Nationals Arm Race

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

Looking ahead to September



Souza was smiling even harder last week upon his MLB debut.  Photo Nats official/Tommy Gilligan

Souza was smiling even harder last week upon his MLB debut. Photo Nats official/Tommy Gilligan

So, this post is for forensicane, who wants to talk about the recent promotions of deserving Nats prospects, talk about September call-ups and some other happenings down on the farm. 🙂

Despite my own best intentions, I have fallen off the wagon a bit in terms of the monthly check-ins that I like to do for the rotations/pitching staffs (both major and minor leagues).  A tough work schedule and a pending job change have conspired against that (and, frankly, the new job probably will further restrict posting).  But I’ll definitely summarize the minor league seasons (which, believe it or not, end in like three weeks!) and do the full-blown reviews that I’ve done in years past.

In the past week we’ve seen two very deserving farmhands get their MLB debuts: Steven Souza and Michael Taylor.  Souza unfortunately got just twelve ABs before slamming into the outfield fence, damaging his shoulder and heading to the D/L.  Which paved the way for Taylor to now join the team, but likely does not help out the major league club much.  Souza had destroyed AAA pitching while Taylor has just 4 games above AA; i’d bet he sees rather limited action until either Souza or Nate McLouth returns from the injured list.  Nonetheless, both promotions were deserved.

Looking ahead to September call-ups, Chase Hughes on NatsInsider took a look at some players who likely get 9/1 call-ups and came up with the expected list of guys who have shuttled back-and-forth between AAA and the Majors this year (Blake TreinenTaylor Hill, Aaron Barrett, Ryan Mattheus, Xavier Cedeno, Tyler Moore and Jhonatan Solano).  He also predicted one 40-man addition/call-up in Matthew Grace, which would be a great reward for his break-out season (and maybe spell the end of the 5.02 ERA Jerry Blevins experiment)?

Of the rest of the 40-man roster not already mentioned, Sammy Solis is on the AA disabled list, Felipe Rivero is also on the D/L (but is putting in re-hab assignments) but doesn’t merit a call-up, Sandy Leon has struggled badly this year and seems to be closer to a DFA than a call-up, Jeff Kobernus may also get a call-up to provide full-field utility needs and Eury Perez probably doesn’t quite need a call-up unless the Nats lose yet another outfielder.

The 40-man roster is full, but the team could easily re-call and 60-day D/L Solis (much like they did with Matthew Purke) to make room.  Solis hasn’t appeared since May 26th and at this point seems done for the year.

I havn’t done significant analysis of the roster moves that will have to happen in the off-season (re-adding 60-day D/L guys, cutting loose free agents, non-tenders and rule-5 additions), but I can see a bit of a glut coming.

  • We have four 60-day D/L guys now and a full 40-man roster.
  • We have four potential FAs … but three of them have options that are possibly attainable/possibly executable (Rafael Soriano‘s “games finished” option, Adam LaRoche‘s $15M mutual option for 2015 and Denard Span‘s decently affordable $9M 2015 option).  It doesn’t help that all three guys are having career years (Span now hitting above .300, LaRoche has the best OPS+ on the team and Soriano’s 1.79 ERA is nearly a career-low), making all these decisions rather difficult.
  • We have a TON of arbitration-eligible guys (at least 12-13 if Cots is correct).
  • We have more than a few guys in the minors who WILL need to be added ahead of Rule-5.  A.J. Cole is the biggest name, but there’s more than a few other names out there probably worth protecting too (scan the Nats draft-tracker for 2014 Rule 5 Eligibles).

A post for another day.

Anyway; have at it.

68 Responses to 'Looking ahead to September'

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  1. I’ll throw in the first kindling, but have to wait till later to write more….

    1) I did not like the Walters trade. (Nor did I like the Billy Burns trade). A rental who provides nothing more than decent 2b defense for a player of potentially higher ceiling that we KNOW can actually pinch hit? Bad move.

    2) I read the Chase Hughes article and comments, and the talent who most sensibly warrants an addition to the 40 Man is mentioned nowhere — Rafael Martin.

    3) Souza to the DL was a peculiar stroke of luck for such a religious fellow. He would have helped the team far more at the plate than will Taylor – who will be a great PR and will not be replacing Denard Span, defensively, particularly frequently. I say that having supplanted Souza with Taylor as the best prospect in the Nats system (Taylor/Souza/Giolito/Cole/Treinen now being the elite five, in that order).

    4) Lots of emerging Dominican talent in the lower minor leagues that will transform the discussion on prospects in the next year.

    5) Great, great move to add Thornton. They kicked the tires on him last winter, decided he was too expensive, traded Burns for Blevins and now walked back that decision for 2015. Well, at least they got him for nothing.

    6) AJ Cole gets no mention here, but he is squarely part of the Jordan Zimmerman discussion. By the end of 2014, he won;t have anything more to prove in AAA. And the team will have the flexibility with Cole, Treinen, and lesser candidates Taylor Hill and the recovering Taylor Jordan to have someone back up the truck and trade in the offseason for Zimmerman. Sell high.

    I am also in the minority here, but I can also see them selling high on Span, particularly if they feel that Taylor or Souza are ready in 2015. Span has been fantastic, but he is at his ceiling and their ceilings (at least Taylor’s) are higher.


    12 Aug 14 at 1:12 pm

  2. PS. For all the belittling I do of pundits who tell us what to think about prospects, there is one fantastic and worthwhile reference now available – Baseball America. They have just published their lists, which are based on interviews and surveys of the league managers. Now THAT is a perspective one can take with confidence.

    I think that our exuberance for Souza and Taylor is well supported from that critical perspective. Not surprisingly, there is not much superlative enthusiasm otherwise for Nats in the mid to low minor leagues.

    I think that, beyond the five elite prospects noted above and now that Walters has been traded (@#%$!), there is a lower tier after that which includes 15 or so others for the whole system (no, I will not consider Fedde until he shows up).

    That does mean that the pond could be well restocked through Karns and Morse types of trades. The system is rich in catching and has some excellent speed guys. And the plethora of injuries give the appearance of depleted pitching depth.

    But some of those guys are NOT going to make it back, maybe many of them. And so even with the draft, minor league pitching depth for a next wave of top arms, post Giolito, has to be a need.

    I know a lot of folks want to trade Detwiler, but count me among those who feel his realized value here will outpace what they would get for him. Perhaps the same is to be said for Danny Espinosa.

    I would not trade Detwiler for something marginal, because simply put, he contributes a lot more than the guy they traded Blevins for. And who knows where Gio is headed in his career?


    12 Aug 14 at 1:29 pm

  3. Walters trade: I was ok with it. I think the team made a decision based on Walters’ likely limits as a MLB player (defense and K rate) versus his upside (20homer power) and went for the known (Cabrera) versus the unknown. If they weren’t in a pennant race … they don’t make that kind of short-term for long-term trade.

    Burns trade: something for nothing, in my opinion. Burns was, what, 9th on the org OF depth chart? Harper, Span, Werth, McLoud, Hairston, Kobernus, Souza, Taylor, Goodwin at least all ahead of him. When was Burns going to get a chance to make an impact for this organization? Never, probably. I say good for him that he’s gotten called up with a platoon-oriented club like Oakland that will mix and match.

    I’m not sure i’d classify Treinen as a “prospect” anymore. He’s shown what he can do at the MLB level. I know he hasn’t yet hit his rookie limits and maybe that’s what defines a “prospect” but so be it. I can see him easily slotting into the back of the rotation in a couple years’ time when the team starts to shed contracts of its existing starters.

    Dominican talent: I freely admit I know nothing of the talent in the lower levels coming up from DSL. Maybe its ignorant, but I’m kind of like “call me when they get to full-season ball.”

    Trade Zimmermann to free a spot for Cole? That’s take some serious stones. This isn’t a poor team, and they’re winning. How could you possibly justify that?

    Todd Boss

    12 Aug 14 at 2:20 pm

  4. Perhaps the question to ask is, would you trade Zimmerman for a James Shields or Mike Morse haul after this year?

    I hear what you are saying about Burns and Blevins. But in September, Burns’ legs would do more for this team in late innings than Blevins’ arm. I have yet to be convinced that Burns as a fifth outfielder would have been worse a contributor than Nate McLouth. Seeing that the team has struggled in extra innings as well, I wonder what elite, elite, elite speed off the bench in late innings would do. Sure worked for the A’s in the Herb Washington days.

    To me, Treinen is still rising. He needs to get himself to that place wherein he can be counted on for more than six innings. We were saying that about Taylor Jordan last year and four innings. He certainly has taken a big leap forward and is still learning.

    As for Walters, I get your opinion and that is the orgo opinion as well. I just have yet to feel inspired by Cabrera. But hey, I think we’ve all come around to Span for the time being, so let’s see if Cabrera’s “veteran presence” adds something….


    12 Aug 14 at 3:03 pm

  5. A couple of more items…

    1) Souza missed a lot of time with a shoulder injury last year. If it is the same shoulder, perhaps the DL is obligatory rest on medical advice. but he sure is being tested by the Lord.

    2) The Dominicans – Difo is hitting so well in the clutch and with men on base. He actually leads the entire organization in RBI — while batting second. Remarkable, even though that meant he was hitting behind Ike Ballou and Rafael Bautista and his 60+ stolen bases. His 2B defense is lauded by SAL managers, per the BBA America survey above.

