Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘scott boras’ tag

Will the Nats get Romero signed?

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Sure would like to see him signed so I can get an updated pic... Photo via UHcougars.com

Sure would like to see him signed so I can get an updated pic… Photo via UHcougars.com

Signing deadline is tomorrow, Friday 7/7/17 at 5pm.

A surprisingly large number of top 10 round picks remain unsigned, including our own 1st rounder Seth Romero.  Mlbpipeline reports that as of this writing 6 first rounders and 19 guys in the top 10 rounds have yet to sign.

To put this into context, given the new bonus/slotting rules it is extremely rare to have a top-10 round pick not sign.  Last year there were just two guys out of the 300+ guys picked in the top 10 rounds who did not sign.  We know for sure that at least one 1st rounder won’t sign: Tampa announced they will not be reaching an agreement with their 1st rounder Drew Rasmussen, a RS-sophomore from Oregon State.  Interestingly there’s confusion as to whether Tampa gets a comp pick or if Rasmussen becomes a FA.  I’m not sure where this is coming from; is it because Tampa has announced they’re refusing to even offer him a contract?  I’ve never heard of the “opting to become a FA” out of the draft; I thought he just goes back to school and re-enters next year (or goes to indy ball, where he’d still be draft-eligible next year).   Anyway; point is, if there’s more than 2-3 picks that don’t sign, it’d be a shock.

Which is why Romero in particular seems like an odd case to still have not signed.  He has little leverage; he has no college team to return to.  The other 1st rounders all remain unsigned due to signability issues; for example Ashburn/UNC’s J.B. Bukauskas fell 10 slots from his projection thanks to his last two starts being sub-par (attributed to a blister); he’s probably holding out for a bonus figure closer to #6 overall versus where he got signed.  Is this just a case of his agent Scott Boras trying to make sure he’s in the headlines?  Are they really struggling to come up with a bonus figure at this point?  The Nats and Romero were linked together for many days prior to the draft; its not like a case where they had a surprise player “fall” to them and they didn’t have time to pre-negotiate a bonus figure before picking him.

(coincidentally; the MLBpipeline report still lists Cole Freeman as un-signed; in reality they announced his signing and underslot bonus figure within a couple hours of LSU losing the CWS final).

Odds are that Romero signs, but the delay is curious.  He needs innings so the delay shouldn’t be about holding down his IP limit.  He’s been without a team and without proper training for months, so he stands to stay in XST for a number of weeks, putting him basically at the tail end of the minor league season.  So 2017 is looking like a wash for the most important pick of the draft.

Romero signing prediction: he signs, for a bit more than slot, which costs the nats any remaining chance to sign Bryce Montes de Oca.  But that doesn’t seem like a huge surprise.  It still puts the Nats  in a position where they likely sign 34 of t heir 40 picks, a huge number.  They won’t sign Montes de Oca, nor Dusty’s son Darren Baker (tangent; I agree with prior comments; if that was a legacy signing for show, why so early?).  They also won’t get UVA’s Bennett Sousa who will return to improve his draft stock for his senior year, and they miss out on the three late round HS picks (two of which were also legacy picks).

top 10 signing misses: i’ll guess we’ll see a few more non-signings out of the top 10 rounds, beating last year’s record low of just 2 non-signings.

 

Written by Todd Boss

July 6th, 2017 at 11:44 am

Nats first two 2017 draft picks reaction: Risk and Reward

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Romero kinda looks like the Chief, doesn't he? PHoto via UHcougars.com

Romero kinda looks like the Chief, doesn’t he? PHoto via UHcougars.com

Well, it came to pass.  The nats couldn’t help themselves and took talent over character.

Here’s my quick reaction to our first two picks.  Not surprisingly, the team went with two college arms.

  • 1st Round/#25 overall: Seth Romero, LHP UHouston. Well, the worrisome situation came to pass; the Nats couldn’t help themselves and drafted perhaps the draft’s biggest knucklehead.  His list of transgressions at Houston were large and dumb; fights with teammates, weight/conditioning issues, drug issues.  Prior to the spring, he was easily a top-10 talent, with early projections having him going as high as 6th overall.  He had 85 frigging strikeouts in 48 collegiate innings this year, and his slider is reportedly unhittable.  Sounds like a Carlos Rodon comp while he was in college.  He’s a power-lefty; works 92-95, touches 97 and per MLB already has two 60-grade pitches.  He kind of reminds you body-wise of Chad Cordero, with mechanics kind of like Drew Storen.  He’s got a very quick arm, is a big-body kid who might still need some conditioning work, but whose mechanics may give him some issues later on.  I don’t like the pick for the character issues; the Nats left one big college arm who I would have preferred in Alex Lange, but the guy I really liked here (Tanner Houck) went the pick before, so perhaps that sewed up the Nats choices.
  • 2nd/#65: Wil Crowe, RHP from South Carolina.  A guy who I saw in some mock drafts going to the Nats at #25 overall falls somehow to #65 overall, despite nearly every ranking system having him 20 picks higher.  Crowe is a TJ survivor (aren’t they all these days?), with a 65 fastball and a couple of 55s on his other tools who was solid if unspectacular for USC this year.  Big guy, big arm, physical comparison to Joe Blanton.  I like this as a safe pick.

Interestingly, both guys might be “slot savings” picks too.  Romero may be a Scott Boras advisee, but his free-fall may not put him in much of a bargaining position.  Meanwhile, Crowe has now passed up being drafted twice, is a redshirt Junior and really doesn’t need a 5th year of college.  So perhaps we’re seeing some strategy here, saving some cash for a run at a prep arm in the 3rd or 4th.

Verdict: in Rizzo we Trust.  If Romero’s issues are past him, then we very well could see a Brandon Finnegan like movement through the minors this season (especially since he didn’t pitch a full year), with him even helping in the MLB bullpen later this season.  Why not?  If he’s got two 60-grade pitches right now, then he could probably pitch in a MLB bullpen right now.  Crowe seems like more of a classical big-body RHP innings eater who we may see slowly rise with solid but unspectacular stuff; just the kind of solid starter every team needs to develop from within.

I will now begin talking myself into Romero.  Hey, we were all 21 once and did dumb things too.  There’s my justification for the pick :-)

Written by Todd Boss

June 13th, 2017 at 9:25 am

2017 Draft coverage; Mock Draft mania plus my projected top-5 and Nats picks

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Scout-MLB-draft-central-2017-640

Mock Drafts

Every year I say i’ll stay away from the Mock Draft links … and every year I come back.  Here’s a running collection; i’ve listed their top-5 and then who they project the Nats to take at #25 (if they project out that far).  Honestly, projecting even the top 5 has been folly in year’s past; last minute changes occur all the time and drastically change the top of every draft.  Look no further than the 2011 draft that netted the Nats presumed top pick Anthony Rendon.  

I’ll continue to add in mocks as they get published post-posting up until the draft.

However this year you’ll notice that the same general collection of names are listed in nearly every top 5 collection.  Here’s a quick summary of those top-5 guys.

