Nationals Arm Race

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

Fedde and Read have a 4th option!


Big news for Fedde and 2020. Photo via

Big news for Fedde and 2020. Photo via

A quick break from the Josh Donaldson discussions…

Caught this little nugget in Mark Zuckerman‘s monday Q&A today: turns out that both Erick Fedde and Raudy Read both got awarded 4th options!

Quoting Zuckerman:  “…. Fedde, who it turns out has a rare fourth option year because he used up his standard three options before completing his fifth professional season. (I only realized that last week when a club official corrected me after I wrote all three pitchers were out of options. All the online sites that track these things had that wrong. Raudy Read also falls into the same category, FWIW.)”

Well, this is pretty darn important.  If Fedde in particular can be optioned, then the Nats conondrum of options-less arms Fedde, Joe Ross and Austin Voth now has a simple answer.  One of Ross or Voth is the 5th starter, the other is the 26th man on the roster, and Fedde is in AAA.  Voila!

Plus now we have a simple answer for Read.  He and Fedde can be the opening day battery in Fresno.

Now basically the team has just one real options issue player: Adrian Sanchez  Or perhaps Wilmer Difo; one of these two seems set to be the backup infielder, the other seems set to get DFA’d at the end of spring training.

I’ve updated the Big Board to this extent (oh yeah, by the way, I’m helping Luke Erickson now maintain the big board and draft tracker xls…)

Big Board:

Draft Tracker:


Written by Todd Boss

December 16th, 2019 at 9:47 pm

35 Responses to 'Fedde and Read have a 4th option!'

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  1. First of all, thank you Todd for helping with Luke’s site. Always my first read every day are the both of yours.

    Agreed that these 4th options are major news. Fedde was still far behind Voth (your guy) and Ross and this this gives him another year to figure it out. The light bulb goes on much later than some with pitchers.

    Raudy has the hit tool but I haven’t read anything that says he can catch well enough for the show.

    Adrian is a far better defensive player than Wilmer.

    Mark L

    17 Dec 19 at 11:03 am

  2. I broke this down, because I needed to figure out what the heck is going on. So it goes like this:

    A player has three option years, unless all three are used up before the player has five full professional seasons under this belt. A full professional season is 90 days or more, which can include time on the IL as long as for at least 30 of those days, he’s active. Active days only count during the season. True to their name, short-season leagues don’t play a full season for this purpose, since they run for fewer than 90 days.

    Fedde was drafted in 2014. But around the time he was drafted, he underwent Tommy John surgery, so he didn’t start his 2015 season until midway through. In 2015, he started with Auburn, one of the Nats’ three short-season teams. His first full professional season was 2016, followed by full seasons in 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2019, his third option was used up. But because he has only logged four full professional seasons, he gets a fourth option year.

    Read was signed in 2011, but he played in short-season leagues exclusively until 2015, which was his first full professional season. He hasn’t missed any years due to injury, so it would seem he has five full professional seasons. BUT — he was suspended in February 2018 for 80 games due to a positive test for steroids. By the time he was able to return to action, there were fewer than 90 days remaining in the season, and for the time he was suspended, he wasn’t considered active. So he just finished his fourth full professional season, because 2018 doesn’t count.


    17 Dec 19 at 2:16 pm

  3. Thanks Sao! The net effect is very good for the Nats depth going forward.

    Mark L

    17 Dec 19 at 6:10 pm

  4. So Read gets an extra option . . . because of a PED suspension. Hmm, maybe the system needs a little recalibration?

    Really, I don’t know that a fourth option year should be a “thing,” except perhaps in the case of extended injury issues (Solis). As I noted with Rule 5, I don’t have a problem with the three-option rule “working” to free players to pursue opportunities elsewhere. If a team has had you on their 40-man going into a fourth year and still doesn’t think you’re good enough to keep, then you need to find a new organization (or a new line of work).

    One thing I would suggest, for the new CBA, is that when a player who is out of options signs with a new organization that he be given a fourth option. (Just for the first time he signs; not every year he signs with a new org.) AAA is filled with guys who are out of options but who teams won’t call up because they’d have to DFA them to send them down. That’s what happened with the Nats and Matt Reynolds, who might be a better hitter than Difo or Sanchez. The Nats did call up Reynolds one time in 2018 but had to DFA him.

    (Side note: how much does the PCL affect stats? Well, at Syracuse in 2018, Reynolds had an OPS of .779. At Fresno in 2019, it as .923. Homers jumped from 4 to 16! In fact, Reynolds had never hit double digits in HRs in seven previous years of pro ball.)


