Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats turn Souza/Ott into Turner/Ross


So long Souza.  Photo Nats official/Tommy Gilligan

So long Souza. Photo Nats official/Tommy Gilligan

Throwing up this post for comments that are leaking into the previous post.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a trade revolving around the 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers started circulating, and suddenly the Nats were involved.  When the dust settled:

  • Nats send Steven Souza and Travis Ott to Tampa
  • Tampa sends Wil Myers (and three others) to San Diego
  • San Diego sends Joe Ross and Trea Turner to Washington (as well as several other players to Tampa)

(Link to the full 11 players dealt here).

I can’t say it was much of a surprise of a trade, upon hearing that the Nats were shipping off new fan favorite Steven Souza.  Souza, at best, was slated to be the Nats 5th outfielder in 2015, thanks to the $5M still owed to 4th outfielder Nate McLouth.  And, the Nats longer term OF hole is in Center, not left or right, where Souza projects to eventually play for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In this regard, Michael Taylor is the more valuable prospect to hold on to, as he naturally slots into center once Denard Span leaves town.  Yes I know Souza *can* play center … consider who the GM is and what his defensive priorities have always been.

Who do the Nats get back?  How about two first rounders, two top 10 organizational talents in the San Diego system.  Turner is the catch; a college junior draftee who split time between short- and low-A this year and who BA ranks in their top 100 prospects in all of baseball.  They also get Joe Ross, a 21-yr old who ended up in AA (and who likely starts there again in 2015) with ok-to-decent numbers so far in his starting career.  (Note: since Turner was a 2014 rule4 draftee, he cannot “officially” be traded until a year has passed, so we’ll see him in June.  Lets hope he doesn’t break a leg in the meantime).

The team also gives up Ott, a sneaky prospect who excelled as a very young lefty starter in short-A this year, one of the younger guys in the league.  He’s a lottery ticket for Tampa, but he’s just the right kind of player for a team with the patience of the Rays.

Souza likely fits directly into the starting RF position just vacated by Myers, and Tampa nets a slew of prospects from both teams (as is their penchant).  In that respect, I think its a great move for Souza; he wasn’t going to play in DC save for injury, but he’ll get his shot there.

I like the deal for the Nats; I like the return, I like the planning ahead Rizzo is doing for middle infield depth, and he dealt from a position of strength (close-to-the-majors OF talent) without giving up a starting piece for next year.  I would have liked to have seen what Souza was capable of … but I also wouldn’t have moved any of our OF starters for him, so in that respect he was an asset looking to be cashed in.  Good move.


Written by Todd Boss

December 17th, 2014 at 10:01 pm

58 Responses to 'Nats turn Souza/Ott into Turner/Ross'

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  1. Yeah; I have to agree with Keith Law’s sentiment. His link is insider only but the title is “Nats make out like bandits.”

    Todd Boss

    17 Dec 14 at 10:31 pm

  2. Mayo thoughts on the prospects on the move:

    So far the scouting reports all seem pretty consistent. Ross projects as a #3 starter or there abouts, while Turner has fantastic speed, decent hit tool, but may not stick at short.

    Todd Boss

    17 Dec 14 at 10:38 pm

  3. Some outlets are also saying Turner may wind up in CF.

    So it seems like Rizzo traded some non core pieces for more prospect depth: ok, that has always been his M.O. But he still has to decide what to do about 2015. Seems less likely that he flips a starter now that he added 4 prospects. Would Clip bring back Brock Holt, for a platoon with Espy? Is that something we want to do?

    Also need another OF now. I am ok with taking a chance on McLouth’s rebound, but Harper has been injury prone, and Werth is getting long in the tooth. Need a RH OF, I think. Unless TMo is the guy for 5th OF and backup 1B (sorry to those fans of his, but I just don’t think he is very good). That gives us a bench of McLouth, TMo, Espy (assuming we find someone for 2B), Frandsen and Lobo. Not very strong. Souza looked like the best PH of that bunch, so would be good to have a better bat. Ironically, SD may have some spare OFs now (Venable, Smith, Quentin). I wouldn’t want to pay much for them. Is Denorfria still out there?


    17 Dec 14 at 11:31 pm

  4. As I noted on the last thread, I wish Souza well. He may end up being better than Myers for TB. Will the Nats regret moving him if he succeeds? Probably not too much, in part because they seem set against playing Harper in CF to clear a corner spot. Somehow, I always had a feeling they were going to pick Taylor “over” Souza for the one open OF slot between Harper and Werth. They didn’t see Souza or Harper in CF.

    I also noted that this makes it much less likely that they will re-sign Desmond. Not definite, but “much less likely.” If nothing else, they’ll probably wait and see how both Turner and Desmond do in 2015. On the flip side of this, I wonder if it means they’ll push harder to re-sign Fister and/or Zimmermann.

    There’s still a missing piece for the present at 2B. I think it’s Cabrera, for two to three years, so he can also be the stopgap at SS after 2015. I’m not fond of that idea, but you have to believe that the Nats have called around for a trade for every above-average middle infielder and haven’t gotten any love. On the FA market, we’re down to Cabrera or Drew, so the Nats will have to move soon if they want one of them.

    I agree with Wally that T-Mo isn’t the answer for the now-open bench slot. This may be another second-tier trade. I can’t see giving up a year of Clippard for a bench or platoon guy. I didn’t love our current bench to begin with, and do even less so without Souza.

