Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats get Schwarber


Schwarber coming to Washington, Photo via Espn

Word broke Saturday that Washington DC had made news for another reason besides insurrection; Kyle Schwarber signed a 1yr $10M deal to come to DC for 2021.

Short version of this post: I like this move. A lot.

I’ve liked Schwarber ever since Chicago drafted him in the 1st round out of Indiana (bucking the pre-draft rankings) and he raced through the minors. His debut with the Cubs was great, and then his post-season heroics have been fabulous. He struggled mightily in the 2020 short season and the now tanking North siders non-tendered him.

As noted in the article, Schwarber signed for a bit more than his arb projection, which indicates there must have been somewhat of a bidding war for his services.

Why do I like this move? As I noted in the comments before writing this post, several reasons:

  • Pedigree: Upper 1st round pick who has solid (if not all-star) career numbers. 113 career wRC+, 113 career OPS+ … both figures knocked down badly by his 2020 season.
  • Bounce Back candidate: 2020 was brutal for Schwarber … as was his BABIP. Just a .219 babip for 2020 despite being in the 95th percentile of exit velocity means his numbers should have been much higher.
  • 2019 slash line: .250/.339/.531 with 38 homers. He’s a power hitter
  • You don’t need a gold glove in left field, as you’ve heard me say a lot. I want a hitter.

I like getting a middle of the order bat for 1yr/$10M. I like getting a 27yr old 1st round slugger for 1yr $10M. I like getting a cleanup hitter with a .480 career slugging without giving up a prospect.

Yes he strikes out a lot; 156 Ks in 610 2019 PAs for a 25.5% strikeout rate. The 2019 league-wide strikeout rate was 22.9%. So for that extra 2.6% strikeout rate you get a cleanup hitter who hit 38 bombs. Sometimes you have to understand that you give some stuff up to get other stuff.

Here’s what the 2021 opening day lineup looks like now:

  1. SS Turner (r)
  2. RF Soto (l)
  3. 1B Bell (s)
  4. LF Schwarber (l)
  5. DH Harrison (r)
  6. 3B Castro (r)
  7. 2B Garcia (l)
  8. CF Robles (r)

Right handed heavy at the bottom, but excellent balance at the top. If you want to put Castro at 2B and Kieboom at 3B all it does it put another righty at the #8 spot. It is also worth noting that Schwarber could DH and Harrison (who can play 5 different positions) can move out to Left. This still leaves open a bench RH bat like Ryan Zimmerman, who would be an excellent $2M signing. This move likely pushes Soto to RF; can he handle it? Robles might be busy in 2021 covering lots of ground.

Payroll implications: With this move I have the Nats at around $172.1M for 2021. Cots has them slightly higher ($172.7M); both our totals have estimates for arb salaries for Turner, Bell and Soto. If the nats maxed out to $210M that leaves nearly $38M left to play with.

Written by Todd Boss

January 9th, 2021 at 2:49 pm

90 Responses to 'Nats get Schwarber'

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  1. K. Schwarber is not the guy you want coming up in the clutch. The clutch gene is real, and you can tell because K. Schwarber does not have it:

    RISP, two outs: .168/.700
    Late and close: .197/.698
    Behind: .211/.705
    In losses: .193/.651
    After 0-1: .194/.636
    Hi-lev: .192/.705
    Innings 7-9: .184/.666

    If you want a guy who hits massive majestic dongs in games you’re already winning, though, he’s your man. Sixty of his 121 career home runs have come when his team was already ahead (Soto: 26/69, Bell: 29/86, Zimmerman: 93/270).


    9 Jan 21 at 3:03 pm

  2. This works as long as he plays DH. Oh wait, there is no DH in the NL.
    He even was benched last year for not hustling in the field.

    The NL East is looking like a bear this year, Rizzo will need to more clever than this.

    Mark L

    9 Jan 21 at 5:12 pm

  3. I’ve been saying that Schwarber was in play for the Nats since before he was non-tendered, so I’m not surprised at all. Davey taught him to play OF, so they go way back. Davey certainly knows how his personality will fit with the team. And good grief, KLong has to be drooling, having thoughts of supercharging him like he did Granderson.

    However . . . I had convinced myself that Rosario was a better fit, as he’s much better defensively, has better splits, and probably would have been cheaper, at least AAV-wise. But it’s also possible he was looking for three years, and the Nats went with a shorter-term option/risk.

    This certainly is a risk/reward signing. Frankly, the Nats are going to have to make some of these. That’s really their only chance. If they get 2019 Schwarber and Bell, that’s a heck of a lineup. If they get 2020, they’re screwed.


    9 Jan 21 at 9:13 pm

  4. I think this closes the door on Springer, Ozuna, and certainly on Brantley and Pederson (and Rosario). They could still play LeMahieu at 2B or 3B, I guess, and of course there would be a spot for Realmuto, although I’ve thought all along he wasn’t in their price range.

    Like Sao, I’m still looking at 3B. Are they still thinking about a trade for Bryant or Suarez? LeMahieu could play 3B, but if he wants five years, forget it.

    I’m looking for them to go risk/reward for a starter, too. Kluber makes a lot of sense. The Nats have a great track record of taking care of arms. Kluber has experience with Gomes with the Indians. There also wouldn’t be “ace” pressure on Kluber here.

    Anyway, at least they spent some, but not really big. But since they had so many holes to fill, I’ve been preaching all along that they probably weren’t going big on any one position. They still could, but I’m not expecting it.


    9 Jan 21 at 9:26 pm

  5. I think this is part of a bigger strategy of managing budget with adding pieces. At 170 million, there is still room for significant pieces, depending on contract structure and contemplated trades.

    JT Realmuto is one piece that comes to mind, especially if the team thinks it can play him as a right handed first base option to sit Bell and have Gomes in the lineup on other occasions. Rizzo tried to get him before, and Realmuto, whatever you think of his potential for longevity, is a superior two way catcher and a difference maker for the team. A Realmuto signing might make Gomes available as a trade piece for a budget conscious team with a great piece that fits this Nationals team (3B or SP)

    Yadier Moline would fit well with the current composition as well.

    So I think whether we want to or not, we will judge this deal in the context of the final 40 Man roster composition and more importantly, the starting pieces.

    Don’t overlook the importance of his wanting to play for Martinez and vice versa. If he stinks, its 10m sunk cost which is bad but replaceable (Andrew Stevenson). If he is good, there is that option year at a then reasonable 11m.

    So in keeping with what I was writing in the last thread, this is the domino of what Rizzo would add with the risk limited to 1 year and at this salary. Sure, this takes out Springer and Ozuna from the equation, but their ask of 20m would eliminate the flexibility for adding a big piece in addition to them. My conclusion is that Rizzo wanted to add two big pieces, and this allows that to happen. Lemahieu? Jose Ramirez (for Kieboom, a prospect haul)? Suarez for less? Realmuto? Again, who knows, but more coming.


    9 Jan 21 at 11:28 pm

  6. This also reveals the strategy of targeting players who are young enough not to have reached physical peaks (Bell & Schwarber) who nevertheless noticeably declined in 2020. That explains the Suarez talks. It may also explain why they would be unwilling to go to 15-17 million on a player like Brantley if he were adamant about getting three (or more) years, same with Joc Pederson.

    Why commit to higher salary that ties up payroll flexibility and ties up multiple years when next year’s free agent crop will have its own options if need be and the player signed has an affordable option?

    So I understand the economics of this in the bigger picture, even if I would much rather have had Springer, Ozuna, or Brantley.

    If, as suggested above, the Nationals are targeting Lemahieu, Realmuto, or one of the mentioned trade targets, as well as Kris Bryant (another Martinez guy), the numbers work only with Schwarber brought in. The others would never have come in that low.