    Bautista is an electric player with good baseball knowledge and some extra base power to go along with elite SB skills.

    Bautista brought the GCL magic with him. Difo simply had the light go on this year, like Destin Hood.

    It is apparently too early to discern which, among those toolsy players will emerge with the power bats. The most promising so far has been Raudy Read, toiling in Auburn. Surprisingly he was not chosen to the NYPL all-star game.

    And then there is Rey Lopez. He is the fastest rising prospect in the system since June. One of the reasons one reads stats with caution; he jumped into Hagerstown (so the system must see him as special) with no SS experience and at age 20, struggled in a couple of starts, went back to Auburn and became their ace, got to Hagerstwon and he is pitching lights out since that promotion.


    12 Aug 14 at 3:16 pm

  6. I look forward to seeing Souza get some ABs when he gets back from the DL. Hopefully that is when his two weeks are up. I was at the Wednesday game where Fister pitched.

    Souza pinched hit late, and absolutely CRUSHED one to left, just foul by a few feet. It is a shame that he got hurt. With Werth dinged, he could have gotten some PT.

    I do think that the Nats should consider trading a SP this winter to start turning over the rotation. Whether it is JZ, as forensicane suggests, or one of the others, I don’t know. I’d still like to see one of Fister/JZ/Stras extended, so maybe it is Stras that gets traded. Although it will stink if the one guy they locked up for a while (Gio) keeps up this erratic stuff.


    12 Aug 14 at 4:25 pm

  7. On the Dominicans, the one to watch at the moment is definitely Difo, who is having his breakout year as a 22-year-old at Hagerstown (.314/.355/.469 with 12 HRs and 42 SBs to go with only 56 Ks in 531 PAs). Just last night he had a 5-hit game. Bautista is also looking pretty good as a speedy outfielder, but I worry that with his lack of walks (only 26 in 458 PAs) he’ll be another Eury Perez.

    Another guy to keep your eye on in the low minors is Travis Ott, who is sporting a 3.09 ERA with 37 Ks in 44 IPs for Auburn at the tender young age of 19.

    Also, the Nats seem to have a load of promising young catchers (jeez, why couldn’t we have called up Adrian Nieto instead of trading for Lobaton last offseason?). Raudy Reed is leading Auburn in hitting. Pedro Severino is steadily improving his offensive game at Potomac and is already on the prospects list, and Jackson Reetz has had a good debut with the GCL-Nats at only 18. All these guys are, of course, following in the footsteps of Derek Norris. The Nats minor league system does seem to know how to develop catchers.


    12 Aug 14 at 5:01 pm

  8. Respectfully, I think the idea of trading Zimmermann over the offseason to make room for Cole is just crazy. Why do that? This team’s window is open for maybe 4-5 years right now. Zimmermann is locked in for this season and next, which should be prime contending years for this team. Any trade would be for prospects who may not contribute until after the target window, if they contribute at all. And who’s to say that Cole would be successful? Prospects often fail. So the team would be surrendering a vital, proven piece of the rotation who could help you win next season for uncertain prospects who could be years away. The Shields and Morse trades aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons, either. Tampa had to unload Shields because they have major payroll constraints and couldn’t afford him, and the LaRoche extension coupled with the Span trade took away any position to play Morse. He was never long for this team.


    12 Aug 14 at 5:15 pm

  9. Clark – to me, given their window, I think the Nats should avoid breaking in more than 1 rookie SP per year (injuries excluded). Too much pressure on multiple rookies in a win now scenario.

    So if they can’t extend either Fister or JZ on terms that work for the team, I would seriously consider trading one of them this offseason if the return was strong, which it should be. They have Treinen, Cole, maybe Hill and Jordan to look to for #5 -8, so not a bad time for it.


    12 Aug 14 at 5:52 pm

  10. I think Fister is the better investment than Zimm, and I cannot see the team signing all three. Strasburg has the marquee name and again, I cannot see the team signing all three long term. I would love to see them lock up Fister as a top priority, as he is demonstrably the ace of the staff. I cannot see the return for him being as high as for Zimm, because the perception of Zimmerman is higher.

    Now, again, perhaps I am wrong. The Nats are not OBLIGATED to trade Zimmermann. I just think that if thy dangle him and get a very generous offer, and someone may well overpay, then they will have the depth to do it — especially if they get top starting pitching prospect back in return.

    Of course, if the offers are not good enough, the team should keep him. But if they can get a team to overpay, why not?

    Another school of thought is to wait until next spring, or next summer and see where Giolito and the others are. That includes getting a good look at the pitching talent they lost from injury to see how well they are healing (Jordan, Solis)

    But after the spring, value goes down.

    He is Zimmerman, he is not Clayton Kershaw. Now Clark17, your point is well taken on another front. Is the team better off with Zimmerman or Jake Odorizzi? To that I would trust the staff’s evaluation on young pitching – they did go out and get Cole, Treinen, and Krol for Morse. What an unbelievable deal!

    As for Cole, the guy is 22. 22 and was the ace of his staff in AA and carried it over into AAA. As for Treinen, he’s pretty damn close to being a bonafide starter in the ML.

    And, have we really the evidence to say that NO WAY would Detwiler not work out as a starter?

    Strasburg puts people in the seats and he has not yet peaked. Perhaps he will get traded when Giolito is ready; but until both of those things happen, I cannot see this happening.

    And then there is Fedde, and Taylor Jordan. I know, I know.

    So to all of this I would just say that it’s not the NECESSITY of the deal, nor the contractural arrangement. But the opportunity to restock a system that has certain holes and needs depth, because GMs dig the healthy ace and Rizzo knows how to get folks to pay.


    12 Aug 14 at 6:17 pm

  11. Bautista has better pop and better plate discipline than Eury Perez. Let’s see how he advances. The two are Dominican, and that’s that – can’t predict one according to the other.

    But Eury Perez ain’t bad. I dare say that his speed would be an asset to the team and Bob “send ’em” Henley.


    12 Aug 14 at 6:23 pm

  12. I may have been the drum major for the Souza bandwagon in the offseason, but he’s exceeded all expectations. Is he good enough to do it at the next level? Sure would have been nice to have a couple of weeks here to find out. If nothing else, he and Taylor may be playing for a chance to make the postseason roster. (Bench sucks! But then I’ve been saying that since the winter, too.)

    Of course the big question is whether the Nats trust either enough to let Span walk. Considering Span’s big spurt, that’s become more of a tough call. But Span’s career numbers suggest this is a bump, not the norm. I’d make the call to let him go, with Souza, Taylor, Hood, and maybe even Goodwin (despite his poor season) told that the position is wide open next spring.

    The other pending OF question, not as easily addressed if Zimmerman has to go to 1B, is what to do with Werth? He’s clearly slowing down in the OF, and his range factor is one of the worst for his position. I’ve been pushing for a while that the Nats think about him at 1B; Todd hasn’t been so sure about that. At any rate, should Werth end up at 1B, it’s possible that the Nats would have two OF slots open next year. However, I can’t see them doing that; if they move Werth to 1B, I think they bring back Span.

    No one seems to be discussing whether the Nats should re-sign Cabrera. Clearly, he wouldn’t make the $10K he’s making this year, but it’s unlikely he could get that from anyone. Unless Zim is going back to 3B, the Nats need someone. (Sorry Danny, even if you go RH-only.) Let’s say the Nats could get Cabrera at about $7M per for three years with an option year. I’d do that. He fills 2B and gives you an option if for some reason things don’t work out with Desmond.

    In brief for the other items – don’t do the option on LaRoche. His range factor is now toast as well, and he is notorious for big numbers in contract years. (Although I guess 2015 would technically be another contract year!) Plus the Nats have two guys they need to think about moving to 1B. Also don’t pick up the option/vest Soriano. The bottom line there is that they’re going to owe Clippard so much in arbitration that they might as well make him the closer if they’re going to pay him like one.

    Burns – would have never made this team. Right now, it’s hard to see how there would even be a 40-man spot for him. Blevins actually hasn’t been bad until the last few weeks. Thornton was a GREAT insurance policy on that front.

    Walters trade – I was a little surprised, but I don’t hate it. He hadn’t improved his high K rate at all, and it was clear that the Nats didn’t trust him defensively. Boz made some reference in his chat to Walters not fitting in with the MLB clubhouse, which was the first I’d heard of that. Anyway, Cabrera was a significant upgrade defensively for a win-now team, but he didn’t come cheaply.

    NOOOO, don’t trade Zimmermann. We’ve got him through next year (at least). Get that full value out of him. Sure, you could test the trade waters and see what’s out there, but you’d be taking a huge risk breaking up a near-championship rotation, even for a Shields-like deal.


    12 Aug 14 at 8:20 pm

  13. Taylor sure made this thread more interesting tonight.


    12 Aug 14 at 9:31 pm

  14. KW – you make some good points. What it really shows is that the Nats have some serious decisions to make this offseason, and the good news is that they still have a lot of flexibility, which should allow them to make some efficient moves. They have some potential early extension candidates: Ramos, Rendon. Position player decisions (Span, ALR, Zim, 2B). And then the rotation.

