Nationals Arm Race

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

We miss you: Former Nats from the 2016 team


Melancon was the highest profile FA from last year's team. Photo via espn.

Melancon was the highest profile FA from last year’s team. Photo via espn.

I was intrigued by ckstevenson’s comment/suggestion to do a piece on Former Nats.  We certainly talk about them a lot, especially the traded pieces.  So I’ll start a new series tracking down significant players who departed ways from the team.  I figure year by year is the way to go, so we’ll look at guys who were with the franchise in 2016 who left either during the 2016 season or who were traded in the off-season prior to the beginning of the 2017 season.

I’ll leverage previously written material from my Nats to Oblivion Posts to start, then fill in the holes.  I’ll focus on players no longer with the organization, not guys like Clint Robinson who got DFA’d off the 40-man but who are still with the org in some capacity.

I’ll organize this by roughly by the level of the player; major league players who left via FA or trade, then DFAd/declined players, then minor leaguers of note.

  • Mark Melancon: signed a 4 years/$62M with the San Francisco Giants, through his age 36 year, which was a record for a relief pitcher that lasted a few more weeks until Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen signed in last off-season’s closer bonanza.  So far in 2017 he’s been solid, as expected.  The Nats were pursuers, but didn’t want to go as high on total value.
  • Wilson Ramos: signed a 2yr/$12.5M deal with Tampa, with incentives to possibly take that to around $18.5M.  A far cry from his value prior to the knee injury.
  • Matt Belisle: signed a 1 year/$2.05M deal with Minnesota.  He only made $1.25M on a minor/major league deal with Washington in 2016, who didn’t want to guarantee him this kind of money for 2017 in his age 38 year season.  So far in 2017 he’s been very solid, picking up where he left off last  year.  We could probably have used him … but that’s “hindsight is 20/20” argument right now; you could also look at his 2016 and say “one-off” season and fully expect him to regress this year.
  • Marc Rzepczynski: signed a 2 years/$11M deal with Seattle, clearly more than the Nats were willing to pay, despite the fact that we traded future hall-of-famer Max Schrock to acquire him.  As of this writing he had yet to give up a run for Seattle’s bullpen in 2017.
  • Danny Espinosa: traded to the Angels for two AAA arms after the team made  him obsolete (and destroyed his trade value) by acquiring Adam Eaton and making it clear that Trea Turner was going to be the 2017 shortstop.  Espinosa returns to his home town and is doing about what we’d expect from him; hitting .186 and leading the league in strikeouts through April 2017.
  • Yusmeiro Petit, who made the 2017 Angels as an NRI and has been very effective thus far in 2017, pitching to a 1.59 ERA through most of April.
  • Ben Revere was non-tendered and signed a 1yr/$4M deal with the Angels (with some incentives).  Revere joins former Nats Petit, Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Alex Meyer in Los Angeles; that’s 20% of their current active roster with Washington ties.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: Released mid-2016, not only did he not sign on for the rest of the season … he has yet to sign on with anyone for 2017.  He was reportedly “dealing with a family matter” over the off-season that prevented him from signing with a team.  I think that’s code for “I’m no longer good enough to convince a team to deal with my baggage so I’m probably retired.”  Either that or he’s somehow self convinced that his 89mph fastball still plays as a closer in the modern game and refused to consider middle relief options.
  • Derek Norris became the second ex-Washington catcher to join Tampa Bay this off-season, signing a 1yr/$1.2M deal with another $800k in roster bonuses after getting cut loose from his $4.2M arbitration-avoiding contract this spring.  The transaction cost Washington a cool $688k.  Norris has struggled badly at the plate thus far.
  • Sean Burnett: Signed MLFA deal with Philadelphia for 2017, but was cut on 3/26/17.  Not even assigned to AAA.  As of this writing is un-signed.  I’m slightly surprised someone hasn’t taken a flier on him as a AAA loogy, unless the scouting reports from his time last fall indicate that his 2nd elbow isn’t as good as his first.
  • Mat Latos got his rehab assignment paid for by the team last year but couldn’t parlay it into anything but a MLFA deal for 2017 with Toronto.  However, a slate of injuries to Toronto’s rotation resulted in his getting called up in April 2017, shocking me; I figured Latos was done.  His first start wasn’t great: 4 runs in 5 innings; we’ll see how long he lasts in the hitter-friendly Skydome.
  • Matt den Dekker: Signed MLFA/NRI deal with Miami for 2017.  Did not make the 25-man roster and is currently in their AAA affilliate in New Orleans.
