Nationals Arm Race

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

Patrick Corbin; that’s one way to go to address the 2019 Rotation


Nats make as big of a splash in FA as they can. Photo via getty images

Nats make as big of a splash in FA as they can. Photo via getty images

Was walking into dinner last night and happened to glance at RSS sports feed … and saw this shockerPatrick Corbin signs with the Nats.  6yrs/$140M.

And my first reaction was this: wow, the Nats just beat out the frigging New York Yankees for a player.  In the FA market, straight up.  Wow.  Reports from earlier in the day had indicated Corbin was down to just the Yanks and the Nats and I figured, “well, he’s on record saying he has dreamed about playing in New York, oh well.”  Then a few hours later he’s wearing a Washington hat.

I have a few immediate thoughts on this.  Negative and positive.

  • Its not my money, but $23M/year AAV does seem like a lot for a guy who posted a 5.15 ERA just two years ago.
  • Its also a ton of money to commit to a player who really has only performed like a real Ace worthy of this level of financial commitment for one year.
  • That being said, he’s in-arguably the best pitcher on the FA market and the Nats got him.  Before the winter meetings even.
  • He’s a lefty too, nicely replacing the near replacement-level we got out of Gio Gonzalez this past year.
  • I daresay he might now be the best 3rd starter in the majors.   Houston’s rotation is half out the door in FA, Cleveland’s rotation is in the process of getting dismantled this off-season.
  • Its worth mentioning that Corbin has been pitching in one of the better hitter’s park in the majors … and probably will benefit and get a bump in numbers by moving to the NL East and moving to a more neutral park in Nationals park.
  • We get his age 29-34 seasons.  That’s not too bad honestly, given what we know about player decline.  He’s got less than 1,000 MLB innings on his arm, which is not a ton by age 28.  By way of comparison, Max Scherzer had 1,017 MLB innings through his own age 28 season.
  • Corbin is also the kind of guy who seems like he’d age gracefully, in a similar fashion to a guy like Tom Glavine.  He doesn’t depend on a ton of velocity (vFA in 2018 of 91.3).  Something obviously clicked with him in 2018 because his K rate skyrocketed, his walk rate fell, the value of his slider exploded, and he seemed to add a curve to his repertoire.  He’s already had his Tommy John, so that’s nice that he’s gotten that out of the way.
  • Is this yet another Rizzo-to-Arizona connection?   Maybe not: he was drafted in 2009 by the Angels, traded to Arizona in 2010 by which time Rizzo was in Washington.  Hopefully we’re now completely out of that cynical view of player acquisition from Rizzo’s background.

Speaking of, Mike Rizzo is being incredibly aggressive this off-season.  For all the concerns we may have had about Bryce Harper‘s signing possibly gumming up the works … this team is moving.   We had three-to-four major issues this off-season:

  • Catcher; he’s signed two guys, including the 2018 AL All-star
  • Starters: he’s signed the best available hurler.
  • 2B: nothing yet … but this was always going to be the easiest position to fill in FA thanks to a glut of available players
  • Relievers: he’s traded for a solid middle-relief RHP and has signed a high-upside former dominant closer to a reasonable contract.

Other information about this transaction that may have other implications:

  • Nats roster now at 38/40.  Still room on the broom.
  • Payroll implications: before this move I had the team with $43.8M available under the luxury cap.   This moves cuts them to about $20.5M under the cap.  I’ve read stuff in the press saying the team wants to stay a bit under the cap to allow for mid-season upgrades … so maybe we’ll see another $10-$15M in spending.  That should be enough to buy what they still need:
    • 5th starter reclamation projects
    • starting 2B (Marwin Gonzalez, Lowrie, LeMahieu, Dozier, Kinsler, Phillips, WalkerDaniel Murphy?).  Lots of options, not all of which will cost a lot
    • lefty bench bat (Justin Bour?  just got non-tendered, is from the area, would fit in perfectly)
  • This move will shred the 2019 draft for this team, costing them their second- and fifth-highest picks (as well as $1 million in international bonus pool money).  Poor cap management comes back to bite them.  Definitely an “all-in move” throwing draft caution to the wind.  They better really hit on that 4th round comp pick 🙂 (update: well technically if Harper leaves, then that 4th round comp pick would be the 5th highest pick … so it’d instantly disappear like it never got awarded.  Just to clarify).
  • Rotation now projected to be Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Ross and Roark.  All 5 with guaranteed deals, four of them with 8-figure deals likely for 2019.  No room for Erick Fedde here, despite his Winterfest statements.  That’s got to be a tough nut to swallow for him, even given the fact that he hasn’t really earned it.  But, as we all know teams end up giving starts to 8-9 guys generally, and he’s first in line right now, so he still has hope.  But our SP depth is ugly: Fedde, Voth, McGowin, fresh-from-the-Mexican-league Henderson Alvarez, and then whatever MLFA reclamation project we can find in the Jeremy Hellickson ilk.  I do think this signing makes it a lot tougher for the Nats to find this role since they really can’t promise that player a non-injury shot at a 5th starter 25-man role.  So we’ll be looking at players who will be willing from the go to accept an AAA assignment … and one in Fresno to boot.

