Nationals Baseball: Hot Stove - Outfield

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hot Stove - Outfield

This is a tricky offseason for Mike Rizzo.   It seems pretty cut and dried.  He should go out and get a CF, maybe get a pitcher and roll with that until 2013 when the team will likely have full seasons of Bryce, Strasburg and some free agent first baseman (or maybe Rendon).  But what if he needs to trade a MI to get that CF or pitcher?  Then he needs to get a MI too.  What if he decides to bring up Bryce? Then he needs to somehow deal LaRoche (or Morse I guess) to make room.  There's a lot of moving parts to this offseason.  Let's look at each area in question individually and we'll start in the outfield

We all know Werth (6 yrs 112 million left) is set.  They aren't going to give up on their big signing one year in and even if they wanted to, no one is going to take that contract off the Nats hands.  Mike Morse will likely take the 2nd spot in the outfield.  While it's tempting to say the Nats should start Morse at first over LaRoche, it doesn't make much sense, at least to start the year.  Thanks to his injury Adam is non-tradeable, but beyond that there are too many good reasons to play him.  The Nats want to be a pitch to contact good-field team.  All the fancy stats agree, Morse is not a good fielder and LaRoche is. Adam, prior to the injury, was consistently a positive offensive player.  And of course, the Nats are paying him 8 million dollars next year.  What's the converse?  Why do you not start Adam? Because Mike Morse seemed more comfortable at first?  Because you want to bring up Bryce now? To me these are nice back-up plans to have but at season's start, if he's ready, LaRoche should be manning first.

Ok then who gets the third spot?   The popular choice is still Bryce.  He's tearing it up in the AFL right now and could likely at the very least hang in the majors offensively in 2012.  A couple things though. First, Rizzo has stated several times in the past he likes a slow deliberate build to the majors for his stars. Bryce didn't dominate AA last year.  It's completely conceivable Rizzo would want to see that before moving the kid up. Also, the kid is still learning how to play the outfield.  He's more of a corner outfielder, but to put him there would mean moving Werth to center.  Moving a guy at 33 to the most important defensive position in the outfield is risky business.  You could play him in center, which the Nats are trying to teach him, but all word is he's not good enough yet.  Given Rizzo's emphasis on D, I just don't see it to start 2012.  Everything here feels a year away.

Nix, Gomes, Bernadina?  Ha ha ha. (by the way Gomes did hit himself out of Type B FA status so chalk that one up in the loss column for Rizzo)

Free agency isn't really viable. Grady Sizemore is the lottery ticket in CF.  Prior to injuries he was a plus fielder in center and a great hitter.  If he were to get back to that any team that signs him would have a huge steal.  Of course most lottery tickets are losers. The injuries happened and it's been a long slog back just to be a bad major leaguer. He's played 100 games the last 2 years and hit .220 / .280 /.379 while doing it. This isn't a gamble, it's a sucker bet. If you get lucky it's by the grace of whatever deity Rizzo worships. Unless he can get him on a Wang-esque deal this doesn't seem to be Rizzo's type of guy.   The other name bandied about is Coco Crisp.  Here are some numbers

34 years old .301 / .323 / .426
32 years old  .264 /.314 / .376

The latter is Coco Crisp who I figure will get a multi-year deal around 10 million.  The former?   Endy Chavez.  Granted it's just one year (which is why you don't expect those middle stats to be repeated), but he's a plus fielder who you could plug in center for a year and pay very cheaply.  I'm not advocating getting Endy.  I'm saying there's no point in getting Coco.  There just ins't value there. If Rizzo insists on going that route then yes, bring in a Chavez or Corey Patterson, or hell, bring back Ankiel.  But that's not a smart idea.  That's an acceptable non-move.

This leaves trades.  We discussed this plenty back around the deadline, but the general consensus is that Upton will be rather expensive, Span too now that the Twins were able to unload Delmon Young, and Fowler is obtainable but seems unable to progress in any fashion in the majors.  (Michael Bourn was the last name talked about but he got dealt to the Braves and is there in 2012)  Rizzo has pieces to deal, guys like Norris and Detwiler, but ask yourself this; rumors suggested Rizzo balked at dealing Storen and Bernadina for Span.  That's a reliever, a damn good one but still a reliever, and a 4th OF.  Do you think he could he bring himself to deal a position player or starter? Guys with a ton more potential value? I don't see that either.  Rizzo's (very typical by the way, so don't blame him. almost every GM is like this) over-valuation of his own talent / fear of losing a trade makes a deal for Upton or Span a non-starter in my book.