    So I’m seeing bigger things to come.


    9 Jan 21 at 11:37 pm

  7. I’ll bet demand for Rosario is such that he will get at least two years.

    Also worth noting that some have commented that Nats Park is better for a lefthanded power hitter than Wrigley. Hard to believe, but if so, Kevin Long knows this. And he appears to have been very much a part of the discussion.

    So I’m not happy with Schwarber, but if my read above turns out to be correct, I will be. Especially if the prospects lost prove to be superfluous.

    I could see the Nationals lining up with the Indians again on Ramirez. Kieboom, Fedde/Voth, Romero, Henry, and a guy like Marte in one of those multi player specials.


    9 Jan 21 at 11:43 pm

  8. A reminder that getting Ramirez would still allow for enough $$ to get a Realmuto, which makes him all the more valuable, especially with multiple years of control. Now THAT would be quite a lineup up and down.


    9 Jan 21 at 11:46 pm

  9. One year deals are rarely bad. Schwarber is similar to Joc, but a worse fielder. I bet this deal will look good if Joc ends up with a 3-4 year deal somewhere else. If Joc takes a 1 year deal, you’d surely prefer that to Schwarber if the money is not outrageous.

    I won’t judge this until we know who the RH LF platoon partner is. There needs to be one. Could it be Kris Bryant?


    10 Jan 21 at 8:48 am

  10. I really, really don’t think they have the money for Realmuto. As I’ve already laid out a few times, I also think that contract is going to be in the red after a couple of good years on the front end.

    I wouldn’t mind Molina if he would leave STL, but there’s a bit of a conundrum with him: it’s not really worth it to the Nats to pay him $8-10M for similar production that they can expect from Gomes.

    Re Realmuto and other higher-end models: note the common theme of what the Nats have done thus far — no long-term commitments. One year for Schwarber, two for Bell. A new CBA is coming, contract talks with Trea are looming, Soto’s arb will be through the roof, the COVID revenue impact on 2021 isn’t knowable (not to mention on the Lerners’ commercial real estate empire), and oh, the MASN morass STILL isn’t settled.


    10 Jan 21 at 8:57 am

  11. This is an imperfect player who has a 2019 ceiling that the team is betting they can improve on. The team very well could have made the decision to invest $10M in him instead of these other candidates precisely because of his 2020. No multi year deal, no massive payroll committment. There’s something to be said for that. I realize everyone wants the best player out there … but with a limited amount of money to go around, this isn’t that bad of a deal.

    I mean, come on. Is the lineup better today than it was yesterday? Yesterday they were starting Andrew Stevenson in left. Today they’re starting a guy with 40-homer capability.

    Todd Boss

    10 Jan 21 at 9:00 am

  12. Derek — I think you’re right about one year being a tipping point in Schwarber’s favor. It’s not like they rushed to sign him after he was non-tendered. Maybe they floated one-year deals to the Schwarber, Pederson, and Rosario camps, and Schwarber was the first to get desperate enough to take it. The Nats might have been able to lower the AAV by offering three years, but that would have also increased the risk if he doesn’t hit.


    10 Jan 21 at 9:08 am

  13. The Lerners are not poor and they are not cheap. They are disciplined spenders who learn from mistakes but are totally committed to winning and selectively give out long contracts.

    Surely, as you intimate, the Trea and Soto (in particular) extensions are being factored in. But so is Max and others (Schwarber, Castro, Gomes, Hudson) coming off the books next year. So there is room for a longer term commitment to a special player. We can all debate about whether Realmuto would decline at age x,y, or z, but he is a special player you win a championship with, and he has the hunger for not having done so. It would be great to have the stability we enjoyed with Wilson, at least until the minor leaguers with starting potential ripen. As I referenced in the earlier thread, if the starting options post-Gomes are three or more years away, a four year commitment is not so far fetched when you consider how rare the top echelon of catchers is, and what impact they have on a whole game.

    The team is/was considering Lemahieu. That defacto would tell you they are willing to go three years for some talents (at least three) because everyone knows that if the Yanks weren’t stuck on 4, he’d re-up in the Bronx.

    We’ll see what happens. If I’m wrong I am wrong. But if I’m right, the above is my rationale why Schwarber would fit into a bigger picture and other free agents did not.


    10 Jan 21 at 9:43 am

  14. Schwarber does not talk like he signed a one year deal. So perhaps this came to him as an acceptable deal to play for Dave Martinez. At 27, he has a luxury that a lesser player and an older player does not. Namely, turn down more money and more years somewhere else to go to a preferred situation. He clearly preferred the Nats and he had interest from a number of other teams.

    Every time this happens, I cannot help but smile and say good riddance for how it reinforces the silence of the schmuckracking Lerner bashing of Barry Svrluga and his infamous trashing of how no one wants to play in DC, the Nats are racist because they fired Dusty, Lerners are cheap rotation of clickbait that he “scoops” with.


    10 Jan 21 at 9:49 am

  15. Off topic but I’ve come around to the idea that Luis Garcia is going to be an excellent starting major league middle infielder. The Trea contract will discrete whether he is included in a trade package for a special talent or not. Right now he is likely slated for AAA post-Castro but could just as well be a post-Trea fixture.

    The Nationals have truly erred by not signing their stars to extensions years in advance. There were those they lost (Rendon) as a result, and those they overpaid (Strasburg). Teams like the Braves and Indians in particular have set a great standard that I hope the Lerners learn from. They used to not give opt outs and once they started, they got burned with Strasburg. But they can learn from other franchises to lock in Soto and transition the franchise into not only an institution in Washington, but in Latin America where they are scouting and recruiting. That cost would be recouped. And so I hope they pay now.


    10 Jan 21 at 9:57 am

  16. I meant AAA to take over 2B post-Castro


    10 Jan 21 at 9:58 am

  17. I see Realmuto as a very good but not “special” ballplayer who is probably worth $10-12M to the Nat right now. It would be a heck of a premium to double that, and go five to seven years, just because he catches (or at least catches now). His career high is 25 homers, 16 of which came in the Philly bandbox.

    Catcher isn’t the Nats’ biggest weakness right now, though. Gomes had a nice rebound in 2020. I’m more concerned about 3B, which they may address, and CF, which they likely won’t, unless they do something like bring in Pillar to platoon with Schwarber plus be available if Robles doesn’t bounce back. I doubt they’ll do that, though, so Stevenson presumably is the Robles fallback.

    There’s still A LOT of uncertainty in the FA market, so who knows how things will go. If I had to guess, I would say that the most the Nats spend on another player this offseason will be on a 4th starter, unless they were to trade for Bryant or Suarez.

    Or do you skip that premium for a starter and just spend that amount on Brad Hand, who would pitch in twice as many games? I’m still amazed that no team picked up Hand on waivers for 1/$10M.


    10 Jan 21 at 2:28 pm

  18. I feel like the team will flesh out its major financial outlays to account for 2 more roster spots (4th starter? 3b? C?, RH outfielder), including trades of people on the roster, then at 38, will bring back Zimm and Doolittle at cut rate prices with what is left.

    I can’t argue with advocacy for Gomes, but feel like the Nats are in a good place to sell high on him to meet other needs (back to Cleveland as part of a Jose Ramirez haul?) if they feel its worth it to add Realmuto. In my mind, a lineup with both Realmuto and Ramirez (or Suarez) added is doable and the Nationals have the player capital and the salary room to do it. That would be a hell of a lineup.

    Whatever the additions, I just don’t see Rizzo as content to go with a team that we have right now without major additional pieces. He’s never been one to settle.


