Nationals Arm Race

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

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Fantasy Baseball: my 2017 team

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Altuve is my fantasy leader for the 2nd year running. Photo via mlblogs.com

Altuve is my fantasy leader for the 2nd year running. Photo via mlblogs.com

Standard disclaimer; I do this post every year.  If you don’t play fantasy, you probably won’t care about the 3,000+ words contained herein.  You won’t hurt my feelings by not reading.  I’ll include a  jump so it doesn’t blow out your mobile reader.  Back to our regularly scheduled programming next week with final roster analysis once the last bench spots are announced.

Last year’s version of this post.

Read the rest of this entry »

WBC Wrap-up: USA Wins!

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United States outfielder Adam Jones grabs a catch above the wall for the out on the Dominican Republic's Manny Machado during the seventh inning of a second-round World Baseball Classic baseball game Saturday, March 18, 2017, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) ORG XMIT: CAGB137

Jones makes the catch of a lifetime for USA; photo via USAToday (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

KW in the previous comments pointed out that I picked against Puerto Rico in every round.  Yes I did.  I’m a sucker for pitching, and I just never thought PR’s pitching staff would take them all the way.  And in the end … it came down to pitching to decide the WBC.

Here’s how the WBC ended up.

(quick links for the WBC:   Official site here, wikipedia site here with schedules, and another wiki site here with rosters).

In the semis: I predicted that the Netherlands and USA would advance, with the Netherlands winning the whole thing.  So what happened?

In the first semi: Puerto Rico and the Netherlands played a pretty entertaining game (side note: why the heck doesn’t Wladimir Balentien get a MLB contract??  He’s destroyed Japanese pitching over the last several years and wasn’t exactly awful during his short stint in the MLB; perhaps he wants to stay over there.  But he’s a beast) that went to extra innings before Puerto Rico walked off with the 4-3 win (using the 11th inning placed runners rules, which certainly make for a quick end to games but seem … well a bit abrupt).

In the other semi, the Nats own Tanner Roark (finally) got the start against previously undefeated (and, really, unchallenged) Japan.  (rant: I hate to be the cynic, but couldn’t have Roark just hung around Palm Beach the last 3 weeks and just show up in LA for this start??  NOW do you see why I hate it when our pitchers get “invited” to pitch in the WBC?).  Luckily, he pitched well, throwing 4+ scoreless innings before making way and thus not getting the W.  The US squeaked out enough runs to win.

In the final, Marcus Stroman (former Nats draftee, I remind you) threw 6+ no-hit innings and the USA bats finally wore down PR’s pitching and won going away 8-0.

Several good post-WBC wrap up columns; one I like from Jim Bowden (yeah yeah boo hiss) where he talks winners and losers, and another good one from Tom Verducci, where he talks about some high-lights and has some intelligent suggestions.

Great event, certainly more exciting and better baseball than we’ve seen in year’s past, and I agree with both Bowden and Verducci that this may have finally been the WBC to “turn the tide” on American participation.  Both visible critics Noah Snydergaard and Mike Trout have done 180-degree reversals on the event which is great to see.

Next up!  Nats roster finalization.

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 23rd, 2017 at 12:13 pm

2017 WBC Preview and Round 1 Predictions

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2017_wbc_logo

 

Lets preview the latest (and possibly final) iteration of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).  Its set to run March 6th-March 22nd.  Official site here, wikipedia site here with schedules, and another wiki site here with rosters.

First, some editorialization.  I have a love/hate relationship with this event.

  • I love the attempt to create a global tournament for Baseball.  It can only help promote the game.
  • I love the nationalism displayed by *some* of the teams.  The pride that players from the D.R. and other latin countries display, as well as the Far East teams, is fantastic.
  • I love the concept; to emulate a World Cup, to have an event where the best of the best play and compete.

However, I have some things about the WBC that I don’t like;

  • I hate how USA players in particular don’t rate the tournament; why aren’t the best players for the US playing?  I’m talking about you Bryce Harper and Mike Trout as a start.
  • I hate the timing; why is this event in the middle of Spring Training?  Why wouldn’t you put it at the END of the season as FIFA does with the World Cup?
  • As a side effect of the timing … I therefore hate how most pros treat this as another Spring Training game, coming out after a few innings or only pitching a couple of innings.  It detracts from the competition.
  • I rather dislike the “manufactured” teams; why create a fake team for Italy based mostly on players with Italian sounding names?  Same for Israel and to an extent the Netherlands just collecting Caribbean players of Dutch origin.
  • I think the decision by the Cuban government to prevent defectors from representing their team kind of defeats the purpose of the event and prevents the creation of what could have been a very talented team.

(Related to the Cuba rant; I’m working on a separate post that i’ve done in the past postulating on just what a combined Cuban team might look like).


Here’s a look at the pools and offer some predictions.

Round 1: Held at four sites between March 6th and March 12th: four 4-team mini tournaments with the top 2 from each group advancing.

  • Pool A: hosted in Seoul, South Korea.  Teams: South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Israel.

Thoughts: The South Korean team is mostly KBO League players, but its an under-rated squad and will draw energy by playing at home.  The Netherlands squad has a ton of really good players, mostly from Curacao.  The Israeli team is also filled with MLB players, but they’re mostly role players.  The Chinese Taipei team is the most intriguing, being mostly Taiwan based and possibly suffering from some internal political conflict issues.  Still, its hard to see the Netherlands team being beat.

Predictions for Advancers: South Korea, Netherlands

  • Pool B: hosted in Tokyo, Japan.  Teams: Japan, Cuba, China, Australia

Thoughts: There’s little chance the Japanese team doesn’t advance, as the other three teams all have issues.  The Australian team draws mostly from its internal weaker league, nobody knows anything about the China league, and the Cuban league (as noted above) has been significantly weakened through hundreds of defections over the last few years.  Plus Cuba has had to travel thousands of miles to compete against 3 teams playing in their same time zone.  Still, Cuban baseball is Cuban Baseball, and I think they’ll find a way to advance.

Predictions for Advancers: Japan, Cuba

  • Pool C: hosted in Miami, FL.  Teams: USA, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia

Thoughts: Its easy to just say USA and DR here; clearly the two best teams on paper.  But as noted above the USA isn’t exactly sending a roster of its best available players, and thus an upstart team of talented players like Columbia could easily pull off an upset.  The Columbian rotation looks like it could be better than the USA’s (led by Julio Teheran and Jose Quintana) and a hot pitcher can take a team far.  Canada looks like a stronger version of Australia; some MLB players but a lot of role players and thinner pitching.  The DR sends a strong team as always and is my prediction to win and repeat.

Predictions for Advancers: USA, DR.

  • Pool D: hosted in Guadalajara, Mexico  Teams: Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Italy

Thoughts: I can’t see the talented and nationalistic Mexican team falling here; they’re going to be a tough out for anyone who plays them.  The Italian team will again be a collection of MLB scrubs whose names end in a vowel.  So the second spot goes to the winner of a Venezuela-PR battle; both teams look strong but Venezuela seems to have better depth.

Predictions for Advancers: Mexico, Venezuela

 


 

We’ll post again once the first rounds are done to revisit these predictions, because the 2nd rounds could feature groups where any of the 4 teams could advance.  In fact the 2nd round match-ups look very tough.

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 6th, 2017 at 9:26 am

2017’s Draft order is now finalized; Overall and Nats impact

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Desmond was one of just three draft-pick compensation penalties of the FA signing period this year. Photo Drew Kinback/Natsnq.com

Desmond was one of just three draft-pick compensation penalties of the FA signing period this year. Photo Drew Kinback/Natsnq.com

When Mark Trumbo sulked back to Baltimore to take his massively under-market deal, he became the last Qualifying Offer (QO) -attached player to sign, meaning the 2017 draft order is now finalized.

