Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘tanner roark’ tag

Is anyone else seriously concerned about Scherzer’s injury?

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What the heck is going on with Scherzer's finger? photo via wp.com

What the heck is going on with Scherzer’s finger? photo via wp.com

So, let me see if I understand this timeline:

  • Max Scherzer suffered a stress fracture in his ring finger “late in 2016” but it wasn’t enough to force him to miss any starts down the stretch (he made 6 starts in September last year, winning 5 of them to lock up the NL Cy Young award, and only really pitched “badly” in one of them) nor either of his two starts in the playoffs (he gave up 4 in 6 innings, then pitched masterfully in the NLDS game 5, giving up just four hits in 6 complete before a lead-off homer and a quick yank on 99 pitches in the fateful game 7).  Indeed, Scherzer said in the below press release that he pitched “pain free” all fall but only in the off-season did the discomfort set in.
  • A couple weeks after he was named to the US WBC team, the injury was then given as the reason that he had to subsequently withdraw from the World Baseball Classic.  This announcement was made on January 9th, and the press release noted that it was basically precautionary and that he would be ready for full participation in Spring Training.
  • Five weeks later, at the start of spring training, we get word that Scherzer now may not be ready for opening day due to the injury.
  • I then read today, February 26th, that Scherzer is throwing but with a “modified grip??”

Great; our Cy Young winning $210M pitcher has had a months-long non-healing fracture in his throwing hand that is now forcing him to throw with a modified grip.  The team has had the entire off-season to resolve this situation, yet here we are in a crucial 2017 season where we literally traded all our pitching depth in the off-season … and our #1 starter sounds to me like he’s starting the year on the D/L.

Awesome.

Am I over-reacting here?  Is anyone else reading these tea leaves and thinking to themselves, “oh it’ll be ok, we’ll see him opening day like always?”  Because right now its looking like he’s on the D/L come April 1st, Strasburg is testing out his injured Flexor Mass Tendon on Opening Day, Roark will be slotting in at #2 after having his normal spring training interrupted by the WBC, to be followed by the erratic Gonzalez, the also-coming-off-an-arm-injury Joe Ross, and then the career 79 ERA+ A.J. Cole leading up the rear, he who just got shelled in his first spring training game.

Sounds like a winning formula to me.

 

Written by Todd Boss

February 26th, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Nats Option status for 2017

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Robinson is facing an options squeeze this spring. Photo via minorleagueball.com

Robinson is facing an options squeeze this spring. Photo via minorleagueball.com

When the team signed Adam Lind, it put a shot across the bow of Clint Robinson for more reasons than one: yes Lind and Robinson are basically the same player, Lind now has a guaranteed contract … and Robinson has no more options.

So, who else on the Nats is facing an options crunch?

I’ve uploaded my trusty “Options Tracker” for our entire 40-man roster here; i’ve got the players categorized by their options status.  Here’s a summary:

Category 1: Vets who can refuse demotion (5 or more years of service): 12 of our projected 25-man roster now fit into this category.  Jose Lobaton (who last year was in the “no options left” status) joined this club in 2016, passing 5.000 years of service.

PlayerService Time post 2016First Added to 40-man
Werth, Jayson13.102Nov 2002
Zimmerman, Ryan11.032Sep 2005
Scherzer, Max8.079May 2007
Gonzalez, Gio7.162Aug 2008
Strasburg, Stephen6.118Aug 2009
Perez, Oliver12.144Feb 2003
Kelley, Shawn7.128Apr 2009
Murphy, Daniel7.019Aug 2008
Lobaton, Jose5.138Nov 2008
Heisey, Chris6.042Nov 2009
Drew, Stephen10.038Jun 2005
Lind, Adam9.058Sept 2006

Category 2: Players with options Available but who are entrenched on the 25-man roster: I count 8 players here, though we’ve been shocked before when a seemingly solid 25-man roster guy got optioned suddenly (Drew StorenJohn Lannan).   Interestingly only Tanner Roark never got optioned after coming up, even as he struggled after getting replaced in the rotation in 2015.

PlayerService Time post 2016First Added to 40-manOption Years UsedOptions left?
Harper, Bryce4.159Aug 20102011, 20121
Rendon, Anthony3.130Aug 20112012, 20131
Roark, Tanner3.055Aug 20133
Ross, Joe1.094June 201520152
Treinen, Blake2.065Apr 201420142
Turner, Trea0.135Aug 201520162
Norris, Derek4.102Nov 201120122
Eaton, Adam4.030Sept 201220132

Category 3:  Players with Options Available, jeopardizing 2017 25-man roster status – I see 3 guys here who I’m still projecting to make the 25-man roster right now, but who have options flexibility and could easily get dumped back to AAA.  Probably the most likely of this is with Trevor Gott, who we’re kind of expecting to lose out to someone like NRI Vance Worley at the back end of the bullpen.  Or perhaps not if he beats out the option-less Romero (see below).

PlayerService Time post 2016First Added to 40-manOption Years UsedOptions left?
Taylor, Michael2.010Nov 20132014, 20161
Gott, Trevor0.145June 201520162
Glover, Koda0.051July 201620162

Category 4: Players with Options almost guaranteed to be used in 2017 – 14 of the guys on our 40-man are all guys with less than 1.000 years of service time and who are nearly locks to burn an initial option and start the year in the minors.  I suppose that could change if Brian Goodwin beats out Michael Taylor for the last OF spot, or if there’s a loogy injury and Matt Grace is pushed into action.  I also suppose that A.J. Cole could beat out Worley and others for the swing-man spot in the MLB bullpen… but honestly Cole’s value is more as a starter insurance policy stretched out in AAA than languishing in the MLB bullpen, lugging around the candy bag.

PlayerService Time post 2016First Added to 40-manOption Years UsedOptions left?
Cole, AJ0.092Nov 20142015, 20161
Grace, Matt0.145Nov 20142015, 20161
Goodwin, Brian0.044Nov 20142015, 20161
Difo, Wilmer0.110Nov 20142015, 20161
Martin, Rafael0.080Apr 20152015, 20161
Severino, Pedro0.094Sept 201520162
Kieboom, Spencer0.006Nov 201520162
Voth, Austin0.000Nov 2016none yet3
Bautista, Rafael0.000Nov 2016none yet3
Marmolejos, Jose0.000Nov 2016none yet3
Read, Raudy0.000Nov 2016none yet3
Skole, Matt0.000Nov 2016none yet3
Cordero, Jimmy0.000Nov 201520162
Adams, Austin0.000Nov 2016none yet3

Lastly, the critical Options Analysis for 2017: Category 5: Players with No Options Left: 3 guys this year.

PlayerService Time post 2016First Added to 40-manOption Years UsedOptions left?
Robinson, Clint2.028Nov 20102011,2012,20130
Solis, Sammy1.084Nov 20132014, 2015,20160
Romero, Enny1.072Nov 20122013, 2014, 20150

Lets take these guys one by one:

  • Clint Robinson: it’s not surprising that the first thing he reportedly asked when hearing of the Lind acquisition was whether or not he got DFA’d the same day … odds are that Robinson will be facing a DFA at some point this spring training.  That’s life in baseball, and a shame for a journeyman like Robinson who finally got a shot at the bigs but couldn’t produce enough to keep it.  The best thing he can do is keep at it, produce this spring, and then put himself in a position to earn his spot again if there’s an injury and/or hit well enough to earn the Nationals something of value in trade when he inevitably gets DFA’d.
  • Sammy Solis: thanks to an injury that cost him all of 2012, his service time clock had to be accelerated and he burned options at a  young age.  Nonetheless, he’s established himself as a pretty important loogy-plus member of the Nats bullpen going forward and there shouldn’t be any 25-man roster status jeopardy.
  • Enny Romero: newly acquired power lefty cost the Nats very little (Jeffrey Rosa, who was a starter for our GCL team in 2016), and may not be long for the team if he can’t improve upon his 2016 WHIP (north of 1.5), his BB/9 rate (an ugly 5.5) or his ERA (5.91).  You can’t teach velocity though, and Romero frigging brings it (average 96.1, peak 99.2 MPH last  year).  We’ll call him Nook if/when he makes the team.

My predictions: Solis a lock, Romero makes the team but is on a short leash and eventually gets DFA’d after 5-6 weeks, Robinson DFA’d at the end of spring and is traded to an AL team that could use a cheap lefty 1b/DH option for a low-level prospect.

The 2018 version of this post will be significantly more interesting, since 5 guys who i’m projecting as locks to get optioned in 2017 will burn their 3rd and final option this year.  We’ll probably see some churning at the back end of the 40-man roster through out the year and into next off-season as a result.  But that’s a post for another time.

