Nationals Arm Race

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

Turner hits Super-2: so who gets fired?


Turner now stands to make millions more than he would have otherwise. photo via

Turner now stands to make millions more than he would have otherwise. photo via

We found out last week that Trea Turner qualified for Super-2 status by a scant two service days.   Two frigging days.  Great for him; instead of getting $600k next year he’ll probably get $5M or more ( estimates $5.3M for his first year).  He’s certainly deserving of this money after  delivering bWAR seasons of 3.4, 2.6 and then 4.1 in 2018.  The first two numbers are even more impressive given that they were done in partial seasons.

But this is a huge issue for the franchise.  And yet another critical payroll management error that is now making even more evident that there needs to be some accountability.

To give you an idea of how much this little situation will cost the Nats, lets look at what our last significant Super-2 guy did: Anthony Rendon. Even though he signed to avoid arbitration each time, and even though he was one of the last pre-CBA deals that outlawed 40-man/MLB deals, he’s still a super-2 guy and we can project his salary with and without the extra year.

  • 2016: 2.8M
  • 2017: 5.8M
  • 2018: 12.3M
  • 2019: MLBtraderumors estimates $17.6M.

Total outlay: $38.5M

Instead, had he been a normal arb player, he’d have basically gotten the first three years of this scenario plus the 4th year of MLB min.  So his salary would have looked like this:

  • 2016: $550k
  • 2017: 2.8M
  • 2018: 5.8M
  • 2019: 12.3M

Total outlay: $21.4M

Pretty significant difference.  You may quibble with the player and with the estimates … but the fact remains, a 4th arbitration year for a very good player will likely mean a $18M-$20M payroll difference.  If you really want to see a team that screwed this up, look at Tim Lincecum‘s salary progression with the Giants.  He qualified for Super2 by just a few days and went from a MLB min salary to $9M, with escalators up to $22M by the time he was done.

Anyway; why do I care?  It isn’t my money right?  Well I care because this little screw up cost the team $5M more than it was expecting just a few weeks ago, in a critical off-season where they need to fill multiple holes and are clearly dead-set against even coming close to the luxury tax cap again.  And now they have $5M less to play with.  $5M less to try to shoe-horn Bryce Harper into a deal maybe, or $5M less to spread around to catchers, starters, relievers and infielders that they need.

And this situation was ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE.  Entirely.   The Nats made two significant errors in the handling of Turner’s service time:

  • August 2015: The team calls up the 22-yr old to essentially be a bench-bat for a team going nowhere.  In case you don’t remember, on the day of his call-up the Nats were 60-61, below .500, 5 games out of first place and with no place to play him.  Turner basically gets pinch hit appearances for weeks, finally getting to start a game on Sept 18th, and then starting every day the last week of the season as the Nats were eliminated and busy doing other things (you know, like having our idiot closer choke out our most important player on national TV).  To this day, I don’t understand how the manager (Matt Williams) and the GM (Mike Rizzo) were so far apart on this situation.  Why call him up if he’s just going to sit?  Who was asking for the call-up and who was forcing the call-up?  Why not send him back down if it became apparent he wasn’t going to play?  They didn’t have a position for him, with two veterans entrenched at 2B and SS at the time (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa).  The entire move made no sense … and put the team in a significant pickle with Turner to start 2016.
  • June 2016: the team calls him up on June 3rd, he starts a game, rides the bench for a game, then gets sent back down.  Why??  There was no corresponding D/L trip that I can find for backup infielders; the only  move at that time was Ryan Zimmerman going on paternity leave … but he’s a 1B, not a middle infielder.  Two days later the team signed veteran MIF Steve Lombardozzi to a contract the same day they sent Turner down.  Wtf?    You couldn’t have covered for whoever was unavailable out of on-hand options instead of screwing around with the service time of one of your best prospects, one who you knew was in flux thanks to the previous year’s decisions?  Who made the decision to call up Turner instead of just batting some replacement level utility infielder 8th for a couple of nights?  Was it Dusty Baker who demanded the player to come up … so he could sit him the next night??

Those two moves, more than two years ago, come home to roost now.

