Nationals Baseball: Dancing with Myself : Signing Fielder

Friday, January 06, 2012

Dancing with Myself : Signing Fielder

I realized that I haven't actually said the Nats should or shouldn't sign Fielder. I guess part of that is because it depends a lot on the terms of the contract.  If Prince walks into the Nats front office and says "I'll play for 4 years, 60 million", you make sure the ink is dry before he sobers up.   If Boras is meeting with the Nats and says "The Pujols deal is a good starting point", you reply "Well, I'm sorry we couldn't work this out", put your arm around his back and lead him to the exit. Then right before he crosses the threshold, you slam his head into the door frame and stand over his prone and bleeding body screaming "You think you can cheat me, punk?! You think you can cheat me?!"

Figuring though that Werth got 7/126, I'm going to say that Fielder (being the better and younger player) will get more. Let's go ahead and assume that 8 years, 160 million gets it done.  Now, based on those numbers, would I do it if I were the Nats? Let's argue it out with myself.

8 years, huh? 

What about it?

Just a long time to have anyone signed.  He'll be what... 35 at the end of the deal?

So what?  He's a great player.

Even great players age.  That 35 season is probably gonna be rough.  You know how many guys that age or older played 140 games last year and put up good offensive seasons? Not great, just good?

I don't know, 20? 

Six. Hell, through in age 34 and it's only eight.  Go from 32 on and it's only 11

Prince is a great hitter though - chances are better he'll be one of those 11 or 8 or 6 than just some random player.

Maybe you're right, but we haven't even factored in how bad his defense will be at that point. A third of those guys on the list are DHs for a reason. Or the fact that his body type tends to age worse than others.  Or...

FINE! That back end will probably be bad.  But you know what?  That's the cost of signing guys like this. Every deal is not going to bring you good value right to the very end.  He's 28 next year. Stop focusing on five or six years down the road.  Think about what he could do for this team now.
Which is?

He's gonna be 3-4 games better than LaRoche, and that's figuring in defense.  Even in the absolute worst case scenario (barring injury of course) you aren't going to move backward at all.  You take Prince's worst season of WAR in the past five years, you give it to Adam LaRoche and you're satisfied.  You take his 2nd worst and LaRoche is having the season of his life!

But couldn't the Nats have LaRoche AND whatever else they can get for that 20 million? Wouldn't that also be 3-4 games better and not saddle the Nats with a terrible contract down the road?  When they'll need money to sign Strasburg and Bryce etc etc?

Sure.  But where do you see them spending that money this offseason?  Who else is out there worth signing?


Do you see them signing Oswalt? 

... no.  But next year! Next year they could sign some one, like Michael Bourn or BJ Upton to finally solve their CF issues and a pitcher like Hamels or Cain or Grienke.  And it gives them this year to see if Bryce or Werth can play center, if Desmond can hang in the majors, or Espinosa for that matter.  If Rendon can make an immediate impact.  If any of those young starters are ready to break through. If Morse was a fluke, if..

Hey now.  Morse wasn't a fluke.  

Maybe not being good, but being THAT good definitely. Basically no one has ever struck out that much and hit that well.  Like NO ONE. In the history of the game.  It's been around for a long time you know.

Maybe he's different?  Damn it, stop depressing me. And back to your "next year" talk, I like your plan but that's a tall order. Are those guys even going to be available in the offseason?  And are they going to want to come to Washington?  It's not like other teams don't need these players.  The Nats can get Prince now.  He is available.  The big boys don't need first baseman.  He can help the Nats win now. 

Sure win now, but if they don't make the playoffs what good is it?

Argh.  I hate that argument.  Wins are wins.  I want more of them.  But for your sake yes they will make the playoffs.  The won 80 games last year, with Strasburg back, Zimmerman healthy, Werth bouncing back, a full season of ZNN, Gio here, they are bound to win a bunch more games, and that's without Fielder.  Factor him in and you have a division challenger and a wild card lock. 

Basically if everything goes right, huh? I'll give you they should be better, even with the inevitable bumps in the road.  But for an 78 win team (by runs scored/allowed) I figure without Price they are around 85 wins maybe.  The NL East is that tough.  With him... 88? 89?  That's fighting for a wild card, with a good shot at it, but not a lock. 

