Nationals Arm Race

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

2022 Non-Tender Deadline Analysis


I’m sure Voit wasn’t happy getting traded from a playoff contender to the worst team in the league. But now he’ll likely get to test the FA waters after a non-tender. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

November is always a busy month for transactions. You have the end of the season and the parting of ways of FAs, then the declaration of dozens of MLFAs, then Rule-5 roster machinations, and now the Non-Tender deadline.

This is another long-running piece we try to do here every year. Here’s known links for years past analysis: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

The non-tender decisions generally weigh options, salary projection, roster depth, and performance. So we’ll talk about all these factors for each player. Key resources to use during this analysis will include:

While it is true that the team could choose to non-tender pre-arb players this coming Friday (as they did last year with Mike Ford), they could do these moves at any time with any number of pre-Arb 40-man players who might be needed. I would have almost no problem DFA’ing any one of Fox, Palacios, Weems, Garrett, or Antuna right now. But they’re all pre-Arb players who aren’t even projected necessarily to make the 2023 active roster, meaning they’re costing the team a pittance. So we’ll skip those names for now.

Lets review every Arbitration-eligible player we have, in rough order of projected salary, and make some comments.

  • Voit, Luke: Acquired as a throw-in with the huge San Diego trade last season. Was on an Arb2 year contract of $5.45M but the Nats only had to pay the prorated amount of about $1.9M. Projects to $6.5M in 2023 salary. Two options left, so he could be optioned. He’s positionally limited to 1B or DH, is kind of a 3 true outcomes guy, with low BA, high Ks and decent power (22 hrs in 2022). The team has almost nothing invested in the guy and discovered Joey Meneses in 2022, a guy who plays the same position AND can play RF, who makes the minimum, and who drastically out hit Voit. Heck, i’d rather put Meneses at 1B and recall Yadiel Hernandez to bash it in RF in 2023. For me, a clear non-tender.
  • Robles, Victor. Here we go again. Another season, and another year of debating this guy. Nothing has changed from the last dozen times we’ve had this conversation: Its his third straight year of hitting at or below a .600 OPS figure but giving the team plus defense in CF (he’s a 2022 Gold Glove Finalist). He’s only 26 but already has 1675 MLB PAs, so its highly likely we have what we have in him at the plate at this point. He has an option left. He made just $1.65M this year but Cots projects him to $3.9M next. $3.9M is ridiculous for a 70 OPS production, no matter how good his defense is. Meanwhile, the team has Lane Thomas who gave above league average OPS production with power who can play CF, and just added a true CF to the 40-man in De La Rosa. We are after all pretty thin on the 40-man right now in terms of OF: Thomas, Robles, Call, Palacios, Antuna, and De La Rosa. If the season started tomorrow … are you really going to battle with Call or Palacios starting in RF? I hope not, and it lends me to believe the team will be looking at OFs in FA. What does that mean for Robles? Maybe if his projected salary wasn’t so high, you could make the argument to keep him. But not at $4M for what we’re getting. But I’m not the Nats, who have continued to give him chance after chance, so him getting non-tendered would be a shock.
