Nationals Baseball: I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today, and also one Tuesday

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today, and also one Tuesday

The Nats don't have teh moneyz!!!!  Poor Tin Cup Ted!!!  If they sign Fielder they'll have to let Zimm walk!  It's like Sophie's choice except harder because neither of those kids could hit a curveball!

Zuckerman put out two recent articles that attempt to put things in perspective but don't exactly hit at the right points.

The first one notes that if the Nats were to sign Fielder AND re-up Zimmerman they'd likely be paying 3 guys 20+ million from 2014-2017 (Werth being the 3rd).  That's a lot of money and he points out that only three teams; the Yankees, the Phillies, and the Angels are currently in line to do that (and in the Angels case it's only currently for one year far down the road).  Ok a few things here:

First - man that Werth contract is TERRIBLE.  Just soooo bad. Like unforgivable.  I'm sorry that I keep harping on it but ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh. I changed my mind.  I'm not sorry.   It's that bad it deserves to be talked about over and over.

Second, if you are speculating about the Nats, it's only fair to speculate about other teams.  The Red Sox, with Crawford and Gonzalez making a ton for the forseeable future, are almost certain to get on this list.  The Tigers are one big signing away from joining the 3x20Mill Club and they could use one of those nice pitchers up for FA next year. The Dodgers, if they re-up Billingsly and sign anyone else big, would be in the same boat.  I'm sure another team could pop up between now and 2016 and join the club.  Let's say three teams do fall into this group before the Phillies fall out.   That would mean there would be 6 teams with this kind of financial commitment.  That may not seem like a lot but there are only 30 teams.  Fully 20% of the teams in major league baseball would be spending money in this manner.  Twenty percent is not an elite club. Nobody is holding up signs on Wall Street saying "We're the 80%".

Third, 20 million is just an arbitrary number.  Is it that different if the Nats are paying 20 mill and 21 mill to Zimm and Werth and the Rangers are paying 16 million a piece to Michael Young and Adrian Beltre? Payroll is what matters. The total spent on the entire team.  For example, the Yankees have 12 players scheduled to make 5 million or more next year.  The Phillies and Angels both have 8.  The Nationals?   Three. Zuckerman though has that covered in his second piece. What he's saying is that the payrolls will go up without any signings due to escalating contracts and arbitration eligibility.  What he doesn't even hint at is that without those signings the speculated payroll for 2015 would only have been the 12th highest payroll last year.  Basically if the Nats don't sign anyone they'll be spending like the average team... in four years... maybe.  I'm not trying to count for the usual inflation that happens.   If they sign Zimmerman and Fielder that's another say... 45 million.   Ok, that would have been 4th last year.  Definite big boy territory but isn't that what they want to be?

The Nats can afford Fielder. Bringing him in would be a gutsy bold move that would signal the Nats are ready to compete now, and it may very well signify a shift that the Nats are ready to become a different type of team. The type that spends to get into the playoffs year after year.  That's ultimately what we're finding out this offseason (and next, I won't fully turn on the teams management unless they fail to spend money next offseason as well.   Maybe they have a dominant pitching plan.). Do they want to consistently make the playoffs or do they want to spend just enough to have a chance to get in and hope luck takes them the rest of the way during that postseason, because who knows when they'll be back?  Hey, it works for the Cardinals.


Donald said...

I agree that the Nats can afford Fielder too, as long as it isn't for too many years. I'm less worried about carrying Fielder, Werth and Zim than I am carrying those three plus Strasburg and Harper. If Fielder can be had for 4-5 years with an opt out, it would be great. The question is who are the Nats competing with for Fielder? If everyone backs out, maybe that kind of contract is actually possible.

Harper said...

Bryce won't likely hit FA until after the Werth deal is done so he's not a worry (outside of our mutual shared love of a team in pinstripes)

David said...

If the team could not afford 3 players making more than $20 mil they should have though of that before Werth. I have a hard time believing they couldn't plan that far in advance and see this situation.

Hoo said...

I read that too worried for a minute then I said it's silly. $20 mil is arbitrary and other teams will have 3 plus soon. Then I thought through the implications of big days to Znn and Strass and then Harper...