Any other thoughts?  Is this the move that pushes the team back to the top of the NL East and really makes them a contender in 2019?

My official take: the Nats bought the best arm they could.  This is better than the alternatives they faced this off-season.  It only cost them money, not more prospects, and in that respect its a complete win.  They’re using the payroll that they earned by virtue of 2018 expiring contracts well.

Does this move preclude them now from signing Harper?  Well, unless the team plans on trading away Scherzer … it should.   Or if the Lerners decide to go Boston-style and really blow out payroll and say “F it completely,” then they still can (and always could).  But if i’m Scott Boras i’m kinda shaking in my boots today, knowing that the likelihood of Harper’s baseline pillow 10yr/$300M deal from this team is likely gone.

50 Responses to 'Patrick Corbin; that’s one way to go to address the 2019 Rotation'

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  1. Leaving the Nats’ offer on the table may end up behind by the best thing Harper has done for this team since his MVP season. Even the normally sensible Jeff Passan has him getting more than what they offered. It is great to see Corbin rewarded for a great walk year and Harper (hopefully) punished. Isn’t that how the writers always tell us it is supposed to be?

    Anyway, since I’ve been crossing my fingers hoping they make this deal all along, I guess I have to say I love it. Everyone seems to forget that if Strasburg finally stays healthy and has a Cy Young quality campaign next year HE could be gone via his opt out. He and Scherzer aren’t getting any younger either, so this fortifies the top of the rotation of a team that has always been built around starting pitching. As for Fedde, when he gets his chances this year like when Ross is shut down around Labor Day, he needs to do what hasn’t yet been able to do: not suck.

    As for future moves, they still need a quality lefty for the bullpen at minimum. Too many wishes and prayers out there considering it’s been a headache this whole decade. Murphy might make the most sense at 2B considering he can also back up Zimmerman regularly.

    I’ll also be surprised if they ultimately go with Taylor as a 4th OF. He just can’t hit in a reserve role, plus Martinez seems clueless as to how to handle him. Certainly, there is a bad team for which he’d be an upgrade in CF out there?

    Karl Kolchak

    5 Dec 18 at 12:59 pm

  2. KK: agree on Harper. Solid acquisition, best you could hope for. Strasburg could indeed opt out; i wonder what that does to all his deferred payments.

    Todd Boss

    5 Dec 18 at 1:48 pm

  3. I’m a bit conflicted on Corbin. I’ve been saying all offseason that someone was going to have to give him the Lester contract — all six years of it — based on just one stellar season. I really, really didn’t think the Nats would be in the heat of the bidding for him. Rizzo runs silent and runs deep.

    If they get three-plus years of something close to the 2018 Corbin, it’s worth it. He was the class of this FA pitching market. As Todd notes, since he’s not a power pitcher, and really seems to have figured something out with his slider and curve, he should age well. Also, it should be noted that he’s in an ideal situation to succeed. He’s only got the #3 salary in the Nat rotation, so there’s not the pressure of being the #1. There’s sure not the pressure of pitching in the Bronx, or of getting booed off the field if you can’t keep the ball in the Philly bandbox.

    I was the one jumping up and down with my concern that the Nats would basically just fill the holes this offseason but not do anything to make themselves demonstrably “better.” Obviously Rizzo and Co. spent a lot of time debating what move was out there to really go for “better.” This one would have been high on the list. There’s no doubt that they’re now “better,” in the rotation, the bullpen, and behind the plate. It’s definitely a good contract to be “better” now. Will we regret it by 2022? Who knows?

    And did the front office leave enough in the bank to fill the rest of the holes? We’ll see.


    5 Dec 18 at 8:46 pm

  4. Risk? Sure, risk for any pitcher of this length contract, and more than normal risk for Corbin. But he has demonstrated elite performance, and he’s young-ish. For $140m, they’d need about 15 WAR to break even on the contract. If he can give them two elite years of 5 WAR, then I think they’re home free, because he’d only need a couple of average years out of 4 to break even. You could lose a year or more to injury and still have room. Don’t get me wrong, 5 WAR Season’s are hard, but he’s already demonstrated 6.3WAR talent, and past performance is still the best predictor of future performance. So i’m Feeling optimistic. As for how all of this money fits together this year and beyond, i’m Done trying to figure it out.

