Nationals Arm Race

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

Spring Training 2020 NRI Discussion

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Nationals at Orioles 7/16/19

Nationals at Orioles 7/16/19

The Nationals, on the first day of spring training, announced their list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) for 2020.

Here’s our 6th year running NRI analysis.  With this post, I’ve also got the Big Board officially updated to account for all 22 guys.  These 22 signings confirmed at least 6 new MLFA signings unknown until today (Freeman, Ward, Snyder, Wilson, Shuck and Self), so those details are on the page too.

Now, before you say “who cares” here’s some stats.  In the last five seasons (through 2019):

  • 6 NRIs made the 25-man roster straight out of Spring Training (and Guthrie technically made it 6 since he got called up a few days later and was always intended to be the 5th starter in 2017).  Basically every year an NRI has made the roster for 5 seasons running.
  • 21 NRIs eventually played for the MLB team at some point that same season.

So its likely that we’re going to see a lot of these NRIs at some point in the future.  Like, on average at least 4-5 of these NRIs are going to play for this team in 2020.

Here’s the list of 22 NRI’s for 2020

  • RH Starters: Wil Crowe, Paolo Espino
  • RH Relievers; Dakota Bacus, Bryan Bonnell, Javy Guerra, Jhonatan German, David Hernandez, Kevin Quackenbush, Derek Self
  • LH Starters: none
  • LH Relievers: Fernando Abad, Sam Freeman
  • Catchers: Wellington Castro, Taylor Gushue, Jakson Reetz
  • Infielders: Luis Garcia, Brandon Snyder Drew WardJacob Wilson
  • Outfielders: Emilio Bonifacio, Yadiel Hernandez, JB Shuck, Mac Williamson

(interestingly, there is at least one off-season MLFA signing that I had listed as being given an NRI; Tyler Eppler, who is not listed here.)

So lets squint and make some predictions.

  1. Do any of these guys stand a chance at making the Opening day roster?  Honestly, I don’t see it this year.  If there’s an injury sure, but right now the 26-man opening day roster seems pretty set.  Even at the edges of the bullpen and bench, it doesn’t seem like we have a ton of competition.
    1. Squinting at the bullpen, it seems like the last two spots will be going two guys (Roenis Elias and Austin Voth) who don’t seem likely to get sent to AAA (for reliability and options).  Elias is the only other lefty besides Doolittle, so maybe Abad/Freeman have a shot?  Guerra is a franchise favorite who probably gets called up at some point after what he did for the team last year.
    2. The edge of the Bench basically is Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilmer Difo: if someone beats out Difo they’re going to have to be able to play a serviceable short-stop; not sure who of the NRI infielders fits that bill.  Certainly not Snyder, Ward or Wilson, all of whom are corner guys.  And if you want to argue with a straight face that 19-yr old Luis Garcia is breaking camp with the team … well i’m just not going to consider you as someone who understands how modern baseball works.
  2. Do any of these guys project to feature at all in 2020?  At all?  Yeah definitely: I can see a couple of the relievers getting called up, especially since a number of them have MLB experience.  I could see Crowe getting the call in case we get shredded with injuries in the rotation.  I could see a flexible guy with past ties to the club like Bonifacio getting called up.
  3. Who among these guys project to eventually get on the 40-man?  past the above, Garcia obviously, but its hard to make an argument for too many others.  There’s really only like one or two “prospects” here that are called up for the experience; nearly the entire list are MLFAs that will be providing Fresno depth.

NRI Details by year, in case you were wondering…

Summary of NRIs for 2019: 18 total

  • One (1) made the 25-man roster out of spring: Jake Noll
  • Three (3) more eventually got added and called up:  Aaron Barrett, Tres Barrera, Carter Kieboom
  • Zero (0) others have since been added to 40-man (as of 2/6/20).

Summary of NRIs from ST 2018: 21 NRIs total:

  • One (1) made the 25-man roster out of spring: Miguel Montero
  • Four (4) eventually got added and called up:  Tim Collins, Moises Sierra, Jimmy Cordero, Spencer Kieboom.  Special Mention to Edwin Jackson, who opted out of Washington then excelled for Oakland later in 2018).
  • Zero (0) others have since been added to 40-man

Summary of NRIs from ST 2017: 24 NRIs total:

  • Zero (0) made the 25-man roster out of spring (though technically one kinda was; see next).
  • Five (5) eventually got added and called up (Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Albers, Grant Green, Jacob Turner and Andrew Stevenson): Guthrie was the 5th starter, stashed in XST for a few days before his ill-fated debut.
  • Five (5) have since been added to 40-man (Erick Fedde, Taylor Hill, Kyle McGowin, Wander Suero, Tim Collins)

Summary of NRIs from ST 2016: 20 NRIs total (plus perhaps a couple more that got signed late):

  • Two (2) made the 25-man roster: (Chris Heisey and as noted in the comments, thanks for the correction, Matt Belisle).
  • Two (2) eventually got added and called up (Lucas Giolito, Sean Burnett)
  • Two (2) have since been added to 40-man (Matt Skole, Austin Voth)

Summary of NRIs from ST 2015: 20 NRIs total:

  • Two (2) made the 25-man roster out of spring (Dan Uggla and Clint Robinson).  Adding Reed Johnson as a late-spring signee who made the team after his release from Miami (H/T Sao)
  • Two (2) others eventually got added and called up (Rafael Martin and Emmanuel Burriss)
  • Two (2) others were young catchers since added to the 40-man (Spencer Kieboom, Pedro Severino)

(I believe the above analysis is correct; feel free to comment if i’ve missed someone.  this is a bit tougher to keep track of b/c the team often signs MLFAs mid-spring then technically gives them NRIs … especially for Vets, and I may miss some from the original announcements).

Written by Todd Boss

February 13th, 2020 at 10:42 am

Posted in Nats in General

Ask Jessica; MLB.com’s new Nats Beat Reporter Jessica Camerato does her first inbox/mailbag

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Will Kieboom have a shot at the 25-man roster this Spring? Photo via federalbaseball.com

Will Kieboom have a shot at the 25-man roster this Spring? Photo via federalbaseball.com

Jamal Collier has moved on: our new mlb.com beat reporter is Jessica Camerato.  As far as I can now tell, here’s your official beat reporters for the team from the various major media outlets covering the team:

(post-publishing edit: thanks for the crowd-sourcing on the WP beat reporter history that I had forgotten despite still, to this day, being a WP paper subscriber).