 

 

2017 MLB Rotation Rankings 1-30

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Lester: the best pitcher on the best rotation heading into 2017. photo via Grantland

Lester: the best pitcher on the best rotation heading into 2017. photo via Grantland

Even though there’s still about 20 “starting pitchers” still on the FA market, none of them really project as anything more than a 5th starter competition or a MLFA signing at this point in the off-season, so I thought it was high time to break out my 2017 Rotation Rankings.  (Here’s a link to last year’s rankings)

This is not a ranking of 2017 projected performance, nor a WAR ranking from last year, nor anything statistical in nature.  This is me looking at individual players and gauging the overall “strength” of the rotation, with subjective rankings then applied.  This is also a lot of me asking, “Who would I rather have as a fan?” type questions; would your rather have Chicago’s 1-2-3 or New Yorks?   This starts with the identification of the roughly 20 or so best pitchers in the league right now, calling them “Aces,” then looking at those who are just a notch below an Ace, and going on down in order to think about the overall strength of a rotation.  There’s plenty to argue about; for example I absolutely classify Stephen Strasburg as an “Ace” in this analysis; his performance over the last 5-6 years by nearly any measure statistically easily ranks him in the top 10-15 arms in the league even if he’s never sniffed a Cy Young award thanks to his injuries.  But injuries factor in: I no longer classify Matt Harvey as an Ace thanks to his 2016 season.  Feel free to dispute/argue about individual opinions/rankings in the comments.

Here’s my master rankings table just showing the projected rotations.  In this Google Docs link i’ve got my full working file, color coded for Aces/#2s/#3s as well as 6th starter/long man depth identified plus some minor league depth.  Also identified are 2017 acquisitions to get a sense of the rotation turnover.  If you can read the Google XLS it may be easier than reading the table below.

TeamRotation Rank#1#2#3#4#5
Chicago Cubs1Jon Lester Jake Arrieta Kyle Hendricks John LackeyMike Montgomery
New York Mets2 Noah Syndergaard Jacob deGromMatt Harvey Steven MatzZach Wheeler
Boston3Chris SaleDavid Price Rick PorcelloSteven WrightDrew Pomeranz
Los Angeles Dodgers4 Clayton KershawRich HillKenta MaedaJulio UriasScott Kazmir
Washington5Max ScherzerStephen StrasburgTanner RoarkJoe RossGio Gonzalez
Cleveland6Corey Kluber Carlos Carrasco Danny Salazar Trevor BauerJosh Tomlin
Detroit7Justin VerlanderMichael FulmerJordan Zimmermann Anibal Sanchez Daniel Norris
Toronto8 Marcus StromanAaron Sanchez Marco Estrada J.A. HappFrancisco Liriano
St. Louis9Adam Wainwright Carlos Martinez Michael WachaLance LynnMike Leake
San Francisco10Madison BumgarnerJohnny Cueto Jeff SamardzijaMatt Moore Matt Cain
Pittsburgh11 Gerrit ColeJamison TaillonTyler GlasnowSteven BraultIvan Nova
Tampa Bay12 Chris Archer Jake OdorizziAlex CobbBlake SnellMatt Andriese
Arizona13 Zack Greinke Robbie RayShelby MillerTaijan WalkerPatrick Corbin
Texas14Cole HamelsYu Darvish Martin PerezAndrew CashnerA.J. Griffen
Houston15Dallas Keuchel Collin McHugh Lance McCullersCharlie MortonMike Fiers
Seattle16Felix Hernandez Hisashi Iwakuma Drew SmylyJames Paxton Yovani Gallardo
Chicago White Sox17 Jose Quintana Carlos RodonMiguel GonzalezJames ShieldsDerek Holland
New York Yankees18Masahiro Tanaka Michael Pineda CC SabathiaChad GreenLuis Severino
Baltimore19 Chris Tillman Kevin GausmanDylan Bundy Ubaldo JimenezWade Miley
Philadelphia20 Aaron Nola Jeremy HellicksonJerad EickhoffVincent VelasquezAlec Asher
Atlanta21Julio Teheran Bartolo Colon Jaime Garcia R.A. DickeyMike Foltynewicz
Kansas City22Ian Kennedy Danny Duffy Jason Vargas Nate KarnsMatt Strahm
Miami23Wei-Yin Chen Edinson VolquezDan Straily Tom KoehlerJeff Locke
Minnesota24 Ervin SantanaHector Santiago Kyle GibsonPhil Hughes Jose Berrios
Oakland25Sonny GraySean Manaea Kendall GravemanAndrew TriggsJharel Cotton
Colorado26Jon Grey Chad BettisTyler AndersonTyler ChatwoodJeff Hoffman
Los Angeles Angels27 Garrett RichardsRicky Nolasco Matt Shoemaker Tyler SkaggJesse Chavez
Cincinnati28 Homer BaileyAnthony DeSclafaniBrandon FinneganRobert StephensonScott Feldman
Milwaukee29 Matt Garza Chase AndersonZach Davies Wily PeraltaJunior Guerra
San Diego30Luis PerdomoChristian FrederichPaul ClemensJarred CosartCesar Vargas

Discussion; i’ll take the discussion in rough groups.

Top 5: I have the Chicago Cubs, NY Mets, Boston, LA Dodgers and then the Nats.  Why?

Well, if Harvey was healthier i’d still have the Mets #1 as I did last year.  I still think the Mets 1-2 punch of deGrom and Snydergaard is better than anyone elses.  If Harvey returns to form and Matz stays healthy, the Nats may be in trouble in 2017.  But those are huge what-ifs, enough to knock the Mets below Chicago for now.  The Cubs for me have two Aces who just finished 2nd and 3rd in Cy Young voting while their #3 just posted a 2.13 ERA.   And if their planned #5 doesn’t pan out, they have the prospect depth to make a move and acquire what they need.  Despite the acquisition of Sale, I do not think Boston’s rotation is better; David Price is just too shaky for me on a week in/week out basis and Porcello, despite his Cy Young in 2016 just isn’t an “Ace.”    But many have argued Boston is above both NY and Chicago; perhaps its recency bias due to the big moves of the past winter meetings.

I have the Dodgers just ahead of the Nats right now for two reasons: I think the strength of their 2-3-4 slightly trumps our 2-3-4, especially given Joe Ross‘s health question marks.  And any rotation headed by Kershaw is going to be highly ranked.  You can’t drop Washington much below #5 because no other rotation has the 1-2 Ace potential that the Nats do, and Roark is starting to (finally) get the recognition he deserves.

Ranking spots 6-11: Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, St. Louis, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

So, a lot of people highly rate Cleveland’s rotation, higher than a couple of teams in my top 5.  And if Carrasco and Salazar are healthy I agree with them.  But they’re not, so they get dinged a bit.  I still have Verlander rated as an Ace after his comeback 2016; maybe that’s a little too high … but the rest of their rotation is all solid, being one of the only teams that I think has #3 starter quality even to the #5 starter in Daniel Norris.   Toronto and St. Louis are both in the same spot; several very good arms who just fall below “Ace” category; in Toronto’s case it may be just a matter of time before we’re calling Aaron Sanchez one of the best in the league and in St.Louis’ case the same with Carlos Martinez.  Some have San Francisco higher based on the fact that Bumgarner may be the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher in the game … but the back end of their rotation is so shaky they get dropped almost out of the top 10.  Likewise with Pittsburgh:  things get thin fast past the top 3 for the Pirates.

Ranking spots 12-16: Tampa, Arizona, Texas, Houston, Seattle.

Five teams that all could/should be higher.  Tampa just stole one of the best arms in the minors in Jose De Leon and have some very talented youth in their rotation; if these guys click Tampa shoots upwards.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of Arizona; they have Greinke (the lowest remaining Ace in terms of rotation rankings) and they have what should be a #2 in Shelby Miller, but what the heck happened in 2016?  Meanwhile former Nat-farmhand Robbie Ray has a massive delta between WAR rating systems that its hard to figure out how good he is: B-R rated his 2016 at just 0.7 bWAR while Fangraphs called it a 3.0 fWAR season.  Well which is it?   Perhaps we’ll see some regression to some sort of mean for him in 2017.  Both Texas and  Houston have Cy Young-calibre starters at the head of their rotations with question marks: Darvish b/c of injury, Hamels  because of age and Keuchel due to a bad 2016.  Seattle’s rating increased over the course of the offseason with their wheeling-and-dealing GM Mark DiPoto acquiring Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo to improve that rotation several clicks.