    While everyone now looks for a relief pitcher, 2B or the next SP, if all they did for the rest of the offseason is lock up Rendon, i’d Call it a victory. That would give them 4 above average position players for the next 5 years (yes, I’m betting on Robles to at least be a 3 war guy), with some high end pitching. thats a pretty core for the indefinite future


    5 Dec 18 at 10:27 pm

  5. I’m very happy with these moves. A few thoughts.

    1) Rizzo proactive has always been his best. When he knows and targets the players he wants, from afar, the Nats win. I think it’s clear that the Nationals went out and hustled to get everyone they brought in this off season and beat the market. Just as how they targeted Turner. This in contrast to the bullpen deals for Soriano and trades for Papelbon and Eaton, which were reactive.

    2) The intangible benefit of Harper at the cusp of leaving is that it propelled a sense of urgency from management about upgrading the team. Adam Eaton spoke about Harper’s desire to win a World Series, and this is overlooked. The Nationals got Corbin, the Yankees — and Phillies — did not. The Nationals clearly upgraded their catching, and still have Victor Robles to play next to Harper if he comes back. I think the Nationals are also courting Harper with these moves, as a franchise that is built to last at the top of the standings, post-Scherzer, post Harper, post-Strasburg. Making this impression now, while the waters are still cool with Harper and other teams, is huge. Harper is not going to take more money to go to a lesser team. He may go to the Dodgers or to the Yankees, or to the Cubs, but when the Nats are outflanking the Phillies, I don’t see him going there unless the Phillies make a lot more splashes than Jean Segura (great trade though that was on paper).

    3) The Rendon extension has to happen and I really hope it happens soon. The fact that Rizzo, stealth as he is, laid that out as his biggest priority now, tells me he feels pretty certain that will happen. His ego does not let him get exposed like that otherwise. It really helps the team on so many levels and it helps, I think, with the return of Harper. So I am looking every day, any day, for it to happen, especially with the winter meetings coming.

    4) I really do think a Harper signing is realistic, but that it depends on how much more money (if any) than 300. Boras, as always, is trying to work over the Lerners. Rizzo has made that clear and is working around it. They are playing a game of chicken that will heat up if/when other teams decide to jump in seriously. Perhaps the Machado signing will affect how other teams react. Or perhaps other teams will just say the risk of 300m plus is not worth it. Hard not to dream on an outfield of Harper-Robles-Soto for the next 5-6 years, though, or at east until Soto or Harper shifts to 1B post-Zimm.

    5) The upgrades we have seen come at little minor league expense. If Harper comes back, Johnson is completely expendable. If Harper does not, Johnson is still likely expendable because there is a risk his value would tail off t that of a second division starter. The need to trade a person before his “sell-by” date, if the player will not be a fixture in DC, is huge.

    6) Per below, I am one of those who does NOT see the Nationals farm system as barren. If that were the case, why do Nationals prospects end up more appealing when others are bidding for Herrera? For Gomes? I’m not suggesting the inventory is teeming with hot prospects, but we have more than we appreciate, especially at the lower levels. I was happy to see Todd, finally, acknowledge something I wrote here a long time ago; that whatever the Nats bad drafts, 2016 was a fantastic draft by comparison and may herald a comparable yield as we get more development from the 2017 and 2018 classes. Bottom line, though – free agents in the winter keep you from having to deplete the farm in trades. Let team needs be resolved through ascent of talent during the season, like Soto, rather than panic deals like Melancon. And free agent pickups, especially now in an age of market flooding with non-tenders, really enables ripening of the farm.

    7) I am fascinated with how the Nats plan to sort out the rest of their rotation. They can stand pat and do nothing. They can sign Morton and keep him from the Phillies, and trade Roark in a Michael Morse type trade for a good farm system return of pitching and power prospects. They can likewise trade inventory, including possibly Roark for a controllable affordable high riser lefty starter, in a repeat of the Gio Gonzalez deal. But the starting pitching configuration is an interesting one, and it feels like Rizzo already knows what he wants to do and whom he is targeting. The Goldschmidt deal will get folks talking about Ray, but he is controllable only for two more years. So, someone we aren;t talking about yet.

    8) That said, I hoped late last year to see Kyle McGowin get his shot in the rotation. I believe in him as one of the Nationals elite prospects (notwithstanding what the trendoid writers rank). If he goes back to Fresno as a fallback in case of the unthinkable injury, along with Fedde and/or Ross, I’m perfectly OK with that, too. But I believe in him and I’d be happy to see him come up during the year and get that service clock going while he graduates to the next level. He was that guy, in the entire Nationals minor league system, who took the leap to the next level mentally and developmentally last year. Nice trade it was, for Espinosa, all in all.

    9) If the Nationals continue to sign free agents, including bench help, they will be left with major league assets that will be highly valued by other teams. Eaton, Roark, Difo, Taylor, and others. The inventory is there in ML ready players to go out and target top top prospects in a Major league inventory for top (or headed there, like Trea Turner and Joe Ross) prospect type of deal that we sometimes see.

