Nationals Arm Race

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

Blevin Acquired; who is getting DFA’d?


Welcome to Washington, Mr. Blevins.  Photo via wikipedia

Welcome to Washington, Mr. Blevins. Photo via wikipedia

The unexpected happened today: the Nats acquired a loogy.  Even more unexpected; Mike Rizzo and Billy Beane teamed up to consummate a trade (this is the 7th trade between the clubs in just the last 3 seasons).   Welcome Jerry Blevins; you’re arrival has been widely speculated upon.  Heading the other way is the Nats 2013 minor league hitter of the year Billy Burns, a non-prospect in the eyes of analysts but certainly a favorite of many who follow the Nats farm systems.  I liked Burns, but in all honestly he’s so far down our current OF depth chart that he clearly was an expendible resource, despite his potential.

I’m somewhat ambivalent on Blevins: his 2013 splits against lefties were, frankly, not impressive (a .740 OPS).  It could be a one-season deviation though, since his career splits are much better (.224 BAA).  He’s a lefty in the pen who mostly pitched in lower-leverage situations for Oakland this year, leaving the higher leverage situations to the better lefty in Oakland’s pen, UVA’s own Sean Doolittle.  So, we gave up a lesser prospect to get a lesser reliever.

Now for the fun part: We were at 39/40 on the 40-man roster with the Doug Fister trade.  Nate McLouth makes 40.  Blevins makes 41.  Somebody’s getting DFA’d, likely today.  Who makes way?

The obvious candidate is Corey Brown.  Brown’s chances of making the 2014 team took a severe hit with the McLouth signing.  More importantly; Brown no longer has any minor league options and he would likely have been DFA’d at the end of next spring training anyway.  Designating him now is the right thing to do for him by the organization, cutting him loose now to try to catch on with the best possible organization that will give him a shot at getting back to the major leagues.

Summary; expected move #3 of 4 this off-season has occurred (#1 being another starter, #2 being some bench help).  Last move John Buck?



Written by Todd Boss

December 11th, 2013 at 4:11 pm

36 Responses to 'Blevin Acquired; who is getting DFA’d?'

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  1. Blevins takes the final open spot on the 40 man roster; Corey Brown is safe for another day:

    Agreed that Brown is almost certainly the DFA candidate if they sign someone else or pick up someone in the Rule 5 draft.

    John C.

    11 Dec 13 at 5:16 pm

  2. McGlouth signing was not yet announced. So Rizzo waits until after the Rule 5 to announce the signing and then, to add him to the roster and to then, send someone down who would otherwise have been exposed, no?

    The surplus of OF foretold this deal, but I am sad to see Burns go. I had really high hopes for his excitement and WINNING impact.

    To me, this also speaks to how high they are on Taylor, though.

    Still a surplus on RH relievers, so there is likely a trade coming, IMHO.


    11 Dec 13 at 5:27 pm

  3. I stand corrected; I had not noticed that McLouth had not been officially added. This should be Corey Brown’s ticket out of town. Erik Davis or Ryan Mattheus would also be dark horse candidates.

    John C.

    11 Dec 13 at 6:30 pm

  4. They’re going to need another lefty. I just can’t see this one as finishing the pen. At least I hope not.

    Mark L

    11 Dec 13 at 7:26 pm

  5. I am a little disappointed with this one. I was intrigued to get a look at Burns, and Blevins seems about as nondescript as they come.

    I defer to Rizzo’s judgment on the respective talent, he has earned that. But it just seems like he didn’t want to spend 2/$6m for one of the established relievers, so we gave up an interesting guy.


    11 Dec 13 at 7:46 pm

  6. Davis would be my DFA pick. Brown still has some value, and Mattheus has even more, at least based on 2011-12. The best scenario would be to package a couple of these guys for that elusive backup catcher.

    I’m OK with Blevins, if we must have another lefty, and the trade itself was wonderful. For a 32d round draft pick who very likely wouldn’t make the majors with the Nats (or the A’s), probably only with a marginal team at best, the Nats got an established lefty under team control for three years. Blevins is younger by half a decade than most of the lefties on the FA market, about as good, and costs less. And career-wise and in 2012, he was better against LHB than RHB. It’s good to see that he is fine against RHB, though, as we need full-inning guys.