You know what?  That's good enough for me. Fans of this team sat through years of low payroll and crap teams.  As far as I'm concerned those 60 million dollar payrolls meant 40 million went into a bank to spend later. Now IS later. Now they can be in the playoff hunt and I want them to be and not because of a lucky fluke like Lannan and LaRoche both having their best seasons ever, while the bullpen is the best in the NL, and the Nats go 15-5 in one run games.  I want it to be because they are good enough to challenge for a spot regardless of luck. 

I just can't go along. I want them to be good but I want them to be good for a long time. 

They can spend money later you know. 

Yes, but I have no faith in that.  Hell, it's a lot of faith just to think they'll raise the payroll to 120 million or so when it's time. Forget about adding more to a 150+ payroll if the Nats are just missing where they need to be.  I say wait it out, see what they need next year and make those big moves on pitching and defense. Let Bryce pick up the offense, maybe Rendon too. 

I want to win now.  You want to year. 

I think it's a smarter plan to spread out that monetary commitment to guys that won't have to be buried in a piano box someday.

Uncalled for!   But the Nats are still going to have to pay. 

Oh no doubt. 

So even if we can't agree on signing Prince or not, we can agree that the Nats do need to up their payroll by 25 million (not including Zimmerman resigning) in the next two seasons. 

Yes.  It may even be that they have to spend more next year with my plan, just to outbid the big boys. The time might not be now, but it's soon.

At 8 years, 160 million, I think I fall in more with Mr. Red. I do. Sorry. I don't think signing Prince is a bad idea. I don't think the Nats should be allowed to pretend they're poor. It's just that I think they could go into next offseason with a ton of issues to deal with. A re-injury to Strsaburg or ZNN, and the failure of Desmond (both not crazy events) and the Nats could need a top flight SP AND a CF AND a MI.  Or Desmond could stabilize, Rendon could be great enough that they try to move him to first, and Bryce could be great and capable in center and all of a sudden they don't need really Fielder and can spend in a bunch of ways to really finish out this team.

This isn't a veteran team that needs that one last piece.  It's a team falling into place and I'd like to see where it falls for one more year before moving forward at full speed. Yes, it's worrying about the future rather than the present, but it's not spending in 2016 that I'm worried about, it's how to best form this team in 2013.  If I had any faith the Lerners would spend with abandon then yes, sign Fielder.  But I don't.  I think Rizzo will have to fight to get that payroll up to a decent level and if that's the case it's gonna be better to spread out that Fielder money to a couple positions.

Do I feel the same way if I'm a die-hard Nats fan, instead of a souless automaton? Probably not. Do I feel the same way at a shorter or more reasonable deal? I'm not sure. That may be enough to tip me toward signing Fielder. I know basically anything 3-5 years, the Nats would be stupid not to jump at regardless of the annual cost.


Donald said...

The question I've got is where's Fielder going to get that 8 year $160m contract? I agree that it's what he *should* get, but I haven't heard anyone stepping up to offer that. Do you think there are a teams, maybe the Cubs, that are sitting out while Pujols dollars are being discussed, but would grab him at that type of deal? Or is there a chance that the stars align and he has to take a lower offer. It would be nice to convince him to take 2 or 3 years at $30m per.

Harper said...

Donald - I don't know but are you going to bet against Boras getting him that type of deal? It always seems like someone is willing to pay.

Wally said...

I side with Green Harper. I think what is missing in the discussion is that the Nats have a window from now through 2016, when they lose their top 3 pitchers (I believe that Zim gets re-signed regardless of the Fielder decision).

Fielder projects to be in his prime, which is an elite LH hitter, through that entire window and the lineup needs him. Adding him materially increases their chances of success not just in 2012, but throughout that window and that is a pretty rare opportunity. Morse does not project to be in his prime throughout the window. And even if they waited two years and wanted to sign Votto, they are halfway through the window, plus get him when passing through his prime (meaning more dead time at the end).

Length of contract is important. I wouldn't do 10, and I had drawn the line at 7 earlier. But if I really knew 8/$160m got it done, I expect that I would talk myself into it (which is probably exactly how Boras negotiates: convince the team what the player adds, then get them thinking in terms of the marginal difference of 7/$140m v. 8/$160m).