Collegiate top-5 names:

  • Brendan McCay: 1b/lhp Louisville.  All-American as a Soph.  2016 Collegiate National team.  Good two-way player likely being drafted as a pitcher.
  • Kyle Wright rhp Vanderbilt.  2016 Collegiate National team.  Solid #1 starter for Vanderbilt, a machine for developing top-end pitching draft picks (see Jordan Sheffield, Walker Buehler, Carson Fuller, Tyler Beede, Sonny Grey, Mike Minor and David Price, all of whom were 1st round starting pitcher picks from Vanderbilt over the last 10 years)
  • Alex Faedo: rhp Florida. 2016 Collegiate National team; #1 starter from Florida, less known for developing pitchers but who did have two 1st round arms drafted just last year (A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning).
  • Jeren Kendall OF Vanderbilt.  2016 Collegiate National team; was presumptive 1-1 before really struggling at the plate in 2017, opening the door for one of the above college arms likely going 1-1.
  • J.B. Bukauskas rhp UNC via Ashburn, VA.  2016 Collegiate National team, fantastic numbers leading UNC to its first national seed in a while.  Considered undersized (he’s 6’0″) but has a big arm; widely projected at #6 to Oakland but does get some top-5 press.
  • Tristan Beck rhp Stanford who did not play in 2017 due to injury but was a pre-season all-american; some thought he may get picked as an injury stash like we’re seeing more and more.
  • Adam Haseley, 1B/rhp from UVA who has massively improved his draft stock this year.  He went from being just a good player to being mentioned in the top 5 in some mocks.  I don’t think he goes top-5, but he’s gone before the top-10 is done.

Prep top-5 names:

  • Hunter Greene: ss/rhp Notre Dame High, CA (UCLA commit). 2015 18U team as a Jr., Standout at PG Nationals 2016. Two-way talent, 95-97 on the mound but also a fantastic hitter. 18U National team trials. Area code star.  Likely getting drafted as an arm, might be the first prep RH starter to go 1-1.  Stopped pitching mid-way through the spring though, presumably to save his arm for his first pro season.
  • Royce Lewis ss/2b San Juan Capistrano, CA (UC Irvine). flashed power at Under Armour Game.  Helium guy, likely a top-5 pick.
  • MacKenzie Gore lhp Whiteville (North Carolina) High School (ECU commit).  Also a helium guy, has has his stock rise highly this spring.
  • Jordon Adell of/rhp Ballard High, KY (Louisville).  18U National team trials.  Area Code star; falling status early 17 badly but still gets some top-5 love.
  • Shane Baz, rhp from Concordia HS, TX (TCU): fast mover, mid-90s big righty in the same prep construction from the Houston area as the likes of Josh BeckettJamison Taillon and Tyler Kolek.  I don’t think he’s a top-5 pick but should be top-10.

 


Here’s the Mock draft collection that i’ve saved over the past months.  If you know of one I’m missing, let me know and I’ll add it in.

  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v1.0 12/14/16: Faedo, Kendall, Greene, Wright, Lewis (only projected top 10 picks)
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v2.0 5/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats taking Alex Lange, a polished, quick moving RH starter from LSU who I’d love to get.
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v3.0 5/26/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Haseley.  Nats still on Lange.
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v4.0 6/9/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats on Clarke Schmidt, a good RH starter from South Carolina who had to have TJ surgery (sound familiar?).  However, in his mock this leaves Houck, Pearson and Carlson on the board, and I think the Nats would take any of those three ahead of TJ guy.
  • MLBPipeline (Jim Callis2017 Mock Draft v5.0 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Hiura.  Wow.  Nats taking Seth Romero, a LH starter who was just kicked off of UHouston’s team, his 3rd “strike” with the team.  Sounds like a winner to me and I hope the Nats are not foolish enough to take a 3-time suspended college player.  Problem is, he’s a Scott Boras client, and people are worried that Boras is talking to the ownership again…
  • MLBPipeline (Jonathan Mayo2017 Mock Draft v1.0 12/14/16: Greene, Kendall, Faedo, Lewis, Wright (only projected top 10 picks).
  • MLBPipeline (Jonathan Mayo2017 Mock Draft v2.0 5/31/17: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.  Nats getting Lange (the MLB.com guys seem confident on Lange dropping to #25).
  • MLBPipeline (Jonathan Mayo2017 Mock Draft v3.0 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Hiura.  Nats on Lange.
  • ESPN (Keith Law2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/11/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  Nats taking Tanner Houck, a polished, quick moving Missouri RH starter.
  • ESPN (Keith Law) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 5/30/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats on Romero.
  • ESPN (Keith Law) 2017 Mock Draft v3.0 dated 6/11/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats taking Romero, again.  Great.
  • Fangraphs (Eric Longenhagen) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 6/5/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats taking Tristan Beckthe injured Stanford RHP.  Considering that Beck was once rumored to be possible top-5, if he falls to 25 I think the Nats would jump.
  • D1Baseball (Frankie Piliere) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/18/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats taking Tanner Houck.
  • D1Baseball (Frankie Piliere) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 6/9/17: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.  Nats taking Romero.  Problem with this mock: the next 3 after Romero are Carlson, Peterson and Lange, and I’d have to think the Nats would take any of those three over Romero.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 3/16/17: Greene, McKay, Lewis, Bukauskas, Beck (only projecting 1st 10 picks: no Nats pick).
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 4/20/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Beck.  Nats taking Brady McConnell, a prep SS from Florida who i’ve never heard of and have a hard time believing we’d actually take.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v3.0 dated 5/18/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Baz.  Nats taking Romero.
  • Baseball America (John Manuel) 2017 Mock Draft v3.5 dated 5/30/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats on Schmidt.
  • HeroSports.com (Chris Crawford) 2017 Mock Draft v4.0 dated 5/12/17: McKay, Greene, Wright, Bukauskas, Beck.  Nats taking Jordon Adell, a prep OF from Kentucky who entered the year projected near the top of the draft but whose stock has fallen precipitously.  I could see the Nats having him ranked high and (much like what happened with Lucas Giolito) them taking the chance if Adell is still available after being a top-5 rumored guy entering the 2017 season.
  • MinorleagueBall.com (John Sickels) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/18/17: McKay, Wright, Greene, Gore, Beck.  Nats taking Keston Hiura, an OF from UC-Irvine that i’ve never heard of.
  • PerfectGame.org (Brian Sakowski) 2017 Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/10/17: Greene, Wright, Lewis, McKay, Beck.  Nats taking Hans Crouse, a prep RH starter from California.  Crouse is good, but I can’t see the team taking a prep 1st rounder if the likes of Houck and Lange are on the board.
  • PerfectGame.org (Brian Sakowski) 2017 Mock Draft v2.0 dated 6/2/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  Nats taking Houck.
  • PerfectGame.org (Brian Sakowski) 2017 Mock Draft v3.0 dated 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats taking Romero.  But leave the likes of Carlson, Schmidt, Houck, Lange, Canning and Little on the board??  No way.
  • SI.com (Jay Jaffe) Mock Draft v1.0 dated 5/16/17: McKay, Greene, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  (Only projected top 10 picks).
  • SI.com (Jay Jaffe) Mock Draft v2.0 dated 6/12/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay, Lewis.  Nats again on Romero.  This mock leaves Pearson, Houck, and Carlson on the board, which I have a hard time believing would happen (that the Nats would take head case Romero over any of those three).
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v1.1 dated 5/3/17: Greene, McKay, Lewis, Wright, Gore.  Nats on Wil Crowe, a RH starter from South Carolina.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v2.1 dated 5/10/17: McKay, Adell, Greene, Wright, Gore.  Nats on Matt Sauer, a prep RH starter from California.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v3.1 dated 5/18/17: Wright, McKay, Greene,  Beck, Adell.  Nats taking Brendon Little, a JuCo LH starter by way of UNC who has impressed mightily this year.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v4.1 dated 5/25/17: Greene, McKay, Gore, Wright, Lewis.  Nats taking Schmidt the TJ guy.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v5.2 dated 6/1/17: Wright, Greene, Gore, Beck, Pratto.  Nats taking Houck.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft v6.1 dated 6/7/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats on David Peterson, Oregon State’s #2 starter, a big body LHP who could be a faster mover and fill the void of SP prospects in our system.
  • Seedlings to the Stars/Calltothepen.com (Benjamin Chase) Mock Draft Final dated 6/12/17: Greene, Wright, Gore, Lewis, Adell.  Nats on Griffith Canning, UCLA’s friday starter who projects as a slight framed #3 starter.  I saw him in the CWS regionals and wasn’t terribly impressed.  Chase’s final mock is kind of out there; he’s the only guy who has Greene 1-1 and he has a ton of guys normally being projected to the Nats very early.
  • TheBigLead.com (Ryan Phillips) Mock Draft v1.0 6/7/17: Wright, McKay, Greene, Lewis, Gore.  Nats taking Sam Carlson, a prep RHP from Minnesota who is highly ranked on every board that I see, but has some risk being a skinny RHP from a cold-weather state whose entire profile is based on his showcase results.  I’d guess the Nats would prefer a college arm.
  • TheBigLead.com (Ryan Phillips) Mock Draft v2.0 6/12/17: McKay, Greene, Gore, Lewis, Wright.  Nats on Houck (leaving Carlson, Pearson and Schmidt on the board).
  • CBSsports (Mike Axisa) Mock Draft v1.0 6/8/17: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.  Nats taking Romero but with curious logic.