Maybe it won’t matter.  Maybe the team doesn’t need that extra $5m because they’re going to move someone else.  Maybe the team has already decided to move away from Harper and knows they won’t need every penny of payroll.  Maybe the team already figures 2018 was their big shot and they frigging blew it and are ready to stop really trying and just rake in the MLB Advanced Media revenue for a while.

Maybe there’s a severe disconnect in this front office, evidenced by the manager selection this year, evidenced by the petulant ridding of certain players, evidenced by the in ability to see early enough they didn’t have the horses and shedding payroll … only STILL not able to get underneath the penalty or 2018 (still amazed by this).

So anyway, can’t wait to hear ownership tell us they just couldn’t afford to keep Harper or to buy a needed replacement when it comes up because they have to stay under the luxury tax.  I’m not one to say I told you so … but remember this post if and when it happens.

34 Responses to 'Turner hits Super-2: so who gets fired?'

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  1. It’s not just Trea’s Super-2, which it looks like will cost the Nats roughly $17M total, per your calculations. It’s missing the friggin’ luxury tax line two years in the row. They were convinced they were under it in 2017, but they were wrong. Then they did the sell-off in 2018 but still didn’t quite make it under the line.

    Bob Miller has already been canned, apparently against Rizzo’s wishes. He likely was the guy who should have had his finger on the pulse of these things.


    30 Oct 18 at 2:36 pm

  2. Looks like the same sort of offseason discussion has broken out on Nats Talk that we were having on the last thread. Not a lot of love for LeMahieu. To be clear, I wouldn’t want to pay him much. He does have two Gold Gloves, though, and a batting title*.


    30 Oct 18 at 2:40 pm

  3. Why do we need a 2B? Kendrick should be a-ok there. Achilles injuries are tough, but they also aren’t 2 year injuries like an ACL. Kendrick got hurt in late May. You’re supposed to be back to full activity in 6 months. Especially for a pro athlete getting full time rehab attention. Understood he’ll be 35 … but its 2B. The guy hit well for us last year, hit even better the year before, is still hitting above his career averages for all 3 parts of the slashline …

    In an ideal workd yea we’d buy a better 2B than Kendrick/Difo combo. but its a lesser priority for me versus catcher, SP.

    Todd Boss

    30 Oct 18 at 4:13 pm

  4. I don’t think you can rely on Kendrick to play the field much, especially at the beginning. An older guy coming off an Achilles injury? He wasn’t fast before the injury and afterwards he could make Murphy look like Simmons. I think they need someone, and the good news is that they have lots of options that aren’t particularly expensive.

    Have we figured out where the pitching is coming from? I am ok with 1 stopgap older guy (maybe), but really would like to see them get a youthful guy with multiple years of control. I’d put Garcia into play for that.


    30 Oct 18 at 4:46 pm

  5. Here is an admittedly low level trade idea: Pedro Avila is on the 40 man bubble with SDP. I’d say go get him and add him to the Fedde, JRod group of SP depth at AAA. Shouldn’t cost anyone significant. There are a few others, like NYY and HOU, that have super deep organizations with 40 man issues coming up. Maybe there is a catching prospect in there too.


    30 Oct 18 at 5:36 pm

  6. Last trade thought: i’m Against a Realmuto trade. Great player, but I don’t want to pay the expected cost, which is likely a Kieboom/Denaburg kind of price. They are not a one player away team any more.


    30 Oct 18 at 8:37 pm

  7. I’ll move forward this link:

    Here’s the fundamental point of the Nats’ offseason: the Nats have to get better. Just maintaining, which they’ve been doing the last couple of years, isn’t good enough, as 2018 proved. One can blame 2018 on a number of factors, but the bottom line is that the Nats weren’t good enough. The Braves have arrived and aren’t going away (although they may have arrived a little early, as the Nats did in 2012, and may be due a bit of a swoon like the Nats had in 2013). The Phils have solid starting pitching and a lot of money to spend.