    17 Dec 19 at 7:42 pm

  5. I’m no fan of Difo or Sanchez and really, really hope the defending World Champs can come up with better utility players. Considering the glut of middle infielders on the market, they should. Really, the only reason one or the other of those guys has been kept around is that they didn’t have anyone supposedly SS-capable (even though Dozier came up as a SS). If the Nats bring back Cabrera, that problem is solved.

    I’m so ready for the Braves to overpay for Donaldson so we can move on . . . and also have money left for quality players to fill out the roster. (But I would be happier if he went AL, which would make a lot more sense because he could grow old as a DH.)


    17 Dec 19 at 7:48 pm

  6. I have no confidence in Read as MLB-capable, but if he saves them $$$ on another catcher retread, all the better. Barrera is also on the 40-man and may already be ahead of Read in the pecking order. One of them will be at Harrisburg, for easier access. One between Fedde and McGowin will also be at Harrisburg.

    I admit it, I’ve never been fond of Fedde. He’s probably a fine person and all of that; he’s just always been overrated and overhyped since the day we over-drafted him. I really wish they would trade him and just move on. He seemingly would have more trade value with an option attached. I would think that Voth and Ross are ahead of him in the MLB order, and frankly, I’m not even sure Fedde is better than McGowin. (McGowin was about the only Nat starter who wasn’t crushed at Fresno, with a 3.86 ERA and 7-2 record in 11 starts.)

    Hard to see Fedde as a bullpen option after his anemic 4.73 K/9 in 78 MLB innings last year, combined with a BB/9 of 3.81. Yes, he’s had much better K numbers at other times, but he appeared in 21 MLB games last season, so that’s a disturbing sample size.

    Maybe he’ll be included in the Bryant trade. Or is that the Seager trade?


    17 Dec 19 at 8:01 pm

  7. If we’re able to get anything of value for Fedde in a trade, we should jump on that. I just don’t think he has what it takes to make it in this league.


    18 Dec 19 at 1:57 am

  8. […] Mr. Boss – who now maintains the Big Board and the Draft Tracker (direct your kudos and complaints accordingly – passes along news that Raudy Read and Erick Fedde have become trade bait been saddled with a fourth option year. […]

  9. Copying some interesting content from Kiley McDaniel’s chat at fangraphs:

    Jim: Thanks for the prospect lists, they’re the best out there. Looking at the light Kluber trade and the Dodgers reluctance to deal Lux straight up for Lindor, would you agree that we’ve reached peak prospect porn? If most FOs overvalue prospect potential, is buying vets the new market inefficiency?

    Avatar Kiley McDaniel: and WSH does it old school, trades all non-star prospects, signs FAs every year, tries to win every year and wins the World Series. Seems to be some clear value in zagging in this area. Basically, it seems like the abstract math in this area (Kluber has two years at a high-variance NPV while Clase has six, so even a low WAR projection makes it easy to balance the math) has now become the market-wide calculation

    Avatar Kiley McDaniel: now you can only do what WSH is doing (or SFG used to do) with a big payroll and some core stars locked up and obviously is can end badly if you get a little overextended as SFG/KCR have shown. So it’s not like the Nats’ title invalidates the TBR/MIL more progressive model, but OAK is doing a hybrid between the two

    Avatar Kiley McDaniel: This is something we get into in the book, but finding a unique spot on the matrix of styles is usually the best option, rather than having some super strong idealogical approach.

    The NFL has shown us that a new guy with a good idea that hasn’t shown the second idea yet (Chip Kelly, Sean McVay) will always lose out to the guys with a creative approach to solving any problem over a long period (Andy Reid, John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick). The first group has the sexy, young, new, progressive label and the second group has the slightly more muddled they-seem-to-figure-it-out-shrug label and I’ll take the second one every time.

    I think this applies to running baseball teams as well and I think there’s a whole lot of “let’s be progressive because smart people that are succeeding appear to be doing that” in baseball that I think will regress a bit when it fails. And with a number of GMs on the hot seat right now that broadly fit that description, that could be in the next 12 months.


    18 Dec 19 at 2:16 pm

  10. VERY interesting. And yes, a good characterization of the Nat model, other than trading Giolito . . . who seemed to be a tainted prospect by the time they traded him.


    18 Dec 19 at 2:49 pm

  11. Does the Sogard signing set the price for Cabrera?


    18 Dec 19 at 2:52 pm

  12. I think those Fangraph comments were very astute. Being the first to develop a successful strategy against the grain often yields big gains, then quickly yields diminishing returns.


