contract that anticipates at least four more years catching? Yadier Molina won a Gold Glove at age 35 and was an all star, and far from embarrassed himself in the two years that followed. The Nationals won a WS with Kurt Suzuki at age 35, and kept him as a co-starter at age 36.

    Can one generalize to JTR? I don’t know. But he’s the best catcher in baseball, he’s been on losing teams, and I would say that adding him (and taking him away from an NL East rival) would be huge at a position at which there is so little premium quality.


    20 Jan 21 at 4:10 pm

  30. The problem I keep running into is that Realmuto is going to get something like 5/125M, and we could probably sign Semien or Gregorius, who would be huge offensive upgrades over Kieboom/Garcia, for about half that AAV and fewer years, maybe even on a one-year pillow contract. We could probably get La Stella for half of that, or Jedd Gyorko or Cesar Hernandez for a little less than La Stella.

    Realmuto seems like the most expensive possible way to fix a problem for which credible and serviceable solutions are available at literally about one-fifth of the cost.


    20 Jan 21 at 4:19 pm

  31. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that a top catcher is an anchor of a pitching staff in an intangible but big way. The Nationals have had “stability” there the past two years but declining skills. When Wilson was here it was great (when he played). Look what Molina, Posey, and Salvador Perez have meant to their franchises and pitching staffs. Gary Carter was an anchor for the Expos, and never suitably replaced.

    I would be perfectly good with bringing in Yadier Molina on an affordable two year deal. Gomes is only signed up for one, and the prospects, by the Nationals estimation, are 3-4 years away from potential fruition.

    I’m nervous with Gomes, and if it saves money, sell high if you can get the upgrade to JTR.


    20 Jan 21 at 4:55 pm

  32. I get that people find Quintana sexier, but ask yorself why he could only score a 1 year 8 m deal at his age, and when teams can read his medical reports (and we can’t)?


    20 Jan 21 at 4:57 pm

  33. Think about it – the Cubs did not offer Quintana 8 m to come back. That’s a far cry from a pitcher who was 5-6 years older (whom they did offer, and had declined).


    20 Jan 21 at 4:59 pm

  34. Happ was a guy I would have liked on a one year deal such as they got with Lester. It will be interesting to see what he is getting from the Twinkies. They did overpay for Donaldson, so…


    20 Jan 21 at 5:13 pm

  35. Sure, I get that argument. The Nats do have a long-term need at catcher, and signing Realmuto answers that question for years to come.

    I won’t hate it if Mike Rizzo lands Realmuto — not at all. But just us speculating, I think the Nats are trying to win again in 2021, don’t quite know about 2022 yet, and could really use a player who can push Kieboom and Garcia to Rochester where they belong, more than they could use a player who will take up Kurt Suzuki’s slack for a lot more money.


    20 Jan 21 at 5:21 pm

  36. Sao, to your point, I am convinced that the Nationals will be making a trade of upper minor starting pitcher depth. Whether it will net Ramirez or Suarez or just a top prospect who is blocked (like a Wilson Ramos or Luke Voit trade), I don’t know. But I am convinced that the team can solve the problem on THIS budget.

    I also still believe in Castro as an affordable and quite good player who was a solid contributor last year when he got hurt. Wrist injuries take awhile to rehab power, so hopefully the six months break will be adequate.

    If not, 2B are in good supply. Like everyone else here, I love the idea of a Lastella pickup, and he’s cheaper than Realmuto, but I think the chance to solidify a starting catcher spot this well does not
    come along every year.

    Another option – sign JT, trade Gomes and get a cheap defense first backup in the deal, sign Lastella as a bridge to next year (without Castro) and a 2022 in which either or both Garcia/Kieboom are ready.

    It’s hard not to dream on Garcia. There is a reason everyone is asking for him. And the Nats still have not signed Turner.


    20 Jan 21 at 5:29 pm

  37. Brantley to the Astros for 2 years/ $32 million. I apologize to everybody for advocating signing him.

    He’s at the stage of his career where his best position is DH, still a better fielder than Schwarber, but that money is nuts for his age.

    The Astros must have felt desperate!

    Echoing everybody, please sign La Stella Mike Rizzo.

    Mark L

    20 Jan 21 at 6:11 pm

  38. Anybody prefer Lester at 1/$5M to Happ at 1/$8M?


    20 Jan 21 at 8:13 pm

  39. Jim Hickey does. As for me, ask me when we get to spring training


    20 Jan 21 at 8:34 pm

  40. Rizzo has been known to have a style of saying here’s the offer; if you take it we have a deal if not we move on. I could see the Nats having a few folks they offered this deal to, and Lester bit.

    We don’t know what the overall budget plan is, and that’s the rest of the story. So let’s see what else they spend on.


    20 Jan 21 at 8:37 pm

  41. Happ for $8M really hurts. If you’re wondering about a real February surprise, though, don’t lose track of Paxton. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the Nats, but he’s a Boras client, and this could turn into an Edwin Jackson (2012) situation.

    Realmuto isn’t coming, folks. Never was. Well, unless we had traded Robles for him three years ago.


    20 Jan 21 at 9:30 pm

  42. Fore, I appreciate the optimism. In my view, though, there’s no rosy picture here: the Nats’ decision makers have chosen a pitcher who’s a worse bet to perform well because he came $3M cheaper than pitchers who are better bets to perform well. I don’t think Jim Hickey’s preferences have much to do with it – the preferences being satisfied here come from someone named Lerner.


    20 Jan 21 at 9:49 pm

  43. $8M is awfully nice for Happ, I agree. Good gamble on a pitcher who was very good in 2020, even if he was awfully mediocre in 2019.


    21 Jan 21 at 2:21 am

  44. One idea that would work for me is trading for Pedro Severino. He’s affordable, replaceable for the Orioles, he could back up or groom into starter, and the Nationals have pitching the Orioles would use.


    21 Jan 21 at 9:14 am

  45. Have the O’s EVER traded with the Nats? That would be a good question for Todd. Probably not happening as long as Peter A-hole is still alive.

    I would not have paid 2/$7M for Jason Castro, he of the .188 BA and 36% K rate. Welington Castillo at his worst has never been that bad.


    21 Jan 21 at 9:48 am

  46. If we can see Dubai filled with Jews and Israelis — let alone the Sudan and Bahrain, we can envision a world with the O’s and the Nats trading. At some point, pragmatics take over.


    21 Jan 21 at 9:55 am

  47. As for Happ vs. Lester, I generally think the Lerners get a very raw deal from the public. They have spent plenty on the team and we are extremely fortunate to have them as the owners.

    With that noted, I am agnostic in the Lester at 5 vs. Happ at 8 debate, especially until I see the rest of the team budget and how the Nationals fill out the remaining four roster spots (including swaps off the roster.) But it bears noting that the Yankees, who need starting pitching, could have brought back Happ cheaply and for only one year (unlike Tanaka), and they did not.

    I would note, parenthetically, that Rizzo is purposely keeping us low now to give major league roster spots to players as a negotiating tool for remaining unsigned free agents for whom the team is competing in mid-late February.


    21 Jan 21 at 10:30 am

  48. Let me not be so definitive. But if they have quiet deals with Doolittle and/or Zimmerman, the Nats need not take up roster spots for either.

    There is, of course, the potential that both come in as NRI with contracts for being added to the roster — after the Nats have made off season acquisitions. That’s shrewd roster numbers management if that is what we are seeing.

    Zimmerman is a good fit for the current roster, at the hometown price, especially if there is a DH. As for Doolittle, the Nationals have not exactly been linked to any of the lefty relievers out there.

    I personally think that Romero has a high ceiling and needs to be pitching in AA or AAA in a rotation in which he can go out and dominate before being pushed. So I don’t see him as bullpen until he proves he cannot start. This will be a turn him loose year.

    But Cronin may well be a lefty answer. He was a high-caliber achiever for a major college program, which would place him at A+-AA talent level coming out of college. We’re now two years downstream. Perhaps he, too starts at AA or even AAA, but if he dominates in the spring, what then?


    21 Jan 21 at 10:39 am

  49. And yes, when you can get Wellington (who’s got a far better career going) on a minor league NRI while the ‘stros are paying Jason Castro 7 m, you are doing well. Indeed the answer may be under our nose.


    21 Jan 21 at 10:41 am

  50. Another reason why the Washington Post is useless rabble fishwrap (apart from beating the Lerner “cheap” pinata for clickbait and Svrluga’s “nobody wants to play here” and “Murphy is a homophobe” and the “Nationals are racist for firing Dusty Baker” formulaic tripe).

    So Dougherty reports today’s NRI signing of Hernan Perez on twitter as “Perez spent last season with the…yep, the Cubs.” Again, as if there is some secret Martinez-Hickey handshake going. Yet the reality is that Perez is an accomplished major league veteran of the Brewers through 2019 who started three plus years in Milwaukee and has a lot of position versatility. Precisely the kind of NRI pickup that helps competition in the spring. Hell, he even pitched in three games for Counsel and the Brewers in 2019.

    Every day we are presented an example of how most of the people on this board and TalkNats and Luke’s spot are more sophisticated than the Post writers. Sheesh.


    21 Jan 21 at 10:53 am

  51. It would have taken Dougherty all of five minutes to learn that Perez is hitting over .400 in Venezuela this winter and with a slugging PCT over .600 and notably improved plate discipline. Yeah, that’ll work for an NRI.


    21 Jan 21 at 10:57 am

  52. Fore, you’ve hit on something that has crossed my mind: Romero and Cronin may indeed be closing the door on a Doolittle return. The Sam Clay signing may have just been insurance, but one would think that the team would rather have Romero step up and claim that roster spot than to cross their figures about Doo having anything left. It’s possible that getting shut down without much action last year will help Doo’s arm bounce back, but who knows? The Nats rode him into the ground for much of 2019, out of necessity, and he wasn’t the same for the last third of the year.

    Of course there’s also the question of whether the Nats still see Romero as having starter potential, or if they’re going on and solidifying the move to the ‘pen.

    Speaking of arm rest, I’m hoping we’ll see a renewed Joe Ross this season. He has pitched through some issues for so many seasons that the high-level promise he showed in 2015-16 seems like a distant memory. Yet he’s actually three months younger than Fedde, and a year younger than Voth.


    21 Jan 21 at 11:22 am

  53. Federal Baseball has an excellent article today about Rizzo’s perspective on scouting and the need to see a player before acquisition. There is no doubt the Nationals have limited their interest in minor leaguers as a result. I see Clay as a signing strongly endorsed by the stat crunching guys, and Rizzo throwing them a roster spot as a bone (they nailed it with Finnegan, and perhaps with Rainey before him).

    Back to Hernan Perez, the Nationals have well-established operations in Venezuela, and so they would be wise — and likely have — put eyes on him before signing.

    But the “scout’s eyeballs” orientation that Rizzo keeps no doubt informs us the way the roster (and the Rochester roster, for that matter) is going to be constructed this year.

    It’s not like the Nationals to throw a player into a high leverage role without testing, even a fast riser. The last person they seem to have done that with is Koda Glover, ans even he had to go through his progressions — as did the older and more mature Christian Garcia before him. So it would be out of character for the Nats to bet too much on Cronin jumping — in my opinion. That’s said, everything I have read on him for 2020 is that he is one of a number of people who used the developmental platform at Fredericksburg particularly well, and advanced developmentally. So perhaps that puts him at AAA to start?

    I am one of those folks who sees Ross as a perpetual tease that many people dream on. He has had far more of a chance than Giolito did. But he has only two more years of team control. So I see him as one of those assets that the Nationals can move in a trade for a high end piece, like a Ramirez. I could be wrong, but to me, when you have a player who other teams value highly, and you are ‘meh’ with, you are looking at a lower grade version of Chris Archer, whom the Rays shrewdly flipped when they did. I see Ross as that kind of player. For all of the reasons you stated and more, he has more value to others. For all of the things that I’ve been writing, he is replaceable.

    As for Doolittle, you have to wonder whether (besides simply using him less in a Rainey-Hudson-Harris world) having Hickey around to teach him a changeup will extend his mileage as the ticks fall from his fastball.


    21 Jan 21 at 11:50 am

  54. Fore, I agree that “the Lerners are cheap” trope is overplayed. They run a high payroll, and they give out big contracts to stars. These are facts, and they mean that the Lerners aren’t cheap, full stop.

    The fact that they “aren’t cheap” is not the same thing as saying they don’t make bad decisions because of cost considerations. They have in the past, and presumably will in the future. The Lester signing is an example of that. He’s been in steep decline since 2015 (he had good results in 2016, but his peripherals clearly declined and began the trend that continued from ’17-’20). I think most 2020 stats should be discounted heavily, but looking at Lester’s, his stats in 2020 are perfectly consistent with what he had done in the years prior. At the beginning of a full 2020, an ERA above 5 was absolutely within a reasonable range of expectations for him. In 2020, his peripherals CONTINUED to decline. Is there anybody who would take an even-money bet that Lester’s ERA will be below 4.75 next year? If there is, my next question is: how much do you wanna bet?

    For a small amount of extra money, they could have gotten someone who’s not trending in the wrong direction from literally every possible angle a fan could look at. Maybe there’s a scouting or Jim Hickey-supplied reason to think Lester, a year older than he was last year, is going to reverse all the trends and be better than shitty next year. It’s certainly possible. But this is the same team that signed Dan Haren. There were MUCH better reasons to think Haren’s decline was less steep/permanent than Lester’s, at least in 2013 when they signed him. I don’t think the Nats’ FO has any magic ability to figure out when an old declining starting pitcher is going to be good, fine, ok, or terrible. There’s a lot of luck at play. I can’t escape the fact that, for a little bit of extra money, they could have gotten someone A LOT better at a pretty important position and neutralized a bit of the luck factor at play. It’s a bad decision that also happens to be a cheap decision. I’m a lot more focused on the “bad” part – and point out the salaries of other FA starters only to illustrate exactly how bad it is. IT IS BAD!


    21 Jan 21 at 12:04 pm

  55. Derek, the Haren point is well taken. But we would have gladly taken the two years Haren had AFTER he left the Nats. So while I think that decision did not reflect a good judgment call, it was not necessarily because he was over the hill. In fact, you could say that in both of the years after he left the Nats, he was even better than he was the year before he got to the Nats.

    There are a number of cast-off folks who stopped here, did not impress, and then did well elsewhere – Rich Hill, Yusmerio Petit come to mind.