  • Fedde, Erick: Another guy who comes up year after year. In 2022, he was awful, going 6-13 with a 5.81 ERA, a 5.15 FIP in 27 starts. That was good for just a 67 ERA+ figure. For that he earned 2.15M this year and is projected to earn $2.65M next. He has no options. Our working theory is that the team has kept giving him chances (as opposed to them cutting bait as they did with Austin Voth) precisely due to his signing bonus, and I continue to believe this is the case. That being said … if everyone is healthy Fedde looks like he’s 6th on the SP depth chart (behind Strasburg, Corbin, Grey, Gore, and Cavalli). But we know everyone is never healthy. Would you rather have Fedde instead of one of the rest of the possible SPs? Espino, Abbott, Adon, Irvin, Carrillo, Rutledge? Espino and Abbott were both swingmen and had medicore numbers on the year, but Espino proved he was much better in relief and seem to me to be better served in the bullpen. Same with Abbott; far better in the pen in 2022 than as a starter. So those guys don’t count. That leaves Adon (1-12 in 2022) and three guys who have never pitched in the majors. So, I hate to say it, but I think the team needs to tender Fedde to eat 2023 innings.
  • Finnegan, Kyle basically became our closer upon Rainey‘s injury, and performed adequately there. As a result of getting a bunch of 2022 saves, Finnegan’s price tag goes from a MLB minimum salary in 2022 to a projected $2.1M in 2023. No matter; he performed well, he’s our 2023 closer (Rainey had TJ surgery in August and likely misses most if not all of 2023), and you tender him.
  • Thomas, Lane: has been found money ever since we got him from STL in exchange for the fading Jon Lester. He hit above 100 OPS+ in 2022, plays all three OF positions, made the minimum last year and only projects to $1.65M this year. Easy Tender, could be our CF opening day starter if the team finally cuts ties with Robles.
  • Edwards, Carl was perhaps our best 2022 reliever after signing a MLFA deal, and now is inline to get a decent pay day as he exhausts his last arb year. Edwards’ career, by the way, is perhaps the most difficult options/arbitration case/service time player i’ve ever seen: he’s been outrighted multiple times, signed both major league and minor league deals, had multiple arb cases, played for 3 different teams in 2021 alone … to this day I cannot figure out which season counted as his third arb year, but here we are in 2022 and he’s facing his 4th and last arb case.
  • Rainey, Tanner: an interesting case. He had TJ on 8/4/22, so he’ll miss most of 2023, but he’s arbitration eligible and Cots projects him to nearly double his 2022 salary to $1.5M. Why pay $1.5M to a guy who’s not going to play and will just sit on your 60-day DL all year? If it was me, i’d non-tender him and immediately resign him to a minor league deal with a handshake agreement to do a call up on 8/1/23, with performance based bonuses. If he comes back and pitches a couple of months, then structure it so he gets more than the league minimum. But this way he stays with the team and rehabs with us. One would have thought the team would have tried to sneak him through waivers earlier and just flat outrighted him (as they did with other injured arms like Tetreault and Lee). Either way, he was so dominant in 2020 (and then so awful in 2021) that the team should roll the dice with him. Or not, and tender him and pay him as little as possible and throw him on the 60-day DL as soon as you can to free up the roster spot.
  • Vargas, Ildemaro: no analysis needed; the team already signed him for 2023, avoiding arbitration. Vargas played 3B primarily for the team after it became clear that Maikel Franco sucked, and was good. But Kieboom is healthy again, and the team added Alu, so my guess is that Vargas is signed on as one of our “backup middle infielders” for 2023, ready to plug in anywhere on the dirt as needed, while Kieboom/Alu compete for the starting 3B job.
  • Arano, Victor threw a ton of innings for us last year (appearing in 43 games). He wasn’t lights out, but he also wasn’t costing the team a ton. $900k last year, projecting to $1.1M this year; resign him and put him into the mix.
  • Harvey, Hunter was either our best or second best reliever in 2022 (with Edwards) after being claimed off waivers. Found gold again. His price tag for 2023 barely projects above the league minimum; no brainer to tender.

So, If it was me, i’d non-tender Voit, Robles, and make a side deal for Rainey.

My prediction for what the Nats will do? Non-Tenders for only Voit, keeping Robles, Fedde, and all the others.

Post-publishing Actuals? Amazingly the team cut bait with Fedde. Nats non-tender Voit and Fedde.

Nats Non-Tender history.