    The Nat task of getting “better” is complicated by losing basically the heart of the offense in Harper and Murphy. Robles should be dynamic, they’ll have full seasons of Soto and Eaton, but all of that together doesn’t replace Harper + 2016-17 Murph. Zim hit well when healthy, but he’s another year older and hasn’t been able to stay on the field. On the pitching side of the ledger, they’ve lost half of their bullpen (addition by subtraction in some cases) plus all the starter innings Gio has eaten over the years. Ross will be on shutdown watch, and Stras hasn’t been able to stay healthy. And have we mentioned that they sucked at catcher?

    I’ll say up front that I’ve been as guilty as everyone else of suggesting moves that would help them “maintain” more than “get better.” I’ll also admit that this may be an overreaction, that this core might be good enough with the addition of a back-end starter, a couple bullpen pieces, and a catcher. Are the Nats willing to gamble that such spare parts would be enough, though? I don’t think they should, particularly with the fair amount of money they’ve got to spend.

    All of that said, I don’t really know what “go big” deals to recommend. Realmuto is one-of-a-kind, but the asking price on him to this point has been ridiculous. I can’t see them taking on Greinke’s contract. I’m not sure Corbin is worth Lester’s contract based on one really good season, but he might be worth the gamble more than a Greinke trade. But could they get a lottery ticket instead from Buchholz or Ryu, if they risk that they can stay healthy? I don’t know.

    I don’t see a 2B who makes them “better.” All I see there is someone like Machado (but only if his price drops from his stupidity) or Donaldson, with either at 3B and Rendon moving to 2B (which he may not want to do). But that’s the only way I see them adding another big bat, unless they trade from their core . . . or re-sign Bryce.

    I dunno. It will be an interesting few months. Will the Nats go big, or continue to “trust the process”?


    31 Oct 18 at 3:44 pm

  8. Stop the presses: the Nats sign a Boras client with a TJ. Also, like most of their Boras clients, he’s really good, or at least used to be.

    The most amazing thing that jumped out at me from the Rosenthal story — well, other than him topping 98 mph after missing a year in the majors — is that he’s only 28, turning 29 in May. Seems like he’s been around forever . . . or at least since the 2012 playoffs. Career FIP of 2.60, K/9 of 12.05.

    So . . . we have Doolittle, Rosenthal, and Barraclough now for the back end. Are they done? There’s some scuttlebutt attaching them to Ottavino. They’re obviously serious about a bullpen upgrade.

    I like it. I’d be worried if they were expecting Rosenthal to close, but they’re not.

    If they’re going to gamble like this, do they also gamble on some starters like Ryu and Buchholz?


    31 Oct 18 at 10:12 pm

  9. Well, i’m Going to cut against the grain a bit on this one (from what I’m reading, which has been largely positive): Rosenthal isn’t a bad sign, but pretty expensive for a risky guy (1st year back from TJ). I don’t think either he or Barraclough represent high confidence upgrades to the bullpen, although I’m happy to have them because options are always good as long as they don’t cost too much. But this feels like standard Rizzo MO, which is to try to capture elite performance on the cheap. Meaning he often is betting on an injury rehab or a turnaround guy. It works out sometimes, but I think you fail more than succeed at that, so you need a lot of those for 1 to hit, and it isn’t smart to count on those guys as your plan A.

    Front offices are so smart these days that if you want talent, you need to pay up. Rizzo rarely is willing to do that, which is ok but you need to realize that hope becomes a big part of your strategy with all thes reclamation guys. I’d hope he gets a starter coming off a healthy and productive season who isn’t past his prime.


    1 Nov 18 at 7:30 am

  10. Tony Sipp may be the best LOOGY out there, although he was tough on RHB as well. I’d at least be interested in checking the price tags on Britton and Andrew Miller, although you don’t want to have a ‘pen full of guys coming off injuries.

    They’re still around $50M under the cap. They will probably want to leave themselves a cushion, but they could also add around $13M to the pot if they jettison Roark and Taylor. I don’t think Solis will be coming back, either (projected $900K). So they’ve got a nice amount of money still to spend.

    The best starter on the market no one is talking about is Charlie Morton. He’s very much just a six-inning guy, though.

