Nationals Arm Race

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

Maya DFA and outright; the end of an era


Maya's outright likely ends his MLB career. Photo via

Yunesky Maya got his final shot at glory, getting a call up last week to provide long-relief cover while Ross Detwiler was on the mend.   He failed, giving up a game-winning  home-run and retiring just one batter in his 5/21/13 appearance in San Francisco, leading to his DFA a few days later.  He cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA on 5/27/13.  The outright likely signals the end of Maya’s major league career and makes for a difficult road back to the majors for him at any point in the future.

Maya will play out the string in Syracuse (unless promotions create for a roster squeeze, then its highly likely he could be flat out released) and will be looking for work elsewhere next year, likely in the Independent or Mexican leagues.  He retires with this career MLB stat line: 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA, 1.576 whip and a career ERA+ of 69.  He had flashes of decency, sometimes even brilliance, in AAA over parts of several years, but even this year seems more indicative of his overall talent (in 8 AAA starts as of the time of this writing he’s just 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA)

Maya signed a 4 year/$8M international free agent contract in 2010 after defecting from Cuba.  The Nats fended off several interested teams (reportedly including the Yankees) to acquire his services and Maya was supposed to be the marquee re-entry for this franchise into the international FA market after the entire Smiley Gonzalez/Dominican Republic debacle.  I’ve already classified Maya’s contract as one of the worst FA deals Mike Rizzo has ever signed, and this DFA is the icing on the cake.  At least it only took Rizzo 3 and a half years to own up this failure and DFA him (sarcasm).

How did the Nats miss on this signing?  Reportedly, Maya was said to be throwing much harder during scouting trips than he ended up being capable of throwing once he reported to Nats camp.   See this post in June 2011, which summarizes all the issues Maya had while getting his longest MLB look and has links to his Pitch F/X data.  Maya never was able to throw with the same velocity that the scouts said, and his control was never good enough to make up for the difference.  He’s not a big guy, so he has zero downward plane on his pitches and they have a tendency to flatten out and become rather hittable.

As I noted in my annual look at Pitcher Wins on the FA market, Maya’s single MLB victory for the Nats $8M investment now represents one of the worst average $/win contracts ever signed.  Luckily for the Nats, it was just an $8M contract, not a $50M contract like other candidates for “Worst FA pitching contract ever signed.”

You hate to pile onto a guy.  I eagerly watched his September 2010 debut and wrote it up in length here.  The guy has 8 pitches.  We were hoping for Yu Darvish and we got .. well we got some guy who couldn’t get MLB hitters out on a regular enough basis to keep his job.

Written by Todd Boss

May 30th, 2013 at 7:28 am

19 Responses to 'Maya DFA and outright; the end of an era'

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  1. Good post, Todd. You’re way overstating the the bad contract angle, however.
    In the history of bad contracts, this is in the bottom 10%. I only wish the Nats did 2 or 3 of these a year. Low risk, low investment, maybe catch lightning in a bottle.
    The good news for Maya is he’s set for life financially and he got off the island a free man.
    I should have his problems.

    Mark L

    30 May 13 at 8:36 am

  2. I actually witnessed one of his only good outings as a Nat in 2011. It was a spot start when Marquis was traded to the Dbacks. I remember being pretty pissed when he was announced the replacement starter but he went out and pitched 5.1 innings of scoreless ball to pick up the win. Pretty sad that that game was the only one he won as a Nat. It was also one of only 2 games that he pitched in that the team even won. That is pretty epic failure. In his 16 appearances the Nats are 2-14. One of the games they won that he pitched in Maya gave up 6 runs and the team still won…yikes.


    30 May 13 at 9:20 am

  3. Out of Rizzo’s contracts only really the Wang deal, Marquis contract and Werth contract are worse to me. Marquis was coming off an “all-star” season and the team was trying to get some sort of credibility and 2 year contracts don’t usually kill a franchise. They were also able to turn him into Zach Walters who has some upside. Werth is an obvious major overpay but again trying to gain some credibility (which seems to have worked) and turn a terrible franchise around takes some of the sting off of it. It is still bad but Maya provided absolutely no value to the franchise at all and probably will not moving forward. They wasted as much money on him as they did Wang and got less in return. $7.2mil for Wang at least got 6 wins.

    MarkL, I think I understand what you mean though. It would be nice to see the team dip into the higher end of the international market with a few contracts like this since they will hopefully be picking at the end of the draft for a few years.


    30 May 13 at 9:29 am

  4. You’re right in that an $8M mistake isn’t nearly the same as a $126M mistake. But it was a mistake. I was only referencing my own much deeper analysis of Rizzo’s FA contract history.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 9:45 am

  5. You don’t think the Zimmerman 9-figure extension could end up being as troublesome as the Werth deal?

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 9:47 am

  6. It really is incredible how many players the Nats were counting on this year, both in in the bigs to start the season or as MLB-ready backups at AAA have been hugely disappointing in their play, injured or both. Even so, Maya never should have been given this last chance. Had this been last year, when his AAA numbers were at least decent, maybe he had a case for a callup. The Nats were lucky in that they didn’t need him then.