    There are now slots for other shoes to drop, as Det’s 40-man spot is open, and Souza’s soon will be.

    All and all, the Det and Souza moves have been about shoring up for the future. The Nats have managed to get some good pieces without trading from the core. Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on the 2015 go-for-it roster.


    18 Dec 14 at 5:10 am

  5. Links to more positive buzz in the Nats’ favor:


    18 Dec 14 at 5:16 am

  6. I read a great quote from someone in a chat about the Nats moves so far, and rumored future moves involving Desmond and Zimmermann. The quote (paraphrased) was this: It means nothing if the Nats win the division by 15 games. So there’s no reason for them to make short term moves that slightly damage the current team to shore up for the future while still retaining enough talent to win the division by 5 games.

    And its a good point. The nats won the NL east by 17 games in 2014 and the rest of the division still looks like they’re sub .500 teams. The Braves are trading away their core assets, the Mets are giving up 1st round picks to sign middle aged RH hitters, the Phillies will be lucky to win 70 games, and the Marlins are frisky but aren’t improved by 15 games with their moves so far.

    Todd Boss

    18 Dec 14 at 8:33 am

  7. Agree with KW about the fact that the team still hasn’t really addresed what it needs to this off-season, so it also seems that more moves are coming. Right now Espinosa projects as starter at 2B (unless anyone *really* thinks Frandsen is the better option). So your bench as Wally pointed out at this moment is Lobaton, McLouth, Moore, Frandsen, and I guess Michael Taylor.

    But there’s nobody in that group who can play backup SS. So something is going to happen. Either you acquire a backup middle infielder for the bench (they’re a dime a dozen, in fact we waiver claimed Florimon for what I thought would be this purpose) or you acquire a starting 2B, move Espinosa into that role, and subsequently push out Moore.

    More moves to come.

    Todd Boss

    18 Dec 14 at 8:37 am

  8. Taylor has got to be in Syracuse getting ABs and cutting down on his strikeouts. He’s only break-glass-in-case-of-emergency with the big club.

    As for who could back up at SS, Boz had an interesting tidbit in his last chat about how Davey thought Rendon could be a good SS. Not saying it would happen, but Davey did use Rendon as the backup there for Desi on the few days Desi took off.


    18 Dec 14 at 9:11 am

  9. Ken: don’t disagree that Taylor needs to be hitting. But is he being wasted in AAA? And if its not Taylor … does that mean that Moore is the last man onto the bench?

    Rendon at short? can’t buy it. If he didn’t play short in college, or anywhere in the pros, I just find it impossible to believe that he could be adequate in the majors. Besides … i’ve always thought Espinosa was a better shortstop than Desmond anyway defensively.

    Todd Boss

    18 Dec 14 at 9:31 am

  10. Not advocating for Rendon at SS; just repeating Boz’s interesting hint. He seems an excellent fit at 3B.

    As for Espinoza, he’s so good at SS that I could almost see him starting there, with defense making up for his offensive liabilities (a la Simmons, although he’s not *that* good defensively). Note that I said “almost.” His stubbornness to adapting seems to be consuming his once-very-promising career, though. The Nats need a 2B now and a SS in 2016, so he’s in the perfect place for a resurrection, but I don’t know that anyone is counting on it.


    18 Dec 14 at 9:50 am

  11. on Espinosa “No pain, no gain.”

    As in, Espinosa isn’t going to be compelled to change until he’s caused some personal/professional pain. Of course, one could argue that his demotion to AAA in 2013 should have been that wake-up call. But then circumstances in 2014 gave him another 350+ plate appearances to continue to show that he’s not a capable major league switch hitter.

    I dunno. Is it because of his representation? I do not think it is a coincidence that Scott Boras clients continue to cause grief. I do not believe Harper blew off NatsFest out of petulance; i’m positive it was a Boras move. Is Espinosa’s stubbornness also the result of agent advice?

    Todd Boss

    18 Dec 14 at 11:46 am

  12. I can’t place this on Boras. He’s a smart dude and I’m sure he’s telling Danny that he’s worth much more if he can hit lefties AND righties than just being a platoon guy. Whether he’s a switch hitter or not, Danny needs to be able to bat .240 against righties (2/3 of pitchers) or he is not worth more than Brendan Ryan.

    Andrew R

    18 Dec 14 at 12:28 pm

  13. It won’t surprise many here that I have misgivings about the trade. I don’t like it in isolation, because I think Souza is going to be a longstanding power hitting and 25-25 talent playing a great rightfield. But since I see it as one of a series of moves to come, I’m shrugging and going with the flow. So with that said, there are a few points of observation:

    1) This to me was principally a “sell-high” deal. As Souza was not expected to be a regular, and his adjustment to being a bench player unknown, his value coming off a IL MVP and with the imprimatur of MiLPOY attracted a lot of interest. His production in a small sample off the bench last year was unimpressive, especially as a pinch hitter. The Catch and two long home runs distracted attention from how he might perform part time.

    Souza has not made it through a full season uninjured. Perhaps there was also the concern that were he to get hurt, and as a part timer, his trade value would plummet.

    But the Nats did not trade him for someone who solves their immediate and greatest needs.
    Moreover, they traded him for someone they cannot even bring into the organization for spring training and to learn the “Nats way.” It’s like getting Fedde and Gio without the rehab. The deal has the feel to me of getting a potential high yield in as creative and opportunistic a way as possible. In this case, there are team connections to the Rays system and their thinking about Nats players (Cubbage), Rizzo elbowed in to another party. Unlike the Detwiler deal, this was a deal that the team did not have to make but went out of its way to make – without taking care of now. That says sell high to me.

