Nationals Arm Race

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

The 12 Posts of 2016; Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!  Here’s a quick list of posts recapping the most “significant’ events month over month.

  • January: Drew Storen for Ben Revere; a trade that seems to work on both sides: In the end, not so much.  Revere lost his job and was non-tendered, Storen had a 6.21 ERA for Toronto before getting flipped to Seattle.
  • February: Spring Training 2016 NRI discussion: a review of all the Non Roster Invitees to 2016’s spring training; one eventually made the team (Chris Heisey).
  • March: Local HS draft-prospects to keep an eye in for the 2016 draft: 2016 was a banner year for local prep players, with two high-end picks from the Northern Virginia Area (Joe Rizzo and Khalil Lee), a 4th rounder out of the Richmond area (Brenan Hanifee), a 12th rounder from West Potomac who I had never heard of prior to his drafting (Jamie Sara), a 17th rounder from Maryland who I’m surprised wasn’t drafted earlier (Tyler Blohm), plus the expected slew of 30th+ round picks.  2017 isn’t looking nearly as promising.
  • April: Nats Prospects: Where to see them in 2016: I’ll do this again in 2017 … but its going to be a significantly different list of prospects after all the trades we’ve done.
  • May: Strasburg Extension Shocker! Pretty much the highest-risk thing that this management team has done.  Bigger than the Werth signing, more risky than the Scherzer signing.
  • June: “Those guys can kiss my *ss!”  Still makes me laugh.  Too bad we didn’t get to meet the Cubs in the NLCS.
  • July: Thou shalt not overreact to a blown save... .  And of course they did, flipping two lefty arms for a couple  months of Mark Melancon.
  • August: Do the Nats have a LOOGY problem?  Mike Rizzo certainly thought so, trading future Hall of Famer Max Schrock for Marc Rzepczynski for the stretch run.
  • September: Strasburg Flexor Mass; what’s plan B for the playoffs?  Plan Be turned out to be a shaky Joe Ross, but that wasn’t the reason we lost the NLDS.  At least Strasburg wasn’t badly hurt.
  • October: NLDS Game 5 via my “live texting” Made possibly by virtue of my texting back and forth late into the night with a buddy; it was a telling revisiting of the Game 5 meltdown.
  • November: Rule 5 protection analysis for 2016: the team ends up protecting 5 players, including future Hall of Famer and NAR lightening rod Matt Skole.
  • December: Huge Over-Pay for Eaton : the biggest trade of the Rizzo era goes down and its a large price to pay, but it also illustrates the modern economics of the game, where a cost controlled player is expensive to acquire.

Happy New Year!   January will have a couple of “clear the draft posts” articles about awards season, some HoF stuff probably since I just can’t resist, then I hope to get into the pitching staff reviews so that I can make 2017 staff predictions.  That’s the near-term plan!


22 Responses to 'The 12 Posts of 2016; Happy New Year!'

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  1. Happy Belated New Year to all. It’s time to start looking ahead to 2017, since it’s already here. What’s left for the Nats to do?

    My biggest concern in INF backup. I don’t think Difo is the guy they need to break in with a contending team. I would think they would be looking at guys like Drew and Valbuena. Of those two, Drew’s advantage is that he can play SS. I guess Rendon could be the emergency SS if they don’t carry one, but that might be a bit risky, particularly with the all-out way Trea plays.

    The other thing a good INF bat like Drew or Valbuena would provide would be someone who could play 2B as a semi-regular if Murphy has to play 1B.

    Where else? Well, CRob wasn’t good last year. I’ve been advocating for Logan Morrison; others keep talking about the more expensive Brandon Moss. But if Murph or Drew could back up at 1B, you might not need to carry a CRob-like guy at all. At least Dusty seems to know better than to play Robinson in the OF.

    Dusty doesn’t seem to know better than to play Taylor at all, though, so I want him traded. I don’t want him to even be an option. I know that’s harsh, but the Nats can’t afford to carry such a perpetual rally-killer.

    I’d be OK if they give Goodwin a chance to be one of the OF reserves, though. He can play all three spots.

    Bullpen? I guess we’re supposed to be concerned about the bullpen. Would a recovering Holland be better than the available options? Is the Holland of ’12-’14 coming back? Hard to know. They may also want another lefty, but the price of Boone Logan will be high, and Blevins ain’t coming back any time before Storen or Pap Daddy.

    I’m uncomfortable about the catcher plans but don’t like any of the options, particularly Wieters.

    As I’ve been saying all winter, first do no harm.

    Anyway, the guess would be that they’re going to add two bench guys and two bullpen arms on major-league contracts, which would mean one DFA (Martin, Grace, or S. Kieboom).