    18 Dec 19 at 2:56 pm

  13. Fernando Abad is back! OK, things are getting really slow. He’s actually fine to have on a minor-league contract, and he pitched the majority of his time in the minors last season. I do wonder, though, whether the LOOGY is an endangered species with the new three-out rule, or whatever it is.


    18 Dec 19 at 7:18 pm

  14. I’m still thinking about what McDaniel said about the Nats’ “strategy.” Really, in a lot of cases, the Nats haven’t had too many choices other than to roll this way. They’ve never really been five or six deep (or more) with highly regarded prospects, so in most cases they’ve closely guarded their top couple and dealt from everyone else. For the last few years, it was basically just Robles and Soto, with Kieboom slowly rising.

    Along the way, I do think Rizzo has become overly infatuated with a few guys and held onto them beyond when they have much value. Fedde is a prime example. He and the staff were wrong about him emerging as a mid-rotation piece (or better). I’ve always thought they made the Eaton trade with the thought that Fedde would turn out to be better than Giolito or Lopez. Several others held beyond much/any value include Goodwin, Cole, and Taylor Jordan (kept over Robbie Ray.).

    There’s always that risk when you hold ’em. We’re still not completely sure that Robles is going to truly be star level, and we know even less about Kieboom. But those are the guys for whom he’s turned down some big deals recently to keep. (I think the organization knew for a long time it had a stud in Soto and that any mentions of him in possible trades were coming from the outside, not within.)

    Of course the Nats haven’t had a top-10 pick since 2011, when they got Rendon. They’ve gambled several times on wounded guys trying to game the system and get higher-value prospects by risking (Giolito, Purke, maybe Denaburg) or waiting out (Fedde, Luzardo) injury, not to mention the head case who also had an injury history (Romero). The only real value they’ve gotten out of all those wounded wings has come when they’ve traded them.


    18 Dec 19 at 7:45 pm

  15. Interesting take on the Nat’s approach. Hard to argue. You look at the fruit of the farm system as of late and its a lot of stars and scrubs (aka trade bait).

    Todd Boss

    18 Dec 19 at 11:17 pm

  16. The Nats honestly have never struck me as very good with evaluating pitching prospects. Strasburg was a slam dunk, obviously, and Giolito and Rutledge were top-10 talents who fell to the Nats on the draft board for one reason or another. Still, in hindsight, we probably gave up on Giolito too soon and were too protective of Fedde (and Ross too). It’s interesting to think what might have been if the White Sox got Fedde instead of Giolito in that deal. Of course, no guarantee the Nats have the patience or ability to develop Giolito as the Sox did. Also unclear yet whether Giolito can sustain his 2019 brilliance, or whether the “real” Giolito is a standard deviation or two closer to the 2018 version.

    Who knows what happens if Taylor Jordan stays healthy; he had a pretty nice rookie year, although he never racked up a lot of strikeouts. But ultimately, he turned out to be a bad bet. So did A.J. Cole. By contrast, giving up Jesus Luzardo isn’t looking so smart now…although Doolittle helped the Nats win a World Series, so one can’t slag that decision overmuch. But again, interesting to ponder whether that trade could have been sealed with someone like Fedde, who was a high-ranked prospect in our system at the time, instead.


    19 Dec 19 at 2:36 am

  17. I’m not going to criticize Rizzo & Co. for clinging to Ross, for one simple reason: in 2015-16, Ross did something that none of the others did — he flourished at the MLB level and looked like a very capable mid-rotation starter. Then he got hurt in mid-’16. They rushed him back in Sept. to have him for the playoffs, but apparently there was an lingering issue. It was still there in the spring of ’17, to the point that they messed around with him and sent him to the minors to start the season. Apparently all wasn’t right, though, as he was not nearly as good in ’17 as he had been in ’15-’16, then he had the major injury. For whatever reasons, he’s never been the same since. (Did the old-school ways of Dusty and Maddux in ’16-’17 contribute to Ross’s lingering issues? Hard to say. But they couldn’t have helped.)

    There’s no doubt that Ross and Fedde are in the same boat now. And Ross’s MLB success was so long ago that it doesn’t really count in the equation. But at least he had a period of established MLB success, unlike Fedde. Of course Ross’s brother has floundered similarly, after a spectacular start to his career, and then a similar injury to the one Joe suffered, if I’m remembering correctly.

    Just think if you had told someone in 2015 that by 2020, Matt Harvey and Tyson Ross would likely be looking at signing minor-league deals, if they get any offers at all.