    I think a team should always have conversations about their players, you never know when you will be overwhelmed. The Nats have maybe the deepest rotation in baseball, so of course their starters would be attractive to people. As Forensicane said (and I agree), they aren’t going to be able to sign them all. But with a good farm system, shrewd selective trades and extending certain players, there is no reason that the Nats can’t make this a 5 or 6 year window. I think that is achievable, but it probably won’t happen if they just hold on to their guys (esp SPs) until they hit FA and pick up a comp pick. I think they have to make some decisions on who to keep this offseason and trade at least one of the others


    12 Aug 14 at 10:06 pm

  15. I posted this earlier on MASN which goes along with the “Dangle J-Zimm” point which I agree with –

    The salary situation is going to force some shedding of payroll next year to accommodate for raises alone. Here’s the way I see the big adds/subtracts based on Cot’s:


    Soriano -14MM
    LaRoche – 10MM
    Clippard – 5.875MM
    Hairston – 2.5MM
    Ohlendorf – 1.0MM
    Total ~33.5MM

    Werth +1MM
    Gio G + 2.5MM
    J Zimm +9MM
    Des + 4.5MM
    Fister + 6MM?
    Span + 2.5MM
    Stras + 4MM?
    Storen + 2MM
    Thornton + 3.5MM

    Total ~35MM + have to replace those 4 on the roster presumably with rookies. This doesn’t count for A Cabrera who I assume won’t be back and will need a 5th replacement.

    I have to wonder if they try to trade J-Zimm for a 2B and replace him with Cole/Treinan and go with a cheap bullpen (Barrett/Treinan/Grace/Johansen). Maybe they can pay a portion of Werth’s salary to trade him for some help from an AL team? It will definitely be an interesting offseason, which is why I think it’s so important to “go for it” now.

    Andrew R

    12 Aug 14 at 11:21 pm

  16. …and Desmond will be an interesting offseason decision as well.

    Timing makes a huge difference. The Span decision is obviously impacted by OF depth. And no one can predict how fast development paces, within the system. Really, now, as much as Melissa and I were championing Taylor being added to the 40 man last winter, if you told me that a Potomac regular would be where Taylor is now, I would have predicted Brandon Miller.

    The same goes for folks like Wilmer Difo. Maybe Ramos should get an early extension, notwithstanding his injury histoty. Or maybe Severino’s last two months show signs that he is going to take off at age 22 and the team is better off without a long term contract blocking him?

    The Ryan Zimmerman situation cannot feel too comfortable right now. I wonder how much that plays into organizational thinking. The team has learned many lessons since they offered Prince Fielder the moon.


    12 Aug 14 at 11:23 pm

  17. Question is how much is Ramos worth assuming he is a 100 game/yr catcher? I think that is still worth exploring a big extension because he’s so good when he plays. 5yrs $50MM? I’d have to think both do that considering the injury history vs performance.

    I also have to think that someone would take Werth if the Nats paid $15-20MM of that contract. He’s better than Beltran as of last offseason.

    Andrew R

    12 Aug 14 at 11:30 pm

  18. I can’t see Werth playing anywhere but DC. He is so much the leader of the team. A conversion to 1B would happen first, especially because Skole is not there yet.

    Back to Eury (don’t get no respect)Perez. The guy has as many walks in half the plate appearances of last year — and no greater the rate of strikeouts. He’s stealing bases at a pretty insane clip — and this is post foot injury. So I am not inclined to sleep on him, and with him already on the 40 man, there is no reason for us not to see him in September for his legs alone.


    12 Aug 14 at 11:39 pm

  19. I’m fairly down on the Werth leadership. First came the DeRosa comments on MLBN that Werth wasn’t leading well enough with the Harp/MW situation. Second, I hear that he has asked not to be moved out of the #3 spot in the lineup. Third, I read he had a reckless driving charge recently. Finally and this is a dumb one… I don’t like the crazy beard – feels too nonconformist for a leader. I think Werth has been a fantastic hitter and did a great deal to change the culture on the Nats, but it feels like time to hand the reins to the young guys like Des, Harp and Rendon. Werth is also highly replaceable next year with Zimm on 1B and Souza/Taylor in the OF.

    Andrew R

    12 Aug 14 at 11:43 pm

  20. Todd, it is premature, of course, but a quick read tells me that the 40 man should not be hard to manage, no matter what the decisions on the free agents.

    As I see it, there are basically five guys who arguably warrant adding to the 40 Man:


    and there are SEVEN guys on the DL…..

    Maybe one takes a chance on Hood, but the skinny is that he has more power than he has shown.

    So there are plenty of folks to kick off the island.


    …and then there is Soriano, McLouth, Blevins, and Espinosa.

    Again, call me annoying, but I can;t see why Rafael Martin can’t be given a shot in September to show his wares on the big stage. His is one of the top stories in the Nats minor leagues this year.

    Yes, for every Brad Meyers, some folks come back from oblivion.


    12 Aug 14 at 11:57 pm

  21. Interesting point on Werth, Andrew. Maybe it comes down to whether they sign Desi long term. Desi has the leadership *it* – perhaps enough to graduate from JWerth, especially if his reputation is marketable still, and his skills can yield a return if the Nats eat some salary.

    Harper is not there yet. Rendon is too new. But with LaRoche going, the team will need some of that gravitas.

    I still believe in Werth. The guy takes care of himself and I think he has it in him to play beyond the years of his current contract. Certainly he’d be a big target at 1B. I know RZimm has the contract, but Werth still seems more valuable, even older.


    13 Aug 14 at 12:03 am

  22. Agree forensicane. I’m not doubting Werth’s abilities going forward, but feel like we may have “graduated” from needing him like we have in past years. I think Desi is fantastic and besides swinging too hard sometimes, he carries himself the right way and is the right leader going forward.

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 12:09 am

  23. One more thing about Werth that adds to his value. The guy is more than a leader — he is a champion. Like a Jeter/Papi/Gibson kind of champion.

    For a team that is trying to get a ring, that means even more than leadership. So perhaps we have room to make, but if Taylor and Souza force the issue, I’m with KW and leveraging Span’s year, which may indeed be a bump. And even if it is not, they trade from a position of strength and he is all the more marketable for his salary.


    13 Aug 14 at 12:22 am

  24. Taylor is clearly quite the quietly charismatic player. The response from the team to his game was very personal and more than I recall for other rookies like Tyler Moore and Zach Walters. Hopefully that is telling in a good way.

    Maybe it’s because of his humility, and that he looks like a child. Or maybe he’s actually just damn good.


    13 Aug 14 at 12:32 am

  25. I think the Nats have known since they signed him that Werth’s leadership would be a bit quirky, and it is. But it’s there. And no, he isn’t going anywhere. No one else is going to take on that contract. So . . . first base?

    On that score, I forgot the scenario of Zim to LF, which would leave 1B for Werth. We’d still need a 2B, but I still think Cabrera can be retained at a semi-reasonable price, if he’s being realistic. So Zim to LF, Span allowed to walk (freeing the money for Cabrera), and one of the newbies joining Zim and Harper in the OF.

    40-man/Rule 5: yes, some real tough calls there. Protecting Cole is a no-brainer. I’ve been a Skole fan, but he hasn’t stepped up this year and is getting older. With 40-man slots scarce, I’d probably take a chance that he couldn’t make someone else’s MLB roster next year. I’d much rather protect Hood, even though that would give the Nats a glut of MiLB OFs, as they’ll likely protect Goodwin as well. They probably need to trade Perez, perhaps for an IF prospect. I’m surprised that another team hasn’t come calling already for T-Mo’s bat.

    For the rest of the team-building, I’d try to get Desmond and Fister deals done this offseason. I’d talk to Zimmermann, but someone has convinced him that he can get $18-20M per for six or seven years, and he’s not getting that here. Still, I’d ride him all the way through 2015 unless an amazing deal presents itself. Are there any more Fisters out there? Gotta give Rizzo some serious props for that guy. I just hope we can keep him for a reasonable price for a guy who will be in his 30s.


    13 Aug 14 at 5:20 am

  26. Most people want to let ALR go – makes sense. We could use the position for Zim or Werth. But the argument to keep him is LH. Without him, only Bryce has LH pop, and that seems unbalanced. If Span goes too….

    Werth – I wouldn’t mind a trade if they could do it and then keep ALR for another year, because with Souza and Taylor, there look like capable, young replacements. But the guy deserves some credit too: when he signed his contract, and then the others after him signing $100+m deals, did you ever think that his would look like one of the better ones? Especially after his first year or two. I am almost shocked at his last few years. He never shows up on any of the ‘worst contract’ lists any more.

    Desi – love the guy, and agree with all the leadership comments. But he finishes next year at 30, and it may take 6/$110m to resign him, and that could be a real problem after a few more years. I don’t know if I would do that, as much as I like him. This is where a trade of an sP could come in: there seem to be a lot of young SS possibilities. CHI would probably have high interest in one of our SPs, and likely offer one of their young SS in return (not Russell or Baez), as just one example.

    Ramos – he hasn’t made any big money yet, and with his injury history, I wonder if they could get him more cheaply than 5/$50. I was thinking that he might jump at a 4/$30m deal with a few team options. That is the kind of deal that would let them make room for a Severino or Read, when ready (and if they show they deserve it).

    Rendon will be harder to extend. There is Boras, but he also doesn’t strike me as a guy that would necessarily worry too much about locking in money, but they should give it a try now. If they wait much longer, he’ll just wait for FA.