 


Todd Boss’ Mock draft top-5 prediction?

I think the risk-averse Twins will go with a solid college arm at #1, picking Wright.  This lets the rebuilding Reds at #2 take the guy who is probably the best player in the draft in Greene, who might just be the next Dwight Gooden.  At #3 San Diego can afford to take a prep kid since they too are rebuilding, taking Lewis.  At #4, Tampa takes the solid, fast moving McKay and internally debates whether to put him on the mound or in the field.  At #5, Atlanta can’t help themselves (they love taking local guys) and takes the North Carolina prep product Gore, who might be the 2nd best player in this draft.  Oakland passes on Bukauskas thanks to his two late season iffy outings and goes with the next best collegiate arm on their board.

My top 5: Wright, Greene, Lewis, McKay, Gore.

ACTUAL DRAFT Results (added after the draft): Lewis, Greene, Gore, McKay, Wright.  Reportedly McKay wouldn’t take an under-slot deal at 1-1, so Minnesota popped Lewis instead, allowing McKay to go 4th to Tampa where he still probably sets a bonus record.  Lewis going 1-1 shakes up the order of the top 5, but not the top 5 themselves.

Who are the Nats going to take at #25

I like the projections for a solid college arm, so if Houck or Lange is there, look for that as the pick.  I could be talked into Schmidt as another TJ reclamation project.  If a highly regarded prep falls (Adell, Hall, Crouse, and especially Carlson) look for that as a longer-term play pick.  Notice not one projector puts them on a bat, so the talk of MSU’s Brent Rooker seems unlikely here.  I think they’re set on a polished college arm to quickly move up and start to fill holes that will soon be left when the likes of Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez hit free agency.

Actual Nats #25 Pick (added after the draft): tbd

 

 

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

Nats Winter Meetings Preview

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Winter Meetings 2016

Winter Meetings 2016 … here in DC!

As requested from Dr. Cane in the comments, lets chat about what we may see transpire at the upcoming Winter Meetings.  This year’s Winter meetings are a week from now, running from Sunday 12/4/16 to 12/8/16 at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor.  I’m halfway curious to drive over there to witness the “scene” in the lobby/hotel bar, having read about/listened to multiple podcasts over the years describing how these meetings work.  On the other hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t appreciate it if some nerd was hanging around my office while I was trying to get work done, so maybe not :-)

In this space we’ve talked about a couple of items related to what we may see transpire in DC in the next week:

We still have some significant issues to address on the roster.  How many will we see resolved at these meetings?  Here’s some of the rumors (two good links: mlbtraderumors.com FA predictions and BleacherReports predictions)  I’ve been hearing about as they relate to the obvious holes we have to fill; apparently the Nats and Mike Rizzo are expected to be “aggressive” this winter.  I’ll take them position by position:

Center Field/Outfield

  • One rumor has the Nats moving Bryce Harper to center and buying one of the big corner OF bats on the market.  Jose Bautista or Brandon Moss.  Josh Reddick was an early name but he got snapped up quickly.  Carlos Gomez could be an interesting name.
  • I’ve read that the team will splash out cash for Yoenis Cespedes and really “go for it” during the Harper window.
  • Mark Zuckerman recently reported that Ben Revere basically played with a bum shoulder the whole season and the team may very well tender him and go into 2017 with him as the starter.
  • I’ve heard the Nats associated with Andrew McCutchen, who may actually not be a good CF any longer, but any trade for him may be tough to do since he struggled so badly in 2016.
  • Also heard that the team could be involved in trade for someone like J.D. Martinez if the Tigers attempt to re-tool their roster.
  • My Take: i’m on the “move Bryce to CF” and acquire a corner bat.  I’d be happy with any of these names as a way to bolster the offense.

Shortstop

  • All of these CF moves assume Trea Turner returns to Short and Danny Espinosa either becomes a trade candidate or assumes the Stephen Drew utility infielder role.
  • I fully support Turner back to SS; i just don’t understand those that want to keep him in Center when he’s a natural short stop and, frankly, its a heck of a lot easier to find a CF than a SS.
  • My Take: I’m on the “we should trade Espinosa” boat if he’s not the starter, if only for the rumors we read about him as a clubhouse presence when he’s not playing.

Closer

  • There’s three major closers on the market and more than three teams chasing them.  Nats not expected to be a massive overpay … but you never know.  One rumor has them on Aroldis Chapman, banking on him retaining his velocity.
  • Another rumor has the Nats being more sensible and rolling the dice on a former closer like Greg Holland and then buying up a middle reliever (someone like a Brad Ziegler) to supplement the loss of several arms from this year’s bullpen.
  • But there’s all sorts of middle relief arms out there.  Joe Blanton may get 8 figures.  Who knew.
  • My Take: I like the Holland + Ziegler/Blanton route to add to our existing Kelley/Treinen/Glover trio, then add in the two lefties Solis/Perez and you have your bullpen.  Kelley could be the closer if Holland can’t do it and that’d still give the team three really good 8th/9th inning arms.  Replace Glover with a long-man if you want, or consider that both Perez and Blanton are former starters who could suck up innings, or be original and forgoe the darn long-man and just depend on call ups if you get a ton of innings thrown by the bullpen over a short period of time.