Which leaves the Nats with what in the end?  A potential deal for Fowler. A guy who may very well benefit from a change of pace but at the same time might give the Nats nothing. He might be obtainable for the level of talent Rizzo would be willing to part with. Not exactly the big move Nats fans are looking for, but this is what I see.


blovy8 said...

Upton will probably be too expensive for the Rays to want to pay next year, and they have Jennings ready to play center. I bet there's some leverage for them to make a deal in the next few weeks before they might have to non-tender the guy.The Rays could use help at catcher and the middle infield.

Bonsai said...

Being a Stanford man myself I am heavily biased, but isn't Storen one of the few relievers that shouldn't be traded? Especially for a injury-prone light-hitting outfielder?

Everyone seems to think relievers grow on trees, but then bemoan the fact that their team seemingly doesn't have a bullpen. Storen and Clippard were the only two known quantities in the bullpen (well Slaten was too I guess...).

I'm not saying there's a glut of talent in the MI or SP positions, but I feel like we could afford to lose a Lombardozzi and/or a Detwiler, instead of trying to fill an important slot in the relief corps.

michael K said...

I'm with Bonsai. I think the knock on relievers is two-fold: one, they don't really fill as important a role as a starter or position player; and two, they are enigmatic, performing great some years and horrible other years. Just see: Matt Capps, Damaso Marte. Hence, buying high for a reliever is an awful move because you don't even know if they'll continue that success.

But I think Storen, along with other top relievers, are different. First of all, he's a closer. That role's a bit more important than your standard Middle Reliever. Teams really benefit from having a good closer, especially teams in playoff contention (which the Nats should be before Storen turns 26). And second, he seems to be good enough to be consistent. This isn't Matt Capps, who had some mediocre years before coming to the Nationals, had one great year, and then was traded for a starting catcher. A good, consistent closer has value, IMO.

As for the CF issue, I also agree it will be a tricky issue this off-season. Since there really doesn't seem to be the "perfect fit" this year, signing Sizemore to a one year deal (IF he'd accept that) sounds like a reasonable gamble. Also - what about Peter Bourjos of the Angels? He's young and decent, so the Angels probably don't want to get rid of him, but they also have Mike Trout in the waiting and three corner outfielders signed to expensive contracts.

Harper said...

b8 - He'll be more expensive (projects to about 7 mill) but for a guy that can play center and can carry a team (.333 / .432 / .606 line in Sept shows his potential) that's still cheap. Even the Rays won't balk at that I don't think. They have the trade deadlines to deal him too and he could really up his value this year. I think they'll certainly listen to good deals but won't feel like they HAVE to do it now. In other words the deal may START with say... Norris/Espinosa.

Bonsai - Stanford, bah. Call me when you get a Stansbury degree.

I wouldn't call Span injury prone (but concussions can be worrisome), but I'll take that argument up as I'm certainly not everyone. I don't think it's that great relievers can be easily found. It's that the difference between a great reliever and a good one in lessened by the number of innings they are involved in. That's even considering the importance of those innings. It just doesn't compare with the impact on a team that moving from a bad CF (Bernadina/Ankiel/etc) to a ok on (Span) has.

That's not to say the Nats shouldn't deal Lombardozzi or Detwiler before Storen. Certainly the Nats can afford to lose those two more than they can Storen. It's all circumstances.

Harper said...

mk - Riddle me this - if I told you tomorrow that Storen would be the 8th inning guy and Clippard the closer - would you be worried? I wouldn't and I just can't see the value in protecting that reliever over getting a much better CF (Much better fielding, slightly better hitting). Of course you do try to deal Clippard first - older, more wear and tear, etc, better contract with Storen.

Angels? If they didn't have two ending contracts this year I might agree, but I think they'll sit on Borjous as a 4th OF / pinch runner /late inning D replacement for a year. Besides those guys are old could get injured easily. Or whoever is DHing could be injured and they could move there...

Wally said...