    13 Aug 14 at 7:22 am

  27. Man, I can’t believe the great discussion here. I had plenty of feedback on stuff but now they’re buried 20 comments deep 🙂

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 8:16 am

  28. There are likely NOT going to be a lot of changes to the big club’s roster this offseason, as management is no doubt considering 2015 to be the last year that “the window is open” for the current crew. With his offensive surge, Span will almost certainly be brought back considering that $9 million is pretty cheap for a halfway decent veteran (also gives Taylor a little more time to get seasoned at AAA). Werth is also not going anywhere–contract is way too large, though he might make more sense at 1B than Zimmerman, especially since the latter seemed to take well to playing LF.

    I see them going into next year with all three big name pending free agents still in the fold, and maybe they will retain one of the three (Desmond most likely as they don’t have another close to MLB ready SS option). The one guy I don’t see coming back is Soriano. Clippard would probably be a good option as a closer entering a contract season. It would also nearly guarantee that Clip would be yet another “Type A” free agent, giving the Nats at least three if not four extra draft picks for 2016 when the rebuilding process begins. The 2016 offseasn could also see a trade of Strasburg when he’ll have one year of team control remaining.

    The “next generation” Nats will then be taking their places in 2016 led by Giolito, Cole, Taylor, possibly Souza (and any other “breakout” prospects who prove they can cut it like possibly Voth and Difo) and holdovers Ramos, Rendon, Harper, ZImmerman and Werth.


    13 Aug 14 at 8:25 am

  29. Payroll dictates that there will be some changes. The Nats likely wont, nor should they need to become a $150mm team. Alr has to go to open up space for werth or rzimm and soriano will be a salary dump. To bring any other guys in, they will have to get creative with getting rid of other guys (im suggesting clip will go).

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 8:58 am

  30. @Andrew R – The departures of LaRoche and Soriano would absorb rising costs elsewhere. In any event, they likely will not let go of both Soriano and Clippard as that would mean losing way too much experience out of the pen for a team that expects to contend again next year. Clippard has earned his chance to be a closer, and with next year being his last year of team control, they don’t have to worry about saves greatly inflating his value in arbitration anymore.


    13 Aug 14 at 9:09 am

  31. I don’t think Werth can be moved easily. I thought he has a full no trade clause.

    I think Detwiler and maybe Moore get traded in the offseason. I would remove Davis, Purke and Ohlendorf from the 40 man to go along with FAs: LaRoche, Soriano, Hairston, Cabrera and Frandsen.

    They might consider DFA’ing McLouth after the season if they feel Souza/Taylor are ready to play.

    I think they’ll pick up Span’s option, but wonder if they’ll trade him after that (if they think Taylor is ready for everyday). Lots of teams need CFers and Span’s option is pretty affordable.

    Tom L

    13 Aug 14 at 9:47 am

  32. Do you guys realize that the Nats have the 2nd highest paid bullpen in the majors, trailing only the profligate Dodgers? $26M they were paying at the beginning of the year. The Braves entire bullpen last year cost less than what Soriano makes in one year. Point is they’re spending WAY too much on the pen and thats one place some changes are needed. Soriano needs to go, re-install Storen as the closer and pay him his arb rate. Flip Clippard to a team that needs a “proven closer” and is willing to pay for it, and then depend on the likes of Barrett , Davis, Mattheus, Treinen, etc to be the middle relief RHPs. Lets be honest; you can find guys on the waiver wire who can pitch a decent 7th inning from the right hand side.

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 9:52 am

  33. People talking about Werth getting traded are crazy. Too much money, too many roots here. NO-trade, bought a house in DC, moved the family, etc etc.

    Also, the core of this team isn’t going anywhere as long as the team is winning. Nobody’s moving Zimmermann, Desmond, Fister, etc etc. That’s just crazy. I mean, yes I like the prospects and I like what we see coming up in the minors, but there’s a massive gulf between even a replacement level major leaguer and a guy who is hitting .280 in AAA.

    Purke getting removed from 40-man; won’t happen, because he’ll *immediately* get snapped up by someone else. He’s a former 1-1 talent with a $4M bonus who still has two years before a roster move is required. If you’re the Nats management, you’re holding on to him to see if you can get something, anything out of your investment. Now guys like Davis, Ohlendorf, and Mattheus are fungible replacements; right handed relievers. Dime a dozen in this game. Those I can see.

    McLouth? $5M in 2015. He’s not going anywhere either. How quickly we forget that these guys have guaranteed contracts and the Lerners didn’t make their billions by lighting money on fire.

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 9:58 am

  34. Todd, smart businessmen have a budget and understand not sinking more into sunk costs. I don’t see them breaking $150MM and that will cause them to be creative. Yes, I think that starts with the bullpen just as you said…

    But, McL is a sunk cost and if they can get someone to bite on half of his contract, you’ve gotta do it. He’s a disaster. Unfortunately, Purke is a sunk cost as well and I wouldn’t protect him over guys like Hood, Goodwin, or even Matt Grace if there is a question. Too bad we kept Garcia over Nieto this past year.

    I’m not suggesting Werth or J-Zimm WILL get traded, but that based on payroll considerations, I’d see if there is an opportunity there to make a good swap and get a new second baseman. And, Span has had such a good season and is so reasonably priced for 2015 that perhaps we can get a strong MiLB pitcher or 2nd baseman for him – then Rizzo looks like a genius. Cole/Treinan are ready to go as are Taylor/Souza and I just don’t see the Lerners going over $150MM.

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 10:11 am

  35. I know the argument frequently made about “sunk costs” with regard to players. But I don’t buy it. You commit $10M over two years to McLouth and one quarter of the way through the contract he’s struggling. I don’t think you then say, “well its a sunk cost” and cut him. Not based on what you hired him to do (be a 4th outfielder/insurance policy). To a certain extent its the same with Purke: they committed $4M in bonus money to him and they control his rights for a set number of years. I think the organization says to themselves, “well, we hold on to him as long as we can, hoping that our $4M investment pays off.” They don’t say, “well he’s hurt and has struggled so lets cut him.” That’s why he was 60-day D/L’d instead of DFAd earlier this season.

    Its about “investments” in players versus “costs” for players, from an economic sense. If tomorrow McLouth comes back and suddenly plays like an all-star center fielder again, the investment in him is worth it. If Purke comes back and becomes a shut-down lefty matchup guy … then $4M is worth it.

    Why would *anyone* want McLouth in trade right now?

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 10:26 am

  36. If nobody else wants him at any price, then why do we? Sure, he could return to what we hoped him to be, but if scouts thought that, then there should be an active trade market.

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 10:32 am

  37. The argument about Werth and McLouth goes for Goodwin as well. With a $3 million signing bonus in his pocket, he’ll be placed on the 40-man and given at least two more years to try and turn things around.

    And what is with all the desire to “protect” Hood? True, the dude is batting much better this year, but his power and stolen base numbers are so-so, and that’s at AAA. He’s also behind McLouth, Taylor and Souza on the outfield depth chart. Since he’ll be a minor league FA at the end of this year, my bet is he will not be back.

    On Tyler Moore, he probably will not be traded since other teams know that he is out of options and will likely to be DFA’ed next spring if not sooner.

    Detwiler also makes too much money to have any trade value as a mediocre middle reliever, which is what he is at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is DFA’ed after the season to clear roster space and save on his salary.


    13 Aug 14 at 10:44 am

  38. Andrew, you’re talking fantasy-land baseball. You’re admitting that no team wants McLouth, so let’s cut our losses and clear the roster spot 1/3 of the way through a two-year contract. Sure, all baseball contracts are sunk costs because they’re guaranteed, but that’s the reason you *don’t* cut him, not the reason you do. Since the money is lost, you have to give the player a chance to rebound. If McLouth is still playing like this in August 2015, then by all means release him. But the Nats will look pretty stupid if they DFA the guy, he bounces back somewhere else next year, and they’re paying $5M to a guy who’s raking the ball for another team. It might feel good to cut him now, but the Nats gain nothing by doing it.


    13 Aug 14 at 10:46 am

  39. @Andrew R – how many times does it happen that a veteran player who looks like absolute crap one year suddenly bouces back the next? Remember Laroche’s first year in a Nats’ uniform, or even last year compared to this season? Since they have to pay McLouth the $5 million anyway and no one else will take him in a trade without us paying all or most of his salary, they’ll almost certainly give him another chance to redeem himself. If he’s still stinking up the joint come next July, that’s when they’re likely to dump him.

    My guess is that Souza joins McLouth on the bench as reserve outfielders next year while Taylor starts the year at starting every day AAA, ready to be called up as injuries and ineffectiveness dictates. Span being traded IS a possibility, but as we’ve seen repeatedly, this regime prefers veterean players as it is making its run for a championship. Taylor will only be 24 next season and will have two options remaining. There’s no reason to rush him as long as Span is a reasonably priced answer in CF, and they are not going to want to have him sitting on the bench for long periods.


    13 Aug 14 at 10:58 am

  40. @bdrube, the ones who come back and play well are far more memorable than the many more who aren’t good the second year. Nats bench guys – Tracy, Hairston, for instance… You can’t make decisions worrying about if you may possibly look stupid if a guy does a 360.