Catcher

  • Matt Weiters to the Nats makes a lot of sense; Scott Boras client, no draft pick compensation this year.
  • The team has already missed out on a couple of catchers who have gone off the board early.
  • They may be looking a some trade targets.
  • Clearly they’re not going to go into 2017 with just Jose Lobaton and Severino.
  • Wilson Ramos seems more and more likely to be gone, perhaps a remnant of the insulting pre-injury offer they gave him, perhaps just a reality of the market for his services coming off a 2nd major knee injury.  We love the Buffalo, but he may be better suited for an AL team that can DH him every once in a while, and one that can survive until July when he’s ready to go.
  • My Take: I have no idea what they’ll do.  But they have to do something.

I don’t really think the team needs or seeks any upgrades elsewhere, but yet we still hear weird rumors every once in a while.

  • Chris Sale acquisition via trade; don’t really understand the need; yes that’d give the team three “Aces” at the top but at what cost if it requires them to gut the farm system?
  • Moves to replace Werth or Zimmerman just seem silly to consider, given the payroll implications of having those two clubhouse leader/10-and-5 guys suddenly be bench bats.  I don’t see this team, this manager or this executive group knee capping franchise defining players like that, especially when they’re still relatively serviceable.   Werth was a 1.1 win player last year with a WRC+ figure north of 100.  Zimmerman was worth negative fWAR of course, but he was hurt most of the season, so its kind of hard to gauge what he’ll do in 2017.  He’s only 32 after all, and is under contract for a while longer.

Its impossible to predict trades that come out of the blue, but it is worth noting that the Nats have some surpluses of talent that they can trade from:

  • I count nine starters on the 40-man roster, which means that several could be trade bait.  We’ve heard rumors about Giolito, Lopez, Voth, Cole, Fedde and Gonzalez all getting packed up to move out.  And that leaves out some lesser-renounded but still promising arms lower down in the system (Dunning of course, but also the likes of Avila, Baez, Watson, etc).
  • There’s now TEN (10) infielders on the 40-man; I see a couple of DFAs/trades (Espinosa of course, and the loser of Skole/Robinson perhaps), and its hard to see a pathway for others (where does Marmolejos play for example?), but that’s a lot of infielders for 4 starting spots and and at most six 25-man jobs.
  • We have more than a few rising quality outfielders, headed by Robles and new 40-man member Bautista, but also including the likes of Stevenson, Agustin, Wiseman, Perkins and Banks.

What do you guys see happening?

 

Pre-2016 Draft coverage; mocks and local players

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Kansas prep star Riley Pint may not go #1 overall, but he'll be close. Photo via thatballsouttahere.com

Kansas prep star (and subject of Jeff Passan’s latest book “The Arm”) Riley Pint may not go #1 overall, but he’ll be close. Photo via thatballsouttahere.com

The MLB rule-4 (Amateur) draft starts tonight, 6/9/16 at 7pm.  The MLB Network will have full coverage of the first round of picks. This post is my dumping ground of draft coverage for 2016.

This post uses last year’s format, with links to use to see draft prospect rankings, links to help cover the draft (which I personally come back to time and time again), some blurbs on local players of interest, and then links to a bunch of mock drafts.

Draft Coverage so far at NAR for 2016:

  • Here’s the big post on all marquee DC/MD/VA prep players ahead of the 2016 season (only guys who are “significant” draft prospects are mentioned here).
  • Here’s the same for DC/MD/VA tied College players
  • After the draft happens, I’ll review both of the above posts and list who actually got picked and who’s going to school.

Draft Links of importance

Here’s a slew of Draft Prospect rankings : these are NOT the same as mock drafts; see further down for those.  You’re going to see the same locally tied names on nearly all of these lists; they’re all individually profiled further below.


 

Now, some news about College Players with local ties who are serious draft candidates (meaning first couple of rounds projected or present on top 100 draft ranking lists).  Note that I’ve got a far, far larger list of local players that I’ll follow-up on after the draft; these are just the significant/top 10 round types.

  • Connor Jones, UVA RHP via Great Bridge; at this point perhaps the 2nd or 3rd best college pitching prospect thanks to fall-offs from a number of other candidates.  Probably a mid-1st rounder, though some pundits (Keith Law) have him rated far lower.
  • Buddy Reed, OF from Florida via Finksburg, MD (NW of Baltimore).  Probably a late first rounder or sandwich pick, perhaps lower.
  • Matt Thaiss, UVA C who has shot up the rankings; now projected as early 2nd rounder.  Keith Law likes him as a late 1st rounder.
  • Mike Shawaryn: RHP for Maryland; stock has really fallen this season; now perhaps just a 4th rounder.  A late season push improved his draft status somewhat.
  • Andrew Knizner, C from NC State by way of Glen Allen, VA: gritty ballplayer who has played his way into perhaps 5th round discussions.
  • Errol Robinson, SS from Ole Miss by way of Maryland; struggled badly this season, dropping his stock from early 2nd round projections; no idea where he’s project to go now.

Local Prep players of note who are serious draft candidates:

  • Joe Rizzo, INF for Oakton HS.  Remains the highest ranked local draft prospect, projecting as anywhere between a mid-1st rounder and an early 2nd rounder.  South Carolina commit.  MLBpipeline.com’s write-up profiles his draft prospects the best.
  • Khalil Lee LHP/OF for Flint Hill.  Some have him 2nd-3rd round, others have him projected 4th-5th.  Part of the confusion is where to play him; he was an undersized speedy CF candidate… then suddenly flashed low 90s off the mound as a lefty starter this year.  Liberty commit.
  • Zack Hess, 1B/OF from Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg).  3rd round projection.  LSU commit.
  • Noah Murdock, a RHP from Colonial Heights (Richmond).  4th round projection by rank, UVA commit.
  • Garrett Stallings, RHP from Grassfield HS.  Not generally listed but may be rising, Tennessee commit.

Re-draft players of interest to Nats fans:  these are re-drafts that have come back up.  See the Draft Tracker for underclassmen draftees from last year and/or Prep draftees from 2013 who are now draft eligible again.

  • Garrett Hampson, SS from Long Beach State.  Nats 2013 26th round pick, now projecting as a 5th or 6th rounder.
  • Reid Humphreys, RHP/OF two-way player from Mississippi State.  Nats 2013 36th rounder, now projecting as a 4th/5th rounder.
  • Shaun Anderson, RHP from Florida.  Nats 2013 40th rounder, now projecting as a late 3rd rounder.
  • John Reeves, C from Rice.  Nats 2015 20th rounder who started 56 games for the CWS-bound Rice team and hit above .300; looks like a good choice to return to school.
  • Alec Rash, RHP from Missouri: Nats 23rd round pick in 2015.  Quit baseball altogether last fall to pursue collegiate basketball.
  • Blake Smith, RHP from WVA: Nats 24th round pick in 2015: posted a 2.20 ERA as West Virginia’s closer for the season with 8 saves and 25 appearances.
  • Mack Lemieux, LHP from Jupiter HS and then Palm Beach State CC.  Nats 14th round pick in 2015.