    10 Jan 21 at 3:02 pm

  19. If the Nats signed Realmuto, I could see a Gomes-Ross-Fedde-Henry-Kieboom as a very appealing package to bring back Ramirez and perhaps Hedges. If they opted to go with the Reds, I’d offer Kieboom-Ross-Fedde-Rutledge-Finnegan-Cate-Marte for Suarez and Castillo.

    The bigger point I’m trying to make is that while I would not give up on Kieboom, the opportunity to acquire controllable Suarez or Ramirez at those salaries (unless Suarez is hurt in the shoulder still) is an upgrade worth the cost. If Reds, Castillo could be a #4 on my championship team any day. If Indians, you turn around and bring in any number of high grade starters out there still as a #4 that would produce, in my estimation, better than Ross or Fedde this year and would be affordable on a falling market as spring draws ever closer and pitchers need to get themselves mentally set.

    On the #4 side, Hickey clearly knows whom he wants. I am hoping (if the Nats cannot get Castillo), for a lefty (Paxton, Hamels, or Happ) on a one year plus one option. Given another year, one of the igher level pitchers will rise to take his place in the rotation (and yes, I think Scherzer will resign here at a more reduced or team friendly to-the-end-of-career-salary).


    10 Jan 21 at 3:14 pm

  20. If the Nats trotted out a lineup this year with:

    Schwarber/Robles/Soto/Suarez-Ramirez/Turner/Castro/Bell/Realmuto, that would be a lineup with huge punch from both sides, high character star players and great speed.

    With Zimm in to hit certain lefties and Stevenson to play left when DH was needed, it would be an exciting, run producing bunch of players.

    But I’m just spitballing.


    10 Jan 21 at 3:18 pm

  21. The starter market has hardly been touched, other than the Braves going hard for Morton and Smyly. But goodness, with guys like Happ, Hamels, and so many others out there, why in the heck did they feel compelled to overpay for Smyly? (Not that I’m complaining.) Morton is probably “worth” what they’re paying him, with the caveat that he’s pretty much a 5-inning guy, and was even when with the Astros. The Rays were the perfect team to deal with that, but not all teams are.

    That’s a “thing” with the Nats, too. If you look at the by-inning splits, Max is now a 5/6 inning guy, too, and Davey consistently has damaged win chances by kowtowing to the future Hall of Famer and leaving him in too long. Maybe Hickey can change that dynamic. Ross/Fedde/Voth have always been 5/6 inning guys, and presumably they’re going to be careful with Stras coming off of injury. In other words, the Nats need a bullpen that can cover 4+ innings every day and not wreck the ‘pen for the rest of the week.

    When I saw Fore’s mention of Hamels and Happ, I wondered whether the Nats could find a career starter of some quality who would be willing to consider what used to be known as the Andrew Miller role. Miller now pretty much is a one-inning guy, but he used to be willing and able to go two or three innings at two or three times a week. Discarding Hamels’s one-game appearance with the Braves in 2020, he still was striking out a guy an inning 2019. We know he would have the stones to face Freeman or Harper in a big relief situation.

    Or, for a cheaper in-house solution, maybe they look at making Romero that Andrew Miller guy.


    11 Jan 21 at 9:15 am

  22. KW, I think your proclamation that Max is “now a 5/6 inning guy” is just far too strong given the evidence. It should take a lot more than 12 starts and 67 innings in 2020 to suggest a guy is completely different from what he used to be…all the way back in the first half of 2019 (which was probably the best extended stretch of pitching in Max’s entire career, and included a lot of good pitching in innings 6 and beyond…and then he had the back/neck thing that wrecked his 2nd half, when he still pitched ok).

    Max is going to get old and worse at pitching. Maybe it’s already started to happen. But I don’t know how you can let 67 innings in 2020 make you confident that it has (and, truth be told, it’s a lot less than 67 innings: it’s how he performed in innings five and beyond over the course of 12 starts, which has to be just a handful of innings. Weird stuff can happen in really small samples!).

    I know this isn’t the main point of your comment, but slicing and dicing 2020 stats should really be avoided as much as possible. The sample is just too small to use to draw a lot of conclusions. We should care a little about top-line 2020 stats (FIP, WRC+, OPS, etc), but not nearly as much as we care about those numbers from 2019. And splits in 2020 (e.g., performance against lefties, etc.” are much more noise than signal: don’t use those stats at all!)


    11 Jan 21 at 11:39 am

  23. Nats roster Major Holes coming into off-season: 1B, LF, 3B, second C, DH/Util, 4th SP, 2 relievers.

    Nat’s acquisitions versus holes so far: Bell (1B), Schwarber (LF), tbd 3B, tbd Catcher, Harrison resigned Utility, tbd SP, and relievers Avilan, Guerra, Rodriguez, Barrett signed to ST invites to compete with Bacus, Clay for backend.

    Still have 30M+ to work with. Still could pull off a $10M fourth starter, a 2nd tier catcher, $2M for Zimmerman, another backup all glove/no bat utility infielder, and basically be ready for 2021.

    Todd Boss

    11 Jan 21 at 12:50 pm

  24. The all glove/no bat infielder is in house and his name is Adrian Sanchez. It’s just a matter of if he has recovered from his Achilles injury. It’s been about a year now.

    Mark L

    11 Jan 21 at 1:15 pm

  25. Mark — I sure hope we’re beyond the era of Adrian Sanchez and Difo. It always seemed insane to me that they could have a $200M roster but not come up with decent utility options. The big issue there was having someone “SS-capable,” but that need went away once Cabrerra and then Castro showed up. I never understood why they couldn’t see Rendon as the emergency SS, as Davey I (Johnson) thought he was excellent there and used him to sub for Desmond on a couple of occasions.

    Derek — Point well taken on Max and the SSS of 2020, particularly after a short run-up to the season and no live “spring training” (in July). He was excellent in the late innings through 2019. At the same time, if you’re the front office and the manager, you would remiss if you aren’t at least alerted by 2020 and plan accordingly.

    I’ve mentioned before the thought of pairing a couple of the short-use starters like they do in the minors where each guy goes four innings. Sanchez was starting to fit that category, and Ross/Fedde/Voth seem to fall into category as well, as all tend to get hit pretty hard the third time through the order. It’s what the Rays have done, and the Brewers and some others have done it at times as well. (To be clear, I’m not putting Max in this category, at least not yet. It would change his dynamic if you were able to tell Max just to go hard for four innings, though, instead of trying to save something for later innings.)


    11 Jan 21 at 2:02 pm

  26. The longer it gets in the dates, the better it is for the Nats. Still many players that can help out there on the FA and trade market. Prices in money and prospects will fall.


    11 Jan 21 at 10:33 pm

  27. Latest rumors have Nats still poking around about Suarez but told Reds not interested if they won’t talk about Cavalli or Rutledge. That doesn’t necessarily close the door, but it probably does mean the Nats would have to come up with a good haul of other, higher-level prospects to do the deal.

    I think Bryant would come for less of a haul, but of course he’d only be signed for one year. Suarez is 4/5 years at a really good rate. I’d trade Cavalli, but of course the rest of you know that I’m not that enamored with him. I mean, right now he’s not even a top-100 prospect (nor is Rutledge).


    11 Jan 21 at 10:38 pm

  28. The Reds WANT to move Suarez and Rizzo knows it. That’s different from him going all put to get Eaton or Chris Sale.

    Per my note above, do you move Rutledge or Cavalli in a Suarez/Castillo package? I would include one of the two for that.


    12 Jan 21 at 9:23 am

  29. I would be interested in Castillo or Gray packaged with Suarez. Kieboom could be included in the Nat return, as Suarez is signed for five years, most of the period of Kieboom’s team control. Kieboom, Cavalli, and Fedde could probably get a good conversation started, although the Reds probably would want at least one more arm.