    I’m also curious why there hasn’t been much scuttlebutt about bringing Hellickson back. As a five-inning guy, he was really good.


    1 Nov 18 at 7:34 am

  11. Wally, I was posting at the same time. I would be concerned if they were betting on Rosenthal to be the closer, but they’re not, and if money was tight and this might prevent them from making bigger moves, but it shouldn’t. Last offseason, when they were already flirting with being over the tax line, they overpaid for Kintzler. Rosenthal is better than Kintzler.

    As for Barraclough, in the first half last year, he was one of the best relievers in he game, with a ridiculous slash against of .126/.254/.217. Was he overused? Probably — 44 games in the first half. My concern here is more with how Martinez uses him and Rosenthal. He’s GOT to change his overuse patterns. But if used well, these guys are really good.

    I do think the Nats need to commit to some multi-inning/swingmen type guys in the front end of the bullpen so the more fragile ones can be saved for close games. I could see them keeping J-Rod even if he’s not a regular starter. Grace could be stretched out some if they get another lefty.


    1 Nov 18 at 7:47 am

  12. Wally, I do think it’s fair to ask whether Rizzo is trying to do this “on the cheap.” On the flipside, I also think it’s fair to point out that there have been some really bad deals recently for a “closer” — Jansen looks to be rapidly regressing, and of course Melancon has been a disaster. The Nats bid on both of them. Chapman sort of appears to have been worth it, although with all the other bullpen talent the Yanks have, it’s still fair to wonder whether they overpaid.

    The only big-ticket “closer” on the market this year is Kimbrel, who was far from lights out in the postseason. Will he get a Jansen/Chapman contract? It will be interesting to see.

    In the new era of “bullpening,” though, the costs of 7th/8th-inning guys is also rising. Are they “worth it” in the grand scheme of things? And how do you find the right ones? And how do you predict that someone as pedestrian as Joe Kelly was in the regular season will suddenly dominate in the playoffs?

    Rosenthal was pricey, but someone like David Robertson probably will be pricier. Can Rosenthal be that good? He was before his injury.

    Also, are the Nats still interested in guys like Herrera or Holland? Who knows what Herrera can get after his Nat struggles/injury. He was one of the best in baseball before the trade, and he’s still relatively young. He may have to take a Rosenthal-type deal, though. Holland was gosh-awful for the Cards but wonderful for the Nats. For all the trash that gets talked about guys figuring it out once they leave the Nats, he’s one who really got straightened out on Half Street.


    1 Nov 18 at 10:06 am

  13. KW – your specific points are reasonable, I can’t really disagree. But earlier you said that this offseason, the Nats need to get ‘better’. Since baseball is a crapshoot at best, that really means to improve the odds that you are better. Here, Rizzo wants to acquire Chapman-esque performance without paying Chapman prices. That might be the better economic play, and you and I might even prefer this approach, but it won’t really increase the odds of being better. You increase the range of performance and expectations and upside perhaps, but only move the base case a little bit. That’s all that I am saying.

    Plus, this has been rizzo’s MO forever and it’s increasingly hard to do this with such sophisticated front offices.


    1 Nov 18 at 10:25 am

  14. Wally — That’s fair. That’s also the root challenge here: to get demonstrably “better,” but within the confines of the current market.

    Rizzo has gone big a few times, with Scherzer far and away the most notable example. But yes, for the most part, he tends to tinker around the edges, and it’s fair to say that Rosenthal and Barraclough are around-the-edges type of deals. They should help the Nats “maintain.” But when you lost the division by eight games, you’ve got to do more than “maintain.” They’re replacements in the mold of Madson, Kelley, and Kintzler, possibly a little better, but no guarantees.

    Kimbrel is the only truly big-ticket bullpen guy on the market. I argued a few weeks ago that the Nats should consider the big play to get him, but after his postseason struggles, I don’t think so. I do think they need at least one more quality bullpen guy, though. Are they willing to pay for the Ottavino/Robertson level of quality? Or would Sipp actually be more what they need at this point.