    I do think, however, the discussion is premature until we see who ends up here under the luxury tax. I do believe the Nationals could still sign others on the free agent tree to major league contracts who may be lesser priorities but who turn out to be big plusses. The team has had some successes (Hellickson being one, and position players like Cabrera and Harrison).

    I’m thinking, for example, that Gio Gonzalez will be left out in the cold, and may be a worthwhile flyer under Davey and Hickey.

    It’s only a cheap decision when we learn that they did not spend money on someone under the cap that would have upgraded the team that they would not have gotten for 3m dollars less. And we just don;t know that yet.


    21 Jan 21 at 12:22 pm

  56. Derek – one more point. We don;t often discuss this hindsight question. But the Nats decided to mortgage the future budgets on Strasburg. It was a Starsburg vs. Rendon decision (or was it, as Rendon was thought to be much more open to going out of DC)? Either way, they made a financial decision to spend to a point. Some may say they should not have spent at all, and taken the draft picks. I supported the idea at the time, but would have been just as happy were Rendon to have come back and Strasburg to have walked — particularly because the market shows you can get a #2 pitcher now for a lot less than 35m per annum. But Rendon caliber 3B are tough to get – either by coin (Arenado) or player cost (Ramirez).


    21 Jan 21 at 12:27 pm

  57. There are many ways a FO can make mistakes with FA contracts. One is overpaying a good player. Another is overpaying a bad player. Yet another is not signing a good player who was available at a good price. With Strasburg, they overpaid a good player. I’m happy they signed Strasburg (because he is my favorite player), but there’s a decent argument that those $235M could have been better spent elsewhere (on Rendon, someone else, or multiple someone elses). It was a tough, risky call. It may or may not work out. I’m not going to criticize it – a tough decision is a tough decision.

    If the $3M they could have used to get a decent starting pitcher is re-invested in other pieces that help the team win, I’ll be happy. But I’m skeptical. My fundamental problem is that I think Lester is going to be bad next year. I also think Erick Fedde is going to be bad next year. The difference is that Erick Fedde’s badness is indistinguishable from free, whereas the team is paying $5M for the privilege of getting Lester’s badness.

    It’s hard to take the team’s prospects for getting to the playoffs too seriously when they are (in part) dependent upon Jon Lester throwing 180 not terrible innings.


    21 Jan 21 at 12:40 pm

  58. The same thinking can be applied to the Schwarber decision, if you presuppose that he is to be mediocre. I have not been bullish on the signing. I’d have preferred Springer (before knowing it would take 150 m) or even Ozuna. But I’m likewise waiting until the puzzle pieces are completed. My Lester thinking is part of that continuum, because I anticipate a lot more to come.


    21 Jan 21 at 12:53 pm

  59. On the last point, Rizzo is a poker player. He went out and got Schwarber AFTER saying that the team is planning for 2021 as if there will not be a DH. I think he was simply depressing the market for Schwarber. He does that, and whatever he is targeting now is also being carefully stage managed.

    We know they’ve talked to Realmuto. We know they’ve talked about Suarez, and about Ramirez. That’s all we really need to know. Rizzo is headed in some direction big, as far as I am concerned, and while it may be an entirely different direction than what is in the public domain, it’s not going to be rinky dink upgrading.


    21 Jan 21 at 12:57 pm

  60. I am predicting rinky dink from here on out. I would be very happy if I am wrong, but that’s what I think.

    The difference between Lester and Schwarber is that it is much easier to see Schwarber as a good hitter next year than it is to see Lester as a good pitcher.

    The “fourth” starter is supposed to make ~25 starts and throw ~150 innings. The Nats could have paid $3M extra to get better (expected) results in those innings. How would you deploy those $3M extra dollars they have lying around because they cheaped out with Lester? It can’t possibly be toward the bullpen: you’d rather deploy that money to improve 150 innings than 50. A position player? Is $3M in salary going to make a big difference there?


    21 Jan 21 at 1:07 pm

  61. Here’s a list I compiled and posted two months ago of Steamer-projected FIP of FA pitchers. Not all of these guys are in the same price range, obviously, but many fall into the $5-10M range that would have been an insignificant difference for the Nats to pay instead of signing Lester. That’s not saying they’re “cheap;” it’s saying they made a questionable decision based on recent performance.

    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
    T. 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


    21 Jan 21 at 1:30 pm

  62. FWIW, here are the Steamer 2021 projections for guys already on hand:

    Scherzer 3.47
    Strasburg 4.04
    Corbin 4.11
    Voth 4.64
    Fedde 4.98
    Ross 5.01


    21 Jan 21 at 1:40 pm

  63. Another point worth considering – the DH is not yet resolved. If the DH is coming to the NL, wouldn’t the Nationals keep their budget powder dry and then try to quietly buy another big bat – Nelson Cruz?


    21 Jan 21 at 2:56 pm

  64. I’ve been lobbying for Cruz all winter, whether DH comes or not. I was told he would stumble around in LF. So we signed the slick-fielding Schwarber instead.

    Really, though, if the DH does come, they’re better off now having Schwarber DH and signing Rosario to actually chase fly balls.


    21 Jan 21 at 3:06 pm

  65. KW, I’m with you. The National League clubs are being screwed here, not knowing about the DH.
    Rosario would be a great sign, along with La Stella.

    Mark L

    21 Jan 21 at 6:54 pm

  66. Let’s just hope that Boras doesn’t try to convince the Nats to take Jackie Bradley Jr. The propaganda campaign has already started, though. A MLBTR article on the Springer signing declared Bradley the best OF remaining on the market. Um . . . Steamer projects Bradley for a .225 BA and 86 wRC+. It projects Rosario at .271 and 105. Why is Rosario getting so overlooked? (And why not take advantage of him getting so overlooked?) If they want a RH bat as a reserve OF, Pillar would cost about half of Bradley, for the same production.

    If the Nats only have one midrange play left, I would probably go for Rosario if there is a DH, or for Semien if there isn’t. It’s still questionable whether Semien (or Didi) will drop down into the $10-12M range that would make sense for the Nats. I keep seeing Justin Turner being mentioned with this group, but I still have a hard time seeing him leaving the West Coast. La Stella would be a cheaper option, and perhaps a more flexible one.

    I’d like to share Fore’s optimism that another big deal is coming, perhaps more than one, but I’m concerned that Derek is right in fearing that Lester was their last semi-big purchase. The rest may be $2-3M deals.


    22 Jan 21 at 9:08 am

  67. RIP to Hank Aaron, one of the classiest men ever involved with the sport of baseball, in addition to being one of the true all-time greats.


    22 Jan 21 at 12:23 pm

  68. Just looking at Aaron’s stats. His K% for his career was 9.9. Yes, you read that right (he never topped 100 Ks in a season). His BB% was 10.1. His career wRC+ was 153, with 19 seasons over 140 (155 OPS+) Career slash: .305/.374/.555, compiling 136.3 fWAR, 143.1 bWAR. MLB career leader in total bases, RBIs, and legitimate home runs.


    22 Jan 21 at 1:19 pm

  69. Aaron’s production was amazing, across the board.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jan 21 at 1:40 pm

  70. Zim coming back for 1 year, $1M plus incentives. MLB deal. That sure leaves plenty of money on the table if they hope to do other things. Could platoon with Bell at 1B (who doesn’t hit LHP as well) or Schwarber if there’s a DH.


    22 Jan 21 at 3:52 pm

  71. I think of Aaron and Kareem Abdul Jabaar in similar lights: their consistency and longevity obscured the height of their peaks as players. Neither gets his due in “best ever” discussions, in my opinion. RIP Hank. You will be missed, even though you played for the Braves.


    22 Jan 21 at 3:59 pm

  72. Any news on Aaron cause of death? I remember seeing him get the vaccine a week or two ago!


    22 Jan 21 at 4:12 pm

  73. Glad to have Zim back! Will be interesting if the whole year off helped his oft injured body refresh.
    (Although did did always take Spring training off too)


    22 Jan 21 at 4:14 pm

  74. Interesting on Zimm. Well, at 1m he took the smallest figure one could realistically hope for. Low risk investment and great to have him available to the lineup, one extra year of healing behind him. That would put to rest any thought of a Nelson Cruz DH signing, even with a 26 man roster. Welcome back Zimm!

    Nats at 37.


    22 Jan 21 at 4:42 pm

  75. I count 37 on the 40-man, including Zim and Lester. That doesn’t including Welington Castillo, though, or any other backup catcher besides Barrera, nor does it include Yasmany Tomas. Of course Bacus and Noll aren’t exactly standing in the way of keeping anyone from being added to the 40-man.

    It’s insane that we’re less than a month from Spring Training and still don’t know whether the NL will have the DH. Schwarber and Zim would be a very nice DH/PH tandem, assuming they get someone else to play LF. Can’t see them relying on Stevenson as a starter. With no DH, then Zim and Bell platoon at 1B, with Zim also a late-inning defensive replacement. I guess that would leave a LF platoon of Schwarber and maybe Tomas.


    22 Jan 21 at 4:48 pm

  76. The 2/$14M for Kiki Hernandez seems like a rather bizarre overpay for a guy coming off an 83 wRC+ and -0.1 fWAR. That could affect the price of more legit players like La Stella and Gyorko, though. But maybe it won’t. The skewed deal for Smyly hasn’t seemed to affect the pitching market. (FWIW, La Stella projects to 2.2 fWAR, but only 0.5 for Gyorko.)


    22 Jan 21 at 10:11 pm

  77. Agree; we’re at 37/40 on teh 40-man. Zimmerman’s miniscule contract still leaves team nearly $28M under the cap.

    Also interesting is the way the roster is coming about w/r/t options (which I havn’t done as a post yet but i have the analysis done).
    – 11 veterans on guaranteed contracts:
    – 8 with options but pretty firmly entrenched (guys like Turner, Soto, Robles, etc)
    – 3 without options for 2021: Ross, Voth, Stevenson

    That leaves 4 spots. Not meentioned in the above 3 categories are Kieboom, Garcia and Fedde. Also not included there would be guys like McGowin, Armenteros, Romero, Bacus or Clay. Or Castillo.

    So, how many of those do you think are “guaranteed” roster spots? None? Some? Are any of the three option-less players on your drop list? What about other NRIs? i may have to get on my options analysis piece to answer these questions.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jan 21 at 1:04 pm

  78. Looking at guys who could potentially be cut in spring training?

    Adon – unlikely, just added
    Armenteros – yes
    Bacus – yes
    Braymer – no
    Clay – no
    Corbin – no
    Fedde – no, but could be traded
    Finnegan – no
    Fuentes – unlikely, just added
    Harper – yes
    Harris – no
    Hudson – no
    McGowin – no
    Rainey – no
    Romero – no
    Ross – no
    Scherzer – no
    Strasburg – no
    Suero – no
    Voth – yes

    Position players:
    Antuna – no
    Barrera – no
    Bell – no
    Castro – no
    Garcia – no
    Gomes – no
    Harrison – no
    Hernandez – yes
    Kieboom – no, but could be traded
    Noll – yes
    Robles – no
    Schwarber – no
    Soto – no
    Stevenson – no
    Turner – no
    Zimmerman – no

    So I count Armenteros, Bacus, Harper, and Voth as pitchers who could potentially be DFA’d, and only Hernandez and Noll among position players who could potentially be DFA’d. Don’t see the Nats giving up on Sam Clay after signing him to a major league deal this winter, don’t see the Nats giving up on Kyle McGowin after he showed very well in his initial relief appearances in 2020, don’t see the Nats giving up on Tres Barrera given the paucity of catchers in the system.


    23 Jan 21 at 1:53 pm

  79. Voth isn’t getting DFA’d. He has trade value. He’s also better than McGowin . . . and maybe better than Fedde and Ross. Voth certainly was better than both of them down the stretch in 2019. Fedde improved a little in 2020 but still wasn’t very good, but Voth regressed.

    Armenteros is a wild card with this group, younger than all of them, probably at least as good as Crowe (allowing for him to be traded). It will also be interesting to see if they have Braymer and Romero stretching out for the starter competition, or pointing toward the ‘pen.

    Speaking of lefties and the ‘pen, Heyman has the Nats joining the pursuit of Hand. I think the baseline for him is going to be 2/$20M. The Nats could make that work, but whether it’s the best use of the money they have left is more the question.


    23 Jan 21 at 5:34 pm

  80. 37 is a fungible number. The Nationals have plenty of roster spots available, especially if they trade from strength. There is just no way I see them going into the season with Fedde, Ross, McGowin, Voth, AND Armenterios on the 40 man roster, and only Armenterios would be DFA for a better fit. All of the others are trade candidates, depending on the opportunity.

    Yadiel Hernandez is being showcased for trade value to a second division team that needs a LF-DH type. Before you laugh, consider that Jose Marmolejos was a castoff who landed with the Mariners and outperformed Kieboom at the ML level last year.

    Someone like Bacus could be DFA easy. Others like Harper and Braymer would not pass unclaimed. Noll will not be DFA, in my opinion. His bat is improving and he is a rising player in the organization, despite not showing up on prospect lists.


    23 Jan 21 at 7:23 pm

  81. Realistically, I doubt we’ll DFA more than one player, and maybe not even any at all. The Nats have 37 roster spots spoken for, and they still need at least one infielder, a backup catcher, a left-handed reliever, and a spare outfielder. They might have the reliever and outfielder on the roster already (although I’m not counting on it). At most, maybe they DFA someone like Bacus who will almost certainly go unclaimed, or they trade from the pile of Ross, Voth, Fedde, Armenteros, and Fuentes for a couple of prospects or something (none of them are exactly going to bring back a mint in trade).


    23 Jan 21 at 9:57 pm

  82. Taillon from Pittsburgh – Why not put together a package featuring Ross? He’d be a terrific, controllable option at #4 for two years, and wouldn’t cost Cavalli and Rutledge or Henry and co, while allowing them to ripen.


    23 Jan 21 at 10:06 pm

  83. I don’t think Ross has a lot of trade value right now. The chances of him improving for the Nats are probably “worth” more than what he might bring in return.

    Taillon probably would cost Cavalli-plus. He’s a 2d-overall draft pick who is pretty good. We certainly know that the Nats and Bucs talk, since they recently made a significant trade. I can’t see the Nats getting into the Taillon discussions, though. I wish they would, but I seriously doubt they’re thinking in that direction after signing Lester. As we know from the Bell trade, the Pirates want prospects. They’re in total rebuild. The Nats have no top-100 prospects.