Ranking Spots #17-21: Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta.

The White Sox lost at least 5-6 rankings spots when they moved Chris Sale, who was by far the biggest name to move this off-season and, in fact, is the ONLY projected starter of any team ranked in my top 10.  That’s pretty amazing; teams are just doing such a better job of building pitching staffs.   The Yankees are precariously holding on to this spot; if their #1 Tanaka goes down with his partially torn UCL, they plummet into the bottom 3.  I’ve never rated Baltimore’s rotation, but they keep making the playoffs, so maybe I just have a blind spot here.  Philadelphia’s rotation could be a year or two from being in the top 6-10 range if these youngsters pan out.  Atlanta maybe should be slightly lower; I like Teheran but others do not.  Atlanta did by far and away the most acquisitions of any team in terms of pitching: 3 of their 5 projected opening day rotation guys are new on FA contracts, and almost all their depth is newly acquired MLFAs.

Ranking Spots #22-23: Kansas City and Miami

It just worked out this way, but both teams who had tragedy strike and take away their aces ended up ranked right next to each other.  The loss of Jose Fernandez cost Miami around 9 spots, and the loss of Yordano Ventura probably cost Kansas City 5-6 ranking spots.  Miami (like Atlanta) will depend on several new faces in 2017 as a result, while Kansas City may be looking at an accelerated rebuilding process.

Ranking Spots #24-26: Minnesota, Oakland, Colorado

I could see why you may think Oakland should be higher, but until their newcomers like Sean Manaea (who I always like to point out was on the board and was draftable in 2013 at the spot we gave up to sign Rafael Soriano in Mike Rizzo‘s eternal Quest for a Closer) succeed for more than a couple of months, Oakland stays ranked this low.  I wouldn’t vociferously argue the order of any of these teams: they’re mostly ranked by their aces this low.

Ranking Spots #27-30: Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and San Diego

At least the Angels and Cincinnati have a couple of arms that you may briefly consider in fantasy; you can’t say that for Milwaukee or San Diego.  In fact, if you told me that the “next 5” for San Diego was actually their planned rotation, I’m not sure i’d rank them any worse than the first 5.  Milwaukee has instead depended on veteran players for their low ranking level, with their team ace Matt Garza making more news lately for having his Ferrari vandalized and for piping up about birth control on twitter than for his capabilities on the mound.  Always a good sign for your coming season.


So, what do you guys think of my rankings?

 

Roark commits to pitch in WBC: why this is potentially Bad News for the Nats

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Roark's playing in the WBC; beware Nats fans. Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

Roark’s playing in the WBC; beware Nats fans. Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

Word came out that Nats under-rated star Tanner Roark has committed to pitch for the US in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) coming up this spring.  He was invited earlier but had yet to commit, and his participation comes on the heels of word that Max Scherzer would be bowing out of the WBC thanks to a stress fracture in one of his fingers.  (Which, as a side note/tangent, is pretty distressing news that may be under reported; our $200M ace has a fractured knuckle??  Should we be worried?  anyway, back to the post).

Four years ago, I wrote a post titled “Gonzalez to play in WBC: why this is really Bad News for the Nats” and I’m recycling that post (and title) here, because the message is the same: This is not good news for the Nats and t heir 2017 season.

Simply put: Every Nationals pitcher who has *ever* participated in the WBC has regressed from previous performance in the season following.

Here’s a quick table showing every Nats WBC pitcher with their ERA and ERA+ the season before their WBC participation and subsequent to it:

WBC YrPitcher NameERA Season beforeERA season AfterERA+ season beforeERA+ season after
2006Luis Ayala2.66inj153inj
2006Chad Cordero1.823.19225134
2006Gary Majewski2.934.6113996
2009Joel Hanrahan3.954.7810989
2009Saul Rivera3.966.110970
2013Gio Gonzalez2.893.36138113
2013Ross Detwiler3.41184.0494

As you can see; every single one of our pitchers was either injured or regressed (mostly significantly) after playing in the WBC.  The worst case was Luis Ayala, who pitched against the wishes of the team and blew out his elbow on the field during the WBC.  That injury cost him the entire 2006 season.

But this is just our team’s experiences.  How about Baseball wide?  MLB has endeavored itself to argue that participation in the WBC does not lead to an increase in injuries amongst its players and especially pitchers.  But we’re not talking about injuries here; we’re talking about performance.   Here are two very well done studies that show the negative impact of pitching in the WBC:

  1. This July 2010 study on Fangraphs
  2. This Feb 2013 study from BaseballPress.com
  3. A 2014 study at BeyondtheBoxScore that does really in-depth studies of all three WBCs that uses better numbers than I do.

The BaseballPress study shows some of the same numbers I’ve shown above, but conducts the analysis across every pitcher who participated in both WBCs prior to the 2013.  And the results are pretty evident; across the board on average pitchers regressed both in the year of the WBC and in the year after.  The BeyondtheBoxScore tries to do a much more scientific approach using control groups and finds less significant/trivial regression, but depends on projection systems and not year over year performance, which is kind of the point; we live in the real world, not projection systems.

It isn’t hard to figure out why these guys regress; playing in the WBC interupts the decades-old Spring Training plans for getting a starting pitcher ready for a season by slowly bringing him along in terms of innings and pitch counts.  And, suddenly exposing both starters and relievers to high-leverage situations in February/March that they aren’t ready for either physically or mentally puts undue stress on these guys that (as we have seen) manifests itself later on down the road.

Nonetheless, as much as I like the WBC as a concept I think its “bad” that one of our key pitchers will be participating.  At least we now know that Roark’s time may be limited thanks to new rules that allow roster augmentations.  If Roark throws one 5 inning stint maybe it won’t be so bad.

I just wish the WBC would be played AFTER the season (you know, like the World Cup does it; AFTER the pro seasons have ended) instead of before it.

 

Hall of Fame candidates with Nationals ties (2017 version)

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Pudge's last official team photo.

Pudge’s last official team photo.

Congratulations to a deserving 2017 Hall of Fame class; Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were all elected through the most recent round of balloting.

This is the Class of 2017 Version of this post: first one was done after the 2014 Hall of Fame class was announced and the voting results made public, and then the next was done after the Class of 2015 was announced.  And here’s the  2016 version of this post, from which all the text for prior ballots is cut-n-pasted.  It is here for your reminiscing enjoyment.

Nats connected names on the 2017 ballot and 2017 eligible:

  • Ivan Rodriguez, aka “Pudge,” who surprisingly signed a 2-year deal with the team after the 2009 season and played his last two years with the rebuilding team, splitting time with the up-and-coming Wilson Ramos and retiring after the 2011 season.  He was part of the rebound years for the franchise but missed out on their breakout 2012 season.  There was some surprise when he got in on the 1st ballot, given his PED suspicions, but I take his election as a sign of the changing times with the electorate.  There’s definitely a difference between suspicions and a real failed test, and inarguably Pudge is one of the best catchers of all time so there’s no reason to keep him out.  Here’s a great link of a video of Pudge finding out he was elected.
  • Matt Stairs, whose name I can’t quite say without cursing, who sucked at the teet of the Washington Nationals payroll for half a season in 2011 before being mercifully released on August 1st of that year.  Stairs now is now a regular in my semi-annual “Nats to Oblivion” posts, last done in April of 2016.  He received zero votes and falls off the ballot.
  • Alex Cora: like Stairs, he signed on as a veteran FA to be a role player with the 2011 Nats and retired after the 2011 season.  Unlike Stairs, Cora wasn’t judged to even be worthy to make the ballot.
  • (As we all know, Tim Raines, Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera and Larry Walker all grew up with the Montreal franchise, but never appeared for the team post-move to Washington, so I havn’t included them here.  Cabrera was the closest to appearing in a Nats uniform, getting traded to Boston mid 2004 season just prior to the move).

Useful Hall of Fame links links:

  • 2017 Ballot on baseball-reference.com, with links to vote counts, stats, etc.
  • Full Voting figures via BBWAA.com

This post will let you answer the trivia question, “Prior to Ivan Rodrigiez’s enshrinement, what former Nats player has come the closest to Hall of Fame enshrinement?”  (Answer at the bottom).

We’ll work from most recent to oldest.

2016 Ballot:

Not a single Nats-connected was on the official Class of 2016 ballot.  As it turned out, There’s actually quite a few guys who were *candidates* for the 2016 ballot by requirements, but who didn’t make the cut who also had connections to the Nationals.  In fact, there’s quite a few of them.  Here’s a good list, thanks to the excellent research by Bill from platoonadvantage.com.

