Nationals Arm Race

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

Can we find a 5th starter for 2013 internally?

32 comments

Could Garcia's great stuff translate into a starting role in 2013? Photo unknown via federalbaseball.com

I’ve been thinking about the rotation  for 2013, reading some early 2013 Free Agent rankings, and steeling myself for the reality that this team is more than likely to lose Edwin Jackson to free agency.  Two primary reasons we probably lose Jackson:

1. He’s one of the best available starters in this coming off season’s FA market

2. He’s likely to command a multi year deal at more money than this team is probably willing to offer.

Considering our “core 5 starters,” Jackson ranks 5th out of 5 in terms of ERA and ERA+, and he’s 4th of 5 in terms of Whip and FIP, and 3rd of our 5 (barely) via xFIP and SIERA.  He’s been clearly out pitched this year by our 5th starter Detwiler and isn’t ahead of the big three in anyone’s eyes.  So the question is; will the Nats make its 5th starter its highest paid pitcher?

I just don’t think so.

So we’re likely looking for a 5th starter for 2013.  The FA market is pretty bareZack Greinke is going to command a massive deal for a guy who, honestly, has had one stellar season in 2009 and since has been no better than a 3rd starter.  I think the Nats should stay away from him.  The Nats should also stay away from promising starters in 2012 but who have injury or inconsistency issues (Dan Haren and Jake Peavy, both of whom likely have their 2013 options declined).  Who else is out there that fits the Mike Rizzo mold (hard thrower, high K/9 rates)?  Shawn Marcum?  Brandon McCarthy?  Also injury concerns.  How about Anibel Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez and Ervin Santana?  All three guys have good seasons in their immediate past but blew up (or were at best inconsistent) in 2012.

Maybe the above paragraph is even more support for re-signing Jackson frankly; he’s got no injury issues, apparently is a good clubhouse guy and meets Rizzo‘s starter criteria for veteran, hard-throwing innings eater.  So maybe this whole article is going to be moot.

Here’s a different take (and the point of this article); some news items came out this week that caught my eye; perhaps the Nats can find a 2013 5th starter internally instead?  Christian Garcia has really impressed in 2012, from his stellar minor league numbers to his good performances out of the bullpen in September.  And now word has it that the team is considering looking at him as a starter.

I love Garcia’s stuff; he’s a 3 plus pitch guy with a ton of movement on his decent fastball.  Here’s some Pitch F/X data for him this year; 95mph average (peaking at 97.8mph), 10mph delta between his fastball and change, and a ridiculous amount of movement on his 12-6 curveball.  He’s getting nearly a 20% swing-and-miss rate across all his pitches.  Fangraphs.com even did a post specifically on Garcia based on his September performance, featuring an animated .gif of  his “stupid good” curve.

That features as a pretty good starter line to me.  Perhaps he needs a 4th pitch (his over-the-top delivery could lend itself to a sinking 2-seam fastball, a cutter or even a split-fingered pitch that he could add to his arsenal) to be truly effective as a starter.

Meanwhile, the team has already started the Ryan Perry conversion to starter experiment, and his AA starting numbers in 2012 were pretty good.  Pulling this text from my AA-in-review post:

Ryan Perry, astutely acquired for Collin Balester (who failed to impress in Detroit and was DFA’d earlier this year) in spring training and he competed for the MLB bullpen.  He featured briefly, was ineffective and was optioned to AAA.  The team took a look at his repertoire and decided to try to convert him to a starter in AA.  The results?  Pretty good; a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 whip in 13 AA starts.  Outlook for next season: here’s the problem with Perry; he’s out of options for 2013.  He was added to a 40-man roster in April 2009, and burned options in 2009, 2011 and this year.   So he has to either make the MLB club or be DFA’d at the end of spring training.  So look for Perry to compete for the #5 starter job or be considered trade bait in the off-season.

Can Perry continue his starter performance in spring training in 2013?  Could Garcia win the job?  Will the Nats pursue a starter on the FA market?  Or, as they did in the 2012 off-season will they shock us with a trade that comes out of nowhere?

32 Responses to 'Can we find a 5th starter for 2013 internally?'

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  1. Insightful post, Todd. I, too, am steeling myself against the probability of losing Jackson, regardless of how much I’d love to have him back. If nothing else, how do justify making your 5th starter your highest-paid? (He already is, but only for a year.) Gio is a Cy Young candidate this year. Gio, Stras, and Z’mann could be candidates next year. So how do you pay Jackson more than them over multiple years?

    I strongly agree with your assessment of the FA market. Jackson is the only FA pitcher who should be under consideration. Greinke is overvalued, not a team-first guy, and you’d have to pay him a lot more than you would Jackson.

    I’d love Garcia to succeed, but I worry about his health history.

    The real bummer is that we already have a reliable 5th starter on staff, but sore feelings almost certainly make him an offseason goner: John Lannan. It’s a pity, really. He was used as the staff “ace” for so many years because the staff was so awful, but he really would make a solid 5th starter.

