I was excited to see an “Inbox” in my MLB.com RSS feed for the Nats today, and assumed it was venerable long time Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson poking his head up post winter-meetings to do some work.
But no! Its a new guy: Jamal Collier, listed as “Nationals Beat Reporter.” I don’t think Ladson has been replaced; maybe the Nats are big time now and need more beat reporters!
Nonetheless, Collier did an inbox. Here’s how I would have answered his questions. I love these inboxes because they’re great debate points for the comments, with people asking questions (some good, some dumb) that we all ask ourselves from time to time. Here we go. As always, I write my answer to the question before reading his and edit questions for clarity if needed.
Q: Last year, general manager Mike Rizzo had a Plan A and Plan B, but he seemingly settled for Plan C more than once. What are Plans B and C this year?
A: If Mike Rizzo had to fall back to plan “C” last year (presumably Daniel Murphy in lieu of the litany of bats that he missed on), then that’s a heck of a plan C. This year he didn’t miss on a big acquisition; the Adam Eaton trade is by far the “biggest” he’s ever made in his Nats career, eclipsing the big Gio Gonzalez trade in terms of significant prospects dealt and impact players brought back. Yeah he missed on Sale .. but he didn’t *need* Sale, and he made it clear he was only shooting for him because of the rarity of a true Ace getting dealt.
Rizzo really had a short “to-do” list this off-season: resolve CF or SS one way or another, get a Catcher, and get some bullpen help, up-to and including a closer. He’s done two out of three, “missing” out on vastly overpaying for a 50-IP “proven closer” to the big-spending clubs. Is that the worst thing in the world? I don’t think so. I’m guessing his “plan B and C” for closer now is to buy a couple of former closers off the FA market and see how they look side by side with in-house options like Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley. I’m ok with that; as I’ve mentioned time and again, the Nats organizational chasing of over priced closers has cost us more than a few good prospects in the last few years, and yet we’re still sitting here thinking we have a closer problem. I also wouldn’t be shocked if Rizzo calls up one of his favorite trading partners and moves another prospect or two for a mid-range closer.
We havn’t traded with Billy Beane in a few weeks; maybe we make a move for his closer. Does Oakland even have one?
Collier basically says what I said, then throws out the names we keep hearing about in terms of closer trades (David Robertson, Alex Colome) and FA options (Greg Holland).
A: To be a leader you kind of have to be guaranteed to be around for a while. Certainly that’s not Harper, who (lets be honest) is likely gone in 2 years. Rendon isn’t far behind. The three guys on the longest deals are Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Zimmerman is the guy who would make the most sense but he seems like a background guy. Its hard for a starting pitcher to be a “leader” since he’s only doing it every 5 days, but Scherzer is the best possible candidate based on his gregariousness. Strasburg has always been reserved; he’s not a good candidate.
Truth be told … this clubhouse is going to do a serious turnover in the 2018-2019 time-frame, and a whole new slew of guys will be defining the makeup; only the two SPs are really going to be there for it. I’d say Scherzer is going to define the soul of this team for the next generation.
Collier makes a great point; new acquisition Adam Eaton is a big presence in the clubhouse, will be around longer than practically any other bat in the clubhouse, and is in a position to take the reigns.
Q: Will the Nats get free-agent catcher Matt Wieters and then use their extra catchers to get Robertson from the White Sox as closer?
A: This theory doesn’t make a ton of sense to me; if the Nats buy Wieters, aren’t they killing Derek Norris‘ trade value? They not only tendered but signed a deal with Jose Lobaton for 2017 … he’s now got 5 years (and was out of options), so he can’t get sent down … so do they plan on just lighting that money on fire?
Plus, the assumption that they can just flip their spare parts for a quality reliever is foolish. What did we trade to acquire Norris? Pedro Avila, a guy who pitched in low-A last year. Now, I know the White Sox don’t exactly have awesome options at catcher, but in today’s reliever market why would anyone think we could get a bonafide closer for a couple of backup catchers?
Collier expresses the same doubts I do about the acquisition and the trade.
Good thoughtful answers from Collier. I say this of course because he agreed with me
By the way, this is probably the last post before Xmas, so If I don’t see you Happy Holidays.