  • Washington Post; Jessie Dougherty/Sam Fortier. Before them in descending chronological order: Chelsea Janes/Jorge CastilloJames Wagner, Adam KilgoreChico Harlan.  The original/first beat reporter was Barry Svrluga.
  • MASN: Mark Zuckerman.  He formerly covered the team for The Washington Times, then Comcast Sports Net, with an “unaffiliated” year between gigs writing for his own site (natsinsider.com)
  • MLB.com: Jessica Camerato, formerly Jamal Collier and then for years Bill Ladson
  • The Athletic: Brittany Ghiroli
  • Comcast Sports Net/NBC Sports: not sure?  Perhaps Matt Weyrich?  Todd Dybas (thanks to commenter rdexposfan)
  • Washington Times: … not sure?  Do they have a dedicated beat reporter since parting ways with Zuckerman?

Am I missing any major DC area media outlets with professional beat reporters?

Anyway I digress.

Here’s Camerato’s first mailbag, dated 1/31/20, responding primarily to questions she got on twitter.

———

Q: How are the Nats going to replace Anthony Rendon’s production?

A: Uh… they’re not?

It should be pretty obvious that the team has attempted to “replace” Anthony Rendon‘s lineup presence in a very Billy Beane fashion; buy a bunch of cheaper alternatives that, in the aggregate, may come close to adding up to replace the star.  They’ve brought back guys (Kendrick and Cabrera), they’ve hired new guys (Castro) and they’re hoping that their prospects (primarily Kieboom) can grow up fast and contribute soon.  Throw enough 3B-capable players at the wall and hopefully something sticks.

What they have NOT done is acquire a superstar replacement: no Josh Donaldson and as of yet no trade for someone like Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado.  I’m not entirely sure how the team puts together a package deep enough to get these guys, not without crushing the existing roster or what remains of the farm system at this point (Baseball America just ranked the system 23rd, and once Kieboom and Luis Garcia graduate i’m not sure what remains to keep it from plummeting to the bottom).  So I think we all have to hope that the new un-tapped edge in the sport is middle-aged sluggers and go with it.

Camerato doesn’t really mention the like-for-like position player at 3B, instead points out that Juan Soto may step up .

———

Q: What are the chances Carter Kieboom lands at third?

A: This year?  Or eventually?

I think eventually yes he ends up at 3B.  This year, at least in the first half, may not provide him many opportunities thanks to the FAs that the team has signed.

I don’t think he ends up at 2B; he’s a bit big, despite currently being a SS and his defensive strength reportedly is in his arm, not his movement, so 2B makes sense for others … like Garcia.

Camerato says he’ll get his shot at the job in ST but that he’ll have competition.

Q: Who’s gonna be the fifth starter?

A: I think it almost has to be Joe Ross.  Ross has proven more than a few times he can’t pitch in relief.  He’s got no options.  And he’s proven in the past to be a solid 5th starter.   His competition for the role all seems to be internal this year; there’s no MLFA reclamation project like Jeremy Hellickson waiting in the wings (at least not right now).  Erick Fedde and Austin Voth are his most direct competition … one has a magical 4th option (Fedde) which buries him in Fresno even before spring training begins, and the other guy (Voth) gets the 13th pitcher roster spot thanks to no options and his ability to be a swing-man /spot starter.

Camerato says they don’t really need to figure this out in Spring Training … which I don’t agree with frankly b/c of the options situation with two of them.

——–

Q: What does the farm system look like this year? Who should we watch that could make the club in 2021?

A: Farm system, as mentioned above, is thin.  Its two guys at the top (Kieboom and Garcia) and then its a gap to players who are a ways away.

Why is the Farm so thin right now?  Because the team has blown or traded away multiple first round picks in the last few years.   Consider the Draft Tracker:

  • 2019 1st rounder Jackson Rutledge; now basically our 3rd best prospect after throwing 37 innings last season.
  • 2018 1st rounder Mason Denaburg: didn’t pick at all in 2018, threw 20 innings in 2019 with an ERA north of 7.00 in the GCL and is reportedly nursing an injury
  • 2017 1st rounder Seth Romero; known problem child who continued to cause issues upon signing, and threw just 47 pro innings before blowing out his UCL.
  • 2016 1st rounder lost due to the Daniel Murphy signing.
  • 2016 Supplemental 1st rounder Dane Dunning traded away to get Adam Eaton.
  • 2016 Supplemental 1st rounder Kieboom currently our long-standing #1 overall prospect.
  • 2015 1st rounder lost due to the Max Scherzer signing.
  • 2014 1st rounder Erick Fedde really yet to be effective for the MLB team frankly; 143 MLB innings with a 5.39 ERA.

The Denaburg and Romero picks in particular are really crushing the system; those two guys should both be top 100 prospects right now.  Its also worth noting that the team traded away Jesus Luzardo in 2017 in the Doolittle trade, and he’s now nearly a top 5 prospect in the whole of the sport.

Why do I focus on 1st rounders?  Well because those are by far the players with the highest percentage chances of matriculating to the majors, and should be the ones at the top of your prospect lists.  Instead, our team has gotten almost NO prospect depth out of our 1st rounders over the past 6 drafts.  Instead the tops of our “top 30” lists are dotted with 2nd and 3rd rounders (Wil Crowe, 2nd rounder in 2017, Tim Cate, 2nd rounder in 2018 being the best recent examples), but even those 2nd rounders have been gutted lately:

  • 2019 2nd rounder lost to the Patrick Corbin signing
  • 2016 2nd rounder Sheldon Neuse  also traded away with Luzardo in the Doolittle deal, now on the cusp of the Oakland MLB roster
  • 2015 2nd rounder Blake Perkins traded away for Kelvin Herrera (though to be fair, he was young and has yet to really materialize as a prospect)
  • 2014 2nd round pick Andrew Suarez refused to sign; he’s pitched all of 2018 in San Francisco’s rotation.

That’s a LOT of additional prospect depth either out the door on top of the failures of the 1st rounders.  And its going to get worse before it gets better.

Who might debut in 2021?  I’d be looking for Garcia, Crowe, maybe Barrera moving up, Braymer and maybe even a couple of the 2019 guys (Mendoza or Rutledge) if they blow up this year.