Also, I do not think that absent a big signing like Prince, the Lerners approve anything approaching a $100m payroll. The same marginal analysis can convince them that they can get someone almost as good as Espy for the minimum instead of giving Espy $8m in a few years.

Ollie said...

8 years/$160 mil would be awful. Unless Texas fails to sign Yu they'd just be bidding against themselves to give that up. 3y/$75 mil might get it done; he's basically on the same pay scale as Pujols or A-Rod for that (a major win for Fielder) with a chance for another mega contract. The Nats aren't on the hook for him as he keeps "building mass" to William Howard Taft levels and they get a potential 35-40 HR 120 RBI hitter.

I completely agree with Harper, as long as this isn't upwards of 5 years I think you sign the guy. Even one year of fat, bad Fielder at a ludicrous amount of money would still be worth it, plus you can eat some of that contract and trade for prospects to whomever needs a DH to put them over the top in 2016's playoff race.

Great post Harper.

Donald said...

Definitely a big game of chicken going on with Boras right now. I'm sure he's telling teams that if they wait for Darvish, Texas will scoop him up for over $200m so they'd better act now. But acting now means bidding against a hypothetical Texas offer, who probably will sign Darvish. If the Nats think they really need Fielder, they probably pull the trigger at 8 / $180m fairly soon. But I'd wait. If you lose him to Texas at Pujols money, so be it. If Texas is out of the picture though, you're just competing against low-ballers. At that point, maybe you can get him for fewer years or less money.

Anonymous said...

Anything over 6 and the nats should be out. 6 years/110 mil (18mil per)..would probably be fair. The contract would have to be structured that the last two years in the 12-15 range. frontload or middle load that contract.

Honestly I would give boras an ultimatum now. 5/110 mil take it or we're out-give him 7 days to respond-then we're out. We will let everyone know we're out and what we offered.

Anonymous said...

Could they go to Zimmerman now and say..hey we want to build a championship level team. We want to sign Prince at 23 mil for 7. thats what on the table. We want you to sign but her is the only way it will work. you have to sign for 19 mil at 5 yrs.

Could that be happening behind the curtain right now?

Donald said...

One thing I hadn't considered that would lead me toward the negative. Don't we have to give up draft picks if we sign Fielder. I found this from the Googles...
"For Fielder, the Brewers would get a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds, plus either the first- or second-round pick from his new team. If that team finished with one of the 15 best records during the 2011 regular season, and thus picks from 16-30 in the first round of the following Draft, the Brewers get that team's first-round pick. If that team finished with one of the 15 poorest records, and picks from 1-15 in the Draft, the Brewers get that team's second-round selection instead. "

Harper said...

Wally - I don't know if they lose ALL their top 3 without resigning any but yes the window is there. I'm not saying signing Fielder is a bad move, I just think waiting it out is slightly better (assuming that 8/160 contract). I think with Fielder you might just end up a WC-type team from 2012-2016 while without him and with the right moves you could make a division winner 2013-2016.

The more I think about it though, the more I think if I were your typical Nats fan I would want Fielder. Without experiencing a championship or a feeling of certainty that you will compete in the future, it's hard to go with patience when you're this close if you don't feel you are getting that big an increase in your chance at winning by doing so(and you really aren't in this case)

Ollie - 5 years would be perfect for the Nats, and you'd definitely bite on 6 I think. But I imagine Fielder will be a 3 or 7+ year guy, unfortunately. It be crazy but I'd really push that 3 year deal then. 3-75 with a mutual option for 4 and 5 at the same?

Donald - Boras might be playing that game but I don't think most GMs are buying. Darvish should sign. Then I think it becomes Nats v Cubs honestly. I think they want to rebuild but have so much money coming off the books by 2015 that they could sign Fielder now, set rebuilding in place, make Prince the focus of the marketing and in 2015 still use the 31year old Prince as a set piece in their next competitive team.

Harper said...

Anon - unless it's an option deal at the end, almost no big contract is ever front-loaded. union doesn't like it because it works to drive down contracts in the future. Teams don't like it because it likely costs the team more money when you consider inflation.

I think he leaves that because he thinks he can get 5/125 worst case. And I think he just might be able to.

