Nationals Arm Race

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

Nationals Arm Race Best Stories for 2015; Happy New Year!


Here’s a quick recap of the year in stories on this blog, to tie a bow on 2015.  From each month, I’ve grabbed a couple of the more interesting or unique posts I did, with thoughts and follow-on.

(Here’s 2014’s review and  2013’s review as well, to see how far we have or have not evolved…)

Jan 2015:

  • Holy Cow Scherzer! Nats make a statement by signing Scherzer for $210M; he does not disappoint with 2 no-hitters in his first season.  We’ll conveniently forget his 6+ ERA during crunch time when the team was caught and surpassed in the standings by the eventual NL champion Mets.
  • Like the Janssen signing: Yeah; this one didn’t work out as well.

Feb 2015

Mar 2015

  • Brady Aiken has TJ surgery, shakes up draft boards: Aiken eventually goes 17th overall and loses millions versus where he was drafted the year prior.  Hope he can come back from such an early TJ surgery.
  • Nats Outfield … what happens next?  Big discussion once it became clear that both Span and Werth were not making the 2015 opening day lineup healthy.

Apr 2015

May 2015

  • 2015 CWS Field of 64 announced; teams and analysis: one of many CWS posts, culminating in UVA winning in Omaha in late June.
  • DC/MD/VA District High School Tournament Report: 2015 post-season: May is Prep HS tournament time.  June has a ton of College and College World Series posts.  I know I don’t get a lot of comments on my HS and College coverage, but I enjoy following both and try to keep interest in local baseball alive.  FWIW, the area may very well have a first round pick in 2016 in Oakton HS’ Joe Rizzo.  More to come in February when I start up Prep baseball 2016 posts.

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

Sept 2015

Oct 2015

Nov 2015

Dec 2015


Total posts for 2015 (including this one): 115.  That’s down from 130 posts in 2014 and down significantly from 2013 (237 posts).  Wow, how in the heck did I do 237 posts in 2013.  That’s nearly a post for every weekday, all year.  Including this post, i’ve published 923 total since the inception of the blog.  When I hit 1000 i’ll do some cool retrospective or something.  Should happen midway through 2016.

923 posts; that’s a lot of writing.  I once calculated that a typical novel is between 90,000 and 100,000 words.  Well, most of my posts are between 1000 and 2500 words … so that means I’m writing about a book every 50 posts.  I’m in the wrong profession.  Of course, i’m not sure who would ever read a book about some random IT guy’s musings about his local baseball team.  🙂

I feel like we have a solid group always commenting, no trolls.  Very grateful for everyone who stops by and everyone who comments.  I wonder how we can get more readers; should I do more publishing on twitter when I post?  Probably.  Now that is gone, we may struggle to get the word out since Mark was my primary feeder site.

We generally have 20-30 comments on each post, which is cool.  High comments on posts were 70 on a “Ladson Inbox”post in January 2015 and an astonishing 115 comments on the August “call me when we sweep Atlanta” post.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading in 2015.

22 Responses to 'Nationals Arm Race Best Stories for 2015; Happy New Year!'

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  1. (Todd, the links in this post seem to be to the edit files, requiring admin login.)

    Todd, thanks for your dedication to this site. It remains an intelligent and respectful place to discuss the Nats. There are other sites with good info and smart commentary in the posts, but the comment sections of so many of them have been so overrun that there’s not much sense in participating.

    Happy New Year, and New Nats Year, to all. We’re now all wary of any “dude, where’s my ring?” comments about an upcoming season, but the Nats certainly should be in contention in 2016, and it may be the last ride with Stras. Should be fun.


    31 Dec 15 at 8:13 am

  2. Well done Todd! I’ve really enjoyed your work and you are now my go to Nats blog with natsinsider mothballed. My only wish is that Ladson blogged still just to read your spot on rebuttals, and Boz too of course.


    31 Dec 15 at 8:13 am

  3. You do a great job and it’s much appreciated. Thank you and Happy Nee Year!

    Andrew R

    1 Jan 16 at 2:04 am

  4. Happy New Year everyone.

    Todd, thanks for doing this. I really appreciate the site and all of the great commenters!


