Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s Inbox 1/31/14

37 comments

Would this guy look good in a Washington uniform?  Photo unknown via ladodgertalk.com

Would this guy look good in a Washington uniform? Photo unknown via ladodgertalk.com

Nothing like a time-waster for the weekend; Bill Ladson‘s latest inbox plopped Friday afternoon 1/31/14.  Here’s how I’d have responded if someone had bothered to as me these questions :-)

Q: Even though the Nationals are confident with Denard Span in center field and they have strong center fielders in the Minors, is it possible that they might try to get Matt Kemp at the Trade Deadline or next offseason?

A: Matt Kemp‘s name has come up in this blog in the discussion spaces once before in an interesting “what-if” game.  The question as it was posed was this: “Would you, straight up and with no salary relief, trade Matt Kemp right now for Anthony Rendon?”  Think about it; Kemp is owed $127.5M over the next six seasons ($21-$21.5M per season).  He put up MVP numbers in 2011 (many thought he should have won instead of Ryan Braun, even more so after Braun’s positive PED tests) but has floundered with injury and sub-par performances (relative to his salary) for the past two years.  Meanwhile Rendon is getting paid a fraction of what Kemp’s salary is, is younger and has room to grow, but so far has been merely a league average player.  Its a good question: do you run the risk of a $20M boat anchor on your roster, taking up 1/7th of  your salary cap, or do you roll the dice that Kemp returns to his former glory and earns his pay?  Or do you bet on Rendon becoming a significant player cost contained and under team control for another 5 years?

For me, I think you stay away from Kemp.  That’s a ton of money with no guarantee that 2014 will be any different from 2013, and the Nats already have enough pending payroll problems without adding one more $20M player.

As for the question at hand, I see no inclination for Mike Rizzo to make such a move, now or ever.  He spent a lot of capital (our best starting pitching prospect at the time in Alex Meyer) to get Denard Span, he sought him out and coveted openly him for years, and now he has him.  Span’s not going anywhere.  As for next year, we’re in a wait and see.  One of our best prospects is a CF candidate in Brian Goodwin, but he took a step back in 2013.  If Goodwin steps back up in 2014 or doesn’t pan out, we can exercise Span’s 2015 option at $9M and wait for the next best CF prospect in our system (Michael Taylor) to grow.  If neither prospect pans out, we don’t have to worry about it for a few years.  But, at some point you hope this team can grow another prospect to replace an aging $9M free agent with a minimum salary guy.

Ladson basically says what I say, but in fewer words.

Q: The Nationals still have bullpen questions that were not addressed during the offseason. Do you think the Nats will sign another lefty for the bullpen? Or will they use Ross Detwilerin relief?

A: Do we have bullpen questions?  Where?  We got a lefty (Jerry Blevins) and we have another decent lefty option who pitched decently for us last year (Xavier Cedeno).  I’m quite pleased with the state of our back-end guys (Soriano and Clippard), our 7th and 8th inning options (Storen and Stammen), and our long-man options (Ohlendorf and Roark).   Remember; Clippard has great lefty splits, always has.  If our loogy doesn’t work out that well, we go back to using Clippard periodically as a match-up guy.  Or we call up Sammy Solis.  Hell, we could even try Matthew Purke as a bullpen option (he’s on the 40-man after all); scouts are souring on him ever being an effective starter, but his weird motion and shorter stints could help him feature as a bullpen guy.   I think you use Ross Detwiler as a starter until he proves otherwise; as mentioned in this space time and again, Detwiler was effective in 2012, started well in 2013 and got hurt; I have no doubt that if healthy he can start 2014 as he started 2013.  Ladson says similar things about our lefty options.

Q: How is Adam LaRoche‘s health going into Spring Training? He looked as if he lost a tremendous amount of weight last year.

A: Adam LaRoche looked healthy enough in all those shots that appeared of him killing things on the internet over the winter.  Seriously; who knows what the answer to this question is.  But we know he’s aware of the situation and should be taking steps to maintain his strength and weight in 2014.  It is a contract year after all, and he’s shown a proclivity towards having career years in contract years when he needs them to secure his next paycheck.  I can’t see  him “platooning” like a lot of bloggers seem to be calling for, but I can see him being told by management that he needs to maintain his production or he may be banished in phantom DL trips.  Ladson reports that LaRoche was taking an ADD medication, believes he has it figured out, and predicts a Gold Glove in 2014.  Random prediction but sounds good.