    It is interesting, in these alleged “asks” by other teams, that Denaburg and Romero no longer seem to have much currency. There don’t seem to be many mentions of Antuna, either, despite the internal hype.


    12 Jan 21 at 11:35 am

  30. We really don’t know what teams are asking for until after deals are made. For example, no one knew Taylor Jordan was the ask until Robbie Ray was dealt; no one knew Luzardo was an ask coming off arm surgery until the A’s stole him (they were surprised Rizzo said yes when they asked).

    I have always wondered whether part of the reason behind Romero’s promotion was (in part) to showcase him for just a situation like this.

    If Antuna’s prospect helium as a very young player is truly his power, I doubt the Nats will let him go for anyone. Power in a player who has a strong hit tool is valued only less than a starter who has 1 or (maybe) 2 potential.


    12 Jan 21 at 11:50 am

  31. Denaburg is another story because he has not even gotten out of the garage yet. So i doubt anyone would argue his currency is much lower.

    Boy, the White Sox really do blow out the market when they want someone. I guess that puts Colome all the more in play.


    12 Jan 21 at 11:53 am

  32. I’d much rather have Castillo than Gray and would pay more to get him.


    12 Jan 21 at 11:55 am

  33. fore, I’d love to have Colome, even if he is right-handed. His ERA last year was 0.81.(!!!)
    He made $10 million last year and cost as much this year probably.

    Mark L

    12 Jan 21 at 1:14 pm

  34. I don’t see him getting 10m unless the Hendricks signing blows out the market.

    It’s still a game of chicken. And the Nat’s windfall from the Hendricks deal may be the big backload he got. That’s a Lerner special.

    I still think Realmuto is a Nats player and a fit and that with creative crunching, the Nats can get Realmuto, trade for Suarez or Ramirez, and solve their 4th starter problem with someone hanging around after they pull off those deals, all the while clearing inventory of roster players who have no options (Fedde). I also think Ross and Gomes are great trade bait to package in a Ramirez deal.

    I love Rizzo, but he trades his best from patience and striking from patience. The Bell trade was patience. The Eaton deal was not. The Turner deal was Bill Millers trade. If there is a long dithering with both Ramirez and Suarez, that’s a good sign, especially with FA like Lemahieu on the market. In my opinion the Reds want to move Suarez this off season and that is why they have floated his availability. They have young infielders like India ripening and fir them, that contract is now not so appealing as they thought.


    12 Jan 21 at 2:46 pm

  35. Just a question; are the same people who are pining for Eugenio Suarez the same ones complaining that Schwarber strikes out a lot?

    Because Suarez literally led the NL in strikeouts in 2019.

    just saying.

    Todd Boss

    12 Jan 21 at 2:49 pm

  36. Talk of a Castillo/Suarez combo trade are … well we’d be breaking the bank there.
    – Suarez: Under contract for 4 more years at < $10M per year; that's a crazy good contract. - Castillo is in 1st of 3 arbitration years, projecting at $4M this year, so 3 years of control. Lets be honest about it; you're probably having to give up one of Rutledge/Cavalli PLUS 2-3 more prospects. Think about what we gave up for Eaton, then maybe come close to doubling it. Heck, it might cost both Rutledge and Cavalli plus a 2nd tier guy like a De La Rosa or a lottery ticket.

    Todd Boss

    12 Jan 21 at 2:52 pm

  37. Todd, I think the package I suggested above of seven players would get it done and not break the bank, considering the controllability of the players.

    As for strikeouts, yes, that’s an argument against.

    Maybe too creative, but how about a three way swap with the Injuns in which they end up with Suarez and more and Gomes (and perhaps a low level more from the Reds), we end up with Ramirez and Castillo?


    12 Jan 21 at 3:33 pm

  38. Guys, I don’t get all this talk of trades when our farm is so thin and there are so many quality players out there in free agency. It doesn’t make sense!

    Other than navel gazing I can’t see why Rizzo would empty the farm when its not necessary. Especially this year.

    Mark L

    12 Jan 21 at 3:59 pm

  39. It was one thing when the Nats were refusing to trade Robles when he was a top-five prospect in all of baseball, or Soto when they knew they had seen the next Ted Williams. But c’mon, everyone should be available right now. They have no top-100 prospects right now. Cavalli and Lara have yet to pitch in organized professional baseball. Even if they turn out to be good, it will be three or four years until Cavalli is in the majors, and four or five for Lara.

    I personally think Rutledge has a high ceiling, so I was a little taken aback when Cavalli immediately leapfrogged him in prospect rankings and buzz. But I think both are still somewhat unrefined and will take several years to make their way through a system. So will Denaburg, whenever he actually starts to pitch. Romero and Crowe were considerably more refined coming out of college, although now we’re left wondering whether Romero’s 95-mph heater was a figment of the same imagination that created Gioloto’s 100-mph one.

    Anyway, I don’t have an issue with trading any of them. Back up the truck, particularly if you’re getting a guy or guys controlled for several seasons.

    Suarez and his K’s are an interesting question. From 2018 to 2019, his K’s jumped 4%, but his HRs also spiked to 49. For the early seasons of his career, his K% was 23-24%, which is tolerable. It’s only been the last two years where he’s entered Espinosa territory. It’s possible KLong could get him to shorten his swing somewhat and increase contact.

    And honestly, I’m curious to see how these big-K guys, including Schwarber, Bell, and whoever else they acquire, react to spending time around Magic Juan, who lowered his K’s 6% last season. I mean, if you were on that team, how could you watch that Zen level of plate discipline every day and not improve what you’re doing? OK, OK, so Robles, Thames, Kieboom, and MAT flailed wildly, but Trea cut his K% by 6%, just as Soto did, and became an exceptionally improved hitter. Harrison cut his K% by 5% and got a major-league contract.


    12 Jan 21 at 7:15 pm

  40. Fascinating that other high grade players look at Soto as a hitting coach already, at his young age. Remarkable. You raise good points on the learning front – particularly among those still figuring things out, and it seems both Schwarber and Bell are.

    As for prospects, I’m in the middle of the road. I don;t think that Rutledge and Cavalli have a 3-4 year trajectory to the bigs IF they are that good. I’d say 2, which is why I would not give a FA starting pitcher (or relief pitcher, for that matter) more than 2 years guaranteed at this point.

    I don’t share the disdain for the Nationals system that others do here. And I don’t think the major leagues dies, either. Austin Adams blossomed elsewhere. That’s noted by the Cubs, who picked up Bourque. And the Nationals were use Aaron Fletcher and Taylor Guilbeau, who were not so highly rated, and Kyle Johnston when needed. So there is ENOUGH inventory that is periodically supplemented not only by the international draftees in particular (and better drafts like this past year may have been), but shrewd pickups like Finnegan and hopefully Clay and Armenterios.

    So there is ENOUGH of some inventory to get top quality. And I am distinguishing high-top quality players, controllable, at affordable prices. You don’t need to win BBA award. You need to win championships.

    Maybe I’m too high on Romero and his future. But none of us were high on Crowe but he and Yean – Yean – were enough to get Bell. That dpesn;t necessarily speak to Cherington being a fool, either. He isn’t. He specifically is regarded for his young talent eye. The same Pittsburgh team stole Rivero from us and at the time, none of us were excited about Taylor Hearn. But he too has played in the major leagues and may have a career ahead of him.

    So the nationals can be protective of their prizes but still do what they have to do to go big. Not every such trade was Eaton, or Luzardo. There was also the Gio Gonzalez trade, which helped both teams but was a real success for the organization, both for performance and how long he was in the rotation. The pieces are there to do it again.