    2) Apart from what that says about whether the braintrust shared the idea that Souza was a long-haul player, be it talent, or talent+health, or talent+health+clubhouse personality (HUGE in this organization), the Nats traded one of the only power prospects they have left. That tells me that they are committed to starting Jayson Werth for more than one year. Werth is, of course, THE team leader and conditions himself well. He will slide over to left field as the Nats slowly transition into Bryce’s era. The thinking may well be that Werth will play out the entire next three years as a starting OF here. And if his production continues at its current level for the next three years, none of us will be that surprised, and none of us will be sorry that he is a Nat. In that regard, management feels that a 37 and 38 year old Jayson Werth will have stats comparable to or better than Souza and will convey intangible benefits as a playoff and World Series veteran and coach on the field.

    3) I don’t see that the acquisition of Turner resolves Desmond’s fate one way or the other. I think it pressures Desmond a little more, just as the presence of Morse pressured LaRoche to sign on for two years instead of three, knowing LaRoche wanted to stay here. Desmond wants to stay and the negotiating dance is taking place patiently and with Rizzo doing his staredown that we have seen before.

    4) As for Turner, the most exciting quality he has is game-disrupting Billy Burns speed. The prospect of a lineup with him and with Michael Taylor (or Rafael Bautista) in center, perhaps even Wilmer Difo at 2B and other power bats teeing off on fastballs up is truly exciting. But even as he is a college product, he is still polishing his game. The notion that he would be ready to take over for Desmond in 2016 is far fetched. This is not Ryan Zimmerman in 2005, and this is not the Nats of 2005. I am still not so sure that Turner is not a trade chip himself, right now, especially because he is not coming into the organization immediately. If Desmond stays, he could change positions just as well. This is not Drew Ward.

    5) As for Ross, his production has not paralleled his draft status. He has a great pedigree and a lot of movement, and his AA k/BB was a terrific last impression. But the Nats have too many starters right now in AA – I have not yet heard the case that he is necessarily better than John Simms or Austin Voth – and the Nats also have Solis, Purke, Backas, Spann, Rivero, Dickson, and Silvestre. That’s TEN starting pitchers who could make a case for being in a five man rotation, none of whom deserve to be in AAA and only one of whom could possibly be accommodated in A+ (with Giolito, Lopez, Pivetta) for another year. And the Harrisburg bullpen is loaded as well, with graduates from the deep Potomac champions and de Los Santos to boot. There’s no where to hide more than one or two more of those ten, even if Solis and Purke are pen bound.

    So to me, this trade is about an overall strategy of collecting depth in trade chip prospects for Gio Gonzalez type deals to flip high. Someone has a player that the Nats believe will help them in the infield this year. It is not a player we are talking about. Unless it is Fernandez, the Cuban, it is a player that the Nats will have to pay a lot for. And so they are stocking the pond with younger fish – having added Rivero, De Los Santos, Ross on the mound as they lost Karns, and adding Bostick and Turner in the infield while losing Walters and adding Vettleson while losing Burns, Souza, and Hood from what was once the deepest position in the organization.

    6) It’s also worth noting that the long-coveted Denard Span may be here longer than we expect. Coming off his great year, he would certainly sign a team friendly extension, and his late 2013 adds to a sample that suggests that he may be able to sustain an impressive run if he stays healthy. Amazing as Taylor’s talents have been sold, he has yet to prove himself at AAA. If he does, and Joe Dillon worked wonders with his hitters last year, now that Souza is gone, the Nats show that they have a lot of long term confidence in Span and that extending him is part of the potential picture. Especially if Taylor loses steam and Goodwin likewise plateaus.

    7) Rizzo’s style continues to be creative and refreshing. That he would be the one to trade for an ineligible PTBNL is in the vein of what we have seen before. I don’t think any of us will be surprised at what he does next, and I think we all expect at least another significant trade to be made. What this trade does is to leave the core players intact Souza was not on the playoff roster either – and give additional flexibility to what the organization can do from here. The roster is at 38. So it is impossible to tell what he is actually up to. Fascinating.


    18 Dec 14 at 12:31 pm

  14. Oops, that was me.


    18 Dec 14 at 12:32 pm

  15. It is also notable that there has been no press conference and all hands are silent. So the other shoes remain not yet dropped.


    18 Dec 14 at 12:37 pm

  16. I was wondering when someone was going to mention Souza’s injury history. That has always been a concern, and since he plays the game with Harper-like abandon (see Atlanta wall, J-Zimm catch), he’s likely to keep racking up Harper-like DL time.

    I do find it curious, though, particularly considering our discussions over the last couple of years of how much of a “prospect” Souza is, that he got no real love until he got traded. How many of those guys would have written a year ago that Souza might turn out to be better than Myers???

    I had to chuckle when I saw this piece: Gomez was the exact MLE comp I got for Souza. The article doesn’t mention another late-bloomer well known in these circles, though: Josh Willingham. Here’s wishing Souza as least as good a career.


    18 Dec 14 at 12:57 pm

  17. Espinoza: what would he have to lose by spending the winter trying RH-only? NOTHING. What would he have to gain? Millions. His stubbornness makes no sense to me, no matter who is driving it. If it were me and the arc of my career was riding on it, I’d be in the cage with blistered and bleeding hands. What a way to waste your talent.


