Nationals Arm Race

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

Yan Gomes deal: I like it


Gomes joins the Nats. Photo via

Gomes joins the Nats. Photo via

The Nats seemingly solved their catching issues for the next few years with the shrewd acquisition of Cleveland 2018 all-star catcher Yan Gomes.  And they didn’t have to break the bank to do it.

They part ways with Jefry Rodriguez, who was probably sat #6 on the current Nats roster of starting pitchers, soon to be pushed further downwards with whatever acquisitions may yet to come, and who had proven over the course of the last two seasons he couldn’t be trusted with the ball for a playoff team.  They also part ways with 2017 minor league POTY Daniel Johnson, cashing in on a guy who is still low minors but could flourish for a team like Cleveland.  There’s also a PTBNL thrown in, usually indicative of a lower level prospect that Cleveland gets to pick from later on after scouting the Nats low-A team or something.

Johnson becomes the 4th player flipped from the 2016 draft, which is more and more looking like the best Nats draft in a decade.  He joins Jesus LuzardoDane Dunning, and Sheldon Neuse heading out the door from that draft, and all three of these previously traded players have more or less flourished with their new organizations.   Luzardo is now considered one of the best left-handed prospects in the game, Dunning regularly is called an “under the radar” type pitching prospect who the White Sox seem to be depending on as a solid mid-rotation piece in the future, and Neuse played all of 2018 in AAA as a 23-yr old after a 3-level rise in 2017.

(Yes, I’d like to have all of them back, especially Luzardo, who the team spent so much to acquire, nursed back to health and really could help with the current rotation crunch).

Nonetheless, for me this acquisition kicks off a series of new consequences for the 2019 team:

  • No more pursuit of additional catchers, which should be a sigh of relief for Victor Robles fans, who had repeatedly been dangled to the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto.  No longer.
  • I like this Gomes acquistion, and I like the semi-platoon they now have setup with Kurt Suzuki.  If one goes down with injury, the other can cover while they bring back up Kieboom for protection.  This is such a better situation than we had the past two seasons, where had a crummy hitting, poor defending catcher in Matt Wieters with the likes of Kieboom or Severino as the guy getting regular day-after-night game starts.
  • Pedro Severino‘s days are numbered; no options, no roster spot for 2019.  He’ll hang around all spring to guard against injury, but faces a looming DFA next April 1st.  Will he get picked up by another team?  Perhaps.  He was just so bad at the plate in 2018 that its hard to project any team giving him even a backup role, no matter how good his defense is.
  • If Severino stays in the system though, he’ll likely push downwards in a cascading manner our current catching “depth,” since he’ll join Spencer Kieboom in AAA,   That pushes Taylor Gushue back to AA, likely with Raudy Read who seems lost in the shuffle here.  That then leaves Jakson Reetz and Tres Barrera basically repeating High-A for the time being.  I don’t think any of these guys are really pushing for promotion necessarily based on offensive performance: Gushue hit .212 in AA in 2018, Read hit much better in AA but showed almost no power in a half-season in AAA, Reetz has never hit even .240 in any stop since the rookie league, and Barrera hit good but not amazing in Potomac.  Probably the best case would be to just part ways with Severino, and have this be your C depth in 2019:
    • AAA: Read and Kieboom splitting time evenly
    • AA: Gushue and Barrera, who probably needs a promotion
    • High-A: Reetz and perhaps one of the low-A 2018 catches like Alejandro Flores or Alex Dunlop

Suffice it to say … we have very little reliable catching depth in our minors right now.  Thankfully Gomes has options through 2021 for reasonable money.

  • We already knew we had no SP depth, and now we just traded our primary backup hurler.  Not that i’m enamored of Jefry Rodriguez and think he’s our savior … but I do slightly question the choice of player to ship out.  I understand “trading from strength” and I also understand that you have to give up something to get something … but this team has traded away SO MUCH starting pitching over the past few years that I wonder if they need to, you know, save some of it?  As has been noted elsewhere, the last time the Nats developed and kept a for-real MLB starter was Stephen Strasburg, which, lets be honest, even the most incompetent organization could have done.  Here’s a list of the starters we’ve traded away in the last 2 years: Jefry Rodriguez, McKenzie Mills, Tyler Watson, Jesus Luzardo, Taylor Hearn, Pedro Avila, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning.  That’s a ton of starters.  And now we’re looking at acquiring even more via trade or FA.  At some point we have to stop spending money on FA starters and grow them from within.
  • This was actually a fantastic Salary Cap move: Gomes counts just $3.8M towards the 2019 luxury tax cap.  With all the tenders and salary estimates, I still have the team $43M under the cap, so that’s plenty of room to buy the upgrades they need.

In the end…. one major position of need down (C), two more to go (SP and 2B).