Q: Any chance Nationals could bring back Jesus Flores as a backup to Wilson Ramos?

A: Well, Jesus Flores is still out there as a MLFA.  What doesn’t speak well of him is the fact that he was released in May of last year by the Dodgers.  Clearly to me, he’s no longer a viable major league backup candidate.  I can still see the Nats giving a non-guaranteed contract to one of the few remaining veteran catchers to see if one of them sticks as Ramos’ backup, but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to see the winner of a competition between Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon sticking as the backup.  That being said, both these guys were awful in 2013 in the minors offensively and I don’t have a good explanation why.  Leon seems like the better bet; better history of batting,  younger.   Chris Snyder has had a rough couple years but is still relatively young and has had stretches of decency, if the team wants to go with a veteran backup instead of a rookie.   I dunno what’s going to happen.  On the bright side, Keith Law‘s just-released top 10 for the system (ESPN Insider only) includes one Pedro Severino, giving him relatively glowing grades for his defense.   He’s a couple years away (born in 1993) but if he succeeds in Potomac this year he could be a ready-made Ramos backup sooner than later.  Ladson says the team had a problem with the way Flores called games … hmm, never heard that before.  Ladson also predicts more signings before Feb 1.

Q: I sense a double standard: why give continued chances to Danny Espinosa but essentially shut out Drew Storen? Am I missing something? Similar struggles, but at least Drew fought his way back to the Majors.

A: I’m not sure what “chances” Danny Espinosa is getting at this point, nor am I sure what Storen has been “shut out” of.  The team bought Rafael Soriano, are paying him a ton of money, and he’s the closer as long as he’s here.  That’s that; both Storen and Clippard got pushed down a peg when he got acquired.  Meanwhile, I think its clear that Anthony Rendon is the starter, and Espinosa is playing for a backup role.  Maybe there were just too many quotes taken out of context from NatsFest.  Ladson re-iterates his believe that Espinosa will be traded.

 

37 Responses to 'Ladson’s Inbox 1/31/14'

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  1. I did hear that Jesus Flores was not calling games the way the Nats wanted around the time we picked up Suzuki. The problem was that the Nats would establish a game-plan and then during the game Jesus would decide not to follow it. At least that’s what I heard, maybe that’s what Bill was talking about.

    D28

    3 Feb 14 at 9:32 am

  2. I had never heard that criticism of Flores before frankly, but I’m glad I did because it does now give some context to the moves the Nats made. Yes Flores was an injury risk but was it necessary to buy a veteran to replace him as a backup? Yes, now it makes more sense. Of course, his dropoff in performance has been staggering the last couple years. What has happened to the guy? He showed flashes of being a very solid hitter. Too bad; i hope he catches on somewhere.

    Todd Boss

    3 Feb 14 at 9:40 am

  3. The Nats unhappiness with Flores play calling was whispered about for quite awhile, just like Suzuki not being brought back because he was a terrible pitch framer; plus he couldn’t hit.

    Goodwin didn’t regress last year; he just didn’t blow anyone away and force the issue. He’s going to land up a corner outfielder anyway. Taylor ‘s glove is major league ready right now; the bat is still a work in progress.

    Both Leon & Taylor had great winter league seasons; let’s hope they carry that into 2014.

    Mark L

    3 Feb 14 at 10:29 am

  4. Here’s what would intrigue me about the thought of a trade for someone like Kemp, or another wounded/flawed slugger like Braun or maybe even Bautista (but not Pujols, who is signed for too long). The Nats have several complementary sluggers but not a true middle-of-the-order standout. They hope Harper will develop into that, but if you look at most of these others, they didn’t reach peak power until 26/27 or so. In the meantime, Harper will continue to press to be “da man,” which he might not do if another slugger was in the house.

    There are a couple of caveats before I continue. One is that Kemp has just said that he may not be ready by the start of the season. Another is that with Roy Clark now working for the Dodgers, they have someone who knows all the Nats inside and out, and what the Nat front office thinks about them.

    Now, the price. The buyer for Kemp would be taking on significant risk and contract, so that buyer is going to expect a discount. I wouldn’t want the Nats dipping into the future core for a risky deal, and I would consider Rendon part of that core. The first player I would put on the block would be Espinoza. The Dodgers wouldn’t want Span, as they’re trying to unload OFs, but he could be traded elsewhere to free up salary. The Dodgers do need pitching, so make Karns a part of the deal and perhaps another young arm. If not Espy, then make it Walters. So two young arms plus an infielder, essentially what the Nats gave up for Fister.