 

Mock Drafts

Every year I say i’ll stay away from the Mock Draft links … and every year I come back.  Here’s a running collection.  DCProSports.com has a master list of Mock drafts at this link that has many more than I’ve got listed below.

  • Fangraphs/Scott Moore‘s Mock #1: Groome, Senzel, Lewis, Puk, Pint.
  • BaseballAmerica/Hudson Belinsky‘s Mock #1: Groome, Senzel, Pint, Puk, Perez.
  • BaseballAmerica/Hudson Belinsky‘s Mock #2: Puk, Lewis, Pint, Moniak, Ray.
  • BaseballAmerica/John Manuel Mock #1: Puk, Lewis, Pint, Moniak, Groome.
  • BaseballAmerica/John Manual BA Mock #4: Moniak, Puk, Ray, Lewis, Pint
  • Manual Mock #5: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray
  • ESPN/Keith Law Mock #1 (Insider only): Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray.
  • ESPN/Keith Law Mock #2 (Insider only): Puk, Lewis, Groome, Moniak, Perez.
  • ESPN/Keith Law Mock #3: Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray
  • ESPN/Keith Law Final Mock: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray
  • D1baseball.com/Frankie Piliere Mock #1: Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray.
  • D1baseball.com/Frankie Piliere Mock #2: Puk, Lewis, Ray, Groome, Perez
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jim Callis Mock #1: Puk, Senzel, Lewis, Moniak, Ray.
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jim Callis  Mock #2: Puk, Senzel, Lewis, Moniak, Perez.
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jim Callis Final Mock: Moniak, Senzel, Ray, Puk, Collins
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jonathan Mayo Mock #1: Puk, Senzel, Lewis, Groome, Perez.
  • MLBPipeline.com/Jonathan Mayo Final Mock: Moniak, Senzel, Ray, Puk, Rutherford
  • MinorLeagueBall Mock #1 Part one and Part two: Lewis, Puk, Groome, Rutherford, Moniak
  • Scout.com/Taylor Ward Mock #1: Groome, Senzel, Rutherford, Lewis, Ray
  • Scout.com/Taylor Ward Mock #2: Puk, Ray, Lewis, Groome, Rutherford.
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #1: Groome, Hansen, Puk, Moniak, Pint
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #2: Senzel, Perez, Ray, Groome, Rutherford
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #3: Garrett, Groome, Rutherford, Senzel, Perez
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #4: Puk, Perez, Ray, Moniak, Rutherford
  • Scout.com/Jeff EllisMock #5: Puk, Lewis, Pint, Moniak, Rutherford
  • Scout.com/Jeff Ellis final Mock: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray
  • NatsGM.com/Ryan Sullivan‘s Mock #1: Puck, Senzel, Lewis, Groome, Perez
  • Si.com/Chris Crawford‘s Last minute Mock Draft: Puk. Lewis, Groome, Pint, Ray
  • Baseball Prospectus; have not seen any mock drafts from BP this year.
  • PerfectGame.org Mock Drafts are Insider/Premium only; this link is to their 2016 Draft Coverage home page.

 

Todd Boss’ Mock draft?  Based on my vast level of expertise (sarcasm) and the thousands of man hours i’ve put in scouting players in person and cultivating industry sources (also sarcasm), and instead reading the tea leaves of the gazillion other mock drafts, I’ll take this as my initial guess for the top 5: Puk, Lewis, Groome, Pint, Moniak

The only thing that gives me pause is this: Puk *stunk* in the regional.  4 and a third, 5 hits and 5 runs given up to UConn.  Sorry; if you’re going to go 1-1 you need to do an outing like 7ip, 4hits, 10ks, 0 walks in your swan song.  I wonder if that was enough to have Philly move to a different pick.  And Perez just got popped for failing a drug test, instantly removing him from top-5 consideration.  So, given Puk’s stinker most of the last minute mocks have Philly off of Puk and doing Moniak as an under-slot deal.  And I can’t disagree.  So my final mock will be: Moniak, Puk, Lewis, Pint, Ray

And this top 5 means that Groome and Pint (who I think are the two best talents in this draft) fall to teams outside the top 5 and they’re going to be absolutely ecstatic.

ACTUAL DRAFT Results: Moniak, Senzel, Anderson (??), Pint and Ray.  Just like everyone predicted.

Who are the Nats going to take at #28 and #29?

No frigging idea.  Lots of these Mock drafts attempt to guess, to put some names with the Nats down that far.  But consider the 2011 draft.  Everyone had Anthony Rendon going 1-1.  Suddenly he slips and the Nats grab him at #6 in a total gift.  The point is this: we have no idea how even the top 5 picks will go, so predicting what’s going to happen at pick #6 is folly, let alone #28.  Nats will take BPA, probably will mix up a safer pick (aka college arm) with a riskier pick (aka a high school bat) and go back to back $2M bonus slots.  I also like the running theory that the nats will get the Scott Boras special and “package” two Boras clients together at 28/29 and basically split the bonus pools.  Names often mentioned here include Kyle Funkhauser and the prep pitcher/basketball player Matt Manning.  One would be an over draft, one would be a steal if he gets here.  We’ll see.

 

Strasburg Extension Shocker!

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Wow. Photo allansgraphics.com via free-extras.com

Wow. Photo allansgraphics.com via free-extras.com

Woke today to check the score from last night (we have a toddler, ergo we are sleep deprived and go to bed early).  After reading about Bryce Harper‘s mouth and ejection and Clint Robinson‘s walkoff, there was a small little link at the bottom of the article…

Stephen Strasburg signs a 7yr, $175M extension to stay with the team, as broken last night by the Washington Post’s Chelsea James.

Wow.  Did not see this coming.  I never thought this team would re-sign Strasburg frankly, because I thought there’d be a feeding frenzy when he hit free agency this coming off-season.

Strasburg’s representation (Scott Boras) is not exactly known for having his players sign extensions.  The 2016-17 free agent market for starters was so bare that Strasburg likely would have inspired a bidding war and you have to think Strasburg just left a bunch of money on the table.  The next best starter hitting free agency next off-season now might be Rich Hill.  Rich Frigging Hill, as in the guy the Nats had on a MLFA deal last summer and cut him loose so he could go re-make his career out of the Oakland bullpen.

What kind of value did the team just get?  Here’s a quick look at the other SP deals in the $150M or higher range:

  • David Price: 7yrs/$217M starting in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw: 7yrs, $214M starting in 2014
  • Max Scherzer: 7yrs/$210M starting in 2015 (albeit with significant deferred money that brings the net present value down to around $185M)
  • Zack Greinke: 6yrs/$206M starting in 2016
  • Felix Hernandez, 7yrs/$175M starting in 2014
  • Masahiro Tanaka: 7yrs/$155M (but with his $20M posting fee its a $175M deal all told)
  • Jon Lester: 6yrs/$155M starting in 2015.

So, this is the selection of contracts to compare this Strasburg deal to.  Other big deals signed last off-season include Johnny Cueto (6yrs/$130M) and Jordan Zimmermann (5yrs/$110M).

