The Hot Stove League is in full effect; Bill Ladson has done two mailbags in two weeks! Here’s his 11/13/13 edition, hot on the heels of his last one on 11/5/13. Lets get to it. Lots of “what-if” scenarios involving Nats players are already being rumored by big-time names in the industry. Lets get to them.
As always, I answer here before reading his response and edit questions for clarity if needed.
Q: Do you think Anthony Rendon will be in the regular lineup in 2014, or is there a possibility of him being traded?
A: Honestly, despite Anthony Rendon‘s name prominently being mentioned as a centerpiece for rumored deals for the likes of Max Scherzer and/or David Price, I don’t believe these kind of deals are going to really happen. I can’t see Detroit trading away Scherzer, not in their “win-now” mode. And I can’t see Mike Rizzo pulling off a deal with the ultra-competitive executives in Tampa Bay, not after he’s done such a good job re-stocking the farm system and getting everyone healthy. For now I see Rendon right back as the starting 2nd baseman in 2014, with the Nats facing a tougher decision on what to do with deposed starter Danny Espinosa. Ladson “doesn’t know yet.” Thanks for the “going-out-on-a-limb” prediction there.
Q: What do you think about Drew Storen‘s future with the Nationals? And with that said, what do you think the Nats could get back in a trade?
A: I think that as long as this team is competitive Drew Storen (and to a lesser extent this also goes for Tyler Clippard at least for one more year) will stay here and hold down their spots in the back-end of the bullpen. If we suffer another down year (or, more likely, if we suddenly see an influx of home-grown replacements) these guys and their escalating salaries are ripe for trading to contenders with bullpen holes. They’re both good pitchers, “closer quality” who aren’t being used in that capacity in Washington thanks to the luxury signing of Rafael Soriano and his $11m/year salary. What can they bring back? Well if you use the Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade as a blueprint, the team should hope for a near-majors prospect. I don’t think you can always get that; teams now are far more protective of their prospects than they used to be. But for either player i’d take a top-10 prospect even if he was further down in the minors. Ladson says he thinks Storen is getting traded … but doesn’t say when. But he does mention the Scherzer rumors…
Q: Do you think the Nationals will go after free-agent lefty Eric O’Flaherty to improve their bullpen depth?
A: Maybe. If they can get him on a minor league/cheap deal sure. The Nats tried this route last year with Bill Bray (taking a formerly effective loogy in FA who was coming off of injury) and Bray finished the year on the AA disabled list. So that didn’t work out so well. I’m sure there’s more than a few teams in the lefty reliever market, and if its like 2012 the Nats might shy away from the prices these guys command. Remember; they’ve got more than a few decent in-house options already, guys who proved they could pitch last year. I don’t perceive the “need” to get a lefty reliever in free agency to be as critical for this team as others seem to think. Yes I know the team is already calling guys (as they should), but somehow I think they’re going to end up shying away from the prices they see (much as they did last year with their trio of lefty FA relievers). Ladson says the team wants healthy players, not guys coming off of TJ surgery like Chien-Ming Wang. Fair points.
Q: Wouldn’t a bench of Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Zach Walters and Scott Hairston give the Nationals a balance of lefty/righty bats and much more field flexibility than they have had in recent seasons?
A: This bench, comprised entirely of in-house solutions, would give the team this profile:
- Two righties , two switch hitters
- Two corner outfielders but nobody who could really play center
- Two middle infielders who could cover at least 2nd, SS, 3rd. Moore could cover 1st if needed.
- Demonstrated right-handed power off the bench … but not so much lefty power
- Just one real proven major leaguer (Hairston)
We just don’t know what to make of Moore at this point in his career. Great in 2012, awful in 2013. We know he can hit it a mile … can he do it when he gets just a few ABs a week? I don’t know. Lombardozzi fills the “utility guy” role who can plug in at 5 positions … so where does that leave Walters? I know Walters hit 29 homers last year in AAA; if he replicates that in the majors he’s a $100M player.
Where’s the lefty power? That’s what this bench misses, and that’s why I think the team looks for some lefty pop off the bench. Ladson repeats the need for bench power.
Q: Reportedly the Nats are looking for an elite starter, and it’s been said that Scherzer is a better fit than Price because of Mike Rizzo’s history with Scherzer. I don’t understand why a relationship with the general manager makes a player or manager the best choice. What does liking him or knowing him have to do with it? Shouldn’t the choice be made by determining who is the best pitcher for the Nats?
A: Good question. On some levels, GMs seem to fall in love with the guys they drafted, especially guys they scouted. We saw this with Jim Bowden‘s obsession with his former players from Cincinnati, and we see it with Rizzo and his former players from Arizona on some levels. Makes sense right? How many of us have seen executives hired who brought in “their guys” to help out? You’re comfortable with the known commodity, guys who you feel like you have a relationship with, guys who you know can get the job done as you think it needs to be done.
But that only explains why Rizzo may like Scherzer moreso than Price at a personal history level. That has nothing to do with a) the ability to actually make a trade for the guy, or b) the fit for the team. Now, any team in the league would take a healthy Cy Young winning pitcher, and that’s why trading for either guy will take a significant investment in prospects. In reality any team in the league would love to have either guy at their pre-FA salary levels; they’re steals. The “value” of a win on the FA market is now estimated to be about $7M or so; even if these guys are paid double that in 2014 they’re going to produce more than 2 wins. Ladson speculates that because Scherzer’s agent is Scott Boras that the Nats would for some reason have a better shot at signing him long term. See, I dont’ believe that either. If the Nats offer the most money, they’ll get the player no matter who his agent may be. People like to say the Nats are Boras’ “bitch” team because we sign so many of his players … but if you check the Player Agent database, the Nats have as many Boras clients as a few other teams (Kansas City, Detroit, Seattle, Boston, Baltimore) and most of them are draftees, not FAs. You’re going to draft the best player no matter who his agent may be.
A: Genesis of a dumb trade proposal; hey, lets see if Tampa, one of the shrewdest and most forward thinking organization in the majors, will not only take on two of our most disappointing players from 2013 (LaRoche and Espinosa) but also will they take on more than $15M in anticipated payroll for a former Cy Young winner and inarguably one of the best 10 arms in baseball?! Yeah that’s a great trade! Hey, lets see if we can trade, oh I dunno, Yunesky Maya and a bunch of guys from AAA who hit .220 to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw! Yeah, that’ll work.
I’m sorry for the sarcasm, but this is just such a stupid trade idea given how we *know* the Rays work that it just isn’t worth addressing. If you proposed this in a chat with a professional talent evaluator they’d ignore it, or post it just to ridicule it.
The Rays want prospects back. Always. They don’t want guys with 8 figure salaries who are already on the wrong side of 30. Espinosa’s trade value is near worthless right now. Anyone who thinks they’re going to be the centerpieces of a trade with an organization as smart as Tampa is a fool.
Ladson doesn’t even address the proposal, just saying confidently that LaRoche will be back.