    3 Jan 17 at 3:04 pm

  2. And Storen becomes the Maytag repairman, the closer for a team with no games to save. On the bright side, he won’t have to worry about playoff pressure.


    3 Jan 17 at 6:36 pm

  3. Backup INF: agree. The team needs Stephen Drew back. But Drew was good enough last year that he may think he can rate a full time gig. That being said … aren’t good field/no hit backup middle infielders a dime a dozen on the FA market? Maybe not: here’s the current FA list: … only 4 guys listed who can play short. How about Erick Aybar? Not the best bat .. but he is not a strike-out guy. Lots of contact, full time SS for a decade. He had halfway decent numbers in his Detroit experience.

    Storen at $3M; i’m surprised he got a guaranteed deal at all after how badly he pitched in toronto. I know his numbers were better in Seattle … but everyone’s numbers are better in Seattle. cincinnati’s park is a hitter’s paradise; if he can’t pitch in hitter’s parks he’s going to be in trouble. I’ll still take a 20th round fantasy baseball draft flier on him though 🙂

    CRobinson-Skole seems like a pretty likely ST battle. Why else wo uld they have put Skole on the roster?

    40 man roster is at 37/40 (unless i’m behind). My first 3 guys off the 40 man are Grace, Martin, Gott. Maybe i’m too low on Grace; he is after all the only other lefty reliever on the roster.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 17 at 9:22 am

  4. The team needs Stephen Drew back

    I’m not entirely sold on Stephen Drew as the backup. Last year was a bit of an anomaly for him compared to other recent seasons, and at his age I view him as a serious regression candidate. Remember Chad Tracy? He was great as a bench guy in 2012, and the team brought him back in 2013 … and he was terrible. I’m not against re-signing Drew at all – but my expectations should be very low. Difo’s destiny is probably as a utility infielder, so I wouldn’t be horrified to see him in that role.

    Storen makes a lot of sense for the Reds, because they are almost certainly grooming him to flip him at the trade deadline to a contender needing bullpen help. For the Reds it’s an easy way of converting $3M into a potential prospect or two.

    I strongly doubt that they will need more than three roster spots at this point; some of the depth options are going to be minor league offers with an invitation to camp. Even at the end of camp I think the order of jettisoning would be Martin first, then the loser of the Skole/CRob spot, then and only then would you think about jettisoning Grace as a LOOGY option. Short of injury there’s no way they would have Gott on the chopping block – he’s a live arm with minor league options.

    John C.

    4 Jan 17 at 11:06 am

  5. John is right about the concern about Drew, who was pretty awful at the plate in ’14 and ’15 (even with 17 HRs). Aybar has low OBP (career .314; .293 in his ATL stint last year) and perhaps over-inflacted contract thoughts after making $8.5M per for the last four years.

    Difo hit .258/.317/.352 at AA last year, slightly down from his AA numbers the year before. Those numbers translate to the majors at approximately Manny Burriss levels. (The Nats also re-signed Burriss himself.) I just don’t see the bench guy the Nats need in those numbers.

    FWIW, CRob has no options. I’d rather they have someone better than either him or Skole, particularly considering how brittle Zim has been.

    Gott would be down at least at 5th or 6th on my DFA list. I think they’ll give him every chance.


    4 Jan 17 at 2:33 pm

  6. Pro Stephen Drew: 2016 numbers solid as a backup, which is good b/c many guys struggle going from FT to PT work.

    Con Stephen Drew: his 2016 numbers were leaps and bounds better than his 2015 numbers, and could have been a complete aberration.

    So here’s a question; last At bat of the Nationals season: would you have rather had Stephen Drew or Wilmer Difo there?

    I think one of the reasons I “like” Drew over some low-ceiling prospect is due to the experience. He’s been around the block, he’s not being asked to go 100% all week, all season. He’s only going to be 34; yes its a decline year but it isn’t as if he’s 40. Chad Tracy is an interesting comp; same age (Tracy’s two years with us were his age 32-33) but one big difference; Tracy was a corner big bat while Drew is a middle infielder. Are those two aging patterns the same?

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 17 at 2:38 pm

  7. You guys convinced me to re-think my “next guy off the lifeboat” running list. It was/is at this moment: Grace, Martin, Gott, Goodwin, Skole/Robinson, Cordero,

    Now i’m thinking it goes Martin, Grace, Skole/Robinson ST2017 loser, Cordero, Kieboom.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 17 at 2:55 pm

  8. If the option is Drew vs. Difo, I’m all in on Drew. I don’t really see Difo as a viable option. The playoff bench with Difo and Taylor was ridiculous.

