Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Boswell 1/3/12 edition


The Fielder-to-the-Nats rumors just won't die. Photo unknown via

Happy New Year!  Here’s Tom Boswell‘s weekly Monday chat done today Tuesday 1/3/12. With the Redskins season mercifully over, I’d expect a bunch of questions related to post mortem-ing the team, but there’s also been a flurry of baseball moves.

Of the baseball questions he took, here’s how I’d have answered them.  As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write my own answer prior to reading his.

Q: Hey Bos, I don’t think the Nationals should sign him for top dollar. I don’t even think they should sign him for the right price and years. BUT, I think the Nats would be foolish not to CONSIDER signing him for the right price and years.

A: That’s crazy; for the right price and years, Prince Fielder is one of the best 10 hitters in the game.  This team needs offense, not more pitching.  It needs a big bopper in the middle of the order (ala Adam Dunn) and lineup protection for Zimmerman and Werth.  Its no coincidence that Zimmerman’s two best offensive seasons were with Dunn protecting him in the 4-hole, nor that our best offensive season in years came in 2009 with our 3-4-5 hitters all successful.  Now; do I want Fielder for 8-10 years?  No; nor does anyone else apparently.  Boswell intimates that the (cheap) Lerners are choosing between Fielder and Zimmerman.  He just can’t get off his ridiculous column of last week.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Gio Gonzalez trade? It seems like it was a pretty high cost to give up both Cole and Peacock.

A: I’ve posted my thoughts in this same space.  Short version: I like the trade for who we got based on our prospects not entirely fulfilling their promise.  Boswell says the trade should work for both sides but also talks about how difficult it was to get approval for the trade and the symbolism involved.

Q: So, are the Nats in on Fielder or not? Did Boras and Fielder meet with Rizzo and the Lerners in DC? What about a long term, Matt Moore type deal for Zimmermann (Jordan)? Who penciled in at CF?

A: So many questions.  My guesses: Nats are in on Fielder since the years may be dropping.  Boras definitely met with Rizzo/Lerners.  Its pre-mature to sign Zimmermann to a Moore deal (that deal may still backfire for Tampa; he’s only thrown a few MLB innings), and Mike Cameron is your opening day CFer.   Boswell doesn’t answer any of these questions, but gives out a great link at pertaining to the removal of the eye-sore gravel factory!

Q: Why go for Gonzalez and not go for Fielder? You’re either all-in or not.

A: A fair question; I think the team looked at its 2012 rotation and saw weakness at the back end, as well as some innings limitations throughout, and thought it needed a guy who they could count on for innings.  Initially it was Buerhle but they got out bid, and lucky for them they ended up with a better player.  The prospects we gave up were significant … but then again, there’s a lot of people who say “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect.”  Meaning, they’re high risk, high reward.  We traded 3 guys who may never amount to anything for a guy in Gonzalez who we KNOW what he is, right now. Boswell does some “big body” slugger analysis and seems to be talking himself into Fielder.

Q: Are the Nats really crazy (my opinion) enough to bring Bryce Harper up before May and risk losing him a year early to free agency? Granted a center field of Roger Bernadina and Mike Cameron or a similar right-handed batter is less than compelling, but what’s six weeks or so in the grand scheme of things? Basing so much of their strategy on Werth being the centerfielder for the season or more (not that he isn’t capable, a gamer, and all that) also seems high risk. What are the smart moves here?

A: Well put question.  I agree; 6 weeks over the course of 7 years is nothing, especially since it saves the team millions and millions by keeping Harper in the minors.  I’m ok starting the season with Cameron in center, Werth in right and Harper in AA.  Likewise, I’m also ok starting with Werth in center, a FA to be named in right, with an eye towards Harper in July.  Boswell agrees, but can’t help himself and does a ton of WAR analysis on young players.

Q: For those of us who read your stuff regularly and respect what you have to say, you owe us an explanation. What happened between your chat on December 19 and your column published less than 48 hours later that caused you to so radically change your view from “Rizzo has the authority to make to make deals” to “the cheapo Lerners just don’t get it.” And please don’t insult the intelligence of your readers by trying to say the two positions were totally consistent.