Camerato says… Garcia might debut in 2021.  not much else.

————-

Q: Welcome! I’d be interested in hearing about players who changed up personal routine, training regimen, pitch selection or batting stance this offseason.

A: Me too!  Hoping for more player deep dive content from Camerato and others this spring training.

Camerato says she agrees and hopes to do more once ST starts.

 

 

 

 

All QO-attached players now signed and 2020 Draft Order finalized

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At least we got a 2nd rounder... Photo via wtop.com

At least we got a 2nd rounder… Photo via wtop.com

With the Marcell Ozuna signing earlier this week, the last qualifying offer-attached player has signed, which means (barring any more stripping of draft picks due to brazen and ridiculous sign stealing by un-penalized players) that we’ve also finalized the 2020 draft order.

This is a two-parter post, closing the books on the 2019 off-season Qualifying Offer accounting, and then a quick look at the 2020 draft.


First up; lets look at players who had QOs and see how they fared.

YearPlayerOld TeamNew TeamDraft Pick ForfeitedSigning DateSubsequent contract (w/o options)Money up/down per AAVQ.O. Screw the player?
2019Gerrit ColeHoustonNew York Yankees2-62, 5-160438109yr/$324M18.2No
2019Anthony RendonWashingtonLos Angeles Angels2-48438107yr/$245M17.2No
2019Stephen StrasburgWashingtonWashingtonnone438087yr/$245M17.2No
2019Zack WheelerNew York MetsPhiladelphia2-53438035yr/$118M5.8No
2019Madison BumgarnerSan FranciscoArizona2-54438145yr/$85M-0.8No
2019Josh DonaldsonAtlantaMinnesota3-100438454yr/$92M5.2No
2019Marcel OzunaSt. LouisAtlanta3-99438511yr/$18M0.2Not really
2019Jake OdorizziMinnesotaMinnesotanone437831yr/$17.8M8.3No
2019Will SmithSan FranciscoAtlanta2-67437833yr/$39M-4.8maybe
2019Jose AbreuChicago White SoxChicago White`none437831yr/$17.8M1.8Not really

Ten players had QOs slapped on them to start the off-season.  Seven of those players signed elsewhere, meaning seven players cost their signing teams draft picks.  Now, the sting of those draft pick losses isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be: 2nd rounder at best, and we saw some interesting teams signing players this time around.

Meanwhile, for the first time in a while I don’t really think any one player got completely screwed by having a QO associated with his FA status.  8 of the 10 players with QOs improved their contract AAV.  Madison Bumgarner accepted a slightly less AAV than the QO figure, but signed for 5 years after a down season, so he can’t be disappointed.  Lastly reliever Will Smith may have taken a significantly lower AAV, but as a reliever he’s gotta be happy about guaranteeing 3 years and $39M.  Even Ozuna, who signed just a one year deal, didn’t *lose* money and rids himself of the QO for next season, and reportedly turned down more money and multi-year deals.

Compare this to last year, where two marquee FAs (Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel) both waited til after the draft in mid-June to sign and both took significantly lower money than they were probably due.

In case I havn’t made it sufficiently clear in the past, I think this QO system is ridiculous, and that the MLBPA expended a ton of its political capital in the last couple of negotiating sessions to modify it, yet it still continues to screw over players while enabling the owners to pursue what now acts like a hard salary cap.  I think it should be completely abolished.  At this point in the game, does it make sense to tie free agency to draft picks?  I don’t think so.   The Nationals netted a mid-second round extra pick (what ends up being 72nd overall) for losing their marquee hitter in Anthony Rendon in his prime; is this a fair compensation?  Of course not.  I’m not sure what the right solution is.


 

So, now that the last QO players has signed, the 2020 draft order is finalized.

Its best seen here at mlb.com: https://www.mlb.com/draft/2020/order , but doesn’t really put in all the details pick by pick.

At the end of the day, 13 Original picks had been lost by teams.  Here’s all 14 and why they were lost (the “xth overall” is the original number, assuming no other lost picks)

  • 1st round, 30th overall:  Forfeited by Houston 1/13/20 for cheating scandal
  • 1st round supplemental, 31st overall: was to be compensation for Minnesota for Jake Odorizzi but he took the QO
  • 2nd round, 49th overall: lost by Los Angeles Angels for signing Anthony Rendon
  • 2nd round, 54th overall: lost by Philadelphia for signing Zach Wheeler
  • 2nd round, 57th overall: lost by Arizona for signing Madison Bumgarner
  • 2nd round, 64th overall: lost by Atlanta for signing Wil Smith
  • 2nd round, 67th overall: lost by New York Yankees for signing Gerrit Cole
  • 2nd round, 69th overall: Forfeited by Houston 1/13/20 for cheating scandal
  • 2nd round supplemental, 76th overall: was to be compensation for Chicago White Sox for Jose Abreu but he took the QO
  • 2nd round supplemental, 82th overall: was to be compensation for Washington for Stephen Strasburg, but he re-signed with the team.
  • 3rd round, 109th overall: lost by Atlanta for the Marcell Ozuna signing
  • 3rd round, 111th overall: lost by Minnesota for the Josh Donaldson signing
  • 5th round, 172nd overall: lost by New York Yankees for signing Gerrit Cole (they lost a 2nd pick b/c they were a luxury tax violator, as the Nats were last  year).

At the end of the day, thanks to all these changed/lost picks, the Nats draft slots gain some spots in the later rounds and will look like this; we have four picks in the top 100 this year, which is great.

  • 1st round: #22 overall
  • 2nd round: #56
  • 2nd round supp: #72
  • 3rd round: #96
  • 4th round: #124
  • 5th round: #154
  • 6th round: #183
  • 7th and on-wards: every 30 afterwards

How does 22nd each round compare as to how the Nats have picked relative to the round over recent years?