This year, only three 1st round picks were forfeited due to QO-attached players:

  • Colorado’s 11th overall, forfeited inexplicably to sign Ian Desmond to a 5yr/$70M deal purportedly to play a position (1B) he’s never played before in a market that already had an abundance of 1B-only sluggers.
  • St. Louis’s 19th overall, forfeited to sign the long-rumored Dexter Fowler to man CF for them for the next 5 years.
  • Cleveland’s 27th overall, forfeited to sign slugger Edwin Encarnation and drastically improve upon the team that made it into extra innings in the 7th game of the World Series despite missing two of their three best starters in the playoffs.

This year’s signing period stands in stark comparison to 2016’s, when teams gave up no less than seven first round picks (and 11 overall) to sign players.  A weaker class, a larger number of teams already punting on the new season, plus knowledge that the new CBA lowers the draft-pick penalty may have had teams stay on the sidelines this off-season.

So, all that being said, here’s the new updated draft order for this June’s draft.   Here’s the first round and supplemental picks:

Orig First RoundUpdated First RoundTeamNotes
111. Twins (59-103, .364)
222. Reds (68-94, .420)
333. Padres (68-94, .420)
444. Rays (68-94, .420)
555. Braves (68-93, .422)
666. A's (69-93, .426)
777. D-backs (69-93, .426)
888. Phillies (71-91, .438)
999. Brewers (73-89, .451)
101010. Angels (74-88, .457)
1111. Rockies (75-87, .463)Forfeited to sign Ian Desmond
121112. White Sox (78-84, .481)
131213. Pirates (78-83, .484)
141314. Marlins (79-82, .491)
151415. Royals (81-81, .500)
161516. Astros (84-78, .519)
171617. Yankees (84-78, .519)
181718. Mariners (86-76, .531)
1919. Cardinals (86-76, .531)Forfeited to sign Dexter Fowler
201820. Tigers (86-75, .534)
211921. Giants (87-75, .537)
222022. Mets (87-75, .537)
232123. Orioles (89-73, .549)
242224. Blue Jays (89-73, .549)
252325. Dodgers (91-71, .562)
262426. Red Sox (93-69, .574)
2727. Indians (94-67, .584)Forfeited to sign Edwin Encarnacion
282528. Nationals (95-67, .586)
292629. Rangers (95-67, .586)
302730. Cubs (103-58, .640)
Potential QO Compensation Round
31. Jeremy Hellickson, PhilliesTook QO: draft pick compensation cancelled
32. Yoenis Cespedes, MetsRe-signed with Mets: draft pick compensation cancelled
33. Neil Walker, MetsTook QO: draft pick compensation cancelled
34. Mark Trumbo, OriolesResigned with Orioles, draft pick compensation cancelled
35. Jose Bautista, Blue JaysRe-signed with toronto, draft pick compensation cancelled
2836. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue JaysToronto gets pick
37. Kenley Jansen, DodgersRe-signed with Dodgers, draft pick compensation cancelled
38. Justin Turner, DodgersRe-signed with Dodgers, draft pick compensation cancelled
2939. Ian Desmond, RangersRangers get Pick
3040. Dexter Fowler, CubsCubs get pick
Competitive Balance Round A
31Tampa Bay
32Cincinnati
33Oakland
34Milwaukee
35Minnesota
36Miami

Note: i’ll do a separate post about the QO-attached players and their disposition, an annual tradition, later on.  Just three of the original 10 QO-issued players left their teams this year.  The last 6 picks are the Competitive Balance picks, which are annually a joke; Miami plays in a $2.4B stadium, Oakland resides in the 11th largest market in the country.

Here’s the 2nd round and supplementals:

Second Round    
371. Twins (59-103, .364)
382. Reds (68-94, .420)
393. Padres (68-94, .420)
404. Rays (68-94, .420)
415. Braves (68-93, .422)
42Pittsburgh (2016 compensation)Note: #42 pick == Pittsburgh for not siging #41st pick last year; insert when all is said and done.
436. A's (69-93, .426)
447. D-backs (69-93, .426)
458. Phillies (71-91, .438)
469. Brewers (73-89, .451)
4710. Angels (74-88, .457)
4811. Rockies (75-87, .463)
4912. White Sox (78-84, .481)
5013. Pirates (78-83, .484)
5114. Marlins (79-82, .491)
5215. Royals (81-81, .500)
5316. Astros (84-78, .519)
5417. Yankees (84-78, .519)
5518. Mariners (86-76, .531)
5619. Cardinals (86-76, .531)
5720. Tigers (86-75, .534)
5821. Giants (87-75, .537)
5922. Mets (87-75, .537)
6023. Orioles (89-73, .549)
6124. Blue Jays (89-73, .549)
6225. Dodgers (91-71, .562)
6326. Red Sox (93-69, .574)
6427. Indians (94-67, .584)
6528. Nationals (95-67, .586)
6629. Rangers (95-67, .586)
6730. Cubs (103-58, .640)
Competitive Balance Round B
68Arizona
69San Diego
70Colorado
71Cleveland
72Kansas City
73Pittsburgh
74Baltimore
75St. Louis

Only one change in the 2nd round this year; Pittsburgh gets the 42nd pick for failing to sign its 41st overall pick last year (LHP Nick Lodolo, who is now pitching for TCU and makes TCU a very strong team for one who just made the CWS).

Lastly, here’s round three and onwards: just add 30 to each of the draft slots to get the rest of the overall picks:

3rd Round  
761. Twins (59-103, .364)
772. Reds (68-94, .420)
783. Padres (68-94, .420)
794. Rays (68-94, .420)
805. Braves (68-93, .422)
816. A's (69-93, .426)
827. D-backs (69-93, .426)
838. Phillies (71-91, .438)
849. Brewers (73-89, .451)
8510. Angels (74-88, .457)
8611. Rockies (75-87, .463)
8712. White Sox (78-84, .481)
8813. Pirates (78-83, .484)
8914. Marlins (79-82, .491)
9015. Royals (81-81, .500)
9116. Astros (84-78, .519)
9217. Yankees (84-78, .519)
9318. Mariners (86-76, .531)
9419. Cardinals (86-76, .531)
9520. Tigers (86-75, .534)
9621. Giants (87-75, .537)
9722. Mets (87-75, .537)
9823. Orioles (89-73, .549)
9924. Blue Jays (89-73, .549)
10025. Dodgers (91-71, .562)
10126. Red Sox (93-69, .574)
10227. Indians (94-67, .584)
10328. Nationals (95-67, .586)
10429. Rangers (95-67, .586)
10530. Cubs (103-58, .640)

Some overall draft thoughts:

  • Pittsburgh will have the 12th, 42nd, 50th and 73rd picks in the first two rounds.
  • Interestingly, the three teams that gave up 1st rounders all have supplemental 2nd round picks, probably factoring into their willingness to give up the 1st rounder.
  • The three teams that picked up extra 1st round picks (Toronto, Texas, Chicago) are all 2016 playoff teams.  I think the impact of the QO draft pick compensation system is now so far away from what it intended that it borders on the ridiculous.
  • Minnesota picks 1st, 35th, 37th and 76th.  It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the 1st overall pick, whether they go the safe route and pick someone like Jeren Kendall from Vanderbilt or whether they take one of the huge upside prep players near the top of draft boards right now (Hunter Greene or Jordan Adell).  Its pretty early for draft coverage though; check back in a few months for this.
  • Despite winning the world series, the Cubs will pick 27th, 30th and then 67th.  Three picks in the top 70 for the WS champion; the rich get richer.