Harper - I think that what you are saying (in part) is that (a) the trade market is the only one worth pursuing for a CF (I agree), and (b) the Nats shouldn't bother because it will only create comparable problems at other positions (I disagree).

Without trying to be flip, I think that is backwards thinking. CF is one of the most important positions on the field, and having a superior defender that can hit at least average is a huge advantage.

So how will the Nats fill it? Any internal candidates? None. Some that MAY work out (Taylor, Goodwin) but no one that the team should PLAN on working out. So, with talent and depth at numerous other positions (including such key spots as C and MI), shouldn't the Nats take some risk and weaken themselves at other spots to fill one that has no obvious internal answer? Even MI, which isn't as strong organizationally as C, has better depth. Wouldn't you rather go with Espy and a stopgap until Rendon, or Lombo or Hague ... can step up, than Espy and Desi with a stopgap in CF until ... what? Plus, 2Bs on the FA market tend to be passable (Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill, et al).

So, to me, Rizzo's offseason plan should be clear and easy. Do what it takes to get a quality, above average CF because it is really the only position out there at which you can't reasonably project an internal candidate as an acceptable player, and it is too important of a position to ignore (or play Rick Ankiel every day).

Harper said...

(a) Yes (b) No

I'm saying I think the Nats will pursue a trade route but only if it involves players that Rizzo (and others) view as completely expendable. That he, like most (if not all) GMs, overvalue his own organization's talent and have a deep fear of "losing" a trade. In the end I think this means a Milone & Eury Perez & junk for Fowler & junk type of deal.

I agree with you - the Nats should attack CF. If the Rays came by tomorrow and said Norris, Desmond and Detwiler for Upton, I think they should jump at it.

michael k said...

On relievers - I see what you mean - the Nats have another good closer in Clippard so in a way you're only losing a setup man by trading Storen. Maybe I'd see it that way if the Nats had 3 shutdown relievers, but at this point they only have 2. And we can't be 100% sure Clippard would succeed in the closer role, anyway. Perhaps I'm overvaluing Storen because of the hometown hero/we drafted him bias, but he's a very young pitcher who's excelling in an important role. Not that he's untouchable, but I'd want more of a sure thing than Span.

On the Angels - according to their depth charts at their mlb site, they're already using Abreu at DH, with Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter manning the corners. So right now Bourjos sits on the bench if Trout is brought up, but you're right that two of these guys will be gone soon and it'd be silly for the Angels to give up Bourjos for cheap just because he's not starting this year. I just see it as a potential option, depending on how the Angels feel. Also, according to baseball-reference, Abreu has a $1M buyout for 2012, so it's possible he might not even be on the team next year.

Wally said...

Harper - ok, I understand better. You're probably right that Rizzo plays it safe.

On Bourjos, just speculating, but even with the contracts as detailed, there may be solid reasoning for LAA to make Bourjos available. Neither Bourjos, nor Trout, profile as a corner OF. At least, they have less value as a corner OF because both are above average defensively in CF. it can work, like the Yanks with Gardner in LF, but the Yanks are also loaded at virtually every other position so it is relatively easy to carry someone who adds a lot of their value on defense.

Of course, speculating doesn't mean they'll do it.

Donald said...

The Nats want to be a serious contender in 2013. If they get a long-term CF in 2012 that means that Morse either moves to 1B or out the door (I'm assuming Werth and Harper are locks in the OF). So what would you rather have -- an average fielding 1B in Morse with a good CF like Upton, or do you live with Werth or Harper in CF and Morse in left and try to find a better long term 1B? It seems like 1B might be easier to come by than CF. Plus you'd probably get more power that way but less speed, which is more along Davey's lines.

DezoPenguin said...

Actually, I'd be happy with Crisp as a CF choice, but for two things:

1) Injury risk. He's missed a lot of time.

2) He'd almost be guaranteed to be slotted in as leadoff hitter unless Rizzo went out and, say, got Reyes for SS.

So yeah, I think a Bourjos trade is the thing to pursue. If the Angels are serious about making room for Trout (too bad he sucked so much during his audition this year...) they'd probably at least listen to offers since they're stuck with Wells and Hunter.