    So, my preference would be as follows, in order:
    1. Edwin Jackson
    2. John Lannan
    3. FA pitcher (because you’d still have Garcia on staff, if needed)
    4. Christian Garcia
    5. Livan Hernandez—kidding!
    6. “Open Mound Night” at Nats Park

    clark17

    27 Sep 12 at 4:13 pm

  2. And of course you guys never, ever, watch the minors. Fortunately Davey does. Its why Zach Duke is likely going to the playoffs.

    Fifth starter possibilities.

    Right now if I’m going to sign anyone to big $$ I am going for a lefty and that would be David Price. That has to be considered a distinct possibility. The Nats are no longer an unattractive spot to land. Albeit Rizzo says he has already talked to EJax folks about an extension … BUT given the status of Matt Purke and Sammy Solis? The only viable left-handed prospect is currently Danny Rosenbaum. Then there’s Duke and Lannan and honestly I’d go with 15 game winner Duke. He seems to be able to pitch in relief and can must 91-92 when needed.

    On the right side? You have pitcher of the year Nate Karns who will start in AA but could be in AAA rather quickly. He’s a fast riser and a true sleeper. You’ve got Ryan Perry as mentioned who was 2nd to Karns in terms of effectiveness. Alex Meyer should be in AA next sesason. Garcia has to go back and start again and most definitely will be behind them on the depth chart … guaranteed!

    Where do you put THEM ALL? That’s a lot last I looked and all are power pitchers?

    Try doing some research.

    And you think

    peric

    27 Sep 12 at 5:14 pm

  3. I sometimes wonder about baseball players and how they deal with salaries. On the one hand, these are people and people look at their colleagues in any work situation and measure their own pay and value against others. Lazy guy who barely works? He better not be getting paid more than me. Does it work this way in baseball? Or (as I suspect) do players understand the structure of baseball contracts basically means they are basically indentured servants with no say for 3 years, then get what you can in arb years, and then you make your first pile in FA … and until you hit FA you just know you’re kind of stuck. To that end, Gio Gonzalez signed a 5 year deal that bought out his 3 arbitration years (if i’m reading Cots correctly) and then gave him two post-arb years at $11 and $12M with a club option of $12m in 2017 that looks like a steal right now. So Gio knows he’s “only” getting $3.25M this year but that’s likely what he would have gotten in arbitration anyway. So he’s not looking at his $3.25M and Jackson’s $11M and going “i’m better than him i need more money” because baseball just doesn’t work that way.

    I didn’t really touch on the Garcia health issue but completely agree; 3 major surgeries in his past (tommy john, elbow bone chips and a knee). But you’re absolutely right. What choice do the Nats have? I think Lannan is a good MLB average pitcher … but he’s just not Rizzo’s kind of guy. And he’s certainly not going to be worth the $7M or so he’ll likely get in arbitration. So we non-tender him and he gives the Nats org the finger on his way out the door (as you say).

    I wonder if the Nats decision on Jackson isn’t part of an if-then-else situation related to payroll. Lets assume for a minute that the Lerners want to keep payroll roughly where it is right now ($92M at the beginning of this year). If you KEEP LaRoche I think we lose Jackson. Why? Because natural pay increases for Zim/Werth/Gio and Morse total to roughly $11m, or roughly what Jackson/LaRoche was making. Lannan, Wang, Lidge, Ankiel and DeRosa come off payroll for roughly $13M … but then arb increases for Zimmermann, Clippard will cost a few and a whole slew of important guys (Desmond, Bernadina, Stammen, Detwiler and maybe Storen) all hit Arbitration for the first time. Phew. Detwiler’s earned himself some money this year, as Desmond with his 25homers from the SS position. All need to be paid. I think all of this payroll comes at the expense of either Jackson or LaRoche … if we’re not planning to increase payroll to keep the current team in tact.

    Here’s a thought i’ve been kicking around in my head. How about a trade this coming off season? We’ll need to trade Flores; he’s arb eligible, out of options and a 3rd catcher. We don’t need both Storen and Clippard as closer-capable relievers; one probably could be moved. We also have one too many right handed relievers; Clippard, Storen, Stammen, Garcia, Henry Rodriguez, Mattheus and Kimball (if healthy). Only 5 of these guys can make the 2013 bullpen … and most of them are out of options. Lastly, if Rendon is ready to go mid-season, then we likely don’t need all three of Desmond, Espinosa AND Lombardozzi. So you move some combination of Flores, Storen/Clippard, Matteus and Espinosa for your 5th starter and perhaps a AA/AAA starter prospect (since we’re really struggling for upper minor league starter depth).

    Todd Boss

    27 Sep 12 at 5:31 pm

  4. Don’t you read this blog? I watch the minors extensively. There’s a whole slew of posts reviewing the minor leagues posted in the past two weeks.

