Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 10/21/11 edition


A quick wrap-up of news items floated lately with a Nats interest in mind… and some opinion on each bullet point.

  • Baseball America posted a wrap-up of the 2011 Nats draft.  In short, BA thought the Nats had the best draft in 2011, getting the draft’s best hitter in Anthony Rendon, a big arm in Alex Meyer and a potential steal in Matthew Purke.   Nothing we didn’t already know…
  • Speaking of Rendon, this news item reports that he may not make it to the AFL after all.  This concerns me, honestly.  Just how bad was his shoulder injury??
  • Interestingly, the Nats returned 2011 rule-5 pickup Elvin Ramirez to the Mets after having him languish on our 60-day DL all season.  I’m slightly surprised by the move, in that the team obviously wanted to give him a shot when they took him earlier this year.  Now, after paying his freight all year without ever really seeing him perform in a game situation (he did throw in the instructionals though) we’ve given up on him.  My guess is that the team knows its bullpen is going to be competitive in 2012 and don’t anticipate being able to carry a youngster.
  • Ken Rosenthal has a quick primer on the issues remaining to be haggled over in the next MLB deal.   Some things of interest that could be included are draft slotting, an earlier signing deadline date, earlier free-agency, more wild-card teams and a balanced league schedule.
  • Si’s Jon Heyman had a quick blurb about Phillie’s closer and FA Ryan Madson being a possible Nats off-season target.  More interestingly he reports that Jayson Werth is trying to pitch Madson on the team.  I’m guessing that the pitch job would include an understanding that the Nats already have a pretty good closer in Drew Storen (who just came in 3rd in the 2011 Rolaids Reliever of the Year award) and that Madson would be a setup guy.  In a crowded closer FA market, perhaps Madson needs to keep his options open in case he can’t get a closer guaranteed job.  I’m hoping that Werth’s “pitching” his former teammate isn’t interpreted as a lack of confidence in his current closer … a bit of press hype that certainly isn’t out of the realm of possible to be overblown so as to start a New York-style press issue.
  • A couple different news sites along with MLB’s beat reporter Bill Ladson are reporting that the team is close to signing Chien-Ming Wang to a new deal.  This isn’t terribly surprising to those of us that have read every bit of Nats news this off season, and I’m all for signing him for 2012 after he’s been paid to re-hab for two years by this team.  It would be a refreshing bit of FA business to see someone like Wang take a lesser-monied deal to stay with the team that nursed him back to health.  Wang would probably slot in nicely as our #4 starter next year but would mean that the team faces a tough decision next spring training for the back end of the rotation.  Ross Detwiler is out of options and seems set to compete right now with Tommy Milone for this 5th starter spot.  This also leaves no room for additional FA signings (CJ Wilson anyone?).
  • Thank god we don’t live in Boston.  Terry Franconia scapegoated for his team’s collapse in September and then absolutely denigrated by his owner (stay classy Mr. Henry).  Theo Epstein (who you may put more of the September collapse on than the manager by virtue of leaving the team rather thin in terms of quality starting pitching) reads the tea leaves and escapes for Chicago.  Now the whole “beer drinking” story that won’t die; starting pitchers would drink some beer and eat chicken on their off days, or maybe they were drinking beer in the dugout during games.  I dunno; a starter in-between starts has little to nothing to do during the games; in fact veterans are often allowed to travel home early to be with family.  It seems to me to be the Boston press playing into the hands of a rather cowardly news source, looking to grind a personal axe with the named players.  Not a very healthy organization, the Red Sox, right now.
  • Bryce Harper finally exploded in the AFL with a homer, 2 other hits and 2 walks for a pretty good game.  I wouldn’t read too much into his struggles in the AFL, or in AA for that matter.  I think he’s exhausted after his first full season and it should be more telling to see how he starts 2012.
  • Bill Ladson had a quick interview with Adam LaRoche, who reports that he’s recovering, starting baseball activities soon and that the team hasn’t promised him any playing time in 2012.  What??  I’m sure that quote is being blown out of proportion; why would the Nats have signed him for 2 years if they didn’t want him, for 2 whole years??  Of course the team wants him to play next year, to be the 25homer/100rbi left handed middle-of-the-order plus-defender player that they paid for in the off-season.  I suppose its possible the team will make a splash for Fielder or Pujols, but don’t think for a second this team doesn’t plan on just flushing LaRoche’s $8M salary in 2012.  Follow up comments from GM Rizzo seem to indicate the team plans to stand pat.
  • Please, please Nats do not get involved in the Yu Darvish madness.  They got burned on Maya; the Red Sox got burned on Dice-K.  It’ll cost many tens of millions of dollars just to “win” the posting, then even more money to sign the guy.  Is he worth $80-$100M?  Wouldn’t you rather get a known quantity for that kind of pitching outlay?

7 Responses to 'Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 10/21/11 edition'

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  1. “Wouldn’t you rather get a known quantity for that kind of pitching outlay?”– Like John Lackey?

    And what does Yunesky Maya have to do with Darvish? A 6′ 5″ 25 year old who has 3 200 IP seasons in AA (the NPL is roughly equal to AA) a 1.02 career WHIP and hasn’t had an ERA over 2 since he was 20. Darvish IS the most known quantity in this year’s FA class — CJ Wilson has had two good years and is on the wrong side of 30 and the Yanks aren’t going to let CC go.

    All pitching comes with risk. Darvish offers the youngest option and the least costly in terms of organizational outlay. No draft picks or prospects needed to land him, just Lerner cash which they have in abundance.


    21 Oct 11 at 11:53 am

  2. Very nice piece. Totally agree on Yu Darvish.

    Don’t agree on Ross Detwiler. He is on this team unless he is traded and has been most consistent in the bullpen so it isn’t a 5th starter spot or nothing. What I saw of Ross in September was an illusion. Too many days off between starts played into stellar starts. Ross hasn’t been good in back to back starts on normal rest. All you have to do is look at Ross’s record in Syracuse, it wasn’t pretty. Ross needs to work out of the bullpen and gain some body mass in the lower body and gain endurance. The book is never closed on a guy like Ross, look no further than CJ Wilson!

    Michael LeGroux

    21 Oct 11 at 12:04 pm

  3. John Lackey was a HORRIBLE contract mistake by the Red Sox. He was a mediocre guy pitching in a huge pitchers park and was vastly over paid. My problem with Darvish will be more about the money required to get him (probably something close to Dice-K money in terms of posting fee and eventual contract) without anyone really knowing how good he really is.

    Maya is a perfectly acceptable comparison to Darvish; foreign player who scouts have seen in international competitions and foreign leagues but never against american talent.

    Maya was lights out in the winter league, something that scouts think is the rough equivalent of AAA talent. And what did we get for that? A guy who basically can’t get out of the 5th inning against MLB pitchers. For me, Darvish is too expensive of a risk.

    I’ve said in this space several times that the 2011 FA pitching class is weak, that Wilson was going to get overpaid, that Jackson will too. There’s nobody worth spending long term money on this off season. I don’t want the Nats to spend ANY money on FA pitching this off-season. Trade for a known guy, go back after Greinke, trade for someone else.

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 11 at 12:49 pm

  4. I think right now i’m projecting Detwiler to be the 5th starter next year, without any additional acquisitions. I think the team will use him til he proves otherwise. I don’t disagree with you about his capabilities; just saying that the team has danced itself into a corner with Detwiler (options) and now must stick with him, trade him or lose him.

    Can Detwiler work out of the pen? Maybe. Someone who’s been a starter his whole life doesn’t always magically become a reliver who can jump up and get loose in 10 pitches. This is the main reason Livan will be looking for work elsewhere. I know we HAVE used him in the pen before, but down the stretch it was all starts. Hmm; just looked up his career splits and his reliever split is amazing. Maybe that’s the way to go.

    To me, Wilson is a huge gamble. I think he’s going to be a major FA disappointment to someone (probably Boston or the Yankees). If someone signs him to a 5 year deal … ugh.

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 11 at 12:55 pm

  5. If Gorzelanny is non-tendered as most have speculated, then Burnett is potentially the only southpaw out of the bullpen. The team could opt to keep both Milone and Detwiler on the staff battling for the 5th spot while the loser becomes the loogy/long man. Still, even with Wang signed, I can’t imagine Rizzo standing pat with the current makeup of the starting rotation (Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Wang & one of (Detwiler Milone, & Peacock) heading into spring.

    I agree it would be pure madness to enter into a posting-bidding war for Yu Darvish, even taking into account the economic (i.e., marketing)impact such a signing (to go with Wang, Strasburg and, down the line, Harper) would have for the club both at home and abroad. But, as we have already seen with the Werth deal, value isn’t necessary measured by output.

    There was also a tweet item by David Lennon of Newsday a couple days ago regarding Reyes and the Nats:!/DPLennon/status/126721874121068544


    21 Oct 11 at 2:19 pm

  6. See, maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think Gorzelanny will be non-tendered. He was pretty effective as a reliever down the stretch. 2.42 era and nearly a k/9 as a lefty out of the pen ( for his split). For me, and for Davey Johnson’s way of thinking, I WANT that in my bullpen. That gives the team a 2nd lefty and a spot starter. Severino could be your loogy; 7 k’s in 4 1/3 innings with a big fastball/power arm makeup that Rizzo likes. Only downside to tendering/arbitrating w/ Gorzelanny is the money; $2.1M in 2011, probably gets a raise to $3M or so … is that too much for a long reliever? Perhaps.

    That gives me a bullpen of Storen, Clippard, Burnett, Mattheus, HRodriguez, Gorzelanny and Severino. No room for Balester, Stammen, Peacock. Or Kimball; i’m assuming he’s starting on the DL.

    In an ideal world Rizzo trades for an effective #3 starter type guy and we have Stras, Zimmermann, Lannan, new starter and Wang. But that is the Detwiler problem; the team clearly views him as a starter and he’s out of options. I don’t think they want to give up on him. Maybe he gets an “injury” in late Spring Training and ends up stashed on the DL for a while.

    Been reading about how the Nats are “in” on Reyes as well. Again, I think the team likes Desmond and will stick with him. No Desmond isn’t nearly the player that Reyes is … but where do you spend your money? Would you rather have an up-and-coming, potentially good SS at $450k/year and pre-arbitration or do you want to spend $15-18M/year on Reyes? Here’s the other problem with Reyes; his production in 2011 SCREAMS “contract year.” Everything he did was 50 points higher than his career average. The Mets are a debacle franchise and its possible he just kicked it up 5 notches to get the h*ll out of there.

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 11 at 2:38 pm

  7. […] Darvish: as I opined here, I really do hope that the Nats do not spend fools money after Darvish.  A posting fee in the […]

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