    12 Jan 21 at 8:13 pm

  41. All this crazy talk of trades had me wondering; here is the list of all starting pitchers unsigned so far. It’s incredibly long.

    Mark L

    13 Jan 21 at 11:29 am

  42. Crowe was a polished college pitcher who advanced well through the organization. He made his MLB debut late in his third pro season, and he wasn’t ready yet. Cate is another polished college pitcher who has advanced well. The 2021 summer will be his third pro season, and it’s unlikely that he will be in the majors unless maybe in a relief role. Fedde was a polished college pitcher who also had his MLB debut in his third pro season, and wasn’t ready. He wasn’t particularly ready in his fourth one, either. Anyway, I’m not spit-balling when I say that the expectation of a college pitcher making the majors should be four years. In Cavalli’s case, even his biggest hype folks acknowledge that as a long-time two-way player, he’s still learning how to pitch. Let’s expect steady progress, but not miracles. (Denaburg hasn’t even been able to make steady progress.)

    As much as we got sick of the “window” talk, with the deadlines of when Harper was leaving and then Rendon and Stras, we’re in another Nats’ “window” now. We’re only guaranteed one more year of Max, two of Trea, and four of Soto. Yes, Stras, Corbin, and some others are important, but there really aren’t other offensive cornerstones beyond Trea and Juan (unless you also count the two years of Bell). The careers of Robles and Kieboom aren’t dead, and Garcia flashed a little more power than expected, but until those guys show that they’ve got another couple of levels they can go, it doesn’t make much sense to count on them extending the window. Even more so with the suddenly magically powerful Antuna. The farm is pretty barren.

    The Nats enter this window at a time when the NL East is a whole lot better than it has been. I do chuckle at projections that are putting the Mets ahead of the Braves, but they’re no joke now, plus the Marlins finished 2d in 2020. The Phils have slipped some on paper, but with so many free agents still available, maybe they start coughing up some of that “stupid money.”

    Honestly, it’s hard to say where I would rank the Nats. If their Big 3 starters stay healthy and return to a 2019 level of production, they’re getting close enough to a level of hitting that could keep them in the running. That’s a big bet on the starters, though, and if they’re not on their game, I don’t know that we have the beer-league softball lineup of the Braves to just score eight runs when we need them. (Schwarber sure looks like he’d fit in a beer league, though!)


    13 Jan 21 at 11:57 am

  43. Mark — Yes, there are some amazing names still available on the pitching free agent list. I wonder how much the prices are dropping by the day. And as the price for those pitchers drops, so does the Reds’ ability to ask for very much in exchange for taking Sonny Gray’s contract off their hands.


    13 Jan 21 at 12:00 pm

  44. KW – I would not base projections for time needed based on what we see from HS draftees (Denaburg, Giolito). Rather, I would base them on expectations of first round college picks who are thought to have Ace or #2 talent. Indeed, maybe that’s unrealistic of a cavalli who is still earning his craft. Fair enough. But Rutledge was succeeding in A in 2019, and I would be surprised if he were not placed in AA to start this year. Based on that assessment, if he is all of that, then after two years, yes, I would see him ready to step into the rotation. And if Cavalli unexpectedly is in AA by midseason this year, I think a two year window is understandable.

    I’m not basing projection on people like Crowe, who no one thought of as ace material. I’m thinking more of Aaron Nola pedigree, because the reality is that if a pitcher is not that good, he’s not going to be in this rotation that has Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin for at east the next two of more years (I fully expect Max to come back), and other competition for those remaining spots coming from talent like the names we have discussed, and names we have not (including Henry, Romero, and lesser knowns who could go quite far in two years – Taylor Jordan being an example of someone who took off).

    I agree with you about the offense. I think we need more bop and more help. And the point you are making about Sonny Gray is exactly on point and why I would target Castillo. He adds value with a lot more certainty than Gray.


    13 Jan 21 at 3:02 pm

  45. Also on Cavalli, Rutledge, others, and free agents. At this time next year we will be one year forward and will have far more of an idea what the Nationals have n the way of emerging talent from this crew. They will have a better idea of what Max has left in the tank. That is precisely why they do not need to now commit lots of years to someone who has a ceiling as a #3 or #4. It would suck to have a blossoming Cole Henry, for example, blocked by a starter who has seen better days to whom we have two more years guaranteed.


    13 Jan 21 at 3:06 pm

  46. Of the remaining FA starters, you could make an entire rotation out of former nats.
    1. Gio Gonzalez.
    2. Rich Hill
    3. Tommy Milone
    4. Anibal Sanchez
    5. Jordan Zimmermann

    closer: Mark Melancon
    setup: Sean Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal
    middle releif: Brandon Knitzler, Tyler Clippard
    Loogy: Oliver Perez
    swingmen: Brad Peacock, Yusmeiro Petit


    Todd Boss

    13 Jan 21 at 5:07 pm

  47. That’s a pretty good bullpen. Not a very good rotation.


    13 Jan 21 at 5:11 pm

  48. With increasing chatter pointing to the National League once again being saddled with the ghastly designated hitter rule, taking another look at the Nats lineup is…well, underwhelming.

    Stevenson – LF
    Turner – SS
    Soto – RF
    Bell – 1B
    Schwarber – DH
    Castro – 2B
    Gomes – C
    Kieboom – 3B
    Robles – CF

    First of all, I have no idea whether Stevenson can play every day. Another option here would be to have Bell DH and someone else play first base — presumably Ryan Zimmerman, although he’s not yet under contract, and the only other first baseman on the roster is Jake Noll — but that doesn’t seem to solve any problems, either.

    Secondly, unless they step up, what a gaping hole at the bottom of the lineup (and arguably, Gomes should bat in front of Castro, considering that he was a significantly better hitter in 2020). Kieboom had a 54 OPS+ in 2020. Robles wasn’t much better, with a 63 OPS+. Getting back to 2019 production from Robles, as we hope Bell and Schwarber get back to their 2019 production, the picture improves. But we are still missing a middle-of-the-order right-handed bat.


    13 Jan 21 at 5:50 pm

  49. Todd — Wow, you’re right, pretty wild to see so much former Nat pitching on the FA list. I guess Hill is the only one who never pitched in the majors for the Nats. And Detwiler and A.J. Cole just recently signed minor-league deals.

    You forgot those two great Nat relievers, though: Brian Dozier and Brock Holt. I think they retired more guys than Rosenthal did.

    My mind said “maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for the Nats to offer a minor-league contract and NRI to some of these guys,” like Gio, JZim, Sanchez, or Peacock. But then I looked at recent stats. Geez, not good. I would actually peg Peacock with the best bounce-back chance.


    14 Jan 21 at 7:47 am

  50. Sao — There’s no doubt that DH is Schwarber’s best defensive position, and probably Bell’s too.

    Yeah, there are definitely still some holes in the lineup. And I might have Harrison starting over a couple of those guys. I know you’re really down on Kieboom, so it’s interesting to see that you’ve got him in the lineup with Garcia presumably sent to Syracuse. If I had to pick between the two for one to start in the majors in April, I’d probably say Garcia (and I say that as one of the few folks who still think Kieboom can bounce back). But Castro and Harrison both can play both 2B and 3B, so they do have some options.

    I really have no idea what they have in Kieboom or Garcia, or Robles or Stevenson for that matter. I mean, Robles’s stats look a lot like Kieboom’s, minus Kieboom’s walks. Several of us have referenced den Dekker in comparison to Stevenson’s garbage-time spurt, so who knows what to believe? I think he proved he can be a 4th OF and stick on the MLB roster, but would be hard to go into the season depending on him to be a starter. He’s also probably the stopgap if Robles continues to tank. For the right price, Pillar would make a lot of sense to platoon in LF and be a potential replacement for Robles. But in that role, he’s probably worth only $1-2M to the Nats, not the $5M or so he’s likely seeking.