And I came to the realization you did..The Werth contract is worse than we thought last year. It's a horrific anchor. Reading Zuckerman and Boz on the perils of paying out Fielder and Zim when we've only started paying Werth pisses me off! Werth is a sunk cost. If you want to win suck it up and make a move.

The bigger piece to me is what do you do with Morse? 2013 says Harper-Big day FA CF_Werth as your outfield and Zim/Morse on the corners. If you sign Fielder, there is not spot for Morse in 2013 if you believe Harper is ready. Does Morse become trade bait?

I'd probably pass on Fielder and use his money for a CF in 2013.

DCNatty said...

Why is everyone so concerned about signing players 5yrs down the line? What happens if ZMM never plays a full season again? What if Morse had 1 fluke year? What if Harper is a coke head who names his dog Swag and flames out in 2 yrs (totally possible)?

Sign the big Man and win it this year. Make the playoffs and the money will be flowing in with bangwagoneers.

ps. Ever hear of inflation? 20 millions 10 yrs from now...hell everyone all-star in the league will be making it

DCNatty said...

ps. the Lerners are worth a billion. only they really know what they would be willing to spend, since they are footing the bill.

Ideally, I would go for the 5yr deal with option on extending it. I dont care what they pay him per a year. Hes worth it.

I think everyone is fogetting what kind of hitter this guy is. Hes a monster.

Donald said...

I think everyone agrees that if we could get him for 5 years, we'd take it in a heartbeat -- guessing that would be around $125m. I think he wants at least 8 years. Where does the compromise end up? Would you take an 8 year contract? 7 year?

DCNatty said...

Yeah, id probably do a 7 yr deal considering hes only 27. *yr only if its in his contract to lose 30 lbs. ha.

Also, if I were Fielder theres no way I would sign with anyone until the Rangers Yu Darvish contract is setttled. If they dont come to terms with Yu, I see the Rangers throwing a Pujols contract at him. My prediction, What the Rangers do with Yu will decide where Fielder goes.

Yes, AND said...

Yeah but it doesn't work if Rizzo isn't the long arm of the law and can't finally get his man:

First Fielder, then ...

BJ Upton considered by some as potentially the next Matt Kemp. Once he is out of the Trop. Trading for Upton and negotiating a reasonable extension is what they need to do this year.

Then? Another pitcher like Oswalt. No problem Oswalt sees the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen. He signs.

Anonymous said...

Please do not compare the Fielder vs. Zimmerman decision involving millions of dollars to the decision a mother had to make between allowing her children to live. We can think of a more creative comparisson people.

- A relative of Holocaust victims

Nattydread said...

I don't get Mark Zuckerman, his "inside track" on the Fielder story and his "sky is falling" payroll logic.

Since when did we get worried about payroll? For years we've been talking about rebuilding and drafting and, now that we've GOT THERE, are a piece away from real contention, there's suddenly this worry about the payroll in 2015! WTF??? Of course good teams have big payrolls...

Werth's contract only makes sense as a harbinger to attract more FAs. If it is looked at as a bust, then we go backwards.

Don't know who Zuckerman is talking to. Seems to me like Fielder makes more sense in DC than anywhere else, even though hes a big lumpy package. Mark has me stumped.

Anonymous said...

Harper, I'm a huge fan of your blog and have read it since back in the OMG days. This: "Basically if the Nats don't sign anyone they'll be spending like the average team... in four years... maybe." may be the best sentence you've ever written.

That's exactly the point. Put aside the arbitrary 3x20 thing, which is really a reflection on the state of baseball economics - there have been 12 contracts with AAV's of 20mil+ signed EVER in baseball and 10 of them have been signed since 2008. That's the new going rate for the top-of-the-top talent.