  • Paolo Espino, who had a solid year starting in AAA, signed a MLFA deal with Milwaukee for 2017.  Through his first 4 starts for their AAA team in Colorado Springs, he’s posted similar numbers to what he did for us last  year, quite a feat for playing at such altitude).  I thought Espino was a loss for a team that clearly doesn’t rate its remaining AAA starters that much and who had an open tryout for 4-A types like Jeremy Guthrie and Vance Worley all spring.
  • Vance Worley; speaking of Worley, after not beating out Guthrie or anyone else to make our team, he opted out and joined den Dekker (and Tyler Moore, and Destin Hood, and Steve Lombardozzi) in Miami’s AAA team in New Orleans.  That’s 5 players with Nats ties on a 25-man team.  Worley through 4 starts: 1.66 ERA.  Perhaps the Nats picked the wrong veteran hurler.  Worley had solid numbers for Baltimore in 2016; still not sure why he wasn’t looked at more closely.
  • Erik Davis: longtime Nats farmhand Davis took a MLFA deal to leave our system, signed with the AAA affiliate in Reno of Arizona and has been stellar thus far in 2017; zero ER and 12 k’s in 8 innings.  If he turns into a serviceable RH reliever at a time that the Nats need some … i’ll be disappointed.
  • Taylor Jordan: summarily cut after it became clear he would need a second Tommy John surgery.  I thought the timing was a bit cruel and hope that Jordan at least got his medical bills paid for by the team.
  • Abel De los Santos was claimed off waivers off our 40-man roster by Cincinnati, who eventually called him up for a 2-week stint last September.  However, they waived him in October and he got claimed by … guess who … the Los Angeles Angels.  The DFA’d him a month later during the pre-Rule5 period and snuck him off their 40-man roster.  He’s struggling for their AA team in Mobile so far in 2017.
  • Reynaldo Lopez (traded for Eaton): struggling with is control thus far in 4 starts for AAA Charlotte.  1-1 with a 4.87 ERA and a 22/13 K/BB ratio.
  • Lucas Giolito (traded for Eaton): also struggling with his control thus far in 4 starts for Charlotte: he’s 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA and a 16/9 K/BB ratio.
  • Dane Dunning (traded for Eaton): has posted a 0.45 ERA through his first three starts for low-A Kannapolis, with a 26-1 K/BB ratio, though as noted in the comments previously, Dunning is the sole 1st round college draftee from a 4-year school who is NOT already in High-A.  He’s a man among boys in Low-A and needs to be moved up to get any useful reading off his stuff.
  • Mario Sanchez (traded for Cordero): has given up 5 runs in 9 innings thus far for AA Reading in the Philadelphia system.
  • Jeffrey Rosa (traded for Romero): sitting in Tampa’s XST, no 2017 appearances.  He’ll likely repeat the GCL.
  • Pedro Avila (traded for Norris): 3 starts and decent numbers for Lake Elsinore in High-A.  He’ll give up hits in that hitter-friendly league, keep in mind.  At the end of the day, trading Avila so that we’d have the honor of giving Norris a check for $688k and then releasing him was not the best business Mike Rizzo has ever done.
  • Felipe Rivero (traded for Melancon); 0.77 ERA through 12 appearances for the Pirates in 2017.  We’ve litigated this one to death; it was a tough return to give up for Melancon … but what choice did we have at that point last year?
  • Taylor Hearn (traded for Melancon); iffy results through 3 starts for High-A Bradenton in the FSL.  Big arm, lots of Ks, can he stay as a starter.  That’ll be the scouting report on Hearn until he arrives in the majors by hook or by crook.
  • Max Schrock (traded for Rzepczynski): Future hall of famer Schrock is slashing .231/.286/.288 through mid-April for AA Midland in the Oakland system.  For as much as I mock Schrock, I will note that he was paid like a 3rd or 4th rounder out of college irrespective of where he got drafted, so his eventual success really should be measured more in that light than the specific round he was picked (13th).
  • Burke Badenhop MLFA for the 2016 season, didn’t make the team and was released, signed ML deal with Texas but lasted exactly one week before getting released again, and never signed on for the rest of 2016 or since.

That’s a lot of player churn, and a lot of prospects traded.  Did I forget anyone?



25 Responses to 'We miss you: Former Nats from the 2016 team'

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  1. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over past trades and transactions, so I’m not really missing many of the folks here.

    Revere currently: .176/.200/.235.

    Melancon has a WHIP of 1.304 after never being above 1.000 with PIT or WSH. If I were the Giants, I’d be concerned about that, except they’ve got about a million other things that are more concerning. Hard to believe that the Mets and the Giants have the worst records in the NL.