    14 Jan 21 at 7:57 am

  51. (forensicane; i accidentally hit your last message as spam. my bad!)

    Do you guys believe in Stevenson, really?
    – pro side: his 2020 was amazing … but it nearly mirrored the production he had towards the end of 2019 too. Is this really, really (!?) the new norm for him?
    – con side: do we really think he’s going to drastically improve on his career minor league slash lines across the board … in the majors??

    I mean, if he is really slashing above 1.000, heck above .900 then yeah he’s a fantastic addition to the lineup. found gold for a guy i’ve considered a 5th outfielder as his ceiling.

    In reality, I don’t trust that he’s going to hit like this. I think the the team needs to find a bopper for that DH slot and primarily look at Schwarber in left.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 21 at 8:03 am

  52. Fore — Just a quick follow-up on potentially trading with the Reds for pitching. It’s hard to see the Reds giving up the years of cheap control for Castillo without a deal including Cavalli or Rutledge. If you don’t want to move those guys, then Castillo likely is off the table. Gray wouldn’t take nearly that much since they’re trying to get rid of his contract. I could see Gray coming for something like Fedde, Fuentes, and Infante. But as we’ve noted, the FA pitching market is still so loaded that they can probably get Gray-like talent for around his same $10.7M AAV and nothing given up in trade.


    14 Jan 21 at 8:03 am

  53. It occurs to me that a comp for Stevenson’s ceiling might be Davey Martinez, who, um, spent a lot of time starting in the majors when he probably shouldn’t have. He had very limited power but often was playing corner OF or 1B.


    14 Jan 21 at 8:10 am

  54. Right now Stevenson is the best centerfielder the Nats have defensively. Robles will have to prove he can play the position after last year.
    Let’s not forget Stevenson’s nickname in college was Spiderman.

    Mark L

    14 Jan 21 at 11:00 am

  55. I must admit, i’m a bit spooked about trusting Soto in Right. I’d rather go Soto Left, Stevenson Center, Robles in right from a defensive perspective.

    the primary thing a RF needs is the arm strength to prevent 1st to 3rd. Soto’s arm was a liability already in left, which is kinda hard to do:

    Robles arm rated out as pretty frigging good in 2019; 13th overall among all qualifying positional players.,d

    So I trust Robles in RF. Stevenson doesnt’ have enough innings to really register an opinion one way or the other, other than to note that his primary skill is defense.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 21 at 11:29 am

  56. Stevenson is a gamble. And I’ve always been a skeptic relative to his fan club on some of the boards. That being said, it would be easy enough to set him up in a platoon in left field with either Josh Harrison or (freeing up Josh to be a utilityman) someone like Yasmany Tomas, who is already under contract. Tomas does kind of give me Moises Sierra vibes, so I wouldn’t exactly say it is my *favorite* idea.

    Whichever way you slice it, we need another bat. So I hope Rizzo isn’t “done” upgrading the starting lineup, as some have suggested. I’d consider that everyday bat in a number of positions — Castro could move off second base, Bell could primarily DH, Kieboom could go to Rochester where he belongs, Schwarber could primarily DH…heck, even Gomes could do some DHing or fill in at first base if the Nats end up signing Realmuto after all. But there’s a glut of #3/4 starters on the market, and I think the Nats can wait it out.


    14 Jan 21 at 12:48 pm

  57. FWIW, I’ve always heard that Stevenson has a noodle arm. I think an “average” rating on Robles’s arm is about right. It’s not a cannon, but not an obvious liability, either. Davey literally was the position coach who taught Schwarber how to play OF in Chicago, so he has better knowledge than anyone else what is (and isn’t) possible with him.

    I keep forgetting about Tomas. He has excellent MLB splits against LHP (.293/.343/.537). His AAA numbers improved across the board from 2018 to 2019, so perhaps he figured something out. He’s still an NRI until proven otherwise, but not many NRIs once hit 31 homers in an MLB season. (And he’s a heck of a lot more worth at least mentioning than Jake Noll.)


    14 Jan 21 at 1:27 pm

  58. Luckily, the remaining need for a guy who can play 1B/LF/DH means that the landscape of aging veteran sluggers who can be had for $4M is available. We seem to frequently be in this market and usually have little difficulties filling it:
    – 2020: Thames for $1M, Kendrick for $6.25M, Zimmerman for $2M plus picking up Harrison mid-season
    – 2019: Adams for $3M/$1M buyout again plus picking up Parra mid-season
    – 2018: Adams for $4M plus picking up Mark Reynolds
    – 2017: Adam Lind for $1M, Heisey for a bit more, then picking up Raburn and De Aza
    – 2016: Heisey for $1.25M
    – 2015: Uggla and Reed Johnson for mlb mins (this was the year Clint Robinson blew up instead)

    Some of these guys didn’t work out at all .. but others really played well for us. So, i’d still look for two more signings right in this same range; $2-$M, 1B/LF/DH types. One likely is Zimmerman for one last run.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 21 at 1:46 pm

  59. Tomas. Absolutely. I’d take his 2016 production in a LF/DH role in a heartbeat. Who wouldn’t? The bigger question is … why couldn’t he repeat it?

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 21 at 1:50 pm

  60. Not for nothing, here’s another NRI’s career split against lefties. .330/.347/.643.

    Name that Nats minor leaguer.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 21 at 1:51 pm

  61. Off topic: Here’s Baseball America’s preview of our IFA class;

    sounds like we’re getting perhaps two players of note, then whoever else they can sign for the min.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jan 21 at 1:51 pm

  62. I would guess Brandon Snyder, the local guy who the local team has been stringing along for a while.


    14 Jan 21 at 2:02 pm

  63. So soon we forget Robles doubling off, without so much as a running start, Jean Segura from the warning track. Or his ridiculous 12 outfield assists in 2019. Robles’ defense regressed in a pretty serious way in 2020, but he has an excellent arm.


    14 Jan 21 at 3:15 pm

  64. KW: correct. Snyder crushes lefties.

    Robles defensively in 2020: yeah. Robles in 2019: serious gold glove/best CF metrics in the game. Just goes to show yet again why we ignore 2020’s stats and move on.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jan 21 at 8:55 am

  65. I don’t think we should *ignore* 2020 stats, they just need to be put into the proper context and given the proper weight. 2020 is slightly more than two months worth of games, or slightly more than 1/3 of a normal season. Juan Soto had a WRC+ of 200 in 2020 OR Kyle Schwarber and a 90 WRC+ in 2020 should be taken to mean: those two guys hit at those two levels for two months, not what we normally consider a full season. But it’s also wrong just to throw out 2020 stats: they happened, and their the most recent (and therefore the most important) stats we have. I’d prefer it if 2020 and 2019 stats were combined and treated like a “super year,” i.e., worth ~1.33x a normal year’s stats.

    Having said all that, defensive stats in 2020 should be ignored. This doesn’t mean I think Robles’s defense in 2020 was as good as it was in 2019, or that we should ignore 2020 in thinking about how Robles’s defense is going to look going forward. Just that such a small sample of defensive stats is pretty much useless. To evaluate a defender properly (using *just* stats), we need like three years worth of data. For Robles, who has not played three years worth of MLB games, his defensive stats aren’t going to be very accurate in conveying his true ability. I don’t know how anybody could possibly think Stevenson plays a better CF than Robles, but I have no statistical evidence to support that view.