Post-publishing note: MLB handed down the punishment in the hacking scandal and it costs St. Louis their first two picks; they now go to Houston.  This changes the above draft order by giving St. Louis’ 56th and 75th pick to Houston.  So Houston now owns the #15, #53, #56, #75 and 91st overall picks in this draft while St. Louis does not draft until the 3rd round, #94 overall.


Lastly, lets talk about the impact for the Nats and their 2017 draft:

  • We moved up three spots in the 1st round; now we pick 25th overall.
  • We then pick 65th and 103th.
  • After that, we pick 133rd and in 30 pick increments afterwards.  So 163rd, 193rd, 223rd, etc.

25th overall is still a good spot.  Here’s the 25th overall picks from the last few drafts (courtesy as always of baseball-reference.com)

  • 2016: Eric Lauer, a solid LHP from Kent State who had a 1.44 ERA in 7 starts in the Northwoods league for his pro debut.
  • 2015: D.J. Stewart, a slugger from Florida State who posted an .837 OPS in the Carolina League this year.
  • 2014: Matt Chapman, a SS/3B from Cal State Fullerton who hit 36 homers between AA and AAA this year.
  • 2013: Christian Arroyo, a prep SS who hit .274 as a 21yr old playing full time in AA this year.
  • 2012: Richie Shaffer, a utility guy with some pop who has been up and down for Tampa Bay the last two years between MLB and AAA.
  • 2011: Joe Ross, who I think we’re all pretty high on even given his arm issues from last year.
  • 2010: Zack Cox, a solid hitting 3B who shot up St. Louis’ system and was flipped to Miami, where his career stalled at the AAA level
  • 2009: Mike Trout.  Yeah; Mike Trout was “only” the 25th overall pick.  There’s 24 teams who are kicking themselves for the next 20 years.
  • 2008: Christian Friedrich, who started all last year for San Diego but may be destined for the bullpen.
  • 2007: Aaron Poreda, who struggled in the bullpen for Texas and has pitched in Japan for the last two years.

So, generally there seems to be solid college players at the 25th overall, with some upside if you gamble on a prep kid.  That’s probably what we’re looking at in that range come June.

 

Winter Meetings Rumor Frenzy … and an unnecessary bomb dropped on the Nats about Harper

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This is what Harper may want his agent to do with a baseball right now. Photo GQ magazine Mar 2012

This is what Harper may want his agent to do with a baseball right now.   Or maybe not.  Photo GQ magazine Mar 2012

Bryce Harper is not a Free agent for two more seasons.  So why the F is everyone writing glaring headlines about him right now??

I thought the Bob Nightengale article was a complete hack job against the Nationals, completely unnecessary and taking gratuitous shots at the organization over a situation that could go a dozen different ways between now and November, 2018 when he’s ACTUALLY a free agent.  And then the subsequent Jeff Passan article that followed it a complete over-reaction, basically pulling one potentially innocuous quote out of Nightengale’s article to write a 1,000 words chastising the entire Nats organization.  Was it really that slow of a news day in the National Harbor that these were the stories that had to be written yesterday??

I have never really liked Nightengale’s style of reporting; he was the one that trashed Adam LaRoche earlier this year by quoting a bunch of unnamed members of the White Sox front office, essentially enabling them to write their version of the narrative of that situation without having to put their name on it, but the Passan article caused me to lose a bit of reporting respect for him too.  Passan’s passing judgement on the entire Nats organization by virtue of one anonymous quote from an unnamed Nationals Executive who commented that the Nationals were “not prepared” to meet a 10yr/$400M contract.

Here’s a thought: stop quoting anonymous people who probably just threw out a line passing you in the hallway, or who have an axe to grind and are too chicken-sh*t to put their name behind their words, and put some journalistic integrity behind your reporting.

OF COURSE the Nationals are “not prepared” to meet a $400M contract demand.  Who is??  Are the Yankees, given the massive luxury taxes now built into future CBAs?  Are the Dodgers, who just got told to cut their debts or risk further penalties?  Are the Cubs, who just won a World Series on the backs of a bunch of pre-arb sluggers and reasonably priced arms?   What other organization in baseball has the financial where-with-all??  Certainly not the Nationals, who (thanks to a short-sighted deal and a ridiculously argumentative owner in Baltimore) are stuck in one of the worst RSN deals in the majors and thus are missing out on literally tens of millions of dollars of revenue?  How does any team commit a quarter of their payroll to one player in the modern age, especially one that has shown himself to be as injury-prone as Harper?

Harper is a great player.  Is he worth being compensated as easily the highest paid player in the game?  Not in my book.  He’s not better than Trout or Kershaw.  He’s not nearly durable enough to merit that kind of commitment from a sane organization and that puts him behind some of his other compatriots right now (Manny Machado for example).  He’s a product of his headline inducing agent Scott Boras and these two writers (well respected and nationally known) fell for it.  Again.  I’m sure he’ll get some ridiculous contract in 2018, but its no small secret that it probably won’t be the Nationals.

Can we go back to arguing about whether we should be saving a 19-yr old who has never played above A-ball instead of acquiring a recent NL MVP or a guy who has finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting five straight years??

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

December 6th, 2016 at 9:38 am

BBWAA award post-mortem; are the writers finally getting things right?

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Well, he'll always have Kate. And his Ferraris. Photo unk via rumorsandrants.com

Well, he’ll always have Kate. And his Ferraris. Photo unk via rumorsandrants.com

Every year I publish an “End of Season Awards Prediction” piece, and then every year I write a post-mortem patting myself on the back for how good I was at predicting the awards.

(I should put this in as a reminder; my “prediction” pieces are just that; my attempt to Predict how the BBWAA electorate will vote.  It is NOT my personal opinion on who should have won. )

In 2015 I went (7 for 8).   In 2014 (6 for 8), 2013 (8 for 8), 2012 (7 for 8), 2011 (8 for 8), and 2010 (8 for 8).

However this year, I missed on fully half the awards.  Here’s the ones I got right:

And here’s the ones I got wrong:

For the ones I got wrong, here was my thinking for predicting the wrong winner:

  • For AL MVP, I figured that once again Trout would be penalized and get a 2nd place MVP vote thanks to his team being awful.  Instead, he got 19 of the 30 1st place votes to rightfully earn his 2nd MVP.
  • For the AL Cy Young, I never thought Verlander would get close thanks to his slow start, and I figured Kluber would repeat as a result.  Instead Porcello won when two writers inexplicably left Verlander completely off their ballots.
  • For the AL Rookie, I absolutely figured that the NY media would over-blow Sanchez’ amazing start and give him the award over the more deserving Fulmer.    I was way off; Fulmer got 26 of the 30 1st place votes to win in a landslide.
  • And for the NL Manager, I figured people would do what they always do; look at the team that improved the most and give the award to their manager by default.  For 2016 that was easily the Nats.

So what happened?   My conclusion; I think the Electorate is finally starting to get these awards “right,” or at least more “right” than in recent memory.  All of my “narrative-driven” predictions were wrong thanks to voters being smarter and picking the right winner (well, except for Verlander of course).

This is great news!   Bravo to the BBWAA writers for improving.   Now about that Hall of Fame ballot….

 

 

My 2016 End-of-Season Awards Predictions

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Scherzer may have the best shot of our 4 "finalists" for awards this week. Photo via washtimes.com

Scherzer may have the best shot of our 4 “finalists” for awards this week. Photo via washtimes.com

Quick break from Nats off-season stuff to talk about the “silly season” of baseball.  Its awards week, with all the major BBWAA awards to be given out this week.