  • 2019: 16th each round
  • 2018: 27th each round
  • 2017: 28th each round
  • 2016: 18th each round
  • 2015: 29th each round
  • 2014: 19th each round
  • 2013: 30th each round
  • 2012: 16th each round
  • 2011: 6th reach round
  • 2010 and before: usually pretty high each round :-)

Since the 1st rounder is always the most important pick in a draft, here’s a quick glance at who was drafted with the 22nd overall pick in the first? over the past few drafts:

  • 2019: Greg Jones, a SS from UNC-W picked by Tampa.  Hit .300 in first pro season in Short-A ball.
  • 2018: Ryan Rolinson, a LHP from Ole Miss picked by Colorado.   full season starting in the Cal league in 2019 with a 4.87 ERA
  • 2017: Logan Warmoth, a SS from UNC picked by Toronto; Promoted to AA mid 2019 season but struggled in Eastern league
  • 2016: Will Craig, 3B from Wake Forest picked by Pittsburgh; played all of 2019 in AAA, hit 20+ homers at multiple levels
  • 2015: Beau Burrows, prep RHP from Texas HS picked by Detroit: top 100 prospect, pitched in AAA as a 22yr old in 2019
  • 2014: Grant Holmes prep RHP from South Carolina HS picked by Los Angeles Dodgers.  Some top 100 buzz, pitched most of 2019 in AA as a 23yr old after missing 2018 with injury
  • 2013: Hunter Harvey, prep RHP from North Carolina HS picked by Baltimore.  Lots of top 100 buzz, missed a year w/ injury, in the mix for MLB spot.
  • 2012: Marcus Stroman, RHP from Duke picked by Toronto.  51-47 as a MLB starter, all-star in 2019.

… so there’s some promise of picking in this range.

 

Nats Arbitration Results: guesses versus actual

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I was way off on my salary prediction for taylor. (AP Photo/Nick Wass via nbcsports.com)

I was way off on my salary prediction for taylor. (AP Photo/Nick Wass via nbcsports.com)

Each year various pundits put out projections on Arbitration salary figures.  I put my own simple guesses in early in the off-season to do payroll projections.

Lets see how everyone did this year guessing the Nats cases?

You can see these guesses on the Nats 2020 Payroll page on the Big Board here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/ .  I’ll take them one by one and talk through my guess versus the pros versus the actual settled number (they’re in the order they are on that page, not alphabetical or by salary amount).

Note: I tend to use the 40%/60%/80% guess for salaries, meaning in a player’s 1st arbitration year their salary should be 40% of their fair market value, in the 2nd year 60%, in the 3rd year 80%.  For those Super-2 players I guess what really happens is something like a 40/60/80/90 range.  I also figure players can’t get a salary cut, so even a poor player once tendered gets a salary increase … or so I thought.  Read on.

1. Trea Turner.  I guessed $8M even.  Cots guessed $8M as well, while MLBtraderumors guessed $7.5M.  Actual 2020 salary: $7,450,000.

I was off by more than $500k, as was Cots, while MLBTR was right there, just $50k off.  Great guess.  In his 2nd arbitration year I figured he’d get to about $8M, meaning he’s projecting to be about a $14M/year player.  He definitely improved his overall stock year over year after earning $3.725M last season.  Its hard to imagine what he dealt with in 2019, basically playing the entire season with a busted finger.  Can he explode in 2020?  I bet he can; he had as many homers in 2019 (19) as he did in 40 more games in 2018.  Can he return to his crazy stats from his rookie season?

2. Michael Taylor: I guessed $4.5M, Cots guessed $3M, and MLBTR guessed $3.25M.  Actual 2020 salary: $3,325,000.

This was my worst guess; I’m not sure why I thought he’d improve so highly on his 2019 salary of $3.25M.  I’m guessing that the team probably made him a deal and offered to tender him (and guarantee his 2020 salary to some extent) but that he had to agree to just a nominal raise.  Interesting how MLBTR predicted he’d get zero raise from 2019; how did they project that?  Nonetheless, MLBTR was just $100k off here, while I ended up more than a million dollars off.  What was I thinking?  I”m not sure; perhaps I was thinking that Taylor’s improved 2019 numbers and his now-recognized defensive prowess would be worth a decent amount on the open market.  I dunno; if he was a FA right now, i think he’d be looking at a MLFA contract and one last “show me” season starting in AAA.  Will he make the 2020 team?  I still sense there’s some detractors out there who think he’ll get cut.  I don’t: I think he was improving in AA, he shone in the post-season and is an excellent guy to have on the bench who can play the OF at gold-glove levels as a late inning replacement.

3. Hunter Strickland: I guessed $2.5M, Cots guessed $2M, MLBTR guessed $1.9M.  Actual 2020 salary: $1,600,000.

So, three for three, MLBTR is closest in their guesses.  I think i’m over valuing Strickland for past performance, not what he did in 2019.  I know that there are those who think Strickland should have been non-tendered; i think those people forget he was hurt in 2019 and may not have really recovered.  If he’s anywhere close to his 2017 self, then $1.6M is an absolute steal.  We’re talking about a back of the bullpen guy who can take over games.   I also figured he’d get a decent increase over his 2019 $1.3M salary, especially given that he’s worth $8M/year if he’s in his past form on the open market.  If if if.  2020 will be an important year for Strickland.  Plus he gets to pitch against Bryce Harper all the time!  :-)

4. Roenis Elias: I guessed $1.3M, Cots guessed $2M, MLBTR guessed $1.9M.  Actual 2020 salary: $1,975.000

This one kind of confused me; i didn’t think Elias’ 2019 season merited more than a doubling of his 2019 salary of $910k.   So I predicted an incremental increase … but both Cots and MLBTR were spot on here, with both being within $100k of the eventual figure.  These guys are good.

5. Wilmer Difo: I guessed $800k, Cots guessed $900k, MLBTR guessed $1.2M.  Actual 2020 salary $1,000,000

I guessed that a completely replacement-level middle infielder would get basically the “MLB veteran FA minimum” of around $800k.  MLBTR went $200k to the other side.  A flat million for a guy who a lot of readers here don’t think makes the team over an even lesser hitting replacement middle infielder we have on our roster in Adrian Sanchez.  If he’s released mid-spring training they’re only on the hook for 1/6th of the figure … so there’s that.

6. Joe Ross.  I guessed $1.4M, Cots guessed $1.25M and MLBTR also guessed $1.4M.  Actual 2020 salary: $1,500,000

My closest guess, and I still couldn’t beat MLBTR, which guessed the same.  I like this as a salary for Ross, still a 50% raise over last year where he barely contributed though.  In his sole healthy, solid season he was perhaps the best 5th starter in the game; here’s hoping he can return to that form in 2020.

———–

All told, I was more than $3.6M off on salaries one way or the other for these six players, an average of $600k wrong.  I’m not good at this.