    All I’m saying is that if McLouth is one of your best 25, you keep him and if he’s not, you Dan Uggla him.

    Rizzo/MW definitely prefer veterans, but they’re up against their payroll cap for 2015, so tough choices will have to be made.

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 11:07 am

  41. @Andrew R – Unfortunately, no team ever keeps its “best 25” on its roster. Taylor is probably better right now than anyone on the Nats’ bench, but we’re probably not going to see him much in DC until a starting spot opens for him becuase they want to do everything they can to foster his development before he starts playing every day. Similarly, Rafael “Beer League” Martin is currently sporting a nice crisp 0.00 ERA as a reliever at AAA, but he isn’t on the 40-man roster and Detwiler is the one making $3 million this year and is thus not going anywhere. Just like first round draftees and bonus babies get every chance to make the bigs versus the 25th rounder who may never end up with more than a cup of coffee despite putting up big AAA numbers, that is just the relaity of the economics of the game.


    13 Aug 14 at 12:08 pm

  42. I’m not sure any of us really knows the “payroll cap.” Has Lerner ever definitively said “130M and that’s it?” I mean, lets be honest, we’re talking about the wealthiest (or close to it) owner in the game. If he insists on running the team at break even or a small profit that’s one thign … but we’ll never know b/c the finances are private.

    What if the masn deal finally comes through and suddenly they’re getting $75m/year instead of $29M/year? That means an instant bump from 130 to 175M right?

    Follow-up on the sunk cost argument; yes paying good money after bad means something …. but not in baseball. Consider this: lets say you leased an item for $100 and had use of it for 2 years. You had to pay $100 up front. But one quarter of the way through you’re not using the item anymore. Do you throw it away? No of course not; you hang on to it for the duration of the “lease” because, well, you never know when you might want to try it again. This is how I view baseball contracts. Because the contracts are 100% guaranteed, it isn’t the same as making the “good money after bad” argument with sunk costs. No matter what you do, you’re paying the freight. This is kind of why I was shocked the Oakland A’s released Johnson and his $10M deal; if that was our pitcher on this team, you know what would have happened? He would have suddenly come down with “shoulder soreness” and gone on the D/L and gone to Viera to work on things.

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 12:14 pm

  43. Completely agree on “contract year performance” sudden improvements for vets. And there’s proof to the claim that players play better in contract years. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see McLoud tear it up next year.

    Presence on the 40-man roster is *huge* here. Once you get on, its really, really tough to get off in a way that benefits the team. And once you fall off … its really tough to get back on.

    Look at our 40-man roster right now (excluding the 60day d/l guys) and ask yourself who would you drop to make a spot for Matt Grace, Rafael Martin, etc?
    – Treinen, Hill, Barrett: no way
    – Mattheus and/or Cedeno: not in the middle of a pennant race; they’re your backups and both have proven track record in the majors when healthy.
    – Leon or Solano: nope; you don’t drop a catcher until you have to
    – Moore? doubtful; he has value in trade
    – Solis? No way; he’s still considered a top prospect
    – Rivero? despite his crummy season, he was a marquee part of the Karns trade and they’re not dumping him so fast.
    – Kobernus and/or Eury Perez? Probably candidates 1a and 1b if it came to it.
    – Frandsen, McLouth, Hairston: your backups on the MLB roster … all have defects, but all are major league players. Taylor is a AA guy who may or may not be able to hang in the majors. Souza is a AAA guy with the same concern. This team isn’t going to dump a veteran to experiment with some rookie in the middle of a pennant race.

    I’m not sure you *can* dump a guy while he’s on the 60-day d/l (that seems to be a greivance issue) … so that counts out two other candidates Davis and Ohlendorf. But come the end of the season, you have to t hink that Ohlendorf and Davis may be first ones out the door if space is needed.

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 12:26 pm

  44. This discussion of roster management has turned into one that prioritizes economics. The Lerners have only said that they have a ceiling on what they WANT to spend, not that they have no money and CANNOT.

    Championships create their own revenue and impact budgets accordingly. The ownership is investing to create a championship. They apparently have a relatedness to Rizzo that if he tells them that he needs money to put the team over the top, they will come through. They spent on Werth, they spent on Zimmerman, they have tried to sign JZimmerman and Desmond and are still trying. They paid heavily for McLouth knowing he would be a backup outfielder. Before the CBA changed things, they spent plenty on the amateurs. They went all in on Prince Fielder.

    And they are flexible. Matt Thornton was one of several desirable lefties whose price tag was too expensive last winter, like Sean Burnett before him and Howell and other coveted pieces. Well, guess what? They tried the Jerry Blevins route and that failed. Rizzo called and they have just committed another 4.5 million to the payroll.

    So my impression of the Lerners is that they are measured businessmen who are not cheap but make Rizzo think and act like a prudent businessman. They are not Dan Snyder. they are not Mark Cuban. Nor are they the small market owners the Expos were, or the sociopath that Loria is.

    This discussion has morphed into one that applies heavy beancounting emphasis. Does not apply, when you consider (as Todd pointed out) that the Nats have the second most expensive bullpen in baseball.

    Minor league depth enables payroll to be lowered. But not at the expense of championships, in this franchise. The team has a few chips in the minors that they have determined are the blocks of a championship team. Giolito is one. Perhaps, perhaps Taylor and Souza are two others. But otherwise, even in the case of AJ Cole, I cannot see anyone being “untouchable” if it brings a championship piece, and that is what the team is after.

    With that said, I can appreciate the economics of the Purke argument that Todd makes. The team has two more years of control over him, he has remnants of dominant stuff and the cache, maybe he can make it. On the other hand, we do not know the nature of his injury. The team has said that they will invest in elbows, but not shoulders. And so Christian Garcia is gone. Perhaps the fate of Purke is tied into the nature of his injury and of his commitment to rehab. We have no idea what is going on with him — for all we know, he has a Dan Haren injury and is in a laboratory with Brett Mooneyham, Blake Schwartz, and other fallen stars relearning how to pitch at a high level before being tossed back into the field. So I can appreciate the economics of a 40-man decision that doesn’t HAVE to be made now.

    On the other hand, the 40 man roster is not the 25 man roster. The team has ample experience with folks who overstayed their welcome, waiting to rejuvenate careers — Matt Stairs, Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, Chad Tracy. We witnessed the unrequited waiting for Henry Rodriguez and continue to wait for the “young, controllable” Danny Espinosa to come into his own. And Scott Hairston is still warming a seat while Souza is forced to the DL.

    I do think that the organization is better at cutting bait, but has not yet shown the tendency to eat coin (better to trade it, even for a bag of balls). So you may be right about McLouth.

    The McLouth and Purke issues are therefore different. A 25 man roster decision affects a championship run. I could see McLouth being dumped in the offseason in an offseason deal involving a number of players, in order to clear his salary. Perhaps if he is packaged, he will have more value than absolute zero.

    I do think that when playing for a championship, the team’s roster construction decisions do have to seriously account for what talents are available from below. The Souza-Taylor decisons are not made based on being on the bench, because the team does not want them to lose at bats that stalls their development.

    But there is talent at the AAA level right now that could be reasonable replacements at the ML level for higher priced players. It’s arguable, but Burruss, Eury Perez, and Sandy Leon-Solano approximate folks drawing ML salary.

    I don’t yet know what to make of Cabrera. But the Nats have a good talent eye. That is an interesting “playing-for-contract” gamble.

    Todd – I would drop Mattheus from 40 man for Martin in a heartbeat. As for the left side, it depends – if the team wants to bring up Cedeno, there is no need to add Grace. If Grace is special beyond his ERA, then Cedeno is lower on the depth chart anyway, so the decision makes itself.


    13 Aug 14 at 1:11 pm

  45. The trade scenarios this year for the Nats are much wider open.

    Pitching – This year, the team will go into the off-season without any demonstrable pitching NEED. Fister and Roark (ah, development from within) rendered the EJax-Haren-5th starter quest resolved. Thornton, Detwiler, and Blevins have resolved the LH reliever maw for now. And the bullpen is already very high priced and deep.

    What the team has is tradeable commodities under its control that may have greater tradeable value than they will have in a year. If the team aims to sign Fister, Zimmerman, and Strasburg, this is moot. But if the team cannot, that player is all the better of a chip than Morse ever was.

    When you consider that Span may be replaceable, the team may have exceptional talents that can even be packaged together to lesser teams with either amazing prospects to bundle, almost like a Marlins-Blue Jays deal, or in a Red Sox-A’s trade o superstars, bundling quality for a missing piece that the Nats would consider an upgrade.

    Consider whether you there is any superstar controllable LH starter you would trade a package including Zimm for — if they cannot sign him. Or what player you would love to see on the Nats that a package including Zimm could get — Stanton? We already know they inquired on Beltre.

    All I mean to suggest is that the development at the upper minors, and surplus at certain positions is making a lot of things possible. Rizzo knows who he really likes. It makes for a great off season.

    Rumors rose on mark’s board of a three team deal being discussed involving the Nats, before this past deadline. Makes you wonder….


    13 Aug 14 at 1:26 pm

  46. Rafael Martin > Ryan Mattheus right now for sure. Mattheus has been awful in AAA while Martin has been great. Mattheus hasn’t been effective basically since he got hurt, he’s now on the wrong side of 30, was awful for the MLB team last year, and probably gets a release at season’s end. Hate to see it, but that’s the way it goes. Such is life for right handed relievers.