    If Zach Duke was so great, why was he a minor league free agent signing who spent the entire year in AAA? His last year starting full time for Pittsburgh in 2010 he had a 5.72 ERA. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/dukeza01.shtml . Oh, by the way, if you think a player’s manager is going to leave off of his playoff roster someone like Gorzelanny to take a guy like Duke you’re nuts. What kind of message does that give to your team? “Oh, thanks for busting your *ss all year but i’m taking some re-tread four-A guy to the playoffs instead.” I laugh at the thought. The ONLY guy who makes sense (and Davey’s comments this week confirm it) to add to the playoff roster is Garcia, and he’s not “taking” anyone else’s spot. He’s an 8th bullpen arm to replace the unneeded 5th starter for a playoff rotation that only goes 4 deep.

    David Price isn’t a free agent. He’s under Tampa control for THREE more seasons, arbitration controlled salary. Do you know what it would take to get a price-conscious team like Tampa to trade a cost-controlled Ace starter?

    Rosenbaum, as much as people like him, is not really an answer here. I see him as almost an identical prospect to Tommy Milone. Soft tossing lefty who relies on control. Rizzo wants power arms; its why he drafted injury risks like Purke and Giolito and its why he didn’t blink in trading away Milone (who has prospered in the big Oakland park). But I do agree that the injuries to both Solies and Purke have thinned the LHSP prospects in our system. Lower down you have names like Mooneyham, Robbie Ray and maybe Blake Monar if you squint, but those guys are at least two minor league seasons away.

    I love Karns; if he can repeat 2012 in 2013 he’s absolutely in the mix for a bullpen arm call-up if we get some injuries. Buuuuut he’s had only one full pro season healthy. I don’t think you can count on him until he shows he can stay healthy.

    “Try doing some research?” What was the point of that comment? I’ll counter with, “Try reading my blog before you make sweeping statements about how little you think i know.”

    Todd Boss

    27 Sep 12 at 5:41 pm

  5. Yes, there are definitely gains that can be made via trade. You can probably get good trade value from Clippard/Storen, Stammen, Desmond/Espinosa/Lombardozzi, and maybe Mattheus. Less value for H-Rod, Flores, Kimball, Garcia.

    But let’s face it, the Nats aren’t going to trade Desmond or Espinosa, nor should they. And I think trading Lombo would be a mistake unless we’re offered something we can’t decline, because he gives you invaluable depth off the bench, and you can’t trust Rendon’s health. Next, I wouldn’t trade a valuable commodity like Stammen, because he’s great out of the ‘pen and can also make spot starts, as needed. Of Clippard/Storen, it’s a tough call, but I’d keep Storen. VERY tough call, though. The rest on your list are more disposable. However, I would add Morse to your list of potential trade bait in this offseason, especially if LaRoche stays. The team wants Tyler Moore on the field, and the Nats could get value for Morse. My preference, though, would be Moore/Morse at 1B/LF, and LaRoche (whose declining years are just ahead) elsewhere. I love Adam LaRoche and what he’s done this year, but hard choices have to be made somewhere.

    clark17

    27 Sep 12 at 5:53 pm

  6. A couple of things here. First, the Nats are going to offer Jackson at least $12.5 million for next year to guarantee a 1st round pick compensation. They’l also probably offer him 2 years so they don’t look cheap and disrespectful.
    Second, watch out for Alex Meyer, he’s way ahead of schedule and will start forcing his way on to conversation very quickly. Higher ceiling than Karns.

    Mark L

    27 Sep 12 at 6:23 pm

  7. Man, too many topics. I think its tough to think about trading guys, absolutely. I really like Stammen myself and have really been surprised how he’s turned from a below mlb average starter into the really effective reliever … I don’t think he’s a trade target at all. Its not that I don’t like Lombardozzi …. its just that he seems like he’s earned a chance to start but there’s no room here without injury. Totally agree that Rendon has to prove he can stay healthy (as does Garcia, as does Karns, and so on) … but if he’s anywhere close to his potential 1-1 draft hype, then he’s going to be making a statement at the MLB level soon and we may have to find room.

    I was reading along with a chat recently and the host thought said he thought the Nats would re-sign/extend LaRoche, trade Morse and put Moore in LF. I dunno. I still think Rizzo is obsessed with plus-defenders and Moore in LF isn’t that. Morse isn’t great either … but I’ve often said that you can “hide” guys in LF in order to get more offense. If you extend LaRoche … are you getting 3 more years of this? Or maybe one year of this, another injury filled season and a decline season for your $40M. Not good. That’s a recipe for disaster, the same thing the Phillies are going to be going through. Smart teams find ways to not overpay on the FA market for players that they can replace internally and Moore for LaRoche seems like a good experiment to try…

    Todd Boss

    27 Sep 12 at 8:58 pm

  8. I like Jackson and so does Rizzo; coveted him in 2010 in trade and got him last season. I have no idea what Jackson will do; common baseball sense says Jackson should try to turn this season into a long term contract. He’ll probably be among the best options on the FA market and can turn this year into a 4 year contract. That being said … Jackson has never had an injury, doesn’t mind moving around (military kid) and isn’t afraid of a one year deal. Maybe he takes a qualifying offer.