  • Ronnie Belliard: Played pretty well for the god-awful stretch of Nationals teams from 2007-2009, posting a nifty 123 OPS+ during the middle season before getting traded away at the 2009 trade deadline for two minor leaguers who never went anywhere (Luis Garcia, Victor Garate).  Stuck with Los Angeles one more season before hanging them up at 35.  Played parts of 13 seasons in the majors but didn’t rate a spot on the ballot.
  • Jesus Colome was an important part of the Nats bullpen during the same 2007-2009 span that Belliard was involved with, getting more than 120 appearances his first two seasons before posting an 8 ERA in 2009 and getting DFA’d in July.  He got picked up the next year by Seattle and got a few appearances (hence why he’s not on the “Nats to Oblivion” lists) and, if you can believe it, is still pitching at age 37 in the independent Atlantic league as we speak.  He did manage 10 distinct years w/ MLB appearances though, so he qualified.
  • Jose Guillen came to Washington with the Expos, played one solid year in 2005, had a season-ending elbow injury in 2006, then bounced around the league for a few more years.  He was active for 14 total seasons but never made an all star game.  He hit 24 homers for the surprising 2005 Nats … and led the league in HBPs.
  • Cristian Guzman signed a somewhat controversial 4yr/$16M contract (it cost the team its 2nd round pick) that started when the team moved to Washington, was god-awful his first year, then had to have shoulder surgery to miss the entirety of 2006.  He recovered his stroke in 2007 and actually made the all-star team in 2008 (our only representative during the dark years) … which was enough to convince our idiot GM Jim Bowden to give him a 2yr/$16M extension to an aging shortstop w/ no power on the wrong side of 30.  Not surprisingly, his OPS dropped 100 points in 2009 and the team dumped him on Texas in a trade-deadline deal after he had lost his starting job to Ian Desmond, netting the Nats two RHPs (one of which Tanner Roark makes this one of the better trades ever consummated by the Nats executive staff).  Guzman played in 15 more games for Texas, batted .152 and never played again.

2015 Ballot:

  • Aaron Boone, who signed a 1yr/$1M FA contract to be a backup corner infielder with the abhorrent 2008 Nationals team.  Boone’s crowning baseball achievement was his extra innings walk-off homer that ended one of the best games in MLB history (Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS between Boston and the Yankees, ranked #6 by MLB’s panel a few years back when ranking the best 20 games of the last half century).  Ironically one of his lowest moments was just a couple months later, blowing out his ACL that subsequent winter while playing pickup basketball, costing him the entirety of the 2004 season and the trust of the  Yankees organization.  He missed 2/3rds of the 2007 season after another left knee injury and the Nats were probably his last gasp shot at extending his career at the age of 35.  He got a decent amount of playing time thanks to the fragility of Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson, somehow got another guaranteed MLB deal the following year, went 0-14 for Houston and was released.  He’s now an analyst with ESPN.  Received 2 votes on the 2015 ballot.
  • Ron Villone signed a minor league deal in 2009 and was quickly added to the Nats active roster, where he appeared in 63 games as our primary one-out lefty.   He pitched the entirety of 2010 on another minor league contract with Syracuse, posting a 6.59 ERA as a 40-year old and never earning a call-up.   In 2011 he was invited to spring training again (perhaps with the hope that he’d join the organization as a coach) but he got cut, then pitched a handful of indy league games for his home-town New Jersey indy league team, got hammered, and hung them up.   He retired having played in 15 seasons for no less than 12 different teams.  In 2012 he took a pitching coach job with the Cubs organization (one of the teams he managed NOT to play for during his career) and has been moving up their organization in that capacity since.  Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.
  • Julian Tavarez signed a one-year deal in the beginning of 2009, started out decently but had an awful stretch that resulted in his DFA in mid July 2009.  He never threw another pitch in organized ball, abruptly retiring considering his mid-season release.  He ended a 17-year career spanning 11 different franchises.  Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.  According to his wiki page, he now resides in a suburb of Cleveland (his original professional team) but does not list any post-career activities, baseball-related or otherwise.  Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.

Both Tavarez and Villone belong to the infamous “From Nationals to Oblivion” club, a topic we revisit on an annual basis.

Note: it is not entirely clear to me why Villone and Tavarez were not actually ON the 2015 ballot; both seem to have the qualifications (10 years of experience and 5 years retired) and both were on previous versions of the “anticipated ballot” at baseball-reference.com, but neither showed up on BBWAA’s official ballot for this year.  Pete Kerzel did a post reviewing “Nats connected” 2015 ballot members when the ballot came out in Nov 2014 and only mentioned Boone.  I include them here since it seems to me they *should* be on the ballot and I’m not sure why they were not (unless someone is passing judgement on the “quality” of HoFame ballot members).  Are they pushed to subsequent ballots for some reason?  If anyone has insight i’d love to know.

2014 Ballot:

  • Paul Lo Duca: one of Bowden’s more infamous signings; he went from our opening day catcher in the 2008 season to being released by August 1st.  The highlight of his tenure here was having his name being revealed in the Mitchell Report just a couple days after signing with us.  After his release, he signed on to finish out the season with Florida, took a year off and attempted a come back in 2010 (signing a ML contract with Colorado but never appearing above AAA).   Hard to believe this guy was a 4-time all-star.  Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.

2013 Ballot:

  • Royce Clayton; signed a contract to be the Nats shortstop during the lean Jim Bowden years, and then was included in the Mega swap of players that headed to Cincinnati in the 2006 season.  He hung around for one more season in 2007 as a backup short stop and retired afterwards.  Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.
  • Mike Stanton was picked up in mid 2005 after being released by the Yankees, and he pitched well enough for the Nats that he was able to fetch a couple of low-level prospects in a late September move to Boston (who was looking for some late season bullpen cover).  The team then re-signed Stanton for 2006, and flipped him again mid-season, this time to the Giants for Shairon Martis.  Stanton toiled a one more season before hanging them up after 2007.   Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.

2012 Ballot:

  • Vinny Castilla: signed a two year deal to join the Nats, timed with their inaugural season in Washington, but was traded to Colorado for SP Brian Lawrence when it became apparent that Ryan Zimmerman was set to man the hot corner in DC for the next decade or so.  Played one more season and retired after 2006.  Received Six (6) Hall-of-fame votes.

2011 Ballot:

  • Carlos Baerga: signed a one year deal as a 36-yr old to join the Nats in their inaugural season and serve as a backup infielder.   Hit .253 in part-time duty and hung ’em up after a 14-year career that can be well described as “journey-man.”   He was an integral part of the early 90s Cleveland Indians as their starting 2nd baseman and a 3-time all-star, and ended up playing on 6 major league teams and spent parts one season in Korea.  Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.

So, outside of Pudge’s election, the Nats greatest Hall of Fame achievement is Vinny Castilla receiving 6 sympathy votes.

We still have to wait a while to see another player with a “W” on their hat in Cooperstown.

 

 

Its Arbitration day! Review of our 4 cases plus some Arb case history

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Hopefully Bryce and his new bride Kayla didn't have to go through arbitration either.  Photo via mlb.com/Harper's instagram

Hopefully Bryce and his new bride Kayla didn’t have to go through arbitration either. Photo via mlb.com/Harper’s instagram

The Nats have 4 remaining players who are arbitration eligible but whom the team has not yet signed for 2017 (they signed Jose Lobaton to a $1.575M deal, slightly below MLBTradeRumors’ estimate.

Here’s who they have left, what they made in 2016 and what MLBTradeRumors (which is usually pretty accurate) projects for 2017:

PlayerCurrent or 2016 Contract2017 status2014201520162017 my guessmlbtraderumors estimate
Harper, Bryce2yr/$7.5M (15-16)Arb3215000025000005000000100000009300000
Rendon, Anthony1 yr/$2.8M (16)Arb218000001800000280000060000006400000
Lobaton, Jose1 yr/$1.3875M (16)Arb49500001200000138750015750001600000
Roark, Tanner1 yr/$0.543M (16)Arb150610052960054340050000006100000
Norris, Derek1yr/$2.925M (16)Arb2292500040000004000000

I think the team will pay slightly more than the projection for Bryce Harper (hopefully signing a 2-year deal to take him to FA), will pay Derek Norris the projected value ($4M exactly seems like a nice number), slightly less than the projection for Anthony Rendon and slightly less for Tanner Roark under the guise that he will continue to be under-rated for what he provides.  I may be completely wrong.  Lets just hope they actually SIGN the players and don’t go to arbitration.

 


Here’s a sordid history of all Arbitration cases going back to the Nats origin in 2005.