    19 Dec 19 at 9:24 am

  18. Agree with KW here on Ross; as a 23yr old he made 19 starts and had a 125 ERA+ as a 5th starter. He made an argument to perhaps be the best 5th starter in the league. Can’t predict injury … but you also kind of assume these days that a TJ surgery returns a guy to his former self. 80% success rate these days? Can’t remember wh ere I saw that stat, but they stood a good chance.

    Clearly, Ross cannot pitch out of the pen. clearly he needs his routine and warm up time. Is that the end of the world? Take away his relief splits from last year and guess what? 3.02 era and a serviceable 5th starter

    Todd Boss

    19 Dec 19 at 10:07 am

  19. Now Fangraphs has posted about the Nats’ prospects:


    19 Dec 19 at 10:10 am

  20. Todd: to carry things a step further, Fedde was much better as a reliever than a starter in ’19 (except in ERA, but in nearly every other stat). However, I would argue that he has more value to the Nats in trade as a starter than he does keeping him in-house as a reliever.

    Saw this trade idea floated this morning: Crowe and Banks for Giles. I’d do that in a heartbeat, and might even include another minor-league arm.


    19 Dec 19 at 10:49 am

  21. LOTS of interesting stuff in the FanGraphs prospect post.


    19 Dec 19 at 10:49 am

  22. One thing missing from the ‘Giolito v Fedde v Ross’ discussions is not so much which one the Nats thought was better, but which one it took to get the deal done. Did the nats really choose to trade Giolito over Fedde in the Eaton deal, or is that what CWS insisted on? The Ray v Jordan decision is the only one that clearly seemed like it was in the Nats court.

    OT: ’tis the season, right? So what about forgetting about Donaldson (or Seager, Bryant or other big time 3Bs). Trade for JD Martinez to play 1b, and find a lesser fill-in 3b type. Martinez is younger and cheaper (per AAV) than Donaldson, and every bit as good a hitter. Worse fielder, but should be ok at 1B.


    19 Dec 19 at 11:39 am

  23. Wally — the Nats may have offered Fedde instead of Giolito, but we’ll probably never know. Giolito was a much more highly rated prospect at the time, despite his poor early MLB outings, and it probably took including him to get the deal done. It’s possible Dusty and Maddux had soured on Giolito by that time as well, and he certainly didn’t look ready for The Show.

    I would take J.D. Martinez in a heartbeat and figure out later where to play him. I do think some (many?) have focused too specifically on someone who can play 3B. If you look for other ways to just add a significant bat, it opens up more possibilities.

    I do think the Bosox might move JDM just to dump salary and not require much in return. I can’t see the Cubs moving Bryant without a lot in the way of high profile going the other way, though. They’ve made him out to be too much of the poster boy for the franchise not to get folks of immediate impact in return. Frankly, the Cubs could really use Fedde and Taylor, but that wouldn’t be a sexy enough deal.


    19 Dec 19 at 2:18 pm

  24. Are the Nats really getting close on Donaldson? Or just getting close to driving the Braves to pay him more money for more years?

    Something about the whole Donaldson thing just rubs me the wrong way. He’s far and away the best free agent hitter still on the board, and he also plays a position the Nats need to fill. But I’m really uneasy about four years for someone his age (particularly on a team already somewhat long in the tooth), about his demeanor and potential impact on the clubhouse, and — last but far from least — having only $13-15M left under the tax line to fill maybe five more slots on the roster. In short, going after Donaldson strikes me as a jilted lover blindly chasing someone while one the rebound, not really considering the potential consequences.

    On the flipside, as I’ve said, at least the Nats have some good intel on Donaldson, with Doolittle and Hale having been with him for several years in OAK and Gomes sharing the clubhouse with him for one season in CLE.

    In other news, did Rendon spit out his beer when he found out that Artie’s idea of improving the pitching staff is signing Teheran? (FWIW, Rendon has more career plate appearances against Teheran than any other pitcher but has never homered off him.)


    19 Dec 19 at 9:37 pm

  25. The latest on Donaldson is a suggestion by Ken Rosenthal that his total contract value could exceed $100M. I really hope Mike Rizzo isn’t that desperate; I get that none of the other options out there are very appealing, and while my preference is to trade for Seager, there’s no argument that over the course of his career, and as computer models generally project them both for 2020, Donaldson is a better player.

