Even in the basking glow of the Redskin’s first NFC East title since 1999, there were still a few Nationals questions thrown into Tom Boswell’s 12/31/12 Chat at washingtonpost.com. Here’s a mini chat-response edition.
As always, I edit questions for clarity and answer here as I read down the chat before reading Boswell’s response.
Q: I can’t understand why the Nats have allowed all three of their lefty relievers to depart without serious efforts to re-sign them.
A: I think you have to look at all three guys individually. Tom Gorzelanny was replaced by Zack Duke, who likely was cheaper than the 2yr/$5.7M contract Gorzelanny got from Milwaukee (we have no terms of the Duke deal available, but I’m guessing its around a 1yr $1.5M deal). I just get the impression the team liked Duke better than Gorzelanny by the end of the 2012 season. This, ironically, was also the position that “peric the troll” argued for at the end of last season, to give credit where credit is due. Sean Burnett got 2yrs/$8M with a vesting option at $4.5M if he appears in 110 games over the next two seasons (a relatively easy option to attain considering he has averaged more than 70 games a year each of the last four seasons). And the Nats likely believe that a 3 year contract for a reliever is too much. Lastly, the team probably wanted Michael Gonzalez back but got out bid by Milwaukee for his 1yr/$2.2M deal. So they’re now back on the market, possibly in on J.P. Howell on a deal for less than what Gonzalez want, but also have Bill Bray in the fold on a minor league deal. I know these aren’t eye-popping numbers, but the way to build teams is to save money where you can and to stick to a methodology. Mike Rizzo’s methodology for building bullpens seems to be to save money where you can, knowing that more bullpen arms are available in the minors. Boswell thinks the team has ably replaced at least two of these guys, but also says the team NEEDS to get Howell.
Q: If I got in a time machine and went back to December 31, 2011 and told you to bet your house that both the Redskins and the Nats would win their respective divisions, would you have believed it? Furthermore, if I traveled to December 31, 2013, what is your guess regarding what the talk would be about?
A: Just talking about the Nats; if you had told me the 2012 Nats were winning the division I would have laughed. I thought the team was improved from 81 wins, but not improved by 17 games. Mark Zuckerman had a nice WAR-analysis piece after the Gio Gonzalez trade that showed that the team could be improved by 12 wins or so, but nobody thought the team would explode for 98 wins. What’s a good prediction for 2013? Well, borrowing on Zuckerman’s WAR analysis piece, you can make a legitimate argument that the team is setup to be improved again in 2013. This is a teaser for a blog post coming this week, but the proof is out there. If you eliminate the negative WAR guys (which, for the most part we already have) and then account for improvements from guys playing full seasons … we could easily be a 100+ win team. Boswell says he wouldn’t have believed that both teams would win the divisions in 2012.
Q: Couldn’t the Nats sign LaRoche and keep Morse as their number one guy off the bench, sending Moore to AAA to play every day?
A: They could, but that would be a monumental waste of Michael Morse’s abilities. He’ll be healthy in 2013; when he was healthy in 2011 he hit 30 homers. There’s no reason to think he won’t return to that form. So, if the team retains Adam LaRoche, the prudent option is to move Morse for some farm system depth (depth which we desperately need). Tyler Moore has nothing to prove in AAA; he NEEDS MLB at-bats. I don’t have a problem with Moore being the super-sub he was in 2012 again, but he’s another guy who might be better served being traded as well. Boswell points out Morse’s .857 OPS as a Nat and rightly points out that this is too big of a bat to sit idle.