YearTeamPlayerPlayer FigureClub FigureDeltaWinnerStill with club (as of end of that particular season)Depart club THAT year?Player Status with Arguing team as of end of that season
2016HoustonJason Castro52500005000000250000clubCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2016TorontoJesse Chavez40000003600000400000playerCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2016CincinnatiJ.J. Hoover14000001225000175000playerCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2016Tampa BayDrew Smyly37500003200000550000playerCurrent YrCurrent YrCurrent Yr
2015BaltimoreAlejandro De Aza56500005000000650000clubNoYesTraded mid-2015 season
2015SeattleTom Wilhelmsen22000001400000800000ClubNoNoPlayed out season, traded post 2015 season
2015AtlantaMike Minor56000005100000500000playerNoNoPlayed out season, FA post 2015 season
2015ArizonaMark Trumbo690000053000001600000playerNoYesTraded mid-2015 season
2015PittsburghPedro Alvarez57500005250000500000playerNoNoPlayed out season, non-tendered post 2015 season
2015ColoradoWilin Rosario33000002800000500000clubNoNoPlayed out season, FA post 2015 season
2015TorontoJosh Donaldson575000043000001450000clubYesNoStill active
2015MiamiDavid Phelps18750001400000475000clubYesNoStill active
2015WashingtonJerry Blevins24000002200000200000playerNoYesTraded before the season even began
2015PittsburghVance Worley24500002000000450000playerNoNowaived just after 2015 season ended
2015PittsburghNeil Walker900000080000001000000ClubNoNoTraded post 2015 season but played entire 2015 year w/ Pittsburgh
2015OaklandJarrod Parker1700000850000850000ClubYesNoStill active; long term injuries
2015TorontoDanny Valencia16750001200000475000PlayerNoYeswaived mid-season
2015MiamiMat Latos1040000094000001000000ClubNoYesTraded mid-season in salary dump
2014ClevelandJosh Tomlin975000800000175000ClubYesnore-signed 2015, avoided arbitration
2014ClevelandVinnie Pestano1450000975000475000ClubNoYesTraded mid 2014
2014San DiegoAndrew Cashner24000002275000125000PlayerYesnore-signed 2015, avoided arbitration
2012MiamiAnibal Sanchez800000069000001100000PlayerNoYesTraded to Detroit mid-2012 season
2012WashingtonJohn Lannan57000005000000700000ClubNoYesNon-tendered pre-2013 season, signed w/ Philadelphia
2012MilwaukeeJose Veras23750002000000375000ClubNoYesFA after 2012 season (unsure if non-tendered or not)
2012MiamiEmilio Bonifacio22000001950000250000PlayerNoYesTraded to Toronto post-2012 season
2012BaltimoreBrad Bergesen1200000800000400000ClubNoYesWaived mid-2012 season
2012Tampa BayJeff Niemann32000002750000450000ClubNoNoResigned for 2013, DFA'd post-2013 season (injured), refused AAA assignment, FA
2012PittsburghGarrett Jones25000002250000250000ClubNoNoResigned for 2013, FA after 2013 season
2011HoustonHunter Pence690000051500001750000PlayerNoYesTraded to Philadelphia mid 2011 season
2011PittsburghRoss Ohlendorf20250001400000625000PlayerNoYesReleased after 2011 season
2011Los Angeles AngelsJered Weaver880000073650001435000ClubYesNoSigned long term deal after 2011 season
2010MiamiCody Ross44500004200000250000PlayerNoYesWaived mid-2010 season
2010Chicago CubsRyan Theriot34000002600000800000ClubNoYesTraded mid-2010 to Los Angeles
2010WashingtonBrian Bruney18500001500000350000ClubNoYesReleased May 2010
2010HoustonWandy Rodriguez700000050000002000000ClubNoNoTraded mid 2012 to Pittsburgh
2010MilwaukeeCorey Hart48000004150000650000PlayerNoNoSigned extension to 2013, got hurt, FA after 2013
2010Tampa BayBJ Upton33000003000000300000ClubNoNoFA after 2012 season, signed elsewhere
2010Los Angeles AngelsJeff Mathis1300000700000600000PlayerNoNoTraded post-2011 season to Toronto
2010WashingtonSean Burnett925000775000150000ClubNoNoleft as FA post 2012 season
2009WashingtonShawn Hill775000500000275000PlayerNoYesReleased March 2009 before salary even kicked in
2009MiamiDan Uggla53500004400000950000PlayerNoNoTraded post-2010 season to Atlanta
2009Tampa BayDioner Navarro25000002100000400000ClubNoNonon-tendered post-2010 season
2008Los Angeles AngelsFrancisco Rodriguez12500000100000002500000ClubNoYesFA after 2008 season, signed elsewhere
2008ColoradoBrian Fuentes650000050500001450000ClubNoYesGranted FA after 2008 season, signed elsewhere
2008WashingtonFelipe Lopez52000004900000300000ClubNoYesReleased July 2008
2008HoustonMark Lorretta490000027500002150000ClubNoYesleft as FA after one year (why did he go to arbitration? Odd)
2008PhiladelphiaRyan Howard1000000070000003000000PlayerYesNoSigned 3-year deal after 2008 season, longer term after that
2008New York MetsOliver Perez650000047250001775000PlayerNoNoFA after 2008 but re-signed 3 year deal w/ NY
2008HoustonJose Valverde620000047000001500000ClubNoNosigned one more year, FA
2008New York YankeesChien-Ming Wang46000004000000600000ClubNoNoGranted FA after 2009 season (hurt)
2007MiamiMiguel Cabrera74000006700000700000PlayerNoYesTraded after 2007 season
2007San DiegoTodd Walker395000027500001200000PlayerNoYesReleased March 2007 before salary even kicked in
2007WashingtonJohn Patterson18500008500001000000ClubNoYesReleased March 2007 before salary even kicked in
2007WashingtonChad Cordero41500003650000500000PlayerNoNosigned on one more year, DFA'd refused assignment, FA
2007Los Angeles DodgersJoe Beimel1250000912500337500ClubNoNosigned for one more year, FA
2007Tampa BayJosh Paul940000625000315000ClubNoNoFA after 2007, signed ML deal with Tampa again, didn't make team
2007MiamiKevin Gregg700000575000125000ClubNoNoTraded after 2008 season
2006WashingtonAlfonso Soriano12000000100000002000000ClubNoYeswas in last year of arb anyway; left via FA
2006BaltimoreRodrigo Lopez45000003750000750000ClubNoYestraded after 2006 season to Colorado
2006MinnesotaKyle Lohse39500003400000550000PlayerNoYesTraded mid 2006 to Cincinnati
2006ColoradoSun-Woo "Sunny" Kim800000600000200000ClubNoYestraded at the end of 2006
2006Kansas CityEmil Brown17750001400000375000PlayerNoNoleft as FA after 2007 season
2006Tampa BayJosh Paul750000475000275000ClubNoNowent to arb again in 2007
2005OaklandJuan Cruz860000600000260000ClubNoYestraded after 2005 season to Arizona
2005MinnesotaKyle Lohse24000002150000250000PlayerNoNowent to arb again in 2006
2005Kansas CityJeremy Affeldt1200000950000250000ClubNoNoTraded mid 2006 to Colorado

Some interesting factoids about this history (all numbers up to last  year’s pre-2016 season cases).

  • Records: Clubs are 28/45 (62%), players are 17/45 (38%)
  • Washington leading “arguing” club with 8 of 45 cases since 2005.  Now, many of those cases were under the prior regime/Lerners are cheap mantra, but Mike Rizzo has done his fair share of petty arguing, taking Sean Burnett to arbitration over $150,000 and most recently Jerry Blevins over $200k.
  • 42% of all cases since 2005 by just 3 clubs, and Washington is the leader in this sorry category with 8 cases since 2005.
  • 12 of 30 clubs in the game havn’t had an arb argument since 2005.  In other words, 12 of the 30 teams get the fact that these things suck.
  • Smallest amount argued over: $125k by Miami in 2007 and $150K by Wash in 2010 w/ Burnett
  • Largest amount argued over: $3M by Philadelphia w/ Ryan Howard (player won)
  • Biggest player demand: Francisco Rodriguez $12,500,000 (player lost)
  • Biggest club offer ($10M twice; both club wins)
  • Just 2 of 45 players who have argued arb cases remain with their teams to 2015.  None of the 2016 arb cases remain with their teams at this point in the off-season.
  • 23 of 45 players who argued w/ their clubs were traded or released THAT same season.  This is pretty damning evidence that clubs “hold it against” players (or vice versa) for these cases.