There’s already a bunch of hot takes; some like the deal, some think its a mistake.  On the one hand, Yes, pretty much any big long term free agent deal eventually looks like a stinker, so in that respect you can be a cynic and say that every long term FA contract is a mistake.  But that’s just not a realistic way to look at team building in this modern era.  Unless you’re willing to completely punt on your season for several years running (see Chicago Cubs, see Houston Astros, see the Atlanta Braves right now, even look at what our own Nats did for two seasons so they could acquire both Strasburg and Harper in the draft), then keeping your team consistently in the upper division requires spending on the FA market to paper over what your farm system may  not be developing.

But looking at (specifically) the Cueto and Lester deals … I can’t help but think that the Nats got a steal here.  Who would you rather have, Cueto for 6/$130M or Strasburg for 7/$175?  Same question for Lester. Strasburg, to me, is a better pitcher (a far better pitcher) and they got him for basically the same AAV as those guys.  Would you rather have Strasburg for $25M AAV or Price at $31M AAV?  Honestly?  Give me Strasburg and I can use that $6M to buy more bullpen guys.

I know Strasburg has his detractors out there, people who with a straight face don’t think he’s an “Ace” or one of the best 10-15 arms in this league;  you people are fools.  Look at nearly any metric you want over the last 3-4  years and you’ll find that Strasburg is in the top 10-15 league wide.  Here’s a helpful link to fangraphs individual pitcher stats from 2012-now; in this time frame Strasburg is (among qualified starters): 13th in fWAR, 13th in ERA, 9th in FIP, 2nd in xFIP, 9th in SIERA, 4th in K/9, 11th in K/BB, 5th in FB velocity, 20th in wFA, 7th in wCU, 6th in wCH.  That’s pretty rare air to be that high up in so many different categories spanning the various statistical ways to measure pitching these days.  He’s not Clayton Kershaw … who is?

Interesting question to ponder: is this Strasburg/Boras “payback” for “shutdown-gate” in 2012??  Their way of saying “thank you” for looking out more for the pitcher than the team in that case?   Because it seems so to me; that’s my “hot take.”

I leave you with this before debating the merits of this move: Here’s our projected rotation in 2017:

Scherzer, Strasburg, Giolito, Ross, and Gio Gonzalez or Tanner Roark.

Yeah; that could be pretty frigging good.

Ladson Inbox 3/22/16

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Michael Taylor has been lighting it up this spring. Photo via wp

Michael Taylor has been lighting it up this spring. Photo via wp

Bill Ladson‘s inboxes seem to now just be sporadic Spring Training devices.  I should do more post-Boswell chat reaction posts to drum up conversation.  Nonetheless, here’s Ladson’s latest mailbag and how i’d have answered the questions he took.

Q: Former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden believes Michael Taylor should be the starting left fielder over Jayson Werth. What is your take on it?

A: My take is, “thats why Jim Bowden isn’t a GM anymore.”  Or even a manager.  Yes Michael Taylor has had a great spring.  He also struck out, a lot, in 2015, (158 Ks in 511 PAs for a nifty 31% clip) and (per his splits) didn’t really improve much as the season progressed.   Meanwhile Jayson Werth put up very, very good numbers in 2013 and 2014, the two most recent seasons when he wasn’t hurt.  In both of those seasons he put up oWAR of 4.7 (his total bWAR figures being drug down by his idiot manager continuing to play him in RF instead of left).

Of course, Werth isn’t getting any younger.  There’s not guarantee that he hasn’t fallen off a cliff of performance.

So what’s the answer?  You let Werth play his way to the bench.  The odds are that someone’s getting hurt in our OF and Taylor is going to get 400-500 ABs anyway.  So he’s gonna get playing time.  But there’s just no way that Dusty Baker the “veteran’s manager” is going to sit a long-time vet and team leader by virtue of a few weeks of Florida ABs.  It may take half a season of under-performance, but eventually these things sort themselves out.  This is basically what Ladson said too.

Q: What do you think is Baker’s toughest decision before heading north?

A: What socks to wear on opening day?  Honestly, there’s really very little to decide upon with this team.  They’ve had a very injury-free spring.  The rotation was basically settled upon months ago.  The trades that Mike Rizzo made to solidify the roster also had the effect of basically locking up the roster going north.  Maybe there will be a surprise in the bullpen but that seems unlikely too; the team acquired all these guys for a reason and it wasn’t to compete for a bullpen slot.

The obvious answer prior to spring training was “who starts at Shortstop” but I’ve never thought there was any question that Danny Espinosa will be the starter.  That’s not to say I don’t recognize the potential of Trea Turner (he’s not a top 10-15 prospect on most pundits’ sheets for nothing), but returning to a theme, I just had a hard time thinking that a manager like Baker was going to go with a guy with 5 weeks of service time over a guy with nearly 5 years.  As with Taylor/Werth though, this situation likely sorts itself out.  If Espinosa hits .200 for April, then he’ll switch places with Stephen Drew and the team will start thinking hard about bringing back up Turner (especially if he’s hitting .320 in AAA).

I think there’s still some question at the edge of the bench; do you go with who I think they’ll go with (Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson) or do we get a surprise DFA so they can stick with someone like Matt den DekkerLadson also says its the last bench spot, where Moore is the incumbent but a number of guys could stick based on spring performance, specifically Scott Sizemore, who might be a bit more positionally flexible than Moore.

Q: What is your biggest concern about the Nationals?

A: Bullpen.  We’ve talked about how the Nats, despite all their injuries on offense last year, really struggled in terms of run prevention as the core reason they went from 96 to 83 wins.  Now they’re rolling out nearly a 100% changed bullpen from opening day last year.  How will it perform?  Will it be able to hold down the fort?

We also likely are taking a step back in the rotation, unless Strasburg remembers his September form and brings that from day one.  But, we hopefully counter this with a step forward in offense, with healthy seasons from Anthony Rendon and the veterans.  Ladson also says Bullpen.

Q: Who do you see having a breakout year in the Nationals’ farm system?

A: Well, do you count Giolito at this point?  Probably not.  I’m going to go with the prospects who are getting publicity but who are still in the lower minors.  Guys like Victor Robles, Anderson Franco.  I’d like to see what Max Schrock can do.  I’m excited to see what Taylor Hearn can bring to the table with a full season.  The two Lees: Andrew Lee and Nick LeeLadson mentions Severino; meh; i think we know what we have with Severino by now; great catcher, no hit, #8 hitter in the majors.  I think you see this team let both Ramos and Lobaton go this coming off-season and find a new starter with Severino as the backup.  But that’s a year away so lots could change.

Q: Should the Nationals consider trading Stephen Strasburg before the non-waiver Trade Deadline since it seems he has no interest in returning to Washington next year?