    1 Nov 18 at 10:46 am

  15. I think these are the right names: Ottavino, Kimbrel, Robertson, Familia. Currently good, seemingly healthy and young enough that age-related decline isn’t expected. If you want to reasonably expect to be better, sign one of those guys at market, or trade for Diaz, Treinen or Pressley. Then Rosenthal and/or Barraclough truly become the luxury of upside. Right now, you need at least one of them to deliver for your pen to be good.

    And you are right, Scherzer is the biggest example of Rizzo paying up for an in-your-prime, elite, healthy guy. Werth is another, and Eaton kind of is too. He hasn’t really missed on any of them, but it is scary to pay up for that. In this market, Bryce and Machado are the only surefire comps, and Corbin is kind of there without the longer track record you’d want to see for a $150m contract.


    1 Nov 18 at 11:40 am

  16. Familia would get a “no” vote from me. I just don’t see him as elite enough to offset the baggage. Herrera at his best has been better than Familia at his best. They’re the same age. Both may be available at a discount.


    1 Nov 18 at 1:34 pm

  17. Corbin was essentially league average in 2017 and pretty bad in 2016. He’s a one-year wonder who is going to have teams lining up to pay him $25M per. Maybe he’s young enough to be worth it. Maybe 2018 was a fluke. He’s a huge gamble.


    1 Nov 18 at 1:54 pm

  18. How do the Nats get “better” at starting pitching? Do they take the risk of trading for a younger guy like Jon Gray or Fulmer who they would hope would bounce back? Do they unload the farm system for Snell? Do they trade much less for a rental like Bumgarner or Sonny Gray?

    As I’ve noted, the “problem” with the Nats trading right now is that they don’t have much in the way of minor leaguers they want to let go. Major leaguers, yes — Taylor, Solis, Severino, maybe Roark — but if they offload Roark, they had better get someone “better.” But of the minor leaguers, they “need” C. Kieboom and Garcia for the open 2B slot and the potentially opening 3B slot. I’d give up Denaburg, but who knows how much others value him with him still a long, long way away. Romero has no value. After these guys, there’s really not a second tier of desirability. You’re down to the third tier by the time you’re talking Drew Ward (two trips through Rule 5 unprotected), Daniel Johnson, Stevenson, Crowe, McGowin, Voth, etc.

    In short, I think they could put together a reasonable package for Bumgarner or Sonny Gray, but I don’t know how they would pry someone with more control, unless the Rox really don’t want to pay $3M to J. Gray. The Yanks will practically be giving S. Gray away, although I don’t know how well the Nats would match up with them trade-wise. I keep coming back to a deal for Bumgarner that features Taylor because the Giants are so desperate for OFs.


    1 Nov 18 at 2:20 pm

  19. I forgot to mention a possible trade for Greinke. He’s still owed 3/$104.5M for his age 35, 36, and 37 seasons. The Snakes likely would take peanuts for him just to move that contract. But goodness, if the Nats took on that contract, they’d have only about $15M total left for 2019 to fill out the rest of the roster. Even if AZ sent some money back in the deal, the squeeze would be very, very tight, and it would continue into the time they would hope to be extending Rendon.


    1 Nov 18 at 2:25 pm

  20. I would love MadBum, but I think there is absolutely no way he could be gotten for anything close to Taylor as the centerpiece.
    1. MadBum is an icon in SF, so it would be a PR disaster to trade him for anyone that is not a clear HR / established name or prospect, so I don’t think they will trade him at all.
    2. If they do trade him it would almost certainly be a signal of a re-build, so they would want controllable prospects


    1 Nov 18 at 6:10 pm

  21. I’d like to see them sign one of the older but productive starters on a cost effective deal (Morton is my first choice), and trade for a controllable guy like Jon Gray. That gives them a good rotation now and buys time for the younger guys to develop.

    As for who to trade, I’d keep Robles, Kieboom and Denaburg, but any of the others would be available for the right trade.

    Then I’d sign a stopgap 2B, although I still like the Murphy idea, and another quality pen arm, although I might let the market play out first.