 

2016 Season Statistical review of the 2013 Draft Class

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Austin Voth remains the "class" of the 2013 draft class. Photo mlb.com official

Austin Voth remains the “class” of the 2013 draft class. Photo mlb.com official

(Coming back to this series post Winter Meetings hoopla).  Fourth in our set of Draft class Reviews for the 2016 season.  First was the 2016 class, then the 2015 class then the 2014 class.

Web links to use while reading:

This review is especially important to follow because the college-age draftees in this 2013 class are Rule-5 eligible this coming off-season.  I think its a big reason why several of these guys are in the AFL right now, and their performance may or may not influence the team’s decision to protect or leave exposed.  We’ll put a pin in this post when we eventually do Rule-5 Analysis later this month.

With out further ado…


Round 1: forfeited w/ Rafael Soriano signing, which as I noted in this June 2013 post cost the Nats a shot at one of several highly regarded pitchers drafted just behind our vacated spot (the Cardinals actually took Kaminsky, but I doubt the Nats would have; i think they would have taken Manaea).  Here’s a quick summary of 2016’s season for the guys I liked at the time in that spot (Rob Kaminsky, Sean Manaea, Ryne Stanek, Ian Clarkin):

  • Kaminsky:  11-7 with a 3.28 ERA in a full season starting for AA in his age 22 year.  Was flipped in 2015 to Cleveland from St. Louis (his drafting team) in the Brandon Moss deal.
  • Manaea: 7-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland this year.  Was flipped in 2015 to Oakland from Kansas City (his drafting team) in the Ben Zobrist deal.
  • Stanek: split time between AA and AAA, was removed from the rotation and struggled in relief.
  • Clarkin: went 6-9 with a 3.31 ERA in High-A as a 21-yr old after losing all of 2015 to injury.

I’ve more than said my peace on how much I disagreed with the Soriano signing and its opportunity cost.  Lets move on.

Round 2Jake Johansen, Coll Sr. RHP (Starter, now a Reliever) Dallas Baptist U. 4-1 3.19 ERA across 3 levels in 2016.  29/22 K/BB in 36 2/3 mostly middle relief innings.  1.64 whip.  Johansen started the year in Potomac, walked 11 guys in 6 appearances and was dumped back to XST.  Once the GCL started he threw a few innings in Florida before joining Hagerstown for the rest of the year.   He had 11 appearances and 19 IP in Low-A with good numbers … but at this point in his career (he’ll turn 26 in a couple of months) and given where he was drafted, the fact that he can’t seem to cut it anywhere above Low-A ball seems like a pretty succinct judgement of the pick.  I’m guessing he hangs around until he hits 6-years in the system, but any hopes of him turning into even a marginal middle reliever seem shot.  If he was anything other than a big-bonus 2nd rounder he would have likely been released already.  He’s toiling in the AFL and (as of this writing) had only given up one run in 9 innings, but had a measly 3 punch-outs against the elite hitters of the minors.  With any luck, this confidence boost will carry over into 2017.   Trending Down.

Round 3Drew Ward, HS 3B.  Slashed .252/.348/.412 across 2 levels, ending the year in Harrisburg.  121/56 K/BB in 408 ABs, 14 homers.   Ward’s age 21 season went pretty well; he started the year in Potomac but posted an .868 OPS there in 53 games to force his promotion to AA.  He hit just .219 once he got there though, which means we’re likely seeing him back there in 2017.  His strikeout rate remains a problem: 121 Ks in 408 Abs is a 30% clip.  But the team clearly rates him; he’s in the AFL for the 2nd straight off-season and is hitting .327 against the best the minors has to offer.  And he was a 21 yr old in AA; lots of 21 yr olds are still in Short-A.  He’s also starting to get some prospect notice; generally getting ranked in the 12-15 range in the system.  I’m going to say Trending Up … lets hope he can put up .800 OPS figures in AA in 2017.

Round 4Nick Pivetta, Juco RHP (starter) New Mexico Juco.  Traded 7/28/15 to Philadelphia for Jonathan Papelbon.  He had a solid year starting between AA and AAA and could feature for the Phillies as a 9/1 callup next year.  For all of us that can’t stand these moves for closers (see above lost 1st rounder), this may have the jeopardy of haunting us for years if Pivetta becomes a regular rotation member of an NL East rival.  Maybe they’ll leave him off their 40-man roster this coming off-season and we can Rule5 draft him :-)

Round 5Austin Voth, Coll Jr RHP (starter) UWashington: 7-9, 3.15 ERA in 25 starts for AAA Syracuse.  133/57 K/BB in 157 IP, 1.24 whip, 3.53 FIP, .279 BABIP.  Another year, another solid season for Voth.  I’m not sure what else there is for him to accomplish in the Minors at this point; he seems to be the pitcher that he is.  His BABIP was in-line with his career numbers, he’s slightly regressed in a K/9 rate since arriving at AAA, and his ERA seems to be in line with his career numbers.  As discussed in this space earlier this year, I’m not quite sure why the team didn’t add him at the 9/1 roster expansion date; clearly they’re going to add him ahead of Rule-5 (which they did) but instead chose to leave him on the sidelines while they had September tryouts for Mat Latos.  Clearly he’s behind several of his AAA rotation mates on the depth chart, but I feel like he could still be a valuable rotation member for the Nats or someone else.  Given our starter depth, one has to think he’s trade bait at this point (he’s behind Lopez, Giolito and Cole clearly).  He seems like the kind of guy a team like Oakland would love.  Trending Up.  Post writing update: with the firesale of Nats SP candidates, Voth suddenly is like 2nd in line for getting MLB starts, so we look forward to seeing him in a Nats uniform at some point in 2017 and seeing if he’s the 2nd coming of Tanner Roark … or if he’s more like Taylor Jordan.

Round 6Cody Gunter, Juco 3B/RHP (reliever) from Greyson College: 0-0 in 2/3rds of an IP for GCL before getting shutdown for the season.  He looked halfway decent for Auburn in 2015 while converting from his drafted position (3B) to the mound, but 2016 is a big step-back.  I don’t know what to expect in 2017; perhaps a shot at the Hagerstown pen or an outright release.  Trending Down.

Round 7Jimmy Yezzo, Coll Jr 1B from UDelaware.  Released on 7/22/15.  Played a full season with the Washington PA team in the Indy Frontier League, hitting .220.

Round 8David Napoli, Coll Sr LHP (relief) from Tulane.  Released 3/16/16 after four seasons where he never got above A ball.

Round 9Jake Joyce, Coll Sr RHP (reliever) from Va Tech.  Released in 7/7/14.

Round 10Brennan Middleton, Coll Sr SS/2B from Tulane. Released on 6/30/15.

Round 11John Simms, Coll jr RHP (starter) from Rice. 8-5, 3.30 ERA in 29 games (11 starts) for AA.  79/28 K/BB ratio in 92 2/3rds innings, 1.08 whip, 3.84 fip, .254 babip.  Simms was the opening day starter for Harrisburg in 2016, but never seemed destined for the rotation; he was mostly a long reliever/spot starter, never throwing even 90 pitches in an outing.  He did not go to the AFL this year after going last year; what is his planned usage going forward?  His numbers look good; is he destined to move up to AAA and be a 6th starter again?   He seems to be able to compete, so we’ll see how he does against more veteran/mature competition in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 12Andrew Cooper, Juco RH relief pitcher from Sierra College.  Released on 1/12/16, not even getting a chance to compete for a spot in the High-A bullpen.  Seems like the team let him try to earn his way up on the field and it never happened.

Round 13John Costa, Juco RH relief pitcher from Palm Beach CC.  Released 4/1/15.

Round 14David Masters, Juco SS/3B from Central Arizona College: Slashed just .174/.259/.280 with 56/23 K/BB in 236 ABs in High-A.  6HR, 1SB.  Masters seemed to play every other day in a utility role for Potomac, posting anemic batting stats but staying with the team the whole year.  I thought he was in trouble after hitting just .226 LAST year but he stuck around the whole season.   I said this last season, but it seems like Masters isn’t long for the organization.  Trending down.

Round 15Isaac Ballou, Coll Sr OF/CF from Marshall (via Germantown, MD). Slashed .255/.332/.386 mostly for AA Harrisburg.  77/42 K/BB in 373 AA at-bats, 6hr, 7SB.  Ballou split time between the corner OF spots and had a couple of stints covering for Syracuse.   Ballou didn’t stick as a starter in AAA, instead repeating AA for the most part.  Depending on how the MLB roster numbers shake out, he may have the same issue in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 16Willie Allen, Juco Corner OF from Oklahoma/Newtown, MA.  Did not sign; transferred to Lewis-Clark State (ID), where he played for a  year in 2015, then has apparently disappeared.  He was not on their 2016 roster, and he does not appear to still be playing.