    23 Jan 21 at 10:39 pm

  84. Fedde, McGowin, and Armenterios all still have options. That could be the top of the Rochester rotation right there. The Nats have bent over backwards to keep Fedde with the big club, though, and McGowin may or may not be transitioning to the bullpen. My guess would be that for now, he’s going to stay stretched out at Rochester. Perhaps Braymer will, too, unless they decide that he’s the best lefty bullpen option for the big club.

    If I had to guess as of right now, the #5 starter would be . . . Ross, with Voth in the bullpen as the long man and Fedde in Rochester. Ross has the stuff that should work well out of the ‘pen, but that hasn’t been the case in practice. I still don’t have faith in Fedde as an MLB starter. He can’t strike anyone out and has a dangerously high walk rate.

    It will be very interesting to see what a veteran pitching coach can do with these guys, and how he assesses them.


    23 Jan 21 at 10:50 pm

  85. Before there’s any more talk of Taillon, remember he is on his 3rd elbow. Giving up anything significant for him is questionable logic.

    Mark L

    24 Jan 21 at 9:53 am

  86. 3rd Elbow? 3rd time’s a charm! 🙂

    Todd Boss

    24 Jan 21 at 11:04 am

  87. Good for the Pirates. What a haul they got for Taillon. That’s how to build. Especially when you couple that with Musgrove. And good for Herrington.

    And good for Rizzo. Looking what the Pirates are getting for these two players, it’s remarkable that Rizzo got Bell for Crowe and Yean.


    24 Jan 21 at 1:09 pm

  88. Yeah, that’s a big haul for Taillon . . . and not that much for Bell. Someone bought a whole truckload of hype about Yean.

    I hope Bell not only turns things around but also extends with the Nats. He could be a nice, affordable piece for years to come. And if he gets too expensive for the Nats, that’s not a bad thing; it’ll mean he had a couple of years over 40 HRs.


    24 Jan 21 at 2:21 pm

  89. I’m not impressed with the return for Taillon. The Yankees didn’t give up any top prospects to acquire a cheap #4. Yeah, their system is a lot better than ours, but they didn’t deal from their top ten at all, and the guys the Pirates got project to basically being up-and-down pieces if they make the majors. Meh.


    24 Jan 21 at 3:40 pm

  90. It’s nice to be right. I knew Rizzo wasn’t done.

    And he’s still not done.


    24 Jan 21 at 7:44 pm

  91. Todd Boss

    24 Jan 21 at 7:52 pm

  92. If Hand comes in, that probably cuts ties officially with Doolittle. a shame b/c he was such a good commhnity guy.

    38/40 now. This takes them to $17.4M under the cap. I stil see them with needs of a backup C and a utility infielder who can play SS.

    If the season starts now your bullpen looks like this: Hudson closing, Harris, Rainey, Hand* 7th/8th inning guys, Finnegan, Suero 6th/7th inning guys, and one of Voth/Braymer/Fedde as a swingman. That still leaves one spot for an 8th reliever, which could go to a NRI like Guerra or Avilan, or maybe another vet FA $!M/year guy. Tahat puts 40-man relievers Harper, Bacus, Clay* in AAA, along with a slew of 40-man starters of interest (namely, Romero, ARmenteres).

    Todd Boss

    24 Jan 21 at 8:06 pm

  93. I still see a trade(s) coming.


    24 Jan 21 at 8:16 pm

  94. Is Hand going to be the closer?? I think he might be, with Hudson moving back into an 8th-inning-by-committee situation

    Todd Boss

    24 Jan 21 at 8:37 pm

  95. I’m not sure how we can be anything less than thrilled as a first and second reaction to this.

    The Lerners simply can’t win. If they go big, they push out a guy with ties to the community. If they go cheap, it’s because they spend poorly. Someone will complain about Hand’s average FB velocity and ignore that hitters weren’t hitting him, whatever he threw.

    All I know it that the Nats, for Brad Hand, Josh Bell, Jon Lester, and Kyle Schwarber, spent less than 32m and traded away Will Crowe and Eddie Yean. They are still 16m under the cap. Does anyone know how fortunate we are to be able to root for this team?


    24 Jan 21 at 8:49 pm

  96. Wow! I’m stunned. It’s great for the Nats, and shows Rizzo still has his chops!

    Mark L

    24 Jan 21 at 10:08 pm

  97. The plot thickens. And now the Nationals have bullpen surplus as well – and 16m under the cap. And with Rizzo conspicuously signing at no more than a year committed all the way through the winter.

    Something else impressive with the Hand negotiations – he had multi-year offers and chose the Nationals. So he is betting on himself and this organization.

    The money takes Realmuto out of the equation, unless creative negotiation and unless Gomes (6m) and Harris 8m) are headed out. With 16 m committed to Harris, and Hand to close with Hudson to close as well and Rainey ready for more high lev, and Suero and Finnegan proven quantities, there is room for Harris to reprise his Houston role, but he is an expnsive toy with 16m committed.

    I suppose the natural next thinking has to be 3B. We all want Ramirez, perhaps Suarez. One has to also wonder what it would take to get change of scenery Arenado at this point, with Colorado paying some of the 2021 freight and Arenado bought out of his opt-out. Colorado has to really be an eager suitor right now, I would think. And these free agency additions are positioning the Nationals nicely to deal ML ready pieces in a two way or three way deal.

    The elephant in the room is the Turner and Soto negotiations on the long term deals. Getting at least one of them signed this winter, when the Nationals whiffed on Rendon, would be a coup.


    25 Jan 21 at 4:19 am

  98. I don’t think the Hand signing precludes a Doo return because the Nationals bullpen is still imbalanced. But that depends on whether they intend to trade from the group that is now there (and I mean Harris). Doo would be a lot cheaper and can help in the 7th-8th if his arm is rested.

    I’m not pushing good players out, but think that there are some nice sell-high(er) options (Gomes, Harris, Ross, Finnegan, Suero) depending upon who is coming back.

    The other debate point is: if you can get Arenado, with Colorado holding the salary for 2021, WITHOUT including Kieboom but with other pieces from above and lesser prospects, the Nationals could bring Arenado in for a year, let Kieboom ripen, and let Arenado go a year from now like everyone else, but with a far better feel for the organizations ripening talent (Kieboom, Garcia, Antuna) and a new crop of FA from which to choose.

    With spring approaching and rosters crystallizing, and lots of players still on the market (Gregorius, LaStella, Turner etc), I think the Nats are in a nice bargaining position with the Rockies. I love the idea of his defense coming in here, in addition to that bat.


    25 Jan 21 at 4:29 am

  99. Of course, if the Nats don’t get Doo, none of us would be surprised to see him return to the A’s, and do well there.


    25 Jan 21 at 4:30 am

  100. re: Arendao above, I meant Colorado holding part of the salary.


    25 Jan 21 at 4:32 am

  101. I’m very glad to be wrong that the Nats wouldn’t spend money post-Lester. And the deal for Hand is a good one. Still, I would like someone to explain how it makes sense to go cheap and bad with a starting pitcher (Lester), only to turn around a few days later to go expensive and good with a relief pitcher. If they had allocated $15.5M to FA pitchers, I would have spent it quite differently (zero to Lester). A few extra million to get Quintana or Happ is absolutely worth it, even if the consequence is not having enough left over to get Hand. I guess I just think starting pitchers – even the nominal 4th or 5th starters – are more important than bullpen arms.


    25 Jan 21 at 8:02 am

  102. My read on the Hand signing is a lack of trust in Hudson to be the closer. Not a bad one either, considering he was thrust into the role in 2019 when Doolittle tired/faltered, and then struggled in 2020. He’ll be in his age 34 season and maybe its time to put him back into a 7th/8th inning role.

    That being said … yeah. money spent on a closer. I hate it. It continues to be Rizzo’s weak spot. At least it didn’t cost us a superstar prospect like it did two years ago when we lost Lozada to get Doolittle/Madsen. Consider the string of ridiculous closer transactions Rizzo has undertaken since arriving here. I’ll just put the names here but it really merits a full post. But here’s the cliff notes version:

    – Storen installed mid 2010
    – 2012 post season lost confidence in storen so signed away a 1st round pick on Soriano
    – a year later Soriano sucked, so we put Storen back
    – but then didn’t trust him so traded away Pivetta to acquire Papelbon
    – Papelbon chocked the franchise star player, then sucked to start 2016 so we traded away more players to get Melancon for 1/2 a season
    – trade away Michael Morse to acquire Blake Treinen, but he sucked so we put in 8th round shock Koda Glover
    – he sucked too and the entire bullpen sucked so Rizzo traded away three solid players (lzardo, neuse, Treinne) to get doolittle/madsen
    – Doolittle gave us the most stability since Storen’s early years; he was great 2017, all star 2018, then tired out 2019
    – put Hudson in the role mid 2019, he was awesome
    – … but hudson was awful in 2020, so we spend $10M on Hand

    Througout this entire history …just two guys we drafted closed games for us (Storen and Glover for a month). Before that Cordero was a 1st rounder who closed for us or several years. We’ve drafted hundreds of pitchers in Rizzo’s time here; we couldn’t find ONE GUY who could close for us?

    Todd Boss

    25 Jan 21 at 8:43 am

  103. The Nats now have 2 needs left; catcher & infielder. What they do next is very intriguing.
    There are still some very good choices on the infielder side and not so many with catchers.

    I cant wait to see what Rizzo’s next moves are.

    Mark L

    25 Jan 21 at 10:00 am

  104. I’ve been cursing all offseason that the Nat didn’t make the $50K waiver claim of Hand for 1/$10M. I figured his minimum ask would be like 3/$36M, and that he might get more. So I’m pleasantly surprised (borderline shocked) that the best reliever on the market signed at this price.

    I do admit to having the same thought as Derek, though — if they had $10.5M extra lying around, it might have made more sense to allocate a larger chunk for a better starter than Lester.

    There really was no #2 lefty reliever, though. I mean, it’s sort of like the catcher market. And it’s extra nice that the Mets won’t be able to roll out Hand against Soto/Bell/Schwarber, but that we do have him for Freeman/Harper/Conforto.

    I certainly agree with Todd, though, and have at times made the same point — why in the heck, will all the draft capital they have spent on pitchers, can’t we find anyone in-house to pitch on the back in? Suero is the only internally developed guy guaranteed a spot in the ‘pen, and he’s a Latin signee, not a draftee.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:08 am

  105. Todd, the infielder they need doesn’t have to be SS-capable. Castro has logged plenty of time at SS. La Stella makes a fair amount of sense as a LH bat who can play anywhere but SS, to balance the RH bats of Castro and Harrison.

    Both Todd and Mark have mentioned this mythical creature called a backup catcher. They don’t exist! The ones left literally struck out 35-40% of the time in 2020. They make Espinosa look like a contact hitter. Ramos is still out there, but he wasn’t particularly good in 2020, and as we well know, he’s not exactly known for staying healthy. But if he’d come for 1/$3M, he’s probably an upgrade on Castillo. Otherwise, Castillo is probably just as good as anyone else out there. (But of course we’re actually getting Contreras, right?)

    Really, the remaining moves have a lot to do with whether there’s a DH. If there is, then let’s get Rosario for LF. If not, then probably spent on an INF: La Stella, or Semien if he somehow drops into our price range.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:18 am

  106. Derek – with respect to your question, there are numerous potential explanations:

    1) The Nationals have been carefully tracking the tax threshold all along, including with the outlays for arbitration eligible, and have been adding blocks by agreement while negotiating with pieces that are still unresolved (because the players (FA) and teams (trades) are still resolving their needs and own inventory (ex: Gregorius to the Reds makes Suarez more expendable).

    2) They like Lester and believe in him (even if some people here and some stat people don’t). They don’t see Happ as a good clubhouse guy (the Yankees, seeking starting help and having just made a budget trade for Happ, would not pay him either — and were shopping him at other times in his Yankee career. They have seen Quintana’s injury reports and do not like what they see.

    3) Even if they are not as enthusiastic about Lester at 5m as they would be Happ at 8m, the delta between the two qualitatively is not what the delta would be between Hand and a 5m caliber closer type.

    4) The Nationals got a top quality closer for only one year, giving Rainey a chance to grow into a closer role, and Cronin and Powell a chance to ripen, as well as other closer types like Bartow, and Condra-Bogan.

    5) Top lefty closers are all the more difficult to find and the Nationals simply could not be on Doolittle any more.

    6) The Nationals have more confidence in the #4-5 options they had before Lester than they did the blown save precedents of Hudson, Harris, and Doolittle, and they don’t want to gamble yet on Rainey.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:22 am

  107. Since Stammen and Clippard, have the Nats had *any* success in turning underperforming starter prospects into relief pitchers? Isn’t this one of the primary benefits of focusing your draft capital on pitchers – the failed starters populate your MLB bullpen? Given how many pitchers the Nats have drafted, it’s really hard to understand why this hasn’t happened at all (much less why it hasn’t happened frequently).


    25 Jan 21 at 10:22 am

  108. Bullpen as it current stands:

    Pretty much guaranteed: Hand, Hudson, Harris, Rainey, Finnegan, Suero

    Probably: the “loser” of the starter battle between Ross and Voth, as both are out of options.

    That would leave one spot for: re-signing Doolittle, or Ryne Harper, or Guerra, or McGowin, or Romero/Clay/Braymer, or Fuentes. You would think they would want a second LHP, but that isn’t guaranteed.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:26 am

  109. Fore, none of those reasons other than 2 is an explanation for why the Nats gave money to a bad starter. And believing in 2 is essentially an appeal to authority: the Nats FO knows more than we do about what Lester is likely to do in 2021. What has the Nats FO (which, overall is a good-to-very-good FO) done to supply you with the faith that this is so? Absolutely nothing, in my opinion.

    Prediction: Happ and Quintana each will have more WAR in 2021 than Lester + Hand. Anybody want to take the other side of that?

    I don’t believe in “growing into the closer role.” I also don’t believe in “top lefty closers.” You need pitchers in your bullpen from the right side and the left side who get outs. Paying a premium for someone who is a “proven closer” is a categorical mistake, one the Nats make over and over and over.

    The ONE time the Nats have advanced in the postseason during the Rizzo era – the postseason is supposedly the time when the composition of your bullpen really matters – the bullpen was filled with castoffs and and other arms that were essentially available for free (non-prospects).