    All I can say is that our bullpen is filling up quickly, unless there’s another trade coming. That said, I’d still like to see us stay in the O’Flaherty sweepstakes, provided it is for a contract of more than one year. There was some buzz that he just wants a one-year deal while he proves his value, then goes back on the market again. There is also talk that he wouldn’t be ready until May at the earliest.

    Are the Nats done after finding a backup catcher? There is still considerable room to upgrade the rest of the bench. And given my preference, I’d still be looking for a trade (not any of the remaining FAs) for a big bat. There are guys out there rumored to be available, like Stanton, Kemp, and Braun, all with issues, risks, and big price tags. Bautista has a shorter contract but also a recent injury history as well. It would take a bat of this level to significantly upgrade the team. But the Nats do have a valuable commodity, several basically ready young starters, only one of whom will be in the rotation anytime soon, and two (potentially) better starter prospects in Giolito and Cole following in trace.

    And since Rizzo does so love arm reclamation projects, how about taking a flyer on Mark Mulder?

    After all, we’ve got to keep fanning the Hot Stove for at least a couple of more months!


    11 Dec 13 at 8:04 pm

  7. I had wondered if Goodwin was being hyped for a trade. If the team intends to keep Span for 2015, which they may, there is even more depth than imagined. And less of a need to add a leadoff option before Goodwin is absolutely ready (or Taylor).

    Goodwin’s performance in AFL was recognized by others, and so it goes. With all the SB Taylor had at Potomac, along with his arm and defense (and power), and being younger than Burns by a few years, Burns goes.

    But what do I know? I mourned the loss of Derek Norris. He made it to the majors, but we’d never do that one over.


    11 Dec 13 at 8:06 pm

  8. I agree on Davis. I can’t see him being taken. But Brown looks like he is on the bubble right now; a shame. But I still hope for Corey Brown to get his day in the sun. And injuries happen.


    11 Dec 13 at 8:10 pm

  9. I hadn’t noticed that McLouth wasn’t added officially yet; he’d make 41. On my personal “DFA ranking” it goes Brown, then Davis, then some really tough choices.

    Todd Boss

    12 Dec 13 at 7:12 am

  10. Keeping Span for 2015: i’d be surprised speaking right now; but if he has an amazing 2014 who knows. I guess its a combination of Span’s 2014 and Goodwin’s development. If Goodwin lights up AA, hits for power, steals bases, etc etc and forces a promotion the team could bid adieu to Span earlier than we thought.

    Todd Boss

    12 Dec 13 at 7:13 am

  11. I admit I was cherry picking some stats for this article. The wider stats for his 2013 season as a whole, and his career generally, are better than those stats I picked. That was slightly unfair on my part. I’ll agree that for what we gave up (an undersized minor league outfielder who has never sniffed any outside organization’s top 10 list of prospects) this was a good deal, even if Blevens isn’t a near-closer quality reliever.

    Todd Boss

    12 Dec 13 at 7:15 am

  12. I like this pickup. As Todd says, the wider stats look pretty good, and while BB looked interesting, he’s pretty far down the depth chart, and not that young. The FA relievers that were a lot better (e.g. JP Howell) weren’t at Wally’s 2/6, but undoubtedly asking to beat Javy’s 3/14, so Blevin seems a good compromise (and like a good, fun guy).
    I am a little surprised that Rizzo hasn’t found a way to use the surplus on the 40 man for one of the upgrades … I’m guessing that Corey or whoever gets DFA’d will be picked up pretty quickly.


    12 Dec 13 at 7:52 am

  13. Keep an eye on Isaac Ballou. Some in the organization said publicly that he was the team’s best draft pick. A little power, speed, and a good knowledge of the game. But even more promising is Rafael Bautista, one of the GCL Nat alums. Great SB skills even at age 20 and decent plate discipline. 47 SB at age 19? Kid is the truth!


    12 Dec 13 at 11:02 am

  14. Re: Span – I know, Todd. I was recommending his trade, like many others.

    But Williams has made a great point – when he was tearing it up, the Nats were winning. What if the Span we saw in late year was the real Span? If so, his option will look like a bargain for 2015.

    I still have Souza as my best position prospect in the system. Burns was my #7, Nieto my #17. Next August, Souza is the big time guy we will be thinking about how they will make room. The guy smells it, all he needs to do is stay healthy. If Goodwin and Souza tear it up, boy will the team have tough decisions. They will be forced to trade Span and can hopefully sell high.