A: Wow.  Demanding a complete mea culpa from this ridiculous column (see my reaction to it).  Lets see what he says: Boswell says the facts changed between his chat and his column and then the deal.

Q: With the issues of the other NL east teams (some of which are pretty arguable in the question), does Fielder make the Nats a contender for the next 3 years?

A: Undoubtedly yes.  Mark Zuckerman did a nice little WAR analysis, showing how, without any more moves, the team could very well be a 90-91 win team in 2012.   With Fielder, we’d be closer to a 96 win team most likely.  Boswell agrees w/ the question, saying though that he thought the team wouldn’t contend til 2013.

Q:Who is the Nats CF in 2013?

A: Who possibly knows.  Upton will be a FA.  So will Michael Bourn.  Harper could (should?) be playing CF; he’s athletic enough and it would greatly enhance his value.  Werth can man RF for the time being and then we can find a bopper to play LF if Morse moves to 1b.  Or we buy Fielder, Morse stays in LF for a while and you’re set.  Boswell says Werth only goes to CF if Harper comes up… but I think it should be the reverse frankly.

Final word: there was a fantastic piece of analysis phrased in the form of a question, where a chatter did a good piece of investigative work and discovered that Oakland’s foul grounds perhaps costs Gonzalez 6-13 runs over the course of his career, or a run every 15th start or so.  Further proof in my mind that Oakland’s park effects are overstated.  Its a must read.  About 60% down in the chat.

4 Responses to 'Ask Boswell 1/3/12 edition'

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  1. Be honest, Todd, didn’t you post that question to Boz demandeding he explain his dramatic shift between Dec 19 and Dec 21?

    I’m absurdly torn about the prospect of landing Prince Fielder. My heart really wants him batting cleanup for us next season, but my head understands the counter-argument that his contract would hamstring the team’s ability to sign players in the future. Mark Zuckerman wrote a good piece a few days ago about how, even without Fielder, the Nats payroll is going to increase dramatically in a few years time. He concedes that some (or even many) of our current players may not be around by 2015, but their projected salaries are nonetheless eye-opening. Honestly, besides the Yankees, how many teams have more than one or two players earning >$20M per year? If they signed Fielder and re-signed Zimmerman, the Nats would have three. I don’t buy the “Lerners are cheap” claim anymore, but I do have a hard time seeing them spending a combined $60M-$70M per year on three players. So, as much as I want Fielder, and as much as it would instantly help the team next season, I don’t believe we’ll sign him, and I’m not sure that’s a such bad thing over the long term.


    5 Jan 12 at 10:54 am

  2. The only smart signing of Fielder to a lengthy contract that makes sense is an American League team. Fat people can still DH.

    It likely comes down to Fielder or Zimmerman for the Nats and I think most people will agree they’d rather have Zimmerman.

    Bourn is a better option than Upton.

    Mark L

    5 Jan 12 at 1:23 pm

  3. It wasn’t me I swear. I would have used words like “hypocrite” and “over-reaction” and “sensationalist” and probably wouldn’t have gotten it published :-)

    Buster Olney’s pros and cons are succinctly put.

    I saw someone else who said this point: “we don’t really KNOW what the payroll limit is on this team.” Believe it was Adam Kilgore. And its true; why are we assuming that the team “can’t” sign Zimmerman to an extension if we sign Fielder? Who is to say this isn’t an eventual $120M payroll? Detroit had about that level the past few years and they’re a smaller market and a less wealthy owner. Plus, payroll constraints are helped by good player development and by not spending money where you don’t have to … something the Yankees are learning the hard way. Instead of buying relievers for $10M/year, “grow” them from within for $450k/year.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 12 at 1:28 pm

  4. […] • “Happy New Year! Here’s Tom Boswell’s weekly Monday chat done today Tuesday 1/3/12.” – “Ask Boswell 1/3/12 edition” – Todd Boss, Nationals Arm Race […]

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