    The problem for the bug club is this is becoming an all hands on deck to save the season situation, but there are very few hands in their system capable of doing anything useful. Unless Harper is able to comeback strong and soon and Werth is able to stay healthy and in the lineup the rest of the the year, I think we’re staring a .500 season in the face.


    30 May 13 at 10:14 am

  7. Good point on Zimmerman. He’s going to be paid for 3rd baseman money, not 1st.
    At least you’re doing to a low maintenance, good character face of the franchise.

    Mark L

    30 May 13 at 10:33 am

  8. Maya; I think he got called up b/c he was literally the best option on the 40-man at the time. I mean, you look at who we have on the 40-man roster who isn’t injured and isn’t on the D/L right now in terms of arms and its VERY slim pickings. Ryan Perry, Matt Purke, Erik Davis and Cole Kimball. That’s it. Perry’s been awful, Purke is in low-A, Kimball is still coming back from injury. And Davis has a grand total of 29 innings above AA.

    Underperformance in general: I feel like its a trend/epidemic across baseball. There’s so many guys underperforming this year. I drafted an entire team of them in fantasy :-). But guys who are literally 200 points off their career OPS averages. I think its entirely related to the continuing rise of the power pitcher and the rising strikeout rates in the league. There’s just more and more guys who throw mid 90s all day, then you face guys who throw upper 90s in the 7th before facing a closer in the 9th. That spells 0-4 and you’ve got a low average.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 10:42 am

  9. I don’t think Zimmerman’s contract is nearly as bad as Werths. There is a pretty big difference in paying Zimmerman $14mil a year for his age 28-34 seasons with the only really bad year being his age 35 season at $18mil vs. paying Werth $16m, $20m and $21m for his age 34-38 seasons. Even with a move to first base I think Zimmerman will be able to break even on the majority of his contract where Werth won’t.

    The move from 3rd to 1st, when it is made, could possibly keep Zim in the lineup and extra 10-15 games a year. While his bat would not be elite at the position it would still be slightly above average. This also doesn’t factor in the recent inflation from incoming TV dollars league wide. It isn’t the best deal but it is nowhere near as bad as others out there. Who knows, by the time the deal is done the NL may even have adopted the DH.


    30 May 13 at 10:58 am

  10. One last point on Zimmerman. People keep saying they are going to be paying him 3rd base dollars to play first. Have you seen what firstbasemen are making these days?

    Fielder, Gonzalez, Votto, Texeira and Pujols are all making $7-10 million more in 2015 (the year people are guessing Zimmerman moves to first full time) than Zim will be. If Zim continues to put up seasons like last year even at first base I don’t think too many people will consider it a bad contract.


    30 May 13 at 11:11 am

  11. I criticize the Zimmerman deal, but then he goes on periods like he’s having now and you see why he was paid that way. Same reason injury prone talents like Tulowitzki get paid. And, if he can ever replicate his 2009 season 33hr 106rbi … those ARE first basemen numbers. If if if. If he puts those numbers up and stays on the field and keeps his defense up at 3b then he’s one of the elite players in the game. If if if.

    NL DH: we can only hope. I’ve posted my 2 cents here; i like baseball tradition but I also am not a slave to it. I think the game is more watchable as a fan with a DH, and I also believe one of the reasons the NL lags behind the AL in interleague play is because of it. Everyone always talks about how the AL is so much better of a league (as evidenced by a .524 winning percentage lifetime, a .563 just last year in interleague play) yet the last 3 World Series champs are NL, 4 of last 5, 6 of last 10.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 11:17 am

  12. I think the best defense I can make of the Zim contract is that for the 2014-2016 season (and possibly 2017 if Swisher hits his rather attainable vesting option) they are paying him Nick Swisher money (actually $3mil less). The same Nick Swisher who has average a whopping 3.6 WAR over the last 4 years as a corner outfielder and is 4 years older. The $100mil tag sounds big but it is relative to where baseball is heading money wise.


    30 May 13 at 11:23 am

  13. Without a first round pick this year in the draft and a small bonus pool, wouldn’t think seem like the year the Nats should make an international splash?


    30 May 13 at 11:28 am

  14. I would just like to see what a fully healthy Zimmerman, playing at the less stressful position, would be capable of doing offensively. If he were able to put up numbers like he did in 2009, no one would say he’s overpaid at 1B.


