Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Option status for 2017


Robinson is facing an options squeeze this spring. Photo via

Robinson is facing an options squeeze this spring. Photo via

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets take these guys one by one:

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

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

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



29 Responses to 'Nats Option status for 2017'

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  1. I would be shocked if Solis falls to where he has to be optioned. I think he’s here to stay . . . if he can stay healthy.

    Conversely, I wouldn’t call Norris totally “entrenched,” considering how awful he was last year, and with a decent replacement available in Severino. I know they’re going to give Norris every opportunity, but if he’s hitting .186 again, he had better not be with the big club.

    Romero is a lottery ticket. I doubt he makes the big club. If he doesn’t, they gave up nothing. If he does, he’s a lefty who throws 95+, and they don’t grow on trees.

    So yeah, the guy hanging by a thread is CRob. He would have to tear it up and Lind totally crap out. But $1.5M for Lind isn’t too much for them to consider eating; I think they ate $1M to dump Frantzen at the end of the spring. I hope they can at least trade Clint for a bag of balls, as they did T-Mo when Clint beat him out.


    20 Feb 17 at 11:15 am

  2. Thanks, Todd, you’re defintely ‘the man’ when it comes to this kind of stuff.

    I love it; the behind the scenes intrigue that colors all moves through March.

    Clint is a guy who can play a lot for teams like the Rays or Padres. Decent pop but not a guy to help a contender. We used to be one of those teams, but no longer.

    Mark L

    20 Feb 17 at 11:44 pm

  3. […] a niche,” (I believe both of us are married, FWIW) Todd Boss is at it again with a post that breaks down the option status of the 2017 Nats. If you’re wondering why I’m feeling like this spring training will be especially […]

  4. I wonder if Clint’s best served going to an AL team where he could help at DH as well. Here’s my new favorite site:
    … it lists all the players on all 30 teams by position and depth. Its a quick way to see who is projected to start at 1b and DH. I don’t see a ton of DH spots where he could compete; Tampa, Chicago Ws, Oakland. On the NL side … Philly, Milwaukee, and thats about it in terms of teams that look like they don’t have an expensive/good slugger at 1B.

    Todd Boss

    21 Feb 17 at 8:45 am

  5. Well, that DC team doesn’t have a good slugging 1B, either, but that’s another story . . .

    There aren’t much in the way of positional battles for the Nats this spring. The starting pitching and positional starters look pretty much settled. I’m still not sure how the catching platoon is supposed to work, as the chatter is that Norris will get the majority of the starts, although they’re bound to face RH starters 75-80% of the time. Norris was atrocious against RHP last year.

    As we’ve noted, the Lind/Robinson/Skole “battle” likely is over before it begins unless Lind is really bad. That just leaves Taylor vs. Goodwin for the last OF bench spot. Taylor would seem to have the upper hand due to the need for a RH bat to balance the bench.

    The bullpen could be more interesting. Four slots would seem to be set: Kelley, Treinen, Solis, and Perez. You would think that they really would like for Glover to stick with the big club, but that isn’t a given. With him, that’s five of the seven. One slot will be the long man/swing man, which figures to be a competition among Worley, Cole, Voth, and maybe Jacob Turner. That leaves only one more slot for a host of candidates, including Nathan, Gott, Romero, Cordero, Grace, Martin, . . . or the yet-to-be-acquired closer. (I think I saw some passing reference that Tim Collins likely won’t be full speed until mid-season.)


    21 Feb 17 at 9:35 am

  6. I have faith that Zimmerman will rebound. He’s only 31. Its not like he’s approaching 40. I realize he’s not slugging at 1B appropriate levels, but if he at least returns to his 2013-2014 levels (.280/.342/.449) i’d be ecstatic. Yes, that might be a pipe dream; those are nearly his career slash line figures. Perhaps something more in the .260/.325/.450 range might be a good goal. that’s still a .775 OPS figure.

    No team can be perfect right? You can’t have all stars at every spot.

    I do think there’s a battle at the end of the bullpen, as KW notes. I have no idea who the final RHP is going to be. So there’s that …

    Todd Boss

    21 Feb 17 at 9:41 am

  7. There was an article over the weekend about how Zim has been talking a lot with Murph, trying to adjust his launch angles, pulling the ball more, etc. We’ll see. I haven’t given up on him, either, and I understand that the Nats have a long way to go on his contract and will play him. At the same time, the Lind pickup was nice insurance.