  • 2022: Nats non-tender Voit, Fedde
  • 2021: Ryne Harper, Wander Suero, and Mike Ford non-tendered, keeping Ross, Fedde, Voth, and Stevenson, all of whom I thought would get NT’d. By the end of 2022, Voth was waived, Stevenson outrighted, Ross injured, and Fedde awful.
  • 2020: No real non-tender candidates; all arb-eligible players tendered contracts at the deadline. Didn’t even write a post for the first time ever.
  • 2019, Just Javy Guerra, who was then re-signed to a combo MLB/MLFA deal a few days later and played for us for another couple of seasons. Glover retired, and the team tendered the questionable Taylor.
  • 2018, no-one non-tendered (Roark, Taylor, Solis all candidates in one form or another).  Solis negotiated a contract pre-deadline leading to his tender.
  • 2017: No non-tender candidates; all arb-eligible players tendered contracts at the deadline.
  • 2016: we non-tendered Ben Revere, waived Aaron Barrett before having to make the NT decision, and declined Yusmeiro Petit‘s option as a way of “non-tendering” him.
  • 2015: we non-tendered Craig Stammen, but kept NT candidates Jose Lobaton and Tyler Moore (eventually trading Moore after waiving him at the end of spring training).
  • 2014: we did not non-tender anyone, though a couple weeks later traded NT candidate Ross Detwiler to Texas for two guys who never really panned out for us (Chris Bostick and Abel de los Santos).
  • 2013: we did not non-tender anyone, only Ross Ohlendorf was a candidate, and in retrospect he probably should have been NT’d since he didn’t throw a pitch for the Nationals in 2014.
  • 2012: we non-tendered three guys (Jesus FloresTom Gorzelanny, John Lannan) in the face of a huge amount of arbitration players (10).
  • 2011: we non-tendered Doug Slaten deservedly, but tendered candidate Gorzellany.
  • 2010: we non-tendered Chien-Ming Wang, Wil Nieves, Joel Peralta.  We also outrighted 5 guys prior to the NT deadline, DFA’d two more in December, and DFA/dreleased four more guys prior to Spring training in a very busy off-season.
  • 2009: we non-tendered Scott Olsen, Mike MacDougal
  • 2008: we non-tendered Tim Redding, now the Pitching coach for our Auburn Short-A team, so I guess there was no hard feelings there 🙂
  • 2007: we non-tendered Nook LoganMike O’Conner.
  • 2006: we non-tendered or declined options for Ryan Drese, Brian Lawrence, Zach Day (it might have only been Day who was officially non-tendered)
  • 2005: we non-tendered Carlos BaergaPreston WilsonJunior Spivey.

Written by Todd Boss

November 17th, 2022 at 9:43 am

19 Responses to '2022 Non-Tender Deadline Analysis'

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  1. I am so sick of watching Fedde and Robles it would be a relief to see them gone.

    The payroll this year will be very low; keeping Voit should be easy and then see if you can flip him at the deadline.

    Mark L

    17 Nov 22 at 2:14 pm

  2. Matt Swartz at MLBTR, who has a really good track record with predicting the arb numbers, has some radically different figures with a few guys:

    Carl Edwards Jr. (5.169): $1.6MM
    Luke Voit (4.169): $8.2MM
    Erick Fedde (4.099): $3.6MM
    Victor Robles (4.033): $2.5MM
    Tanner Rainey (3.127): $1.5MM
    Hunter Harvey (3.047): $1MM
    Victor Arano (3.022): $1MM
    Lane Thomas (3.014): $2.1MM
    Ildemaro Vargas (3.007): $1.1MM
    Kyle Finnegan (3.000): $2MM

    The $8.2M for Voit is astounding, and they have Fedde getting a million more than Cots does. (Yikes.)


    17 Nov 22 at 2:23 pm

  3. OK, we knew that Todd had been gone for a while, but the fact that he’s arguing that Fedde should be tendered is conclusive proof that the real Todd has been kidnapped by aliens!

    Much like Mark, I’m so sick of Fedde and Robles floundering that I just can’t take it anymore. Let Adon and Irvin eat innings and learn something while they’re doing it. I’d even pay Anibal (again) just to avoid watching Fedde fall apart by the 4th inning every start (ERA in 4th inning: 8.18).