    1 Jan 16 at 10:40 am

  5. Oh man I screwed up the links! I’ll go back and fix them 🙂

    Ladson gave up on his mail bags to my eternal dismay. I could still do Boswell anti answers but he writes frigging novels for answers and (begrudingly) i have to admit he has good answers at times. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    1 Jan 16 at 3:58 pm

  6. Ok just fixed the links. I had cut-n-pasted from my admin window and didn’t realize it was loading the wrong links.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jan 16 at 4:13 pm

  7. OK, now that we’re in 2016, what’s next? Most immediately, I’m wondering if part of the delay in the Murphy signing is to give the Nats time to work a deal to clear some 40-man space. They’re full right now but have Drew and Murphy ready to add. Erik Davis is an obvious DFA, but anyone else who would be a candidate to go would have some value: Hill, Goodwin, Moore, Martin, Grace, de los Santos. Or they could be looking to deal some of the often-discussed guys like Jordan, Cole, or Difo. Maybe it’s time for one of those four-for-one Gio-type trades.

    Beyond that, while everyone else keeps talking about OF and another starter, I’ll keep talking about catchers. Lucroy, Vogt, Norris, all those guys should be available for the right price.

    In the OF, I predict Upton is coming, with a big contract but a three-year opt-out. I can’t say that’s what I’m lobbying for, it’s just my educated guess. If the Nats were willing to go $200M for Heyward, they can come up with $120-140M for Upton, particularly if it is really only going to be 3/60-70.

    If they don’t go big in the OF, I think I’d prefer Venable, who can play CF, over Parra, who shouldn’t. But I don’t know that either is demonstrably better than den Dekker, which is saying something.

    I keep saying that I don’t understand the interest in another starter, particularly now that we’re down to the third tier of them. There has been chatter about Chen, but he’s said to want $100M, which is nuts. Gallardo has history with Maddux in Texas but a lot of negative-trending peripherals. I can’t think that he’d be any better than Roark. They’ve also got Giolito and Voth almost ready in reserve, in addition to Cole and Jordan, if they’re still around.

    If they want another starter, I’d prefer a big trade for someone like Tyson Ross, or a bigger trade for Sonny Gray.

    And yeah, there’s still that back-of-the-bullpen situation. I don’t even know what to suggest there anymore.


    2 Jan 16 at 8:31 am

  8. I assume that Murphy and Drew haven’t been announced because Rizzo is trying to work a trade to free up 40 man space. Beyond that, I’d say a lefty CF to share time with MAT is the most likely addition. Plenty of options; anyone but Fowler would be ok with me (not worth losing another pick, imo). Could also be Revere for a bullpen guy, or even a starting prospect like Jordan.

    Next most likely addition is another bullpen guy, followed by a starter. But I think the starter will need to be a good deal for them to pull the trigger. Mostly guys who’ll cost a pick left, and that needs to be a good deal for the team. Also, with so many high profile guys left, someone(s) may fall hard.


    2 Jan 16 at 4:55 pm

  9. I agree with Ken; given that they’ve blown their 1st rounder, the opportunity cost of blowing another pick is lower. They could sign Upton and “only” give up a supp 1st rounder; that’s worth it. Of the OFs still out there i’d most like Upton frankly; he’s entering age 28 year, is an east coast guy and could like coming back, might really like playing for Dusty, reunited with a hometown guy like Zimmerman. I’d take Upton in the heart of this order in a heartbeat. He played LF mostly the last two years but could play RF where he did for the first few years, or you put Werth back in RF and put Harper in CF. That’s a strong OF.

    Potential lineup: Rendon, Murphy, Upton, Harper, Zimmerman, Werth, Espinosa, Ramos, Pitcher. That’s strong.

    I don’t feel as much need to buy a CF/leadoff guy; Rendon and Werth both could lead off just fine. Rendon career .343 obp, Werth (as i’ve noted in this space several times) is an ideal leadoff guy at this point in his career; sees a ton of pitches, good OBP (north of .390 last two years before nose diving in 2015; the reality is somewhere inbetween). I think taking the pressure off of Werth to drive the ball as a middle of hte order bat and putting him leadoff could transform his value as he reaches his advancing years.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jan 16 at 1:10 pm

  10. Todd – thank you for the amazing effort, qualitatively and quantitatively, into this site.

    It is fitting that you led with the Scherzer signing. I still maintain that this will prove in time to have enormous World Series implications for the franchise. His season was altogether less than hoped for, but we have every reason to have an exuberance for Scherzer in 2016. He has turned the loss of Zimmerman into an afterthought.

    More importantly, as a longtime Expos fan (from 1972), I am greatly appreciative that the Lerners stepped up with the money to sign him. I get viscerally offended by the notion that they are a) cheap or b) the Boras relationship is in some way exploitative of these world class businessmen. Bud Black is not managing, and the Nats paid aggressively for Mike Maddux even as they were conservative with Brandon Phillips. They paid for Juan Soto and did not pay ridiculous sums for Cuban talent. There is a method.