    There are hints in the Post article this morning that the slimmed-down Heisey might actually be able to function as a backup CF if neither Taylor nor Goodwin prove worthy of remaining with the big club. Heisey and Lind as the OF backups? I have a hard time buying that one. But then I also have a hard time buying Taylor getting regular ABs . . .

    Anyway, if that scenario is in play, do the Nats think about keeping Difo over Taylor and Goodwin? Or keeping CRob in addition to Lind? I doubt either of those.


    21 Feb 17 at 10:03 am

  8. Zimmerman will actually be 33 in September. I really hope he bounces back to at least close to his career norms, but I can’t imagine he’ll still be here next year if he has another abysmal season like last year. Given all he has done for the franchise, it would be really sad if the team was forced to do something drastic like eat the final two years of his contract.

    As for Robinson, I can’t see another team giving up anything for a guy whose power completely disappeared the second half of last season. We forget because he doesn’t have much service time that he is basically the same age as Zimmerman. The sad part for Robinson is that he didn’t break through until he was already on the wrong side of 30.

    Karl Kolchak

    21 Feb 17 at 11:46 am

  9. Well, looks like either Norris r Lobaton won’t be here on opening day. The Nats apparently just sighed Wieters.

    Karl Kolchak

    21 Feb 17 at 11:56 am

  10. Bigger guarantee than I was expecting. Not a deal that I would have done but hopefully it only costs money. I’d see Norris going, not Lobo, for money reasons.

    Lots of speculation that this frees up getting Robertson, but I just don’t see how they make the money work


    21 Feb 17 at 12:07 pm

  11. . . . which answers my concern about Sheriff Lobo and the platoon situation. Presumably, Wieters would start against RHP and Norris against LHP, unless they trade him.

    Wow, the price is ridiculous, though. MLBTR speculates that the Nats might now package a catcher in a Robertson deal with the Chisox . . . and take on another big contract.

    I’ve been concerned all winter about the catching situation. I’ve never particularly looked at Wieters as the answer, though. I would have been interested in him at half this price, but 2/$21M guaranteed???


    21 Feb 17 at 12:13 pm

  12. I actually first read the Wieters news as “$2.1 million,” which I thought was about the right price for him. Sorry, no decimal point.


    21 Feb 17 at 12:17 pm

  13. I must say, I do like the go-for-it feel of this, though, all the more so if the make it a true daily double and get Robertson as well. If they can do both of those things AND not have to dump salary (i.e., not trade Gio), then the Nats will have moved themselves up the contender ladder.


    21 Feb 17 at 12:37 pm


    hard to argue with the title of the article. did we need Weiters? Is this Lerner cutting Boras another favor?

    Todd Boss

    21 Feb 17 at 1:01 pm

  15. An interesting side note: Nats 40-man roster is currently full. Lind was 40th man. So to sign Weiters, we have to cut someone.

    Who though? I thought Robinson was first in line to go … but not until spring training is over. After Robinson I have Grace, Martin, Cordero, Marmolejos, Skole, Kieboom. Maybe Grace or Martin gets the axe immediately?

    Todd Boss

    21 Feb 17 at 1:03 pm

  16. At least one catcher, Lobaton or Norris, will be going somewhere. There’s also lots of scuttlebutt that Severino might be going to the Chisox in a Robertson deal. We’ll see. I don’t know whether they could move Loby before they have to add Wieters. I would think that Martin and Grace are the most expendable. They haven’t even had a chance to look at Cordero yet.

    Kieboom has done very little to justify being on the 40-man, but they’d probably lose him if they DFA him.


    21 Feb 17 at 1:15 pm

  17. Looks like $5m deferred through 2021. These guys just keep piling on dead money in future, which I expect will be a big problem when that time comes.

    But hey, we could all be dead ourselves by then 🙂


    21 Feb 17 at 2:43 pm

  18. Some random and at times conflicting thoughts on the new developments:

    I don’t know that Severino will ever hit enough to be an MLB regular, but I think I’d prefer to keep him over Norris if all things are equal. Of course all things aren’t equal because Severino has trade value, while Norris has zilch. If Norris goes, it will be a salary dump, which is how the Nats got him in the first place. But if the Nats move Severino, they have no near-term catching future. Folks who keep mentioning Spencer Kieboom are misinformed.