    More on Taylor – his power and speed trended upward at age 22. Definitely the man to watch at Harrisburg, whatever one loves about Skole notwithstanding.

    Now, the team is going to be in sell surplus mode. Hopefully Nieto comes back, but…


    12 Dec 13 at 11:11 am

  15. Span 1st half versus 2nd half: I too fall into the mistake of over-emphasizing/focusing on performance achieved in September. Consider these two examples: Brad Peacock’s 2011 starts for the Nats and Tanner Roark’s performance upon his August 2013 callup. Clearly, Peacock’s performance was not in any way indicative of what he’s shown to be capable of for Houston. And even though i’m a huge Roark fan the consensus opinion seems to be that his 50 innings in 2013 are not repeatable. All we can say is this: if he hits .220 in April again, the gloves are off.

    I only have a top 10 internal list right now and it goes like this: Giolito, Cole, Goodwin, Skole, Karns, Solis, Johansen, Garcia, Purke, Taylor. I like Skole more than Souza and have kept faith even with his injury. Its another case of “lets see what happens this spring.” I’m really curious to see what Souza can do.

    I think Nieto comes back; he needed three seasons to get out of low-A. I just can’t see him sticking against MLB pitching.

    Todd Boss

    12 Dec 13 at 3:24 pm

  16. Todd, as you already know I am the lone holdout of “I’ll get excited when I see Giolito put up a year of dominance”, I’d put my totally unqualified top 20 (just to stir the pot here) as:

    Cole/Souza/Garcia/Walters/Barrett/Goodwin/Karns/Kobernus/Blake Schwartz/Giolito/Mirowski/Michael Taylor/Eury Perez/Drew Ward/
    Voth/Purke/Skole/Tyler Herron/Johansen/
    Gilberto Mendez

    The system is light on elite prospects. But its not a depleted system, or Adrian Nieto would not have been drafted.

    Peacock is apparently coming around in Houston, and pegged for the rotation. His day may yet come.


    12 Dec 13 at 3:59 pm

  17. Todd, before you write off Span’s September stats, I’ll quietly note that his July (.289/.349/.402) and August (.294/.336/.394) stats were essentially identical to his September (.303/.333/.404) stats. So apparently he wasn’t a September mirage.

    I wonder if they timed the McLouth announcement/Brown DFA for after the Rule 5 draft so teams would use up their 40 man roster spots. If Brown clears waivers, can the Nats send him to AAA?

    John C.

    12 Dec 13 at 5:38 pm

  18. John C. If Brown clears waivers they can retain him. I think you hit the nail on the head as to why they delayed the physical for a week.

    I just read that the Rockies are nearing a deal for Boone Logan at a rumored 3 years and $15mm. If that actually happens than I am an even bigger fan of this trade. Blevins will make about $4-4.5mm over the next 2 years and should be just as productive as Logan.


    12 Dec 13 at 11:14 pm

  19. The White Sox taking Nieto is very curious. They already have Phegley and Flowers who are both under the age of 27 who you would think they would be dedicating playing time to. Not a rule 5 guy that had no upper minor experience.


    12 Dec 13 at 11:16 pm

  20. Well, we were right about Brown getting dfa’d:

    JohnC: good call on the timing of the deal. Maybe it was the Nats being clever (delaying the McLouth signing til AFTER the rule-5 draft so that teams had fewer 40-man spots). Maybe it was just coincidental timing with McLouth’s physical taking a bit of time. But it seems like it will work out.

    Great question on whether the Nats can keep Brown if he passes through waivers. I have the same question about other guys in our system right now who otherwise would be 6-year MLFAs. I have no idea how it works. So right now Brown just finished his 7th pro year, so clearly he’s beyond the 5-6 years of ML service required for minor league free agency. But he is being DFA’d; if he clears waivers and nobody grabs him, the nats theoretically will outright him to Syracuse. Does that mean he’s no longer eligible for minor league free agency? I ask this because the same thing seems to be going on with Tyler Robertson; he was outrighted off the 40-man, has 7 years of ML time … but isn’t listed on BA’s list of MLFAs. If anyone knows the ru les here I’d love to know how this works.

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 13 at 7:00 am

  21. I would assume both Phegley and Flowers still have options, so I think that actually makes it more likely for them to keep Nieto … it lets both of them play regularly, and if the ML starter gets hurt, they can just pull the other back from AAA. That said, I still believe they will pick up a veteran backup at some point and end up returning Adrian.