    DFA list: Martin, Grace, S. Kieboom, Cordero. The caveat is that CRob would be leaving if he doesn’t make the bench, but I don’t think that Skole would be the one to beat him out. As noted, I also hope that MAT is leaving.


    4 Jan 17 at 4:31 pm

  9. Yeah, I’d prefer Drew to Difo, but I’d like both instead of one of them plus CRob. Lobo, Heisey, Difo, Drew and Goodwin or another lowkey OF. I’d take that bench. It has risk, but what bench doesn’t. And it offers speed and position versatility.

    This is usually the time of the offseason where my mind drifts towards out of the box (read: crazy) ideas. The one that currently has me is this: trade Harper for a couple of high quality, close to the majors prospects, then sign Joey Bats to a 1 yr deal (I’d go to 2, but don’t think he will). I think they’d be a lesser team in 2017, but still division favorite. While greatly increasing the chance of extending their window. Let’s say that they could get a Bellinger, Verdugo plus package (and I’m not sure they could), plus swap in Bautista for Harp in 2017, followed by one of the new guys in 2018? Would you rather have that squad or the current one?

    I know it will never happen. Just feels like it wouldn’t be crazy.


    4 Jan 17 at 10:00 pm

  10. Wally, I know you’re just floating an idea, so I won’t jump up and down about it, but it will never happen. Also, trading Harper for prospects in the midst of a championship window makes little sense. Bautista is on the decline and could never replicate what Harper should be able to give the team in his age-24 and 25 seasons, and neither would any prospects.

    I played around with the Harper trade idea earlier in the offseason but couldn’t come up with anything that made sense. It would have to be for some serious win-now guys in my opinion, though. The window is just too narrow right now with guys like Murphy (2 more years) and Rendon (3 more years) in addition to Harper not to go for it now. I don’t think the window will completely close with guys like Trea, Eaton, Max, and Stras still around, but there’s definitely a strong opportunity now.

    Also, while I think I’m increasingly in the minority, I still feel like there’s a decent chance that the Nats can extend Harper.

    I do feel like Rizzo may have another trade up his sleeve, though. I just don’t know what it is. I can’t see overpaying for Robertson or Colome. Maybe they trade for some bench bat?


    5 Jan 17 at 7:59 am

  11. For that last at bat of the NLDS, would I have preferred Drew or Difo? More importantly, against a LHP named Kershaw? I take Difo. Drew is abysmally bad against LHP. Last year, his good year, his OPS against LHP was .485. Blech. Now admittedly that was only 17 plate appearances – the Nats weren’t very interested in batting Drew against LHP. But they did that on merit. Not only is his career OPS over 110 points lower against LHP, the .485 wasn’t even a recent low against LHP (.371 in 2014). Drew does have some familiarity with Kershaw – 19 career plate appearances, one single, one HBP, and eight K’s. OPS of .217. Not exactly encouraging.

    Difo, a switch hitter, has been consistently better from the right side in the minor leagues, often much better. To be clear, it’s not a GOOD matchup for the Nationals. But I’d take him vs. Kershaw over Drew.

    John C.

    5 Jan 17 at 9:42 am

  12. Trading Harper: just won’t happen for this team. Several reasons:
    – they’re not a small market team, so they can’t use the “oh we’re so poor so we’ve gotta tank for several years to try to compete later on” excuse. (see Oakland, Tampa, Minnesota, etc).
    – they’re winning now, so they can’t use the “there’s no point in winning 79 games, so lets bottom out and rebuild” excuse (see Chicago White Sox)
    – they’re not under brand new ownership who is getting a 5 year pass to rebuild, so they can’t use the “we’re going to trade our vets to re-stock the farm system for later” excuse (see Atlanta, Houston and Chicago Cubs a few years back, San Diego, Arizona, etc).

    They attempt to win with him now. If they can somehow re-sign him and bet the farm for the next decade on Scherzer/Stras/Harper and make a big statement about baseball in DC by building a legacy around him so be it. If not you save $35-$40M/year and let him walk and look forward to perhaps a couple of down years in like 2020-2021 time frame as they turn over the roster to whatever new crop of players they’ve drafted and developed can do.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 17 at 9:46 am

  13. I wasn’t suggesting a normal tanking scenario by trading Harper. It was driven more by opportunism. And I know it won’t happen, I’m just throwing out an idea.

    let me ask it this way: I think the Nats project to win the NL East right now. If you swap Bautista for Harper, would they still project to win the division? I think so, but I don’t know how to check that. They’d drop about 2WAR I think.

    But if that’s true, why wouldn’t you at least consider strongly bolstering your 2018+ outlook with that kind of trade?