As far as relievers go...yeah, I'd certainly unload one if necessary, but really, they're just not as fungible as people seem to think they are. Sure, there's plenty of "not good enough to be starter" guys out there, but a reliever who can provide reliable performance year-in, year-out is a different story, especially when that reliever is a proven closer. Many, many top-flight set-up guys have tried to make the transition to closer, and for every Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell, there's a bunch of Tim Burkes, who ought to be fine but get the yips. Plainly, I definitely would worry if they flipped Clip and Storen simply because I don't know if Clippard is closer material or if he's Frank Fransisco/Jon Rauch/Fernando Rodney/etc.

Nattydread said...

Which team has a center fielder and needs a catcher? This is who Rizzo is talking to.

My guess is that Jesus Flores and a top prospect pitcher get traded for a CF.

We'll use free agency to get our #3 starter.

DezoPenguin said...

Right now the rotation is Strasburg-Znn-Lannan-Detweiler-Wang. Honestly, there's not a lot out there on the FA market for starters that could go in there, unless we snipe C.J. Wilson. Or Mark Buehrle, if the Sox don't have him re-signed in twelve seconds. Oswalt and Kuroda are age and injury risks, guys who could be quite good or even excellent if things fall right but who would cost a whole lot. After that you're looking at names like Edwin Jackson and Erik Bedard...I'd as soon see whether Peacock or Milone or heck, even Gorzo or Livan can slot in if one of the bottom three get hurt or fail hard rather than overpay for one of the riffraff.

Harper said...

mk- I think Clippard doesn't have to excel at closing - merely be good and it would work out in the Nats favor. But I'm never going to have everyone agree with my views on closer.

As for the Angels - I'll agree - you might as well ask. I just don't know why they would do it.

Wall-E - I guess you're right about the corner OF, but my guess is that they expect Trout to hit a lot more like a corner OF as he ages, which makes it easier to stomach Bourjos.

Donald - definitely want to fill CF over 1B if the choice is between the two. No contest. 1B can always be filled later/.

Dezo - right idea wrong conclusion. For every Rivera and maybe Bell (we'll see) there are a bunch of Tim Burkes. But Tim Burke wasn't a bad closer. He was better than fine for 4 years. That's the thing. For every long term solution at closer there are a bunch of guys who can do it well enough for a few years when they are at their peak. It's less about "not having it" and more about not really being that good / being made a closer after a career year when they are only going to get worse.

ND - A CF that can field and hit and a team that might deal? TB is pretty much it. PIT and LA both have CF and need C but I don't see either dealing. Melky (KC) is a FA and can't field. Neither can Coughlan in FLA. Mets had that situation but Angel Pagan had a big step back year in all aspects and might be non-tendered. He has the skills to be ok with bat and glove but at 30 do you trust him. Oakland fits the bill but that's Coco Crisp (FA), so if you want him you sign him. Only other intersting maybe deal would be for Franklin Guiteirrez. He's got a decent history of being acceptable with the bat and awesome in the field but you'd have to ignore his weird injury/sicknees issues this year. And he's got a decently sized contract. If he's done you're carrying around 13 mill for the next two years...

Harper said...

Dezo 2 - I'll go over the pitching soon but I agree with your assessment. The question is whether the Nats want to make a run this year. If that's the case you can make that deal for a good pitcher and take your chances. I don't think that'll be the case though.

calindc said...

Woah! Did you all start a "What the Angels need conversation" without me? Tsk Tsk.

Yes, they have 4 Of's, 2 with huge contracts (and both of them very injury/slump prone), one "meh" power, and one young & has potential. They will most likely try to keep all 4, but if one is dealt, it'll be Bourjos.

They also have a hole at 3rd base, which they are trying to move their other young prodigy(Trumbo) to.

Their 4th and 5th starters are a bit undesirable, but easily replaced.

If you were to tempt the Angels into a trade, there is only one position you can dangle in front of them to get their attention.


Mike Scioscia's only embarrassing mistake last year was sticking with a defensive minded catcher (Scioscia himself is, of course, one of the greatest defensive catchers ever) who hit well below the Mendoza line (.174). You offer them a catcher with decent defensive skills with some decent pop, well, you might be able to wrangle yourself a good trade.

Hello Mr. Flores, have you ever been to Disneyland?

Harper said...

really, you think a Flores centered deal could get Bourjos? Of course I think your first statement (they'll try to keep all 4) is what's going to happen.