Here’s my predictions for how the awards will go.  This is not necessarily how I believe the awards should go … once again, I think narrative wins out over Mike Trout‘s 10+ WAR season, and we may see an east coast bias in the AL rookie award.  But lets see how it goes.

Here’s the list of finalists, published last week.

The writers have to submit their ballots at the end of the season; I finished this post in early October but waited until the awards season to arrive to publish it.  Thus, it contains no inclusion of any post-season accolades or accomplishments since the votes were already in before the playoffs started.

How do I think the voting will go?

  • AL MVP: Betts, Trout, Donaldson, Machado, Altuve (maybe some 5th place votes for Ortiz).
  • NL MVP: Bryant, Seager, Murphy, Rizzo, Freeman/Arenado
  • AL Cy Young: Kluber, Verlander, Porcello, Sale, Britton
  • NL Cy Young: Scherzer, Fernandez, Hendricks, Lester, Snydergaard
  • AL Rookie: Sanchez, Fulmer, Mazara
  • NL Rookie: Seager, Turner, Maeda
  • AL Manager: Franconia, Bannister, Girardi
  • NL Manager: Baker, Maddon, Roberts

Actual Award Results added as they were awarded:

My prediction results: 4 for 8.  Got Seager, Franconia, Scherzer, Bryant.  Missed on Fulmer, Roberts, Porcello, Trout.  Historically i’ve been pretty good at these predictions; this was a very bad year for me.  Which is good, because it means that the electorate is improving and that generally my over-thinking of voters picking bad results should lessen.

Links to other awards that I didn’t necessarily predict:


 

Note: I made some prediction mistakes based on the publication of the 3 finalist links; I’ll note those in the discussion links below.

Discussion:

  • AL MVP : I know some view “MVP” as “Best Player,” but it isn’t.  And I’m in agreeance with the narrative that with like candidates, the playoff chase matters.  Who cares that the Angels went 74-88 with 10-win Trout; Betts had nearly as valuable a season while doing a bit of everything for Boston.  Betts wins, Trout gets another 2nd place finish.  With the publication of the finalists, we now know that I was wrong on Donaldson for 3rd and that it will go to Altuve; i get that, since Altuve was “in the lead” for a lot of the season.
  • NL MVP: Bryant and it isn’t close.  I think Seager gets 2nd over Murphy b/c he’s a short stop.
  • AL Cy Young: I like Kluber slightly over Verlander but I could see arguments on both sides.  What I really hope does NOT happen is over-emphasis on Britton’s season.  Yes he’s had a nice season; no he isn’t the best pitcher in the AL.  I am slightly proud of myself for at least getting the top 3 right.
  • NL Cy Young: Kershaw’s injury has opened the door for a slew of guys: Scherzer probably has the combination of wins, IPs, Ks to be the “leader” even if he’s eclipsed in WAR by Fernandez, Snydergaard.  Lester, Cueto and Hendricks also each have cases.  This could be a completely wide-open race.  I wrote most of this before the tragic death of Fernandez; will he now win out of sentimentality?  No he won’t; with the publication of the 3 finalists we know Fernandez wasn’t in the top 3.
  • AL Rookie: Michael Fulmer was a shoe-in until Gary Sanchez hit 20 homers in his first 45 games; this race is closer than you might think.  Fulmer really should get it, but the NY media narrative game is strong.  I think Sanchez ekes it out; it was a pretty historic debut.  I did get the third finalist wrong, Cleveland’s Naquin sneaks in.
  • NL Rookie: Seager is in the MVP discussion and should win unanimously.  Trea Turner’s probably top 3, as is Seager’s japanese teammate Maeda.  I am guessing Maeda pips Turner for 2nd place based on playing a full season.
  • AL Manager: No idea how this goes: maybe Franconia in Cleveland still?  Perhaps Girardi for having the Yankees in the WC mix after their sell-off?  Maybe John Ferrell for getting Boston’s act back together?  Maybe Bannister in Texas for running away with a division that most thought Houston would win?  I thought Girardi would sneak in over Francona; if we knew about Francona’s post-season exploits we may be giving him the award unanimously.
  • NL Manager: Baker in Washington still for me.  Yes Maddon will get some love, but Baker’s going to improve the Nats by 13 wins; the Cubs were widely expected to get to 100 wins.  Maybe Roberts in LA gets some love too.  Honestly this is the award i’m least confident in guessing.

 


 

Running Diary of Awards candidates.

End of April; Here’s MLB’s players of the month link.

  • MVP : Manny Machado and Bryce Harper had fantastic months.  Names also in the mix early in 2016: Dexter Fowler, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson.
  • Cy Young: Jordan Zimmermann and Jake Arrieta, picking up right where he left off.  Also off to great starts: Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg and Noah Snydergaard.
  • Rookie: Nomar Mazara and Trevor Story.  Also in the mix: Kenta Maeda, Aledmys Diaz, Vincent Velasquez.

Mid May Check-in:

  • MVP : Jose Altuve now in the lead in the AL.  Machado and Mike Trout in the mix.  In the NL Harper has tailed off, opening the door for Clayton Kershaw and Anthony Rizzo to nose their way into the discussion.  Arenado also tailed off a bit in May but still strong.
    Cy Young: Sale has won his first 9 starts and looks unbeatable; Zimmermann has taken a step back in the AL race.  In the NL, Kershaw remains the class of the league and the likes of Arrieta and Strasburg stay close behind.
  • Rookie: Nomar Mazara leading the way in the AL: Twins 1B Byung Ho Park close behind.  In the NL, Diaz is also an MVP candidate right now and remains in the NL ROY lead.  Story’s “storybook” start keeps him close.

Half-way point of the season: Cliff Corcoran’s First half Awards,  Jeff Passan‘s mid-way awards article.  The Ringer’s Mike Baumann‘s mid-season awards post.

  • AL MVP : Jose Altuve has cooled slightly, leaving last year’s 1-2 finishers Trout and Donaldson in the lead again this year.  But if Altuve continues to produce at these levels (with slash lines nearly identical to Trout’s) he’ll win as long as Houston stays in the playoff hunt.  And once again, Trout finds himself leading the league in value-based stats while playing for a dead-last team, and once again he likely finishes 2nd to someone like Donaldson, who has a good but not as good of a season but plays for a winner.  Ortiz’s monster farewell season gets him top 5 votes.
  • NL MVP: Harper has never regained his bat since the walk-a-thon in Chicago, and with a lack of any other candidate it seems ripe for another Kershaw double.  He’s hit the D/L though, having some wonder if the likes of Kris Bryant could get the award since he’s the best player on (one of the) best teams.  Matt Carpenter is quietly having a fantastic season.  If the Giants (as of the halfway point owning a better record), then their leader Buster Posey will get votes.
  • AL Cy Young: Sale has started the season 14-2 and Cleveland’s entire rotation (led by Danny Salazar) sits among various league leader categories.
  • NL Cy Young: Kershaw remains the class of the league and needs to miss significant time to lose out.  Its hard to fathom the season he’s having, with just 9 walks in 121 innings in the first half.  Strasburg is the first NL starter in 100 years to start a season 12-0 and seems like the likely 2nd place finisher.  But there’s a slew of NL starters with sterling numbers right now: Bumgarner and Cueto in particular.  NL East beasts Snydergaard and Fernandez have been awesome as well.
  • AL Rookie: Nomar Mazara has tailed off and Park got demoted to AAA; the leader in the  clubhouse seems like Detroit starter Michael Fulmer right now.  Tyler Naquin is in the running, and Baltimore’s Hyun Soo Kim is there as well.
  • NL Rookie: Diaz and Story are still on the whole having great seasons but Dodger SS Corey Seager is running away with this and could hit 30 homers from the shortstop position this year.  Don’t sleep on Seager’s teammmate Kenta Maeda though; he’s rebounded from a rough patch to be a solid starter.
  • AL Manager: probably Jeff Bannister for the turnaround in Texas.  Perhaps Terry Franconia for the surprise in Cleveland.
  • NL Manager: likely our own Baker for having the Nats on a 96 win pace, which would beat 2015 by 13 games.  But likely it goes to Bochy or Madden for leading good teams to good records.
  • Comeback Player of the year: I have nothing narrative-driven for either league.  Maybe Stephen Wright in the AL and maybe Anthony Rendon in the NL?