    TLDR: 2020 stats have some (limited) value so long as they are properly weighted and contextualized. Proper weighting and contextualization (I think) means we should mostly ignore 2020 defensive stats.


    15 Jan 21 at 9:08 am

  66. Soto, Turner, and Bell avoid arbitration, as expected. Cubs agree to a high number with Bryant, I guess to avoid having him hung up in arbitration while trying to trade him. They may have to eat some of the $19.5M to move him, though. LeMahieu re-signing with Yanks, Phils said to be making a strong offer to keep Realmuto. Good — stick them with another bad contract, and don’t spend on pitching. Some of the higher-priced FAs finally falling. The 6/$90M for LeMahieu is crazy. Those years when he’s 37/38/39 are a big risk. I had some interest in him for the Nats, and $15M AAV would have worked, but not for those years.

    LeMahieu could have been a 3B option, but with him gone, it’s basically just Justin Turner on the FA market, and I don’t think he’s leaving SoCal. Profar could play 3B (& LF, and is a Boras client), but I don’t know that he’d improve much on Castro or Harrison at 3B. La Stella would be interesting for the right price. Didi and Semien could play 3B, but they’re probably looking for bigger contracts than are being offered. Maybe Semien would take a one-year bounce-back opportunity in the $8-10M range? (Unlikely.)

    Or they can trade for Bryant or Suarez. Or roll with Carter the K.


    15 Jan 21 at 7:04 pm


    Soto and Turner both came in WELL Above anybody’s estimates.
    – Turner’s Cot’s estimate was 11M, MLBtraderumors 11M, my estimate $11.5M. actual $13M.
    – Soto’s cot’s estimate was $5M, MLBtraderumors 4.5M, my estimate was 4.75M, actual a whopping $8.5m

    So that takes a bit of a bite out of the remaining salary flexibility. I’ve now got the team $33.4M under the $210M threshold.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jan 21 at 10:01 pm

  68. Let’s be realistic: the Nats would have lost any arbitration hearing against Soto and Turner, if the player’s number was anywhere within the parameters. They had off-the-charts seasons. Of course arb builds off the previous season, so this means larger payout in the years to come.


    16 Jan 21 at 8:42 am

  69. Suzuki to Halos for $1.5M. He went to college at Fullerton, so he’s right back in that area. Good for him. He’ll always be well remembered here as a key contributor to the two best-loved squads: 2019 and 2012. He’s still one of the better-hitting catchers, particularly for that price, but his framing and throwing make him a liability behind the plate. Sure checks off yet another affordable option on whom the Nats passed, though.

    Kluber to Yanks for $11M. That was probably a little rich for the Nats’ blood, particularly for a 4th starter with A LOT of risk. I was hoping he might be available for around $8M. I would think the Nats would be looking in the $5-8M ballpark for the 4th starter.

    So “now what” for the Nats? There were rumbling during the winter that they were shooting for a payroll of around $190M, which would give them $13M left. Even in flush years, they usually try to leave $7-10M for midseason flexibility, so they’re $17-20M from that number. That would seem to close the door on Bryant, who always seemed a bit pricey for all that they had to do this offseason (and why Arenardo wouldn’t have fit at all price-wise).

    So . . . La Stella play for Davey with the Cubs and could cover/platoon at 3B, and probably could be had in the $5-7M range. Not much power for a corner position, though. Archer is probably in the same price range, played for Davey and Hickey in TB.

    I think there’s a good likelihood that Zim is back at $2-3M. They still could use upgrades at 3B, 4th starter, and reserve C and OF. That’s a lot of holes to fill, even if they slice the rest of the pot thinly.


    16 Jan 21 at 8:59 am

  70. The list of remaining catchers and lefthanded relievers has dwindled badly. Rizzo’s wait and watch has made the options few there.

    Still a lot of starting pitching left.

    Mark L

    16 Jan 21 at 11:04 am

  71. As I keep saying, a veteran backup catcher and a LOOGY are luxuries, another bat to bolster the lineup is a must. Going into the season with an abysmal bottom of the order means the East will eat the Nats alive.


    17 Jan 21 at 4:46 pm

  72. One free agent I’m a little surprised hasn’t had more buzz is Jedd Gyorko. Four seasons with an OPS+ north of 100, including 121 OPS+ in 2020. Generally considered a decent fielder at a couple positions (3B/1B). Mauls left-handed pitching. Might be had for like 2/10M?


    17 Jan 21 at 4:59 pm

  73. Sorta local too — Morgantown raised, WVU product.


    17 Jan 21 at 5:00 pm

  74. Sao, I am with you on the bat being a must. And I think the Nats are still playing the market forces and have more move(s) to make. What I can’t get a fee for is how much their planning beyond 2021 is predicated on making a long term deal happen with Trea and with Soto.

    But the money is still there below the cap to really refine the roster from 35 spots up.


    17 Jan 21 at 6:42 pm

  75. Yeah, but Gyorko essentially duplicates Josh Harrison, plus Harrison can (sorta) play LF. If they’re looking for a utility-type guy, I would think more LH, with La Stella or Profar (switch-hitter). Gregorius could be another LH option at 3B, but both he and Semien (RH) have built-in premiums for SS capability that the Nats have no reason to pay.

    But what are the prices for those guys? Are the projected prices falling? Semien could be a nice 3B option for the Nats, but he’s not “worth” more than an AAV of $8-10M to them. FG has him with a projected AAV of $17M, which would make no sense for the Nats.

    With the backup catchers still left on the market, Welington Castillo can hit at least as well as Castro/Avila/Flowers. Molina has given a strong indication that he’ll either play for STL or retire. As much as the heart might be interested in a Buffalo reunion, Ramos’s numbers show a pretty clear two-year decline. Maybe he would be helped by not having to play as often (the Mets overused him), but he’s also probably seeking more than he’s worth for what the Nats need. The Nats don’t need to pay more than $3M for a backup catcher, and they’ve passed on an couple of decent ones who signed for $1.5M.


    18 Jan 21 at 9:26 am

  76. Let’s see, I did the math a little wrong above with how much the Nats have left. Both Todd and Ghost have the Nats with about $33M left under the tax line ($210M). There were rumors that they would try to keep the payroll at $190M, which would give them only $13M left to spend. If they went to $200M, it would be $23M left. They usually like to keep at least $7M under the line because of midseason acquisitions, so at most, they’ve still got around $26M they could/would spend.

    For the needs they have left, there’s actually quite a big difference between $13M and $26M. That’s basically the difference in whether they go big for another bat. If the DH really is likely in the NL, then for goodness sake, let’s start talking about Nelson Cruz. I think it would be difficult to fit Ozuna’s ask into their budget, but perhaps not completely impossible. If they’re thinking of Schwarber mostly as a DH, then they could still sign Rosario, Pederson, or even Brantley for LF. Justin Turner is still on the board, although I’m not convinced that he’s leaving SoCal. For a much cheaper crusher to pair with Schwarber, there’s Adam Duvall.

    Or . . . maybe the prices are also dropping for guys like Paxton (Boras client) or even Tanaka. But who knows? Maybe they’re now close to the same price range as Odorizzi?

    Interesting times. Spring training is less than a month away, and there are still a lot of holes to fill. They could go so many different ways with the money and with the fills, though.


    18 Jan 21 at 10:29 am

  77. Maybe the lack of movement for a catcher is indicative that they like what they have in house. So whate xactly do they have in house?

