Nationals Arm Race

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

Nationals future considerably brighter w/ 2011 draft signing successes.


Frankly, I did not think we could get Purke signed. Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Upon starting to read Nationals press releases post 8/15/11 signing deadline, I was ecstatic and surprised by what transpired last night.  We got the first five draft picks signed for a total of about $16.5M spent.

Anthony Rendon and Alex Meyer were never in doubt in my opinion; neither was going back to school to try to marginally improve on their draft standing.  (Nor was Kylin Turnbull, our 4th rounder, who got a $325k deal out of Juco).  Rendon got a major league deal (i.e., an immediate spot on the 40-man roster), which probably was to be expected given his stature and his agent Scott Boras.  My guess is that Boras is starting to press for 40-man spots for his marquee players more and more and fighting less and less for these massive bonuses knowing that the 40-man spot accelerates the time it takes for these prospects to reach free agency by 2-3 years or more.

Brian Godwin got a $3M deal, or $1M more than it took for Meyer to sign.  Clearly the Nats had to buy him out of another year in college, where he and his counsel thought he could become a top-10 talent.

Most surprising: the signing of Matt Purke.  When Purke announced he wasn’t going to pitch in the Cape Cod league, I figured right then he wasn’t going to sign.  Why would he take a 3rd round money or slightly higher (somewhere between $425k and $800k) as a bonus when he got offered $6M out of high school and knows that a dominant junior season would put him in the discussion for #1 overall in 2012’s draft (and the probable $7-8M deal it would guarantee, as Gerrit Cole just got from Pittsburgh).  What the public didn’t know came out in the press releases: Purke let the Nats do not only an in-depth physical but an MRI with the injected dye to highlight injuries within his shoulder.  Purke also did private throwing sessions for the team.   They guaranteed him a 40-man roster spot as well (also incredibly surprising), but as mentioned above probably traded bonus money for that spot.

The usage of 40-man spots as a negotiating tool leaves the Nats slightly roster hampered; we now have 7 spots (and one rule5 draftee) on the roster who have never appeared in a major league game and seem set to start 2012 in the minors (Purke, Severino, Carr, Marrero, Rendon, Harper and Corey Brown).

However, Nats fans can now salivate at the selection of upper-ceiling arms that the team will be able to select from in a few years.  We can add Purke and Meyer immediately to this list: Strasburg and Zimmermann (1st and 2nd rounders) seem set to be the 1-2 for this rotation for the next several years.  Sammy Solis (2nd rounder) has looked ok in Potomac in his first year.  Youngsters AJ Cole (4th) and Robbie Ray (12th) have both looked fantastic in low-A.   “Found money” starters Brad Meyers (5th), Tom Milone (10th) and Brad Peacock (a draft-and-follow 41st rounder) are all pitching at AAA with varying degrees of success but all well younger than their AAA counterparts.   Even 2007’s high-end arms not already mentioned (Ross Detwiler 1st, Josh Smoker 2nd and Jack McGeary in the 6th) are not out of the running and all may feature at least as bullpen arms in the future.

How about a 2014 rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Purke, Peacock and some high-priced ace FA?  That sounds pretty good.

14 Responses to 'Nationals future considerably brighter w/ 2011 draft signing successes.'

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  1. Shoot by 2014 you might be looking at Strasburg, Zimmermann, Purke, Peacock and Cole/Ray. Meyer could be the replacement for Storen or Clippard or be added to the duo and be an absurd backend of the bullpen. Especially if they slide Detwiler permanently to that role as well. I think he could be very solid as a reliver who only faces a lineup one time.


    16 Aug 11 at 1:02 pm

  2. LannEn belongs in that ’14 rotation! And, did you mean to type “Corey” Brown…?


    16 Aug 11 at 1:17 pm

  3. I go back and forth on Lannan’s role with this team. He’ll be a FA after 2013 and i’m guessing the team will opt to let him walk and go with a younger, cheaper replacement arm (someone exactly like Solis, Ray or Purke by that point). I’m not saying he’s not valuable; i think for most teams in this league he’s as good as or better than whoever they have as their #4 starter, but I don’t think he’ll be worth the $7-$8M on the open market that he’ll command.