Mid August check in:

  • AL MVP : I think it goes Altuve-Trout-Donaldson at this point.  Betts and Machado fill out the top 5.
  • NL MVP: With Kershaw’s injury, I think its Kris Bryant’s to lose.  Daniel Murphy gets some top 5 votes, as does Buster Posey and Nolan Arenado.
  • AL Cy Young: Hamels and Quintana seem like the obvious choices, even if Fulmer is leading the league in bWAR.
  • NL Cy Young: Kershaw’s injury has opened the door for a slew of guys: Bumgarner, Scherzer and Strasburg, deGrom and Arrieta.  Who knows how it shakes out.  If Strasburg finishes the season 21-3 though, it’ll be hard to vote against him.
  • AL Rookie: Michael Fulmer leads the AL in bWAR midway through August; he seems like a shoe-in for ROY.  And he’s crushed it for my fantasy team too; that Cespedes trade isn’t looking so hot now is it?
  • NL Rookie: Seager sits 3rd in the NL in bWAR; he has to be the unanimous vote right now.
  • AL Manager: Franconia in Cleveland.
  • NL Manager: Baker in Washington.

Mid September check-in:

  • AL MVP : Its tight: Trout has now eclipsed 10 WAR on the season.  Altuve has dropped out, but Betts has risen.  Its going to be close, but I think it goes Betts-Trout-Donaldson with Machado and Altuve filling out the top 5.  You have to think Ortiz’s monster farewell season will get some votes too.
  • NL MVP: This is now Bryant’s to lose.  Daniel Murphy gets some top 5 votes, as does Buster Posey and Corey Seager.  Anthony Rizzo also gets some MVP votes, and if the Mets somehow sneak into the playoffs so does Cespedes on narrative.  Freddie Freeman getting some attention with his monster WAR season but he’ll be a 5th-place type vote getter at best.
  • AL Cy Young: this race is wide open.  Kluber leads the league in bWAR but may not be the best pitcher on his staff.  Porcello has reached 20 wins but is vastly eclipsed by Kluber in terms of Ks.  Sale, Quintana in the mix, as is Verlander.  Tanaka has quietly had a solid season too.  Some narrative-driven writers are pushing for Zach Britton.
  • NL Cy Young: Kershaw’s injury has opened the door for a slew of guys: Scherzer probably has the combination of wins, IPs, Ks to be the “leader” even if he’s eclipsed in WAR by Fernandez, Snydergaard.  Lester, Cueto and Hendricks also each have cases.  This could be a completely wide-open race.  I wrote most of this before the tragic death of Fernandez; will he now win out of sentimentality?
  • AL Rookie: Michael Fulmer was a shoe-in until Gary Sanchez hit 20 homers in his first 45 games; this race is closer than you might think.  Fulmer really should get it, but the NY media narrative game is strong.
  • NL Rookie: Seager is in the MVP discussion and should win unanimously.  Trea Turner’s probably top 3, as is Seager’s japanese teammate Maeda.
  • AL Manager: No idea how this goes: maybe Franconia in Cleveland still?  Perhaps Girardi for having the Yankees in the WC mix after their sell-off?  Maybe John Ferrell for getting Boston’s act back together?  Maybe Bannister in Texas for running away with a division that most thought Houston would win?
  • NL Manager: Baker in Washington still for me.  Yes Maddon will get some love, but Baker’s going to improve the Nats by 13 wins; the Cubs were widely expected to get to 100 wins.  Maybe Roberts in LA gets some love too.

 

Nats post-2016 “GM for a Day” Off-Season Priorities for filling Roster Holes

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Ramos may be the toughest off-season decision the team makes. Photo via wp.com

Ramos may be the toughest off-season decision the team makes. Photo via wp.com

Another year, another playoff failure.  Beat it to death already.  Time to move on.

Lets talk about the post-season “To Do” list is for the Nats.  We’ll have eventual posts to talk about other stuff, like Tender decisions, 40-man decisions ahead of the Rule5 draft, etc.

In this post, we’ll squint at the overall roster, look at blatant holes that will need filling, and discuss how they might get filled.  Call it the cliche’s “General Manager for a day” post for the Nats this coming off-season.


Pending Free Agents we are waving good-bye to and the holes they thus leave (as per the invaluable Cots site at BaseballProspectus):

  • Mark Melancon: though i’d love to re-sign him … see later in the post.
  • Wilson Ramos: his injury is a shame for both player and team; he likely lost $50M in guaranteed FA money and the team lost a clear QO-compensation pick.  He may not even be able to catch again, which dumps him to the AL, where his market is significantly cut thanks to the lessening of demand for bat-only DH types.  Ramos is in serious career jeopardy right now; would he decamp back to the Nats on some sort of minimally guaranteed deal with performance incentives?
  • Stephen Drew: also one I hope re-signs; see later in the post.
  • Chris Heisey: one who I think is replaceable; look for another cattle call for RH bat options this coming spring training.
  • Matt Belisle: despite not making the NLDS roster, he was great for Washington this year and is worth another contract.
  • Mark Rzepczynski: He’s been very effective for us, and overall had a good 2016.  His 2015 was awful, but he was good before that.  Such is the life of specialist relievers.
  • Sean Burnett and Mat Latos: both given Sept 2016 tryouts; neither seem likely to be retained.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: worth mentioning if only for the payroll flexibility.

Total payroll “savings” from these FAs: roughly $22M.  Papelbon’s $11M, Ramos’ $5.3M and the rest total about $6M.

Guys who I think are clear Non-Tenders (probably a topic worth its own post).

  • Yusmeiro Petit: $3M option with $500k buyout for 2017; pitched poorly in 2016, didn’t make the post-season roster and should be replaceable on the roster by any number of our AAA starters.
  • Ben Revere: $6.25M salary this year, due an arbitration raise for 2017; struggled badly in 2016, lost his job to a guy who had about 2 week of CF experience and didn’t make the post-season roster.
  • Aaron Barrett: as heartless as it would be; he’s arb-eligible, still hurt, not likely to be ready by opening day and is completely replaceable as a RH middle reliever).

Total savings from these non-tenders: roughly $10M

Guys who I think its Time to Trade and the holes they thus leave.  This also may be worthy of its own whole post.

  • Gio Gonzalez: I think the Nats can take advantage of a historically weak FA market for starters and Gio’s very friendly contract (two $12M options for 2017 and 2018) and move him.  Yes he struggled this year, but if you look at what middle rotation innings eaters like him are getting these days, $12M is a bargain and he should fetch something we value.  Moving him lets some of the guys who are clearly biting on the heels of a deserved rotation spot earn it for 2017 and thus the Nats “save” $11.5M in salary for the 2017 roster.
  • Danny Espinosa: As much as I have argued against this, his 2017 playoff performance has solidified in my mind the need to move him.  He has his pros (a plus defender range wise, perhaps the best SS arm in the game, and serious power for a SS) and his cons (he hit just .209 this year, he strikes out at about a 30% clip, and his switch hitting capabilities are really in question).  Nonetheless, there has to be some demand for a 25-home run capable plus defender SS in a lineup that can afford one crummy batting average at the bottom of the order.  Perhaps an AL team that doesn’t have to also bat a sub .200 BA pitcher.