    Hand is a good pitcher who will help. And $10M over one year is a good deal. That money should have been spent elsewhere.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:30 am

  110. 7) They have been trying to pull Realmuto or some other piece and have determined, finally, that the numbers will never work. So they went in another direction of an affordable upgrade, which Hand is in terms of their budget.

    Of note – whoever claimed Hand would have to agree to a trad with the Injuns. So the Nationals got him without giving up anyone.

    Todd – your missive hits the mark. I would give the Nationals credit for trying with certain draft picks through the years. Hopefully Cronin and Powell will deliver where others did not (eg Glover, Max Engelbrecht).

    We did have near misses like Christian Garcia and Aaron Barrett. But since Storen there has certainly been a system drought.

    One small correction. The Treinen trade was not to develop him as a closer. It was to find a good return for then-expendable Mike Morse. Treinen came into the system as a starter and was a starter in the Nationals system for two successful years before being converted downstream.

    Storen was also done by the time he was put back in for Soriano. In his last run, he was a placeholder until the Nationals could acquire a credible bullpen option.

    But to your point, the Nationals also tried to remedy the problem with a trade for Kelvin Herrare (yes, he sucked, too).


    25 Jan 21 at 10:31 am

  111. Fore, you are right: Treinen should count as a failed starter converted to successful reliever. I’m still surprised that conversion hasn’t happened more often.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:41 am

  112. Also, Fore, none of your reasons explains why the Nats simply had to sign Lester the third week in January. I get the need to have some budget certainty, which enables pieces to fall into place. But the risk associated with not signing Lester last week is…not getting a bad pitcher and having to sign someone else off of KW’s list who is likely better than Lester.


    25 Jan 21 at 10:48 am

  113. Bullpen construction is so squirrelly. I heard Richard Justice, national baseball writer, say in the middle of the 2019 season that he and many of his colleagues thought the Nats really had a great bullpen going into that season with adding Rosenthal, Barraclough, and Sipp to Doolittle. Three of those guys didn’t even make it half the season before getting kicked to the curb. As Derek said, they won the championship with a reject in 85-year-old Rodney, a rubber-armed guy nobody seems to want in Guerra, a guy acquired for a non-prospect in Hudson (after Strickland and Elias also crapped out), and, well, also a few nice relief turns by guys named Stras, Max, and Corbin.

    So who knows what they’ve go now? Hand has shown some regression but still is blowing a lot of guys away.

    I’m glad they have Hand. I hope Lester is better than we fear. But . . . if they really had $15.5M+ available to spend on pitching, that could have gotten them into Paxton’s territory, and maybe Tanaka’s.


    25 Jan 21 at 11:29 am

  114. On the closer thing and Trienen … i have a spreadsheet tracking all of this (of course; i have a spreadsheet for everything). Treinen is an interestng cat for me:
    – acquired jan 2013 in a 3-way team move, so technically it wasn’t “Treinen for Morse” but… we got Treinen and gave up Morse.
    – 2014: he starts in AAA, bounces up and down and both starts and relieves in the Majors. When he does start, he routinely got pulled early.
    – then in 2015 he’s now fulltime bullpen guy.
    – by 2017 he was effective enough to take over as closer.

    his numbers were never “bad” as a starter … the team just never gave him a long leash. He hit 100 pitches exactly once in 2014. Weird. I don’t recall having an opinion on his usage at the time.

    Todd Boss

    25 Jan 21 at 11:30 am

  115. Tanaka is not going to sign a one year deal for 10m. Maybe Paxton will, but we don’t know his medical and the Yankees, who know his medical, did not sign him.

    Why we signed Lester when we did? None of us knows. But the Giants showed interest in Lester and Rizzo may have wanted to snap him up before they did or before a market developed, or before the Cubs circled back, as he did with Suzuki and Shawn Kelley in earlier off seasons. I know you have a dim view, and I am agnostic, but had Happ and Quintana had an opportunity to set the market for autumn and winter pitchers, his price might have been even higher. For this answer, you’ll have to wait for the Buzzsaw sequel.


    25 Jan 21 at 3:01 pm

  116. Until the last dime is spent, we cannot presuppose what the end is that they have in mind, including the bigger ticket expenditures. Hand was an exercise in stealth or patience that his market never took off.


    25 Jan 21 at 3:03 pm

  117. I didn’t think there was any way that Hand would take a one-year deal, or just $10M. Good grief, we’re not that far removed from the offseason just a few years ago (2016-17) when Chapman, Melancon, and Jansen were all getting $15-18M a year for three to five years. Hand is in the same class right now as at least Melancon and Jansen were then, and not as old.


    25 Jan 21 at 9:56 pm

  118. KW, I am with you. This was a remarkable stroke, and one that reflects that players want to play for the Nationals and this organization.

    It’s clear that Rizzo is taking a different approach this winter. It isn’t just the discipline of waiting for the market to develop when there are so many options, it’s sticking to a plan to keep lots of money off the books after this year to increase payroll flexibility.

    That does not make the Lerners cheap by any means. It does, however, reflect the desire to avoid being entangled with underperforming contracts. It must be unsettling to look ahead to a commitment to Corbin for four years and Strasburg for six with their level of underperformance and a cupboard of pitching talent that caps out at Erick Fedde and Austin Voth.

    This is why, by the way, I appreciate the Nationals drafting potential #1 and #2 starters at their slots, and college players high, rather than high school talents. High school talent is fed by the Latin pipeline, where children are a different level of hunger and discipline.

    I think that in today’s game, it’s a big mistake to give out a huge and lengthy contract to a starting pitcher. Somehow things have worked out with Max. He has been an exception, though we have a few doubts as we approach year seven. And I still think he will end his career here, even if he morphs into John Smoltz. But elite elite pitchers are even crapshoots – look at David Price and Chris Sale and their contracts. The key is controllable starting pitching for a long enough portion of the career that is top shelf (eg Blake Snell, whom I think was the most valuable trade acquisition of the off season). But an injury to a position player that wipes out a whole year is rare compared to an injury to a pitcher that wipes out a year and a half, plus the ramp up period and uncertainty.

    Perhaps other teams think that way, too, now which is why teams may overpay for a “Top Prospect” with good prospect hype. Some of us (me) lament the loss of Luzardo in concept. But he hasn’t won his 20 games yet, just like Robbie Ray never won a Cy Young. Liberatore is an example of such a trade, enabled by prospect surplus, that capitalizes on someone’s “prospect” status on the mound.

    So I think the Nationals may ultimately be reflecting on the best success of this offseason to be having held onto a core of Rutledge-Cavalli-Henry-Lara-Romero-Cate while upgrading the team measurably with affordable pieces who in some cases (Bell and Hand) could be stars. If they have a surplus of potential breakthroughs a year from now, those will be valuable chips.

    Certainly for this reason, the Giolito-Lopez-Dunning trade was a stinker (that the Nationals are flying a flag is a sweet outcome). In today’s market, they could have done much better for all and have to. Lesson learned. Dunning fetched Lance Lynn, who would have been a fantastic fit here. The lure then, of a low long term contract, was illusory – Eaton was so oft-injured that the seemingly low contract was ultimately still a bad one. These longer contracts for most players tie the hands of the team on positions that are replaceable, if not on the free agent market than within the organization within no more than two years. Maybe this is the rub on the Suarez situation – why tie the hands of an organization with a four year deal involving a player with injury history (Suarez) on the grounds that it is “affordable?” And in this baseball economy of large free agent inventory every year, even a lengthy commitment to Arenado? Give me Ramirez, because three years may be just about right on the organization trajectory for shuttling a suitable replacement in, or renegotiating the next deal with history and comfort in tow (a la Kendrick before this past year).
    Of course, Ramirez may not be available, so this os more a discussion in the abstract.


    26 Jan 21 at 6:04 am

  119. Back to relievers, people like Hendricks are still getting long contracts. The Braves gave out 39 m to Will Smith. The Dodgers gave Treinen 17.5m. The Nationals gave Harris 24m. But relief success is so volatile and unpredictable, that even a two year deal with high dollar like Soriano has obvious risk.

    So yes, to get a pitcher of Hand’s caliber (who could collapse immediately) to a one year deal at dollars that much less than Hendricks is a big plus. It also speaks to the Phillies doing very well with Archie Bradley (which would be Derek’s rationale, and I get it), I just have more confidence in the outlay for a bet on Hand as the closer for a championship team.


    26 Jan 21 at 6:24 am

  120. Todd –

    Treinen’s conversion was based on the perception that his “stuff” would “play up” in relief. And that his path to the majors would be faster and more successful. It’s like the conversation we’ve often had here about Joe Ross becoming a reliever.


    26 Jan 21 at 6:27 am

  121. To me Kyle McGowin is an undervalued asset and one reason I’d be comfortable packaging two of Ross/Fedde/Voth for a high value everyday player.


    26 Jan 21 at 9:10 am

  122. Interesting stuff starting to happen. Only thing finalized is Cesar Hernandez to Indians. I know Ghost at Nats Talk had been pursuing him, but I really didn’t see the Nats getting in that conversation with Harrison and Castro already as RH options at 2B. The Nats seem more interesting in multi-position guys anyway. Plus I think there’s a good chance of Garcia becoming the semi-regular with the big club at some point in 2021.

    Phillies said to be moving toward finalizing with Realmuto, with Braves also in the mix. Phils need pitching more, so that seems a bit of a futile gesture by them. Meanwhile, Mets seemingly looking to throw stupid money at Bauer. This is the team with de Grom, Thor, Stoman, and Carrasco, right? Interesting times in the NL East!

    Sao, good discussion of additional INF bats at NatsTalk. I think La Stella would be more likely than Semien, but who knows? There’s been weirdly little rumored market for Semien and Didi.


    26 Jan 21 at 11:39 am

  123. The mind boggles at the thought of Bauer with the NY media, and crazed Met fans.


    26 Jan 21 at 12:49 pm

  124. I don’t fear Realmuto back to the Phils. They’re no better than they were last season, and arguably worse, since they haven’t done anything to improve their starting pitching or bullpen. That $23M AAV means they have nearly $50M tied up in just JT and Bryce for the rest of Bryce’s prime. JT will wear out quickly if they keep playing him as heavily as they have (145 games in 2019).


    26 Jan 21 at 4:09 pm

  125. For those wondering about Hand’s $50K incentive for winning a Silver Slugger, I had to look: his career slash is .069/.069/.069. His five career MLB hits (all singles) have produced four RBIs, though.


    26 Jan 21 at 4:16 pm

  126. Semien to Blue Jays. The $18M tag would have been too rich for the Nats. The field is shrinking to La Stella, maybe Didi.


    26 Jan 21 at 6:27 pm

  127. Now La Stella to the Giants. Man, wiped out all of those infield options in one day. I guess Didi is still out there. I’m not sure how much bang-for-buck he would be, though. If the NL gets the DH, Rosario would probably do more for the team.


    26 Jan 21 at 8:31 pm

  128. We’re a bat short right now. I just hope we’re not a bat short on Opening Day.

    If this is Rizzo being confident in Kieboom, I see no earthly reason why.


    26 Jan 21 at 9:03 pm

  129. I would have liked JTR, but with the hand signing that ship sailed, and perhaps the Hand signing happened only because the JTR ship sailed. Ah, well.

    Three years for LaStella would not have been the right fit for the Nats, unless LaStella signed for a low AAV.

    So of everyone left, my favorite would be a signing of Molina. Otherwise, I’m ready for the trade market.


    26 Jan 21 at 11:24 pm

  130. If the plan is actually to go into the season with a player who slashed .125/.424 against right-handed pitching in 2020 (yes, really) starting every day at third freaking base, then Rizzo clearly isn’t as smart as I am pretty sure he is.

    Semien at 1/18M, too big a hit to payroll. Three years for La Stella, too big a commitment. Cesar Hernandez is small fry. But who is left? The Nats haven’t been connected to Wong or Didi at all, there have been like zero rumors about Gyorko, and everyone seems to expect Justin Turner to return to the Dodgers. So I suppose there’s the trade market, barring a surprise in the next few days (market is moving at warp speed right now).


    27 Jan 21 at 12:19 am

  131. I’m sorry, I sold him short. He slashed .125/.434 against right-handed pitching. My bad. I need to stop putting off that eye exam…


    27 Jan 21 at 12:21 am

  132. Molina has indicated that he likely will retire is STL doesn’t cough up a contract. He’s wanting two years, though. Thanks goodness Zim has been more flexible.


    27 Jan 21 at 5:36 am

  133. I assume Riz is counting on Harrison or Castro at 3B, although Castro was pretty adamant last spring that he doesn’t like 3B. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Garcia is starting at 2B coming out of the spring, though.


    27 Jan 21 at 5:41 am

  134. It’s January 27. Why is everyone frantic just because Tommy LaStella signed? If patience netted us Brad Hand, I’m happy to be patient and watch how ALL of this plays out.

    All winter long we have been content to primarily focus on a 4th starter and bats (of course, legitimate concerns). By comparison, there was little attention to the number of blown saves from an aging bullpen that had now lost a former stalwart and its only lefty. That need was most decidedly met while we were focused elsewhere.

    Do I prefer that Kieboom ripen in AAA this year? Yes. Would I like to trade him away for Bryant? No. Would paying LaStella for three years be a bad organizational move? Depends what the AAV was, especially because next year there will be even more players on the market. Do I think the Nationals should pay premium dollar to play someone out of position like Semien or Gregorius when a low cost option like Gyorko or Cabrera is still out there? No. Do the Nationals need a good defensive third basemen whose shoulder (Bryant, Suarez) is not a concern? Yes. Would I trade Kieboom for Ramirez and Arenado? Yes? Suarez? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. Can Castro play 3b? Yes. Would I be happy if the Nationals acquired Matt Chapman? Yes. Is there an entire league of possibilities for the Nationals to trade for who can play 2B or 3B, even with Castro sliding over to 3B – or even to the bench? Sure, there is? Do the Nationals have trade chips that will not disrupt their top prospect lists? Absolutely. If they can get Josh Bell from Cherington as they did, they will.

    You may agree with some or all of these opinions. That is your right as an American (or so sthey used to say). But the very presence of these debatable questions illustrates that we are FAR from over in the hot stove.

    So relax and watch the show. And ENJOY the good parts!


    27 Jan 21 at 6:28 am

  135. Nothing would surprise me about Garcia at this point. The fact that Turner remains unsigned, and Antuna is a rising talent, and Kieboom an apparently natural shortstop, creates flexibility that Nationals need to maintain with their controllable, starting caliber infield talent.