    I was encouraged by Meyer’s high-A performance; lets see what he does in AA. Too many scouts have signed off on him having to make the conversion to reliever for me to be anything but wary of what his role will be in the future.

    Todd Boss

    27 Sep 12 at 9:11 pm

  9. While I don’t see Jackson or Lannan returning, I also don’t see Rizzo taking a chance on an inexperienced guy at No. 5. Seems like there are a few guys on your veteran free agents list who might have to settle for a one year deal to try and reestablish their worth who would be more likely candidates.

    As for a trade, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rizzo make a run at Matt Garza, who he tried to get once before and who whose value will not be that high given that he is coming off an injury and has only one year left until he is a free agent. After the way the Nats destroyed the atrocious Cub bullpen in that last series, Clippard, Flores (who would actually be a huge upgrade for the Cubs) and a low level prospect for Garza seems about right.

    bdrube

    27 Sep 12 at 11:30 pm

  10. Then why hasn’t Gorzelanny pitched since the 18th oh wise wizard of baseball. NOT. Davey has seemed intent on trotting out Duke every chance he gets. And Gorzo is left in the bullpen catching home run balls in his hat!

    C’mon what game are you watching?

    Let’s see Zach Duke former major league All Star. International League pitcher of the year and IL league All Star. And what did Lannan do? And do you actually believe he can manage to pitch beyond 5 innings for this team with everyone gunning for it next season. Dream on and look at Lannan’s stats adjusted for defense and park. They were the worst in baseball the previous 3 years for any starter. That’s research dude.

    And I’ve been watching for Karns since they drafted him. And no where do you mention Alex Meyer who has advanced very rapidly? And will be in AA ball next season.

    Go outside? Sure for another left-handed power pitcher perhaps … perhaps like David Price. That makes sense.

    peric

    28 Sep 12 at 12:06 am

  11. Well, honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rizzo did sign one (or more) of those “discount” pitchers – Marcum, Haren, Peavy, McCarthy would all be worthwhile one-year risks.

    Or, a different idea would be to try a 4-man rotation. I know it sounds nutty, but just consider:
    40 starts at 80 pitches each for Stras, Znn, Gio, and Detwiler.

    After them, you can use Garcia, Stammen, and Lannan as long men, with Gonzalez/HRod/whoever, Burnett, Mattheus, Clippard, and Storen at the end of the game.

    Anyway, it’s out-of-the-box, but it could be rather effective.

    kevin rusch

    28 Sep 12 at 12:56 am

  12. The fact that Duke has pitched mop-up situations here and there over the past couple weeks while Gorzelanny hasn’t appeared is proof of nothing. Maybe Gorzelanny is hurt. Maybe Gorzelanny’s role has been established as long-man and hasn’t been needed; he has the fewest appearances of any guy in that bullpen (who hasn’t missed time for injury), and I think its been pretty clear what his role has been all year. He’s basically held in reserve in case the starter gets pounded. Neither you nor I are in the clubhouse or in the manager’s office and any inference about Duke’s usage is speculation. But, since you think I do no research here’s a fact: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/dukeza01-pitch.shtml. If you measure the leverage index of Duke’s 5 appearances guess what? He’s YET to be used in what is defined as a “high leverage” situation. 2 medium leverage, 3 low leverage appearances in his 5 games so far. That says to me; mop up guy used to save the arms of the important guys in the bullpen. Makes sense and seems appropriate for a 9/1 call up.

    Zach Duke was, let me repeat, a minor league free agent this year. Do you know what that means? That means that ALL 30 teams had a chance to sign him to a major league contract at MLB minimum to be a part of their rotations or bullpens and passed. Only the Nats gave him a shot, and a very late one at that; he was signed March 29th! That means he was looking at playing independent baseball before the Nats suddenly looked at their starter depth and needed to find another arm. AAA pitcher of the year? I’d hope so, considering that he’s 29 and has 168 MLB starts.

    If Davey Johnson, a veteran manager who has been to the playoffs before, selects Zach Duke over Tom Gorzelanny for his post-season roster, then I’ll own up to being wrong. And I’ll be stunned. And I’ll write a post about what a ridiculous decision that is, that Duke is a minor-league retread while Gorzelanny has been effective in his limited opportunities, and I’ll talk about what a bad message such a decision sends to the team. And all of those points will be right, in my opinion.

    I’m not even sure what you’re arguing about w/r/t Lannan. I think its pretty clear what Lannan’s role is with this team; replacement 5th starter from 9/12/12 to the end of the season and then clear non-tender candidate. He has no future here. I don’t care what his stats were the last few years, other than to recognize that he’s got a 103 ERA+ for his career, http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lannajo01.shtml indicating that he’s actually slightly above average. If you’d like to provide links for whatever point you’re trying to make about him being the worst pitcher in the majors, i’d love to see them. On what basis are you making that point? fip? xfip? pitcher war? siera?