Anon #2 - it's possible I guess, but I don't think so, if only because Zimm would want a mutual agreement to that deal and the Nats are probably eyeing his injuries and Rendon's development to see if they can potentially live without Zimm.

Donald - yes Type A guy, offered and declined arbitration, still in play this offseason (next offseason would be slightly different but Nats would still likely lose draft picks in this circumstance)

Collin said...

Looks like the Cubs are out of the market. I think that leaves the Rangers, Ms, and Blue Jays with only the former making a lot of sense (though I feel like the Jays could surprise).

You have to think that Boras is balking on anything under 7-8 years which is why Rizzo says he's set with LaRoche. Red Harper is right... if he'll take a boat load of cash for 3-5 years, do it. I'd stay away from 6+. The marginal (not in the pejorative sense) utility in the short term doesn't seem worth the risk (financial and clogging positions) in the long term when all those other contracts will be coming up.

To be sure, I'd rather have Bourne and Cain next year than Prince this year assuming that the rest of the Nats play to career norms with reasonable projections for the young guys. I'm not suggesting that the Nats have a good shot at getting both of those players, but that's the path of a more sustained run. I don't buy that the window somehow closes in 2016... it just gets more expensive to keep open. In fact, signing Prince long term may in fact work to close the window quicker.

DezoPenguin said...

*nod* A long-term contract only makes sense for an AL team, where they can shuffle Prince off to DH for those last 3-4 years and hope he follows the David Ortiz career path.

I guess, as someone who *is* a die-hard fan, I have to agree with Green Harper that you can't assume that by waiting, you actually ARE building for the long-term. After all, if the Nats don't make any more significant moves to shore up the lineup and some or all the bad things that Red Harper suggests might happen next year (pitching injuries, Morse cratering when 60,000 sabermetricians all buy tickets the same night and yell at him why he should suck, Espi regressing, Desmond still bad, CF still a sucking chest wound, 2010 Werth being what we really have in him) then the team craters and we're basically back in 2007 with sparklier parts.

Basically, bad luck can happen any time. You can't run a team based on, "We could be good enough to reach the playoffs this year, but if we get bad breaks we won't be, so we won't make the push at all and instead plan for some supposed future." Well, you can, but then you're Pittsburgh or Kansas City.

So if we can get Prince for a short contract (4-5 years, maybe even 6), even if it means overpaying on a per-year basis, I say do it, absolutely. For the hypothetical 8-year deal, I still think probably, because bluntly, at that point, either the Nats have taken advantage of their window to become regular contenders, kind of what the Braves are now, or they've failed miserably and they're going to start selling off pieces. If Fielder's hitting still has value at that point, they can probably flip him to an AL club at that point, though having to eat some cash to do it...

Mitchell said...

I would be more apt to go to a Nats game if they signed you also have to look at the extra money you would gain in signing one wants to go to a game where ryan zimmerman is the best player

Anonymous said...

Whoa. "Not go to a game where Ryan Zimmerman is the best player"?!? I've been going to Nat's games since day 1 and it's a 2+hour drive to the park. The best moments have been the 4 times I've seen Zim come up and deliver the walk-off hit.....and each time you knew it was coming. He has yet to fail in that circumstance that I've personally witnessed and has also come up with some of the most ridiculous plays at third I've seen since Brooksie.

Chaos.....and on topic---souless automaton indeed. I've come 180 on this--sign Fielder, live with the consequences down the road and enjoy this year....this is America, after all!

peric said...

Sorry Mr Red, they actually are one guy away. Well actually 2 guys. Needham says you are the great analysis guy right?

Let's look at your concerns.
1. MI? Desmond. So what? IMO the only loss here is that
guy could have been traded for high value if he flops.
Lombardozzi is close. Espinosa is there and
Jeff Kobernus is heading into AA. He's improved
dramatically.Then there is the greatest college hitter
in over a decade Anthony Rendon. Where do you put

2. Pitching? Okay you lose a Zimmnn, a Stras, maybe
even Gio. That hurts. But its the same for the Phillies.
Purke and Solis won't be ready. Rosenbaum maybe.
Stammen? Perhaps. Meyers maybe? Here's the other
guy they are missing: Oswalt.
But Oswalt won't sign.
If they sign Fielder then Oswalt signs. See how that works yet Mr. Red? Betcha didn't consider that now did you? Of course It would be nice to see them trade Desmond, Morse, and some others for David Price and BJ Upton? With Solano and Flores perhaps even Ramos? Price added to Gio, Zimmnn, and Stras would give the Nationals the best young pitching rotation in all of baseball. Worth it? You bet it is Red. But you still have to sign Fielder.

peric said...