Total savings from these guys getting moved (not counting payroll received in return of course): $15-$16M.

So, adding up all three lines, assuming a steady payroll ceiling similar to this year’s and not counting arbitration raises (or Strasburg‘s new contract), you’d have roughly $47M with which to work.  Not bad.  Strasburg’s new contract will take $5M away from that flexibility (he made $10M last year, will make $15M next) and arbitration raises for Harper, Rendon and Roark will cost some cash, but that’s a post for another day.  Lets call it $30M in available FA dollars when all is said and done.


So, assuming you’re even reading this far and havn’t already started commenting and arguing about that list of players, here’s the presumed holes that losing these 10 players leaves (in order of mention above):

  • Closer
  • Starting Catcher
  • Backup Utility Infielder
  • Backup RH bench bat/corner outfielder
  • 6th/7th inning RH reliever
  • Loogy
  • Long Man/Spot starter/7th guy out of the pen
  • Backup Outfielder (CF capable)
  • Another 6th/7th inning RH reliever
  • #5 Starter
  • Starting Shortstop
  • (and not really counting the “loss” of Burnett and Latos for this discussion)

If we just filled these holes internally, what would it look like?

  • Closer: Make Shawn Kelley the closer and move up Treinen and Glover to be 8th inning guys.  This leaves a hole later on in the pen for the middle RH relievers (see below)
  • Starting Catcher: promote Lobaton to starter and install Severino as the backup.  Or switch them; honestly I like Severino’s at-bats; he looks confident.  I don’t think Kieboom is ready for the show, so it makes sense to tender Lobaton for one more year.
  • Backup Utility InfielderDifo becomes the first go-to guy to backup Turner/Murphy, but we’ll still need another utility guy.
  • Backup RH bench bat/corner outfielder: not much internally to go to; both the 2016 AAA and AA rosters are basically bereft of decent hitting prospects who might be candidates.  We’ll be trolling the FA market here for sure.  See the next section.
  • Two 6th/7th inning RH relievers: We have Gott and Martin on the 40-man; they could step up to replace these two guys like for like.  Right now we have five RH relievers under contract for 2017 (Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Gott and Martin) to go along with two lefties (Solis and Perez); that’s not too bad of a bullpen to start out with, but could be improved.  And this lineup doesn’t “really” have a long man, so you’d have to think one of Gott or Martin is in AAA to make room for a long-man (likely Martin at this point).
  • Loogy: its arguable whether we need another lefty with both Solis and Perez under contract, but they went most of the year this year with three.  Matt Grace is still on the 40-man and would be an internal option.
  • Long Man/Spot starter/7th guy out of the pen: loser of #5 starter competition (see below)
  • Backup Outfielder (CF capable)Michael Taylor, in what likely is his ceiling from here forward.
  • #5 Starter: have Sprint Training 2017 tryouts for the #5 starter between Lopez, Giolito, Cole and even Voth (who I’m assuming by that time will be on the 40-man, protected ahead of this coming off-season’s Rule-5 draft).  The winner is #5 starter, and one of the losers could be the long-man (well, if the loser is someone like Cole or Voth, who aren’t nearly as “big” of a prospect as Giolito).  There’s also the distinct possibility that Lopez’s arm is turned into a closer at some point if he can’t turn over lineups.  Check out Lopez’s 2016 splits, specifically SP versus RP and specifically the “Times Facing an Opponent” during the game; as a starter he struggles with the first time through the order, but not as a reliever.
  • Starting Shortstop: move Trea Turner to his natural position, leaving a hole in Center.

So, with my “all internal” fill-ins, your 25 man roster for 2017 looks something like this:

  • Starters: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Lopez
  • Relievers: Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Gott, Solis*, Perez*, Cole
  • Catchers: Lobaton, Severino
  • INF Starters: Rendon, Turner, Murphy, Zimmerman
  • INF backups: Difo, Robinson
  • OF Starters: Werth, Harper
  • OF Backups: Taylor, Goodwin

And we’re missing one-two spots that don’t really have natural in-house replacements: another backup infielder and a starting Center fielder.

So, looking at that 25-man roster, where do we see areas of need?  This feeds directly into the Off-season Priorities in the next section.


Quick diversion: Notice I didn’t say what position Bryce Harper is playing.  Honestly, if Turner is vacating CF and we’re waving good-bye to Espinosa, then I think you have to put Harper in center.  Here’s my main arguments for putting him in center (most of which are “anti-arguments” for those who for some reason think he cannot play center):

  1. He’s young.   He just turned 24 for crying out loud; there’s no reason he doesn’t have the youth or athleticism to handle center.  Mantle did it while hitting for power.  So did Mays.  So did Griffey Jr and Aaron for the early part of his career.  Trout plays center.
  2. He’s got the arm (he has the 2nd best statistically rated arm in the majors in 2016), he’s got the speed (21 Stolen bases this year).  And now he has years of OF experience on which to depend.
  3. He’s played there before and played well.  Here’s his career fielding stats from fangraphs.com: He had more than 700 innings in CF in 2012 and played it to a fantastic UZR/150 figure of 19.1 and 13 DRS.  He was also great there in more limited sample sizes in 2013 and 2015.  I leave out 2014 since that was his injury season and its clearly skewed as compared to his other seasons.
  4. By putting Harper in Center, you vastly open open up the roster possibilities on the FA market.  Look at the pending FA last at mlbtraderumors.com and compare/contrast the available options at CF versus LF/RF.

Top FA/Trade Priorities in 2016-2017 Off-season

Fantasy: I view these as not really possible but are listed as “fantasy” wish lists.  Both fixate on moving unmovable contracts, so they’ll probably remain fantasies.

  • Upgrade 1B: dump Zimmerman and upgrade offensively at that position.
  • Upgrade LF: dump Werth and the last year of his deal and find a LF-capable bopper.
  • Acquire a leading CF: back up the farm system and dump it out for a leading center fielder.  Charlie Blackmon or Andrew McCutchen are names often mentioned thanks to the precarious position their teams face.  Mike Trout is the funny name you also hear since he’s so good he’s virtually untrade-able.  Unlike Tom Boswell, and as discussed in comments here before, re-signing Ian Desmond to man CF poorly would not be my first choice either.  I’d rather go with my “Bryce to Center” plan as laid out above.