    Turner is a champion at SS. What he did with his finger in 2019 was unforgettable, and he is still getting better. With the SS market next fall as it is, the Nationals should sign him now and even overpay. Don’t risk the price of his taking his talent to an even more elite level. If they can sign him and win with their bets on young talents who have been faster tracked, that is all the better for the organization. But until that happens, it does tie their hands a bit on planning.

    And then there is Soto. If only they could sign him now to a Betts deal.


    27 Jan 21 at 6:36 am

  136. Clarifying above
    Lots of SS on market pre 22
    Lindor may yet sign
    Don’t let him set market value when Turner may be even better this year

    Garcia has a high high ceiling. What he accomplished last year was fantastic. Whether he is a future all-star is debatable, but he will have a long career and start on a winning team. I would rather it be with the Nats as an affordable controllable multi-tool talent..


    27 Jan 21 at 8:19 am

  137. From Turners point, inventory at SS might depress contract length and value. Why not be Derek Jeter?

    If Turner stays, will be easier to keep Soto home too, especially if Nats go all the way.


    27 Jan 21 at 8:20 am

  138. I wouldn’t have given La Stella three years, particularly with prospects we hope will click within that time. I wouldn’t have given Simmons $10.5M for one year for his limited offense (and having to move Trea off SS).

    One year of $18M for Semien probably would have been “better” than trading pieces plus taking on Bryant’s $19.5M. The Bryant possibility is dead unless the Nats could move some salary in the other direction, say Castro and Harris. Arenado has never been in play. Suarez still could be. Justin Turner wants more than one year and would prefer to stay on the West Coast (although was flirting with Toronto).

    I would have given the Buffalo $2M as backup catcher. With every reasonable catching option who signs in that price range, I become more convinced that the Nats are OK with Castillo and Barrera, although they’ll likely sign another NRI catcher at some point.


    27 Jan 21 at 8:35 am

  139. Ramos is going there to rebuild value
    He might never have been more here than a 70 – 90 game option. If he starts and does well, as he did in 2017, he is thought of in an entirely different earning tier in 2022. If a backup, he’ll never get more than 3-5m going forward.
    It’s also a tell from the Nats side that they didn’t go to him.either the defense is as bad as the stats say, or they have bigger plans, or Ramos was not going to wait on them while they were courting JTR, and I think they were.


    27 Jan 21 at 9:56 am

  140. Something worth noting here. We mocked Rizzo’s “Arizona connections” for years, with his seemingly obsessive desire to get players who he knew from his days working the farm system of the Diamondbacks.

    Now we clearly seem to be pivoting to an obsession with players (and coaches) with Chicago Cubs roots. To wit:
    – Davey Martinez: former bench coach of CHC
    – Jim Hickey, former pitching coach of CHC
    – Henry Blanco, former quality control coach of CHC
    – Kyle Schwarber, former LF for CHC
    – Jon Lester, former LHP for CHC
    – Hernan Perez, former infielder for CHC
    – Wellington Castillo, former C for CHC
    – Starlin Castro, former 2B for CHC

    that’s a lot of people with Chicago Cubs connections in a short amount of time for this club. So, bringing this back to, say, the backup C position and where Castro is going to be playing … if the new coaching staff likes these guys, then you can count on them making the roster (in Castillo’s case), and playing where he wants to play (in Castro’s case).

    This seems to support that Castro starts at 2nd, Kieboom at 3B, Garcia either in AAA or as a backup infielder (which, honestly, would solve one remaining roster hole, that being a SS-capable backup infielder). If the team is sour on Kieboom then they find a 1yr FA who can play there. I see several guys still available who could fit the bill. Todd frazier, Marwin Gonzalez (who can play 5 positions), heck how about Justin frigging Turner? he’s done nothing but destroy baseballs for the last several years despite being deep in his 30s.

    (as i write this, news that the team has signed Blake Swihart to compete with Castillo…)

    Todd Boss

    27 Jan 21 at 11:16 am

  141. Swihart is just an add on for extra catching in spring training. There is no comparison between him and Castillo, who is truly an accomplished ML catcher who has flashed starting caliber skills as early as a few years ago.

    You need lots of skilled catchers for the spring. Swihart has been around and as an NRI can help catch all the pitchers in camp with the other three. I hope Jakson gets an invite, too.

    There is no mystery to the “tree” of players. When you are dealing with character every bit as much as talent, you go with familiar folks who you KNOW will fit your plan. I just hired someone yesterday that I’ve known for almost twenty years in a different professional context. But professional nonetheless to see how he could fit into my plan.

    So for Rizzo to work his Arizona link was great. And for those who have said that Rizzo is autocratic, if there is a healthy Cub influence, great that he is truly open to another’s (Martinez’) thinking. It is all the more important on player personnel decisions because scouting has been constrained and so it’s harder to know the players as well.

    But I don’t see this as being organization-centric. It’s organization-influenced. After all, Hand was a Marlin, Castro was a Marlin. Hand was a Padre, Ross was a Padre, Turner a Padre, Gomes was an Indian, Hand was an Indian, Scherzer was a Tiger, Harrison a Tiger, Harrison a Pirate, Hudson a Pirate, Bell a Pirate, Kevin Long a Yankee, Castro a Yankee, one could go on until it becomes a Louis Farrakhan exercise.

    The fact that Castro was on the Cubs and had a good relationship with Martinez is less important than Martinez knowing that Castro is going to play better for him thank someone else, and that if he sucks, Martinez’ ass is on the line.


    27 Jan 21 at 11:50 am

  142. Of course, if Swihart is completely healthy, then it’s Christian Garcia revisited 🙂

    Always look forward to opportunities to laugh at the expense of Red Sox nation and their Gammons-embellished-pomposity.


    27 Jan 21 at 12:01 pm

  143. I’m fervently against the idea of Kieboom starting for this team for two reasons:

    1) He was gawd-awful in 2020. He walked a ton, which was great, but it seemed like he went up to the plate looking to walk rather than looking to hit, and to me, that is a problem. Hitters should take walks when they are given, but they should always be looking for a pitch to hit. Kieboom was fine versus left-handed pitching (in a very small sample size) and abhorrent against right-handed pitching (in a larger sample size). The result overall was an abysmal .202/.556 line. He got on base, and he hit better with runners on than he did with the bases empty, but he was passive, lacked any semblance of power, and didn’t stand a chance against right-handed pitching when given everyday playing opportunities. He hurt the team badly in 2020, and I think he’ll do it again given the chance in 2021. He hasn’t shown me he is a good player at all. Maybe he can become a good player, but in a tough division with a team that is already depending on multiple veterans to have bounceback performances, we do not have time for Kieboom to reenact Joseph Campbell’s voyage of the hero at the major league level this year.

    2) I don’t like rewarding players who perform badly with big opportunities. I especially don’t like it when I don’t think those players worked as hard as they should have to improve or showed the right attitude on the field. As I said, when Kieboom came up to bat, I saw a hitter who was just hoping the pitcher missed the strikezone four times. Especially with young players, I want to see that they are hungry. Luis Garcia was hungry, maybe even to a fault — he was always trying to impact the game and make something happen, which sometimes led to him screwing himself into the ground on a pitch nowhere near hittable. But at least he was trying and being aggressive. Kieboom was passive. I can’t use the word “patient”, because a patient hitter waits for his opportunity. Kieboom was just up there hoping the at-bat would end with him trotting to first instead of trudging back to the dugout. And I’m not expecting every player, even every youngster, to have the legendary joie d’vivre of a Francisco Lindor or an Ozzie Albies or a Juan Soto. But Kieboom just looked miserable all season, rarely smiling, slouching, just generally not projecting confidence. I’m not a shrink and I can’t judge his mental state, but I was reminded of the parade of young pitchers we’ve brought up who were sweating bullets and shaking like a leaf on the mound, got bombed, and were never seen again. Garcia reminded me more of Joe Ross or Wander Suero, whose mound presence and willingness to compete was never in question even when their performance was shaky. Those guys stuck with the Nats big league team. The other guys didn’t.

    YMMV, but I really don’t like depending on Kieboom to turn the corner in 2021, and I don’t even like giving him the chance to do so, at least at the major league level. If he needs to build confidence, send him to build confidence in Rochester. If he needs to relearn a more capable batting approach, send him to learn it in Rochester. He did nothing in 2020 that should make anyone think he should be allowed to do it all again in 2021. Maybe the assumption is he can’t possibly be that bad and he’s a young player with growing pains. And that’s probably true. But should he get another chance right now? On a team that has some holes and some big question marks, which will be clawing and scraping for the top spot in the division under the best of circumstances? After showing not just poor performance in 2020, but poor body language and a defeatist approach at the plate? Why?


    27 Jan 21 at 12:47 pm

  144. Swihart fulfilled my prediction of another NRI catcher in less than four hours! He actually has half-decent splits against RHP and can also stumble around in the OF. At one time, he was a much-heralded prospect, but he turns 29 in April, so this in the Last Chance Saloon for him.


    27 Jan 21 at 12:53 pm

  145. Carter Kieboom played 33 MLB games in 2020. He got 122 plate appearances. This is roughly 1/5 the total number of plate appearances an every day player would get in a normal season. There are reasons not to like Kieboom as the starting 3B for the Nats in 2021. But “his stats were bad in a very small sample in 2020” is not a good reason. It’s even worse to argue that he’s “playable against lefties but not righties” because of 2020 splits. The 2020 sample just isn’t large enough to support those points. Period.


    27 Jan 21 at 1:10 pm

  146. Big Board updated for Swihart. 38/40 on the 40-man right now, with roughly $17.4M below the threshold (meaning realistically $7-$8M of room for signings at this point).

    Two open spots, and frankly if they had to get more room i see 3-4 guys they could easily shed from 40-man to make room.

    Todd Boss

    27 Jan 21 at 1:20 pm

  147. Kieboom vs Garcia;

    Kieboom’s 2019 AAA numbers were stellar, perhaps beyond stellar. Yes it was the PCL but he still slashed .303/.409/.493). In his age 21 season! If he had gone to school, he’d have just been getting drafted in 2019, not playing a FULL season in AAA. So, yeah he struggled in a 2019 callup (getting exposed as a SS) and he struggled in 2020.

    Meanwhile, Garcia was similarly super young for his 2019 level (a 19yr old in AA) and he looked the part, slashing .257/.280/.337. Of course, he’s not expected to hit as much as Kieboom, and he’s perceived to be a better runner (plus plus in 2018 scouting reoprt) and better defender (above average arm at SS).

    I think my point is that is night and day how these guys performed in the minors in 2019. I’d much rather bet on Kieboom succeeding in the majors than Garcia. As others noted, he does not walk. like ever. at least Kieboom had some on-base ability in 2020.

    Todd Boss

    27 Jan 21 at 2:02 pm

  148. Darren O’Day opens up a line of critique on Rizzo, even as I see some of the doom presumption as premature wingeing.

    So the Yankees are up against a luxury tax and what do they do? Find a taker for Ottavino, who was far worse than Harris. Maybe the Nats are betting on Harris to rebound. But they owe him 16m. Couldn;t they have found a comparable for far cheaper, perhaps even an O’Day, whom Rizzo used to like, and open up lots of space in the process? This was a clever move by the Yankees and illustrates how Cashman and his crew do things well.


    27 Jan 21 at 2:17 pm

  149. I’ve flogged this dead horse to a pulp by now, but Kieboom’s toplines for the 2019 Triple-A season are incredibly deceiving.

    Kieboom, April-June 2019: .322/.436/.595, 13 HR, 58 RBI — cowabunga dudes!
    Kieboom, July-September 2019: .281/.374/.368, 3 HR, 21 RBI — oh.

    We still have no idea what happened, because it’s like a switch was flipped in late June 2019 and he just stopped hitting for power. I don’t know if he got hurt, got bad coaching, or just went into a funk, but he hasn’t really recovered from it. And being a high-OBP singles hitter would be a fine thing for a middle infielder, but moving him to third puts pressure on his bat that he has just not been able to handle.

    I’m not writing him off, but the Nats in 2021 don’t have the luxury either of having a team that is so good they don’t need their third baseman to contribute, or not playing for anything so they can let everyone develop at their own pace. They need a player at third base. I don’t know what’s eating Kieboom, but it’s not just a 2020 phenomenon. And it would be a good idea, I think, to figure out what kind of hitter he is in a less wildly hitter-friendly league than the PCL.


    27 Jan 21 at 2:29 pm

  150. I said somewhere above that the 3B as of right now is Harrison or Castro (who apparently said last year that he didn’t like 3B . . . although I haven’t heard about him returning any of the money). Kieboom is the 3B . . . for Rochester. At the same time, Kieboom does still have enough promise that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to sign a 3B to a multi-year deal. And if Antuna hits with the alleged power he showed in the instructional league, then he’ll up up at 3B as well, or LF.

    I think Garcia possibly could break spring camp (whenever that may be) as the starting 2B. That wouldn’t completely surprise me. Otherwise, he will be in Rochester. It would really surprise me if Kieboom wins the 3B job in the spring.

    Or the Nats could trade Kieboom in a deal for Bryant or Suarez later today. Who knows in this offseason?


    27 Jan 21 at 2:57 pm

  151. My preferred Rochester Red Wings starting lineup looks something like:

    Nick Banks – RF
    Luís García – 2B
    Carter Kieboom – 3B
    Jake Noll – 1B
    Brandon Snyder – DH
    Cole Freeman – CF
    Jakson Reetz – C
    Yasmany Tomás – LF
    Adrián Sánchez – SS


    27 Jan 21 at 3:13 pm

  152. Interesting exercise. An alternative list of starters:

    Yadiel Hernandez RF-DH
    Brandon Snyder – RF-1B-DH
    Jake Noll LF
    Nick Banks – CF-RF
    Carter Kieboom – 3B
    Hernan Perez/Jecksson Flores SS
    Luis Garcia – 2B
    Yasmany Thomas 1B-DH
    Tres Barrera/Read C

    Reetz to AA, Pineda to High A.
    Freeman gets to master AA first
    Tomas gets to learn 1B
    Noll cultivates his utility pedigree
    Flores a natural shortstop, Sanchez is aged out of a starting lineup, Perez as depth can be stached in AAA.


    27 Jan 21 at 4:11 pm

  153. If they keep Tocci he will be in CF with Banks. Or, someone gets signed in springtime unless Freeman wows.

    Hernandez has only played RF in Mexico this winter, so the team is working his defense. Perhaps Noll to rover between 2B-3B-DH. Garcia could get reps at SS and 3B too.