Cots was a cumulative $1.625M off one way or the other, an average of $275k wrong per player.  MLBTR was off by a cumulative $1.1M, or an average of just $183k per player.  Their system continues to be the best and predicting these kinds of things.

Written by Todd Boss

January 22nd, 2020 at 10:47 am

Astros Cheating Scandal; my two cents

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Altuve's post-season heroics now in serious question. Photo via nytimes.com

Altuve’s post-season heroics now in serious question. Photo via nytimes.com

A pause to talk about the biggest topic of the off-season; the sign stealing scandals currently rocking the Astros, Red Sox and by association Mets franchises.

Summary: the Astros were found to be relaying the catcher’s signs to a monitor just within the clubhouse, and were able to signal their teammates in near real-time in express violation of an edict from the commissioner.  This comes from “whistleblower” Mike Fiers, who was a member of the team and witnessed the situation, which then sparked an investigation and has resulted in:

  • 1 year suspension (and subsequent firing) of Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
  • 1 year suspension (and subsequent firing) of Astros Manager A.J. Hinch
  • Lost of 1st and 2nd round picks in 2020
  • Loss of 1st and 2nd round picks in 2021
  • $5M fine to the organization

Commissioner’s report is here: http://vendettasportsmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/cglrhmlrwwbkacty27l7.pdf

What’s missing here, of course, is any player penalty.  And when it came out in the report that this was a scheme “driven by the players, executed by the players” it becomes a little harder to swallow that not one player has been suspended.  The “banging” evidence is pretty damning: https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28476354/how-internet-helped-crack-astros-sign-stealing-case kind of covers it and has some examples of internet sleuths who found pretty clear examples of it.

Why no player penalties?  CBA/Union of course.  But also … without hard evidence as to who was doing what, its awfully hard to pin blame on a particular player.  So the MLB essentially offered players immunity to testify so they could get to the bottom of the scandal.  But if there was direct video evidence of a player doing something nefarious and MLB moved to suspend them, it’d be awfully hard for the MLBPA with a straight face to defend the player at this point.

What’s more upsetting is the newer accusations of Astros players taking this a step further and wearing buzzing devices.  I know that MLB issued a statement that they “found no evidence” of this … but the video that’s surfaced and the comments made by the same twitter account that correctly predicted other parts of this scandal are pretty damning:

  • Jose Altuve‘s adamance of not having his jersey ripped off: https://www.12up.com/posts/jose-altuve-dont-rip-my-shirt-off-aroldis-champman-walk-off-hr-alcs-astros-yankees-01dyqxcze7n0
  • Josh Reddick appearing to have a wire taped to his chest; https://ftw.usatoday.com/2020/01/astros-cheating-scandal-buzzers-new-allegations-altuve-yankees
  • Robinson Chirinos‘ having … something … fly off his person and hit Yan Gomes in the mask: https://foxsportsradio.iheart.com/content/2019-11-19-astros-accused-of-using-electronic-buzzers-at-bat-to-signal-certain-pitches

Ok.  By themselves each of these links has arguments against.  Altuve’s screaming not to tear his jersey off isn’t evidence of anything, but its completely incongruous with his tendency to run around shirtless (as a response to the ridiculous “he’s shy” defense offered by his agent Scott Boras).  Reddick’s “confetti” argument … ok, I think I can tell the difference between a piece of plastic and a wire.  And, whatever flew off Chirinos’ bat doesn’t seem to be what he claims (an authentication sticker?  put on a live game bat??  that’s ridiculous).  So … Occam’s Razor here; what the heck is going on?

Let me put this to you a different way.  The Astro’s organization ALREADY had an awful reputation for repugnant behavior and top-level arrogance before this stuff all hit ; if they were so brazen as to bang trash cans … would it really surprise you if it was discovered they’d taken it a step further and used electronic buzzer devices?

I’m no conspiracy theorist; I believe in fact checking and that 99% of the time internet meme-driven stories are BS.  But this one I can’t shake.

I was chatting with my dad recently, and he asked me if this was the biggest scandal since the Steroids news broke.  Part of me wanted to say yes, but mostly I say “no” in that there’s only credible evidence that one or two franchises partook in electronic sign stealing.  It isn’t a wide-spread, hundreds of players across the sport issue like the PED issue was.  So in that sense, I think we’ll see this go away as an isolated set of incidents.  But every franchise has this capability, so It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we saw more rumors come out.

Do I think the Astros players need to be penalized?  Absolutely.

Do I think the franchise should have its World Series title stripped?  No.  I just can’t see how you do that.  This isn’t the NCAA, which routinely vacates wins and titles … ask a USC fan whether they frigging care that Reggie Bush‘s scandal caused them to vacate their wins while he played.  Who cares.  The WS titles are etched in stone, they’re already paid out and the parades have been held.  Do you really think it makes sense to retroactively award the title to the Dodgers from 2017 because potentially one or two guys knew what pitch was coming?  Can’t say I think that’s a workable solution.

Something tells me we havn’t heard the last of this … but this is how i’m feeling about it right now.  Who said the off-season was boring?  :-)

 

Written by Todd Boss

January 19th, 2020 at 1:05 pm

State of the Nats 40-man roster and Payroll post Arb-settlements

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Turner last arb case to settle. photo via wp.com

Turner last arb case to settle. photo via wp.com

The Arbitration deadline has come and gone, and for 2020 there’s no Club vs Player disputes.

Here’s how the payroll looks now.  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/ is the 2020 Payroll worksheet on the Big Board.  You can see the details there but quickly:

  • 14 players under FA or established contracts: $154,772,709 in 2020 luxury tax salary
  • 6 players arb eligible: $16,850,000 in negotiated salary
  • 6 additional pre-arb players at an estimated $575k each: $3,450,000
  • 14 non-active 40-man roster players at an estimated $150k each: $2,100,000
  • Estimated player benefits figure for 2020; $15,000,000

Total right now: $192,172,709

Room under the $208M cap: $15,827,291

This figure is slightly off of Cot’s figure, which I think has an error when calculating the non-active roster guys (if 26 are active, then 14 are non-active 40/man guys; they currently are calculating for 15).   This salary guess is going to be slightly off of reality; we don’t know what our 6 pre-arb guys will get assigned as salaries but we can probably guess that Juan Soto and Victor Robles in particular will not just get assigned the minimum.  And, technically we’re only at 38 on the 40 man right now, so  you could theoretically subtract 2 * $150k from the salary figure to be exact.