    Its pretty straight forward on fangraphs to pull down cumulative statistics for all pitchers from 2009-2011 to see where Lannan stands. http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2011&month=0&season1=2009&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=18%2cd

    Here’s where he stands based on some core statistical measures against all other pitchers over those three years:
    - WAR: 105th out of 135 qualified pitchers, with a 4.0 over 3 seasons; yes that’s pretty awful. But its not the worst. Among those below him; your friend Zach Duke! Harang, Joe Saunders, Barry Zito, Bronson Arroyo and in dead last near-perfect game hurler (and former Nat) Armando Galaraga
    - FIP: 110th out of those 135. Again, not great but not nearly the worst in the game.
    - xFIP: just in case Lannan was incredibly lucky for 3 years running in terms of fly balls being turned into homers: Nope: he was 111th, nearly an identical ranking to his FIP level.
    - SIERA: closer to the bottom, but not “worst in baseball the previous 3 years” as you claim.
    - tERA: See Siera.

    So Mr. Research: i’ve just shown you’re absolutely wrong in your statement that Lannan was “the worst in baseball the previous 3 years” via a number of accepted statistical measures. NOW do you want to show your work? Or do you want to show a little respect in this space before I just start deleting all your posts as being 100% Troll?

    I didn’t mention either Karns or Meyers as a 5th starter candidate for one simple reason: they’re both likely to spend the entirety of 2013 in the minors. I project them to both start at AA, considering that neither pitched above high-A this year. If you think I’m not aware of who these guys or if you think I’m not high on their capabilities, then you’re not reading my blog. Here’s my high-A review, talking about both guys: http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=4490

    Why do you think ridiculously that the Rays are even looking to trade David Price? You might as well assert other ridiculous claims, thinks like “The Nats really should trade for Justin Verlander” or “The team is looking to trade for Clayton Kershaw.” Nowhere, anywhere can you find me a link that says the Rays are looking to move their best pitcher. MAYBE in three years time, after he’s exhausted his arbitration years and he’s sitting on a $14M/year 4th arbitration contract and it seems clear the Rays won’t be able to sign him long term will they be looking to move him. But that’ll happen in the summer of 2016, not the winter of 2012.

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 10:10 am

  13. Mark, I absolutely agree that the Nats offer Jackson at least 2yrs/$25M. That would be a fair offer: bearable for the team, respectful to the player. But he’ll get a 3-4yr offer elsewhere, similar to Buehrle’s contract last offseason. Someone is always willing to overpay.

    Todd, it’s okay to ignore peric’s posts. He’s only trying to get a response out of you. His mom grounded him, so he’s stuck in his room with his computer all week and has nothing else to do. Trade for David Price? Great idea! Maybe we can even work a 3-team trade with the Rays and Angels that nets us David Price AND Mike Trout (which would solve our CF problem) for a few prospects! peric sounds like George Costanza working for the Yankees. Stick to posting on angry political blogs.

    bdrube, not sure I’d give up three players for Matt Garza. I live in Tampa, and he’s too streaky. They’d save money compared to re-signing Jackson, but only for one year until Garza was a FA. Between Jackson and Garza, I’d pay extra and take Jax.

    Kevin, Davey’s innovative, but I don’t think he’d go that outside the box. I can see him going to a 6-man rotation before going to 4-man. But your first scenario is plausible, even likely: sign a “discount” FA and allow him to re-hab his career here.

    All in all, though, I still prefer the idea of trading away a couple of prospects for David Price and Mike Trout…

    clark17

    28 Sep 12 at 10:11 am

  14. Great thought about Garza; was surprised he didn’t get traded earlier in Epstein’s tenure … then again, if you start the season with a team, you generally don’t get traded until after all-star break, and that’s just about when he got injured. I’d take Garza as a 5th starter.

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 10:13 am

  15. I like McCarthy especially, and teams will be completely scared off of him after his injury, fairly or not. Another thought; I did a post on Oakland’s starter depth earlier this year (http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=4316) and came to the conclusion that, amazingly after their SP purge last off-season, they’re still in credibly deep at the position. Since Rizzo seems like Beane’s new best buddy, maybe we work another trade with Oakland. Only problem is … what prospect depth do we have right now that could attract such a trade?

    The 4-man/limited pitch thing didn’t really work in Colorado, and I don’t think it would fly here either. I think your biggest impediment is the players ; what happens if you’re at 4 2/3′s innings and hit your 80 pitches? You get arbitrarily yanked, lose your shot at the Win, which diminishes your future arbitration and/or free agency negotiating power because counting statistics are incredibly important in those negotiations. My conversations with Clippard recently on the topic of closer-vs-reliever used in highest leverage situation was the same conclusion; he’d rather be the closer because closers get saves, and saves translate to dollars. Simple as that.

    If we’re really going out of the box, consider this scenario; you have zero starters and 12 relievers in your bullpen. Each night you designate that half your bullpen is “on.” These 6 guys go 1-2 innings each and all of them pitch. Then the next night the other 6 guys are “on.” Maybe you save a long-man each night in case you go extras. If every reliever got a night off they’d stay fresh and get 81 appearances on the season. So you spend your time finding the best 12 relievers you can and tell them to air it out every night. Wouldn’t that pitching staff have a far better chance of winning than a group of starters, no matter how good?