    27 Jan 21 at 4:34 pm

  154. If Pineda or Antuna start the season at High A Wilmington that would be a great thing. The front office knows now a lot more about these kids than we do; we haven’t seen them live in a very long time.

    Looking forward to May 1.

    Mark L

    27 Jan 21 at 5:27 pm

  155. Jake Noll is a better ballplayer than 99% of the population . . . but he isn’t a major-leaguer, particularly for a contender. The Nats did him a disservice sticking him on the 40-man after his false spring in 2019. Brandon Snyder is a much better ballplayer than Noll, but he isn’t on the 40-man and is out of options, so moving him up and down is much more problematic.

    I don’t think Reetz will be at AAA. He seems like he would be the main guy at AA, with Barrera and Read splitting time in Rochester, unless Barrera were somehow to beat out Castillo and Swihart in the spring. Swihart probably would take assignment to Rochester if he doesn’t make the big club; Castillo probably wouldn’t.

    Sao, why don’t you have Yadiel in the Rochester lineup? I think Tomas has a legit shot to make the big club as a LF/DH platoon guy . . . unless they sign another OF. FWIW, Tomas also spent a little time at 3B with the D-Backs, but I seriously doubt that’s his intended spot unless there’s an emergency.


    27 Jan 21 at 7:56 pm

  156. Mark, with Antuna, I’m curious whether they will think about skipping him to AA, considering all the hype. Unless they saw significant improvement in Pineda over what he did in 2019, he needs to repeat A. He clearly was overmatched at Hagerstown, but apparently there was an injury in the equation.


    27 Jan 21 at 7:58 pm

  157. Fore, I do indeed wonder whether Davey’s “ass is on the line.” That’s sort of weird to say about a guy who brought a team back from the verge of disintegration and then was near-flawless in the 2019 postseason. But he drove an expensive playoff team (from the two previous seasons) into the ditch in 2018, and he didn’t get much out of the defending champs in 2020. Yes, there were injuries and extenuating circumstance, but the end result wasn’t good.

    For 2021, they’ve given him more power. They let him run off the bench coach (former D-Back) who Rizzo hand-picked for him. They let him run off the org-lifer pitching coach and bring in his homie from TB. (Hickey’s one season with the Cubs was after Davey went to the Nats.) They’ve let him bring in a couple of his favorite “character” guys from the Cubs in Schwarber and Lester, both of whom are coming off bad seasons.

    We’ll see. The extra empowerment is a two-way street. If things don’t work out, it makes it easier for Rizzo to say, “Hey, we gave you want you wanted, but that didn’t improve things.” Hope it doesn’t come to that, but the playoff needle will be narrow to thread this year (unless they expand the playoffs again in exchange for universal DH), and it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the third season out of four that Davey doesn’t make the playoffs with a $200M squad.


    27 Jan 21 at 8:13 pm

  158. Yadiel has a decent shot at the major league bench, IMO. He could play every day in Rochester if he’s sent down. But he already has a 40-man spot, he had some big hits down the stretch, he seems to be really well-liked in the clubhouse and by his coaches…


    27 Jan 21 at 8:16 pm

  159. On a positive note, Hickey got great seasons out of Clemens and Pettitte in 2005, so he has experience getting the best out of HOF-caliber pitchers even more cantankerous than Max. He also got high-level results out of Lester in 2018 (18-6, 3.32 ERA) even as his peripheral stats were starting to slip. Hickey also helped shape so many young pitchers in Tampa, so he’s sort of the last, best hope for Fedde, Ross, and Voth.


    27 Jan 21 at 8:28 pm

  160. Sao, I love Yadiel’s story and was very happy for him for his big game-winning HR. But he struck out 12 times in 28 MLB plate appearances and didn’t look ready for prime time on several of them. With Stevo very likely to be the LH OF guy, I think that really limits Yadiel’s chances to break camp with the big club . . . and increases Tomas’s. But if the DH comes to the NL and the Nats don’t sign another significant bat, then maybe there’s room for double Cuban OF fun.


    27 Jan 21 at 8:33 pm

  161. KW, of course no manager is going to get fired for an underperforming player, so I’m saying it rhetorically.

    A manager is judged by the team’s performance, and if his choices don’t pan out, he is directly answerable. Having won the WS, he gets some measure of job security, but when you do not win….well, if the Cubs had been back, you have to wonder whether Joe Maddon would not be out of Chicago. At the very least a manager whose personnel don’t cut it erodes the same authority in those choices.

    My bigger point is that baseball personnel choices have far more consequences than forming a social clique to have beers with, or some old boys club. The very term old boys reflects on retirement, when yes, there are no consequences to affiliating based on nothing more than one’s alumnus. In baseball, personnel choices have big consequences, whether we see them as tangible or not.

    So your ass is on the line, even if you are in no immediate risk of being fired.

    That noted, there is also a distinction between people who happen to have been on the Cubs (and not while Davey r Hickey were there, like Perez), and players like Schwarber and Castro, who have expressed that they always wanted to play for him and he wanted them on his team.

    As for Yadiel, I’ve certainly been sentimental about him, but wonder whether he will ever get a chance with this team. That disappoints me, but that’s baseball. Performance begets chances (as does the DH, however).

    I can’t see Tomas making the Nationals as a reserve outfielder with his bad defense.

    As for Antuna, they also have to find him a position. But Mark’s point — and the Freeman discussion — beget the recognition that we don’t know how the Fredericksburg experience affects placement this year. Certain lower minor leaguers like Antuna got a lot of live at bats against higher caliber pitchers, only because of the unique COVID restructuring. And his performance against AAA and AAAA account for his prospect rise. That’s fair. And if he has shown he can hit AAA pitchers for power, why does he need to go to A+? Makes for a lot of interesting revelations come minor league opening day.


    28 Jan 21 at 3:24 am

  162. It’s worth mentioning Jake Noll, especially in a discussion of folks who may have excelled in Fredericksburg and pushed their stock.

    But Noll is important for another reason – the context of a discussion of how we may fixate on how past performance is indicative of future performance at a higher level (the Kieboom discussion). Kieboom was a player who got a decent look despite concerns about defense. he was young. When he underperformed offensively, those who would stay in his corner would say it was because “he was young,” and point to other metrics and stats, etc. But we all know that it;s because he has the pedigree of a “TOP PROSPECT” and a first round pick.

    Now consider Yadiel Hernandez. He came into the system as an older player. So he never had a chance to be young. And he came in with a reputation as a low power hitter — and developed into a big power hitter, albeit in the PCL, but in the Mexican League as well. Only as an afterthought did he get a chance last year, even as the higher priced Eaton struggled along and as Thames underperformed, and even with the DH. He has never been called a “prospect” of any measure, and yet he moved up levels, was awarded at AAA, was awarded in the Mexican League. It’s as if he is Luke Voit on the Cardinals, only with no one in front of him.

    Then consider Jake Noll. He has never received regard as a Nationals prospect. Yet he has only been in the system since 2016, performed at every level and was promoted, and did so despite low expectations at every level. He’s played four positions, never settling at any position. His performance was such that multiple pitchers called him the best hitter they faced in Fredericksburg last year. And yet no prospect lists. He showed up well in a glimpse at the ML level late last year. He has reached the AAAA level relatively quickly, and even has some power. Why, then, is he diminished? The reason that comes up in my mind is that he simply does not appear on a prospect list. Hype begets hype begets reality.

    And then you ask yourself – If I had to look at the following infielders and ask myself who would get the three year contract this winter (while others received one), whom would I pick of:

    Marcus Semien
    Andrelton Simmons
    Tommy LaStella

    Interesting when hype translates into reality.

    It’s the same with Andrew Stevensen. I root for him especially hard for the same reason I rooted for Mike Morse a. Because at some point the expectations of him were nil, he produced, produced some more, and then could no longer be denied. The Nationals have a few players like that, and I hope they get their chances with the Nationals in spite of a lack of hype.


    28 Jan 21 at 5:41 am

  163. So what’s still left to do? Didi and Justin Turner are available for 3B, although I would bet that Turner would want multiple years to come to the East Coast. If they would ever make up their minds about universal DH, then Ozuna or Cruz (as DH) or Rosario (for LF with Schwarber as DH) could come into play.

    Among cheaper options, Brad Miller could be a LH infield bat to platoon with Harrison and/or Castro at 3B/2B. Travis Shaw would also be a LH 3B option. Duvall or Pillar could be RH platoon options for LF.

    There’s also a heck of a lot of good starting pitching still on the board. I can almost guarantee that the Nats will sign at least one NRI starter for camp. But how tempting would it be to bring in another starter on an MLB contract? Archer? Hamels? Those guys have to be down to the 1/$5-7M range by now, right? And of course I’ve warned all along that Paxton could be the February surprise, since he’s a Boras client in need of a soft landing spot.

    It’s possible that the Nats could add Miller, Duvall, and Archer with the money they have left under the cap. Yeah, none of those address the catching issue, but Flowers or Avila don’t really move the needle for me.


    28 Jan 21 at 9:49 am

  164. Didi said to be wanting $15M, which sure doesn’t make sense for the Nats. I think it would take about that much to get Turner to the East Coast . . . but that he’d take a lot less to stay in LA.


    28 Jan 21 at 10:59 am

  165. It’s been pretty quiet in Cub-land on the trade front. And we know the Nats let Suzuki go but tried for Realmuto. I have to wonder whether there is a discussion with the Nats and Cubs re: Contreras.


    28 Jan 21 at 12:10 pm

  166. Contreras is cheap and good, so I’m not sure why the Cubs would want to trade him. If they do, I imagine his market would attract teams with more prospect capital than the Nats have. Contreras is not that much different from Gomes offensively. He’s supposed to be a defensive stud, but his overall defensive fWAR isn’t particularly spectacular.


    28 Jan 21 at 2:31 pm

  167. What a weird winter pitching market is has been that has forced Tanaka back to Japan. Stroman and particularly Gausman were right to jump on those $18.9M QOs. Otherwise, the only ones who have topped $10M are Morton (15), Kluber (11), Smyly (11), and Richards (10), all with one-year contracts. In fact, the only SP to sign a “multi-year” contract thus far has been Minor, for two years. Bauer may end up being the only starting pitcher to get a contract for more than two years, and more than a $15M AAV.

    All of this does make me wonder whether the Nats will try to scoop up another starter for one year for $10M or less. That’s not really an area of “need,” but perhaps it becomes a bang-for-buck thing if they could get someone like Paxton (Boras client) or Odorizzi (Hickey TB pupil) in that price range.


    28 Jan 21 at 3:24 pm

  168. And the winner is . . . Alex Avila. Struck out 35.5% of PAs last season but also walked 17.7% of the time. So he only put a ball in play 47% of the time. Of those, 40% were hard hit, which is good.

    I guess the question becomes whether they’ll have a true competition among Avila, Castillo, and Swihart.


    28 Jan 21 at 6:36 pm

  169. Ugh. Whatever the contract is, I hope its not guaranteed.


    28 Jan 21 at 8:22 pm

  170. First announcements on Avila don’t make clear whether it’s a major-league contract. Supposedly an above-average defensive catcher. But he makes Michael A. Taylor and Danny the K look like contact hitters.


    28 Jan 21 at 9:12 pm

  171. Ah, yes…but he was on the Cubs!

    That’s quite the intriguing story line of how much he has worked with Max when Scherzer won a Cy Young in Det – and with Corbin in his All-Star year in Arizona in 2018.

    Rizzo was interested in him a couple of years ago when he signed elsewhere. He sure does like his viejo catchers. This team is getting very veteran indeed.

    I’m still convinced a trade is coming.


    28 Jan 21 at 10:47 pm

  172. The Post continues to hammer the “roster is done” narrative, which I dearly hope is wrong. Going into a season in a tough division with the worst hitter in MLB penciled into a position that should provide above-average offense would be awfully dumb.

    I like the Avila signing if it was just a couple mil or so. Otherwise I think I would have just gone with Castillo. But at least that’s resolved. He was probably the best option still available in free agency.

    The Nats are not shut out of the Top 100 prospects entering 2021 on, which is great! Cade Cavalli checks in at #99. Hey, I’ll take it.


    28 Jan 21 at 10:52 pm

  173. Sao, the zeal with which you repeat your “opening statement” is amusing in that it makes me wonder whether you think Rizzo reads this – or, perhaps someone from the Nats marketing team – and will finally come around if you repeat it enough times!

    All playfulness aside, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone from WaPo reads this, because rather than do diligence to find out a good trade discussion that has legs, you can rely upon them to write sometime this week like:

    “Lerners too cheap to pay Kris Bryant”
    “Martinez’ Cubs conspiracy could net Nats Kris Bryant”
    “Turner wants no part of DC mask culture”
    “Nats’ racism behind desire to acquire low cost Suarez, Ramirez”

    Yeah, the Nats are “done.” With oodles of talent still out there and well before spring, and Bacus sitting on a roster of 39. Sure, we’re done….


    28 Jan 21 at 11:31 pm

  174. Like everyone else, I’ve mostly been guessing this offseason, but I’ll go out on a limb and say one thing with certainty: the Nats are NOT done. There are still too many good players available for them to be “done.” Also, I sure hope they’re not done, as I’m not sure they have a playoff-caliber roster yet.

    I don’t understand the buzz from the Nats that Kieboom is their starter. At the same time, with Castro and Harrison capable of playing 3B, they’re not without half-decent options. Of course Castro was somewhat underwhelming 2020 as well; not as bad as Kieboom or Robles, but not very good, either (.302 OBP, 97 wRC+).

    Robles also worries me, but no one is talking about him. That’s why I’m fond of Pillar as the RH OF option over Duvall — Pillar could take over in CF if Robles continues to tank. But either Pillar or Duvall would solidify the bench and platoons. A Schwarber-Duvall platoon might top 50 homers . . . and 200 Ks!

    As I’ve said above, I’m also intrigued by the quality of starting pitchers who are still available. That might not be an obvious need, but it also wouldn’t be the first time they’ve brought a Jackson/Haren/Fister in when we thought they already had their rotation.

    Avila and Castillo are both ex-Cubs, so no advantage there! Still unknown whether Avila is on an MLB contract.


    29 Jan 21 at 9:03 am

  175. Joc signs for 1/$7. I know this is unfair – free agent players have to accept any offer for it to become a deal – but Morton + Pederson is just a much better way to spend $22M than Leater + Scwarber + Hand (all 1 yr deals)


    29 Jan 21 at 9:41 am

  176. Pederson’s stats are almost equal to Schwarber’s, both career and 2020 slumps. I do think Hand will have considerable value to this team, though.