    18 Dec 14 at 1:03 pm

  18. I don’t see Espy making it to the Opening Day roster on the Nats. I think they are just fed up with him.

    Andrew R

    18 Dec 14 at 1:04 pm

  19. I like Souza a lot, and was thinking of him as a lock for the big club and a leading contender for the open OF position in 2016. But essentially getting two first round picks (both of whom have started well in their initial minor league spots) is a tremendous get for Souza. As forensicane noted, it’s definitely a “sell high” move. Thanks for “the catch” and some fun memories from FanFest, Steven, and here’s wishing you all the best in Tampa. It will be fun to see what he can do with a starting gig.

    Espi hate has gotten to be kinda boring. I don’t think the team is nearly as sick of him as a section of the fan base has become. No, I don’t want to see him as anything more than a platoon player right now. But if Desmond gets hurt Espi is the only one in the organization right now that I’d feel OK about having play SS (which is also why Desmond isn’t going anywhere). Everyone assumes that Espi is a stubborn head case, but it’s not based on much more than other people who make the same assumption. The team has openly discussed having Espi abandon switch-hitting, and there is zero reason to think he’s not trying. It’s quite possible that he is trying but it’s a struggle and he’s not ready for even winter league competition at this point. At least let’s wait until we have some actual facts before we start hating.

    John C.

    18 Dec 14 at 1:31 pm

  20. Andrew, agree completely. Why wasn’t Espinosa in the Dominican Winter League hitting from one side only?
    Laziness? He seems very much the ‘dumb jock’.

    Mark L

    18 Dec 14 at 1:31 pm

  21. John C., there are 3.5 months until Opening Day and we don’t have that starting 2B/backup SS on our roster yet. Whether Rizzo thinks Espy still has potential or not, he’s not going into this season with Espy as the #1 option at anything.

    Andrew R

    18 Dec 14 at 1:37 pm

  22. The fact that we are still 63 days from P&C reporting and 119 days from Opening Day is why I’m not particularly concerned that the starting 2b is not on the roster yet. Because I am confident that Rizzo and his people are working on getting one. Check back at the end of March and we’ll see where the team is on this.

    John C.

    18 Dec 14 at 3:17 pm

  23. Exactly. 63 days is a long time.

    The difference between Souza and Det and the infielder deal is that we are now buyers. We will be buying from teams whose needs become more acute the longer the Nats wait and pounce. Waiting favors the Nats right now.


    18 Dec 14 at 3:41 pm

  24. The Cuban policy shift has to now factor into long term player development and budgeting. Perhaps eligibility is now granted more immediately to those on the fence. Perhaps it makes players now on the market more affordable, because the Cuban talent pool will me more carefully scouted and more readily available.

    With the international options available to the Nats, Moncada and Fernandez, rushing on resolving the middle infield needs is short sighted for more reasons than already noted above.


    19 Dec 14 at 4:30 am

  25. I mentioned Rendon to SS in an earlier thread, awhile back. He played there a bit in his first spring training, and impressed those who saw him and blogged or wrote about it.

    Position changes are tough, though. And there are no guarantees. He is a special player, in an organization that values positional versatility.

    As for Espinosa, I’m not going to waste energy hating on him. Far more marginal players are being handed millions of dollars. If he decides to bat right only, he may do well for himself. He is a Boras client and so what will happen should happen, irrespective of his “personality.” We don’t know him, other than to say he plays great defense and can switch between positions.

    It’s helpful for us to admit that we are exorcised with him because we expected him to be an all star by now.

    He may well be traded this winter, but we’ll miss him when it happens.


    19 Dec 14 at 4:37 am

  26. I don’t think the major league infielder need is going to be filled until the Nats know what is possible and their plan for Zimmerman, Fister, and Desmond.

    The stockpiling of minor league pitching is a prelude to a big play. But if the team loses both Zimmerman and Fister, there is less latitude for dealing someone like Cole.

    I feel like Cole will be a piece of any trade to come, and I do feel like Clippard is headed out (Treinen to the bullpen), and before the season. If the team is targeting a specific closer, then Storen will be the one traded.


    19 Dec 14 at 4:50 am

  27. To clarify, I think Turner is a player in the vein of priority 3 that I mentioned in the last thread — star minor league insurance on a star player. If Desmond stays, he switches positions as developmental needs arise.

    The team does need those minor league insurance policy chips, especially now in the power hitting variety. Goodwin and Skole do not inspire the confidence they once did, though I’m pretty confident that Skole will be one of those minor leaguers whose stock will rise much higher in 2015.


    19 Dec 14 at 4:54 am

  28. Insurance policy chips are A+-AA level talents who can develop a star ceiling (like Walters), affordable earlier in their career, but who are developmentally close to either making a spot for themselves at the big league level or forcing a trade for lack of opportunity when they are fully ripened (hyped), like Souza and Walters (whom baseball will one day hear more from).

    When the system has talent like that, a Bryce Harper injury gets a high talent replacement rather than Nate McLouth and the bench players stick to spot starts from the bench.


    19 Dec 14 at 5:02 am

  29. I think a trade will come for a 2B, 3B, or SS who can play 2B from the pitching depth. How deep they are willing to dig into that depth is predicated on whether they can re-sign Fister and/or Zimmermann. Cole is the obvious sell-high candidate, but I don’t think they’ll want to part with him without re-signing at least one of the big guns. They’ve got Taylor Jordan (whom NO ONE is mentioning these days) recovering this year, and between him and Treinen, you would think they could fill one rotation slot in 2016. But as long as there are two potential holes, I think they’ll hang onto Cole.