    10) Finally, I would love to see the Nationals draft Max Schrock in Rule 5. I know he did not adapt to AAA as expected last year. But the guy will hit very well in the major leagues and have a long career. It’s a low risk move for a low cost player for a position the Nationals have open, and even if he were not to start, I can’t help but think a bat like that might be able to adapt to the bench. The risk benefit is disproportional – if he fizzles in spring training, you send him back for nothing. If that’s the case, I’m a fan still of having Daniel Murphy back, with the bat I think he can maintain while Kieboom/Garcia ripen.

    11) Even with no TV contract, the Lerners have spent like a team with a big TV contract. Washington and its fans owe them gratitude of not running the team the way other ownership groups without the resources might. We are very fortunate to have the Lerners. Other teams are not so ready to bust their cap, and this will affect bidding for Harper with some teams. The Red Sox did last year and are going to do it again, with Eovaldi coming aboard. As for the Nats, the penalty they got for Corbin is worth it.


    6 Dec 18 at 4:59 am

  6. ZiPS is pretty conservative with Corbin because he’s only been really good for one season. Nevertheless, it still projects him to produce 17 WAR across the contract:

    Throw in a couple of seasons in the 5-6 WAR range (he was 6.3 fWAR in 2018) and he’ll come in significantly above the break-even line. So the odds seem good that he’ll be “worth it,” even if he’s running on fumes toward the end. I suspect his “running on fumes” will still be about as good as Gio was in 2018.


    6 Dec 18 at 10:54 am

  7. What’s next? First of all, I’d stay that the door is now 85-90% closed on Bryce, to the point that it’s not even really worth discussing. I’ll say the door is still open by a small crack only because I don’t think the market for Harper is nearly as robust as the talking heads predicted it would be. I’m not a Bryce hater and would be pleasantly surprised if he comes back, but I’m not expecting it or counting on it.

    Moving on . . . we still don’t know the details of Corbin’s contract and deferrals so don’t know how much he’ll count toward the tax line in 2019. All things considered, though, it seems likely that the Nats only have $10-15M left to spend at most (which still leaves me scratching my head over why they tendered Roark). Rosenthal has incentives that could total up to $7M, and Max also has incentives, so the word has been that they want to be at least $10 under the line . . . if they decide to stay under the line.

    I agree with everyone who keeps saying the Nats need a 2B. I don’t trust Difo as a starter for any extended period, and Kendrick’s health by the start of the season isn’t guaranteed. Rizzo keeps saying he isn’t looking at 2Bs, though, and the scuttlebutt is that the Nats have no interest in a reunion with Murphy. I’m scratching my head over this as well, as Murph may be the best bang-for-the-buck bat on the market, and he could be Zim’s platoon partner as well as cover 2B. If we take Rizzo at his word, though, they may ignore 2B and just go for another 1B LH bat like Matt Adams.

    What else? I’d love to have another starter, but they’ve got so much money tied up in Roark that it may not be practical. Could Buchholz be had for $5M? I really think they’re out of the market for Morton and others if they’re truly staying under the tax line.

    Within the spending limits, I think they’ll spent $4-5M on a LH bat (Adams or Bour) and whatever is left on a pitcher or two. Here’s a question: would you rather have a higher-end LH reliever like Sipp (who has made $6M the last three seasons and presumably will cost at least that amount), or another starter like Buchholz, Hellickson, or Derek Holland?


    6 Dec 18 at 11:16 am

  8. I agree that without getting out from under Roark’s tender (if that’s even possible), they don’t appear to have room for Morton or someone similar and stay under the tax. And I agree with the assumption being made that they will stay under the tax unless they bust it for Bryce. After Rendon, I’d say quality RP is next n my priority list, followed by 2b/bench depth. I could be ok with Dietrich for that one @ $3m or so.

    As for Bryce, I dunno, I’m not dismissing a return. Seems like a lerner thing to do. I still like him as a player better than Eaton, and since it is not my money, why not. But I’ve gotten used to the idea that he is gone.

    I agree with Fore’s comment that the Lerners cannot be criticized too much for spending. You may not like how they’ve spent, but they have authorized big numbers.


    6 Dec 18 at 1:12 pm

  9. Dietrich could (sorta) play 2B. Part of the reason I’ve never gotten on the Dietrich bandwagon, though, is that he’s an awful pinch hitter — career .217 BA in that role. Just checking some of the other candidates for LH bat role (career BAs as PH): Bour (.247), Adams (.283), . . . and Lind (.324 — wow). (And yes, I know Lind didn’t even make it back to the majors in 2018, and that we all have visions of aging pinch hitters whose careers died in the Nats’ dugout, but if they want a cheap LH bat option . . .)


    6 Dec 18 at 1:52 pm

  10. Bour is dour. Lind is kind.

    Heisey came off the scrap heap for Dusty’s bunch. Lind would take it and run with it.