    Speaking the Giants, Chris Marrero’s escape from Nats to Oblivion proved to be brief. He’s been DFA’d after hitting .132/.171/.211.

    Not sure what you’re looking at with Belisle. His ERA is 7.00, WHIP 1.556.


    28 Apr 17 at 11:54 am

  2. Belisle got shelled two nights ago, after i wrote his sentence but before publishing 🙂

    Todd Boss

    28 Apr 17 at 1:02 pm

  3. Marrero is now a “Giants to Oblivion” candidate. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    28 Apr 17 at 1:02 pm

  4. Awesome!


    28 Apr 17 at 2:14 pm

  5. Other than Rivero and the minor leaguers, don’t miss the rest.
    Melancon was paid a fools contract and it will be fun to see how things go in a few years; he’s been basd so far.

    Spent a lot of years pulling for Giolito, and especially Lopez, so I wish them well.

    Hard to complain about much when the big club resembles the ’27 Yankees.

    Mark L

    28 Apr 17 at 2:22 pm

  6. Nice column and nice idea. A column like this should also include Span, Fister, JZimm, and Desmond, since one year ago, they were the four free agents heralding the apocalypse. And to think we got only one draft pick out of the lot.

    Well, the Nationals have the best record in baseball and it is no fluke.

    I cannot help but think of minor league free agents that leave as having nothing to do with internal decisions, unless they make it. who can blame Espino for going to Milwaukee? DenDekker, Davis would never have had a chance here. And they are still in the minor leagues. S even if they get lucky enough to have a Tony Renda breakthrough, it is of no consequence if it never amounts to more than a cup of coffee.

    Articles like this are also testament to the deals not made. Zimmerman is still with the team, and has to be the biggest shock in the organization. But a former Nats story is essentially a personnel strategy story, and I can’t help but think it another way:


    Keeping Zimmerman at starting 1B, getting Lind as lefty platoon/PH, jettisoning Robinson.

    Signing Murphy as 2B, trading Escobar. Championship player for affordable .300 bat.

    Trading Souza for Turner/Ross. I was always a Souza advocate and the trade is a net plus for the Nats, but the Rays getting good value is good for the Nats and the perception of their minor league assets around the league.

    Eaton for Giolito/Lopez/Dunning. All of the players that the Whitesox have, as the media would report, stolen from the Nationals have yet to contribute. Eaton is delivering first place play for a first place team. Until any of these players becomes a vital cog for the White Sox or elsewhere, this trade will advantage the Nats as long as Eaton plays at the level he is (or better).

    Signed Werth. We can now officially agree that the Werth signing provided adequate value over the life of the deal. He is in a contract year. What an interesting conversation we will have here if he hits 25 home runs and bats .300. Remember, July is his month, not April-May.

    Signed Weiters, dumped Norris, dumped Ramos, relegated Severino. So far so good. Let’s see how this looks in September. Pitching staff likes Weiters after only a brief time working together.

    Signed Scherzer. Continues to be a stabilizing rock.

    Obtained Tanner Roark plus for Christian Guzman. Amazing, when you think of it. Almost like the Arietta deal.

    Gio Gonzalez for Cole/Norris/Milone/Peacock. Sometimes prospects remain that way. A deal that has really aged well.

    Signed Shawn Kelley. Good value and he is still chugging along.

    Enny Romero for Jeffrey Rosa. Enough flashes at this point to want to get more looks.

    Blake Treinen, AJ Cole, and Ian Krol for Michael Morse. Treinen is not this bad. But he may have to take a hike in Syracuse to find himself. Imagine if Michael Morse ends up as the last remaining big leaguer here. Nah.

    Signed Jacob Turner. Viable arm found in store mannequin showroom.

    Signed Matt Albers. Clean wrapped TV dinner found in dumpster.

    Signed Chris Heisey. Capable bolts found on scrap heap.

    Signed Stephen Drew, traded Danny Espinosa. Cheaper upgrade without the drama.

    Span to FA. That contract would have been a big mistake. Still cannot stay healthy.

    Zimmerman to FA, get an extra draft pick (Dunning). Huge contract. Downswing.

    Fister to FA. Nothing lost or gained. He just lost it, and were he to have lost it six months later, we might have had a draft pick to show.

    Meh –

    Trading Danny Espinosa for Austin Adams, Kyle McGowin. Until Adams gets promoted, there is only one player here contributing at the ML level. whether he is contributing, however, is arguable.

    Acquiring Jimmy Cordero for Mario Sanchez. Cordero going backwards at AA. Eek. Maybe neither of these players ever makes it. But only one is occupying a 40-man spot (until he doesn’t).

