Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s inbox: 2/18/11 version


Is Wang bamboozling the Nats? See last question/answer. Photo copyright the Washington Nationals

(Nats blogger Harper at Nationals Baseball used to post his own answers to Ladson’s inbox questions in the past.  I always loved the idea and have been emulating it.  See here for last week’s version.  Thanks to the commenter who let me provide proper attribution…)

Q: With Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham out of the picture, do you think Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche can pick up the slack on offense?

A: Not likely.  In Dunn and Willingham we have given up an awful lot of offense.  Dunn’s 38 homers, 103 rbis and 138 ops+, while Willingham’s injury-shortened season had him producing at a 129 ops+ rate.  Both these figures were top-10 in the NL (if qualifying).  Werth posted a career-best 145 OPS+ last  year in a hitters park; before that he was routinely producing at the 128-130 OPS+ range.  Meanwhile LaRoche is coming off a career-worst OPS+ value of just 106 (albeit in a pitcher’s park in Arizona).  He can be expected to produce a bit better than that, but he’s also an incredibly slow starter.

Remember; Werth and Laroche were brought in not only for offense but for their stellar defense.  Rizzo seems convinced that you can make up for less offense with better defense.  2011 will be a grand experiment.

Q: The other day the Twins announced that they were open to trading Francisco Liriano. Because he wasn’t able to bring in a No. 1 starter, do you think general manager Mike Rizzo would go after Liriano pretty hard? I have a feeling the Twins might want Ian Desmond though.

A: Liriano is an ace-quality starter who is one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game.  He should be completely recovered from injury.  If offered Liriano straight up for Desmond you have to make that deal (we move Espinosa to short, play hairston for a year and bring up Lombardozzi or Kobernicus more quickly).  Desmond has promise but he’s not Derek Jeter.

Q: It looks like Albert Pujols will be available via trade or free agency. What are the odds the Nationals get him? And don’t say LaRoche to me, because he’s a fine player, but he’s not Pujols.

A: Pujols won’t be traded.  That would be the equivalent of St. Louis telling its fans that they purposely got rid of the best hitter since Ted Williams.  He’ll hit FA, and St. Louis will come up with the money.  Or maybe they won’t and they’ll offer him enough money that the franchise looks like they tried and that the blame will fall on Pujols for being greedy.

Even if he DID hit free agency, I think a 10 year $280M contract (probably what it takes to get him) would be a franchise crippling mistake for the Nats.  In the last few years of that deal he’ll be an aging defensive liability stuck with an untradable amount of money.  You cannot have half your payroll tied up in two guys.  Ask Texas how that went when A-Rod made $25M and the rest of the team combined made the same.  The Nats need to stick to the plan, develop players and grow the payroll organically.

Q: If the Nationals are to trade Nyjer Morgan, could they trade him to the D-backs for Justin Upton?

A: Chalk this up to “dumb trade rumors.”  Why in the world would Arizona trade away a cost contained young proven major league outfielder for a headcase, malcontent, undisciplined player who only had a .319 OBP from the lead off position in 2010?  Upton’s name was all over trade rumors a few months back and he didn’t move because Arizona would have to be blown away by the offer.  We’re talking multiple high-end prospects, not a below replacement-level centerfielder.

Q: Michael Young recently asked the Rangers to trade him. If Texas is willing to eat some salary and take a Danny Espinosa or a Stephen Lombardozzi in exchange, Young would be a great acquisition for D.C. What do you think?

A: Where would he play?  He’s too old and slow to feature at middle infield any longer, and we already have a 1st baseman and 3rd baseman under contract.  He’s declining at the plate. Oh and he makes a ridiculous amount of money and he has a limited trade list of teams he’ll accept trades to. And he earns his 10 and 5 rights soon, giving him full no-trade.

The Young-Texas situation is a mess, but you cannot blame Young for acting the way he has.  He is a leader on that team, has been there forever.  He has moved positions several times (for Kinsler, Soriano and Andrus), and then the team goes and buys a 3rd baseman in Beltre and tells Young he’s going to be mr utility/occasional DH guy.  We’re talking about a 6-time allstar with a gold glove at shortstop in 2008.  The Rangers really should have managed expectations with him prior to acquiring his replacement.  Poor general management there.