    5 Jan 17 at 10:02 am

  14. The fan base would revolt if the Nats traded Harper for prospects, and for good reason. Such a trade would have huge off-the-field ramifications.

    On the field, you might be right that they *might* be able to win the division without him, but the margin for error and injury would be significantly narrower. We’re talking about a team that has yet to win back-to-back division titles, after all.


    5 Jan 17 at 10:17 am

  15. While I agree that Drew isn’t worth much vs. LHP, if we’re talking specifically about his chances vs. Kershaw in the final AB, I like the chances of a vet a making contact a whole lot better than I do those of a AA pseudo-prospect.

    On the larger scale, the issue here is the Nats’ inability to develop position prospects. It would really help the budget if the team could fill out the bench with minimum contracts for Goodwin, Difo, Severino, and Skole and near-minimum for Taylor. But that’s a AAA line-up, not a major-league bench for a contender. The same could be said about the money (for guys like Perez) and the prospects (Schrock, Burns) they keep having to give up because they can’t produce lefty relievers.


    5 Jan 17 at 10:25 am

  16. I think the problem with Harper vs Bautista comparisons is the ceilings. As in, Bautista’s ceiling is probably a repeat of his 2014/2015 production, when he was a 5-6 win player. last year he was “only” a 1.8 win player (using’s war) and he’s on the wrong side of 35. Meanwhile, Harper in a complete down year was worth the SAME as Bautista last year … with his ceiling returning to epic/historical 2015 form.

    so, yeah replacing Bautista for Harper probably still makes the Nats favorites in the NL East .. especially since the Mets can’t count on Harvey, Matz or Wheeler to be 32 game near-Ace studs. But I think to really reach the next step you need the capability of Harper in the lineup to do “special” things all year, to cover up for decline phases of Werth/Zim, to cover up for injuries to core players (is this team “thin” now?)

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 17 at 10:31 am

  17. Rosenthal has Nats in as a long-shot on the Tyson Ross sweepstakes. My out-of-the-box suggestion has been that the Nats get T. Ross use him and his wipeout slider as a closer.

    Perhaps the bigger question might be whether the Nats could get one healthy season out of two Rosses?


    5 Jan 17 at 12:55 pm

  18. Let’s look at this another way: if the Nats were to spend ~2/$20M on a pitcher, would you rather it be Holland or T. Ross? That would be a tough call. Holland would fill a specific need (if he comes all the way back), while Ross could be the long man while continuing to get back to full strength, then be available if/when Stras or little bro go down again. That would be an expensive insurance policy, though. I think I’d still vote for Ross, however, as I generally would go starter > reliever in most situations.


    5 Jan 17 at 1:31 pm

  19. I don’t think I’d want to pay 2/$20m for either. I’d be fine with T.Ross as outlined but KW on a 1/$5m with incentives, if he would take it. Beyond that it’s too much risk. I’d go with Feliz on 2/3 yr deal first, then add Logan or Blevins if they still want another arm.

    Todd – I think your analysis is right regarding lost upside. But I’d probably take that risk if it brought back something like Bellinger, Verdugo and De Leon. That could be a crazy package, I dunno. I expect it’s as hard to value Harper’s trade value as it is to decide what contract he’s worth. So much variability. I posed a question like this in KLaw’s chat, let’s see if he answers.


    5 Jan 17 at 1:40 pm

  20. I really don’t know what the price tag on Ross would be. Incentives would likely be a part of the deal, but if he’s coming into a situation like he might with the Nats or the Cubs, where he might not start for the first part of the season, it might not make a lot of sense for the incentives to be innings-based.

    Really, it’s surprising how little action there has been on any of the free agents for a while. We’re told that the prices start dropping by now, but with so few recent signings, maybe the agents haven’t been willing to talk discounts yet.

    The Nats aren’t touching Blevins, just ain’t happening. There seems to have been some bad blood there, for some reason, over the $100K or whatever it was in arbitration. I’d like to have Logan, but my guess is that he’s probably too expensive for what he is. Feliz I could see, with his Tex history with Maddux. They wouldn’t want to pay him “closer” money, though.


    5 Jan 17 at 2:39 pm

  21. Speaking of chats, here’s a bit from Eno Sarris:

    Man Of Steel: Great call last year on Sam Dyson, I was able to get him late in two NFBC drafts! Who is this year’s Dyson? I was able to get Nate Jones late this year but everyone is on him now.

    Eno Sarris: Blake Treinen.


    5 Jan 17 at 2:54 pm

  22. Hmm. Treinen as a sleeper closer is solid.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jan 17 at 12:13 pm

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