The Arbitration salaries came in under what Cots, Mlbtraderumors and I all predicted as a whole.  MLBTraderumors is usually the closest and was spot on with several of their guesses.  I was way off on most of my guesses.

So, $15M left to play with.  You have to think $4M or so of that will go to Ryan Zimmerman.   Or maybe not?   If you look at the make-up of the roster right now … i’m not sure where Zimmerman fits in.  Position players now under contract:

  • Catchers: Suzuki starter, Gomes backup
  • Starting Infield: Kendrick 1B, Castro 2B, Turner SS, Cabrera 3B
  • Backup infielders: Difo, Thames
  • Starting OF: Eaton, Robles, Soto
  • Backup OF: Taylor
  • Minor Leaguers: Read, Barrera, Sanchez (if he makes it through waivers), Kieboom, Noll, Stevenson.

Ok so that’s 12 position players on the active roster plus another 6 in the minors.  So I guess there’s a Zimmerman-sized hold on the bench for the 13th position player, since with the new expansion you can’t carry more than 13 pitchers.  Who are those pitchers by the way?

  • Rotation: Strasburg, Scherzer, Corbin, Sanchez, Ross
  • 8th/9th inning guys: Doolittle, Hudson, Harris
  • 6th/7th inning guys: Rainey, Strickland, Suero, Elias
  • Long man/spot starter; Voth
  • Minor leaguers: Fedde, McGowin, Braymer*, Finnegan, Barrett, Bourque, AWilliams

So that’s 13 major league arms plus another 7 in the minors.

18 position players, 20 pitchers = 38 on the current active roster.

Still room for Zimmerman, and coincidentally still room for Sterling Sharp (oh whoops, he’s gone).

how we feeling about the roster?

 

Written by Todd Boss

January 14th, 2020 at 9:34 am

Getting the band back together: Cabrera re-signs along with other moves

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Cabrera is back. Photo via newsday

Cabrera is back. Photo via newsday

It was a busy Saturday for Nats GM Mike Rizzo.  In quick succession we heard about three moves:

  • The team re-signs 2B/3B Asdrubal Cabrera, 1yr $2.5M.
  • The team signs 2B Starlin Castro to a 2yr/$12M deal
  • The team previously signed RHP David Hernandez sometime in Dec 2019 to a minor league deal (which was just announced on Baseball America)

Cabrera was awful for Texas last year and got outright released; he lit it up for Washington, mercifully taking over for the completely ineffective Brian Dozier and lighting it up for the team down the stretch (slash line for DC last year post-signing: .323/.404/.565).   Cabrera played 3B for Texas but mostly 2B for DC; right now he’s your starting 3B opening day save any other move.

Castro clearly is the starting 2B; he moved there a few years ago, played it exclusively for several years but moved to 3B last season to make room for a prospect.  He was reportedly telling teams in FA he was only interested in playing 2B … so we have our starting 2B.  His signing seems to clarify what the team’s infield will be looking like come April.  He has two straight years of right around league average OPS+, but in 2019 he spiked homers, hitting 22 of them on the year playing a lot of games in pitcher-friendly NL East stadiums.

Hernandez was a great middle reliever in 2018 for Cincinnati, but blew up last year and signs a MLFA deal in an attempt to get back to the majors.  I like this as a low-risk/high reward move for a team always looking for the next 6th/7th inning RH reliever.

With these moves … as per the updated Big Board, your starting lineup come 4/1/20 looks like this (here’s a guess as to the lineup)

  • Eaton (RF)
  • Turner (SS)
  • Soto (LF)
  • Kendrick (1B)
  • Castro (2B)
  • Cabrera (3B)
  • Suzuki (C)
  • Robles (CF)
  • Pitcher

That’s  … a big step back from what we showed offensively last year, obviously.  The loss of Anthony Rendon in the middle of the order is pretty apparent.

Is this a playoff team?

—————-

Cabrera becomes the fourth 2019 team member/FA to re-sign with the team, joining Stephen StrasburgHowie Kendrick and Yan Gomes.  Pretty much the entire industry assumes Ryan Zimmerman is re-signing to be a bench bat as well.  So a lot of the veteran crew that was credited with helping the team win in October is now back.

Is this a good thing?

The oldest team in the majors last year has now resigned FAs who will be playing in their

  • age 34 year (Cabrera)
  • 32 (Gomes)
  • 31 (Strasburg) and
  • 36 (Kendrick).

They join other presumed starters and key relievers north of 30 in :

  • Kurt Suzuki (2020 will be his age 36 year)
  • Max Scherzer (35),
  • Anibal Sanchez (36)
  • Adam Eaton (31)
  • Sean Doolittle (33)
  • Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elias (both 31)
  • Wil Harris (35)
  • Starlin Castro (30).

Um.  That’s a lot guys on the wrong side of 30.   And a lot of assumptions that the production like we got out of Cabrera (143 OPS+) continues into 2020 if he’s indeed the starting 3B.

———————————-

Oh, ps: all appropriate tabs in the Big Board are now updated for these transactions.  We’re now at 36/40 on the 40-man roster.  New payroll estimate is $185,452,709, leaving us $22,547,291 under the cap for 2020.  For all of you still holding out hope for Josh Donaldson … you should stop.  He’s soliciting 4yr deals north of $100M; the numbers don’t add up.  If this team has $22M and change left and are not going over, then we’re out of the Donaldson mix.

I’m not sure what’s next.  Does the team pursue a trade for a 3B?  Clearly they don’t want to give up Victor Robles in a Kris Bryant trade (and I don’t blame them, whether or not they have one year or two of his services).  Maybe we’re going to see some Rizzo trade magic coming soon.

Draft Tracker and Big Board Administration

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Hello all.  Quick news for 2020.

Two of the most vital online resources that I (and many other Nats fans) use are the “Big Board” and the “Draft Tracker” google spreadsheets.

In case you’re not aware of what these resources are:

  • The Big Board is a multi-tab Google spreadsheet that maintains several vital resources for the current season:
    • The Roster Tab: this keeps track of the current rosters of each of Washington’s 8 affiliates (MLB, AAA, AA, High-A, Low-A, Short-A, GCL, DSL plus known players in Extended Spring).
    • The Releases Tab: keeps track of player releases (or otherwise departing) across all the affiliates, both in the off-season and during the season
    • The Options Tab keeps track of Player Options for the 40-man roster
  • The Draft Tracker is one big Google spreadsheet that has every Nats draft pick in one place ever since the franchise moved to 2005, with schools, known bonus amounts and player disposision.