3. Okay Red so have you looked at what the stats have to say? I like park and defense neutral stats. I think they give a better picture than WAR which isn't at all neutral can can be weighted depending on who else is on the team and where you play.

The focus is on the NL East which is key. It all starts in
your own division doesn't it? (We'll skip the Madoff Mets in this comparison.)

Phillies 2011:
Rotation: 1069.3 xIP, 2.90 tRA, 166.4 pRAA
Hitting : 0.321 wOBA, 5.9 bRAA
Phillies 2010:
Rotation: 1022.1 xIP, 4.12 tRA, 45.1 pRAA
Hitting : 0.331 wOBA, 31.1 bRAA

Braves 2011:
Rotation : 955 xIP, 4.09 tRA, 22.2 pRAA
Hitting : 0.316 wOBA, -19.2 bRAA
Braves 2010:
Rotation : 949.5 xIP, 4.42 tRA, 10.3 pRAA
Hitting : 0.338 wOBA, 66.5 bRAA

Marlins 2011:
Rotation : 958.2 xIP, 4.31 tRA, -1.4 pRAA
Hitting : 0.314 wOBA, -31.0 bRAA
Marlins 2010:
Rotation : 955.1 xIP, 4.30 tRA, 23.9 pRAA
Hitting : 0.320 wOBA, -28.0 bRAA

Nationals 2011:
Rotation : 921.6 xIP, 4.52 tRA, -22.8 pRAA
Hitting : 0.312 wOBA, -40.1 bRAA

Nationals 2010:
Rotation : 889.3 xIP, 5.21 tRA, -68.0 pRAA
Hitting : 0.319 wOBA, -31.8 bRAA

First we note the definite steep decline in hitting by both the Phillies and most especially the Braves. Note that they did not do as well as they did last year. Reading these "tea leaves" tells me that pitching is important in short playoff series but for the long season? Hitting is just as important, in fact vital. Its why the Cardinals got in and then won. Team hitting at elite levels which is what the Phillies had in 2010.

Also note the decline in pitching by the Marlins, increase by the Braves, huge increase for the Phillies. Again, the Phillies and especially the Braves did not do as well as they did in 2010.

In any case the top two teams are on the decline. And its time for both the Marlins and the Nats to take advantage?

One thing that should jump out at you would be the expected innings by the starters. Note that the Nats are consistently the lowest in that category. The second is that big negative number the pRAA. That's very, very bad. Gio, Stras (full year), JZimmnn (no innings limit), Detwiler (hopefully finally there) should bring hopefully bring the innings up to the Phillies. We can hope that the pRAA gets up to about average which is where the Marlins were in 2011. More of course would be better and that's where Oswalt comes in. Putting Oswalt in with the young pitchers instead of Wang is the optimal solution for the Nats.

BUT look at the terrible team hitting for the Nats both this past year and in 2010. The myth that the 3,4,5 of Dunn, Willingham, and Zim can be put to rest. It wasn't all that great. Its still pretty dismal.

This is where Fielder fits. his 49.9 elite level bRAA and left-handed bat added to Zim, Morse, Espinosa, Ramos, Werth, and Harper? Add in Upton. Again, maybe they get to just about average which would put them at the same level as last year's Phillies and above the Braves.

The other thing to consider? The Marlins have the same need. Yes, Gabby Sanchez is a lot better than LaRoche but not Morse. Still Sanchez like Morse can play other positions. Or he too could be traded.

Bottom line: Given the Nats young lineup, the waves of prospects on their way? Fielder almost guarantees a contender and a winning team for the next five years. Perhaps deep into the playoffs or world series in the next THREE. That would be true for either the Nationals or the Marlins.

Anonymous said...