    Speaking of which, Scherzer signed on January 18. Clippard was traded January 14. So as we are looking for another shoe or more to drop, even with a 42>40 roster move coming, there is still time for patience to deliver. And I like the people we have making the decisions. The longer the wait, the more the decisions fully integrate Dusty’s increasing feel for his roster and all of his coaches input and the Nats respond to market forces. Patience often rewards (it did with Daniel Murphy’s terms) and in this case, it will be reflected in the starting pitching market, relief pitcher market, and OF markets.


    3 Jan 16 at 5:33 pm

  11. Part of the reason patience delivers is that you have a new philosophy among some GMs (eg Yankees, Dodgers) to stockpile inventory to flip for needed parts. The best of that surplus inventory loses peak value as spring training approaches.

    Of course, the Nats would do well to keep that in mind; last year, they wasted a year of Tanner Roark by forcing him into the #6 lot. If they have a Chen move brewing, I certainly hope it does not waste another career, especially with Cole on the cusp and Giolito ready (my expectation) by early summer.

    I’m still hoping the Nats can get someone with deep pockets and a very rich farm system overheated enough to trade for Strasburg with the needed haul.


    3 Jan 16 at 5:42 pm

  12. Color me skeptical on Scherzer. He’s proven a great pitcher when there’s zero pressure.
    Every pressure start he had in 2015 was pathetic. Or worse.

    This past postseason we’ve learned that some people will never be able to perform when the bright lights are on.

    Mark L

    3 Jan 16 at 9:55 pm

  13. I don’t think anyone can argue that the Lerners are cheap, in the aggregate. After all, the payroll is in the $150M range, not the $60-$70M range it was for years. But they still act “cheap” in someways. If they didn’t defer half the money, would they have signed Scherzer? Or Soriano for that matter? Why did they offer Bud Black approximately 40% of what the going rate is for veteran managers? Why do they stick to an inflexible salary cap limit in-season so that they limit themselves to moves that require others to pick up salary so they don’t? That’s not what top-10 payroll teams do; you adjust with the times and do what it takes to win, not stick to some pre-conceived notion of a “manager slot” salary or some hard-line budget for a sports team, treating it like your construction business.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 16 at 8:35 am

  14. My understanding was that Bud Black was offered an AAV that was higher than the median manager salary in MLB. For a manager whose next playoff game will be his first, I just don’t get why that is perceived as so insulting as to simply walk away. Yes, he balked at it being a one year deal with options. So, counteroffer. And blabbing the discussions to the media? That’s burning your bridges. If he regards it as a stand on principle, power to him – but there hasn’t exactly been a stampede for his services since.

    John C.

    4 Jan 16 at 8:55 am

  15. Black: offered 2year deal for less than $2M. The day before, a less-experienced manager in Don Mattingly got a 4yr $10M deal. That’s your market, that’s your comparison point. Baseball runs by the union mentality; when a guy with less service time gets more money, guys with more service time want to earn the same. No, Black didn’t ever make the playoffs; is that on him or on his team being perpetually in the bottom 5 of MLB payroll and having GMs who were clearly left wanting after getting canned by running the team into the ground?

    I can’t find any AAV data for manager salaries since so few of them have been disclosed. there’s this article: that shows a significnatly higher AAV for those that we do know about. Mattingly’s new deal certainly pushes up the boundary, as does Bakers.

    My larger point on the Nats dealings with Black is this: it made the team look bad, whatever the truth was. And well run teams don’t make themselves look bad in the press. simple as that.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 16 at 9:48 am

  16. guys with more service time want to earn the same.

    Of course that’s what they want. Hell, I want a lot of things, that doesn’t mean I get them. It was an initial offer, for goodness’ sake. Don’t like it? Fine. Counter-offer. Or walk away. Going to the press is a clown move. As Jim Riggleman could tell you, trying to bully Mike Rizzo by grandstanding doesn’t work very well.

    Mattingly had less experience, but also had managed teams to the playoffs three straight seasons and walked away from a job rather than being fired. Stuff like that matters. You think that it’s because of the teams and payrolls? Great! Joe Torre is in the Hall of Fame for managing teams with large payrolls. No one is in the HoF for exceeding expectations but falling short of the playoffs with underfunded teams. Results matter.