    If Kemp could be had for that price, would he be worth it? He’s only had one peak season, and when he did play in 2012 and 2013, he wasn’t near the 2011 level. And ultimately, the long-term cost becomes more the concern than what you have to give up in the trade. So . . . would it be a copout to say that as a GM, I probably wouldn’t do it, but as a fan, I’d be excited if it happened?

    KW

    3 Feb 14 at 12:58 pm

  5. I can’t see any Kemp deal. The Nats don’t buy high.

    The CF situation is stable now and were Span to go down, Harper would return there. At the end of this year, the team will have more answers about whether minor leaguers (Souza, Goodwin, Perez, Kobernus) are ready or whether they need to exercise the Span option to give them another year or to gve the younger Taylor more time.

    With that noted, we would all be thrilled if Span 2014 is the Span who showed up in late 2013. It’s not such an unrealistic idea, nor is a repeat performance from Jayson Werth. If the Span we see is that good, Rizzo’s lust for Span will have been vindicated. Just as the team’s belief in Werth was.

    forensicane

    3 Feb 14 at 2:17 pm

  6. What if the Nats waited until next year when they cleared out some payroll to make a “acquire big bat” move? Would that make more sense? Between Soriano, LaRoche and Span that’s $30M of payroll. That could buy a big bopper. And you’d have first base free to stick said bopper.

    Todd Boss

    3 Feb 14 at 4:02 pm

  7. If Span picks up where he left off in late 2013 and Werth hits like he did all last year, combined with a healthy Harper, an improving Rendon and continued levels of performance from Desmond and Zimmerman, this could be a pretty scary good team. I mean lets face it; they had the best record in the game in September (18-9).

    Of course .. their Sept schedule was a cakewalk. One series against Atlanta, one against Arizona, one against STL (where they got swept). The rest of the time playing NL east also-rans who were playing out the string.

    Todd Boss

    3 Feb 14 at 4:22 pm

  8. Todd, there is so much additional payroll coming on next year with Desmond, J-Zimm, Fister, Ramos, Harper, and Strasburg all needing extensions. I can’t see the Nats taking on more payroll in anticipation of that and think they won’t keep more than 4 of those 6 guys.

    Andrew R

    3 Feb 14 at 8:32 pm

  9. If they win the World Series, they’ll certainly think about keeping them. Of course, player development has something to say about that, too.

    In that same vein, if Span puts up a .300/.350 OBP and plays the kind of defense he did this past year at age 30, and the Nats go to the WS, you’d have to think the team talks extension unless one of the bats down below emerges as a superstar in the making and the team does not revisit the CF/leadoff dilemma.

    It’s hard to see LaRoche back in 2015, no matter how well he does this year. But the pitchers and the team will appreciate defense from the 1B as well, and if reverts to Gold Glove caliber and the team wins…

    I think the long term plan accommodates long term contracts for each of the people you mention, Andrew. Especially Harper, Ramos, Stras, and Desi. If Zimmerman and Fister become fan favorites, hard not to think of them in the same vein if the team is in the middle of a serious run, unless the minor league pitching is just too good to keep down. Fister just is too good to be seen as a rental.

    For that reason, They will save money on seemingly replaceable parts like the Sorianos and Laroches. I can’t see them giving a gaudy contract to Clippard.

    Fortunately the ownership can tolerate a much higher ceiling. Witness spending 10.5 mill on a bench bat. And the Soriano signing.

    forensicane

    3 Feb 14 at 8:54 pm

  10. I see J-Zimm and Stras not resigning.

    Andrew R

    3 Feb 14 at 8:55 pm

  11. Related to the lefty question, do the Nats want to get into the A. J. Burnett derby? I’m conflicted on that one, too. I know he can’t be thinking that he’s going to get anywhere near the $16.5M he’s been making. But if we’re talking half that price, it could be interesting. Det could become the power lefty in bullpen, and the Nats would have another veteran starter.

    A concern I would have is whether such a move might delay the development of the next generation – Jordan, Roark, or whoever. But Detwiler is presumed to be starting the competition ahead of them anyway.

