I’m digging the frequency of Bill Ladson’s inboxes this year. It prompts me to write something when i’m otherwise slammed and distracted with that silly thing called work. Here’s 4/25/16’s edition.
Q: As April comes to an end, what has been the most pleasant surprise for the Nationals?
A: I’ll go with the relatively injury-free spring and April; we havn’t had someone major break or pull anything. Only Ben Revere has gotten bit by the bug, and that’s no great loss b/c it forces more playing time for Michael Taylor. Ladson goes with the Bullpen, who admittedly has been great.
Q: In your recent Inbox, you said No. 3 prospect Victor Robles will be Bryce Harper‘s teammate in a couple of years. Do you think Harper will still be a member of the Nats? I watched Harper all spring, but my guess is I’ll be driving cross state to Tampa to see him with the Yankees.
A: Harper hasn’t even hit arbitration years yet. But the timing of Harper hitting free agency and Robles likely arriving could be a “dovetailing” event. I think the assumption that Harper is automatically going to go to New York is silly; the Yankees aren’t highest spending franchise right now, and Steinbrenner‘s sons seem like they’re more interested in avoiding luxury taxes right now than they are in winning. The big question the Nats will have to ask themselves is whether they’re willing to put 25% of their payroll for the next decade on one player…. when the time comes anyway. They’re already kicking $15M/year down the road for a decade longer than they have to with Scherzer‘s contract. Ladson thinks the Nats will “find a way to pay Harper.” Really?? Do you not know who his agent its? Harper is GOING to go to FA, no matter what his opinion of Washington is.
Q: What is Plan B for the ninth inning if Jonathan Papelbon gets hurt or doesn’t perform? Seems like there isn’t a replacement.
A: Actually, its looking more and more like there’s TWO options: Treinen and Rivero. I gotta admit; i like what Dusty Baker is doing with the bullpen so far. Both these guys are looking like closers in training. And that’s good b/c there’s not a ton of help at AAA right now. A quick glance at the Syracuse stats isn’t entirely promising on this front: I don’t see a “closer in training” anywhere in AAA. As far as relievers go; Trevor Gott has ok numbers but not good K/9 rates. 40-man guys Grace and Solis are both doing great … but they’re loogies. Rafael Martin and Sam Runion have struggled. Two guys that could be interesting (Erik Davis and Abel de los Santos) have done well … Davis especially, finally healthy after all this time. But again, not a closer. So, if Papelbon went down we’d probably be looking at Treinen as the closer, Rivero as an 8th inning guy and likely bringing up Davis or de los Santos to fill in earlier. Ladson also says Treinen and Rivero.
Q: Why doesn’t Matt den Dekker get more starting opportunities? He has speed, power and is great defensively.
A: It might just be a matter of time, if Michael Taylor continues to struggle and Ben Revere is slow to come back. But at this point, based on limited sample sizes, even den Dekker might be “behind” Chris Heisey were the Nats to need another starting outfielder. Just no room at the inn. Ladson thinks Taylor and den Dekker could platoon.
Q: Why wasn’t Gio Gonzalez pitching in this first home series? He’s a veteran pitcher who seems to have been squeezed out of the starting rotation during the first two weeks.
A: Clearly Baker looked at Gio Gonzalez as his 5th starter coming out of Spring Training and that’s what it meant to have been skipped the first time through the rotation. I don’t think its a stretch to say that the other four guys have outperformed Gonzalez lately, either in potential (Joe Ross) or in 2014 performance (Tanner Roark). Baker basically said that Gonzalez’s starts tax the bullpen so he had to consider when to use him. Ladson notes that Gio struggled in spring training.
Q: With Trea Turner of to a nice start, when do we expect to see him in the big leagues?
A: Man that’s a good question; every additional week he’s hitting .350 in AAA and Danny Espinosa isn’t hitting his weight is another week where it becomes tougher and tougher to keep him down. I still think he’ll hang out down there until the Nats regain a service year. Ladson makes a good point; the Nats are winning without him so why change anything?