Happy Thanksgiving! Apparently I didn’t realize how long between posts it had been (nearly 2 weeks). I didn’t go anywhere or anything; just hunkered down for the holidays, entertained the in-laws, and found myself with very little non-work computer time to delve into hot-stove season issues.
Thankfully, we have a Bill Ladson inbox to get us going this week! Dated 12/2/13.
(Note: I was mid-way typing this post when the Doug Fister news broke … so its a day later than I wanted it to be, and I edited this to be relevant).
As always, I write my response here before reading his and edit questions for clarity/conciseness.
Q: I’ve heard about so many big-market teams being out of the Robinson Cano sweepstakes. What about the Nats? They did swing a shocker of a deal in Jayson Werth, and Cano could be the signing that brings the World Series trophy back to the beltway.
A: Several national writers (including this latest, most comprehensive viewpoint from Paul Swydan on ESPN insider just this week) are making the same point. In simple terms, sign Robinson Cano, move Anthony Rendon to third, move Ryan Zimmerman and his scatter-arm to first, and put Adam LaRoche out to pasture (or, more likely, a trade for 20 cents on the dollar). I’d love the move in the short-term but would absolutely hate it in the long term. Its really simple: the guy’s 30. He wants to be paid for the next decade as if he’ll never age. His anticipated 10 year $200-and something million dollar contract will immediately be at the top of the list of albatross contracts in the league. You just can’t do it, not if you want to maintain finacial flexibility to extend the core of this team (Strasburg, Harper, Desmond to name three) and maintain some sort of a budget. (Oh, by the way, I have always maintained the Jayson Werth contract was a “statement contract” to the league, an overpay that legitimized this franchise as a FA player after years of being a laughingstock in the league under Jim Bowden and inept league ownership. So, i’m not entirely sure I’d use Werth’s deal as any sort of predictor of Mike Rizzo‘s intentions).
Hey, it isn’t my money. If Ted Lerner‘s ok with spending $150M or more a year … maybe i’d be on board. But man, 3 or 4 years from now when Jayson Werth is hobbling around the outfield earning $20M plus, Zimmerman’s at $15M/year and possibly clogging a 1st base spot, each of Desmond, Gonzalez, Harper, Strasburg and Zimmermann earning 8 figure deals, a Cano $25M/year albatross is clogging your payroll, and the team starts telling its fans that they’re standing pat or depending on signing middling free agents to try to “win” next year (you know, like the Phillies), I think you’ll regret this contract.
Ladson thinks the team could be in on Cano, and could use Rendon as trade bait for a pitcher. *sigh* well, we’ll see what happens.
Q: Do the Nats have any interest in a guy like Raul Ibanez to fill the fourth outfielder/power-left-handed-bat-off-the-bench role? He’s over 40, but a veteran with outstanding work ethic. His 2013 season’s numbers suggest that it might be worthwhile to take a gamble on him for one year, if he’s willing to accept a reasonable salary and less playing time. Your thoughts?
A: I just do not see it. Would you trust a guy who suddenly spikes his performance at age 41? Rizzo needs to go younger, not ancient. Raul Ibanez makes sense to sign a series of one year deals with AL teams that can DH him as long as he proves his worth until he’s retired. Ladson says the nats need a 4th OF who can man center; a good point.
Q: With the way that Ryan Mattheus hurt his hand last year and then struggled mightily after being activated from the disabled list, is he in the Nats’ bullpen plans for 2014?
A: I think Ryan Mattheus may be on the outside looking in come April 1, 2014 after his performance and injury in 2013. Without any other moves, you have to think right now the Nats bullpen has 4 locks (Soriano, Clippard, Storen and Stammen), one loogy (from within or outside), one long man (Ohlendorf or a 5th starter competition loser) and one spot up for grabs. Mattheus is the current leader in the clubhouse for that spot .. but he’ll face competition. Right now, if Christian Garcia is healthy he’s proven to be more effective than Mattheus. If Garcia can’t go, then Mattheus probably has the spot locked up barring any more signings. He could face some competition from guys in the minors like Nathan Karns (if the team decides he can’t find a 3rd pitch and converts him to a reliever… though this probably doesn’t happen until 2015 at the earliest), or possibly from new 40-man addition Aaron Barrett. For right now i’d say he’s the 7th guy but he needs to produce at 2012 levels to keep his job over Garcia. Ladson agrees with me, I guess.
Q: Just wondering, do you think No. 2 prospect Lucas Giolito will get an invitation to Spring Training with the big club?
A: Nope, not this year. No point. He’s yet to play a day in full-season ball; he needs to stay in the minor league section and get his full work, not languish on the MLB spring training bench getting an inning every other day. Now, if he shoots up the system in 2014 and ends in AA, then yeah a spring training invite for 2015 could be in the works. Ladson agrees.
Q: After reading all these trade rumors, I feel like the Nationals are going to make a huge move this offseason. Do you feel it would come as a bat or as a pitcher?
A: Even before the Fister deal, I still would have said a Pitcher. Even though I don’t think pitching was our problem in 2013 (a tease for a draft blog post with some interesting stats that I have in progress). The problem with trading for a Bat is this: there’s just no obvious place to upgrade. Not unless you move a guy like LaRoche or Span (our two least productive bats last season) and make a hole for someone coming in. Ladson really goes out on a limb and says ‘it could be both.’
A: I think the book on Michael Morse has been written by now: he can’t stay healthy, he’s a liability in the field, and he needs to be able to DH. He’s just not an NL player anymore. A quick look at the depth charts in the AL shows a couple of teams that could take a flier on Morse. The problem is that two of the teams with the most need for a DH (Seattle and Baltimore) both had Morse last year and he washed out. Maybe his last shot could be with a team like Oakland or Houston, teams with limited budgets willing to give last-chances to guys like Morse to resurrect their careers. Ladson repeats his last Morse answer; Morse wants to be an every-day player and at Washington he’d be a bench player.
Q: With Stephen Drew being a Scott Boras client, could you see the Nationals signing him, having him or Ian Desmond transition to second base? It could solidify the middle infield with veteran stability, couldn’t it?
A: Why in the h*ll would you purposely take a plus defender shortstop (whether it be Stephen Drew or Desmond) and waste him at second base? That’d be dumb. That’d kind of be like what Texas is doing to Jurickson Profar. Despite the oft-repeated mantra that the “Nats are Scott Boras‘ b*tch” if you check the records we’re not even the team with the most Boras clients. And most of our Boras clients were guys we drafted irrespective of who represented them. I’m really tired of reading the cliche that any and all Boras clients are Nats targets because we for some reason feel obliged to deal with him. I’ll tell you this; I’d rather be friendly with Boras than unfriendly; he represents serious talent in this game and if we can get access to his players more easily than an antagonistic GM, we’re in a better positions. Ladson doesn’t think Drew would want to switch positions either.