Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s inbox 11/13/13


I wonder who we can get for Danny Espinosa in trade?   Photo AP via

I wonder who we can get for Danny Espinosa in trade? Photo AP via

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 LombardozziTyler MooreZach 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.

Q: With Adam LaRoche having a bad season at the plate, do you think the Nationals will end up trading him along with possibly Danny Espinosa and others to the Rays for Price?

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.

13 Responses to 'Ladson’s inbox 11/13/13'

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  1. Is a win really up to $7m now? I had heard $5m or so, but with all the new TV money in the game, maybe it has made a big jump. If so, werth’s deal isn’t going to look so bad when all is said and done.

    As for the bench, I’d say that it is time to move on from TMo and Lombo. I think that we can do better, and from where this team is at, they should spend the $3-5m for two more quality back ups.

    And possibly in the category of another stupid trade proposal, ever since I saw the now-debunked Bautista for Dom Brown + rumor, I have been thinking how great Joey Bats would look in our line up. I wouldn’t worry about the logjam – play him in a corner OF (moving Harper to CF), or at 1B. If you can’t trade ALR or Span, just expect them to be professional about it.

    What do you think it takes to get him? Would you go as high as JZimm, recognizing that you would also have to pay for another starter to replace him? I assume that gets it done. Do you think that we could do a lower deal, around Detwiler and some young guys not named Rendon and Giolito?


    18 Nov 13 at 1:17 pm

  2. Yeah, new research showed it isn’t the 5-5.5 but more like 7. Here’s a link to the article that discusses it.

    Bautista. hmm. Its toronto so they don’t worry as much about cost contained guys. I could see Zimmermann for him as a good proposal. I’d be for it.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 2:32 pm

  3. The fact that Bautista has missed 133 games over the last 2 seasons and is entering his age 33 season would scare me off from trading Zimmermann for him. Don’t get me wrong, Joey Bats in the middle of the lineup would be a nice thing to see but a #2 starter in his prime for an aging slugger seems like a way to get burned in a trade.

    If you can work out a trade similar to the Gio trade like Detwiler/Karns/Espinosa +1 more legit piece I would be good with it. I only mention Espinosa because of Dana Brown’s involvment in the Blue Jays organization and their need for a middle infielder.


    18 Nov 13 at 3:08 pm

  4. Anybody else notice how Ruben Amaro is trying to INCREASE the Phillies’ age isntead of get younger? 3 years for Ruiz? That is going to bite them in the rear. Russell Martin only got 2 years last offseason and he was only entering his age 30 season and is superior to Ruiz in almost all areas. Ruiz is entering his age 35 season and is coming off a down year.

    Marlon Byrd had a nice season and I understand he didn’t cost a draft pick but this is the same guy who was merely league average in 2011 and complete a disaster in 2012. He also posted his highest BABIP since 2007. It was 50 points higher than his average BABIP over the prior 4 season. On top of that he struck out at a career high rate of 24.9% of the time. The money and years aren’t terrible but Ruben just doesn’t seem to want to get youth on that teams side.


    18 Nov 13 at 3:18 pm

  5. When Amaro gets canned, the new GM is going to come in and demand a 10 year contract just to have time to dismantle what Amaro has done and start over. After the first couple dumb contracts for aging stars you say, “well I can see his individual arguments for these guys” but after the 3rd or 4th entirely dumb off-season in a row, at some point you have to say that the owners are just as culpable as Amaro for signing off on all these bad deals.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 3:43 pm

  6. I didn’t realize Bautista was that old. I rescind my tacit approval of this trade :-) Sorry, too much “real” work today to properly focus.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 13 at 4:15 pm

  7. Man, I would hate to have Amaro GM here. I kind of understand the refusal not to blow it up: TV reset coming up, long contracts they can’t trade. But Byrd and Ruiz? Why not take the $40m and give it to Drew or Napoli? Someone that you can reasonably expect to be productive for the next few years. Slide Utley to 3rd or Napoli in the OF. Not perfect but still better than watching Ruiz hit .230 next year.

    PDowdy – I started with trades like that, but figured I was being a homer and therefore unrealistic. I kind of got to yours (Det and Espy), but had Cole instead of Karns.

    Btw, SF apparently just signed Hudson to 2/$23m. I was hoping that we’d get him, but glad to see him out of the East. Didn’t Wren turn down their $9m option? If I am remembering that correctly, they must feel pretty foolish.


    18 Nov 13 at 4:19 pm

  8. I think the injury with Bautista is the worry, not the age. If healthy, he’d still be the best hitter in our line up (assuming you don’t predict Harper to explode), and you only commit for two years, with an option.


    18 Nov 13 at 4:21 pm

  9. Agree on injury over age for Bautista. I would take him and his rather friendly contract for a lesser trade than JZimm. He could play LF, RF or 1B over the life of the contract. Just keep someone around who can e a super sub for when Werth and Bautista are dealing with their injuries ala a David Dejesus type.


    18 Nov 13 at 4:33 pm

  10. What I really don’t get about Amaro is he non-tendered Nate Scheirholtz last year over $2.5mil in favor if Delmon Young and now he gives $16mil to a 36 year old with a similar skill set to Scheirholtz who is entering his age 30 season and would only have cost them about $5mil this season.


    18 Nov 13 at 4:38 pm

  11. Yeah, Amaro just makes some puzzling moves.

    I read that article Todd posted on the value of a win. Pretty interesting, although I am not sure that I agree with one thing in the guy’s methodology: he looked at how things turned out to decide how much teams actually paid per 1WAR, rather than what they thought they were getting at the time of the contract (expected WAR). The latter is how Fangraphs calculates it, and I think that is where I come out too, although it does create a data issue, since we often don’t know what the team was expecting to get, we have to extrapolate. But anyway, my conclusion from his article was ‘most free agent contracts are overpriced, because teams probably didn’t think that they were paying $7m per 1WAR when they signed those contracts’.


    18 Nov 13 at 4:49 pm

  12. That’s a good point Wally. You would have to think there is a wide variance between how the Rays and A’s value a win vs how te Dodgers, Tigers and Yankees value a win.


    18 Nov 13 at 6:30 pm

  13. One of the complaints I’ve read, in general, about putting dollar values on WAR is this: not all teams value an additional win the same way, because teams have different motivations, different budgets etc. Which makes the fangraphs way of projecting what teams “thought” they were getting even more difficult. Oakland A’s give Bartolo Colon a 1year $3M deal when nobody else wanted to touch him and he puts up a 5-bWAR season. Was that what they were expecting? Probably not. How much does his contract skew the equation?

    I don’t have a problem looking at $/win in hindsight; it gives a more accurate reading of what a win really costs teams when it’s said and done. Which is more fair; FAs are often older, on the decline, and paid on the promise of their 30yr old season versus the anticipated decline of their 33-34yr old season. I think that needs to be captured.

    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 13 at 7:08 am

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