    Yeah, meant Corey brown. Forgot to proof it. Looked wrong when i wrote it but hit publish anyway :-)

    Todd Boss

    16 Aug 11 at 1:43 pm

  4. Sure could. I wonder how Peacock will progress; most scouting reports I’ve seen limit his up-side to relief because of a lack of quality on his 2nd and 3rd pitches. I’d like to hope we didn’t draft Meyer so he could be a closer, but we’ll see how he goes.

    Completely agree about Detwiler; i had a post about this exact topic a within the past two weeks. He seems destined for middle relief. No 4th pitch, barely trusts his 3rd pitch. He’s out of options at the end of 2012’s spring training and I’ll guess he gets moved to the bullpen then.

    Solis: again curious as to how he turns out. He works through games, no doubt, but doesn’t seem as dominant as he could be. I think he seems destined for a #5 starter spot.

    Todd Boss

    16 Aug 11 at 1:50 pm

  5. Let’s not forget Cole Kimball. I love him in the bullpen if he can stay healthy. Great work Todd love your site…


    16 Aug 11 at 2:12 pm

  6. I’m no expert on this, but being placed on the 40 man roster does NOT accelerate his clock to free agency. This was discussed as nauseum last year with Harper being placed on the 40 man and he still is not going to be eligible for free agency until 2017 or 2018.
    I’m thinking this just makes the agent look good and makes the player feel more important and totally hamstrings the GM.

    Let’s be honest, the Nats had a great haul this year, there’s no mistaking the greatness of this class. However, you have to feel the Nats are going to lose 1 or 2 players this offseason who would be important to the system because they’re not going to be able to protect them.

    Mark L

    16 Aug 11 at 3:24 pm

  7. Hmm. Lets play two scenarios.
    – PlayerA gets a 40-man spot in the draft. By virtue of the 40-man spot he burns options his first three pro years (2012-14) and forces the club to either expose him to waivers or keep him on the 25-man roster by his fourth professional season (2015). Lets assume his first 3 years he gains no service time. No its 2015 and he’s either been waived or he’s on the 25-man, so by year 7 (2018) he is into arbitration and at the end of year 9 (2020) he is a free agent. This only gets accelerated if the player makes the majors earlier, doesn’t burn options and accumulates service time sooner.
    – PlayerB does NOT get a 40-man roster spot. Lets assume he’s the same age as playerA (college player for sake of argument). PlayerB isn’t eligible for the rule5 draft until his 3rd pro season in 2014. Therefore, that player can toil in the minors until 2014 without burning any options. Now in 2014, the team puts him on the 40-man. He burns 3 options from 2015-2017, then makes the 25-man roster instead of being waived in the spring of 2017. He plays 3 years, does 3 years of arbitration and that makes him a free agent at the end of 2022.

    To me its pretty clear; being put on the 40-man immediately brings you 2 years closer to free agency.

    Todd Boss

    16 Aug 11 at 3:37 pm

  8. Todd, you make it sound a little too much like chess, but I’ve been digging around trying to find a simpler explanation. I found this at MLBTrade Rumors, who quote Keith Law. I hope this helps anyone else.

    “2011 draft pick Trevor Bauer already received a Major League deal from the Diamondbacks, and a few more players might receive one today. Via email, Baseball America’s Jim Callis named Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Danny Hultzen (Mariners), Dylan Bundy (Orioles), and Anthony Rendon (Nationals) as candidates. Be sure to follow Jim on Twitter to get all of the latest draft pick signing scoops.

    In a 2008 article, ESPN’s Keith Law explained that “a typical minor league contract signed by an amateur player will fix his signing bonus and his salary for the first year of his minor league playing career.” A Major League deal, meanwhile, benefits the player by placing him on the 40-man roster and therefore making it easier to promote him to the Majors later. The player also has the potential of seeing a domino effect on future salaries, as his salary cannot be less than 80 percent of his total compensation from the previous year. For example, the Tigers’ Rick Porcello is earning $1.536MM even though he is not arbitration eligible until after the season, and that lifts up all his future salaries.

    The team loses roster flexibility with a Major League deal for a draft pick, though it gains the advantage of lowering the average annual value by spreading it over multiple years. This advantage can be gained through two-sport deals without the sacrifice of a 40-man spot. Callis notes that Bubba Starling and Archie Bradley will get this type of contract.

    Players have three or four years in which they can be optioned to the minors without clearing waivers, and with a Major League deal the first option is typically going to be used in the player’s first year. This sometimes accelerates a player’s timetable and forces the team’s hand.”