    KW

    3 Feb 14 at 9:04 pm

  12. Big Boppers: When the really good ones do make it to the FA market, the Nats aren’t going to bid the bucks and the years against the NY and LA teams. So one very likely would have to come via a trade. If you want to do it this year, package LaRoche and Span to dump the salaries and have Billy Beane as the middle man so he can figure out how to make it work. And have Beane throw in Josh Donaldson just to complete my dream package. Ha!

    Span: In the memory-can-be-deceiving department, I had it in my mind that Span really benefited from Rick Schu’s arrival and of course had the long hitting streak. But here are the numbers on that. Schu took over on July 22, at which time Span was 265/322/359. He ended the season – after the long streak – 279/327/380. There were slight bumps, but the OBP barely moved and was still very low for a leadoff hitter. I do agree that he is a plus on defense. But the guy at the top of the order has to be over 350 OBP, and Span hasn’t been over that number since 2009, when he was 311/392/415. What happened to that guy? His OPS was 100 points lower than that in 2013.

    KW

    3 Feb 14 at 9:18 pm

  13. The Nats are trying to develop their own big boppers from within, and I think that will happen organically, from Harper’s continued maturing, the continued emergence of Desi and Ramos, Rendon’s maturing, one of the upper minors’ stars, and yes, perhaps even Tyler Moore.

    The drafts have also looked to target the long ball. It’s a crap shoot, sure, but they drafted Ward, Gunter, and Yezzo with that in mind within the first ten rounds in 2013. Then they traded for Wooton. So the initiative is there, and help is on the way, albeit in a few years.

    Burnett – no by me. The experiments of rental #5s are over.

    forensicane

    3 Feb 14 at 9:46 pm

  14. I say pony up and offer AJ Burnett a 1 year $14mm deal. If they were willing to do late deals for EJax and Soriano why not try to land Burnett and give the team the definitive “best on paper” rotation in baseball. I know it creates a log jam but Taylor Jordan didn’t even set foot on a AAA mound last year so more minors isn’t going to hurt him. Roark has options but could easily replace Ohlendorf. Some team would take Ohlendorf off the Nats hands I’m sure. Detwiler in the pen with Roark, Stammen, Blevins, Storen, Clippard and Soriano would make that a really strong group. It would be hard to find a lot of holes on the team.

    Pdowdy

    3 Feb 14 at 10:36 pm

  15. Andrew R: very true, lots of payroll a-coming for these guys. We’ve talked about it before but yeah there’s some hard decisions to make. If it were me, I’d focus on extending the “spine” guys. Positionally speaking, its hardest to fill Catcher, Shortstop and Center Field … that means Ramos, Desmond and, well, Harper even though he doesn’t play center (I just think he should be playing center). You let Zimmermann walk; given his arbitration award he’s going to sign for 9 figures somewhere. Fister? He’s going to command too much per year and too many years as a guy in his 30s when he hits free agency; you let him walk too (he’ll be 31 when he hits FA). Strasburg is the tough one; sentimentally you want to keep him, but he’s Boras client and from SoCal … to me that screams someone who’s going to hit free agency, and someone who the Dodgers will over pay. At least the Nats will get a buch of comp picks …

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 7:58 am

  16. An unspoken factor in these payroll questions: what happens if/when the MASN tv deal rights issue is finally resolved? I know it isn’t exactly apples to apples (since we know that Washington’s tv ratings have historically been poor) but DC as a market size should be commanding probably four TIMES what they’re currently getting in fees. Here’s a Nov 2012 link to all the RSN deals; DC’s market is most comparable to Dallas in terms of population … and Texas got a $100M signing bonus and $80M/year. Imagine what our payroll would be looking like if we were getting $80M/year instead of the $29M reportedly we’re getting now? That’s $50M more in players; that buys a lot of extensions and eliminates a lot of these what if questions we’re hemming and hawing about in terms of Zimmermann, Strasburg and Fister’s eventual price tags.

    What does need to stop happening is the dumb veteran FA signings. Yes i’m looking at you Rafael Soriano. Smart GMs don’t make signings like that.

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 8:02 am

  17. Working out a trade with Beane/Oakland for Brandon Moss or Josh Donaldson isn’t that far fetched. Donaldson probably more-so than Moss (who is still a year away from even Arb-1)./ Meanwhile Donaldson was a super-2 guy, is in his 2nd arb year now and got a whole lot more expensive with his 2013 performance. I can absolutely see Beane flipping him before his 3rd arb year happens because he’s going to be expensive, fast.