    Signed Oliver Perez. The kind of player that just seems like the only reason he is still on the team is that other lefties have neither ripened or stayed healthy enough to displace him. 3m/year in sunk coin.

    Traded Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn for Mark Melancon. Nats expected to sign him, then did not. Had they signed him, this would be in the plus column. He gave the nats key stretch run help in a season in which they could have won it all, but did not. Rivero’s numbers are great but he pitches a lot of garbage innings. Hearn is climbing the ladder with his big feet but still far away.

    Cut Sean Burnett. He may not be gone forever. See Joel Nathan. It’s just that right now, Matt Grace is a better depth candidate.

    Traded Max Schrock for Matt Rzepzcinski – 2 years for 11 million is ridiculous for a team like the Nats. Oliver Perez’ salary is bad enough. Scrabble was helpful last year during the run to the playoffs, and Schrock is still in the minors. That is all, really, and I’m a big fan of Schrock’s potential. But Max is still down at one of the base camps on Everest, and not guaranteed to be impactful once he gets to the majors. So for now, this is still meh.

    Strasburg 175m. Like making an oil deal in territory bordering ISIS controlled area in Syria. We’ll just hope for the best. Biggest gamble in recent team history, sure to affect thinking at year’s end for Harper if no MASN deal.


    Traded Nick Pivetta for Jon Papelbon. There was indeed a stretch in A+ when Pivetta was outperforming Giolito. Indeed the Phillies noticed what we did not.
    Papelbon’s impact less helpful, shall we say, than Melancon.

    Traded Pedro Avila for Derek Norris. I understand why. But it still is a giveaway of a genuine asset, however buried he is.

    Matt Belisle walks, Y. Petit walks, Joe Blanton signed. Perhaps this is not a fair association. And let’s see what happens in August. But right now, they’re paying more for one arm than two arms producing better, in a bullpen that can’t find enough reliable arms to eat innings.

    Signed Jeremy Guthrie. Which begs the computation of how much he was paid for each strike he pitched that was not tagged.

    Yunel Escobar for Trevor Gott and Michael Brady. Only Gott remains and he has regressed. Escobar should have fetched more, whatever his faults.

    Sandy Leon for baked beans. Maybe Boston didn’t see this, but they saw something the Nats did not. And that is painful in the post-Ramos world.


    28 Apr 17 at 2:25 pm

  7. With that all noted, it’s a great time to be a Nats fan. Lots of great news and I hope the next column is more joyous. We can savor a 9-1 trip – it’s OK, right?


    28 Apr 17 at 2:32 pm

  8. Span, Fister, JZimm, and Desmond are all in the 2015 version that i’ll write next. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    28 Apr 17 at 3:19 pm

  9. Fore, the Nats got two draft picks out of the 2015 quartet, for JZim and Desi, which resulted in Kieboom and Dunning->Eaton. They surrendered their own draft pick for signing Murph. I think that has worked out OK.

    At last report, Span’s shoulder was so sore that they couldn’t even do an MRI on it. JZim has an ERA of 6.35, WHIP of 1.588 . . . and is still owed 3/$74M after this year. Fister hasn’t signed with anyone (Hou last year). And Desi parlayed a hot start last year (disguising a bad second half) into a big contract that was still $35M less than the Nats were willing to pay him.

    Those pining for Everyday Felipe are practicing some revisionist history. His ERA when he was traded was 4.53. I was thrilled to get Melancon for that price.


    28 Apr 17 at 8:48 pm

  10. Forgot a few:


    Traded Jerrry Blevins for Matt den Dekker. Blevins remains a decent lefty reliever who was dumped to a division rival for a ham sandwich apparently because he had the audacity to win an arbitration case. Rizzo then had to blow $7 million on Perez to help replace him, who is barely a MLB quality pitcher at this point.

    Traded Papelbon for Nick Pivetta. Pivetta has a 1.42 ERA, a 0.737 WHIP, 11.4 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9 in 3 starts as a 24-year old on the Phillies AAA team. He would probably look great in the Nats’ pen right about now given his K stats.

    Did not sign at least one quality veteran reliever after the closer deals fell through. There were a lot of solid free agents out there who could have helped this team for a fraction of what Melancon would have cost. If they had a strong cadre of young arms it be one thing, but after the Eaton trade they were depleted.

    The bullpen has been a primary culprit in the disappointing end to each of the past 5 seasons. Right now this team looks like a three car garage with a Lambourghini (rotation) and a Maserati (lineup) parked next to a Ford Pinto (bullpen). Sooner or later the latter is going to explode on them.