    BUUuuuuut Mattheus is on the 40-man, Martin is not. Maybe that changes on 9/1.

    You can make almost the same points on Cedeno versus Grace as a lefty call-up.

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 1:36 pm

  47. RE: 60-day DL. Those guys do not “count” against the 40-man cap as long as they remain on the 60-day DL. After the season, however, they have to be either fully reinstated on the 40-man, or dropped. It’s part of the juggling process teams go through with their rosters at the beginning of each off season.

    Just so you can take your potshots at me–here is who I suspect will be dropped from the 40-man after this season:

    Jerry Blevins – unless the the light goes back on and he killis it down the stretch.

    Erik Davis – maybe they give him another shot next year if they have the room on the 40-man, but as a cup-of-coffee, then injured, middle reliver his trajectory looks like it is headed in the same direction as Cole Kimball and Christian Garcia.

    Ross Detwiler – already making $3 million as a middle reliever and will be headed to arbitration again if kept around.

    Ryan Mattheus – will be out of options next year–trade value very minimal.

    Ross Ohlendorf – got $1 million bucks of Uncle Teddy’s money to pitch 10 minor league innings this year.

    Rafael Soriano – team option will almost certainly not be picked up.

    Craig Stammen – borderline case given his salary/role. Might be a trade candidate.

    Sandy Leon/Jhonatan Solano – might be kept through spring training, but both are out of options and are not good enough to win the backup catcher spot.

    Asdrubal Cabrera – will be a free agent. Still fairly young. If his demands are reasonable, might be brought back as the starting second baseman.

    Tyler Moore – might stick through spring training, but will be out of options.

    Kevin Frandsen – likely will be released outright.

    Jeff Kobernus – light hitter hitting even lghter at AAA this year.

    Ery Perez – will be out of options and has been passed by Taylor and Souza on the outfield depth chart.

    Scatt Hairston – another candidate for outright release.

    Tha’s up to 15 guys who could potentially get the axe with only 2 to be reinstated from 60-day DL (Purke and Jordan).


    13 Aug 14 at 1:45 pm

  48. bdrube; great analysis. You’re killing me; i wanted to write that comment as a blog post in early november 🙂

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 2:48 pm

  49. Bdrube; can’t disagree too much with any of your choices. The lack of options for lots of guys will come into play. I think Ohlendorf on a mlb min salary is a decent investment unless he’s still hurt. I like STammen signing another 2 year deal. I like Moore as a trade candidate to a rebuilding team like Houston, Chicago, etc.

    Todd Boss

    13 Aug 14 at 2:50 pm

  50. A lot of good stuff here; too much to try to digest in one sitting. Great job, all!

    The Nationals’ Opening Day 2015 roster is pretty much set. Barring injury/disaster it’s going to be:

    Rotation: Stras/Gio/JZim/Fister/Roark. What’s not to like?
    Bullpen: RH: Clippard/Storen/Barrett/Stammen; LH: Thornton/Blevins. One spot open there, with a lot of potential candidates.
    OF: Harper/Span/Werth/McLouth/Souza. Taylor will be in AAA playing every day.
    IF: Zimmerman/Rendon/Desmond/[2b; I think Cabrera is a likely re-sign, but hard to tell]. Espinosa will be one backup, both to see whether abandoning switch hitting helps and as an inexpensive PR/defensive replacement/insurance in case Desmond leaves. One open roster slot, Tyler Moore’s best chance (though I’m not optimistic).
    C: Ramos and Lobaton.

    LaRoche and Soriano will be cost casualties; Span is an easy return because (a) he’s still relatively inexpensive; and (b) he’s not going to bring much in a trade that will impact the team’s 2015 success. And 2015 is the prime consideration.

    Which is also why Jordan Zimmermann isn’t going anywhere. Anything he brings is going to have to result in a net benefit to the team in 2015 as well as the uncertain future. Good luck with that. Yes, he’s good, but he’s going to be expensive ($16.5M) next year and is a rental player. Look at what the Rays just got for David Price (who is under team control through next year as well).

    Now is it possible that the Nats package JZim and Span for an impact 2b? Sure, in principle, I guess. But who is that going to be? You need to find the player that’s going to be all that and a bag of chips and hope that the team needs a couple of rental players (and is willing to spend $26M for them, too). Don’t bet on that.

    John C.

    13 Aug 14 at 5:42 pm

  51. Who is the smartest GM in baseball? Most would say Billy Beane, the guy who routinely trades his stars before they reach FA or get too expensive. He’s also the guy who dumped $10MM/yr Jim Johnson – if a guy stinks, can’t keep him around.

    With my GM hat on, I would definitely shop J-Zimm and Span this offseason. Both are reasonable rentals and could fetch some talent to displace Espy, Cabrera, and McLouth and also fill up the farm system. Cole, Treinan or Jordan can take the 5 spot and prepare for 2016 when Giolito can take Fister or Stras’ spot. It’s irrelevant how rich the Lerners are – you have to assume they aren’t looking to lose much, if any, money.

    IF the MASN deal gets sorted out, I wouldn’t necessarily change the above, but I would push hard to sign Harp, Rendon, Ramos and Desmond long-term to huge/massive. As we discussed on an earlier thread, signing pitchers long-term is way too risky and good hitters are a much better bet. Blow those guys away with huge deals and lock them up. It will cost us another $40-50MM/yr for those guys, eating up a chunk of the MASN increase. If MASN doesn’t get sorted out, we’re potentially at risk of losing 1 or 2 of those guys in a few years.

    Andrew R

    13 Aug 14 at 6:06 pm

  52. Trading for a quality second baseman; who though? I mean, who out there is a quality 2B that would be an upgrade over internal options and who is available in trade/FA?

    Perusing the MLB depth charts for 2B, lets zoom around the majors and look at the starting 2B for all 30 clubs:
    – Franchise players/bigtime prospects/Not likely to be moved: Pedroia (Bos), Kinsler (Det), Altuve (Hou), Cano (Sea), Zobrist (TB), Profar (Tex), Odor (Tex), Hill (Ari), Baez (CHC), Phillips (Cin) , Gennett (Mil), Utley (Phi), Walker (Pit), Wong (stl)

    – Uninspiring/not any better than what we have: Schoop (Bal), Beckham (CWS), Infante (KC), Kendrick (LAA), Drew (NYY), Callaspo or whoever in Oakland, Tolleson/Kawasaki (Tor), La Stella or whoever in Atl, LeMahieu (Col), Gordon (LAD), whoever they’re playing at 2nd in Mia, Flores/Tejada (NYM), Scutaro (SF),

    FAs to be of any interest: Zobrist (but he has an option), Weeks (but he’s been awful), Uggla (ditto), Stephen Drew (meh), Brian Roberts (who just got cut), Bonifacio (double meh).

    So that leaves by my count a few possibilities: Dozier (Min), Kipnis (Cle), Gyorko (SD).

    Maybe one of the untouchables above is obtainable. But I don’t think so. The Nats don’t have a whole heck of a lot in the pipeline at middle infield; Kobernus played 2B in college and is on the 40-man but clearly is thought to be an outfielder now. Rhymes and Burriss in AAA are both MLFA/journeymen (coincidentally both with local ties). Dykstra/Martinson in AA are old/struggling. Renda/Perez in Potomac are both 2012 high draft picks who have had decent seasons but are each at least 2+ seasons away. There’s no point looking any further down since we have a “now” problem.


    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 14 at 8:08 am

  53. As it so happens, just last night I went down to Potomac and saw the P-Nats for the second time this season. If we’re hoping for Perez and/or Renda to be our future second baseman, were in trouble. Renda looks like someone’s little kid brother was allowed on to the field. In the first game I saw him play, Austin Voth had a no hitter going in the fifth inning when an opposing batter hit a liner right at Renda, who jumped as high as he could but didn’t even get a glove on it. Espinosa probably catches that ball while barely leaving his feet (he also made a terrible error on a routine grounder last night, but that could happen to anybody once in awhile).

    Perez meanwhile, by my admittedly untrained eye, has lousy range. He totally whiffed on a hard hit grounder to his right last night he should have had easily, in part because he made the cardinal mistake of not getting his body behind the ball. It should also be emphasized that there two guys have almost no power (literally zero in Renda’s case, as that’s how many home runs he’s hit this year). Also, they are both already 23, which was the exact age Desmond was when he was first called up.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see Difo play yet. but statistically he looks terrific this year. Of course, as a one year wonde, he’ll have to prove next year that he wasn’t a fluke. In any event, I seriously doubt that even if he is the real deal that he would be ready to replace Desmond by 2016.

    Bottom line for me is Uncle Teddy has to open up the checkbook and pay Ian what he wants, or the Nats are destined to suffer from sub-optimal SS production for awhile starting in 2016.


    14 Aug 14 at 8:34 am

  54. Oops–I kind of swung that last post to the SS end of things, but it applies to 2B as well. Asdrubal may have been traded to the right place. If he fits in well with the rest of the team, produces down the stretch and keeps his speed on the beltway below 105 MPH (rimshot), he might just get a decent FA deal here despite having his production fall off since his All Star days.