    30 May 13 at 11:29 am

  15. Are the Nats equipped at this point to make an international splash?

    I’ll ask a different question: when was the last time we actually developed an impact player out of our DSL or IFA investment?? Here’s the Big Board right now. We have:
    – 2 IFAs on the 25 man roster; Bernadina (2001) and Solano (2005). A backup OF and a minor league catcher.
    – AAA has Eury Perez (2007) and Maya (2010). Another backup OF and an outrighted pitcher.
    – AA has two: Sandy Leon and Marcos Frios (both 2007). Again; a backup catcher and a middle reliever with up and down numbers as he’s moved up the chain. The entire pitching staff is USA born.
    – High-A has two: Sanchez and Soriano (2007); both 2nd baseman, both doing relatively decent. Again, the entire pitching staff: USA born.
    – Finally in Low-A you see a slew of IFA rostered players; 9 guys from the 2008-2011.

    Was the last impact Nats/Expos international free agent Vladimir Guerrero?

    Now, I realize signing guys at age 16 means they’re (maybe) in low-A 6 years later at age 22. Fine. But this team has basically nothing to show for nearly a decade of international activity while many other teams have leading players obtained via IFA.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 1:31 pm

  16. Good conversations here.

    Maya – I despised the guy, and I am disappointed that they kept him in the organization. It is just me being irrational though – I realize that I shouldn’t care about a guy in AAA that will not see the majors again. But like some of you, I don’t regret the signing at the time. GMs need to be able to take $3-5m fliers on guys, knowing that you are going to miss on a good % of them (it is why they are fliers). Some times it hits, like the Yanks with Hafner, and sometimes it doesn’t, like Maya. But I do fault Rizzo for not getting him off the 40 man years ago. No one would have touched this contract.

    Worst contract – has to be Werth, both in terms of $ to on-field-performance, and also the overpay compared to the next highest offer. Seems pretty clear that we went two years longer than his next best offer. But forget the contract for a minute – the biggest issue that I have is that I am not sure Werth is a starting OF any more, based purely on his performance. Granted, he has struggled with injuries, but just going off stats, he is a decent OBP, no power, below average defensively, injury-prone OF. Is that a starter? Once again, forgetting contract and years of control, and just looking at our recent past, would you rather have Werth, Morse or Willingham in LF (moving Harper to RF)? I think Werth is third. I always expected the value part to be bad, but I thought that he would still be a decent player: good field, 20 HRs and 40 2Bs. I just never figured he would fall off as a player so quickly. I haven’t looked, but I’ll bet his Slugging % is off 100 points since coming to the Nats. I know it seems like I am overstatng this, but if you realize that the contract makes you think that he has to be a starter, so you kind of take it for granted, and just look at the numbers and age, it is kind of scary.

    Zim’s contract – probably going to be a bit of an overpay, but not a mistake contract, imo. Even at 1B, the guy is a good hitter. When Werth is up, I just hope for a walk or one of those dribblers through the hole. So that there can be runners on for when Zim is up. He and Harper, and to a lesser extent Desi and Ramos, are the guys that I look to for damage. Seems like we need a few more of them.


    30 May 13 at 2:31 pm

  17. I think the large number of guys that have finally started climbing the ranks into full season ball such as Pedro Encarnacion, Ivan Pinyero, Estarlin Martinez, Pedro Severino and Wilmer Difo is a positive sign. Hagerstown used to be all American born draftees with the very few exceptions you mentioned above (Leon, Perez etc.) Now 1/3 of the roster is made up of international guys who for the most part are close to be age appropriate for the level.

    Maybe the more recent efforts in the Dominican are starting to produce results. I remember the team got a couple of guys who commanded larger bonuses last season. I think it was Guzman and Pilier and both were over $200,000. Maybe that was a result of the shrinking draft budget.


    30 May 13 at 2:37 pm

  18. IFAs: Still. One top10 prospect in a decade. That’s not good international dealings.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 2:51 pm

  19. Maya/40-man in general: I get the impression that Rizzo is kind of a hoarder. He doesn’t make 40-man moves unless he has to. Why is corey brown still on the 40-man? Probably because there’s been no reason to look to move him off.

    Werth: his ops is waaaaay off what it was in Philly. HIs ops+ was 144 his contract year and we paid for it. Now, he posted a 126 last year and I think that’s in line with what he has done and can do at this stage. I’ll take 125 ops+ guys any day. That’s about what both Morse and Willingham are doing this year too. Good queston comparing all three guys: If all 3 guys were Healthy you go Morse, Willingham, Werth. But health has to factor into it. Morse is not reliable in the least, Willingham has never been on the field for a full season. And yeah now all of a sudden neither is Werth.

    Zimmerman: 3home run games are fluky yes … but inarguably Zimerman has pop and can do this any time. The contract is what it is. Someone said it earlier; in 5 years time with all the crazy tv money going around he’ll look cheap.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 13 at 3:31 pm

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