    Were Norris to go, I think Severino would be seen more as the backup than a platoon partner, even though Dusty would still probably start him once or twice a week. If Norris stays, I would expect more of a straightforward platoon, which both his and Wieters’ stats strongly indicate.

    With either Norris or Severino on the bench more than playing, that would put a second RH bat on the bench along with the two expected LH bats of Drew and Lind. Will such a situation make the Goodwin-Taylor competition more equal? When it was assumed that Lobaton would be mostly on the bench, that was three LH bats to one, seeming to tip the scales in Taylor’s direction. Now it’s two and two. (And like Cameron, I would have rather seen the Wieters money spent on Pagan and Blanton.)


    21 Feb 17 at 5:36 pm

  19. I disagree that Norris has zero trade value. Pedro Avila is an interesting low A arm and Rizzo isn’t known to overpay (insert Eaton joke , which I don’t think was an overpay but most everyone else does). It’s not high value but it wasn’t just a salary dump

    Not sure I follow you on Severino. Isn’t he in the minors this year unless there is an injury?


    21 Feb 17 at 5:46 pm

  20. KW — I hope the rumors about a Robertson deal are correct. Otherwise, the decision to pay out $21 million for a marginal upgrade at catcher vs using it to shore up a potentially disastrous bullpen is a real head scratcher. If they resigned themselves to going in house for a closer with Kelley or Treinen, some quality veteran middle relief help would have been much better option.

    Karl Kolchak

    21 Feb 17 at 7:31 pm

  21. Here’s an interesting thought that goes back to the very subject of Todd’s post. Would the Nats be willing to stash Norris at AAA this year? It would give him a chance to get his stroke back while adding on an additional year of team control. If he did start hitting again, he’d become the catcher of the future as well as an insurance policy for this year. Plus, they are paying him less than they paid Lannan in 2012.

    I know it is very unlikely to happen because even though it makes sense on paper, it is a lot of money and Norris would be unlikely to take it well.

    Karl Kolchak

    21 Feb 17 at 7:48 pm

  22. Wally, you’re right that Avila wasn’t a throwaway, a 19-year-old who held his own at low A. That said, that’s about the value of what Norris might bring in return — a single low A lottery ticket. He’s not going to bring someone like Robertson.

    Would Severino by himself bring Robertson? I’d have to think about that one. I’ve never been fully on the Robertson bandwagon, as his numbers seemed to slip some last year. He’s not a top-tier guy. Is he better than what the Nats have in house? Hard to say. He’d be a nice piece to add but perhaps not a game-changer.

    My conflict over whether to give up Severino is rooted in what I said above. It’s conundrum of him probably not going to hit enough to be an MLB regular, but at the same time, he’s all the Nats have for the immediate future.

    As for Norris, in looking at his stats, he was a very solid hitter his last two years in OAK. In SD, his walks went down, his Ks went up, and his OBP crashed. Not sure what happened there. Neither is he.


    22 Feb 17 at 5:29 am

  23. Karl asks a very intriguing question; would the team option Norris to stash him? I guess they could; they blew more money on Lannan’s option year in Syracuse than they’re set to pay Norris right ($4.2M) I suppose they only make that decision if Norris doesn’t demonstrate that he’s a clearly better option than Lobaton for the MLB team, at which point they cut Lobaton and eat his $1.75M salary.

    With the $5M deferrment of salary, this only adds $5.5M to 2017’s payroll btw, so its now (by my calcs) at $152M and change.

    Another complication if they option Norris; we do have some legitimate catcher prospects who kinda need to play regularly to move forward and this just logjams things. Consider:
    MLB: Wieters, Lobaton
    AAA: Norris, Severino (and presumably cutting MLFAs Solano, Jerolman)
    AA: Kieboom, Read and I guess Rickles
    High-A: Reetz, Lowery, Ruiz, Reistetter?
    Low-A: Barerra, Vilorio just matriculating up from short-A

    I guess what i’m getting at is this: Severino needs to start in AAA, just like Kieboom needs to start in AA. But Read also needs to start and he’s just finished a full year at High-A. Meanwhile Reetz is a significant investment by the team and he needs to keep getting challenged. Another catcher pushed downwards mucks all of this up.