    The failures of Fedde and Robles, along with those of Kieboom, Romero, and a few others, are a significant part of the reason that the Nats are in the ditch right now. You can’t stay competitive if you can’t develop cheap, controllable talent. Fedde and Robles are the poster children for why we’re a 55-win team, and as long as they’re still around, the reminders will be painful.

    As for Robles’s defense, um, yeah, he has wheels. But he’s been an MLB regular for four years, with a former OF as his manager, and he still regularly throws to the wrong base, overthrows the cutoff man, just yet more reminders of the developmental problems of the organization. At the plate, he only hits the ball hard 21% of the time.

    I would be surprised if Rizzo non-tenders Fedde, and very surprised if he does Robles, but it needs to happen. Sending them out there again and again is the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.


    17 Nov 22 at 3:06 pm

  4. Trust me< i do not want to watch Fedde giving up 4 runs over 5 innings every 5 days in 2023. But i'm telling you, this team is obsessed with him and will find ways not to cut him loose. And honestly, the odds of all these Arms being healthy is almost nil ...

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 22 at 3:49 pm

  5. Oh, I agree with the organization’s “obsession” about Fedde and will be surprised if they actually non-tender him. But when things go bad — really bad — you’ve GOT to make some changes to your business practices, right? Go in some different directions? But other than kicking Romero to the curb, which he brought on himself, I haven’t noticed much difference. The six-player add to the 40-man was rather mind-boggling. I mean, three of the four players who the Dodgers added to their 40-man are top-100 prospects. No matter how much hope we may have for Alu or Cronin, no one is calling them a top-100 prospect.

    As for eating innings, I don’t think Stras is ever pitching again, sad to say. But we’ll always have 2019 . . . And we wouldn’t have won the title without Corbin, either. So I’m not doing regrets on those scores. Just move on.

    The situation where the Nats are pitching-wise reminds me of where the Braves were in 1990. They had a lefty starter in his 30s (Charlie Leibrandt) and then gave most of the rest of the starts to a bunch of kids: Smoltz, Glavine, Avery, Pete Smith, and Derek Lilliquist (future failed Nats pitching coach). They only won 65 games that season, and Avery and Lilliquist really sucked. Of course they were in Game 7 of the World Series a year later. NOT predicting that for the Nats, but I love the idea of letting the young arms get experience and sort themselves out.

    I know there’s some talk — and I think Davey even said it — about trying to sign a couple of veteran starters. I see the logic, but considering the overall lack of talent on the roster, it also seems delusional. Go with Gray, Gore, Cavalli, Adon, and Irvin and see what you’ve got. Yeah, one may end up with a 5.81 ERA . . . but save them $3.6M from getting the same thing from Fedde.


    17 Nov 22 at 6:56 pm

  6. Why would we want to pay big money for “veteran starters” when we have guys who can pitch in our org?

    Current SP depth chart: Strasburg, Corbin*, Grey, Gore, Cavalli, Fedde, Adon, Carrillo, Irvin, Rutledge

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 22 at 9:13 pm

  7. “Can pitch” is a bit of an overstatement given the numbers they put up in 2022, @Todd.

    I’d just as soon move on from Fedde, who has shown us repeatedly what he is (a #6-7 starter) and will be asking close to $4M this winter, and Arano, whom we can probably just sign back on a minors deal if we really want to keep him around (he was somehow worth -0.7 rWAR in just 42 IP). I agree with you on Robles but I just don’t see Rizzo cutting the cord. I don’t know what to think about Voit; that’s a lot of money for a mediocre hitter who is defensively limited to first base.

    Realistically, I think the only Rule 5 protection players likely to contend for the Opening Day roster are Alu and Cronin. Maybe someone else forces the issue. I personally wouldn’t have protected as many guys as the Nats did.