    Taylor Hill seems the obvious trade-now candidate, a la Karns last year, and considering how much other teams are wasting to sign terrible back-of-rotation guys, I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten more interest. But he’s not going to bring an everyday middle infielder by himself. However, if you packaged Hill and Treinen, you’d be offering two legit second-tier MLB starters, cheap and long controllable, both on their first elbows. Who else could offer a deal like that?

    Hello, Twins, can we talk about Brian Dozier for two cheap starters? Or even Joe Panik from the Giants?


    19 Dec 14 at 8:50 am

  30. I think I agree with Forensicance’s overall description of the role a farm system can play, but might quibble with some of the wording. An insurance policy implies you know what you are getting as the replacement for an unexpected event- Danny Espinosa has enough data at the major league level to be reasonably certain that, if Desi gets hurt, he will be a good fielding SS with limited overall offensive ability, but better against LHP. That is certain (enough) that you feel confident making decisions on that basis.

    But a minor leaguer, really any minor leaguer but especially those without a sizable track record below AA, it isn’t an insurance policy for something happening at the major league level, but more of an option that they turn into a quality major league player. I don’t think Rizzo looked at either Bostick or Turner for a specific role to fill in the majors, but he decided that he didn’t have enough internal options of players he felt could possibly develop into quality middle infielders, and he wanted to increase that pool. He is probably agnostic to which one(s) actually does develop into that player.

    The reason that I call them options instead of insurance policies is that the move from the minors to the pros is very hard, and major league pitching, for instance, cannot be replicated anywhere but actually at the major league level, and so you ultimately don’t know if a hitter can adjust to it until he actually does (or doesn’t). Scouts and analysts have gotten very good, so their prediction rate is pretty high, but still many of these top 100 prospects miss, or never become what they were thought to be. Then, to make it even harder, young players change. Bogaerts was the most recent can’t miss SS and initially was very impressive, but what is he now? Might be good, might not – jury is out. Wil Myers was RoY and roundly touted to be a superstar, but now substantial questions exist and analysts are all over the map.

    Anyway, I went off on a tangent. I should have just said that its a hard business (and fun to follow). I agree with the basic premise that building internal options to feed your team is very valuable, but a GM has to be careful not to overvalue what those minor leaguers can do, until they actually do it. That is why I have been a big fan of STL’s practice of taking their young SPs and throwing them into the pen for their first exposure to the majors. It lets the club get some data at the highest level while giving the kid a chance to get his feet wet without the added pressure of starting. Harder to do for a position player.


    19 Dec 14 at 8:59 am

  31. Since I seem to have sparked an Espy firestorm, I’ll interject a final $0.02: of course he has a spot on the Nats’ bench. He’s the best defensive player in the entire organization. My frustration with him is over his inability to adapt and improve to become the fantastic everyday player he once had the promise of being. He had a 21 HR season and a 20 SB season. Whatever became of that guy?


    19 Dec 14 at 9:07 am

  32. Catching back up on dozens of comments… 🙂

    Cole: no way is he getting moved. He’s come too far. He’s the #1 built in replacement for a potential departure of Fister/Zimmermann.

    Treinen makes a ton of sense as the last guy in the bullpen; in fact I think my “if the season started tomorrow” roster projection has Treinen as long man.

    Espinosa: Makes a ton of sense as the backup middle infielder. Does not make sense as the starter. Therefore there has to be another move for a 2B out there. Maybe a separate post looking at the entirety of the trade market for 2B is in order.

    Cuban baseball: just new posted some thoughts on the political announcement and its impact on baseball. Short version: nothing’s happening tomorrow. Cuba isn’t turning into the D.R. in terms of prospect flow overnight.

    Todd Boss

    19 Dec 14 at 9:37 am

  33. OK, it’s official–the Padres are being run like a fantasy team. But at least J-Up is out of the division.


    19 Dec 14 at 11:49 am

  34. I had the same thought. At least, if you are a fan of the team, they are mixing it up. They’ve kept their top 3 prospects (according to someone’s list), but appear to have gutted their depth. They seem more interesting to me now, if you can define that by moving from a team that I’ve probably never thought of, to one that I go ‘huh?!’.

    Back to the Nats, been thinking how nice it would have been if Goodwin had a good year last year and could fill a bench role. But I guess if I am just going to make stuff up, I could probably shoot higher than that 🙂

    Fangraphs put up a ZIPS projection for the Nats. I take that stuff with a pretty big grain of salt, but it was interesting reading. Although if you scroll down to the chart that lists their #1 comps, that was kind of sobering.


    19 Dec 14 at 11:56 am

  35. OK Todd, another gentleman’s bet we will have. Cole is going to get traded if they sign JZimm and Fister precisely because he is so highly valued. And because they have added a Joe Ross to the system.

    And even if they only sign one of the lead starters, the team can slot Treinen in as a starter, knowing Giolito will be ready by 2016 spring to compete for the rotation. Seeing how Voth progressed off the same staff, I don’t think there is any legitimate argument that Giolito could not have demonstrated last year that he was ready for AA. He may start at A+ this year, but they’re going to turn him loose.

    And the price for Desmond and the pitchers just went up with the Upton trade – four prospects, including one top.