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 8:05 am

  18. Burnett would probably really succeed in Washington. Ground ball pitcher, good D behind him. But ask yourself; is another good starter really a need at this point? If I said to you as pseudo GM “OK you’ve got $14M more to spend … what are you going to do?” Wouldn’t you say to yourself “ok i’ve got 5th starter covered on the cheap with my re-signed Detwiler or my pre-arb guys in Roark/Jordan/Karns, what I really need is more offense” and make a deal that way?

    Hey it isn’t my money. Burnett > Detwiler even up and proved it over the last couple of years. He’s thrown a ton of innings reasonably well and clearly looks like a guy who benefits from NOT being in New York and not being in the AL. Sounds like a great #3 NL starter to me. He’s like another version of Mark Buehrle; solid, consistent, decent numbers, always ready to make his next start. Would he improve the Nats? Sure. Would he instantly solve the “hey we need another lefty in the pen” problem? Sure. And as we learned last year, you can never have too much starting pitching depth; having Detwiler, Ohlendorf AND Roark in your pen to go along with several guys in AAA who have made MLB starts? A good problem to have.

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 8:10 am

  19. If there was a similarly valuable offensive player available on likely a 1 year deal I would say yes, definitely go that route. The problem is I don’t see anyone that fits in as easily as Burnett would to the pitching staff. The other nice thing Burnett would do is keep a guy like Taylor Jordan from logging a lot of big league innings in turn keeping his cost down for an extra year along the same time the team is dealing with the huge payroll obligations that are coming. To me this is the 1st of 2 “All in/win now” years and Burnett gives you a strikeout pitcher at the backend of the rotation AND an innings eater type with little forward risk. That is the type of move the team SHOULD be making. Not signing a guy like Soriano.

    The other interesting option the team would have at that point is you can do what the Cardinals do and if someone suffers in the bullpen Karns would be readily available to step into a role in that area just like Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal have. I believe if you put Karns in the pen his velocity will spike and he will be a valuable arm there.

    pdowdy83

    4 Feb 14 at 9:28 am

  20. I would love Josh Donaldson in a curly W but I think the guy more likely to get dealt by Oakland next year is Josh Reddick. If the Nationals were to elect to let Span walk they would have some options. You could sign Chase Headley to play 3rd. Move Zim to first and Harper back to CF. Trade for Reddick to play RF and move Werth to LF. I know it is a lot of moving parts for a contending team but that is how you maximize your positional value. It isn’t a conventional lineup but there is a lot of value both offensively and a TON defensively. I know it isn’t likely but it is interesting to discuss. Also for the record I don’t think Headley is a 30 homer guy. I think he is just a 12-15 homer guy with an OBP over .350 and good defense. So if he commands a ridiculous contract I think you stay far away.

    Headley – 3B
    Rendon – 2B
    Zim – 1B
    Harper – CF
    Desmond – SS
    Werth – LF
    Reddick – RF
    Ramos – C

    pdowdy83

    4 Feb 14 at 9:40 am

  21. Dowdy: can’t disagree with your Burnett reasoning. I’ll add this: I think Karns may be finding himself at the back-end of the bullpen eventually anyway if he can’t develop more consistency with his secondary pitches. He may be one of several logical successors to our current triumverate of Clippard/Storen/Soriano (current cost: somewhere in the $20M/year range just for those three).

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 9:54 am

  22. Interesting acquisition targets. I’m afraid Headley will end up being too expensive; gold-glove calibre 30-homer capable third baseman in his prime years? Ouch.

    I do like the Reddick option though … is he 2012 Reddick or 2013 Reddick though?

    Will the team move Harper to CF? I think he’s more than capable … but does Rizzo talk himself out of that move because he wants to continue his eternal quest for the perfect leadoff/CF candidate? What if some of our mid-to-upper minors bats explode this year (Goodwin, Skole, Souza?)

    Interesting analysis: Look at the Big Board’s current projected rosters for 2014 and look at the hodge-podge of players Syracuse is setup to be right now. Right now there’s only two home-grown players set to play in AAA (Rosenbaum and Meyers). I know in reality we’ll likely see Karns, Jordan and some bullpen arms up there, in addition to possibly Souza and other hitters … but its one more indication of how much AAA is treated like a “spare parts” league by Washington while AA is where the prospects come from…

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 10:01 am

  23. I think that $20mm back of the bullpen is going to be the liability. Clip has been hugely overworked the past few years and Soriano is a ticking time bomb. I like Storen the best of the three and would be happy to trade Clip now and get some young fireballers in the pen now like Karns, Garcia (young in arm usage…), Solis, Barrett, etc.