19 Responses to 'Yan Gomes deal: I like it'

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  1. I agree with all you wrote, but nevertheless, here is one reason NOT to like the acquisition:

    “…it’s not yet clear how the Nats will divvy up playing time between the two next season. GM Mike Rizzo suggested Saturday that he’d leave it up to manager Dave Martinez, who declared that “they’re both going to split time.” Rizzo added that Suzuki could see action at first base, where he has never appeared in a major league game.”

    Rizzo’s going to leave the platoon split up to the idiot manager who showed no ability to intelligently use his roster last year–and Suzuki at FIRST BASE. That has to be a joke, right?

    Karl Kolchak

    2 Dec 18 at 9:13 pm

  2. I’d say this is a slight benefit to us, not a huge win. I also don’t really think gomes will contribute that much offensively, either due to injury or regression, so if I’m wrong there then the trade is better. Plus I kind of like Kieboom as a back up.

    This Philly trade for segura is a big improvement for them, particularly if they add a quality OF to replace Hoskins. The rumors of them going for it are real, I think. I’d put them as the most likely to go to $400m for Bryce, but even if they don’t (and for some reason, I feel like the Lerners bring him back), they could add Machado, Pollock, an SP and Kimbrel. If they do that, I’d probably say they are the favorites.

    On the other hand, I’m not impressed with ATL. By my count, they are down 7 WAR just by guys leaving (although admittedly, those guys provided the flukier WAR). Plus Donaldson, who I think is a risky and not-cheap bet, puts another 3WAR on the bench.

    So as things stand now, PHi is up and ATL is neutral to down. Long way to go, tho.


    3 Dec 18 at 9:54 am

  3. I just read the ‘Kendrick should be ready by ST’ article on MASN. I think June 1 is the over/under date and if the Nats are baking him playing any meaningful minutes at 2b next year, it’s foolish. I’d rather have them say they still like Difo. There is no reason to believe that given kendricks age, type of injury and demands of 2b, that he’ll be ready


    3 Dec 18 at 1:33 pm

  4. would have thought Israel Pineda was at least worthy of a mention here after hitting .273 as an 18 yr old in Auburn


    3 Dec 18 at 1:49 pm

  5. alexva: great point i forgot to go back to short-A looking at depth.

    Todd Boss

    3 Dec 18 at 2:16 pm

  6. The Nats will be paying $11M in 2019 for two catchers who collectively hit 38 homers in 2018. Most places are projecting Ramos to get a floor of $12M by himself to play half a season, probably with a three-year contract, and Grandal is projected at $13-16M per, perhaps for four years. So yeah, all things considered, I think it’s a heck of fix for catching, at least for this year. Those two will cost $15M together in 2020, and Gomes is set to make $11M in 2021. His high K’s do make him a regression candidate. However, unlike certain other recent Nat catching disasters, this one has an escape hatch — buyouts in both 2020 and 2021. (Grandal has a similarly high K rate and won’t have such an escape clause.)

    As for what they gave up — meh. J-Rod’s numbers as a reliever were much better than those as a starter, and some of his peripheral stats are downright ugly: 5.97 FIP, 1.54 WHIP, 15.9 BB% (ouch!). He’s supposed to have the big heater, but he only K’d 6.75 per 9 while walking 6.40 per 9.

    Daniel Johnson has now floundered twice in the AFL. I keep saying that he may have a higher ceiling than Stevenson, but Stevenson tore up AZ (.934 OPS). That was when he was a year younger than Johnson was this fall when he posted an embarrassing .438 OPS.

    So . . . I have a hard time seeing Johnson become more than a 5th OF in the majors at best, basically den Dekker. J-Rod, meanwhile, is the type the Nats usually acquire instead of dump, the big guys who look good on the mound but can’t locate their fastball worth beans. Maybe he turns into something, but the odds are that he won’t. And in the meantime, the Nats will have a catcher.


    3 Dec 18 at 2:56 pm

  7. C’mon Wally, no love for the Mets picking up Cano?! (What a stupid deal. Yeah, they got a closer, but he does no good if they never have a lead.)

    The Mariners unloaded Cano’s awful contract only to pick up Santana’s. (Scratches head.) The Phils pick up a pretty decent shortstop, but not one who really supercharges their lineup. Does that take them out of the Manny derby, or just mean they’ll want Manny on 3B? Until they do something about their bullpen and the back end of their rotation, I’m not too worried.

    Donaldson worries me more in the middle of the Braves’ lineup than he does Wally, apparently, although it seemed a lot of bucks to spend at a position where they already had a good player in Camargo. ATL had a miraculous run with its rotation last year, and to me, it would have been a better bet for the Braves to spend big on a couple of top-of-the-line starters than it was on an oft-injured 3B.