I've been a season ticket holder since the Expos became the Nats and I think that this would be an awful move. The Nats need a defensive first baseman with their young middle infielders and Z's throwing challenges, not an average fielder who will make them look good on rushed, difficult throws. Yes, his big bat would be nice to have, but the cost is too great, particularly when we have two third basemen, one with a proven big bat and one believed to have one. One of them will need to move to first.

Harper said...

I'll reply to all later (one of those weekends) but real quick

peric - the higher the pRAA the better. The Phillies and Braves both improved in 2011.And while I'll totally buy the Phillies drop in offense on decline - the Braves had the injury to McCann and drops in production to Prado and Heyward. I can easily see them bouncing right back - maybe even above if Freeman is a star.

also the Dunn/Willingham/Zimm trio compares very favorably (in 2010 at least) with the best 3 on each of the other NL East teams. The big problem was there was half-time of Morse after them and then NOTHING. Really nothing.,d

Ollie said...

@Harper: Willingham tore it up when he was healthy that year. Other than people trolling I really don't get the Ryan Zimmerman hating; he's one of the best hitters at his position and second only to Longroria in the majors as an all around third basemen. Fangraphs even did a piece on why he should be considered one of the top ten players to build a franchise around (youth + production) and he hasn't shown signs of slowing down, other than the occasional injury that he bounces back from well. On top of that he seems like a decent guy and does charity work; hating on him is akin to kicking Lassie, he's great at what he does and the kind of face you want any franchise to be associated with.

This whole post made me think of this song:

Avi M said...

Harper - Are you on Twitter or have an e-mail I can reach you at? My e-mail is indiansfan621 at aim dot com, so shoot me an e-mail there or tweet @2131andBeyond. Have a few Qs about the blog, didn't know how else to reach you.

Harper said...

Collin - the gamble is you can get Fielder that doesn't seem to be an issue, you have no idea what you can get next year and if you don't get anything it's hard to see the Nats making a final leap to consistent contention during this window. Sure it may be possible to keep the window open past 2016 but I don't think it'll be through signings (Gio, ZNN, and Strasburg could all be up for HUGE deals). It'll be if Purke, or Meyer, or etc turn out to be ZNN good...

Dezo - I wouldn't say it only makes sense for an AL team, but it makes a lot more sense. That thing you say about running a team is the crux of this, but I wouldn't use KC or Pitt. I'd look at Cincy. won the division two years ago, sat pat on some young starting pitching and it killed them.

Mitchell/Chaos - I'll agree that Zimmerman does not excite the fanbase like Fielder would. That's really more about your typical fan than Zimmerman. They want to see big bombs. 2 doubles and a couple great stops in the field may win more games, but not more fans.

peric - on your first post. MI has a lot of potential but so much variability. I wouldn't be surprised if only one of the names you mentioned becomes a GOOD major leaguer for a long time (I'd put money on 2 but 1 is seeable) if that one is Rendon he might not even play MI.

If you promised me an Oswalt short and reasonable deal (2 years) would go hand in hand with Fielder - ok I take that. Trade for Upton and Price... It would probably take a Rendon AND Meyer. Or Purke, Solis, Flores, Desmond, plus. Although trading Ramos would do a lot toward it, I don't see anyone trading a major league catcher of his age and skill when you aren't sure of what you got behind him.

Last Anon - It's hard to say awful, because a lot of what would make it awful is in the future. Would it be awful if the Nats make it to the playoffs the next 3 years and win a series, but then struggle and fall back into rebuilding by 2017? Unfortunately what they really needed to do was somehow get Adrian Gonzalez but it's hard to see how they would have done that without this year's draft haul. (and I bet the Sox would have upped them no matter what) Not like anyone was calling for this though. Hindsight and all.

Votto fits the bill perfectly but will be a crazy prize in 2 years if he goes free. after that there just aren't great fielding firstbasemen around, so maybe you can accept Fielder (though he is on the bad side of the bad fielders)

Harper said...

oh Ollie - I think with Zimm what happened was he kind of drove people away.. that isn't right, but maybe you'll get my point... with his 2006-2008 season. They were good but certainly not exciting. So he needed to get over that hump to get the fanbase excited about him again. I think this season (2011) would have been it but the injury derailed that. A great year in a playoff atmostphere will bring people around.

It didn't make you think about Dancing with Myself? What about White Wedding? Rock the Cradle of Love?

Avi M _ I'll email you.