    Bullpen arms are such a crapshoot and I agree with the Cards approach vs this current Nats (high paying vets) approach.

    Oh and as a Yankee fan growing up, no to AJ. He needs to be in a low pressure environment (ie not the playoffs). Det, TJ or Roark will be fine.

    Andrew

    4 Feb 14 at 10:03 am

  24. Well, in the Nats’ defense they had been depending on home-grown guys in the bullpen as much as they could. Clippard acquired as a minorleaguer, Storen drafted, Mattheus acquired as minor leaguer, Stammen drafted/developed, Roark acquired as a minor leager. That’s pretty good. Ohlendorf a low-priced FA, Blevins a relatively low-price acquisition as well. Its just that Clippard and Storen have gotten pricey. A good problem to have; i’d rather have back-end relievers who were so good that they got expensive versus relievers who were replacement-level and couldn’t command more than $1m/per in arbitration.

    I think (and many others do as well) that the Soriano acquisition was done above Rizzo’s head; Rizzo has shown acumen in the past when it comes to releiver acqusition, getting Capps off the street as an undervalued asset and flipping him for a good prospect (at the time) in Ramos. I’m of the belief that never in a million years would Rizzo have spent that kind of money for a guy like Soriano, who came to this team with a history of being a clubhouse cancer and not performing when he wasn’t “the man” in the bullpen. He’s not lights out; he’s no where near as effective as other high-priced closers in this league (Kimbrell, Nathan, even Papelbon are significantly more effective). And he’s *way* too expensive for being a low-90s, finesse type closer with a 3.11 ERA.

    So I wouldn’t necessarily categorize the “Nats approach” as depending on “high paying vets.” But, they are where they are in terms of the $20M figure … I think there’s a reason we’ve heard Storen’s name in trade rumors for three years running, and I think there’s a reason we heard about Clippard last off-season too. If Rizzo had his druthers i’d bet he’d move both guys in a heart-beat, load up on some prospects and depend on guys like Roark, Mattheus, Garcia, Treinen, Barrett, Davis and Karns as his 7th/8th inning guys. throw them all at the wall and see who sticks in spring training. Save a ton of money, re-stock on prospects and use that cash elsewhere. Maybe he still is looking to do this, may be his hands are tied by ownerships.

    Burnett: to me his career is pretty clear to see: in New York he was awful, elsewhere he’s been servicable to good. Now, was it just being in New York and playing in a place where there’s 25 beat reporters all trying to be a-holes in your face every night, or is it playing in a “playoff atmosphere?” He seemed to do pretty fine in Pittsburgh last year playing for a team that was in the divisional race until the last week of september. I dunno. I think its more about being in New York than playing under pressure. He’s not the first guy to just underperform for the Yankees specifically.

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 10:25 am

  25. Agree 100% with your comments, except that Rizzo is on-board with dumping Clip and Soriano – I think he gets antsy around this time of the year and has money left in the budget and finds an “undervalued asset” to spend it on. Kind of like when I get paid and I go out and buy something I didn’t really need…

    Soriano could be traded back to the Yanks with $6MM for JD Murphy. Clippard has a ton of value and could perhaps fetch a middle infielder like Nick Franklin (maybe with the Nats throwing someone else in). I’d love to get those young guys competing for spots in the pen.

    Andrew R

    4 Feb 14 at 10:57 am

  26. As much as I like Clippard, I’d try to move him to a team in need of a closer yesterday. Of the “non-tanking” teams who could use better closers in 2014, Baltimore, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Toronto all make sense. Especially the two AL teams there …

    But at the same time, I have a hard time reconciling the fact that Clippard is also our best arm more reliable arm out there, that he’s saved the team’s bacon on many occasions, and that $7m isn’t a bad price for such a talent. Especially given that 2014 may be another “all in” year for this team, given who we’ve traded away, who we’ve signed and acquired, etc etc.