    6 Dec 18 at 2:17 pm

  11. Not sure this precludes Harper. Suppose he comes back at $30M. I know that’s a reach, but let’s just say.
    If the nats have $20M of cap space, they trade Eaton away ant get $8.5 of that back. If they defer about $5M of Harper’s money, they have a couple bucks left over for a little help in July, and Zimm and Kendrick come off the books and they have a couple younger guys playing 2B for cheap in Keiboom, Difo, and Garcia.

    It’s a stretch, and I think it’s unlikely, but if Harper doesn’t get the mega-deal he thought he would, maybe that happens.

    kevin r

    6 Dec 18 at 3:45 pm

  12. Given where payroll is, let’s assume 2B/1B has to be done on the cheap. I’d say that’s either Dietrich or Neil Walker @$2-3m. Neither is a great solution and Walker is coming off a poor year, but it was his first one in 5/6 years and he’s still just 33, so while i’d Prefer Dietrich, I’d find either an acceptable solution.

    Then if they can get a good lefty for the pen, they have room to extend Rendon and still have a buffer against the lux tax. And then they are kind of done and can sit back and see if something drops into their laps unexpectedly, either Harper or another pitcher.


    7 Dec 18 at 6:59 am

  13. Whether one wants Harper back or not, I think at this point the likelihood is impacted by where Machado signs. I can’t see Yankees signing both Machado and Harper. Harper not going to Phil or Chisox.

    Dodgers or Nationals (if Machado does not sign with Yanks). Otherwise, Dodgers=Yankees, more likely than Nationals, unless Lerners add years/deferments.

    He does apparently like Martinez and Rizzo and Lerners and team. Dodgers been to the WS and close to LV. Tough call.


    7 Dec 18 at 1:40 pm

  14. Boy, Lerner playing hardball. Good on him. ’bout time.


    7 Dec 18 at 2:22 pm

  15. Ghost has a piece posted on Nats Talk outlining convolutions by which the Nats might have a chance to bring Harper back and still stay under the tax line. I don’t see how that would work, not without weakening other areas of the team. If they want him back, it will be a screw-the-tax decision, probably for multiple years to come.

    But I’m done talking about Harper unless and until there’s actual news about it becoming a “thing.” Like most Boras situations, it’s probably going to take a long time to play out. I’m just glad the Nats went on an aggressively did what they needed to do and didn’t wait on a Bryce decision.

    Are they mostly done? In past offseasons, I would think that they would pick up an LH bench bat and perhaps a bullpen arm and call themselves done. But as aggressive as they’ve been this winter, I suspect there still may be another significant move or two. Two stay under the tax line, though, another big move likely would require doing something with Roark. Still scratching my head over the tender, unless they’ve already got a tentative agreement in place to save $2-3M.


    7 Dec 18 at 2:26 pm

  16. I think fore was talking about Mark Lerner saying today that their offer was IT. No going over.

    If that indeed is fact, it is very good news. And it also means the Lerners have removed the nose ring that Boras installed to yank on every time it helped him.
    Let’s be honest, Harper’s a 1st baseman at this point.

    Mark L

    7 Dec 18 at 3:50 pm

  17. When the Nats made their offer to Harper, it seemed that they had carefully calculated by making it look high enough that most fans wouldn’t blame them when he turned down but not high enough that he would actually take it.

    Personally, I hope he takes a huge bath the way Desmond did. Both those two helped kill the 2015 & 2018 seasons by failing to perform in their walk years–and this past season was so ugly and disappointing that it turned me from a Harper fan to someone who will boo every time he comes to bat in Nats stadium from now on.

    Karl Kolchak

    7 Dec 18 at 6:24 pm

  18. The offer of 10/300 was completely legit. Based on what he’s done the last couple of seasons, it may have been a little high. He may get a couple of extra years elsewhere, but the AAV isn’t going to be that much higher than $30M. It might make it to $33M or so, but there are tax differences in different locales that could mitigate much of the difference.

    This is the only franchise he has known, with ownership and management that has done nothing but look out for him, and a fan base that has remained supportive (for the most part) through thick and thin. Dream on if you think you’ll have that in the Bronx or Philly.

    If the Dodgers and Yanks don’t bid on him, he may not end up with a lot of options. The Cubs don’t seem to be interested. Philly supposedly is more interested in Manny than Bryce. STL was said to be interested but just made a move for a much cheaper and shorter-term big bat. SF desperately needs OF but probably isn’t going to be good. Neither are the Chisox. (And ask Trout about how invisible you become playing on the second-fiddle team in a two-team market.)

    He’s not going to end up screwing himself as badly as Desi did. He’s going to get $30M+ somewhere. But there’s no guarantee it’s going to be in a high-profile locale or with a perennial contender.