    As for the Cuban issue, the frenzy that drives up the prices presupposes that one never knows when the next Cuban talent will be available. The mystique also contributes to price wars, and the players are more advanced in their careers and ML ready. The mining of Cuban talent will be aggressive and literally like a Gold Rush. It may not happen for a little while, but it’s a good bet that it will happen before the Nats get a settlement on the MASN litigation :(, especially because the President has his own ticking clock with the electorate in Florida.

    KW – per your post above, now you know why I am so skeptical of the pundits and the statheads. They cannot measure when the light goes on and are overly preoccupied with how high a player has been drafted. It is true that there is a higher percentage of #1 picks who make it, but that cannot be said of San Diego draft picks. Other than Strasburg, Harper, and Rendon, that cannot even be said of the Nats higher round draft picks!

    Souza became a different player in 2012 and it was obvious to those watching him, and they were telling us. I noticed him for the first time when he had a nine RBI game, and he never looked back. I am so sorry to see him go. But Rizzo has a plan, and it’s not like Los Angeles or San Diego, but a real thoughtful, smart plan. Nats hot stove is indeed its own fascinating spectator sport.


    19 Dec 14 at 12:15 pm

  36. We may like St. Louis’ style, but if Cole isn;t on the full time ML roster by this time next year, he will be in the same position as Souza — peak value with no place to go. And if even one of those pitchers are signed, Cole is not going to be valued higher than Giolito unless the unthinkable happens.


    19 Dec 14 at 12:17 pm

  37. Look how far Taylor Jordan has fallen in trade value.


    19 Dec 14 at 12:17 pm

  38. Wally, I’ll go with your verbiage.

    My unspoken added point is that the Nata cannot acquire these players at a AA-AAA stage for two reasons: 1) Because if they are almost ready, unless there is a free agent to go (like LaRoche) or a talent cratering like Espinosa (which opened the door for Rendon), they will be trapped in 12 months and force a trade, especially if you cannot groom them in the bullpen because they are position players. 2) because when they get higher than A+-AA, teams will want much higher return. Terry Ryan made that observation about Alex Meyer when he traded Denard Span even up; that a year later he would not have been able to get Smeyer for that price.

    Let that also remind us once again how much other teams value Nats grown talent.

    I still have my eye on the Cubs.


    19 Dec 14 at 1:12 pm

  39. A thought: the Braves are clearly in rebuilding mode right now, having now shed two of their three best hitters and cut loose a slew of players already this off-season. The Phillies will be lucky to win 70 games as constructed, have traded Rollins and may be looking to trade others. The Mets are just a mess. The Marlins are frisky, but they’re not suddenly a 90 win team, even with Fernandez back.

    Point? The Nats don’t need to win 96 games to win the NL East in 2015. Hell, 85 games may do it frankly. So if the Nats can acquire prospect depth and solidify the team for what may be significant losses after the 2015 season, cost themselves some wins but STILL win the division, then that’s just good baseball planning. This isn’t the NL West, with a $250M payroll, the defending WS champs and a re-made Padres roster. This is perhaps the weakest division in the game top to bottom, and we’re just lucky to be approaching a transitionary phase while its happening. No reason not to be able to win and plan for the future.

    Todd Boss

    19 Dec 14 at 9:48 pm

  40. Todd – philosophically, this is where I started the offseason (I might quibble with some of the particulars like the Mets -~.500, I think), but get to the same spot in the end.

    But is this a comment on the Souza trade, or a recommendation for more trades? If so, who/what?

    I am kind of flipping in my view, at this point. Here is what I glean from the offseason so far: good SPs with 1 year of control don’t bring back much in trades (Samardzjia, Latos). So as much as I was saying to either sign or trade Fister/JZ, I think now I would keep them (keep trying to sign them, too). Worth more to us then what trades are bringing.

    Which leaves Desi: position players with 1 year left do seem to have high value (Upton, Heyward), so Desi should have quite a bit of value. But without having gotten a reliable, quality 2B like Kendrick or someone like that for 2B, I can’t imagine going into the year with such questions at both MI spots, so I think Desi has to stay the year.

    So what’s left? Clip? He might have the value to bring back a platoon guy for 2B, like Holt. But probably not, given the way pitchers are being valued right now.


    20 Dec 14 at 10:19 am

  41. Wally; actually a comment in support of moving someone like Zimmermann or Desmond. Less about Souza, which to me was cashing in a chip that was going to be wasted here other wise.

    Your other points are valid though; GMs aren’t idiots and they know the value of 1-yr of control is slipping. So hell, maybe you just frigging keep them, offer them QOs and cash in on supp-1st picks if they leave.

    Clippard seems like a guy who can close elsewhere, but he’s got the same 1-yr of control issue.

    I dunno. maybe i’m waffling too. Maybe the answer is simple; if the return is worth it, do the deal. Otherwise hold on and bring the gang back once again for a 2015 run before waving goodbye to huge chunks of the team all at once.

    Todd Boss

    20 Dec 14 at 1:21 pm

  42. Those guys are probably more valuable in the pennant race, but it would be harder for Rizzo to trade them then as well. I think Rizzo will make one more big trade to dump salary and to get a 2b and then we will be done.

    Andrew R

    20 Dec 14 at 3:18 pm

  43. I’ve come to many of the same conclusions. The 1-yr control guys just aren’t bringing much in return, certainly not a quality player who can help right away.