    Todd Boss

    4 Feb 14 at 11:04 am

  27. Heart says gotta keep Clip, Mind says it’s probably time to sell high.

    Andrew R

    4 Feb 14 at 11:25 am

  28. If Headley has another season like he did last year and in 2011 (and pretty much his entire career minus 2012) I think his value goes down a good deal. I could see him still landing a Jhonny Peralta type of contract (higher for Headley but same type of deal) but not the $100mm he was said to be looking for. He will most definitely be tied to draft pick compensation. Then again if Pablo Sandoval is really in as good as shape as he looks right now he could also be another interesting option.

    I think Reddick is somewhere inbetween 2012 and 2013. He had a wrist injury almost all of 2013 which surpressed his power. He is never going to be a huge batting average guy but his defense is very good and he has obvious power and good baserunning skills. He is definitely a stathead type of guy.

    If some of our MiLBers break out this year then it could be a moot point. Maybe Skole goes bonkers and 1st base goes to him or Goodwin and Souza light it up and end up as good options for CF. That would be ideal obviously.

    I think this year the team has to keep Clippard in place. We saw how quickly both Storen and Soriano can lose it for stretches. I would rather have 3 solid options in case 2 are having rough patches. The bullpen will be a different story in ’15 but for this year while you still have the payroll space you may as well roll with what you have now in my opinion. In the coming years I agree that Karns will be part of the bullpen along with Aaron Barret and maybe Solis or Purke replacing some of the more expensive guys in order to swing the payroll away from the BP and more towards starters and position players.

    pdowdy83

    4 Feb 14 at 11:48 am

  29. Burnett: Has anyone seen what he’s actually asking? I wouldn’t go $14M, but I might consider the $8-10M range. (But why couldn’t they come up with $3.7/2 yrs for Jeff Baker when they need bench improvement more than starters?)

    Bullpen: Soriano isn’t going anywhere. He is what he is. I think the save situations will get split up more this year, though. And yes, Clippard is getting expensive for a non-closer. It’s hard to see them trading the best guy in the ‘pen, though. If there is a trade, it likely would be Storen. I’m thinking that Rizzo has put a high price on both him and Clip, which is why the trade buzz has died.

    MASN non-deal: Luv ya, Bud. (NOT!) Yes, think what $50-75M additional per year could do for the payroll. We won’t be able to even contemplate re-signing Stras without it.

    OAK trade prospects: Reddick – no way. Can’t find first base (career .302 OBP). Souza is better right now. Moss – interesting thought for a cut-rate slugger. He hit 20 of his 30 HRs on the road last year, indicating that he might have more in him away from OAK. Lots of Ks, though. Part of me worries that he might be a younger ALR comp. Donaldson – my man! The #3 overall fWAR, behind only Trout and McCutchen, for which he made $492K. Some note the big spike in 2013, although he did have very good partial numbers at AAA in 2012. Beane would want a steep price, but it would certainly beat overpaying for Headley.

    When talking OAK, how about Cespedes? I wonder if Billy might want to unload the contract after the subpar 2013. He did hit well in the playoffs. That might be a relatively cheaper gamble on a slugger than on someone like Kemp. And hey, who wouldn’t pay extra just to see batting practice with Cespedes and Harper?!

    KW

    4 Feb 14 at 9:02 pm

  30. I really think the next trades we see will be surplus (RH relief) for a haul of top but lower level prospects, similar to the Morse trade in early 2013.

    Complicating demand is the number of players still on the market. Once we get into the spring and injuries start happening to others teams, Rizzo will be well positioned if the team nurtures its surplus well and stays healthy. I absolutely think that was part of the Balfour flirtation. Stock the pond and deal as teams are willing to give up more for established controllable (Storen) players, or marquee players like Clippard. Any FA signing sets up depth for a larger trade, perhaps like the variety of deal between the Rays and Pads recently.

    I also think the team is very high on its own chemistry, and LaRoche is seen as a big part of that. So until something dictates otherwise, the mentality they are projecting is that this is a 2012 club with upgrades, not the 2013 club one year older. That is just how it feels.

    There is too much OF talent at higher levels that will resolve itself in the next year to jump in on someone else’s up and coming OF talent. So I don;t see that happening, either. That’s why Billy Burns was expendable. And the GM who traded for him is no fool.