    14 Aug 14 at 8:41 am

  55. Rendon could be the 2b.

    But, Matt Carpenter is another guy. Kipnis will be available if Walters keeps hitting Walkoffs… We match up nicely with the cubs for Castro or Baez and I could see the rangers trading Profar as they are stacked in the IF.

    3b includes Sandoval (fa), Donaldson, Alvarez, Arenado, and… A-Rod.

    Andrew R

    14 Aug 14 at 9:16 am

  56. Rendon as long term 2b solution: don’t see it. I see Zimmerman being put out to pasture, so to speak, either in LF or 1B. I think even he realizes his days of playing competent 3B are gone. I was incredibly happy to see he could play a competent LF (gives him more positional flexibility). But Rendon has shown himself to be a plus defender at 3B. I think the move is going to be to say good bye to LaRoche, install Zim at first, Rendon at 3b and find a 2b solution.

    Despite Zim’s ability in LF, there’s just no outfield room. If Zim is in LF, where is Harper? If Harper moves to RF, where is Werth? If Harper is in center, than we’re saying the team is dumping Span and sacrificing defense in center AND delaying Michael Taylor. And Souza. And then who bats leadoff? Tooooo many ifs in that sentence.

    Cubs would want pitching for Castro/Baez. Do we want to give up Cole or Giolito? That’s at least what a guy like Baez would cost. Generally speaking you’re just not going to see prospect for prospect trades.

    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 14 at 9:38 am

  57. What’s the difference between finding a 2b or 3b wrt to the rest of the team. Only affects where rendon plays, right?

    I think any trade to the Cubs starts with Cole and Treinan. If we aren’t going to trade J-Zimm, we have no place for them anyway.

    Andrew R

    14 Aug 14 at 9:52 am

  58. @Andrew R – Rendon will be the Nats’ third baseman for at least the next five years. His dWAR was -1.0 last year in not even a full season at 2B, whereas it is +1.1 playing mostly 3B this year. He’s made some spectacular plays at third, and it makes no sense to move him from his natural position.

    BTW – I’d add Kipinis and Gyorko to the list of “not any better than what we have” in Asdrubal. They’ve both been brutal at the plate this year.

    One guy Todd left off the list was Daniel Murphy, who has one more year left until free agency and whom the Nats apparently had an interest in prior to the trade deadline. Would NY (which is realistically two years out from competing for the playoffs again) be willing to trade him to a divison rival? If so, what would it take it propspects to pry him away from the Mets? Getting Murphy for one year makes sense if you believe that 2015 is the last year that the window is open for the current squad before rebuilding begins, with the bonus being that our pitchers won’t have to face him any more. 🙂


    14 Aug 14 at 10:51 am

  59. I am repeating an earlier point, but I highly doubt that Rizzo is approaching things as 2015 is the last year of their window. I bet he will try to selectively replace some parts to reload on the fly and will look to have the realistic window stretch to 2019-2020. With Harper and Rendon locked up for that time frame, as well as Gio and Roark, I assume he feels that is a pretty good nucleus. I think he is right but it does require them to consider flipping a guy or two that is only locked up for 2015.

    Not sure why peopl assume it will be easy to resign Cabrera. A guy two months from FA that is traded to a club with which he has no ties is almost certainly going to test FA, I think. Now, maybe the Nats will see enough that makes them willing to outbid others for him, but I don’t think he gives us a deal without testing the market.

    MASN deal coming to a head. I think a whole bunch of docs got released in court. I haven’t had a chance to track them down but it will be interesting and have an impact on a lot of what is being discussed here.


    14 Aug 14 at 11:45 am

  60. @Wally – I’m not saying Rizzo will do a complete rebuilding, but with Z-nn, Fister, Desmond, Span, Strasburg, Ramos, Clippard and Storen all potentially free agents before 2017, there’s going to be a lot of churn, and the face of this team is going to be quite different come that season.

    As for Asdrubal, the Nats absolutely SHOULDN’T jump in with an immediate offer (like they did with Haren), but take their time and let the market shake out like they did with LaRoche. Is Asdrubal more valuable than LaRoche was after 2012? LaRoche’s WAR was 4.1 that year, while Asdrubal looks like he may end up around slightly over half that this year.

    If some other team offers him a crazy deal, fine. Nothing much lost by letting him go. But if the market settles and he can be had for something like 3 years/$36 million? Not a bad price to pay for a guy whose been relatively durable in his career to plug what will otherwise be a gaping hole in the lineup.


    14 Aug 14 at 12:59 pm

  61. Well, the difference in market is that ALR had a qualifying offer placed on him; one reason for the lack of a market developing was that teams were (understandably) reluctant to part with a draft pick to sign a solid journeyman entering his mid-30’s. The Nats cannot extend a QO to Cabrera (and wouldn’t even if they could) because he switched teams during the season.

    Cabrera may also want to get a SS gig someplace else (although he may be considered the heir apparent if Desmond walks after next year).

    John C.

    14 Aug 14 at 1:32 pm

  62. @John C. – forgot about the QO. But your other point is also valid. The Nats may need to fill both middle infield slaots in the next two years and have nothing ready in house. At any rate, they have at least two months (and hopefully three!) to evaluate Asdrubal up close.


    14 Aug 14 at 2:22 pm

  63. I can’t see signing Cabrera long term. Johnny peralta got 4/$53 and I would expect Cabrera to ask for something similar. I wouldn’t pay half of that. I see Rizzo pushing hard for Castro or Profar or someone similar instead.

    Andrew R

    14 Aug 14 at 2:39 pm

  64. 2B or not 2B, that is the question . . .

    There’s no way Cabrera is getting Peralta-like money, from anyone. He looks overpaid at $10M this year. Still, particularly considering the lack of other good options out there, I’d rather slightly overpay him than think about trading a key piece of the future like Cole. If the Nats can get Cabrera for three or four years in the range of $8-10M per, they should do it. He would solidify 2B and give them an option at SS should negotiations with Desmond not work out.

    MASN deal – don’t hold your breath, folks. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t end up in court. The Nats will be lucky if that gets done in time for the offseason following 2015, when they really need the cash.

    Lerners and fiscal responsibility – unlimited budgets don’t mean unlimited success. I don’t mind some constraints if they force smart baseball and team-building decisions. Teams shouldn’t re-sign every aging guy they have (hello Phillies!). The types of cost-benefit conversations we have here about what Desi, Zmnn, and Fister will be worth well into their 30s have to take place if you’re going to keep your team viable. Look at the Braves of the 1990s-early 2000s. They turned over every position several times except the pitching core (Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz – and eventually let all of them leave as well) and one hitter, Chipper. Yes, I know they only won one championship, but the point is that they stayed in the championship conversation for a decade and a half with a mid-level budget. They did it by not thinking any player was irreplaceable and by trying to be ahead of the curve in filling holes. Billy Beane is just as ruthless in turning over his lineup.


    15 Aug 14 at 8:28 am

  65. Taking all of this together, I have a few thoughts:

    1) Contracts – The Nats are learning what every other team has learned. Long term contracts carry very high risk, beyond financial. They also tie up a player development pipeline.

    Coupled with free agency encouraging overpayment for lesser players, there is every incentive for turning over the roster unless someone is an elite championship piece and figures to be for years to come. The Nats have to regret the contract they’ve given Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats do not regret the contract they gave Werth, but that was a different time, with a different team, and a different organization. The Nats must be happy that Cecil Fielder signed elsewhere. And while Gio’s contract is considered team friendly, he is not performing at the level he was in his first year.

    So I think that, outside the few “irreplaceable” team cogs like Desmond (the team’s equivalent of Derek Jeter), Bryce Harper, and possibly Fister or Strasburg, there ought not be any more long term contracts. Which brings me to Ryan Zimmerman.

    2) Ryan Zimmerman – I don’t think the team will bet against him, nor do I think they should. He is young, under team control, and he will have the rest of the winter to work on his shoulder. He is still a dynamic fist baseman, and the team wins with him in the lineup. He may be destined for first base, but the lineup is better with him and Werth in it, assuming LaRoche’s departure.

    This sets up the chess pieces as Zimmerman/Werth/Span/Harper/Souza/Taylor/Moore for outfield and 1B.

    Zimmerman is a great athlete and a player. I think he can make the transition to 1B, and he has the bat to carry the position.

    With that said, the team is better served with him staying at 3B in 2015 IF it can happen. He was recently injured in his hamstring and his shoulder did not interfere with his 3B play upon his return. It’s worth every effort to try to make it work. In a way, it’s THE first step in the flow chart of decision-making.

    3) With that said, Werth’s contract is very much alive next year and he is still an enormous presence in the lineup. I don’t see the logic in putting out to pasture a guy who was just named player of the month, is a team leader in so many ways, a fan favorite, and who carries the team on his back. So the first step of what happens if Zimm cannot play 3B any longer is that Zimm goes to 1B. I don’t see Zimmerman in the 2015 OF, not because of his limitations, but because the team is going to feature four fleet outfielders candidates who can cover ground and three of whom have strong arms. Now, if they trade Span, that may affect Zimmerman’s having a spot for him in the OF.

    4) Cabrera – No way they resign him, no matter what. If he disappoints, he will not be back. If he does not disappoint, and even excels, he will command a far more irrational contract than the Nats need or want to give, especially given the other organizational marquee names they have. This was a rental player and is going to be.