    Gomes as starter.
    Barrera the only other Catcher on 40-man
    Castillo NRI
    AAA level guys are Read, Reetz
    AA levle guys: Pineda, Dunlap, Perez
    High-A level guys: probably Diaz and Vega maybe
    Low-A guys: Berrios, Doolittle, Pratt
    GCL guys: who knows

    Read was dumped off 40-man and passed through waivers. Reetz passed through rul-5 for the 3rd time. Castillo maybe is the proposed backup with Barrera in AAA as the spare part? Does that configuration inspire confidence?

    Todd Boss

    18 Jan 21 at 11:02 am

  78. I keep saying this, but I don’t think Rizzo is ready to entirely foreclose the possibility of making J.T. Realmuto a Washington National. The Nats certainly have much more pressing needs, but it’s a love connection.


    18 Jan 21 at 11:40 am

  79. With so many needs and such a limited pot of coin, signing Realmuto at $20M+ AAV would be malpractice. I know Rizzo has always fancied him, but it just doesn’t make sense. As much as Robles has struggled, though, you wonder whether Rizzo should have given in and traded him for Realmuto three years ago.

    I’m really leaning toward the thinking that they’re willing to roll with Castillo as the backup, with Barrera probably capable of not completely embarrassing himself if needed. (Is Barrera’s suspension up, though?) Read has looked terribly overmatched in his very brief MLB SSS, so it’s hard to project too much from him, but who knows? ZiPS actually projects him to hit .255 with an 82 wRC+ at the MLB level.

    Pineda will be at Wilmington (at best) after an awful 2019 at low A. Reetz will be at AA after taking three seasons to master A+.


    18 Jan 21 at 12:55 pm

  80. My understanding is that both Barrera and Fuentes are considered to have served their time. Unclear to me whether they counted the time they spent in the player pool in Fredericksburg toward their suspensions, whether they were reduced on review, or whether everyone gets a mulligan after the weirdness of 2020.

    I think it’s basically a coin flip as to whether Welington Castillo or Jason Castro provides more value over the course of ~50 starts in 2021, so I’m not convinced of the importance of going out and spending $4-5M on a backup catcher right now. Having depth is nice, but let’s also keep in mind that Kyle Schwarber could don the tools in an emergency, probably even handle the second game of a doubleheader or something if the need arises.


    18 Jan 21 at 1:40 pm

  81. I think Realmuto would be a very smart play, if the money is right. It upgrades the position, and allows them to flip Gomes as a quality major league asset to a catching-need team in a deal that can upgrade another position. If the spread between Realmuto and Gomes is 14 m, there is still quite a bit of money below the cap to seriously upgrade the roster (with leftover starter), particularly if that trade is Jose Ramirez.

    Still five roster spots to go.


    18 Jan 21 at 5:39 pm

  82. OK, forget the D-back secret handshake. We’re completely rebuilding the mid-teens Cubs. Lester would not have been one of my top choices, so let’s hope he’s only around $5M to leave money for other things. La Stella will be the next ex-Cub, right? Or is Bryant coming, too?

    The Lester signing certainly would free them up to trade from among Ross/Fedde/Voth . . . if they have any value.


    18 Jan 21 at 7:07 pm

  83. I’m no big fan of Lester, but he’s got a ton of postseason experience, is a lefty, and if the Nats are signing him, I would bet they got a Davey discount to fit other pieces into payroll.

    At a time like now, where folks are waiting for each other to blink, I think you can expect older players to blink first. I’ll be curious to see what the terms are.


    18 Jan 21 at 7:11 pm

  84. I’ll say this even before we know the price: with SO many starters still available, I have no idea why they went with Lester. He really looks done to me. His “heater” is now 89. He lost 2.5 off his K/9 in 2020. FIP 5.14, WHIP 1.33. HR/9 was at a career high. I mean, I’m looking for anything positive, and I’m not seeing it. He’s got 193 career wins. I’m not sure he can make it to 200.


    18 Jan 21 at 9:28 pm

  85. KW, I hope you’re wrong about Lester but don’t think so. When you look at the available starters it’s LONG. Why Lester?

    I’d love to see the Nats sign La Stella, his numbers are consistently terrific. He had a down year in 2018 but other than that from 2014-2020 was a solid contributor.

    Mark L

    19 Jan 21 at 6:29 am

  86. Not a fan of the Lester signing at any price. If you asked me, “who is going to pitch better next year, Lester or Fedde?” I think I’d probably pick Lester but it’s not an easy choice. Better starters are out there. In the once-great-lefty-but-well-past-his-prime category, I would take Hamels over Lester. The best point in Lester’s favor is that he consistently makes starts, which does have value. Still, gotta think the Nats could have done better here. If Lester has a 4.50 ERA in 2021, he’ll be beating his projections by half a run.


    19 Jan 21 at 8:21 am

  87. Here’s the bottom line to me: the playoff path in the NL is EXTREMELY narrow. With that as a fact, there’s no room for sentimentality. This was a blatantly sentimental move. No way the analytics dept. signed off on this one.

    Lester did go 18-6 with Hickey in 2018. Apparently, Hickey thinks he can turn him into a “crafty lefty.” I’ll believe it when I see it.

    In the meantime, we better go get another big bat or two, as we’re going to need all the extra runs we can get.


    19 Jan 21 at 9:56 am

  88. I’ll reserve a final decision on Lester when I see 1) How the Nationals construct the rest of their roster and with the budget they have; and 2) what other starters sign for who could have been had.

    For now, I see a guy who is 1) a proven champion 2) A lefty, adding a second lefty starter to a rotation that has not had two lefties in a while 3) picked by his former pitching coach, who studied his 2020 far more than we have.

    I don’t agree with the idea of “blatant sentimentality.” Rizzo’s and Davey’s fortunes rise and fall with their player acquisition decisions. In an organization that fired Matt Williams and Dusty Baker, and endured a 2019 of underperformance, there is no room for sentimentality. The team won the World Series with veterans. It would have been sentimental for Martinez to keep Suzuki, especially as he was popular with the high-priced pitchers he handled. And Eaton would have come back here, as a popular player in the clubhouse. They didn’t (which is another reason why I think Realmuto is the play).

    I will defer to Hickey’s judgment about a pitcher and the risk of 5m. Whether he would have been a better investment than Hamels is also a function of whether Hamels accepts 5m. Again, let’s see where the Nationals spend the rest of their budget.

    And, let’s see what the trade market brings. I think we are back to a place where the surplus of ML and AAAA starters signals a trade with an organization that needs young pitching and multiple arms to plug in and has a big controllable piece that the Nationals want in return.

    Having watched the Nationals strike and get Gio Gonzalez in exactly this context, I’m not sure what they have planned. I’m hoping for Ramirez but Rizzo has a funny way of getting a player (Fister) that no one knew he was eyeing. Controllable starting pitching is currency, and the Nationals have it. Other teams value it. And that pitching has to be dealt before it loses value. We were in this place with Mike Morse and did just fine.

    The other thing this deal signals is that the Nationals have a lot of confidence in the development of their starting pitching on the farm. They feel that with a 1-2 year bridge, they will graduate the next wave. That is comforting, more comforting a message than a three year deal would convey.


    19 Jan 21 at 10:19 am

  89. I would add that Cub fans are far more angry today that their team did not make a low offer to keep Lester, who wanted to stay in Chicago, compared to our reactions about letting Suzuki and Eaton go. Both Suzuki and Eaton have proven fuel in the tank, and their signings reflect the market’s confidence in them. Our team and its fan base judged that we could do better.

    Yet the team that followed Lester to his unimpressive 2020 numbers was upset that he was allowed to leave at such a low price. That tells me a bit more to make me sanguine about what Lester adds at 5m.


    19 Jan 21 at 10:23 am

  90. sorry, late to the game, but new posted on Lester to drive discussion.

    Todd Boss

    19 Jan 21 at 10:36 am

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