    It will be interesting to see how the Braves use Morton. He only pitched in the 6th inning once in 2020 — longest start was 5.2 IP. So he’s going to tax their bullpen every time he starts. Same thing with Smyly — only one start into the 6th, and that was 5.1 IP.

    I’m still hoping the Nats add another starting pitcher beyond Lester. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense with Fedde/Ross/Voth still around, but there are several guys available who are better than Lester.


    29 Jan 21 at 10:35 am

  177. The Braves also have lost Melancon from their ‘pen, where he was really a glue guy. He’s also still available, BTW.


    29 Jan 21 at 10:39 am

  178. So is Rosenthal. I know he was an epic disaster his first time around here, but he was lights out in 2020. Everyone with the Nats thought he was a class act. For >$5M, he’d be a nice additional piece for the ‘pen.


    29 Jan 21 at 10:44 am

  179. Thinking outside the box, I wonder whether the Nats could get Ramirez from the Indians for:

    Robles/Gomes/Voth/Yadiel Hernandez

    Then turn around and trade Ross and Hudson to the Cubs for Contreras.

    Sign a low cost free agent starting pitcher from the remaining pool (Paxton or others), and Melancon. Sign Pillar as CF insurance that provides great defense.

    The Indians’ top prospect is a 3B Nolan Jones. Trading Ramirez frees up coin and makes room for him. They get an outfielder with a high ceiling that they can affordably control through 2024, a starting catcher they know, a starting pitcher, and a player who would do well in Cleveland as a DH/LF bat.

    From the Nats side on the Cleveland deal, they don’t touch the prospects they value, move Voth while he has value, hedge their bets on Robles while giving Stevenson the starting job in center or playing him with Pillar, and get a huge bat locked in for three years. The keep Kieboom who can develop in AAA as IF insurance for next year or even OF insurance as a LF option with Schwarber or a 1B next year if his bat comes around.

    From the Nats side on the Cubs deal, they get younger at the catching position and a former All Star with more pop and arguably better defense. They get an extra year of control at the catching position.

    The Cubs get a low cost starter who may yet bloom with a good sinker ball and a proven relief option in Hudson. The contracts match up but the Cubs get an extra player. The Nats relieve salary that enable them to absorb free agent acquisitions and Harris.

    If the numbers can’t work, they can ship Harris out to another team for 2019-2020 high draft picks that they scouted.


    29 Jan 21 at 11:11 am

  180. I would love to have Ramirez, but they would want a big prospect haul in return. And we can’t trade Robles. We’ve got no OFs in the pipeline, at least who aren’t 18 years old. I’d be glad to trade Cavalli, but apparently I’m in the minority. I’d trade Cavalli as the lead piece for Ramirez, Suarez, or even one year of Bryant. You guys can remind me of this in five years if Cavalli is a stud, but right now, he’s only hype.


    29 Jan 21 at 11:31 am

  181. Harris ($8M AAV) and Castro ($6M AAV) would be the guys to trade if the Nats were to end up having to clear a little cap space. But other teams would need a prospect or two to take on Harris’s outlay for two years.


    29 Jan 21 at 11:34 am

  182. We have Stevenson. And if we sign Pillar, we have a year to see if Stevenson can cut it. Then sign a free agent with a lot of cap room being relieved post Max, if need be. But Stevenson has the defense to play center, and the speed to help the lineup.

    I’m not so sure, after we get into spring and arms start falling off, that Harris would not be all the more valuable to teams that have payroll room and bullpen needs. He did MUCH better than Adam Ottavino, and has an excellent track record.

    Castro is a run-producer and a good bridge to Kieboom-Garcia. I’d rather he stay.

    Robles was one of the top prospects in the game, and he had a fantastic year in 2019 batting 8th.


    29 Jan 21 at 11:42 am

  183. Robles hit 8th for a reason in 2019 — he hit only .255, with a wRC+ of 92. With near Acuna-level hype for him, that was a disappointment. It was tolerable for a rookie, though, particularly one who played high-level defense. Both offense and defense cratered in 2020, though. As I’ve said, in some ways I’m more worried about Robles than I am about Kieboom. Robles was expected to be a core piece, part of the next wave that allowed them to let Harper and Rendon walk. But he K’d 28% of the time and hit the ball hard only 21% of the time. He still has the tools to be an all star, but you still have to keep working to develop your craft. What was weird about that is that Robles had been said to have worked out with Soto in the 2019-20 offseason. Soto improved dramatically, while Robles cratered.


    29 Jan 21 at 1:48 pm

  184. fore is right about arms falling off. Expect 2021 to be a record year for pitching injuries. After an unprecedented year like the last it will be hard to come up with a proper training routine as pitchers ramp up.

    Mark L

    29 Jan 21 at 2:26 pm

  185. Mark & Fore, you’re so right. The only arms even close to being stretched out are those who pitched deep into the postseason. Talk about the “Verducci Effect.” I know he only looked at the 20-25% increase in innings in young arms, but what’s going to happen when guys who threw 70 innings in 2020 try to stretch back out to 200+? Plus Stas only threw five regular-season innings, and Ross didn’t throw any after the first spring training. Maybe the Nats should sign a couple of starters and just have them being their spring training routines in June, planning for inevitable breakdowns! (And say what you will about Lester — and I have — he does have a long record of being a durable innings-eating hoss.)


    29 Jan 21 at 2:44 pm

  186. I don’t regret the Nats “missing out” on Arenado. I never thought that deal made sense with all the holes they had to fill this offseason. He has an awful contract, and even with the Rox pitching in $$$, it’s still awful, with opt outs the next two offseasons (although based on the lack of similar contracts anywhere close this year, he’d be nuts to walk out on it). Also, Arenado away from Coors: .793 OPS career, .636 road OPS in 2020 (.738 overall). Yeah, his road number was only 28 points higher than Robles in 2020 . . . with $200M left on the contract. And the Cards have a rotation that scares exactly no one.

    I do regret missing out on Eddie Rosario for 1/$8M. His 2020 OPS was . . . .792, almost exactly what Arenado does away from Denver. For that, he got non-tendered and a one-year contract.

    With the Arenado deal done, I still think the Cubs could move Bryant. The Cubs have been overplaying that relatively weak hand all winter, but the main ones they’ve been bluffing are themselves. Not saying it would be to the Nats, although it still could be. The Dodgers somehow keep managing to trade for guys like Machado and Betts. As I’ve said, the Nats would have to move Castro or Harris to clear the salary space. So Castro, Fedde, and Adon for Bryant.


    29 Jan 21 at 11:27 pm

  187. Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Case in point: the Phils spending basically all of their available cap space to keep together a team that hasn’t been able to make the playoffs for the last two years. Their starting pitching is still iffy, particularly beyond Nola and Wheeler (who often doesn’t stay healthy), and their bullpen is awful.

    I wouldn’t have done 2/$28M for Didi for the Nats. I still hope the Nats do something for 3B, though.


    30 Jan 21 at 1:08 pm

  188. Didi really only made sense for us if the AAV came down into the $10-12M range. I’ve always liked the guy, but paying out elite shortstop money when what we need is an average to above-average third baseman wasn’t the right play.

    The flip side is that the Phillies look like a .500 team with some upside (pitching is still awfully weak, but their lineup is legit and their bullpen cannot possibly be as bad as it was in 2020), while the Mets and Braves still have some money and are still considering some big moves. If the season started today, I think the Nats are probably third place in the division with a bank shot at second place (and a wildcard). If the season starts with the Nats standing pat from here to Opening Day while the Mets sign Bauer and the Braves sign Ozuna, then, um, that’s a problem.

    I know everyone is sick of me saying this, and I know repeating it isn’t going to will it into happening, but it does not make any sense for Mike Rizzo to make the moves he has made already this winter and then shrug his shoulders about the black hole at third base and say “what can ya do?” We have improved from 2020, but not enough to have a serious shot at the division, especially if the Mets and Braves continue to be active.


    30 Jan 21 at 2:21 pm

  189. I’ve mentioned upthread about this offseason being a game of financial chicken. Well, I think the Cubs situation is a microcosm of that. The Cubs have wanted to avoid getting hosed and have watched the off-season go by (once again) with having moved Darvish but not Bryant, or Contreras (whose replacement is in the wings). Now Arenado has gone, eliminating the Cardinals, and the Braves are still out there, as suitors of Arenado and Donaldson before him.

    The Nationals don’t have the cap space to add Bryant without the Cubs holding coin, however. The Nats inexpensive starting pitching does fill a need of the Cubs, however. I like Contreras for the reasons noted above, but just as KW notes he loses no sleep over Gregorius tying up the Phillies budget and Arenado to the Cardinals, I feel Ramirez is that much more a wise target for the Nats specifically.

    And here we are on 1/30 with still so many quality ballplayers out there, many teams at 40 roster spots, and the Nats at 39.

    The Braves could realistically reel in both Ozuna and Bryant.

    I don’t fear the Mets signing Bauer for the same reason I didn’t get excited when the got Edwin Diaz for one reason. Because the Mets just eternally suck, like in the biblical sense. I happen to like Bauer on a personal level, and would only wish him well because is a fearless thinker, but the Mets’ suckage is so predictable that the entire team would be in an uproar the first time he says something nice about ex-President Trump (which of course, if you live in modern day totalitarian New York as I do, is essentially forbidden), because they would call him a clubhouse cancer and a racist and a homophobe and all of the other labels they hang around folks necks. The theater of it all, with the usual ESPN jock-sniffing hacks throing lighter fluid on, would be delicious Schadenfreude while they assume the nine-figure albatross of a contract that they’ll have to unload to a team like the White Sox by mid season.


    30 Jan 21 at 7:29 pm

  190. Well there ya go Fore — Indians said to be listening to offers on Ramirez. I just think it would take a huge prospect haul for the Nats, something like Cavalli, Henry, Kieboom, and Adon. That’s even more than the Eaton trade, for two years of control. Suarez I think would cost less, because the Reds are trying to unload the contract, but five years of control still has value. Personally, I would make a trade that involves Cavalli, as I don’t buy the hype. But for Suarez, Kieboom might qualify as the high-profile piece, with a couple of second-tier arms in there as well.

    Then there’s Bryant. He would cost even less prospect loot, unless we want the Cubs to eat some of his salary and/or take Castro as the salary offset. Above, I suggested Castro, Fedde, and Adon, although they might want an additional second-tier prospect.

    Sao — I tend to agree with your argument that it makes little sense for Rizzo to do all of this maneuvering but not address 3B. At the same time, there really wasn’t much on the market other than maybe LeMahieu, who got an insane deal. Since they’re big on bounceback candidates, maybe they look at someone like Eduardo Escobar ($7M AAV). But then you have to wonder, other than that one 35 HR year, if Escobar and Castro are somewhat interchangeable.

    Let’s see, Escobar’s hard-hit and K percents stayed the same from ’19 to ’20. Had terrible .244 BABIP luck in ’20. He’s never had strong BABIP numbers, though. Steamer has both him and Castro projected with a 90 wRC+, so neither looks like a great solution.


    30 Jan 21 at 10:37 pm

  191. We have to remember, though, that Davey knows Bryant, knows how he is in the clubhouse. Davey probably was the one who taught him the OF, as he did Schwarber. And frankly, if you draw a line on Bryant’s stats, he hasn’t been the same player since Davey left. Probably not cause-and-effect, but who knows? We also haven’t had a Boras sighting yet among Nat acquisitions.

    I have real doubts that Bryant is the guy, mainly because it was take some real financial finagling. But it isn’t impossible. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Cubs to hang onto him.


    30 Jan 21 at 10:48 pm

  192. Now we move to 3B chicken. You have the Brewers, Braves, Dodgers, and Nationals all in. Ramirez, Turner, Suarez, and Bryant. Four teams, four players. Who goes in which direction?

    I have to think that the best outcome would be for the Braves to get Bryant and the Dodgers to get Turner. I’d love it for the Nats not to have to be bidding against those two teams for a Ramirez deal.

    I know Ramirez would be priced heavily, but I am inclined to believe that what the Nationals can offer that others cannot is major league talent at positions the Indians want.

    Or, perhaps the Nationals can line up with the Indians and Cubs in a three way deal, because roster number would be involved as well.

    I definitely would prefer Ramirez to Suarez and would pay more to get him.


    31 Jan 21 at 12:49 am

  193. The conversation about Ramirez starts with Cavalli-plus, with the plus probably being one from among Antuna, Rutledge, or Kieboom. My sense is that Rizzo is dead set against trading Cavalli. I don’t know why, since he was mediocre in college. Anyway, I would like to have Ramirez, but he’s NOT coming off a down year, and his salary is low. The Indians don’t have to trade him so would need to be blown away to do so.

    The Cubs need to trade Bryant. They should have already traded him. They’ve lost leverage by dithering so long. At the same time, that $19.5M is a difficult fit for most of the contending teams that have already spent up close to the cap line.

    Suarez is kind of in between. The Reds don’t have to trade him, as he’s pretty affordable, even for a mid-level spender. He’s also coming off a down year, so they’re not in a position to demand a premium for him.


    31 Jan 21 at 9:27 am

  194. KW, we disagree. The Indians WANT to trade Ramirez because they feel they can max value now (as opposed to a year from now) and they believe they have replacement.

    Beware of “the conversation starts with” predictions. I’m sure the Pittsburgh conversation did not start with Eddie Yean.

    I’ve studied the Indians system and what they need. They do not need Cavalli as much as they need a top ceiling controllable OF prospect. You may say that Robles is not worth much, OK. But Lewis Brinson was enough to net Yelich, and Robles is better thought of, to be sure. Considering he is only 24, he showed more power than expected, more arm than expected, and even more defense than expected. If the Indians were to believe in him, he’d be plenty. And if they don’t, I doubt the Nationals will be shy about easing Stevenson in and getting value from Robles while they can.

    The moral of the story is, contrary to what we are programmed to believe by the pundit class, young rising major league talent is the greatest commodity apart from stars, because prospects (just ask Blake Swihart) flame out even when they are on the top lists. A track record of starting for a WS champion is pretty darn good.