    18 Nov 22 at 2:03 am

  8. Judging by his limited 2022 usage, Carrillo no longer is a starter. Also, he got absolutely clobbered at AA. Rutledge surrendered 9.8 hits per nine innings in A ball. Despite the 40-man add, it would take a miracle for him to make the majors in 2023.

    Beyond Irvin, if I was looking for someone within the organization who might get some MLB innings as a starter in 2023, I’d guess Alex Troop. His 2022 numbers at AA weren’t great, but they were pretty similar to Irvin’s . . . and exponentially better than Tim Cate’s. If they can get healthy, Tetreault and Evan Lee also could get into the picture. Tetreault got hurt before he got sent back down, so I think he still has all three of his option years (if he ever makes it back on the 40-man).

    Also, pitcher picks predominate in Rule 5, and the Nats have the #1 pick. It sounds a little frightening, but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if there’s a Rule 5 pick in the starting rotation. (But who am I kidding — Rizzo is going to take a reliever who throws 101 but can’t hit the broad side of a barn.)


    18 Nov 22 at 7:12 am

  9. Carrillo: yes i tend to agree. He went from being a starter to being more of a high leverage reliever in 2022. A waste, esp considering how big a part of that Scherzer/Turner deal he was.

    Maybe they wait to see Tetreault show he’s healthy then call him up again.

    Todd Boss

    18 Nov 22 at 12:48 pm

  10. An important corollary conversation — and perhaps a potential hot stove post for Todd — is what is a reasonable expectation for improvement from the Nats in 2023? I bring this up because I see, in discuss on NatsTalk about whether to tender Fedde, a number of people lobbying for adding one or two veteran starters, and/or keeping Fedde as one of them. Um, for what purpose? To possibly get to 72 wins instead of 68?

    I would love for the Nats to instantly turn around to being reasonably competitive, but let’s be real here. Just to get to 72-90 would be a 17-game improvement. There’s scuttlebutt that Rizzo is telling people that he wants to get to .500 in 2023 and contend in 2024. Even with a lot of best-case scenarios, that time line seems like at least one year ahead of likely to me, all the more with the Mets, Braves, and Phils spending big.

    So play the kids. What are we going to learn if 60% of the rotation is Corbin, Fedde, and Espino? That you’re not going to win a lot of games starting Corbin, Fedde, and Espino? I think we already know that.


    18 Nov 22 at 12:58 pm

  11. On Carillo, there were doubts about him being a starter even when the trade was made in 2021. From the Fangraphs write up of the 75 prospects moved in trades at the 2021 deadline (Carillo ranked #25; I did note that #74 and #75 were both “prospects” the Nats picked up, Donovan Casey from the Scherzer/Turner deal and Richard Guasch from the Gomes/Harrison deal):

    “Carrillo is a high-octane relief prospect with upper-90s gas, a bevy of pitches, and a violent delivery.”

    FWIW I never regarded Carrillo as a “big part” of that deal; he was/is more of a “lottery ticket” kind of prospect where Ruiz and Gray were the headliners.

    John C.

    18 Nov 22 at 12:59 pm

  12. Yes, Carrillo was thought to be the #3 piece in the Max/Trea deal. Not looking good right now. And the guy they got for Schwarber has yet to throw a pitch.


    18 Nov 22 at 1:07 pm

  13. Well, they did it — non-tendered Fedde and Voit. Voit was a no-brainer being owed so much. Moving on from Fedde isn’t a big move in the grand scheme of things, but it does FINALLY show a willingness to break from some of the mediocrities who they’ve insisted were better than they were. Within two weeks they have moved from their top picks in 2014 (Fedde), 2015 (Stevenson as minor-league free agent), and 2017 (Romero).

    Definitely entering a new era. It may not be pretty for a while, but at least they’ll stop pretending in some guys we know won’t work.


    18 Nov 22 at 9:54 pm

  14. @KW, you said it. The Nats’ draft history for the past decade or so is (I say this with no intention of passing judgment on the selections of the past 2-3 years, my concerns about each of them having been duly noted in the past) uuuuuuuuuugly.