    And the Nats? We’ll see. Todd, scuttlebutt seems to be that they’re not looking for a 2B, or for a reunion with Murphy (sigh). They do seem to be looking at high-end starters. I’ll think they’ll add a starter, a 1B/PH/LF Adams/Lind type, and perhaps a bullpen lefty. My concern is actually on offense, as I’m not convinced they have enough firepower when losing Bryce and Murph, particularly head to head with a Braves team that is going to score.

    But the offseason is far from over yet . . .


    3 Dec 18 at 3:15 pm

  8. Todd, I think you’re right in the ballpark of where the Nats are under the cap, perhaps around $43M. However, scuttlebutt has been that they want to stay at least $10M under the cap number for some in-season flexibility, because of some player incentives (particularly Rosenthal), and because they always seem to screw it up when they cut it close (see 2017). So I’d say they’re only going to spend around $33M more . . . unless Uncle Ted decides that he wants nephew Bryce back . . .

    I’m betting that Rizzo has told the Lerners that he’ll have to go over the cap to re-sign Harper. Everyone thinks they are serious players for Corbin, and that wouldn’t be happening if Rizzo was budgeting for Bryce.

    Really, the only problem I have with going over the cap is the loss of international money. The Nats have drafted so poorly that their only reliable pipeline has been the Latin one.


    3 Dec 18 at 3:28 pm

  9. The Cano trade is terrible. I consider Bruce + Swarzak for Cano and $20m to favor the Mariners. So Two top 100 prospects + Gerson for a good closer is not a good deal unless your team is literally 1 last piece away. The Mets are several.

    It doesn’t mean the Mets stink next year, but I expect them to sign a couple bets on the cheap and maybe a decent reliever. That will put them 3rd or 4th in the division and a lot has to go right for them to win.

    But I’ll say this for the Nats: the days of the easy win are largely over. The top 4 teams could all be .500 or better.


    3 Dec 18 at 5:27 pm

  10. Agreed on the division getting tougher. But the Mets are just doing it the wrong way.

    I think they’ve got at least a 4-win swing with their catchers right now. I think Robles could be a 3-4 win player when you factor in his defense. And I think just addition by subtraction out of the bullpen could net the team a couple wins. And that’s before you replace the replacement-level production we got from Gio with hopefully a top-of-the-line starter. 4+3+2+3 = 12 wins better so far from 82-20. Throw in just *some* of the pythag unluckiness (8 total wins in 2018) and this could be nearly a 100 win team.

    come on, you can feel it right?

    Todd Boss

    3 Dec 18 at 6:32 pm

  11. Nah, not yet. Let’s revisit when we know the pitching staff 🙂


    3 Dec 18 at 7:36 pm

  12. Sally, we know a lot more now!

    Mark L

    4 Dec 18 at 4:46 pm

  13. Wally, we know a lot more now!

    Mark L

    4 Dec 18 at 4:47 pm

  14. Damn auto-correct.
    Todd, the Corbin signing is right up your alley. Waiting to hear your opinion.
    The good news is the Nats are probably out of the running for Harper now.

    Mark L

    4 Dec 18 at 4:49 pm

  15. I’ve been telling you guys for months that Corbin was going to get something very close to the Lester deal. I’m just somewhat surprised it’s from the Nats.

    I’m still processing. Short term, it’s a tremendous addition to the rotation. When I messed around with the peripheral stats of the FA starters a few weeks ago, Corbin consistently came out ahead of everyone else. If they were going to spend that much on one pitcher, though, I sure wish they had non-tendered Roark.

    As of now, I think they’re down to around $10M that they’ll actually spend, if they want to stay under the tax line. Hmm, that’s $6M for Sipp and $4M for Matt Adams . . .


    4 Dec 18 at 7:52 pm

  16. Been busy all day, but wow. Seems super expensive when you count the picks and money, but I definitely like the pitcher.

    Can they withdraw the Roark tender? Might be the smart move


    4 Dec 18 at 9:16 pm

  17. I don’t think a tender can be withdrawn. I think they’re now obligated for at least one-sixth of whatever Roark’s salary turns out to be. At the projected $9.8M, that would be $1.63M. I’ve said all along that I think there are several FA pitchers available in the $9.8M range than Roark.

    We’ll see. The Corbin hit might not quite as much as first thought because of deferrals. I do think the ideal Nat rotation would be to add another starter, have Roark as the 5th starter, and perhaps make Ross the long man/swing man.


    5 Dec 18 at 7:43 am

  18. One point that occurs to me is that the Braves kept their “window” open for a decade and a half with four constants — three starting pitchers and a third baseman. If the Nats extend Rendon, their biggest commitments will be to three starting pitchers and a 3B. Now, all four Braves were first-ballot Hall of Famers, so it’s not quite the same, but it’s a similar model.


    5 Dec 18 at 7:48 am

  19. New posted on Corbin signing! I like it.

    Todd Boss

    5 Dec 18 at 12:08 pm

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