    I know KW wants a C and they need one, but I don’t see an upgrade that’s doable so I’d sign a cheap vet and pair him with Kieboom. Someone for $5m. Maybe lucroy, McCann if he’ll go that low, even resign weiters. I wouldn’t break the bank for a mediocre guy and just take good D guys and accept the hole in the lineup.


    1 Nov 18 at 9:30 pm

  22. Wally, I do want a catching upgrade, but my crystal ball is very hazy on that one. Grandal is good defensively per the metrics, but he basically got benched in the playoffs. Ramos had a great year at the plate, but I’ll be surprised if he’s behind the plate for more than 100 games in 2019, probably down to 80 by 2020. Maybe I’m wrong, but it would be a big risk to give him that 3/$30M deal he turned down a couple of years ago.

    I wanted to like McCann, but he fell off a cliff this year. Wieters was better. In fact, no matter how bad we thought he was (and he WAS bad based on what he was being paid), Wieters was better than a lot of the other FAs. I wouldn’t be shocked if they bring him back. If I was to bet on it, I’d say him or Suzuki. Nothing great there, though.

    As for pitchers, I do get excited when I look at Morton’s stats. If you dig a little deeper, though, he’s a 5-6 inning guy. He’s about to turn 35. He’s going to want a contract of at least three years, probably four. If he’d come for 2/$28M, I’d be pleased. But he’s going to want more, and he’s probably going to get it . . . elsewhere.

    Dave, the Giants are in a pickle. They still sell out every game, so they’re not allowed to rebuild. They made the Phillie mistake and gave big contracts to a ton of guys who are over the hill. Most of the assets they do have, like MadBum, they’ve held onto as their value has diminished. A one-year player isn’t worth that much in return, particularly one who has been injured for two seasons, but you are completely right that they’d want something face-saving for one of their biggest heroes. Taylor certainly isn’t enough in the Giants’ minds by himself, but they are terrible in the OF, and he’d be a nice building block. But yes, it would have to be three-for-one or four-for-one to make it look good. So Taylor, Solis, Crowe, and Drew Ward. In the logical world of trade value, that’s all MadBum is worth, and it might even be a bit of an overpay. But no, I don’t think the Giants would actually give him up for that.


    1 Nov 18 at 10:04 pm

  23. I’d trade Denaburg in a heartbeat, by the way. And if forced to choose, I’d keep Garcia over C. Kieboom, although I think both are legit.


    1 Nov 18 at 10:08 pm

  24. Morton has made noise about not wanting to play much longer, and wants to get close to his wife’s family in Del. So 2/$28m has a chance, as does Was/Bal/Phi. So it’s a maybe. And for a 3/4 guy, I could live with 6 IPs.

    Kind of shocked at that last comment of Garcia > Kieboom. Kieboom is going to show up as a top 20 guy on most lists and I think it’s legit. Garcia’s future is very uncertain and CK may be better in both in the field and at the plate. If he was the centerpiece of getting a young pitching stud, then maybe but I wouldn’t consider him for anyone else.

    And I know Denaburg is 4/5 years ways and no guarantee, but he’s the only one in the org that possibly becomes a TOR starter. No one will pay that for him, so I’d keep him.


    1 Nov 18 at 10:45 pm

  25. What would be better, Morton at 2/$28, or Hellickson + Tyson Ross for the same amount? Or Ryu and Buchholz at probably more than Hellickson and Ross but less than Morton? I do think this level will be where the Nats are shopping, though.

    I’ll agree that Denaburg is the only guy in the system with a chance at being a 1-2 starter, albeit in five years. I’ll agree that he’s not worth that much in trade value until he actually pitches (although he apparently did pitch in the instructional league). We’ll see. I don’t think he’ll be traded, but he is one of the better chips they’ve got.

    Garcia > Kieboom isn’t meant as hating on Kieboom, just a gut feeling with Garcia doing nearly as much at two years younger. I was a lone wolf in the wilderness crying Soto > Robles. Sometimes I’m right, but only sometimes!