    Karl Kolchak

    28 Apr 17 at 8:57 pm

  11. My bigger concern right now is the upgrade I’ve begged for that the Nats didn’t make. With Eaton down, they’re left with Michael .095 Taylor in CF. They’ve also called up Bautista.

    In addition to the Eaton injury, the Friday game was painful. If you score five, you should win the game. On a positive note, the Zim comeback tour is reaching the amazing level. He’s already to 2/3 of his 2016 and 2015 HR production, and he’s doubled his 2014 total.


    29 Apr 17 at 8:44 am

  12. Blevins/den Dekker was a March 2015 trade so he’ll be in the next one. My Phillies buddy tells me Pivetta is coming up soon.

    Eaton injury did not look good; i’m guessing high ankle sprain but no breakage. Still nothign on twitter this AM. But its a significant hit.

    Todd Boss

    29 Apr 17 at 9:27 am

  13. Oh my gosh why are they batting Taylor second today??

    Todd Boss

    29 Apr 17 at 12:16 pm

  14. … and he goes and doubles in the first and scores. I should criticize lineup decisions more often!

    Todd Boss

    29 Apr 17 at 2:05 pm

  15. . . . and he just got a hit his second time up as well. If I criticize him every day, will he respond this way?


    29 Apr 17 at 2:13 pm

  16. This is Taylor’s last chance is for however long it takes Eaton to return. Interesting that Bautista got the call up instead of Goodwin, which speaks pretty loudly to their disappointment at how Goodwin performed both in ST and at AAA after getting his first shot a year ago. Unless Goodwin suddenly starts to produce, I wold not be surprised if Stevenson gets the call the next time they need an outfielder.

    Karl Kolchak

    29 Apr 17 at 3:11 pm

  17. Goodwin actually has a seven-game hitting streak, so he’s recovering from an awful start.


    29 Apr 17 at 3:56 pm

  18. Just waiting for F.P. to say that the Nats would be far better off with the lefty who only throws 93 who knows how to pitch that Rizzo dumped than the one who throws 100 but falls behind hitters and then grooves a fastball (not going to happen). Just like yesterday, a possible comeback made harder thanks to crappy relief pitching.

    Karl Kolchak

    29 Apr 17 at 4:05 pm

  19. Fun fact of the day–Nats relievers are now on pace to give up 101 HRs for the season.

    KW — Goodwin has exactly 2 XBHs (both doubles) in 77 PAs. Even the no power Bautista has managed 5 XBHs.

    Karl Kolchak

    29 Apr 17 at 4:48 pm

  20. Yeah, the last two days have been hard to watch. Still amazed at what Zim is doing, though.

    I’m not advocating for Goodwin, just pointing out that he’s shown some life after an awful start. He’s got to show more pop than that, though.

    I wonder whether Stevenson will get promoted in trace of Bautista, although I don’t know that he’d benefit that much from being at AAA over AA at this stage (and on a really crappy AAA team).


    29 Apr 17 at 6:44 pm

  21. Torn ACL for Eaton. Wow (in an awful way). Please tell me they don’t plan to start Taylor for the rest of the season . . . and bat him second.

    We’ve already debated the OF options for future years. Do they think about bringing up Stevenson? Too early? Are there any obvious trade options? Lorenzo Cain is in the last year of his contract for a Royals team off to a terrible start. Pillar would take a much bigger package to get him from the Jays, and his offense is pretty limited. Plus the Jays probably still think they can get back in it.

    I got nuttin’. Terrible break, for Eaton and for the team. Here’s a very early guess this will make it more likely that Eaton will be moving to LF for subsequent years.


    29 Apr 17 at 11:08 pm

  22. I’ve continued to believe in Taylor to this day and have been laughed at here enough. Now we’ll see how things turn out.

    I’ve also respected Bautista as an eventual ML player. It’s awful that this is how it comes about. But the problem with the team continues to be the bullpen by far, and will be, even with Taylor in the lineup.


    30 Apr 17 at 12:40 am

  23. The Blevins deal is certainly one of the ick pile.

    As for Desmond, it was worth Kieboom. Just as Murphy was worth whomever the draft pick.


    30 Apr 17 at 1:05 am

  24. Tough news on Eaton. Hard to see the Nats comfortable with either of the 3 internal CF options in a contending year. Here is an o-o-b suggestion: pick up Cosart from reds and send Trea back to CF. I get that it’s not ideal from turner development perspective, but they have to improvise.

    Tough, tough player to lose.


    30 Apr 17 at 7:30 am

  25. […] Next in a series moving backwards.  Here was the “We Miss You” for the 2016 team. […]

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