    7 Dec 18 at 8:46 pm

  19. Moving on . . .

    I still want Murphy. I really do. He gives them protection at 2B and someone truly as good or better than Zim at 1B. I’m really worried that Kendrick isn’t going to be ready and that Difo plays through April as they cross their fingers that Kieboom is ready by May. (People seem to forget that Kieboom didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his half season at AA. Yes, he was young for that level, and yes, he was better in AZ, but it’s still risky to count on this guy for he MLB lineup for at least half of 2019.)

    Can they afford Murph? Well, the only remaining true must-have is a LH bench bat who can play 1B. He checks the box. Another bullpen arm (preferably LH) would be nice to have. Another starter would be nice to have. But they’ve already got more bullpen arms than they’re going to be able to keep, and they’ve got a pretty decent 5th starter set between Fedde and Ross.

    (Incidentally, I’ve never been much of a Fedde fan, but his 3.83 xFIP in the majors last season seems to indicate that he’s better than his 5.54 ERA would indicate. His 8.23 K/9 was decent as well. I think we’re assuming the starter slot would be Ross’s to lose, but it may not be.)


    7 Dec 18 at 8:56 pm

  20. Agree with you on Murph & Kieboom. Murphy would not only nicely give coverage at 1B and 2B, he just feels like he completes the lineup and covers for losing Bryce, and also provides offensive protection for a prolonged Rendon absence, which can never be totally dismissed. And Kieboom shouldn’t be rushed into the lineup for a contender, let him get more seasoning.

    I would also like to see another vet, cheap OF, like Jay. Eaton and Robles carry some injury risk, and MAT can’t be trusted for long stretches.

    So if they needed to avoid any more pitching upgrades for these two spots, i’d Be ok with it.


    8 Dec 18 at 9:31 am

  21. Dodgers are the best fit for Harper. They are a Hollywood/celebrity town that would suit Harp just fine, as would the fan base. And they can easily afford him. They have the largest stadium and only reached about 85% capacity last year–well below the Yanks, Boston and Cubs. With an average ticket price of about $41, and hitting 90% plus capacity is within reach with Harper aboard, making him a real bargain.

    old guy

    8 Dec 18 at 3:15 pm

  22. I’ve thought for years that the Dodgers were Harper’s most likely/logical destination. However, Friedman hasn’t done much signing of free agents beyond retaining his own. In fact, the Dodgers haven’t made a single big-money signing since he’s been there. And his #2, Zaidi, is now running the Giants. Is he taking the same philosophy with him to the Bay?


    8 Dec 18 at 10:30 pm

  23. Robles + Fedde for either Kluber or Bauer? That’s a lot of years of control to surrender, but goodness, what a rotation that would be, at least for a couple of years.

    My guess, though, is the reason the Nats went out and bought Corbin instead of trading for a top starter is that they preferred to hold onto the prospects.


    8 Dec 18 at 10:36 pm

  24. Hard pass for me. Robles wouldn’t go anywhere except for a young cheap very good pitcher


    8 Dec 18 at 11:48 pm

  25. I watched the Business of Baseball on mlb. It was pretty good and worth a watch if they rerun it. Round table with Rizzo, Hahn, anthopolous and Moore. They all had pretty intelligent things to say, although Rizzo and Hahn looked like the old-school guys and anthopolous especially look like the new school GMs.


    9 Dec 18 at 8:32 pm

  26. Just looking at the latest on MLBTR. Not surprising to see that the Nats have talked with LeMahieu. That seems a concession that they haven’t ruled out looking at someone for 2B. I would still much prefer Murphy. I don’t think Lowrie will leave the West Coast. Harrison looks like toast to me.

    My question with LeMahieu is price. I’ve seen him listed in the $9-11M range, and he’s just not worth that to the Nats, not anywhere close, even if he’d vacate his ill-gotten 2016 batting title as part of the deal. He plays Gold Glove defense (3 GGs), but he only has one season with an OPS+ over 100, and he’s been awful in his few attempts at pinch hitting (.192 BA). So he’s a no for me unless he comes at about half the expected price. Cabrerra would be a much better hitter in that price range . . . but then so would Murph.

    Nats also said to be feeling out Ottavino and Robertson, both priced over $10M. Um, yeah, they’d be nice to have, but also somewhat redundant with Rosenthal and Barraclough. I don’t see how either would fit into the budget if they’re staying under the tax line. And if they’re going to spend that kind of scratch on another pitcher, it would make a lot more sense if it’s for a starter.


    9 Dec 18 at 9:34 pm

  27. I think Barraclough is a middle reliever, and Ottavino would be a clear upgrade and make their pen very strong. if he’d accept a two year deal, I’d go to $10m per and sign some cheap 2B like Dietrich or Walker for $3m.