A: Nope.  You try to WIN when you have guys like Strasburg, not flip them away like you’re some small market team stashing away prospects for the future.  This isn’t Tampa Bay; this is the #5 market in the nation.  Besides, who said Strasburg has “no interest” in returning to Washington??  I’ve never read that.  His agent is Scott Boras, who always advises going to free agency, and next year’s FA class is weak, meaning Strasburg will probably get into a bidding war for his services.  Its the modern game; he’ll be overpaid, he’ll get too many years, and he’ll likely get priced out of the comfort level of Ted Lerner and company.  But that’s not the same as implying that Strasburg doesn’t want to be playing in Washington.  Would you give Strasburg 8yrs/$200M?  Because that’s the going rate for an Ace-quality guy like him on the market.  Ladson agrees.

Q: What do you think of Blake Treinen? Is he a starter or reliever?

A: I think  he’s a starter at heart but a reliever in reality.  That is unless he can actually develop a 50-55 grade third pitch that he can reliably get lefties out with.  If that’s the case, then he could become a very effective starter.  And it does seem like the Nationals are thinking the same thing.  He’s definitely pitching this spring like he’s a starter; perhaps the team is thinking about Treinen as the longer guy instead of PetitLadson says he’s showing progress and his spring stats are good; is he the 6th starter over A.J. Cole or Austin Voth at this point?  If someone goes down with injury, are you trying out Trienen or are you calling up the kid Giolito?

 

Ladson Inbox 2/26/16

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Future $400M Dodger? Photo GQ magazine Mar 2012

Future $400M Dodger? Photo GQ magazine Mar 2012

I guess Bill Ladson only gets questions during spring training.  After not doing an inbox for practically all of last season, its 3 in 3 weeks!  Since these are such good conversation starters, lets see how I would have answered his questions.

Q: Most believe the Nats have no chance of keeping Bryce Harper once he becomes a free agent. Your thoughts? 

A: Unfortunately, I’m also in that camp.  I believe Bryce Harper and his aggressive agent Scott Boras will take him to free agency with the idea of getting the largest contract in history.  And, when push comes to shove, I just can’t see how Washington is going to have the stomach to compete with the big-money teams (namely, the Dodgers and Yankees) and commit the kind of dollars that he’s going to command.  Certainly not with the MASN hamstringing.  I mean, lets be honest with ourselves; its taken years just to get the two parties to agree on whether the Nats are going to get $34M (what the O’s want to pay), $53M (what the first arbitration panel apparently agreed upon) or $109M (what the Nats requested) on the first reset of the agreement.  Meanwhile the Dodgers are getting somewhere between $240M-$280M a year in their RSN deal … potentially FIVE TIMES what the Nats are getting paid.  I’m sorry; but the team that can afford to just throw money at players is the team that is going to be able to promise $40M/season.  There’s just no way even a “rich” team like Washington is going to compete.  Enjoy him while you can and hope the team does the smart thing and really, really tries to win a World Series while they still have him.  Ladson thinks the team is going to wait and will “try to extend him” before he hits free agency.  Yeah, right.  How many players Boras has represented have taken extensions versus going to free agency? 

Q: What are the chances that Ian Desmond returns to the Nationals this year?

A: Well, I think the chances seem like they’re nil.  The Nats made their offers (a multiyear extension AND a qualifier) and Desmond turned them both down.  I’m shocked that he’s the last man standing in the Qualifying Offer class (I would have bet money it would have been Ian Kennedy), and i’m shocked that he hasn’t found a job yet.

Now, that being said, a better question might be “Should the Nats think about bringing him back??”  You’ve just hired a player’s manager who likes veterans in Dusty Baker.  They’ve constructed their roster with a clear intention of sending future SS-in-waiting Trea Turner back to the minors for seasoning, meaning that Danny Espinosa seems like the starting shortstop (career BA: .230).  At this point, given the steal of an offer you might be able to get Desmond for (Fowler was given a gift of a contract from Chicago, guaranteeing $13M when he probably wasn’t going to get that in terms of AAV on the open market), maybe he’s worth considering.  Yes we’d be giving up the supp-1st rounder we stand to gain.  But you can just give him another QO next season if he rebounds and puts himself in line for another big pay day.  Or maybe you assume the next CBA (which will be signed sometime this year since the current deal expires 12/1/16) gets rid of the Q.O. entirely, since it is killing players and FA market values for certain types of players.  Actually this latter argument perhaps supports the Nats wanting to keep the pick, since it may very well go away (or perhaps the system is modified to just give all teams giving away significant FAs supplemental first rounders, not that I have any idea how you’d figure out who was deserving of a pick).  I think the team has made the decision that he’s on the decline, that they’ve dodged a huge bullet by him turning down 7yrs/$105 or whatever it was, and they’re ready to move on.

Ladson has sources in the Org that say its a “long long long shot.”  Baker says Espinosa looks like he’s in “mid-season form” at the plate (wow; does that mean he’s only striking out every OTHER time up and still hitting .230?)

Q: What do you think Baker will bring to the Nationals this year?

A: I think Dusty Baker brings harmony and respect to the clubhouse in ways it was clearly not present under Matt Williams.  No more arbitrary scheduling, lack of communication, lack of awareness of what’s going on with his players.  I’m a big advocate of hiring contrasting styles in managers when one guy clearly grinds his way to a failure, and Baker is a great example of it.  I was completely pro-Bud Black because of his pitching experience, but the team has more than made up for it with the hiring of Mike Maddox and we’re going to be a much better team for it.

Ladson mentions a very important word: Charisma.  Baker brings a ton of experience, charisma and humor to the clubhouse; again going towards one of the big, embarrassing issues from last year (clubhouse chemistry).

Q: Can you predict the Nationals’ rotation on Opening Day?

A: Barring injury, it has to be (in order) Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Ross and Roark.  I’m not going to predict Arroyo beating out Roark at this point unless Arroyo looks completely healthy, he’s actually pitching well and Roark falls apart in Spring Training.  If there’s an injury, I look at Arroyo as the first man up, then Cole in terms of rotation coverage.  If we have to dig any deeper than that … watch out.  I like Voth but i’m not sure he’s ready for prime time.  I don’t trust Taylor Jordan any longer.  Lucas Giolito may start his career a ton earlier than anyone thought if injuries take out too many of our starters.

Ladson says its a no-brainer right now with the assumed 5 above.

Q: Why did the Nationals let Yunel Escobar get away? He was a consistent hitter.

A: Escobar was a consistent hitter last year yes (.314 BA, which was 50 points higher than the two previous seasons and 30 points higher than his career average), but hit an “empty” .314 (just 9 homers and a .415 slugging, also a huge improvement over previous seasons and his career high).  Unsaid is Escobar’s significant defensive issues (awful defensive stats, though to be fair genius skipper Williams had him playing out of position the entire season).  I think the Nats “sold high” on Escobar, traded from depth to a certain extent and got a player (Trevor Gott) in trade that they really needed to help bolster the bullpen.  Ladson doesn’t mention the “selling high” part of his offense; only mentions his defensive issues.

Q: What was it that made the front office sour on Drew Storen? The kid is one of the premier closers in the game, yet the team always seemed to be looking for someone better.