These resources have been around for many years.   In the beginning, they were created/updated by Brian Oliver, the founder of the original Nats prospect tracking website NatsFarm.com.  Then the anonymous “Springfield Fan” took over for a while.  Then Luke Erickson of NatioanlsProspects.com got involved and was a primary maintainer/creator for  years, first as “Sue Dinem” and then as himself.  In fact, these two sites are now so old that i’m not sure even who gets credit for creating them initially (so, apologies if I got it wrong who started them).

This post though is to basically announce that yours truly is taking over admin and updating of both sites.  The conversation to make this change got started in the fall when I offered to do some updates on the 2019 draft class for the Draft Tracker (which was still incomplete), and then one thing led to another and .. well now i’m the owner.

I have made some updates/additions to the two pages since taking over:

  • I’ve updated the Draft Tracker for the 2019 class, and have updated all the past classes for known player movement for this off-season.  With Ryan Zimmerman‘s option getting declined, the oldest surviving originally drafted player still with the team is Michael A. Taylor, drafted in in the 6th round of 2009.  Technically Stephen Strasburg was also a 2009 draftee of course, but his 6-week foray into free agency puts him a step below Taylor in Nats longevity :-)
  • I have also added in my personal draft class notes for the last five drafts (2015-2019 inclusive).  These spreadsheets duplicate a lot of the main draft tracker information, but are useful during the draft class negotiations to figure out how close the team is to their respective caps each year (that’s primarily how I use them each season).
  • I’ve updated the Big board for all post 2019 season movement, which include dozens of major- and minor league free agents.
  • The options tab is updated, including recently discovered 4th options for Erick Fedde and Raudy Read.
  • I’ve uploaded to the Big Board my master Nats Prospect Ranking XLS, which contains every Nats prospect ranking I could find dating to 2005.   This is a running XLS i’ve maintained for years to keep track of all prospects in the system.  Now i’ve put it online and will keep updating it as we get new rankings throughout the off-season.
  • I also uploaded my 2020 Payroll tracker that basically now emulates what Cots does … I figured i’d put this online to refer to instead of just mentioning it when I post, so you can “see my work.”

Basically, I went through a lot of the resources that i’ve been maintaining myself for  years and put them online.

Anyway; now if you run into an issue or an error on the pages you know who to call.

Any suggestions or comments, please let me know.

A sincere thanks to all who have kept these sites running in the past.  15 years of franchise data is now stored online in these spreadsheets in one form or another.  Great stuff. I’m glad I can help going forward.

Happy New  Year!

Written by Todd Boss

January 2nd, 2020 at 11:45 am

Hall of Fame candidates with Nationals ties (2019 version)

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Dunn on the 2020 HoF ballot. Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America

Dunn on the 2020 HoF ballot. Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America

This is a semi-recurring piece that we’re bringing back out because your 2020 Hall of Fame class has not one but two former Nats players of some prominence have made it onto the 2020 ballot.  We have not done this post in a couple years, so I’ll catch up the last two HoF ballots and then do the 2020 ballot Nats players.

See the 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 versions.

At the end we speculate about who the first Hall of Famer might be wearing the Curly-W.


2020 Ballot players with Nats ties (2020 ballot).  Mark Zuckerman beat me to the punch here, writing an excellent article on both the below players.

  • Adam Dunn; two seasons of three true outcomes, the slugger Dunn was a great presence, took a beer-league softball player approach to hitting, and crushed the ball for this team for two seasons while Mike Rizzo rebuilt the farm system.  In 2010 he somehow avoided the ignominious feat of 200 strikeouts in a season by just one … a figure he subsequently blew through two seasons later as his career collapsed in Chicago.  I doubt he gets any votes and his career implosion upon moving to Chicago remains an oddity; he had 462 career homers but was essentially done as a player at the age of 33.  He should have had 5-6 more seasons of hitting 35 homers, putting himself firmly in the conversation of the best power hitters in the sport’s history.  Sometimes sluggers just … lose it, and fast.
  • Alfonso Soriano played one infamous year in Washington in 2006, was forcibly removed from his preferred position at 2B in spring training, had a 40/40 season, still holds the franchise season record for homers, and used his one season in Washington as a launching pad for a massive contract in a big market going forward.  His departure netted us two comp picks under the old system (he was a “type A” FA), which we used to select Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmermann, one of which helped setup the franchise for

One other interesting name on this ballot?  Cliff Lee, who was with the franchise just prior to its move to DC, but was part of the ridiculous Bartolo Colon trade made in 2002.


2019 Ballot players with Nat’s ties: (2019 ballot with voting results and stats from baseball-reference.com).

We forgot to do this post last year, but there was one candidate with Nats ties:

  • Rick Ankiel, who spent two full seasons with Washington providing amazing defense in center (to go along with his amazing arm) but paltry hitting at the plate from 2011-2012.   In 2012 he was essentially a backup to newly promoted Bryce Harper for the Nats break-out season, but he did not appear for the team in the 2012 post-season ( he was not on their 2012 post-season roster).  Ankiel’s comeback story is pretty compelling, but it did not earn him  any hall of fame votes and he fell off the ballot after one year.

2018 Ballot players with Nats ties (2018 HoF Ballot):

  • Livan Hernandez: wow, what an important player in our history.  He was the starter in our first ever game in DC, and also started our first home game.  He made the all-star team that year.   He came back to the team in 2010, retired in 2014 and for a time was part of the Nats spring training staff.  He was named on one ballot and has fallen off going forward.
  • Brad Lidge: an infamous member of the Nats-to-Oblivion club, he signed on as a former-closer middle reliever for the 2012 team and got lit up.  Not Trevor Rosenthal lit up, but he was not effective.  He was released in June and hung em up.  He did not receive any votes on the ballot.

Notably, Vladimir Guerrero was elected in this ballot, long time Montreal player.  If only he had made it to Washington.

 


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 rumors, 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.  His final slash line in his sole season with the team: .154/.257/.169.  He went 10-65 with just one XBH for the entire season.  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

The rest of 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 Boonewho 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.