Reality

  • Corner Outfielder.   See above Harper->CF logic.  If you want to splurge (and hurt your #1 divisional rival) sign Yoenis Cespedes.   Or you could make a big splash and sign Jose Bautista to a 3-yr deal that ends the same time Harper hits FA.  Werth remains serviceable in left, where he is mitigated defensively while Bautista still has value in RF.  This is where I could see a big chunk of the $30M of FA dollars going.  Lord knows we could use another clutch hitter in the middle of the order.
  • Closer: Above I said i’d love to re-sign Melancon, but more and more it seems like he’s going to be the 4th prize in a 4-closer musical chairs race.  And he’s gonna get paid.  And I’m not sure that the Nats are going to pay him.  Per the same previously mentioned FA list there’s 5 “active” closers hitting FA: Melancon, Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman,  Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo There’s a whole slew of guys who are FA who are former closers though, names like Andrew BaileyJoaquin Benoit, Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz, Jason Grilli, Greg Holland, J.J. Hoover, Jonathan Papelbon (haha, just making sure you’re still reading), Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, and Brad Ziegler.  There’s probably even more frankly; these were just the ones who stood out as I read the list.  Now, i’m not saying most of these guys are legitimate options, but some of these guys were perfectly good as closers and got “layered” by better closers.  Take Ziegler for example: he was just fine for Arizona for a while, then got moved to Boston where he got demoted to 8th inning duties.   I’d take him as a late-innings bullpen option.  
  • Bullpen arm: middle reliever: Now, all that being said about Closers, I think maybe what the team does is install one of their existing options as “the closer” and then maybe  hire one of these former closers to be an 8th inning/emergency closer kind of guy.  That’s essentially what they got last year with Shawn Kelley and that’s worked out ok.  I’d go after some of the ex-closer guys listed above, try to get them on an affordable deal (like halfway to closer money maybe) and that’d help off-set the losses of Melancon and Belisle.
  • Veteran utility infielder: as noted above, there’s not much in the farm system here.  If you keep Espinosa and put him in this role, then this is moot .. but we’ve read over and again about his disposition when he’s not playing.  This is kind of why I think we need to move him.  He’s more valuable in trade than he is in this bench role.  I hope the team re-ups with Stephen Drew honestly; he was solid, can cover all infield positions as needed, and can probably be had for a similar deal as last year.  I’d be happy with Difo and Drew and wouldn’t be opposed to perhaps another veteran utility guy to pair with Drew and compete with Difo if we don’t think Difo is up to the task.

Less Likely:

  • Backup LF/IB bench bats: While I like Robinson and I think Heisey did a good job this year, one struggled and the other is a FA with no guarantee of returning.  I absolutely expect to see another spring training cattle call of veteran bats of the LF/1B type to compete for roster spots.  I’m appreciative of Goodwin‘s completely unexpected line at the plate upon his call up; do we think he’s a better lefty bat option off the bench than Robinson?  I’m not sure.  I also sense (based on anecdotal evidence read over the years) that Robinson is a clubhouse and teammate favorite, which might make it tougher to cut him when the time comes.  Especially with a player’s manager type like Dusty Baker.  I know this is where MartyC will cry about Matt Skole (likely to depart in MLFA this coming off-season) and I understand; its all about potential versus production and Skole never produced enough during these annual spring training “tryouts” to win his spot.
  • Catcher: Here’s where the most arguing may occur.  I’m of the belief, after watching Severino down the stretch, that he could slide right into the starting spot right now.  I thought he looked good at the plate, took confident at-bats, never looked over matched, and (here’s the kicker) *puts the ball in play!*   This lineup has too many strikeouts; Severino struck out just 3 times in his 34 PAs down the stretch.   That correlates to about 50 punch-outs over a 600-plate appearance season; that’s awesome.  He was known for years for his defense, not his bat, so if he can provide even competent ABs he could be a starter.  So i’m up for saving money on the FA market (where the catcher ranks are thin and the prices will get bid up badly as a result).  Now, I could absolutely see us re-signing Wilson Ramos to an incentive-laden deal to keep him in house and hopefully get a good second half out of  him.  Why not?  If he signs for $5-6M (basically his salary this year) and then has games played incentives that could take him up to $7 or $8M why wouldn’t he do that here instead of elsewhere?   We go into the season with Severino and Lobaton with Kieboom in AAA and when Ramos shows up we (finally?) cut bait on Lobaton and have the two remaining guys platoon.  I’d be onboard with that plan.
  • Loogy: Why spend money here?  Solis and Perez ably fill the need.  Do we need a third lefty in the pen at the expense of one of the aforementioned righties?  I liked Rzepczynski this year; would he re-sign for reasonable dollars?  Would you want him back?  There’s several interesting names on the FA list; maybe one of them can be had for cheap.

 

What can we get in Trade versus buying on the FA market?   Payroll implications?

  • I suspect that Gonzalez can fetch some seriously valuable resources.  He’s an innings eating 4th starter who probably thrives in a pitcher’s park and is significantly less expensive at $12M/year than what something comparable costs on the FA market this year.  So can he fetch maybe one MLB-ready player that fits a need above plus maybe one decent prospect?  Is that too much?
  • Espinosa probably fetches less, unless you can get a GM to fall in love with his power/defense combo and somehow miss his BA and his K rate.  By way of comparison, Yunel Escobar (a lesser defender with less power but more contact) fetched us two upper-level pitching prospects in Trevor Gott and Michael Brady (by upper-level I mean AA/AAA level, not top 100 prospects).  I’d guess that Espinosa could fetch a bit more since he plays a premium position.  So that could end up being more of the needs above plus maybe an additional prospect.

But who knows what we can and cannot get.  In Mike Rizzo we trust when it comes to trades; no matter how much we bitch about prospects heading out the door, you’re really hard pressed to find a trade where Rizzo got the short end of the bargain or “lost” the deal.  So lets see what he can do.

Payroll implications.  I think we could get a $20M/yr corner OF slugger, a former closer at like $6M/year, resign Ramos at $5M, find a utility infielder in the Drew $3M/year range, and then sign a couple of guys to $1.25M conditional deals like what Belisle and Heisey got and fit right into the $145M payroll budget, even after arbitration raises.

 


Well; that’s a lot to argue about.  Maybe I should have split this up.  But let the discussions begin!

(did I forget anyone?)

Ask Ladson 9/23/16

19 comments

Turner is on everyone's mind.  photo via wp.com

Turner is on everyone’s mind. photo via wp.com

I know my “Fantasy post-mortem” post didn’t move the needle; luckily Nats MLB.com beat reporter Bill Ladson posted another inbox!  2nd one in two weeks!

Here’s how I would have answered these questions, if I was in a position to have random fans email me questions all the time :-)

Q: Is Trea Turner eligible for the National League Rookie of the Year Award? If he is, he should be the winner.

A: Absolutely Trea Turner is eligible.  Is he going to win?  Uh… better go check the season that Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager just had.  Turner probably finishes 2nd or 3rd.  If I had a vote, I’d probably go Seager, Kenta Maeda, Turner, Trevor Story and then Aledmys Diaz to round out the top 5.  Turner has been awesome no doubt, but Seager is an MVP candidate and did it all year.  If Turner had done what he has been doing for the full season?  Yeah he’d probably be at a Mike Trout level of production and we’d be having a far different conversation about him.  Ladson Agrees.

Q: You said you thought Dusty Baker sticks with slumping players too long, but you didn’t list Bryce Harper on that list.

A: I think its one thing to stick with a slumping player too long when you have a better alternative (or even a possible better alternative) on the bench.  But how do you possibly claim that Bryce Harper deserved benching?  He was the frigging MVP last year; talk about impatience.  And even with his “down” season Harper still has an OPS+ of 117.  Harper has had a really weird season: his month by month splits show him crushing in April, falling off a cliff in May after the walkathon in Chicago, rebounding for a solid June, hitting just .176 in July, rebounding again in August (.934 OPS) and then again falling off a cliff so far in September (hitting just .203 this month).  If the partern holds, he’ll get hot again just in time for the October playoff games :-)

Are the persistent rumors about his shoulder true?  Respected national reporter Tom Verducci has reported it not once but twice, each time with a more vehement denial from GM Mike Rizzo, but his drop off from last year is pretty apparent for all to see.  Certainly it would explain why he’s struggled so badly this year.  Are Rizzo et al denying so as to prevent a competitive disadvantage from being public knowledge?  Probably too late for that.

Ladson agrees; Harper is a different story.

Q: Do you think the 2016 Nationals team is stronger than the ’14 Nationals was?