    As noted, the Nats seem to have a bye into the playoffs in 2015. So the Nats are thinking about two things: playoff viability, and viability for 2016 and beyond. Remember, though, that the division isn’t suddenly going to get THAT much better overnight, in 2016. So instead of the divisional instability helping if the Nats wanted to shave a few pieces in 2015, it might actually be the shield the Nats need to keep the band together and not worry as much about 2016.

    The discussion of the uber value of prospects has also been on my mind. The Myers deal brought to mind Todd’s discussion of several articles during the WS that were reconsidering who “won” the Shields-Myers trade. It’s not a TKO yet, as Souza could still swing the deal, but it’s certainly a standing eight count with KC dancing and about to celebrate. The Royals made it to WS Game 7. The Rays are starting over, again.

    The Nats only have one uber prospect, a player who could bring an established star in return, and that’s Giolito. He hasn’t pitched above low A and is on his second elbow. A lot could go wrong. Or he could be the second coming of Stras. We don’t know. What we do know is that the percentage of low-A wonders who become MLB wonders is low, all the more so among HS pitchers. It’s likely he wouldn’t be on South Capitol until 2017, after the big 2015/16 Nats window has passed. Is it worth thinking about trading him? It would have to be a big deal – Tulo, Longoria, someone like that, and would probably involve other Nats, but he would be the big chip. On the flip side of the equation, maybe the “down” state of the division allows the Nats to keep him and roll the dice. But it is a gamble, since he has so much value now.

    If the Nats want to make a trade from the core, and there’s not that much return on the 1-year-control guys, is it worth looking at the 2-year-control guys: Storen, Ramos, . . . and Strasburg? Price had 1.5 years of control when traded, and frankly, that return seemed underwhelming. I don’t know if that would be the benchmark for Stras, but I think it establishes that the Nats couldn’t expect a superstar in return.

    I don’t know. I guess the overriding question should be is the current core good enough to win the World Series? I have some doubts after the last playoff performance, particularly on the hitting side. There’s really not a slot for another bigger bat, though, except maybe at 3B, which is why I was so keen on Donaldson. The bench is still weak as well, not giving the Nats the flexibility that so many of the other teams that made deep runs had, particularly the WS squads.

    I’m prattling on too long here, and I don’t have any answers. The minimum is to find a 2B and upgrade the open Souza bench spot. (Farewell, T-Mo.) I wish they’d upgrade Frandsen as well, but they’d have to eat a million to do so, and five times that much to upgrade McLouth. At least McLouth has potential to bounce back to a higher level.


    20 Dec 14 at 10:34 pm

  44. Nats rumored to be in on Kang: The winning posting fee is $5M, so nothing compared to the Japanese postings.


    21 Dec 14 at 7:33 am

  45. KW – here are my (current) two cents.
    Is this core good enough to win a WS? Yes. It guarantees nothing, but I think if any team is good enough to get into the playoffs, they are good enough to win it all. I think they currently are one of the top 3-4 teams in all of baseball, so they should have better odds than most once they are in, but the playoffs are such short series though, random results dominate.

    As for their 2016+ window, I have been reassessing my take on it. Assuming every short timer leaves, here’s what is left:
    Rotation – Gio, Roark + fill ins from the minors.
    Line up – Harper, Rendon, Zimm, maybe Taylor (let’s say he is 50% likely to become a 2-3 WAR CF).

    Between those two areas, I think the rotation is more iffy and I’d be inclined to keep Stras through his contract, and Giolito and the others to create as many options to fill slots internally. If one of the big three is extended, that relieves quite a bit of uncertainty and I would be more willing to flip Giolito for a core piece in a corner OF or MI spots. Big questions are, even with these losses, do Gio and Roark keep their current level of performance?

    As for the lineup, it isn’t as bad I thought, it just has some big IFs: does Taylor become a good player? Does Zim start playing 140+ games and hit 125-130wRC+? I have kind of forgotten about him, but that kind of career renaissance would be huge. You then have half a lineup of good players and except for Harp, no one really has a platoon split. Maybe extend Ramos this offseason cheaply (I assume with his injury history and lack of earnings to date, he’d probably jump on a 4/$30m type offer, and that is peanuts really; you are essentially betting he can add 4 WAR over 4 years) to catch 80-100 games at 1-2 WAR with upside for health, and you really just need a couple of average-ish middle infielders to have a top 10-15 line up. When thinking about it this way, Rizzo’s moves make sense. He is betting he can find a corner OF easier than a MI. I have assumed Werth has 1 more decent year, and then falls off a cliff, so there is some upside there too, maybe.

    So it isn’t bad, actually, and the best thing they can do to enhance their next window is extend one of the SPs. Which is kind of where we started anyway.


    21 Dec 14 at 10:03 am

  46. To expand on one point, I heard Zim on MLB radio the other day. He was asked who are the two most important players for the Nats for 2015. He answered Ramos and Harper, Ramos to play 130 games, and Harp to become, you know, a stud I guess. The broadcasters then kicked it around and pretty much each agreed it was Harp and Stras, thinking that if each could jump to superstar production, it would be huge.

    I disagree, I think Zim had it half right. I think it’s Ramos and Zim himself. Ramos’ rate stats show a catcher that produces >3WAR per 600 PAs. He has actually done that every year. Problem is he has only gotten near those PAs 1, but that is a high performer in his prime. If he had been healthy, he’d be looking at a McCann contract but as it is, he should come relatively cheaply, and seems like a no brainer to extend through age 31-32, just in time for one of these young catching prospects to make their way up.