    31 Jan 21 at 10:41 am

  195. The Nats will not trade Robles. It’s simply not happening. (And I say this as someone who still has doubts about Robles.) It doesn’t do any good to fill one hole while creating another. The Nats have no OF reserves. Talk about Stevenson all you wish, but if the Nats thought he was a starter, they wouldn’t have signed Schwarber. Beyond Stevenson, they have, um, teenagers. (I’m actually curious to see if they start giving Antuna look in LF, since they have no one else close to the majors and since Antuna’s INF defense has always been suspect.) If they trade Robles, they’d have to sign JBJ or Pillar to play CF.

    I would love to have Ramirez for the Nats. I agree with you about the reason the Indians might trade him: to maximize what they might get for him. But beyond pitching or potentially Kieboom, the Nats just don’t have much to trade as far as “prospects.”


    31 Jan 21 at 11:57 am

  196. I don’t even think it’s worth talking about Ramirez. We don’t have the pieces to acquire him.


    31 Jan 21 at 1:01 pm

  197. On the trade-chip front, I’m sort of surprised that we’re not hearing Rutledge mentioned more, other than as second fiddle to Cavalli as “or Rutledge.” I was really surprised at how quickly the Nats started talking up Cavalli over Rutledge. That development gave me more concern about what they think of Rutledge than it did confidence in Cavalli. If they really think Rutledge is another Alex Meyer, with repeatable delivery issues, then by all means, do like they did with Meyer and get a solid everyday player for him. Meyer continued to rise in prospect rankings with the Twins, but ultimately, the Nats’ concerns proved right.

    From what little I know, unless there are those repeatable delivery issues, I’m much higher on Rutledge than Cavalli, based simply on results. Rutledge was lights out in his first pro half-season, as he was at JUCO. Cavalli’s results in college were nothing special. Doesn’t mean he can’t get better, and scouts obviously thought he has a “high ceiling.” So we’ll see.


    31 Jan 21 at 1:06 pm

  198. Hopefully this isn’t just wishful thinking, but my read on the Cav vs. Rut situation is not that Rut looked bad in 2020, but that Cav looked better than expected. At least, I haven’t read any evaluator reports pumping the brakes on Rut at all, just talking up Cav as looking like more than he appeared during draft time.


    31 Jan 21 at 1:37 pm

  199. Part of what afflicts our thinking here is the assumption that other teams would trade more quality than would the Nationals to get a desired target. Fortunately for us, Rizzo is known as a GM who gives in order to get.

    For that reason, I would never consider the Nationals out on any deal. It’s a matter of 1) Whether their surplus on young major league ready talent fits the needs of the other team and 2) Whether their prospect talent fits the needs of the other team and 3) Whether the financial costs of the trade are tenable, given their current commitments.

    When anyone dismisses the Nationals’ ability to trade for someone, consider a few things. First of all, It is February 1. That turns things into a buyers trade market. The closer it gets to spring training, the more that teams with surplus that will lose value (players with contracts that in a year will include less control, teams that are still over budget) will trade for less return. Next, free agent inventory for some positions is still out there, and that depresses anticipated return to the trading team.

    There are clearly teams that are operating at a lower budget (Indians, Cubs, Rockies), who have needs at the major league level. Would the Nationals trade Robles for Ramirez? I don’t know, but I’ll say this. The Dodgers and Braves, should they be hunting Ramirez for the same reasons, could not compete with an offer that included Robles. Prospects are great, but players who have shown they can produce at the ML level are a whole different level of trade value. A Braves deal that features Austin Riley is a lot less enticing than a deal featuring Robles.

    As for creating a hole by filling another, the free agency/decline arbitration situation in baseball situation now means that you are only one year away from signing another great option, unless one develops within your system. So unless teams feel they want to commit to one particular player that they LOVE, or tie a young player through free agency, long-term contracting is outdated and that is reflected in this past year. It makes sense only if you KNOW your system can’t produce comparable quality.

    To me, if the Nats signed Pillar, between him and Stevenson I would feel comfortable with a CF situation until next fall (at least) — if that netted Ramirez. But that’s just me and I understand people’s attachment to Robles. If he has a down year, though, he will be in the land of lost value like Michael Taylor lost value. No one could have seen Taylor’s decline to be that precipitous, but he was once a serious trade chip.

    Go back on these pages and those of talkNats and see what people thought we would have to give up to get Bell. I’ll bet you we all thought we would have to trade much more than Crowe and Yean. We all undervalue the Nationals players and prospects. Fortunately the other major league teams do not.

    I trust Rizzo on personnel acquisition (I am not saying draft). He is a not a perfect trader, but he has made, altogether, great trade acquisitions and free agent signs and has shown longer range thinking better than most general managers. That said, the Hand signing was fantastic for the team, as was the Bell trade. Schwarber I will take a wait and see. Avila I have come around to , because I now understand that he was Max’ personal catcher in Detroit, caught Corbin with success in AZ, plays with good defense (Suzuki did not), and gets on base enough that the Nationals can get passable offense when he plays. If Castillo beats him out, so much the better.

    Some big trades, historically, have happened in February and on the cusp of spring training. I still see something coming, but slow player movement in free agency depresses this.

    Rizzo does not normally do this, but he may be waiting to scout certain players in spring training, especially because the Nationals may want to see their own in-house options before making a big (and potentially costly) acquisition. And that’s OK by me, especially if he is exploiting another team’s unanticipated needs.


    1 Feb 21 at 6:43 am

  200. The Span deal was a bold stroke. And a wise one. But to be fair, Meyer’s problem and career was felled more by injury. He showed promise for the Twins and reached the majors but his arm gave out too soon…


    1 Feb 21 at 6:56 am

  201. The Span situation is actually very similar to where we are right now with 3B. We had been told that the Nats had these two super CF options on the way in Goodwin and Taylor, but at some point, Rizzo realized that they weren’t good enough, or at least not ready enough. He traded his highest-rated pitching prospect at the time for an affordable and controlled player to bridge that position for two or three years. So why not trade Cavalli for a 3B now?

    Sao, I hope you’re right in your take about what they think of Cavalli. He’s always looked like he’s had good stuff, though. That’s why he got drafted well above what his stats indicate. The knock on him is that his stuff plays too straight and gets hit. Maybe that issue will improve with all of his focus on increasing his spin rate. But until he gets into real games and we see whether he’s still getting hit hard, we won’t know for sure.


    1 Feb 21 at 8:01 am

  202. Span came in in late 2012. At that time, Michael Taylor had not yet succeeded even in A+. Goodwin was in AA.

    The season that had passed featured Werth in RF, Harper in CF, Morse in LF and LaRoche at 1B. The team signed LaRoche, traded for Span to give them a true leadoff hitter and centerfielder that Rizzo felt was lacking at the time. Morse then got shipped out to Oakland in the AJ Cole/Treinen/Krol deal.


    1 Feb 21 at 12:17 pm

  203. Span actually came in the 2012-13 offseason. Bryce was the predominant CF in 2012, augmented by Ankiel and then Bernadina. They didn’t want Bryce in CF long-term, though, but they had to convince Werth to move to LF to do it.

    In 2012, they skipped Goodwin to AA mid-season, skipping A+ (where Taylor already was), but he didn’t do well there, or in the AFL. That was the exact same progression they had used with Harper in 2011 that got him to the majors in 2012, and for some reason they thought Goody had similar capability. If Goodwin had hit in AA/AFL, they would have seen him on the near horizon and not paid the prospect premium that they did for Span. So yes, Goodwin’s struggles directly contributed to the Span trade.


    1 Feb 21 at 1:17 pm

  204. Just saw the Jonathan Mayo post that Rutledge isn’t that far “behind” Cavalli, which is encouraging. I still think Rutledge has a higher upside, but mileage may vary.

    Now if we could only start hearing encouraging reports about Denaburg . . .


    1 Feb 21 at 1:25 pm

  205. Also, I’m still not sure how much we’re supposed to believe of the internal hype machine, particularly since the Nats were one of the teams that didn’t share video to other teams from their alternate site. They hyped Adon like crazy coming out of spring 2019 but then didn’t promote him out of Hagerstown. They’ve now added two guys who have no actual game experience above Hagerstown (where Antuna hit .220) to the 40-man roster.


    1 Feb 21 at 1:32 pm

  206. Denaburg’s prospect cachet means nothing to me at this point. He needs to get healthy and he needs to perform. He’s appeared in seven games since being drafted in 2018, all of them at the lowest level of competition, with a 7.52 ERA. I don’t want to see him anywhere near a top prospects list until he proves he belongs there.


    1 Feb 21 at 1:54 pm

  207. Yeah, that’s part of what makes prospecting in the Nats’ organization so weird. Denaburg and Romero could still be high-end talents, but we just don’t know. Antuna missed a season and a half with injury. Part of Pineda’s struggles have been blamed on injury.

    I don’t think the organization is devoid of talent, but between the injuries and the COVID missed time, there hasn’t been much opportunity for guys to develop and emerge.

    I do wonder whether all the time off will actually help some of the recovering young arms, though.


    1 Feb 21 at 2:05 pm

  208. One has to distinguish between hype machine and genuine enthusiasm, and that’s difficult. It follows that players drafted in Round 1 and 2 or otherwise paid well-over-market bonuses, or international high-bonus players, have unavoidable hype.

    Adon was someone the coaches were privately raving about in spring 2019. So was Jake Irvin. I was there and they were saying these things to me with no media around. But you still have to do it on the field in games, and not just on the field in BP and drills. Just ask Eric Senior. Nice Juco pedigree, looks like a stud, kills the ball in BP, nice, super-likeable kid. Coaches were high on him in particular. Well, not only has he been released, but he still has not yet caught on. Look at Cody wilson – still waiting to put it all together. Not hyped – just has not produced numbers.

    In the end, you have to see what happens in games. That is the magical unknown about “prospect” and “prediction.” And why you have to do the eye test if you are Rizzo and not fixate on “lists.”

    There are players in every organization that are not on prospect lists, or not high, and then they make it. The Nats are not the exception. But their game speaks for them, and then they move up. Andrew Stevenson is a guy like that, so is Cole Freeman. Maybe Frankie Bartow is that kind of guy. As Mark L said earlier, we’ll know May 1.


    1 Feb 21 at 2:16 pm

  209. Keith Law’s just missed his top 100 included Cavalli. Here’s what he said:

    Cade Cavalli, RHP, Washington
    The Nationals were the only team without a player on the top 100, and Cavalli, their first-round pick in 2020, was the closest. He’s very athletic, with four pitches and good control, including a power curveball and a potential wipeout slider, but he didn’t miss anywhere near as many bats as he should have in college, especially on his fastball, and he’s going to have to make some sort of adjustment – pitching away from it, using more two-seamers, locating it more to the corners – to get to be a mid-rotation starter.

    Todd Boss

    1 Feb 21 at 3:07 pm

  210. Whatever Law says, one has to be reminded that at some point, the pundits threw in the towel on Lucas Giolito.

    That said, if someone that the Nats think is a #1 or #2 starter, really believe so, then no you don’t trade him for Suarez, because he is Suarez. I would, however, trade him for Ramirez because he is Ramirez. And, you trade him as a headliner of a deal, not an additional piece with a major league headliner.

    I’d rather keep Robles, if I had to pick one or the other. But the Indians need outfielders, not pitchers. Consider that Daniel Johnson may well be in their starting lineup. So they like our talent. As do we, having brought back Jefry Rod for another look.


    1 Feb 21 at 7:17 pm

  211. I keep forgetting that J-Rod is back as starter/swingman depth, as is Sterling Sharp. I’m sure that depth is part of the reason they were willing to part with Crowe.

    Todd, Law’s take on Cavalli cuts right to the heart of my concern since he was drafted — he doesn’t miss bats. In his (shortened) draft spring, he was giving up more than a hit an inning. Hitters in pro ball are better than the Big 12. Cole Henry, in a better league, was way more efficient.

    I’m not, and Law is not, saying that Cavalli can’t make it. But missing bats is a big thing for a pitcher, no matter how good your stuff looks in an instructional camp.


    1 Feb 21 at 10:10 pm

  212. It’s looking like Doolittle to Reds. He was one of the key anchors who kept the team from falling apart in the first part of 2019, both on the field and in the clubhouse. They rode him into the ground while doing so, and thank goodness they were able to get Hudson to help him out on the back end during the stretch run and playoffs. But when we point to that championship banner, he’s absolutely one of the core guys responsible for it.


    2 Feb 21 at 11:05 am

  213. “the pundits threw in the towel on Lucas Giolito?”

    I’ll push back on that statement. The NATIONALS threw in the towel on Giolito. The pundits maintained until his rookie eligibilty was exhausted that he was clearly a top 100 prospect. As late as mid-season 2017 he was ranked 35 by Fangraphs, 61st by mlbpipeline, 17th by Keith Law, 75th by BaseballAmerica, and 31st by Baseball Prospectus. This was a slight ding from where he was before 2017 perhaps (when some places had him as top 10 in all of the minors), but it was still amongst the elite of prospects in the sport.

    top 100 prospects out of thousands and thousands of prospects across all 30 teams is still pretty elite, even if they’re ranked 75th instead of 10th.

    Todd Boss

    3 Feb 21 at 10:35 am

  214. Lucas Giolito, like Pedro Severino, needed to play for a bad team for a year or two without pressure.

    Give Giolito credit for remaking his game. The Nats sure could use him now.

    Mark L

    3 Feb 21 at 12:36 pm

  215. Giolito FINALLY got straightened out by his high school coach, after the Chisox also had two seasons of struggling with him. But yes, he was a consensus top 10 overall player his first two years with Chicago, despite his struggles in DC.


    3 Feb 21 at 8:05 pm

  216. Todd, you are right to call me on that. It was the Nats who threw in the towel.


    4 Feb 21 at 1:08 am

  217. If they have a ceiling, they need to have a floor. it’s that simple.

    If teams want to tank and save money, they should be forced to pay that money in subsequent years. For example, lets say that the league decides $130M is the floor. Arizona comes and says, “we want to go under the floor and reset and tank for a comple of years and only field $100M on average for 3 seasons.” Well, that’s $30M a year they now “owe” later on in payroll. when they return to reelevance, their new “floor” is now $160M until they get out of arrears. This would basically guarantee that, one way or another, the money gets back to the players and not into the pockets of owners (which is where it goes now).

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 21 at 11:29 am

  218. On giolito … at the time, i hated the move. I also hated the trading away of Luzardo to get two relievers.

    but you know what, they got a title. So in the end, a title with Eaton and Doolittle is better than not having a title with Giolito and Luzardo. because that’s where we’d be today.

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 21 at 12:47 pm

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