Q: Matt Stairs, who has excelled over the years as a pinch-hitter, is a non-roster invitee with the Nationals. Should Rizzo devote a roster space to someone relegated to pinch-hitting duties?

A: No way.  Stairs got a roster invite on a complete shot-in-the-dark whim.  Why would we possibly waste a 25-man spot on a guy who can only pinch hit?  Doesn’t this completely go against Rizzo’s pro-defense concept?  If you have Morse in the super-utility role he can come out and get the big hit … but he can also play 4 positions for you.  Stairs can play one: the bench.

Q: Why did Rizzo go out of his way to tell the media that Chien-Ming Wang would be 100-percent ready for Spring Training, when everyone knew he wouldn’t be?

A: Maybe it was a Taiwanese translator error.  Because 4 hours into spring training we’re already hearing that Wang will start on the DL because he doesn’t have the shoulder strength.

Well, what the hell was he doing all winter?  Wasn’t the idea for him to GAIN the shoulder strength he needed over the winter months and show up in Viera ready to go?  Now we’re hearing that he’s “taking it slow” and expects to start on the DL.  Now, if he is healthy and can contribute, then starting on the DL actually helps the team (Wang is out of options and cannot just be assigned to AAA without visiting waivers).

It is concerning though; did we just give him more money to sit around and rehab another season?  I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t some sort of immoral story he’s told the team to milk one more paycheck out of baseball before returning home.

Written by Todd Boss

February 18th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

10 Responses to 'Ladson’s inbox: 2/18/11 version'

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  1. For starters you need to spell Bill Ladson’s name right.


    18 Feb 11 at 9:59 pm

  2. Todd,
    Todd, where did you find this miserable human being? Sounds like someone who’s really unhappy about the sun coming up in the morning.

    Mark L

    18 Feb 11 at 10:24 pm

  3. The blogger you have in mind is Harper at


    18 Feb 11 at 11:08 pm

  4. Ah, you’re right. Damn, how did I miss that? I just corrected all posts with his name spelled incorrectly.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 11 at 10:58 am

  5. Hey, any press is good press right? Agree on Hanks and Baez. I’m concerned about the lack of really high-impact arms coming out of both GCL and Short-A last year. Perhaps the plan is to focus on college arms this draft and try to stock the lower levels.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 11 at 11:21 am

  6. Chase Field is not a pitcher’s park by any means.

    It has been in the top 10 in runs dating back to 2006 and near the middle of the pack in home runs. It’s actually severely a hitter’s park. That having been said, I wouldn’t be surprised if LaRoche was better in 2011 than 2010. If anything because he (hopefully) won’t face as many lefties with Morse ready to platoon.


    19 Feb 11 at 4:06 pm

  7. Plus, Ted Williams was born in San Diego and played his whole career for the Red Sox. Were you going for Stan Musial?


    19 Feb 11 at 4:09 pm

  8. I stand corrected on Chase field being a hitters park. I should have checked that.

    I did mean Williams in the context of the fact that Pujols is as complete a hitter (hitting for power and average with ease) as we’ve seen since since Williams. Musial’s and Pujol’s career averages are almost identical but Pujols has significantly more power. Mays had a ton of power but not quite the average. Same (to a certain extent) as Aaron, Griffey, Mantle, Bonds and a host of other mainline sluggers between Williams and Pujols; they all hovered around the .300 career mark while hitting many homers.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 11 at 4:28 pm

  9. Todd,
    I always remember the quote of ‘Draft college arms & high school bats’. That said, some of the great pitchers came out of high school, it’s just so much riskier (see Willems, Colten).

    Mark L

    19 Feb 11 at 6:31 pm

  10. You know, its kinda revisionist history, but the famed 2002 draft that was subject of “Moneyball” was such a loaded draft … and the A’s (in my opinion) really blew it.

    They had 7 first round and supplemental picks and landed Swisher, Blanton, Mark Teahan and 4 guys who never made the majors. To me, that is a massive failure of a draft. You expect to see big time, impactful talent out of the 1st round. Maybe Swisher and Blanton fit that definition, but not to me. Not when the other talent in that draft was out there.

    Meanwhile the total high risk HS arms in that draft included Greinke, Kazmir, Hamels, and Matt Cain. There were some misses too but those are some big names…

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 11 at 6:39 pm

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