    Zim also could be critical for 2015 and the next window. If the move to 1B lets his body heal enough to play full seasons and hit in line with his career averages, that isn’t a superstar but it certainly is a quality middle of the order, above average player.

    Successful answers to these two questions would go a long way towards solidifying the next window. If both of these are answered negatively, then there are big line up issues.


    21 Dec 14 at 10:25 am

  47. On Myers. read a very salient point; Wil Myers is exactly the kind of player a team like Tampa generally keeps. So why the heck did they just trade him?? Maybe we need to completely revisit the KC-Tampa deal (actually, I kind of did already, even before the Myers deal).

    Todd Boss

    21 Dec 14 at 5:07 pm

  48. At this point one year from now, the Nats may well have several players considered elite prospects. It’s also a realistic consideration for Lopez, Difo, Turner, Taylor, Fedde, Voth, Cole, and any one or more of their top four catchers.

    I’m not saying they are now. I am saying that when decisions need to be made about using trade chips, those chips will be more ripe than they are now. That has to be factored into long term planning.


    21 Dec 14 at 5:27 pm

  49. Tulowitski isn’t clearly available now. To me, he is the most valuable buy low option relative to value out there. I am quietly hoping the Nats get him, because he is a champion player waiting for a champion team.

    If the Rockies have had any discussion with the Mets who just utterly suck up and down their entire being, the Nata have enough to get Tulo without giving up Giolito. The Rockies need pitching and the Nats have controllable and ready hurlers.

    Even if You disagree, would you include Roark as a centerpiece in a package for a Tulo deal, assuming Fister and Zimm sign? I would.


    21 Dec 14 at 5:35 pm

  50. Sorry, iPhone problem

    Tulo IS clearly available now.


    21 Dec 14 at 5:36 pm

  51. Good discussion, folks. Just some quick hits in response:

    –Heck yeah, I’d do Roark for Tulo. I still think big prospects drive trades like that these days, though, so it’s hard to see it happening without Giolito. I’d love to have Tulo, even with the injury risk.

    –Wally, Todd looked at the 2016-17-18 rotation possibilities in a post many months ago, perhaps even last offseason. (Perhaps Todd can find it.) The Nats are better positioned than any other team to fill in the gaps, but I still think they will re-sign one or two from among Zimmermann, Fister, and Strasburg, but not all three.

    –Wally, also good points about the injured Nats. We still don’t know what a Nats team without significant injuries would look like, as there were major missing pieces for long periods in both of the playoff runs. Perhaps Zimmerman will be revitalized at 1B. Maybe he is our significant “new” piece this year.

    –And then there’s the King Kang watch. Hey, why not? He’s said to want $5-6M per year, plus the $5M posting fee. That’s probably less than Cabrera or Drew. Can he play? Who knows? We know he won’t hit 40 HRs, but if he could have an OBP north of .350, he’d be a significant addition.

    –Todd, I agree on how head-scratching the Myers deal still is from the Rays’ perspective. They essentially traded Myers for Souza. The only thing I can think of is that Myers was a Friedman legacy, and others in the organization wanted to move on from that. Of course the Padres are now talking about swapping Myers for Hamels! Is Vinny Cerrato their new GM?


    21 Dec 14 at 8:24 pm

  52. Tulowitski as a “buy low” option? He still has $98M left on his deal. Forensicane, you must shop in the high end stores 🙂

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 14 at 9:23 am

  53. hehe

    A perennial world Series contender would do well to note the adage, “I can’t afford to pay cheap.”

    That the Nats did not go in on Kang makes one wonder whether they bid at all. And if they did not, then the Nats are looking at a higher end solution than Kang or Cabrera. I feel like Cabrera still wants to stay here and would discount the offer on a pillow contract. I just hope the Nats have bigger game in mind.


    22 Dec 14 at 2:31 pm

  54. also…

    buying low is not buying cheap. If Tulo delivers, and he should, 98 M is more economical than shouldering the risk on Desi not declining. He would fetch more in trade once he has an injury free season.

    Of course, they could also get the Rocks to kick in some coin as happened in the Fielder-Kinsler deal.


    22 Dec 14 at 2:36 pm

  55. I would have no problem with signing AC to a 1 yr $6MM contract, platooning Espy and him, and then dropping Frandsen. Cabrera and Espy can both back up multiple positions, leaving Frandsen as unnecessary.

    Andrew R

    22 Dec 14 at 3:37 pm

  56. Andrew: seems like AC is looking for more though … and he wants to get paid like a SS. Maybe he’ll take a pillow contract to come back here, but he’s gotta be leery of losing his SS credentials. Once you’re off Short long enough, you can’t go back. Otherwise agree.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 14 at 3:49 pm

  57. I would have never thought we could get him back at that price either, but his options are dwindling and the Nats are a contender who he is familiar with. Further, he needs to get his hitting back on track to get paid – I don’t see him getting a starting SS job this year.

    Andrew R

    22 Dec 14 at 3:51 pm

  58. If AssCab takes a 1 yr deal, I’ll bet it’s for $10-12m. He won’t need to take a $6m deal. I would do that deal, or be willing to go 2 yrs for him, maybe 2/$18m? That might work, he’d beat Lowrie’s AAV at least. That is what, 2.5 WAR in two years? I’d take that bet, and it would be a good profile for the internal options to develop, or if Desi leaves.

    But i think he will likely wind up in NY, maybe TOR. Their needs are bigger and may even let him play SS. Especially if he takes a pillow deal, those seem like better options for him.


    22 Dec 14 at 9:00 pm

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