So, who might that actually be?  In the years since we started this sad post, the team has acquired and played more than a few elite, regular all-star type players who may very well be in Cooperstown at some point.

  • Bryce Harper?  Not likely; if he makes it, he’ll likely wear a Philly cap based on the 13-yr contract he’s signed there.
  • Anthony Rendon?  despite his great 2019 season, he suffers from similar issues as guys like Scott Rolen; top-notch defensive 3B are a tough sell to Cooperstown.   He’s now signed with LAA for the next 8 years or so; if he makes it to Cooperstown, he’ll have earned it likely based on his next few seasons of work moreso than what he’s done with Washington … which means no curly-W for him.
  • Max Scherzer: most likely; he’s basically guaranteed his Cooperstown entry with his 3rd Cy Young award, two of which have come with Washington.  I think that pushes him over the edge to wearing our hat.
  • Stephen Strasburg: right now he seems like he’s in the Kevin Brown category of good but not great pitchers when it comes to Cooperstown consideration; he needs a Cy Young on his resume before someone really considers him.

Obligatory Post on the 2020 Hall of Fame class

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Jeter waves to the fans in his last home game. AP photo via abcnews.com

Jeter waves to the fans in his last home game. AP photo via abcnews.com

Its that time of the year, so that means Hall of Fame Ballot time.  BBWAA Writers should have mailed in their ballots by 12/31/19, and we should start seeing a glut of “this is who I voted for and why” posts come out this week.

How many years have I been doing this post?  Basically as long as we’ve had the blog.  Here’s (by class) 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  Dunno what happened for the 2016 preview; must have been busy or something right at the end of the year in 2015.

I know lots of people have lost faith in the Hall of Fame, are tired of reading analysis like this, etc etc.  Fair enough; feel free to move on.

Here’s two key links for you, if you’re still reading.

My consideration of candidates for the Hall, unlike my consideration of a lot of stuff in baseball, does include “feel” in addition to stats.  I know Jay Jaffe  has his great JAWS thing that tries to do both peak and longevity.  I know b-r.com has a bunch of metrics per player.  That’s all great.  But it isn’t the hall of stats, it isn’t the hall of WAR.  Its the Hall of Fame.  Its the hall of marquee players from their day.  I look at the players I’d vote for and … they’re the guys you paid money to see.  They’re the arms that were on the mound and you gave the opposing team little chance.  They’re the sluggers who you wanted up in the 9th inning of a tie game.  That’s what makes the game exciting and that’s the lens I like to use when judging players.  Yeah its subjective and partisan; so is every person voting in the BBWAA.  Even Jaffe admits there’s stats and then there’s consideration in his excellent article linked above.

With my imaginary ballot, here’s how i’d vote.  Since there’s a limit of 10 players per ballot, I’ll list these players in rough order of voting priority to start:

New to the 2020 Ballot Candidates:

  • Absolute Yes on Derek Jeter
    • Jeter may very well join Mariano Rivera as a unanimous electee; I can’t see any logical reason why a sane voter without a grudge would not vote for him.
    • I’ve seen people online actually ask if his tenure as the face of the Miami Marlins ownership group will harm his candidacy.  I sure as hell hope not: he’s clearly enacting the policy of his ownership group, and his playing qualifications have absolutely nothing to do with his management career.  But, since we live in the “Hot Take” universe of twitter-length arguments, I’m sure someone will withold a vote for some personal reason (and then will stay anonymous like the chicken-sh*t voters who continue to do so).
  • Slight pause on Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi
    • Abreu’s accumulation stats really added up, but he was never seriously in consideration for anything close to being the best player in the league at any point in his career.
    • Giambi had a torrid 3-4 year stretch where he was perhaps the most feared hitter in the league.  His slash line in 2001 was a ridiculous .342/.477/.660.  And he didn’t even win the MVP (he lost out to the narrative-driven Ichiro Suzuki despite producing nearly two more wins of value).  But … this was basically it for Giambi; he dominated at the height of the PED era and admitted (in leaked Grand Jury testimony) that throughout his peak he took BALCO products, steroids and HGH.  There’s just no way he’s ever getting in.  But man he was a slugger in his prime.
  • No on everyone else, and i’m not sure there’s anyone really close.
    • there’s one guy on the ballot (Heath Bell) who had less career bWAR than Mike Trout had in 2019.  In case you still held on to some belief that relievers are the game changing players that they’re made out to be by some sportswriters.

Returning Ballot Candidates

I’m not re-litigating these candidates, since i’ve written many times on them in the past.   Plus, most of these guys have been on the ballot so long that, frankly, nobody wants to hear your justification any more.  Its like politics; reading my blog post isn’t going to change your opinion on the Impeachment inquiry.  I’m sure the Cooperstown guys can’t wait for Bonds and Clemens in particular to age off the ballot; this is t heir 8th year of 10.  Almost there.

  • Yes on Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez
  • More Tepid Yes on Fred McGriff, Larry Walker
  • Almost ready to say Yes on Gary Sheffield, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones
  • Pass for now on Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Todd Helton, Lance BerkmanAndy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt
  • No on Omar VizquelBilly Wagner, Bobby Abreu, Jeremy Giambi,  and the rest of the 2020 class not already discussed

Its Walker’s 10th and last year on the ballot, typically a time when people give him a bump.  He was at 54% last year; can he get to 75%  It’ll be tough.  its a thin ballot, which means lots of guys are going to get votes who may not normally get them.  Will it be enough?

So i’ve got absolute Yes’s on five guys, tepid Yes on another two, then would probably throw the “almost ready” three guys on to fill out the ballot of 10 names.

I vote Yes on (in order): Jeter, Clemens, Bonds, Schilling, Ramirez, McGriff, Walker, Sheffield, Rolen, Jones.

Predictions?  I’ll say Jeter and Walker get in.

(side observation; on the Hall of Fame tracker this year, we’re seeing really odd things in some of the ballots so far.  For the first time in a while, there’s not 10 obvious candidates even for bigger-hall proponents like myself.  And we’re seeing voters actually remove votes from players they voted for last year … but not completely filling out the ballot. (??)  Explain that to me: how do you vote for a guy one year then the next … you don’t, and you’re not taking away that vote for an other players?   We also are seeing some real questionable ballots; one guy voted solely for Jeter this year and removed 7 others he had on his previous ballot.  Why would you do that??)