    Need to see some transactions happen. Its a snooze fest out here. And I’m not talking a J.A. Happ signing. Let’s see a Kluber trade, Machado signing, something big


    10 Dec 18 at 11:11 am

  28. KW, honest question here: you’ve mentioned players’ pinch hitting stats many times in trying to figure out whether the Nats should sign them. Why? My prior is that a player’s overall batting line (with more weight being given to more recent performance) is far more informative than PH stats. Do we have any reason to believe PH hitting stats are predictive? I’m willing to believe that some players handle PH duties better than others, but I’m really skeptical that past PH performance tells us much unless the sample is very very large. For the most part, I would think PH stats would be very misleading.

    If I could choose between two players, one with a WRC+ of 105 overall and a WRC+ of 100 when PHing, and the other with a 100 WRC+ of 100 overall and 105+ when PHing, I’m taking the one with the better overall WRC+ virtually every time. I’d be reluctant even to make PH performance a tiebreaker because the data are so noisy and there are probably other better ways to break a tie between players that look even.


    10 Dec 18 at 12:13 pm

  29. To me, the most important stat for a prospective bench player/pinch hitter is OBP over the last couple of seasons. I want a guy who gets on base. Power is nice, not at the expense of getting on base. BA as a PH is just a data point, usually based on a very small sample size, but I do think it’s instructive if someone is someone is usually worse as a pinch hitter, or unusually better. Dietrich’s BA as PH is somewhat worse than his BA and OBP would predict, while Adams’s is somewhat better. LeMahieu’s OBP has fallen almost 100 points in the last two seasons, so something’s going on there. (Nat fans would say “Karma.”)

    Of course compared to Taylor’s stats off the bench, all of these guys look like superstars. At some point, being an elite defender gets you only so far.


    10 Dec 18 at 1:41 pm

  30. So if Tyson Ross gets a 1/$6m deal, maybe Roark is fairly priced at 1/$10m after all.

    A decent 2b should be dirt cheap. I’d find the one I want and throw $3m at them and give them 24 hours. Then move to the next one. And so on ….


    10 Dec 18 at 5:49 pm

  31. The sample size in PH is just too small to mean anything. I agree with Derek that I’d emphasize the season stats. I don’t mind OBP either just not the PH samples. Feel similarly when someone says ‘but Zim is hitting .400 against this guy (2/5)’. Just too small to predict anything


    10 Dec 18 at 5:51 pm

  32. I guess I just don’t see why you would even want to consider MAT’s performance off the bench. He’s a bad hitter, so he’s going to be a bad pinch hitter. Really good hitting stats in a few dozen PH plate appearances wouldn’t change that he’s a bad hitter. Unusually terrible stats in the same context shouldn’t make you think he’s particularly well suited to pinch hitting either.


    10 Dec 18 at 6:07 pm

  33. Nats said to be shopping Roark, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Can’t think that they’d get much in return for what is effectively a salary dump.

    Such a move certainly would give them more flexibility under the tax line, though. The absolute most they’ve got available under the line right now is around $15M (counting Rosenthal’s incentives), although they probably don’t want to spend more than $10-12M of that. Dealing Roark would give them more like $20-22M to play with, although they’d have to include a starting pitcher in that mix. Would they go big again for someone like Morton or Happ, or fill with someone like Cahill/D. Holland/Miley/Buchholz and save money for another bench bat or two?


    11 Dec 18 at 10:54 am

  34. Just read the Roark rumors. So, explain this to me. Yes Roark is set to make $9.8M per MLBtraderumors. But if you move Roark … who replaces him? Does the team think they can do better with a one year signing than Roark for less money?

    Right now i’ve got the nats at $18M under the luxury tax. They still need/want a 2B, loogy and a lefty-hitting bench bat. I don’t think you can do much else for $15M and retain a bit of wiggle room for trade deadline deals.

    If you move Roark you add $10M to that figure, fine. But you’re turning right around and spending it on a starter. why’s the point. As WAlly noted if Tyson Ross gets $6M … i mean come on. Ross pitched mostly in San Diego and west coast NL parks, which are all basically pitcher heaven … and had a 4.50 ERA. His ERA+ was in the 80s. Roarks was significantly better than that.

    I mean, are you trying to win or are you trying to shuffle the deck chairs?

    Todd Boss

    11 Dec 18 at 12:38 pm

  35. Todd, agree 100%

    Mark L

    11 Dec 18 at 2:56 pm

  36. My understanding is that the Nats want/need to stay $8-10M under the tax line, mainly because of incentives for Rosey and I think Max. So they’re down to around $10-12M now that they’ll actually spend.

    I wouldn’t be thrilled if they trade Roark just to sign another iffy starter, particularly one who is a threat to break down. However, if they trade Roark to be able to upgrade to someone like Morton or Happ, or to have the money to bring back Murphy, then it would make sense, at least to me.