    That whole contretemps made everyone involved look bad. That happens to every large organization at some time or another. Most people would regard the Cardinals as a well run organization, and yet they whole hacking of the Astros scandal makes them “look bad in the press.” Does that change their status from “well run” to “not well run?”

    John C.

    4 Jan 16 at 10:27 am

  17. I’m with you John. Contretemps!

    To add to the above, whether people admit it or not, for some people, particularly like Loria the New Yorker and art collector, the Yankee cache has a cost attached to it. And that is still part of Mattingly.

    Expo fans remember his recruitment of Upperdecki Irabu to the ‘Spos starting rotation in that same vein.

    And Black? Well, he was beaten out by his own bench coach where the pockets are limitless. And yes, a major league manager needs to have equanimity, and that includes on a personal level. Tantrums go the way of Guillen and Riggleman.

    As for the Lerners, if they can defer, why not? So long as the team gets its players. And they have bid high on other players who are not here, well beyond Jason Heyward. All this without a competitive TV contract.


    4 Jan 16 at 11:06 am

  18. We agree to disagree on this one. I think the team erred badly in the Black negotiations and ended up with the wrong manager. They needlessly embarrassed themselves with their low-ball offer and now find themselves with a loud mouthed relic who is a known anti-stat arm-shredder who is on record preferring RBIs to on base percentage. Good luck explaining defensive shifts to him. Oh, and we now are stuck with a guy whose first public comments at the winter meetings were to defend a guy with a Domestic Violence accusation hanging over him and to make statements that related race to speed in a way that, were he anything other than black, would have been clearly a racial stereotype. Good times so far with the Dusty Baker regime!

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 16 at 12:18 pm

  19. I’ll split the baby and observe that the Black situation ended up making both Black and the Nats look bad. Black subsequently lost out in the Dodger search to his no-experience bench coach, so he wasn’t exactly a hot commodity. Neither was Dusty.

    Moving on, or back, to the OF, I don’t think anything close to the perfect fit for the Nat OF exists, which explains why they haven’t made any moves, other than a late-in-the-game bid on Heyward. I would bet there’s a lot of back-and-forth in the front office about which direction to go. I imagine that no one there wants Harper in CF as the first option, but if they sign any of the big three on the board (Upton, Cespedes, Gordon), that’s likely where Bryce will be. If they were to sign Gordon, and perhaps with Cespedes as well, they’d also be looking at moving Werth back to RF as well. Ugh. Upton can at least play RF, albeit not very well, but with more range than Werth.

    Among the CF options, far and away the best would be a healthy Span on a short and reasonably priced contract, but that’s a unicorn; it doesn’t exist. The Nats are probably not willing to bet that he’s healthy, particularly not at the salary and years that Boras will want. Fowler would cost a draft pick and isn’t great. Parra shouldn’t play CF and fell off a cliff after the trade. And by the time you get down the list to Venable, you might as well just play den Dekker, who actually ended up with a 112 OPS+ with a strong finish in his limited MLB sample.

    Or they can just roll with Taylor and try to ignore his Espinosa-esque tendencies at the plate. With Danny, they’ve now got the double safety net of Drew and Turner. With Taylor, they’ve got . . .

    So my bet is Upton. I don’t overwhelmingly love the idea, particularly as I look at his defense stats and K rate. On the plus side, though, not a lot of teams would want to walk Bryce with Justin lurking behind him, and the value of Harper seeing more pitches in the zone could be astronomical.


    4 Jan 16 at 12:55 pm

  20. On Scherzer criticism, I’d like to map his performance to the gametime temperature.

    He made some comments about changing his uniform during hot games and said that the key to the first no-hitter was that he was able to cool off in the clubhouse during a Nats rally. The guy seems to be really sweaty and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he struggled most when it was hot out. Problem is that it gets hot every summer here in DC.

    Andrew R

    4 Jan 16 at 12:56 pm

  21. Regarding “FWIW, the area may very well have a first round pick in 2016 in Oakton HS’ Joe Rizzo.”:

    Hope so. But there’s a ton of baseball left to be played until June 7th.


    13 Jan 16 at 3:55 pm

  22. True; there’s a lot of baseball to go. But every showcase Rizzo played seemed to mention him by name in the post-event writeups, and I get the impression scouts know what they have in Rizzo even before his sr HS season. If he hits .600 again and wins another player of the year award all the better, but even if he “only” hits .350 I think he’s still a draftable talent. Better question will be money versus scholarship decision. How much will it take?

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 16 at 11:00 am

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