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 10:26 am

  16. Todd, you’re spot-on about the Rays. Their payroll is so limited that they subsist solely on (1) young players from their excellent farm system—Crawford, Price, Shields, Longoria, Upton—until those players reach their FA years and go elsewhere for more money, and (2) past-their-prime players who can still play—Damon, Cliff Floyd, Manny Ramirez (ha!), Luke Scott—but who can be signed at a discount. They get the most they can out of their young players until the lose them to FA. Happened with Crawford, will probably happen with Upton this offseason (although not for certain, because Upton < Crawford). The Rays could have traded Crawford before they lost him, and they could have traded Upton before the trade deadline this season. In both cases, they decided against it because they're a competitive enough team that they need to maximize their present potential more than they need more prospects. Bearing that in mind, I don't think there's any way on Earth that the Rays trade David Price, who's under team control at low cost for years to come. Those are the players the Rays keep.

    clark17

    28 Sep 12 at 10:37 am

  17. I’m in an arguing mood this week. Maybe its all the political posts on facebook. So I just spent far too much time responding.

    Garza seems like the pretty girl who lets you buy her dinner over and over but goes no further. He’s a tease. You see him throw a game like he did in late April (7 innings 1 hit and 10Ks in Philadelphia’s hitter’s park) and you salivate over the potential. Then you look at the rest of his starts and you see a guy who just seems to constantly leak runs. I agree; Jackson is a better pitcher and a better choice at that price.

    When I looked at our possible AAA rotation next year, (and I’m teasing a future post that I’m waiting for the end of the season to publish, I predicted something along the lines of Roark, Maya, Broderick, Mandel, Perry for a AAA rotation in 2013. Except, that rotation has serious issues. Roark and Maya seem safe bets; both started this year and did ok. Broderick is an organization favorite for some reason so I see him there. But Mandel is clearly an org-arm while Perry has no options so the only way he’d get to AAA is to pass through waivers. So maybe this team is looking again for MLFAs like Duke and Atkins to fill it out. Or maybe we trade for some closer to the majors guys to stick at AAA.

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 10:49 am

  18. Imagine how good the Rays would be with their player development AND another $40M in payroll to use each year?

    The absolute BEST commodity in all of baseball, in my opinion, is the pre-arbitration effective starter. I’ve done posts in the past evaluating Starter Wins per Salary, mostly looking at FAs but also comparing and contrasting to internally grown players. http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=263 is the post i’m thinking of, though the data is outdated and needs to be updated to this year (an off-season todo item). My research showed that by and large if you spent $1M per pitcher win on the FA market you were doing great. $1M per win! Of course looking at the Nats and Edwin Jackson it doesn’t seem so bad; he’s getting $11M and sits with a record of 9-10 right now. So if you hope to get one win per $1M spent on a FA pitcher … imagine how valuable a pre-arbitration guy is who can win 20 games like David Price. In fact, I used both Price and Clay Buchholz for comparison purposes in that article and in 2010 Buchholz went 17-7 on a MLB minimum salary for roughly $26k per win. That’s roughly 40 TIMES cheaper than just your average FA. Amazing.

    THAT is the reason why David Price is (pardon the pun) priceless. Because to equate David Price on the FA market you’d probably have to spend $15M per season or more … basically a deal like Justin Verlander. But they’ve got him locked up at $4.35M this year with typical arbitration level raises the next three. Still a bargain, even if he gets to $14M/year (which he won’t, at least not with Tampa).

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 11:05 am

  19. The Rays franchise is a baseball tragedy. They have great ownership, a great FO, a great manager (though he’s a bit of a hothead sometimes), and a great farm system. But their stadium is an absolute dump—the worst in MLB—in an awful location (until last month, I lived less than a mile away from it). As Tony Kornheiser once said, from the outside the Trop looks like a garbage can with the lid on crooked. And the inside has no character at all. A friend of mine once said that going to a Rays game was like going to a baseball game in a run-down shopping mall. To make matters worse, the team would clearly be at least slightly better off if it relocated across the bay to wealthier Tampa, but they’re locked into the Trop until 2027, and the mayor of St. Pete won’t even let team ownership talk to other cities. The result is that they are now a regular contender on the field, yet they have consistently among the league’s worst attendance. Tragic, because many cities would love to have an ownership/FO combination as strong as the Rays.

    Sorry to add non-Nats talk to a Nats site, but you’re absolutely right about how much the Rays could accomplish if only they had a budget.

    clark17

    28 Sep 12 at 11:35 am

  20. No worries: Tampa is an important part of the baseball vernacular these days. They’re the “new” Moneyball, the new Oakland A’s. Jonah Keri’s book “The extra 2%” was great and helped explain what the new owners did to try to undo the damage caused by the previous owner. Can’t help a ridiculous stadium deal though… I wonder if anything will come of it. Maybe if the team threatened to move in order to find a more profitable stadium. San Antonio, Portland seem like viable markets. But, in today’s economy what politician is going to float a $500M bond initiative to build a new stadium so that extremely wealthy people (baseball team owners) can profit from middle america paying good money to see other extremely wealthy people (baseball players) play games? Tough sell.