    2 Nov 18 at 7:32 am

  26. Sure, you called that, but 2 counterpoints: (1) Soto v Robles isn’t over yet, we should see how they do through their control years. You clearly made a very good call on Soto, and your defining difference (power) made a huge difference. The counter argument for Robles was the added value for speed and defense and we should give him a few years to see how that plays out. But a good argument to have. My guess is that one will continue on an all star path, but not both. But which one?
    (2) the reason you chose Soto over Robles goes the other way with Garcia v Kieboom. kieboom has decent present power and projects to avg or more, whereas that’s the big concern with Garcia, whether he develops any. In fact, i’m a bit contrarian on Garcia: given that he made such a splash at such a young age, his power projection is limited and his body may be outgrowing SS, this might be his peak value. Would you trade him for Jon Gray or Robbie Ray (assuming we have to add a little extra?)


    2 Nov 18 at 11:05 am

  27. No QO for Morton. I’d target him first then move to others


    2 Nov 18 at 5:27 pm

  28. Part of my argument about Robles’s ultimate value is that it has to come across several different areas. It’s hard to maintain on all the levels. Turner is a prime example. In his inaugural MLB half season, he looked like he might be a 6-7 WAR guy. He still might be, but even with his defense exceeding all expectations, and with him (overused) playing every game, he still managed “only” 4.8 fWAR. Now, that still makes him a heck of a player, but not quite the star-plus level . . . yet.

    I hope Robles can succeed at the same level. Yes, I was banking on Soto’s power to develop, along with his smooth stroke. We’ll see. Let’s hope Kieboom and Garcia are worthy of a similar debate. Garcia is almost three years younger, so there’s still a lot of time for him to develop power. He’s got the frame for it.


    2 Nov 18 at 9:22 pm

  29. Some interesting developments on the FA front. I’m surprised at the QO’s for Ryu and Grandal. That’s probably at least 1.5 years of salary that either would make on a FA contract. Both should be tempted to accept the offers. If they don’t, I think the Nats will be out on them, as I can’t see them punting the #17 draft pick. That probably takes them out on Keuchel as well, for the same reason. I’m fine with that. He’s already in regression.

    If Ryu and Grandal both accept the QO’s, that $35.8M hit would really limit the Dodgers, particularly at the Bryce/Manny level. I’m believing Friedman when he’s saying he’s not giving contracts at that level anyway.

    MLBTR doesn’t believe him, though:

    Hmm, I’ve just contradicted their #1, 4, and 6 landing spots.

    I do agree that Morton not getting QO’d is a big deal in terms of elevating Nat interest in him. If he really wants to get close to Delaware, that pretty much narrows it to Philly, DC, Balto, or maybe NYY. We’ll see. He would be appealing on a two-year deal. I had said 2/28; MLBTR says 2/32, so same ballpark.

    Elsewhere, some folks at NatsTalk are floating MAT for Panik. I wouldn’t hate that. I’d prefer someone with more versatility, though. I don’t know enough about the Giants to know why Panik has regressed from such a promising early career.


    2 Nov 18 at 9:40 pm

  30. I agree with you that Grandal and Ryu should take it.

    I’m not really a fan of Panik, but MAT has become such a spare part that I couldn’t find fault.

    I’ve also seen talk of Eaton to CLE for Bieber. I do think CLE would like Eaton (as would STL) but that wouldn’t work payroll-wise, since they are pretty strapped. Carrasco matches up salary wise better but we’d have kick something else in, like Fedde and maybe Garcia. Have to think hard about doing that, to be honest. Then pick up a corner guy like Brantley or even Cutch for $10m?

    The harper stuff will be interesting. I bet the Nats make a big run but fall short. I’d say they get close to $300m with deferrals, like Max. The interesting thing is that the NL East (PHI and ATL) could be the biggest competition. I agree with you that LAD is being overstated. Hasn’t been Friedman’s MO.


    2 Nov 18 at 11:47 pm

  31. Yeah, if Bryce doesn’t come back, trading Eaton doesn’t make a lot of sense. They can’t start Taylor.

    Taylor is exactly the type of reserve OF they need, though, with Eaton and Robles somewhat injury-prone . . . except Taylor is totally useless as a PH (.200/.259/.200 in 2018, .137/.185/.196 career). Stevenson has yet to prove that he’s anything more than AAA depth, however, so if they trade Taylor, they’ll have to sign someone who is CF-capable (Jon Jay?).