A: Yes I do.  I think the 2016 rotation(at full strength) matched up better than 2014’s, the bullpen is stronger, and I think the hitting is more consistent with more production across the team.  Now, maybe a better question is, “Which team was better positioned heading into the playoffs?  There the answer is inarguably the 2014 team; the rotation we’ll field in the NLDS is two studs and then two question marks, we really don’t have a shutdown lefty in the bullpen, and two of our best hitters (Harper and Danny Murphy) are hurt.  Not a good time for all these injuries to hit.  Ladson gives the edge to 2014 for similar reasons as I gave.

Q: Being a longtime Expos fan and seeing that you covered them, how would you compare Vladimir Guerrero to Harper?

A: I’ll freely admit that I’m not nearly as qualified to answer this as Ladson.  But i’ll give it an opinion; Guerrero was a better hitter, more capable of hitting whatever was thrown his way.  They were comparable in terms of defense; both had powerful arms and great range.  I give Guerrero the edge in speed on the basepaths, and Harper the edge in power (which is tough to say given that Guerrero hit 40+ a few times and had 449 for his career).  Both players only have one MVP: Guerrero’s came at age 29 as soon as he got out of Montreal.  Harper won his last year at the tender age of 22, and you have to think he’s got more in him.  Ladson gives the edge to Guerrero for now.

Q: With the emergence of Turner in center field, do you think the Nats will bring back both Ben Revere and Michael Taylor next season?

A: Revere no, Taylor yes.  Revere is arb-eligible and is making north of $6M this year; he’s an obvious non-tender this coming off-season.  Taylor is still under complete club control and is not arb-eligible for another year.  I can see the team going one of three ways (as we’ve discussed here at length):

  1. Turner to short, Espinosa traded and we look for a CF in trade or via FA.  Taylor the 4th outfielder.
  2. Turner to short, Espinosa moved, Harper to CF and we get a FA corner outfielder (my preference but not likely to happen).  Taylor the 4th outfielder.
  3. Standing pat: Turner stays in CF, Espinosa stays at short, and Taylor is the 4th outfielder.

In all these scenarios, Taylor is the 4th outfielder.  Is he even the 4th outfielder?  Well, he’s now had 781 plate appearances in the majors; he’s hitting .224 and he’s struck out 248 of those appearances.  Not good.  I’m not sure what we do with him at this point.  Ladson agrees with me on non-tendering Revere, and thinks Taylor needs another year in the minors.

 

Ladson’s Inbox 2/12/15

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What will Treinen give this team in 2016? Photo via zimbio.com

What will Treinen give this team in 2016? Photo via zimbio.com

Happy Valentines Day 2016!  And what better way to celebrate it than an Inbox from MLB.com’s Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson.  Here’s how I would have answered his questions had someone bothered to ask me.  As always, I write my answer before reading his, and edit questions for clarity.

Q: What is the biggest change the Nationals must make to be competitive in the NL East?

A: Well first, lets be honest.  There’s really only 2 teams even *trying* in the NL East 2016, so calling it “competitive” is sort of like claiming that the Washington Generals were “competitive” with the Harlem Globetrotters all those years.

For me the biggest thing the Nats need to do is just stay frigging healthy.  If Harper plays another full year maybe he doesn’t do another 10-win season, but you have to think he’ll be quite good.  Rendon was one of the NL’s top players two years ago; no reason not to think he could return to form.  Strasburg needs to be the guy all year in 2016 that he was in August and September of last year.  Werth and Zimmerman are both seemingly on the down side of their careers but there’s no reason they can’t be valuable contributors if they can stay on the field.  If all of that happens, then this team suddenly is the 95-98 win juggernaut that everyone thought they’d be in 2015.

Ladson mentions the Bullpen and team defense.  I guess he’s bought into the Royal’s plan as the way of winning going forward.

Q: What will Blake Treinen‘s impact be on the team be this year? It seems like he has the talent to make an impact on the team.

A: Well, right now Treinen is probably the “last guy in” to the bullpen; if the Nats were to acquire another RH middle reliever, Treinin likely gets bumped to AAA.  That’s because lefties hit him for an astounding .934 OPS last year.   His K/9 jumped dramatically his 2nd year in the pen .. but so did his BB/9.  Its pretty astounding to me that a guy with his kind of stuff (upper 90s sinking fastball with so much  movement that commentators think he’s throwing circle changes) struggles the way he does.  So my answer to the question is “minimal unless he can get lefties out with more regularity.”  Ladson basically says the same thing with the same observations.

Q: Do you expect Lucas Giolito with the big league club in 2016 or will he get a full season in Syracuse?

A: Something tells me that we may see Giolito in the majors this year, yes.  He didn’t light AA on fire last year … so I see him starting the season there (and not AAA).  I also see him quickly earning a promotion to AAA or perhaps straight to the majors, just like the team did with Joe Ross last year.  Or, consider what the team did with Jordan Zimmermann, who jumped straight from AA to the majors (albeit after spending most of the 2008 season in AA).

Why do I think Giolito is going to appear in the majors this year?  Because this is our last year with Strasburg before he signs a $200M contract somewhere.  And this is  one of our last couple years with Harper before he signs a $500M contract.  And when you have two of the marquee players in the game … you try to win at all costs.  This is the criticism of the Angels right now with Mike Trout and if the Nats go cheap or don’t use everything in their disposal to try to win a championship while they still have Harper, then it’ll be the same situation with the Nats.  So if one of our starters goes down and A.J Cole or Austin Voth can’t cut the mustard, then I expect Giolito to be on the MLB team without too much delay.

Ladson says it depends on how he looks in Spring Training.  I dunno about that; when scouts talk about how he has two grade 70 pitches already … what else is there to see?  I’m sure he’ll look awesome against AAA players and other re-treads in the later innings of ST games, will go to AA with the missive of “working on something” in particular, and will be up soon.  Ladson also says he “has no limits” in terms of innings; that too I think is BS.  He’ll be limited to no more than a 20% increase year over year.  He threw 117 innings last year; don’t expect him to throw much more than 140-150 innings.

Q: What kind of season do you expect from Gio Gonzalez?

A: I think we’ll see a slight improvement for Gonzalez over 2015’s campaign for reasons as frequently pointed out by JohnC: his peripherals were crummy, lots of bad luck on balls in play, and the defense behind him was rather subpar.  I’m thinking something like 13-9, 3.45 ERA, 1.30 whip.  Not bad for a 3rd or 4th starter.  Ladson implies that this could be Gio’s “last year” because he’s entering his option years.  Uh Bill, are you seeing what mediocre starting pitchers are going for on the FA market?  Gonzalez’s options are each at $12M for the next two years.  Jon Lackey is older and lesser, and just signed a 2yr/$32M deal.  Who would you rather have?

Q: Do you expect a significant contribution from any of the players signed to Minor League contracts?

A: A couple of the MLFA signings come to mind as possible contributors, absolutely.  Reed Johnson, Brendan Ryan, and Bronson Arroyo could all be surprising players come spring training, and an injury or two could open the way for their place on the opening day roster absolutely.  Just look at what happened to this team last spring, with a slew of guys on the opening day D/L and both MLFAs and non-tender candidates not only making the team but contributing the entire season (see Robinson, Clint and Moore, Tyler).  Ladson mentions one other guy Chris Heisey who could also factor in.

Q: I’m asking for a prediction: Who do you think will be the starting shortstop between Danny Espinosa, Trea Turner and Stephen Drew?

A: I’m going with Danny Espinosa honestly; the way the roster has been constructed its clear to me Turner is starting the season in AAA and Drew will be the utility infielder.  If Espinosa hits .200 in April though, all bets are off.  I know many will say that it should be Turner … bit if its Turner, then that leaves a veteran like Moore or Drew on the outside looking in.  Ladson says Turner; well see!