    Mark L

    16 Aug 11 at 4:44 pm

  9. Just being technical. The question is “Does being put on the 40-man accelerate the clock towards Free Agency?” And to me undoubtedly the answer is yes. Only at the very end of that quote does Law say something that actually seems to prove my point.

    Lets play the reverse scenario; lets say a player is never going to make the majors. Under which scenario does the player earn his freedom first?
    – PlayerA gets a 40-man deal, burns 3 options the first 3 years (2012-2014) then earns a 4th option year (2015) since he hasn’t earned any service time and is waived after his 4th year in minors after the 2015 season.
    – PlayerB gets a minor league deal in 2011 as a college player, that makes him rule5 eligible by 2014. But, since he’s awful he doesn’t get rule5 drafted and continues playing until he has accumulated 6 years of minor league time in 2017. At that point he becomes a minor league FA and can sign elsewhere.

    Again, the 40-man deal earns his freedom 2 seasons earlier than the non-40man deal.

    This is pretty clear to me; i don’t recall seeing these arguments w/r/t Harper last year. I’d like to see someone’s “proof” that shows otherwise.

    Todd Boss

    16 Aug 11 at 4:59 pm

  10. I believe the arguments about Harper are rooted in the arguements about Strasburg and why the NATS did not bring Strasburg up sooner. On both players it has more to do with arbritration rather FA.

    Detwiller starts tonight and will either show “improvement” as a starter (6 or 7 innings 2-3 ERs) or progress further toward the Bull Pen. McGeary starts tonight a GCL. Hope he does well.

    No mention of Wang? I believe he continues to have wins/quality starts and the NATS make a 2-2.5 offer and he accepts. Also, I believe the top 4 cost 16.5 m. not the all time out of this world 165m.

    Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

    17 Aug 11 at 10:07 am

  11. The value of having a player miss the super2 has been calculated several times (Boswell did some analysis, as did national media members w/r/t the Lincecum case). Its worth somewhere in the 15-20M range over the life of a superstar’s contract to NOT have to go to arbitration that 4th time.

    40-man presence accumulating service time. You can be on the 40-man for 3 years, never appear in the majors and accumulate no service time.

    Detwiler: yeah somehow I see another 5 1/3, 4 run effort. You can get MLB hitters out with just 2 or 3 pitches if they’re fantastic pitches. But you can’t get them out if you have a flat low 90s fastball and 2 other mediocre off pitches. They’ll wait on one pitch, and hit it hard when the see it. Great news to see McGeary getting back on the hill; i’m so far behind on tracking the minor league pitching that I had no idea.

    Wang: two thoughts. 1. I’m not convinced he’s really back. I was at last night’s game and the ump seemed to be squeezing him on the low strike, which meant he had to work up a bit more and that seemed to lead to elevated hits. He gave up more than a few hard-hit balls last night that were liners right at outfielders. He’s not getting any strikeouts either; he was never a big K/9 guy (4.1/9 on his career), but he’s had THREE strikeouts in 21 innings back. This the NL; you usually get 3 strikeouts by falling out of bed by virtue of the opposing pitcher and generally weaker lineups.

    2. Lets say Wang throws 1.50 era baseball the rest of the season; the Nats don’t have a club option on him!! There’s nothing to prevent Wang from going back to the yankees after this season, having had our team pay for his rehab for the past two years and $3M dollars. Yeah he’d probably accept a 2 or $2.5M offer … but the yankees may double that because they don’t really care about payroll and need starting pitching and may be willing to roll the dice. I think this was a huge mistake in his contract; they had to know this situation would happen and the whole point of a club option is to prevent this.

    So, yeah Wang may be in someone’s future plans, but i’m not sure he’s in ours. (I think this comment is going to be its own post soon).

    Todd Boss

    17 Aug 11 at 10:24 am

  12. (oh yeah I went and fixed typos. I hit publish way too fast on that one. way too busy and wanted to publish something on the drafted players).

    Todd Boss

    17 Aug 11 at 10:25 am

  13. Sadly, Todd, I tend to agree with you on Wang.
    Maybe a sense of honor will help the Nats on this one.

    Mark L

    17 Aug 11 at 10:41 am

  14. […] Nationals Arm Race "…….Nobody likes to hear it, because it's dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver « Nationals future considerably brighter w/ 2011 draft signing successes. […]

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