    13 Dec 13 at 7:00 am

  22. Nieto: yeah, i don’t think theres much chance of Nieto sticking. Maybe Chicago just knew they had a need for bullpen catchers next spring? 🙂

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 13 at 7:00 am

  23. I don’t know the rules, but it seems like the wording I often see is something like “the player refused the assignment and elected FA” … so my guess is that if he doesn’t get selected in the waiver process, Corey will be able to choose to become a FA (Tyler, however, may well have felt his best option was to stick with the Nats).


    13 Dec 13 at 7:05 am

  24. Re Boone Logan, if he gets the rumored 3/$15m, then I will have to reverse my earlier disappointment with the trade. I like Burns, but it seems unlikely that he is worth the $9m difference in cost. I guess that I still had the Gorzy and Burnett contracts in my head as market for an ok lefty reliever.


    13 Dec 13 at 7:23 am

  25. Boone Logan got $16.5mm over 3 years. That is ridiculous!

    Blevins will make $1.5mm this year and probably $2.5-3 next year and is probably equal to Logan. I don’t know why anyone is dishing that much cash out for a LOOGY. Logan is not a set up man.

    Now that those dominoes are falling I like this trade a lot more. The Nationals don’t need an 8th inning guy and really don’t need a 7th inning guy that desparately so Blevins fits nicely in the middle of the ‘pen.


    13 Dec 13 at 9:37 am

  26. I’m completely baffled by how Edward Mujica only managed to get a 2 year $9mm deal and Lopez and Logan have landed 3 year deals at about the same aav.


    13 Dec 13 at 9:38 am

  27. Mujica: great question. He was ugly for StL in September and then basically benched for the post season. Why? is there an injury there?

    Logan/Levens; I too am shocked. I mean, we thought the SF loogy deal last off-season was ugly (Affeldt for 3/$18M) but then again SF has a history of paying their own guys above market value. This is making the Blevins trade and deal a complete no brainer, I agree. $1.5M this year and *maybe* $2-$2.5M next for him? That’s 20% of these FA contracts.

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 13 at 10:10 am

  28. Is it too late to curse my parents for not forcing me to throw left-handed? Geez. Blevins may not be the best thing out there, but at the cost-per-WAR level, he’s looking like a heck of a bargain already. With the market shaping up as it is, a healthy O’Flaherty would be worth at least $7.5M per, so an unhealthy O’Flaherty will likely get at least half that, maybe more.

    Here’s another question for the transaction experts out there: does Blevins have any remaining options? Just curious since the Nats’ bullpen is starting to get crowded, particularly if Detwiler goes to the ‘pen with Jordan or Roark staying with the big club as the fifth starter.

    And for those of you who calculate the cost per WAR, how do you divide Morse’s $6M by –1.6? I really thought he would be looking at a $1-2M deal and a bench role after last season, but the Giants apparently intend for him to start if LF. Hope Angel Pagan is ready to cover a lot of ground.

    As for Corey Brown, I’m surprised that Rizzo couldn’t get something for him. Unless Brown passes through waivers and there’s a way to retain him, the great Willingham trade will end with two DFAs, a net of nothing.

    For whatever it’s worth, Jayson Stark has the Nats at the top of his offseason “winners” thus far:


    13 Dec 13 at 10:48 am

  29. Ken: I laughed at this point because this is a constant source of conversation in my household. I’m constantly looking for evidence of left-handedness in my 13month old son for this same reason 🙂 Evidence so far shows that he likes to pick up food items and eat them left handed, but when presented with a spoon he used his right hand. Not looking good. My wife is convinced that pitchers suffer more frequent injuries so she doesn’t want him to be a pitcher, and frankly if you’re a lefty youth your almost guaranteed to be a pitcher. I tell you this though; the kid is going to bat left handed for sure.

    Blevin options: None per my research, but his 2011 season was really weird. The A’s recalled him and then DFA’d h im like four different times. So maybe he was optioned in 2011, maybe not. For sure he burned options in 2008 and 2009 though.

    Morse to SF: very, very surprising. Maybe they want him to platoon with Brandon Belt at 1b?

    Brown DFA: he’s still in DFA limbo, i don’t think he’s released yet. Still could work something out.