Round 17Geoff Perrott, Coll Sr C from Rice.  Retired 1/5/2015

Round 18Cory Bafidis, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher from Texas Wesleylan.  Released 7/7/2014.

Round 19Niko Spezial, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher from Wake Forest.  Released 5/28/14.

Round 20Brenton Allen, Coll Jr Corner OF from UCLA.  Released 6/21/14.

Round 21Justin Thomas, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher from Southern Arkansas. 3-2, 4.75 ERA while repeating High-A.  36/21 K/BB in 47 1/3 relief innings, 1.37 whip, 4.50 fip, .281 babip.  Last year I liked Thomas and thought he’d easily move up to AA.  Didn’t happen; he repeated Potomac and his numbers went down.  His lefty-lefty splits aren’t especially good, which precludes his value as a lefty specialist, so I wonder what his role is going forward at this point.  I’d guess he’ll compete for AA spot but may be a release candidate.  Trending down.

Round 22Cody Dent, Coll Sr SS from UFlorida. Released 7/15/16 after getting demoted out of High-A and hitting just .195 as a 24-yr old in low-A.  Even his pedigree (he is the son of legendary Bucky Dent) couldn’t save him.

Round 23Garrett Gordon, Juco Corner OF.  Released in 3/26/15.

Round 24Matthew DeRosier, Juco RHP (starter/reliever) from Southwestern College (CA).  3-3, 4.54 ERA in 14 low-A starts before hitting the D/L on 6/30/16 for the rest of the season.  59/18 K/BB in 67 1/3 innings, 1.32 whip, 3.25 fip, .325 babip.  DeRosier was in the opening day rotation for Hagerstown and lasted there for 3 months before getting hurt.  DeRosier was a young JuCo signee; he just finished his 4th pro season but he turned 22 in July, so we’re not too worried that he’s still in Low-A.  But he needs to start making some progress before he ages out of the system.  His FIP is better than his ERA, but we have no idea what the injury was.  I’d guess he’ll compete for the Potomac rotation in 2017.  Trending Steady.

Round 25Travis Ott, HS LH starting pitcher.  Traded 12/17/14 along with Steven Souza in the Trea Turner/Joe Ross deal.  Repeated Short-A for the *third* year and was phenomenal in 2016.  Why keep him there?  I know Tampa is “conservative” when it comes to promoting pitching prospects, but keeping a talented HS pitcher in the same classification for three years running seems dumb.

Round 26Garrett Hampson, HS SS from Reno, NV.  Did not sign; honored commitment to Long Beach State.  Had a monster collegiate career and was drafted in the 3rd round by Colorado.  Signed a $750k bonus and had an .845 OPS in Short-A Boise.   Could be one that got away.

Round 27Bryce Harman, HS LH starting pitcher from Richmond, VA (Byrd HS).  Did not sign; honored commitment to East Carolina University.  Hit .242 his Junior year starting and was not drafted.

Round 28Joey Webb, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher.  Released 6/25/15.

Round 29Mike Sylvestri, Coll Sr RH relief pitcher.   Retired on 6/13/14.

Round 30Ryan Ullmann, Coll Sr RH Starting pitcher.  Released 6/25/15.

Round 31Willie Medina, Coll Sr SS.  Released in Jan 2015.

Round 32Pat Boling, Coll Jr LHP: Did not sign, chose to return to U. of Georgia for his senior season.  He posted a 4.94 ERA his senior year, was not re-drafted, and does not appear he played any independent ball.

Round 33Andrew Dunlap, HS C/RHP from Houston.  Did not sign.  Honoring a commitment to Rice University.  He has struggled to find the field for Rice, not playing in 2014 or 2015 and hitting .197 in limited PT his junior year in 2016.

Round 34Jake Walsh, Coll Sr LH relief pitcher. Released 3/16/16, before the season started.  This one I still do not get to this day.   Look at his minor league numbers: he has a career 1.65 ERA!!   All his peripherals look good.  I just don’t get this at all.  I thought he’d be at least in the AA rotation in 2016; instead he’s out of the game.

Round 35Lukas Schiraldi, Juco RHP from Texas.  Did not sign; instead transferred to U Texas.  Drafted in 2014 in the 15th round by Seattle; in 2016 he struggled with the jump to High-A (with the caveat that he’s in the California league).

Round 36Reid Humphreys, HS SS from Missouri.  Did not sign.  Honoring commitment to Mississippi State.  Drafted in the 7th round in 2016 by Colorado, signed for $227k, and threw a few games in the rookie league.  Btw, he converted to the mound in college and is now a RHP reliever.

Round 37Karsten Whitson, RH starting pitcher from Florida.  Did not sign, returned to U Florida for his senior/4th year.  Was drafted by Boston in 2014 as an 11th rounder (likely bonus; max of $100k), released on 3/9/16.  An ignominious ending to a career that started with him declining 1st round money.  As Keith Law says: “Always take the money.”

Round 38Caleb Hamilton, HS SS from Washington State.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to U of Washington.  He was drafted in the 23rd round this year by Minnesota and signed.  He  hit .207 for their rookie league team.

Round 39Robbie Tenerowicz, HS 2B/SS from California.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to UC Berkeley.  He was drafted in the 27th round this year by Tampa Bay and signed.   He hit .291 with some pop for their rookie league team.

Round 40Shaun Anderson, HS RH starting pitcher from Florida.  Did not sign; honoring commitment to U of Florida.  At Florida he was a significant part of their pre-season #1 team, serving as the closer.  He was drafted in the 3rd round by Boston, signed for $700k, and then gave up 12 hits and 9 runs in his Short-A debut.  He’ll try it again fresh in 2017.


Trending Summary:

  • Trending Up (2): Voth, Ward
  • Trending Steady (3): Simms, Ballou, DeRosier
  • Trending Down (4): Johansen, Gunter, Masters, Thomas
  • Did Not Sign in 2013 (11): Allen, Hampson, Harman, Boling, Dunlap, Schiraldi, Humphries, Whitson, Hamilton, Tenerowicz, Anderson
  • Released/Retired (17): Yezzo, Napoli, Joyce, Middleton, Cooper, Costa, Perrott, Bafidis, Spezial, Allen, Dent, Gordon, Webb, Sylvestri, Ullmann, Medina, Walsh
  • Traded (2): Pivetta, Ott

Executive Summary

Wow; this class is really looking poor.  Just two players who I still think are trending up in Voth and Ward.  And even though I rate Voth, I sense he’s perhaps he’s limited to being a 4-A/5th starter.  As noted before, no 1st rounder and a blatant fail on Johansen the 2nd rounder have made this class look pretty weak.  It’d look a bit better if Ward (3rd rounder) turned out, but the cashing in of the 4th rounder (Pivetta) for a short-term head case rental looks equally wasteful in hindsight.

On the bright side … it makes Rule 5 decisions pretty easy.  We’ll circle back to this post when we do the Rule5 analysis, but right now the only candidate here worth protecting is Voth.  (Update post-writing: we were right; the only one added was Voth and nobody here got drafted).

 

 

Nats Payroll Outlook for 2017 and what it could mean for FA market

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Do you trade Gonzalez to get payroll flexibility? Photo unknown via WP.com

Do you trade Gonzalez to get payroll flexibility? Photo unknown via WP.com

The end of the World Series starts the clock on a whole slew of off-season moves, and we’ve already seen the Nats do a few procedural moves that were predictable:

  • Aaron Barrett, who I thought was a non-tender candidate since he’s Arb-eligible, was waived.
  • Yusmeiro Petit had his $3M option declined, and becomes a FA.
  • All 8 of our other eligible FAs declared FA: Mark Melancon, Wilson Ramos, Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey, Matt Belisle, Mark Rzepczynski, Sean Burnett and Mat Latos.