A: An excellent question.  I’m not sure it was the “front office” as much as it was the “impulsive owner” who soured on Storen.  He had two well publicized post-season failures, which led the normally sane and intelligent GM Rizzo to twice acquire and over-pay an aging “proven closer” to replace Storen.  The first time, Rafael Soriano eventually was supplanted by his own failures and Storen’s consistency, the second time the team inexplicably replaced him with Papelbon in the middle of perhaps Storen’s finest season.  Is Storen one of the “premier closers” in the game?  No.  I’d say he’s middle of the road and could likely tick off at least 15 guys who will be more highly valued in fantasy than Storen were he to win the Toronto closing job.

The crummy part of the deal was the fact that Storen was the one who needed to be traded by virtue of Papelbon making himself essentially untradeable.  I tell you what; Papelbon better be a frigging all-star this year to make up for what’s happened.  Ladson mentions the two blown post-season games and says he needed a change of scenery.  Both true.

 

 

Qualifying Offer analysis: Nats and Leaguewide

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Desmond gets a Q.O. Photo Drew Kinback/Natsnq.com

Desmond gets a QO. Photo Drew Kinback/Natsnq.com

Qualifying Offer (QO) extension time has come and past, and a record 20 players received the 15.8M one-year contract tender for 2016.

The Nationals, as has been typical, went the conservative route and only gave a QO to the two players they expect to reach significant, multi-year deals.  Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond.  They opted not to extend offers to their other 7 free agents, nor to the two guys who a  year ago you would have thought to be locks to get one (Doug Fister and Denard Span).

(coincidentally: am I the only one who thinks that the Nats actually have 9 free agents on their end-of-year 40-man roster?   Zimmermann, Desmond, Span, Fister, Uggla, McLouth, Janssen, Thornton and Johnson.  Why is it that all the other stories I read only list the first 8?  Is Reed Johnson actually not a FA?  Look at the Nats XLS on Cots‘; Johnson is absolutely listed as a FA, as are 6 others, plus the two with options that we’ve already declined.  Am I wrong?)

Anyway.  I’m on record as saying that the Nats should have extended 3 QOs to include Span.  Yet not for the first time, the team has opted not to offer a QO to a guy who clearly would have declined it.  And this will be the third time they have made a crucial mistake as an organization and gave away a high draft pick needlessly.  Edwin Jackson was always going to sign a multi-year deal and the Nats inexplicably failed to give him one.  Same with Adam LaRoche, who clearly still had a market for his services and would have garnered another pick.

I’m not sure exactly what Scott Boras seems to “have” on the Lerners … but not for the first time they’ve cut him a break and done him and his clients an inexplicable favor.  So, what exactly do the Nats get out of this?  Span should send the team management a fruit basket for not destroying his FA market this coming off-season.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Span didn’t hire Scott Boras so that he could hand over a commission check on a gift of a $15.8M one year deal.  Span was never going to accept that QO.  Just dumb.  But hey, it isn’t exactly the first dumb thing this front office/ownership group has done this off season…

So, of the 20 players who did get a QO … the annual question remains.  Will someone actually take it this year?  Just as a reminder, here’s the entire list of QO-offered players since the system began, with their eventual contract offer and a judgement of whether or not the QO “hurt” their next contract.  Eight in 2012, 13 in 2013, and 12 after last season.  That’s 33 total players and so far NOT ONE has signed the deal.  I’m still not entirely convinced that there’s not a Player’s Union-wide conspiracy going on where they decline the QOs en masse because they don’t agree with it for some reason.  Certainly it seems like the next CBA will eliminate it, since it has clearly done little except harm the market for FAs.

Here’s a quick opinion on the 20 guys who got QOs and what I think may happen (AAV = Average Annual Value on their contract):

  • Easily surpass AAV of $15.8M and get monster deals: Greinke, Heyward, Zimmermann, Upton, Gordon: All of these guys are marquee free agents, are the kind of guys you give up a pick to sign gladly, and will sign for significant money well eclipsing the QO AAV or guaranteeing a significant amount of money (like, in the $80M+ range).
  • Will sign multi-year deals with significant money, even if AAV is “only” at or near $15.8M: Desmond, Davis, Iwakuma, Gallardo, Samardzija: I can see Desmond doing 4/$60 or something like that in New  York, I can see the two pitchers getting nice deals in the 3/$45 range and I can see Davis banking a short high AAV deal.  For me, even Samardzija’s 2015 decline won’t scare off some teams, especially teams out west in pitcher’s parks and especially since he could be a nice 2nd-tier deal of an arm once you get past the significant FA pitchers.
  • Might not get $15.8M AAV, but will sign for at least 2/$25M or 3/$40M or something: Lackey, Chen, Kendrick, Weiters, Anderson: Most of these guys probably take less AAV but guarantee more total cash, like several guys did last off-season.  I’ll bet some of these guys re-sign with their current teams too (Anderson, maybe Kendrick, maybe Lackey too).  The draft pick compensation likely scares off some teams here, so their market will be limited, but if a team has a protected first pick they might be ok giving up a second rounder for these guys.  Or, a team like Washington, which will get two supp-1st picks, may be willing to give up its 1st rounder to just “drop down” 10-15 slots to sign these guys.

So that leaves more than a few guys who might be crazy not to sign the offer sheet:

  • Rasmus: made just $8M this year; does anyone really think he’s getting significantly more in FA on an AAV basis?  Plus, who is going to give up a 1st or even a 2nd round pick to sign him?  And he hit just .238 in a hitter’s park.  This seems like a “dare” move from the Houston front office, known in the industry to be just a bit too clever for their own good sometimes.  As in, “I dare you to break with your union and take this deal.”  If there really is some un-spoken agreement among players to never take a QO, he’s a great test case.
  • Fowler: Similar situation to Rasmus ($9.5M this year): he’s not the kind of guy you commit significant money to, is he?  He does have value in a very small CF market, so perhaps you  make the argument he belongs in the same conversation as Lackey or Kendrick.
  • Murphy: made just $8M this year and hit half as many homers in the post season as he had all year.  So clearly he made himself some cash with his post-season exploits .. but enough to double his pay on an AAV basis?  A shrewd move from the NY front office, pressing the issue here with Murphy.
  • Kennedy: $9.8M this year but has been awful.  Might not even be a 5th starter, and has Scott Boras as an agent.  Who’s giving up a 1st rounder to make him their 5th starter?  Who’s signing him to a long term deal?  Without the QO stigma, I could have seen him signing a 1yr/$8M deal but not much else.  How can he possibly not take this offer, a gift of a pillow contract to re-gain some value for next off-season?  One reason: his agent.  Is Kennedy going to be the next Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales, who gets talked into hitting the open market by his aggressive agent only to find himself sitting until next year’s draft passes since nobody’s willing to give up a high round pick to sign him?
  • Estrada: he made just $3.9M in 2015 and has made just $10m TOTAL in his career, yet got offered $15.8M for next season after a breakout  year in Toronto.  Uh, why wouldn’t he take this QO?  He’s on the wrong side of 30, would more than double his CAREER earnings with one stroke of the pen, and if he repeats his performance could get a 3-year deal taking him past age 35 to lock up his financial future.  This is easily the craziest QO we’ve seen yet and will be the biggest test of the system.

It just seems to me that this last group of players are either going to re-sign with their own team or are going to get really screwed in the open market.  Look at that last group of 5 players and tell me who’s giving up a 1st round pick to sign them?

Good further reading on the same topic: