Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s inbox 10/24/11 edition


Are the Nats going to go after Jose Reyes? Photo unknown via

Here’s my latest personal answers to Bill Ladson’s inbox, 10/24/11 edition.

As always, I edit the questions for clarity, and write my own response before reading Ladson’s.

Q: You talk about the Nationals needing a leadoff man. Who better than free agent Jose Reyes? Do you think there’s any chance the Nationals might pursue him? He can hit, get on base and steal.

A: Reyes has good numbers, no doubt.  However, the difference between his 2011 numbers and his career numbers is scary.  He screams “contract year” over-production.  At least he’s not on the wrong side of 30 yet.  Problem is, the team likes Desmond and needs a center fielder, not a SS.  I don’t think they go after him.  Ladson suspects that the Nats will stick with the DP combo of Desmond and Espinosa and look elsewhere for FA talent.

Q: I was curious as to what the organization had in store for right-hander Shairon Martis. I know that he had not been lights-out when he was called up to the big leagues, but I think most people are unaware of how young this individual is. He is only 24, and he had a solid season this year. Is Martis under the radar or is he only future trade fodder?

A: I think Martis became an “organizational guy” the moment he passed off our 40-man and passed through waivers successfully.  He’ll need to be “lights out” and more in AAA before the team considers him for anything other than roster filling.  Ladson notes that he could be  minor league free agent this off season (I hadn’t noted this before, but sure enough he’s got six years of minor league service after signing as an international free agent.  He may be moving elsewhere this off-season).

Q: With Stephen Strasburg on an innings limit next season, wouldn’t it make sense to stretch out his season by going with a six-man rotation? This way, if the Nationals are good enough to play October baseball, Strasburg and potentially Chien-Ming Wang — if he re-signs — would be forces for the entire season. It also opens another rotation spot for one of the pitchers.

A: A good idea … and one that won’t fly with the rest of the veteran starting pitchers.  A 6-man rotation means an extra day of rest for everyone, throwing them off their normal schedules.  Its ok to put a bunch of rookie call-ups into a 6-man rotation pitching in meaningless games in September, but I can’t see the team going this route.  A better way to stretch out Strasburg would be to stash him on the DL for a few weeks mid-season, which should stretch him through September on his innings limit.   Ladson says that Davey Johnson isn’t going to do a 6-man rotation, Gorzelanny probably is your spot starter and that the Nats would “find a way” to have him pitch in a playoff race.

Q: What do you think of Rick Eckstein’s performance as the Nats’ hitting coach? I do not think he has had the success as a coach, for the Nats were one of the worst hitting teams in the National League last year. Will the Nats look for someone new?

A: While i’m not sure you can lay the entire team’s hitting inadequacies on Eckstein, I do think the team needs to shake things up and may move in a different direction.  Ladson thinks the team likes Eckstein, notes the improvement in Morse, and predicts he’ll be back in 2012.

Q: In the last Inbox, you brought up Brett Gardner’s name as a possible trade target, and I have to admit I was intrigued. After a few days of seeing the reaction in the blog section of the story, I was wondering what you thought it would take for the Nationals to acquire Gardner’s services.

A: For the Yankees to give up Gardner, we’d probably need to give them starting pitching prospects.  I’d think it would probably take someone like Ross Detwiler and Brad Meyers.  Gardner would fit what the Nats need; centerfielder who can lead-off.  He didn’t have the best 2011 stats but does have a pretty good OBP and gets a ton of steals.  He’s arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012 so his price will be rising.  Ladson agrees with my guess on what it would take to get him in trade.

Q: Would the Nationals ever consider doing a throwback game in which they wear Expos uniforms? I know that many people in Washington want nothing to do with Montreal, but I’m confident it would attract some attention to the team. It would be super cool to see the old uniforms once again.

A: I think it would be neat to see them in Expos uniforms as well, but the team seems to want to distance itself from the whole Expos debacle.  Throwbacks go WAY back, to the time of the Senators generally.  Ladson agrees.

Q: Besides Morse and Ryan Zimmerman, it seems to me that the Nats aren’t exactly overflowing with power bats. Are the Nats planning on searching for a power bat this offseason?

A: One can certainly make an argument that one or two more power hitters in this lineup would have turned the team from an 80-81 team into a wild card contender.  So I’d like to see this team add some more offense.  But, the big bats on the market are going to be expensive.  Is this team, which seemed to get burned on the Jayson Werth big contract, be willing to take another risk?  Ladson says they are focusing on power off the bench and seem ready to stand pat on most of their lineup.

Q: What are your thoughts on trading a young pitcher for a player like Lorenzo Cain of the Royals? Is he on the Nats’ radar or are the Nats looking for someone more established? Or is Cain just not that promising?

A: I’ve never even heard of Cain, frankly.  We have plenty of young arms though, in fact we have too many and the likelihood is that both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock are starting the year in AAA (to say nothing of Meyers, Maya and a decent set of prospect starters set to arrive within 2-3 years like Solis, Meyer, and Purke).   Ladson said he’s never heard about Cain either.

4 Responses to 'Ladson’s inbox 10/24/11 edition'

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  1. Brett Gardner is not coming to DC. He would be perfect for the Nationals, but they are not going to make an offer that the Yankees will want to accept. Gardner is a superior defensive outfielder with a decent bat, high OBP and effective baserunning speed – he was a 5.1 fWAR player last season, a 6.1 fWAR in 2010. For comparison, Espinosa led the Nationals with a 3.5 fWAR last year, with Morse at 3.4 and Ramos at 3.1. Gardner had the #3 fWAR on the Yankees, behind Granderson and Cano. Further, the Yankees do not have a ready replacement for him in the OF, so trading him just creates a hole in their lineup and defense that they then would have to fill. AND he’s still cost effective and under team control. Why exactly would the Yankees want to trade him? Much less for Detwiler and Meyers.

    Another strike against the deal is that the Nationals’ and Yankees’ farm systems are both deep at the same positions (pitcher, catcher). The Yankees may be the only team in baseball that has more (and better) catching prospects than the Nationals. And they have Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and Hector Noesi nearly ready I’m not sure what Detwiler and Meyers would add to the mix. Certainly Betances and Banuelos project higher in the rotation than either Detwiler or Meyers at this point.

    John C.

    26 Oct 11 at 12:28 pm

  2. I could play devils advocate and say that the Yankees probably aren’t looking at fWar when they look at their lineup and say, “gee, if we needed to sacrifice some offense where could we skimp?” They’re looking at their lineup and saying “gee, we just finished 2nd in MLB in runs scored but we have no starting pitching.” What did Gardner typically bat last year? 264 PAs leading off but another 311 batting 7th 8th or (mostly) 9th. So do the Yankees trade a #9 hitter for a #5 starter and a starter prospect? Both pre-arbitration and cheap?

    Yes the Yankees have some arms and Banuelos/Betances are certainly a-1 starter prospects … but they’re not going to be ready for 2012 right? so the Yankees have an urgent need to find some arms.

    LF is the easiest OF position to fill. They could get Damon back or stick someone like Willingham there as a cheaper FA. Christ, Damon hit 24 homers there in his last season. Most teams would kill for 24 homers from the #8 or #9 spot.

    I tend to agree generally though with you. Rizzo has made two trades in 3 years with the Yanks, so maybe there’s some working relationship there. Maybe we flip someone like Gorzelanny instead of Meyers and give them two lefty arms they could work with.

    Todd Boss

    26 Oct 11 at 1:13 pm

  3. The Yanks might want a proven starter as opposed to a relatively untried rookie or almost-rookie. I’d be willing to part with Lannan (hopefully straight up for Gsrdner; if not then packaged with someone like Meyers).

    Steven J. Berke

    26 Oct 11 at 1:39 pm

  4. I like it. Lannan straight up for Gardner (even if we throw in someone like Meyers or Stammen or Martis, an arm they could try out in AAA and in the spring) would give us value for Lannan that we probably arent’ likely to get in trade for him elsewhere. Plus we seem to have guys “like” Lannan on hand or coming soon (Detwiler, putting Gorzelanny back in the rotation, Solis, Rosenbaum other examples). We flip Lannan then go shopping for a cheaper FA option to fill his spot, or use his rotation spot to commit to either Milone, Peacock or both for 2012. Lets do this! 🙂

    Todd Boss

    27 Oct 11 at 9:13 am

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