    The Nationals organization is no longer looking at Syracuse as a repository. They are quite proud to tout how homegrown the talent is at Syracuse in 2014 relative to 2013. They hired away a high grade manager from a lower level (Gardner) and are moving their widely lauded pitching coach Menhart up with Karns and others to AAA. That bodes well for what we should see in AAA this year.

    forensicane

    4 Feb 14 at 10:07 pm

  31. KW I will wait to see if Souza is better than Reddick once he actually gets to the majors. There is a lot more to Reddick then OBP. His defense and base running are both very good and he has a lot of power. For a cheaper left handed power option I still like him. I really do like Josh Donaldson but I don’t see te A’s unloading him next offseason. They will have $15mm available just from Johnson and Gregerson coming off the books and Alberto Callaso is a free agent as well. They won’t be hurting for money to dump a guy who won’t be expensive yet. Brandon Moss could fill the first base void but I don’t dislike the Cespedes idea either. We all seem to know too much about Oakland. I wonder why.

    Pdowdy

    4 Feb 14 at 10:23 pm

  32. Perhaps we should petition Luke Erickson to add coverage of the A’s as the Nats’ AAAA squad . . .

    Some of the trades and a potential Burnett signing would be nice-to-haves, but what really worries me right now is the Nats’ bench. It is substandard by any measure, and time is getting short.

    KW

    5 Feb 14 at 1:00 pm

  33. what, $10M for Nate frigging McLouth wasn’t enough for you ? :-)

    Todd Boss

    5 Feb 14 at 5:04 pm

  34. I’m just tingly all over, particularly when I think about how McLouth may actually be the “best” of the sorry bunch now slated for the pine. Ugh. Snyder may actually be an improvement over Suzuki, but he hasn’t been good since 2011, and that was only in 34 MLB games. So who knows what he has left in the tank. But the C options have been poor all winter. We’ve discussed Hairston (declining, can’t hit RHP) and Moore (immobile, can’t hit LHP) more than enough, not to mention Espinoza. I’m sorry, but this isn’t the bench of a contender.

    Internally, they’ve got Souza, Kobernus, and Walters nearly ready, although you would think they want Walters playing every day at Syracuse to work on his fielding. Among FAs, who is left? Morales made $5.25M last year. If you’re going to give McLouth what he got, I might be willing to go a couple of years for Morales at $5-6M per. He’s a switch hitter and his splits are good from both sides, certainly better than what Moore and Hairston offer. He’d only PH or play 1B, but he would also be insurance if the LaRoche medication adjustment doesn’t slow the aging process. I’m sure he would prefer to be a starter somewhere, but we’re a week away from teams reporting and he doesn’t have a job. He’s more likely ticketed for the AL where he could DH, but he seems to be the best reasonably priced hitter available.

    So how about a bench of McLouth, Morales, Snyder, Souza, and Kobernus? (Save money for Morales by unloading Hairston.) Rendon can cover SS in a pinch like he did last year. And if Espinoza shows up hitting, all the better.

    KW

    5 Feb 14 at 8:29 pm

  35. Morales as in Kendry Morales? No way in hell do the Nats sign him, not with draft compensation assigned. There’s no way that Rizzo gives up another first round pick, especially not for an immobile DH with declining offensive skills. My prediction is that Morales sits until the 2014 draft when the draft compensation goes away and then signs a pro-rated deal that would have equated to roughly $10-$12m annually. Teams will be lined up to sign him come June 6th (or whenever the draft is this year).

    The more I think about it, the more I think Espinosa is going to be the backup infielder whether or not he’s hitting. With lombardozzi gone, they need a guy who can play good D at short. And that is Espinosa much moreso than Fontenot, Carroll or Walters or any one else in camp.

    Todd Boss

    6 Feb 14 at 7:32 am

  36. Oops, forgot that Morales would require compensation. I guess I just didn’t think of him at that level. Same with the compensation-eligible starters still out there. They’re just not *that* good.

    There aren’t many viable hitters still on the board, though. Tyler Colvin, maybe? It’s been a few years since Casey Kotchman was good. The pickings are slim. Any decent upgrade likely would have to come via trade.

    KW

    6 Feb 14 at 7:56 am

  37. On Morales …. of course, the caveat to what I said is … I would have said that two years ago before they signed Soriano, but clearly someone got talked into that deal. Perhaps its because their first round pick was so low, they felt like it could be sacrificed.

    Maybe there’s another trade to be had. I started looking at the tanking teams but didn’t get far…Rizzo may have to get creative. Either that or hope his prospects and bench guys all step up.

    Todd Boss

    6 Feb 14 at 9:19 am

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