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 11:43 am

  21. I would love to see the Nats go after Brandon McCarthy this offseason. He is a very solid starter when healthy. The team may be able to bring back a guy like Duke (or any other starter that slips through the major league contract cracks) to replace a guy like Gorzelanny next season. That gives a bit of injury insurance for McCarthy.

    I could do with a guy like Scott Baker (not sure when he is due to return from surgery), Jorge De La Rosa or a Joe Blanton/Jeremy Guthrie type as the 5th starter while the minor leagues get a bit more seasoning. The pitching class is fairly deep with midlevel arms this offseason and others will always be available via trade so more than likely it will be someone we don’t expect in the end.

    Ryan Perry is out of options now so I don’t see him making it through the offseason as a Nat. A team targetted to be a division title contender may not be interested in having a guy in the rotation who has never started above AA. I think the AFL is another shot to raise his trade value. If his AFL stint is solid he may be attractive to a team like the Royals, Pirates, etc.

    Whatever the Nats do, I suspect they will have extra draft picks in the 1st round as both Laroche and Jackson will see qualifying offers over the offseason. If either accept the deals it is a good thing and if they walk at least there is compensation.

    pdowdy83

    28 Sep 12 at 4:03 pm

  22. I wonder if Baker/Blanton/Guthrie are Rizzo guys though? Doesn’t he strive to find power arms, swing and miss, high k/9 guys? Now De La Rosa is definitly that. And he could be had on the cheap, absolutely.

    I do agree with your sentiments on Perry; making his conversion to starter all the more odd. The whole reason the team traded Balester was to avoid an options hassle … and now the next year they’ve got another one. Maybe they simply run him out there in spring competing for the 5th starter and if he doesn’t win it … they move him for a low-level prospect to a team that needs a starter or they invent a soft-tissue injury (they’re quite adept at doing that with these options-challenged guys) and stash him on DL for a bit.

    Boy it’d be nice to get a few extra comp picks to help the farm system. Between the Gio trade and a spate of injuries to our biggest names we’re thin.

    Todd Boss

    28 Sep 12 at 4:14 pm

  23. Clark, if you know, what was the reasoning for such a ridiculously long lease at the Trop. What was the incentive there?
    I never got that.

    Mark L

    1 Oct 12 at 8:42 am

  24. Mark, I’m not sure why the lease is that long. I moved from NoVa to Tampa in 2000, two years after the [Devil] Rays came into being. I know from my wife (a St. Pete native) that the Trop was built before the D-Rays were created, because this area had been trying to get a baseball team from another city for years—first the White Sox, later the Giants. The D-Rays were an expansion team in 1998, but the stadium had already been around for 8 years by then. I assume the length of the lease has to do with the city (St. Petersburg) getting a lengthy guaranteed time frame for its publicly financed stadium, but I don’t know that for a fact.

    There is a fascinating dynamic down here that I became aware of shortly after I arrived, and it has a huge effect on the Rays’ future. You know how there’s a quasi-rivalry between DC and Baltimore because they’re so close geographically? Tampa and St. Petersburg have the same thing, but on steroids. St. Pete and Tampa are separated by Tampa Bay, and their downtowns are about 25 miles apart via highway. The parallel is that Tampa is DC—the fancier, prettier sister—and St. Pete is Baltimore—the ugly, little sister. And the animosity mostly flows one way, from St. Pete to Tampa. This affects the Rays because there are numerous elements in the local government of Tampa that would like to bring the Rays across the bay to Tampa, where attendance almost certainly would improve (a playoff contender that is presently in dead-last place in MLB attendance, behind even the dreadful Astros). But all of the other pro sports teams (Bucs, Lightning, etc) play in Tampa already, and St. Pete doesn’t want to lose the one pro team it has, regardless of how awful the attendance is. So the mayor of St. Pete is threatening to sue Tampa if they even talk to Rays ownership about possible relocation sites. The truth is that some in St. Petersburg would rather the Rays left for Charlotte or another out-of-state city than have them move across the bay to Tampa, because the animosity is that intense. Not being from here, I can honestly say that it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever witnessed.

    clark17

    1 Oct 12 at 9:52 am

  25. From what I remember from the 2% book, I think the huge long lease was a trade-off made between the owner at the time and the city in order to get public funds, as clark17 alluded to. I’d have to re-read that book though to see what conclusions Jonah Keri came up with.