    The Nats are a different organization than most others. They do not need to overpay anymore, long term. Even when the pieces are not ready, they are close. This is why Rizzo signed pitchers on one year deals, and why Span was brought in with contractural control than covered only enough time for the younger outfielder cream to rise to the top. The discussion we have now is only occurring because the rise of Souza (who transcended rather than succeeded) and Taylor (who transcended and became the organizations best prospect, including Giolito), exceeded expectations. I do not expect the organization’s philosphy to be any different about taking on long term risk, especially given the greater talent pool at the higher levels.

    5) Injuries and depth – This is what drives the discussion for this entire thread. The system was tested, injury-wise, and passed in ways that well exceeded anyone’s expectations. There are AA-AAA replacements for OF injuries, and for 1B, but not for infielders. This had significant enough implications for a team with championship aspirations that they traded Walters for a mere rental.

    The lesson from this is that there is not necessarily a reason to replace Desmond. However, EVEN IF HE SIGNS, if Desmond goes down, neither Espinosa or Cabrera is the answer, and the system decided Walters was not, either. So the search for a player who is starring at AA, or even dominating A+ and has an obviously high ceiling, makes sense. It may come down to a prospect trade; if the team signs JZimmerman, then Blake Treinen may be at a sell high stage. But the need to create versatile infield depth, of players who can hit, defend, and hit for power, at the higher levels is clear. What if Rendon went down, for example?

    6) Souza – He has nothing more to prove in AAA. He will either be a controllable starting OF in DC or elsewhere. His demonstrated readiness, if he passes that test, is going to inform the decision about whether the organization can move Span if he can bring a high enough yield, again, selling high.

    The situation with his shoulder is a very curious one, with the organization taking a very cautious roster approach with him, even as Werth is missing game after game. I’m anxious to see him get a real run of action. But if he were to be sold high, and this organization does that, he is higher now than he has ever been.

    Taylor can go back to AAA without stunting his development. The hitting coach there will do him good. The team can hold onto Span if Zimmerman can play 3B, if Souza (and/or Tyler Moore) is not in their plans, and Taylor can season. But then they lose Span for nothing.

    7) Upper Minors pitching depth – we may be at the stage where the organization was when Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock were expendable. That does not mean we will be trading four minor leaguers. It does mean that bundling Span with a minor league arm of some note, or Zimm plus another arm, or more, can bring one hell of a player or package in return. The team is better situated to strengthen the organization and the parent team for the long haul than ever before.

    8) A little fun illustration to show what a difference a year makes. If you were to consider Luke Giolito in Spring training this year, and were told he would be healthy all year and to have been added to the futures game roster this year, what would be the expected answer to the below questions:

    Name the Hagerstown pitcher who:

    Ended the season in AA
    Led the team in wins
    Had the longest scoreless streak for a Suns starter

    ..and of course, the answer to each is a pitcher other than Giolito.

    So part of the challenge is sensing the trajectory one year or more ahead. Again, this is why I think we see, as Andrew and Wally infer, measured roster turnover as not just a prudent move for small market teams, but a prudent move for an organization that is at an elite level, in this era of the CBA.


    15 Aug 14 at 12:25 pm

  66. Just to clarify, before I get something snarky in reply… 🙂

    A) Prince Fielder, yes
    B) Yes, I was referring to Zimmerman’s return from a thumb injury, not implying his earlier injury was hamstring

    One last point about 9) trajectory and minor league depth – the difficulty with projecting stardom among minor league players is that the player is usually upon us by the time one realizes what we have. That is what distinguishes the first round picks more than anything — not that they become stars, but that they are the easiest to predict that they will become stars.

    So for every AJ Cole, there is Blake Treinen, Tanner Roark, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, and Tyler Clippard who suddenly became.

    That, to me, is the strongest argument, for developing prospects by the bushel, creating depth, and then selling high for needed pieces, when the needs arise. A deep farm system with replacements that abound render making gaudy investments in free agents unnecessary and bad business.

    I think this underlies the organization philosophy in the Caribbean. Obviously there are some exciting prospects headed up the ladder, some of whom will be in AA this time next year. The organization is recruiting for quantity in a talent rich basin, turning the Nationals into essentially a college-replacement for players majoring in baseball. They believe in their development staff and are preaching that.

    The ultimate windfall will be an organization that is built for the long haul, with significant depth, and with increasingly younger prospects, such as we witness in this year’s GCL team.

    I think we will really see the fruits of that philosophy in two years. We will know it when the team no longer has to sign replacement players for its AA-AAA teams (although injuries have their influence on things).


    15 Aug 14 at 2:01 pm

  67. A weekend wild hair on an old thread: Souza was drafted essentially as a 3B and spent the first half of his long minor league career at third. I have no idea whether he was any good there defensively. Presumably the Nats moved him to the OF after signing Zim forever. Anyway, the wild hair–for next year–would be Souza at 3B, Rendon to 2B, and Zim either in LF or at 1B. It would be a bit of a gamble for a contending team, but it wouldn’t cost them anything to give it a look. Heck, if the Nats get well ahead in Sept., stick Souza at third now and see what we’ve got.


    16 Aug 14 at 5:45 pm

  68. I don’t see Souza to 3B happening.

    Since we are throwing out wild hairs, I will throw out a few:

    1) Brandon Laird vs. Matt Skole – Laird came to this organization with the pedigree that he was someone Rizzo liked for a long time. And he has elevated his game to another level. He plays the field better than Skole. And he may, by year’s end, have led the IL in RBI. Skole showed some very encouraging progress earlier this year, but has plateaued. Perhaps the long season? In any case, maybe both should be in the conversation. Laird is older, of course, but has completed the climb. Skole has not yet even dominated AA.

    2) The scoreless pitchers – Rey Lopez is on an incredible run at Hagerstown of scoreless innings. He is younger than the league average and this is his first season stateside. He tore up at Auburn and now is doing the same at Hagerstown. Any prospect list has to have him in the top 20 right now.

    Count me among those banging the drum for Beer League Martin. The incredible scoreless run he has had is long enough and in high leverage enough situations that he should be here in September and I hope he comes. And what a story if he does.

    3) Journeyman pitching and players – The organization has had to sign so many players to fill unforeeseen injury gaps and those players who’ve flamed out. I don’t remember anything like it. But at the same time, many of those players have since been released – even when performing well. That bodes well for where this organization may be with its health and quality, for next year. We will see our winter signings of Ohlendorf-Young types, but unless there is a substantial trade of depth and Taylor Jordan (mysteriously shut down) fails to come back, I can’t see any room at the upper levels for staring or relief pitching. Bad as the Harrisburg team has been, awful as their starting staff has been, their bullpen has been strong, as has the lower minors.

    As for position players, AAA benefitted from astute signings of Burrus, Johnson, and Laird. Walters is gone. Nobody in the AA infield deserves a promotion. This should be no surprise, given the earlier noises we have heard about acquiring a SS and the organization looking in general to add middle infield help internationally. So there could be a lot of flux there.

    As for the OF and catcher, the organization has enough depth that reinforcements will not be likely needed. Again, the above impacts trade discussions regardless of the decision to resign Desmond, simply because there is no safety net should he go down (although before Desmond broke out, the organization was trying Rendon, yes Rendon, at SS).

    4) This organization has a serious lack of power prospects. True, Kevin Keyes took a step forward. But Tyler Moore took a step back. As has Skole (I still think Skole is worth protecting on the 40 man, because he is such an amazing clutch hitter and has clutch power, and walks a lot. So he is one of those that I would expect to take a leap forward next year). But overall, the system is seriously lacking power prospects and with Walters, traded one of their remaining power bats. I would have to think that prospect power bats in the infield are a trade priority this fall.

    5) 2014 has brought a number of new starting pitcher names into the conversation. The organization continues to develop them very well, and these are trade chips that will help to shore up other needs. In addition to Lopez, who has a future here, Robbie Dickey is already looking like a good draft pick at Auburn, as is Nick Pivetta this year at Hagerstown and John Simms at Harrisburg. Taylor Hill is far more marketable as a Doug Fister type. We dismiss lover velocity and pitch to contact, but Chris Young has had otherworldly ground ball success in Seattle. So I am not so sure that Taylor Hill has no prospect to help this organization in some way.

    6) Going back to the 2013 draft, it’s hard not to overlook the success and coming rise of Jake Walsh and David Napoli. Both are lefty relievers who have been incredibly successful since being drafted and are being used in high leverage situations. The Potomac and Hagerstown disappointments in last years’ playoffs will be revisited with their skills contributing at playoff time. Both are on their way up the ladder as lefty talents and a next wave.

    7) I see a lot of pitching in the pipeline, and it will be the position from which the organization can trade from strength. That the Nationals absorbed a deluge of injuries and key flameouts this year, with Hagerstown still dominating and Potomac a winning team says a lot about the development skills of the organization. To that end, Simms and Spann are examples of folks who started in the bullpen and stretched into starters. That may not be their destiny, but we are seeing some folks who are occupying bulpen spots who may be headed for rotations next year, and making their arrivals at full season levels felt for the first time. It’s cause for great optimism, over and above the team gelling so well even in the absence of Ryan Zimmerman – the “Face of the Franchise.” The face has changed and shown the dynamism to change quite nimbly. Rizzo deserves a lot of credit for that.


    17 Aug 14 at 12:46 pm

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