    Since it doesn’t look like literally any heads will roll among the regime for the shockingly poor results we’ve had over the past couple of seasons (and especially this past season), the best we can hope for now is that an old dog can indeed learn some new tricks. I scarcely dare to hope that Rizzo finally, *finally* cutting bait on the likes of Fedde and Romero actually signals a change in his core philosophy (“We like the guys we have”) but it’s at least a step in the right direction, for now.

    As for Voit: It’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. Good luck out there.


    19 Nov 22 at 2:15 am

  15. We could write a lot about how we got in this ditch, starting with the decade of drafting ineptitude. But I’m trying to make myself focus more on how we get out of the ditch. It isn’t going to be easy.

    We’ve been talking about the young starters. They’ve really got to strike gold with several of them, but it may be a couple of years before we really know. And Chase Dollander definitely will be in the running for their top pick. As I’ve noted, they might also pluck a starter from Rule 5.

    Position players . . . have a long way to go. As of now, the two I believe in are Ruiz and Abrams. I think Thomas and Meneses are viable everyday players for now. I want to believe in Garcia, who is still young and has interesting hints of power, but the direction of his batting line still is skewing in a Robles-like direction. He’s got to develop more plate discipline.

    I don’t believe in Robles, even for a bridge until they get better. I’ve been given no reason to believe in Kieboom, but I assume that they’ll give him one more big chance. As of now, I would put Alu in the category with Thomas and Meneses — good enough for where the Nats are now. For the 3B competition, I’m also really intrigued by Andres Chaparro of the Yankees as a potential Rule 5 pick:

    My acceptable squad is missing two OF and a DH, not coincidentally some of the biggest offensive positions. I guess we’re gonna hope that Hassell is ready to fill one of the OF slots by mid-year. Maybe they can fill in things with a few low/mid-level free agents, but it isn’t a great FA class at all. There are way too many Luke Voit types available . . . but probably at a lot less than $8M. Plus they still have Yaddy Hernandez in the organization, he of a 108 OPS+. They could do worse . . . and have . . .


    19 Nov 22 at 2:02 pm

  16. Thanks for the link, KW. Are you sure he’s not on the Yanks 40 man? He’ll start next year at AAA if not picked in the Rule V.

    BTW, MLB did some good analysis of free agent pitchers this offseason. After the 3 big stars there are 25 starting pitchers with WAR’s over 1 available to be had. Surely Mike Rizzo can nab at least 2 of them. All 25 are better than Eric Fedde.

    Maybe Todd’s next piece; the 25 starting pitchers available with positive WAR’s.

    Mark L

    20 Nov 22 at 6:57 am

  17. Yes, Chaparro is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Yanks only protected one player. Most teams only protect top-100/150 type guys. The Yankees exposed a guy who slugged .594 at AA while the Nats protected four guys who haven’t even played at AA.

    Upon further reading, I see some claims that Chaparro may end up a 1B/DH type. But the Nats need that too.

    I’m sure there will be other guys who are attractive. He was one who just popped out at me on a quick browse — 19 HRs and 16 doubles in only 64 games at AA gets one’s attention, 158 wRC+, K% under 20. He’ll only turn 24 in May.


    20 Nov 22 at 9:13 am

  18. KW, you look at his numbers and it would be malpractice for someone not to pick him. He certainly looks better than some of the players Rizzo protected.

    Mark L

    20 Nov 22 at 4:27 pm


    this is the list of everyone’s top 30 prospects rule5 eligible, prior to additions. Ironically our two highest ranked prospects were … Rutledge and De la Rosa, both added.

    then, here’s MLBpipeline’s similar analysis, cross referenced for who was added.

    I’ll do a quick post on this, instead of burying it in the comments.

    Todd Boss

    21 Nov 22 at 9:00 am

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