    I knew there was some animosity between the cities, but wow nothing like that. As an outsider, I just assume that its the ST. Petersburg mayor being obstinate and egotistical. Yes a contract is a contract, but the CURRENT owners of Tampa did not sign this deal. And I think the current ownership group has proven beyond anyone’s shadow of a doubt that they can do literally nothing to improve attendance. They made a world series a few years ago and barely moved the attendance needle. They gave out free parking, booked entertainment after day games, tried to improve the stadium experience. From talking with a couple of my Tampa-based friends, one who lives in Dunedin the other Oldsmar (so both really on the tampa side and both who would presumably be dependent on i275 to get to the stadium … i guess; would you use side streets all the way south from Dunedin to get to that stadium?), they both say the stadium is a nightmare to get to in rush hour and despite them both being baseball fans they never go. That about says it all for what the stadium location does to the Tampa attendance base.

    Todd Boss

    1 Oct 12 at 11:17 am

  26. Yes, there’s no quick route from Dunedin or Oldsmar to get to St. Pete. Both require miles of roads with traffic and lights before you reach the interstate. Those are bad commutes. Until we moved last month, my wife and I could walk to games. I was there a couple of years ago to see the Nats get swept, but made up for it by being at Nats Park to watch them beat the Rays twice this year.

    It feels like current Rays ownership has long since resolved to leave St. Pete. I think the breaking point was in 2009, the season after they lost the Series. As you noted, Todd, attendance wasn’t much better that year, but then the Phillies came to town for a WS rematch during interleague play, and attendance was still awful. I remember ownership being stunned by that. It was a mid-week series, but that’s no excuse. All in all, this is just not a sports region down here. Gators vs Seminoles is more important than MLB or even NFL. The Rays are a perfect storm: great ownership, terrible location. Imagine what they could do with the NY Mets revenue machine and fanbase. Tragic.

    clark17

    1 Oct 12 at 1:30 pm

  27. Todd – ignore Peric. Huge vagina. Small brain.

    Chris

    1 Oct 12 at 1:42 pm

  28. You’re not the first to say that. I’m curious (in the same way drivers slow down to gawk at car accidents) to see if he (assuming it is a “he”) responds to the refutations. The last time he latched onto a post, he just stopped responding.

    I will say this though; I like writing opinion pieces. I don’t really want to read game recaps or just re-hash news reports that beat reporters have posted. And opinion pieces will draw responses that don’t agree with the side that I took. This particular post didn’t really advance anything truly controversial but other posts in the past certainly have. So I’m ready for people who may disagree with a stance I take. What really irks me is when someone takes one sentence out of a 1,000 word post and trashes you for it. It hasn’t happened lately but it does happen. I’m usually like, “ok, nit-picker, perhaps that one sentence is arguable. What about the rest of the post?”

    Todd Boss

    1 Oct 12 at 2:12 pm

  29. Perhaps its a Florida thing altogether? Is the state just over-inundated with baseball? You have 14 teams (I believe 14 are in Grapefruit league) that play daily all around the state for two months plus for spring training, then you’ve got a slew of high-A teams playing complex ball the rest of the summer, plus instructionals that last into the fall. I mean, that was the reasoning for not putting baseball down there for so long. Demographics play into this? Florida has lots of retirees, lots of military. Neither of those demos feature as big-time spenders for what turns into relatively expensive trips to the park..

    Todd Boss

    1 Oct 12 at 3:48 pm

  30. Yes, I think it is a Florida thing. Neither the people nor the sports teams–especially baseball—have roots here. Many people down here are from other places, like me, and they bring their team loyalties with them. The Nats were still in Montreal when I moved here, but I still identify as a proud DC native, and so my loyalties will always be to DC teams. I think that’s the case for many people in Florida. Thanks to modern media, they can bring their teams with them when they move here (I watch the Nats almost every night on MLB Extra Innings).

    Meanwhile, Florida teams don’t have deep roots, either. It isn’t just baseball—no one goes to Bucs, Dolphins, or Jaguars games when they’re losing, either—but it’s worse with baseball. The Marlins arrived in the early 90s and have two WS titles, but no fanbase. The Rays arrived in the late 90s, sucked for a decade, and then became an annual contender, but attendance isn’t markedly better now than when they were bad. It’s amazing to see thousands of empty seats in mid-September when the home team is in a playoff race, but that’s what has happened here since 2008. I’ll be interested to see if the Trop sells out for this last series against Baltimore. My guess: No.

    clark17

    1 Oct 12 at 4:31 pm

  31. I will throw another wrinkle into this conversation.

    Ryan Perry falls into a rare category where he does have another option. If a player has less than 5 years or professionl baseball experience and uses up his 3 options before then, he is given another option.

    Most players do not reach the Majors as quickly as he did and is why this is so rare. Most players that do get there that quickly usually stay. Unfortunately for Perry that wasn’t the case.

    NAT Fan

    30 Oct 12 at 3:21 pm

  32. If Perry has an “extra” option that’d be great for the team, because they obviously want to see if he can make the conversion back to a starter. I thought though that the 4th option was only reserved for players who missed a whole year by way of injury? I can’t find any evidence that he missed a season due to injury?

    Todd Boss

    30 Oct 12 at 8:06 pm

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