    11 Dec 18 at 3:08 pm

  37. 3/$50m for Cutch (to PHI). Sheesh, not a fan of that one. Hard pass for me.

    Corbin’s deal looking better


    11 Dec 18 at 3:35 pm

  38. Well, the Phils’ owner said he was ready to spend stupidly . . .


    11 Dec 18 at 3:57 pm

  39. Also, Cutch is a curious signing if the Phillies really are still in the market for another RF we used to know. If they’re not, and after having Cashman and Mark Lerner rather publicly close some doors on the Harper idea over the last few days, ol’ Scott may be starting to sweat a little in the Vegas sunshine.

    Nats not listed among the many teams who have been engaged with Happ. I’m fine with that. If they’re trying to come up with cash to shop at that level, I think Morton is better than Happ. In fact, when I messed around with FA starter stats a few weeks ago, Morton came out #2, behind only Corbin.

    Speaking of starters, rumors have been curiously quiet about Morton and Keuchel. Corbin and Eovaldi have already signed, and it sounds like Happ may be about to land somewhere.


    11 Dec 18 at 9:34 pm

  40. Morton is just waiting for the Nats to clear room to sign him 🙂

    What a yawner of winter meetings.

    If they won’t sign Murph, I’d just wait out the 2B market and pick one up super cheap. Not a lot to distinguish between dozier, Harrison, walker, forsythe, kinsler, Dietrich. I definitely wouldn’t pay up for Lemahieu.


    12 Dec 18 at 7:24 am

  41. Morton to Rays? Didn’t see that one coming.


    12 Dec 18 at 4:20 pm

  42. Roark to CIN. Seems like the reliever is their typical HRod type coming back, so I assume he’ll wash out.

    My guess is rizzo is cooking a trade. Can’t see a FA type that he wants that is a better value than Roark. I’m gonna go with my early speculation on Jon Gray. Maybe for Garcia +


    12 Dec 18 at 8:00 pm

  43. Something is definitely cooking. The aggressive offseason continues. I like it, though. This was no time to stand still and hope that some guys do better next year.

    Sorry to hear that Roark seems to be leaving PO’d. The Nats did him a huge favor with the tender. He’d probably make $3-4M less on the open market.


    12 Dec 18 at 8:53 pm

  44. And please, if they really have LeMahieu-level money to spend on a 2B . . . spend it on a real hitter like Murphy.


    12 Dec 18 at 8:54 pm

  45. Wow, stuff happening everywhere. Looks like Morton and Happ about to be off the market. Huge (dumb) deal for Lance Lynn. Among the hitters, Bour to the Angels, so cross the local guy off the list.

    Really, if the Nats couldn’t have Morton or Happ, I’m glad they’re staying in the AL. The AL East is turning into a ridiculous arms race.

    Obviously the Nats will be adding at least one other starter. Ghost is saying it may be two. Also saying they’re looking at a “long man.” I don’t see much need for that . . . unless they still consider Miller a “long man.”


    12 Dec 18 at 9:04 pm

  46. Even with the trade, I don’t think the Nats have Keuchel money left under the tax line. For what little it’s worth, when I messed with stats a few weeks ago, here’s how I ended up with the remaining starters ranked: Keuchel, Cahill, Buchholz, Sanchez, Anderson, Miley, D. Holland, Harvey, Hellickson, Gio.


    12 Dec 18 at 9:09 pm

  47. I’ve heard Sanchez in a rumor. I hope not, i’m Not a fan even though he had a good year last year.

    I still think Rizzo trades for a guy with a few years of control, then signs an NRI or two late. I could live with that.

    I agree, still not a ton of money left, but a little more. Could get a decent reliever


    12 Dec 18 at 9:25 pm

  48. I agree on Sanchez. I thought he was incredibly lucky last season. (Indeed, his BABIP against was 99 points lower than in 2017.) I would not have him ranked as highly as he showed up in my list above, which was just following what a certain combination of stats said.

    I do wonder whether there’s about to be a run on this second tier of starters. The first tier is gone except for Keuchel, and a lot of teams still need starting pitching. The bad news is that the Lynn deal sets a fairly high price for a fairly mediocre guy.


    13 Dec 18 at 5:37 am

  49. Ghost has the Nats now with $31M below the tax line, and I think his accounting is pretty similar to Todd’s. He says they’re only going to spend $24M at most, as Rosenthal has incentives that could add as much as $7M to his deal. I had heard that they want to stay at least $10M under the tax line, so we can say the number is $21-24M left to spend.

    What would I do? Here’s my hand: Daniel Murphy, Andrew Miller, Clay Buchholz, and, if there’s any left over, Jon Jay.


    13 Dec 18 at 10:01 am

  50. new posted on the move. I have Nats $28M under the tax line.

    Todd Boss

    13 Dec 18 at 4:27 pm

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