    But what I keep coming back to, more than the attitude and the hairdo and the fact that it seems like he’d have signed with the Nats by now if he actually wanted to play for them, is that signing Donaldson is buying four years on the bad side of the aging curve. You’re not buying Donaldson’s career, you’re buying the end of Donaldson’s career. Peak Donaldson isn’t for sale. You’re counting on Donaldson having been so good during his peak years that he’ll remain a useful player even as he declines. And maybe he will; there are players who defied gravity well into their late 30s. There are also a whole lot of players who had great age-33 seasons and weren’t even in MLB three or four years later.

    At a (much) lower AAV, it would seem like a calculated risk. At $25M-plus AAV, it reeks of flop sweat.


    20 Dec 19 at 4:06 am

  26. Agree with Sao here, signing someone on the downside of their career for $100 million reeks of desperation.

    I’ve thought since the Rendon signing that getting Seager is the better play; and it’s only a 2 year commitment.

    Mark L

    20 Dec 19 at 5:51 am

  27. Oh, I totally agree with the fear of paying for Donaldson’s decline. I feared paying for Rendon’s decline. The Angels have a long track record of paying for decline, so he should feel right at home.

    It is interesting how Donaldson has become such a shiny object in the NL nuclear arms race. By most objective measures, the Dodgers, Braves, and Nats are the NL’s top teams, and they’re said to be the primary bidders along with the Twins. So c’mon, Twinkies!

    I agree with Sal that if Donaldson really wanted to be a Nat, he’d already have been introduced in a Curly W. He wants to be a Brave, but he doesn’t want to leave a ton of money on the table. So the tango continues.


    20 Dec 19 at 6:17 am

  28. As I was looking at Kyle Seager’s stats (again), I thought I recognized a familiar arc to them. So here ya go. These are 2020 Steamer projections for three infielders. The first two were even born in the same year (1987):

    A: .235/.326/.436, 21 HRs, 99 wRC+, 11% BB rate

    B: .242/.312/.445, 25 HRs, 101 wRC+, 8.4% BB rate

    C: .251/.321/.445, 21 HRs, 98 wRC+, 8.8% BB rate

    B is Seager, C is Hunter Dozier, and A is . . . our old buddy Brian Dozier.

    I’ll add that I don’t hate the idea of trading for Seager or H. Dozier. But don’t trade much for them, and don’t be under any illusions that either would be a significant upgrade over other options.


    20 Dec 19 at 6:40 am

  29. And another Steamer stat line:

    .261/.329/.440, 18 HRs, 101 wRC+, 8.7 BB rate

    Dang, those four lines are close. This one belongs to old friend Asdrubal Cabrera. He and B. Dozier are docked a few HRs because they’re projected to play 30+ fewer games than the other two.

    I do think it’s worth pointing out that the Nats likely could bring back both Cabrera and Dozier for the same total AAV they would pay Seager.


    20 Dec 19 at 6:47 am

  30. KW, I think Seattle would trade Seager mostly as a salary dump and I don’t think it would take that much to get him. Seattle’s not competing in 2020, so it makes sense for them.

    Mark L

    20 Dec 19 at 7:25 am

  31. Mark — I wouldn’t dislike having Seager the player. My main qualm would be the AAV hit ($14.3 per, according to FG, although with much higher actual salary outlay of 19.5/18.5/15 [option]). Yes, Seattle would probably practically give away that contract. The bigger question is whether it’s worth it for us to take it.


    20 Dec 19 at 8:14 am

  32. I think AAV gets reset in a trade to be the AAV of what the acquiring team is responsible to pay, so assuming no $ by SEA, it’ll be higher for WAS


    20 Dec 19 at 10:39 am

  33. I’m pretty sure AAV is calculated as contract value divided by years. Never heard of it “resetting” when a player is traded; AFAIK, that was one of the attractive things about trading for Yan Gomes, since the CBT hit was significantly less than the Nats paid him in 2019.


    20 Dec 19 at 10:53 am

  34. Heyman and Rosenthal are giving me more hope that Donaldson will end up with the Twinkies and therefore out of the NL. Please, please. I don’t want the Nats to pay that price, but I don’t want him with the Braves or Dodgers, either.


    20 Dec 19 at 11:11 am

  35. Sao – it’s not perfect, but if you read through this article on The Bosox to the JDM opt out section, you’ll see how, if he opted out, the AAV would reset to capture cash they actually paid to him. In that case there would be an additional hit to Boston.

    But the concept is similar to what I was getting at. If there is a change – trade, in this case, the Nats would take the remaining obligations over the life of the remaining contract and that’s their AAV hit. I think it would be 23+19+19/3=$20m AAV. At least that’s how I’ve understood it to work.


    20 Dec 19 at 12:51 pm

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