    Willingham trade; don’t get me started. But you’re right; the value we ended up getting for Willingham in terms of MLB production was .. well not much. I’ve railed enough about this trade in this space though in the past.

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 13 at 11:06 am

  30. The underlying question behind this post is why has there been such a spike in the value of lefty relievers? I think you’ve just answered the question, although Ron Harper beat you to it by 20 years by having his kid hit left-handed. There have always been a few guys out there being pushed to switch-hit, most notably Mantle and Chipper, and Wayne Graham has even emphasized it at the college level, producing guys like Lance Berkman and Jose Cruz Jr. at Rice. But more and more, young righties are hitting lefty-only strictly for the competitive advantage. I’ve actually seen this trend cited in the inverse to try to explain the big return that Mark Trumbo netted, basically highlighting the growing dearth of RHB power. When you look at the leaders in SLG and HRs, though, it’s really not that pronounced. But many GMs seem to be believing the hype with the loogy spending spree.

    As for the Willingham trade, in general I’m a fan of what Rizzo has accomplished, but in this particular case it seems like he held onto both H-Rod and Brown too long, perhaps trying to prove that he had made the right play. Actually, he probably did in the initial trade, getting a good return on a potential free agent, but he should have flipped Henry and Corey when it became apparent that they weren’t going to make it as Nats, last winter at the latest.


    13 Dec 13 at 11:44 am

  31. From Kolko:

    Now that he’s been designated for assignment, Brown is in limbo. The Nationals have 10 days to trade Brown, release him, or, if he clears waivers, assign him to the minor leagues, taking him off the 40-man roster but keeping him within the organization.

    Anyone know if the Athletics need a left-handed-hitting outfielder? The Nats and A’s haven’t combined on a trade in nearly 48 hours now.


    13 Dec 13 at 1:50 pm

  32. Morse to San Fran didn’t make much sense for the Giants. They needed a RHed bat in Left Field. Apparently they picked him for that spot. He is going to be pretty rough in that big outfield out there. Maybe Sabean figures if they won a world series with Pat Burrell in the outfield why can’t they win one with Morse out there lol.

    I really thought he was going to end up in Houston where he could play some 1st and DH over being an outfielder still.


    13 Dec 13 at 2:13 pm

  33. Man, that Willingham trade gets a ton of grief. Admittedly, our return was poor, but we lost out on 1.8 WAR from Willingham that year. And it was a year when we weren’t going to be good anyway, and we took a flier on a high ceiling bullpen arm (and a weak prospect). They don’t always work, but I don’t think the structure was such a bad gamble.

    I mean, it isn’t like we gave away Lee, Sizemore and Phillips, right? And until recently (the Morse trade, Trumbo), when did those type of players ever return much?

    It wasn’t a good trade, but I don’t even think it was Rizzo’s worst. We essentially gave away Estrada, and he has been worth about 6 WAR since then, but that rarely gets mentioned.


    13 Dec 13 at 2:23 pm

  34. People also need to remember that Willingham DHed in 40 games that year. He only played the field in 96 games and STILL missed 26 games during the season. He just isn’t durable enough to be an NL player. I strongly believe he would have played in less games and had less of an impact offensively for the Nationals. While yes it would have been nice to get something useful (and I thought we were going to get more) in the trade it wasn’t the end of the world. If that is the trade that started the working relationship between Rizzo and Beane then I think I am ok with how it played out. The two teams have used each other pretty fairly since.


    13 Dec 13 at 2:46 pm

  35. Brown to As: somehow I don’t think Beane wants him back at this point 🙂

    Morse to SF: if he’s playing left field … i’d be ok with that. I’m always OK with a poor fielder with a big bat playing LF. It isn’t going to cost you THAT many runs. I look at the list of LFers sorted by UZR/150 for 2013 and for the most part the guys who are negative value more than make up for it at the plate. Yes SF is “bigger” but its really the RF alley where you need a plus defender; the LF area is actually not that big and should be manageable even for a minus-defender.

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 13 at 2:54 pm

  36. Willingham trade grief: always has been a pet peeve of mine, especially since Rodriguez came over w/o options so he was “stuck” on the 25-man roster all this time.

    Marco Estrada: that one is amazing to me; i mean he was just an org guy for us at a time when we were not good. Outrighted to AAA in Jan 2010 when Milwaukee claimed him.

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 13 at 2:56 pm

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