    Todd Boss

    22 Feb 17 at 9:01 am

  24. Sickels put out a sleeper piece. Names Tyler Watson and Armand Upshaw as Nat sleepers.

    Lots of discussion on Nats decision making these days. I don’t like to give in to group think, but I do agree that it gets puzzling sometimes to put their views on payroll in context. I think the FG guy is right: if they had more money, even the $5m being paid this year, this hardly seems to be the way that provides the most positive net impact on 2017. Still think Ziegler would have fit well here, but surely another reliever would have helped more?

    As for Severino for Robertson, hard for me to get too worked up. I’m not very bullish on either. Slightly in favor of pulling the trigger.


    22 Feb 17 at 9:05 am

  25. The Wieters deal smells to me like yet another Boras manover. Rizzo must be tired of having Boras’ footprints on his forehead as he goes straight to Lerner.

    And I as a fan and defender of the team’s decision making find it more and more difficult to defend these Boras-friendly moves the more often they occur. I mean, just look at the team we have now:
    – Free Agents signed represented by Boras: Scherzer, Werth, Wieters, Perez, Drew, Grant Green, Jacob Turner (the last two the MLFA do Boras a favor types)
    – Players acquired in Trade represented by Boras: Gonzales (though to be fair not when we acquired him),
    – Draftees represented by Boras: Strasburg, Rendon, Harper, Taylor, Goodwin

    That’s at least 10 of our projected 25-man roster.

    I mean, yes on the one hand you like to have Boras clients because often times they’re very good. But when you’re being portrayed as Boras’ pet organization its not a good look.

    Severino for Robertson straight up?? Absolutely. Make that deal 7 days out of 7. What has Severino proven in his career so far? He’s a career .642 OPS in 1400+ ABs in the minors with little power and good defensive metrics. Is that a starting C in the major leagues?

    Todd Boss

    22 Feb 17 at 9:43 am

  26. The organizational catcher conga line will probably move up regardless of whether Norris or Severino is at Syracuse. Read hit better than any other catcher in the organization last year (with the exception of Ramos) and needs to move up to AA, despite his defensive deficiencies. Does Kieboom become the backup at AAA or repeat AA, where he hit only .230? He turns 26 next month and looks like a DFA candidate to me.

    I suppose the Nats could keep Lobaton as the MLB backup if they trade Norris, but it would make more sense to move him and play Severino. I don’t think they’ll have to eat Lobaton’s salary; some team will be willing to give up an A-ball arm for a functional catcher. But he’ll always be a folk hero here after the Game 2 HR.


    22 Feb 17 at 9:48 am

  27. I don’t mind signing Wieters. Norris was the WORST hitter in all of baseball last year. There are obviously signs that point to a rebound, but how much so? He is a better pitch framer than Wieters but Wieters is better in pretty much all other facets of the game.

    Tampa was in on Wieters. Tampa has several right handed relievers. Norris for Brad Boxberger or Danny Farquhar. Would the Rays do that? I don’t know. Both have closing experience. Both have inconsistencies. Also, you can’t rule out a move with Oakland as they have Axford, Madson, Casilla and Doolittle in the back of their bullpen. One of Madson or Axford seems likely to be moved this spring. Again, inconsistencies with both of them but I don’t see the Nats landing an all star reliever at this point.


    22 Feb 17 at 11:40 am

  28. testing


    22 Feb 17 at 11:41 am

  29. I was thinking of Norris going to AAA in conjunction with Severino being traded for Robertson. That’s a deal that ought to be done regardless. Robertson is not an elite closer, but he’s a quality veteran arm for a bullpen in desperate need of them.

    On the flip side, there is no way to know whether Severino offensively is going to be the next Sandy Leon or the next Jhonathan Solano, and even if he turns out to be more like Leon it could be several years yet before the light goes on.

    Relatedly, the backstop I have my eye on in the minors is Reetz, who finally started to show a little pop in his bat last year. This is a key year for Reetz–he’s 21 now and if he shows another big improvement at the plate he could really rise up the prospect lists. He’s got to cut down on the strikeouts, however, if he really wants to become part of the team’s future plans.

    Karl Kolchak

    22 Feb 17 at 12:00 pm

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