So the 40-man roster now sits at 31 players:

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Gonzalez*, Lopez, Giolito, Cole
  • RP: Kelley, Treinen, Glover, Solis*, Perez*, Gott, Martin, Grace*
  • C: Lobaton, Severino, Kieboom
  • INF: Zimmerman, Murphy, Turner, Rendon, Espinosa, Robinson, Difo
  • OF: Harper, Werth, Revere, Taylor, Goodwin

Lets break down these current 31 guys and see what their payroll looks like projected for 2017 to see what kind of financial flexibility the team may have.  Using the ever-awesome Cots MLB player salary site as a source here we go:


Players Already Under Contract for 2017 – 8

  • Werth, Jayson:  $21,571,429
  • Scherzer, Max:  $15,000,000
  • Strasburg, Stephen:  $15,000,000
  • Zimmerman, Ryan:  $14,000,000
  • Gonzalez, Gio:  $12,100,000 (Option for 2017 picked up 11/3/16)
  • Murphy, Daniel:  $12,000,000
  • Perez, Oliver:  $4,000,000
  • Kelley, Shawn:  $5,500,000

Subtotal: $99,171,429 <– Sum of Established Contracts for 2017

Note that I’ve not prorated any deferred money for Scherzer, Strasburg.  Also, I’m not entirely sure what Werth did last year; was it to lower his 2016 salary by $10M and pay that later?  I think so, so I don’t believe his 2017 salary was affected.  I do not agree with the prorating that Cot’s does with the deferred dollars on Scherzer/Strasburg; I think the Lerners are treating it like payments later on so as to add financial flexibility now, so I count just the dollars owed in 2017 here.  With these caveats, we come to the $99.1M figure due for these 8 players.  Feel free to comment and correct me if I have this wrong.


Arbitration Eligible Players for 2017 – 6 

I’m using MLB Trade rumors’ estimates instead of doing my own guesses since they’ve proven to be hyper accurate in years’ past, but will offer commentary on each figure.

  • Harper, Bryce: $9,300,000 estimate
  • Rendon, Anthony: $6,400,000 estimate
  • Espinosa, Danny: $5,300,000 estimate
  • Lobaton, Jose: $1,600,000 estimate
  • Revere, Ben: $6,300,000 estimate
  • Roark, Tanner: $6,100,000 estimate

Subtotal: $35,000,000 <– MLBtraderumors Guess of total arb award amounts

Now, I’m on record saying that I think the team non-tenders Revere; I cannot imagine paying $6.3M for the production we got out of him last year.  If the team thinks 2016 was an aberration and he can return to his 2015 form, then $6.3M might be a bargain (reminder: he hit .319 and had a 101 OPS+ figure in Toronto in 2015).  However, for the time being i’m going with Revere getting non-tendered.  I also think Harper’s going to sign a 2-year deal to buy out the rest of his Arb years, so I could see something like a 2yr/$25M deal at 10 and 15.  I think the Rendon figure seems high (yes he had a solid year but $6.4 more than doubles his 2016 pay).  I also have a hard time believing that Roark is going to net $6.1M in his first arb season, no matter how good he was last year.

So my working guess on this number is $35M less Revere’s $6.3 and less a bit more off of the Rendon & Roark numbers: call it $27,200,000.


Pre Arbitration MLB players – 17

  • Robinson, Clint $540,000
  • Treinen, Blake $536,000
  • Taylor, Michael $530,000
  • Ross, Joe $520,000
  • Gott, Trevor $518,000
  • Turner, Trea $507,500
  • Solis, Sammy $507,500
  • Glover, Koda $507,500
  • Severino, Pedro $507,500
  • Difo, Wilmer $507,500
  • Cole, A.J. $507,500
  • Goodwin, Brian $507,500
  • Grace, Matt
  • Martin, Rafael
  • Kieboom, Spencer
  • Giolito, Lucas
  • Lopez, Reynaldo

Subtotal: $6,196,500

The rest of the 40-man roster are pre-arbitration/team-assigned salaries.  The current league minimum salary is $507,500; that might change, that might go up with the new CBA.  For the time being, those players above who are ABOVE that figure are those who have played at the MLB level and have earned a nominal raise.  These are guesses on these nominal salary increases, and then the rest of the guys are listed assuming they all make next year’s 25-man roster.   Assuming no acquisitions, 12 of these pre-arb guys will be on the 25-man roster so that’s roughly $6M.


Payments for former players in 2017

Petit, Yusmeiro: $500,000 buyout of 2017 contract.


Summary:  $99,171,429 +  $27,200,000 +  $6,196,500 +  $500,000 =  $133,067,929 current payroll Estimate for your 2017 Nationals.

That figure represents about a $12M delta from last year’s working payroll figure of  $145,178,886 (cot’s figure), but is about $5.7M higher than my “present day dollar only” figure for last year’s squad.

So, I’m not sure if the team has $12M to “spare” or will be looking to cut costs.  Either way they’re nearly $30M below the 2015 payroll figure of $162M (Cots).

So here’s what i’d like to see happen:

  • Non-tender Revere ($6.3M), Trade Gio ($12M) and Espinosa ($5.3M).  Net $17.3M (we already counted on Revere’s 6.3)
  • I figure we’ll receive back at least $10M of MLB salary for players received from Gio and Espinosa.  So that leaves about $7M additional savings
  • Add that to the $12M figure and that’s about $20M to work with.
  • Spread that $20M around as follows:
    • Josh Reddick: $10M a year for 3 years; lefty, RF capable, relatively cheap when compared to the marquee OF on the market.
    • Greg Holland: $7M/year guess; former closer, formerly had ridiculous stuff, may have it back, could be 8th or 9th inning guy with existing options
    • Resign Stephen Drew, Matt Belisle and Chris Heisey to a combined $10M.

That makes your 25-man projected roster look like this:

  • SP: Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, Lopez
  • RP: Kelley, Holland, Treinen, Belisle, Solis*, Perez*, Cole (longman)
  • C: Lobaton, Severino
  • INF: Zimmerman, Murphy, Turner, Rendon, Robinson, Drew,
  • OF: Harper, Werth, Reddick, Taylor, Heisey

With the following in AAA

  • SP: Giolito
  • RP: Glover, Gott, Martin, Grace*
  • C: Kieboom
  • INF: Difo
  • OF: Goodwin

That’s not too bad.  It also doesn’t account for any players received from trading Gonzalez and Espinosa; we could get back a starting catcher, pushing Severino to AAA, or we could get a utility infielder, obviating the need for Drew  or Heisey.

what do you guys think?

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?)

Nats projected Starting lineup versus Kershaw: not half bad

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Kershaw is a daunting match-up. Photo via wiki.

Kershaw is a daunting match-up. Photo via wiki.

I was emailing with infrequent commenter “Old Man” (aka, my Dad) about the upcoming game one match-up and I said something along the lines of, “Well the Nats are in trouble because their two most important hitters are both hurt and lefty.”

Well, why go by biased observations when you can go to the stats?  Here’s the career stat lines for each of our projected game 1 starters against Clayton Kershaw:

  • Harper: 1 for 15; ok, that’s not good.
  • Murphy: 6 for 19 with 2 homers; not bad, .316 avg, .947 OPS
  • Werth: 10 for 35 for a .286/.359/.457 line.  not bad again
  • Rendon: 5 for 16; .313 but they are all singles; no power.
  • Espinosa: 1 for 17; no surprise there
  • Zimmerman: 7 for 22 but with no power for .318
  • Lobaton; 0 for 8; again, no surprise.
  • Turner: never faced Kershaw but his career lefty split shows consistent average versus his Righty split but significantly less power; 13 of his 14 career homers have come against righties.
So honestly; those aren’t half bad numbers against Kershaw all in all.  Murphy, Werth, Rendon and Zimmerman all about .300 against him.  Maybe you work your lineup differently as a result; maybe drop Harper down a bit and stack the top of the order with those who have had success:
  • Turner, Werth, Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman, Harper, Espinosa, Lobaton, Scherzer.
Also keep in mind: Kershaw has a 4.59 post season ERA.  Its the playoffs: anything can happen.  Last year for example he gave up 3 runs in 6 2/3rds in game one of the NLDS to take the loss then completely shut down the Mets in Game 4 on three days rest for the win … but the Mets did enough against the Dodger’s big two to take the series and move on.
Yeah its a tough match-up for the Nats, or anyone.  Kershaw shut them down in LA in June, giving up 1 run in 7.  Scherzer somehow missed the Dodgers in both their season series this year; funny how nobody points that fact out when they talk about how the Dodgers beat the Nats 5 of 6 this year.  The Nats used these 6 pitchers against the Dodgers: Petit, Roark, Ross in LA in June, then Lopez, Gonzalez and Strasburg in DC.   The one win?  Surprise; it was with lefty Gonzalez on the mound.  I won’t make too much of this, since the Dodgers used 15 different starters this year and its frankly amazing they still won 91 games.  That and the fact that the Nats missed their #3 Kenta Maeda in both series.
Still, I like our chances with those career match-up stats.