    Bryce sweepstakes: I have a hard time seeing how the Cubs, Yanks, or Dodgers can pay him what he wants. In fact, I’m not sure any of them will actually bid. I think the Nats could/would pay him more, but not the record level he wants. I would think those are his four preferred places to play. So he’s either going to have to accept less to play where he wants to play, or he’s going to cash big checks at someplace he doesn’t want to be (Philly). Even though the Braves have a RF opening and some bucks, I don’t think Harper would be the best use of their money; two starting pitchers would. STL is a good team with an OF need, but it sure doesn’t have the spotlight that Bryce craves (neither does Philly). I would think SF has a better chance than STL and perhaps is the real darkhorse here. It’s on the West Coast, has money, has a huge OF need, and really needs star power to keep its stadium sold out. But the Giants suck.

    I think the Nats would be interested in at least talking with Bryce/Boras, but they CANNOT play a waiting game. They’ve got too many holes to fill. If a Bryce reunion happens, it needs to happen now. If it doesn’t, close the door and move on.


    3 Nov 18 at 9:54 am

  32. KW, your points about Robles v. Soto support the Robles side of the equation, not the Soto side. The reason I preferred Robles to Soto last year is that his value is distributed: he can contribute value in so many ways, he can be a star even if he doesn’t hit like one. The Turner comparison is apt. Soto, on the other hand, has to hit like one of the five best hitters in baseball to be a star. I think it’s crazy to think ANY prospect is going to hit like that.

    But, after the 2018 experience, the probability that Soto will be one of the very best hitters in baseball has increased dramatically. Still, his upside depends roughly 100% on his bat. Robles’s does not. This makes Soto’s profile inherently riskier. But it’s pretty clear now that Soto is the more valuable piece, which means you were right last year. Sometimes you hit the jackpot, and it seems like Soto is the jackpot.


    3 Nov 18 at 10:49 am

  33. Catcher alert: Rangers declined option on Robinson Chirinos. He hit only .222, but with 18 HRs and 97 OPS+, 103 wRC+. He’s apparently not fabulous defensively, but not awful, either. He’ll turn 35 in June. Not jumping up and down about him one way or the other, but he’s got better overall offensive numbers than most of the other stiffs on the market.


    4 Nov 18 at 7:48 am

  34. Soto vs. Robles: I think it’s fair to say that Soto has proven the point that he’s at least in the conversation to be as good as Robles. If Robles does turn out to be “better” than Soto, that will be terrific for Natsdom, because Soto is going to be damn good.

    The main reason I started advocating so strongly for Soto was that at this time last year, and all through the winter and spring, people were wanting to include him in trades for any Tom, Dick, or Harry, basically just because they didn’t want to trade Robles. My point was, “Hey, this guy could be as good as Robles, so let’s not just give him away.”

    Now history is repeating itself, as it tends to do in the prospect game. People don’t want to trade Kieboom, so they’re ready to sacrifice Garcia. My overriding point here is the same: Garcia could be as good as Kieboom, so don’t be so quick to give him away. At this point, my hunch is that Kieboom will turn out to be a little better, but with Garcia holding his own at barely 18 at High-A (youngest player in baseball at that level), it’s hard to bet against him being really good. Yes, he’s got a ways to go in power and defense, but when he’s Kieboom’s age in three years, he’s probably going to already be in the majors.

    Or at least we hope he is. Both are still “prospects,” and a lot of prospects come up short. That’s why internal scouting is sometimes as important as external, making the right call on which guys to keep. The Nats have an awful track record in recent years with overvaluing their internal pitching prospects, and also with including some of the wrong guys in deals. For example, they could have included Fedde in place of Dunning or Luzardo in either of those deals. His prospect value was higher. And of course we all know the story of how they insisted that the Tigers take Robbie Ray over Taylor Jordan. Sigh.


    4 Nov 18 at 8:22 am

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