More importantly is that the Nats have ROOM to do it. That's why the Fielder thing is so interesting - it puts to the test the very defintion of how Nats ownership sees themselves - they're either a low-end-to-mid-market team content to get by on how many prospects they sign and develop (Tampa model) or a mid-to-large market player who develops their core and adds key pieces to sustain chances for continued playoff appearances (Philly model). Making it a PF vs. RZ argument basically naturally assumes a $100m salary limit - one other gripe with that argument. People talk about RZ's $20m/yr. like it's guaranteed and like it's all new money. He's going to make something like $12 this year - if they take him to $20, that's only $8 in new money, not 20. And the idea that "they won't be able to keep RZ and Flores and Desmond and Espi and Stras and Harper and Zimmnn and and and..." is filled with so much quack and presumption about health and performance that it's barely even worth noting as a canard.

Wally said...

Harper - spot on. I use a short hand of $110-120m payroll. If the Nats can see themselves getting to this level, which would happen roughly 2014-2015 and likely represent a top 10 payroll, then Fielder AND Zim are doable. It probably does spell the end of Morse in 2013, and probably Clippard, and maybe even Storen by 2015. But those guys are replaceable.

Here is the main argument for not doing it: the extent of the bet is enormous because of the length of contracts that you have to give out to get there. If two of the '$20m Trio' fail to perform, we are likely in for numerous years of bad players and no money to find new ones.

But hey, maybe Kory Casto will be ready for a second go 'round?

Donald said...

I'm not sure if Fielder waits on the Darvish decision or not. I think Boras is trying to get teams worried into believing that if they wait for that, they'll lose out because Texas will come in with a huge offer. So he's trying to get them to act now and accept a slightly less than Pujols type amount. If he doesn't get that, then I agree that he waits on Darvish. The Nats should be in the driver's seat on this though because if Darvish does sign, which he likely will, then the bottom drops even further on Fielder. If I'm Rizzo, I bide my time and let Darvish get signed before offering a 5 year deal.

DCNatty said...

Donald...good point. Didnt look at it that way. I guess it could go either way.

The good news is...that this is even an argument at all. Imagine being a Pirates or A's fan. Ha. At least we are all arguing over wtheer we should add a superstar or what a year and add other superstars. Its a good time to be a Nats fan. No matter what happens we shouldnt see a 100 loss season again in the near furture (knock on wood)

Donald said...

So on a related topic, given the current roster, how many games do the Nats win next year and if they add Fielder, how many? My guess is they win between 86-88 without Fielder and have a shot at a wildcard. With Fielder, I think they win 90-92 and have a shot at the division title while being a lock for wildcard. Does 4 wins sound right and is that enough?

Anonymous said...

Drifting off of Donald's comment, 4 games is a minimum. I am not on the side of signing C jr for more than 5 years but think the impact of getting him has been underestimated. You sign Fielder and Werth goes back to hitting #5, Zim hits #3, Harper (alright, so we wait until June) hits #6 and Morse is relegated to hitting in the 7 spot!?!? Yeah, I'd like to pitch against that RLRLR. And then you get Ramos.....which leaves Des and Espi to prove they can hold the #1 and 2 think they can do that with what's coming up behind them? That is a sick lineup from 1-8 and is fronted by one of the top 5 pitching staffs in the majors. The time might be now.

However, the pitching is on an innings limit and unless Wang and Gio pitch 200+ innings and someone contributes 100 innings as the 6th starter, we have nobody to pitch the playoffs without risking Zimm and Jesus. And Bryce/God's gotta be ready to play in the majors (that's a sure bet in my book).

So the final word from my corner is that you don't have a shot at an impact 1b like this for years, Morse is a freakin' shortstop in left field, he can play it! Spend the money now. Period. If we're not in the division race this year (and it will only be due to innings limitations and Bryce another year away) they we will be next year.

Chaos (as always, all such predictions are subject to injury "recorrections")

Harper said...

Donald / DC Natty - I think what your back and forth highlights is the obvious point that this hinges around what kind of contract Fielder demands. I think we'd all want him but a Pujols deal should be out of the question. And it is great we're having this type of argument, let's just hope the fans aren't making it up outselves from hopes and dreams

Yes, AND - Now that's a fun dream and a true turn to a Yankees/Sox type of consistent spender/winner. I'm not going to bet on that happening though.

Nattydread - I think Zuckerman is saying anything one way or the other about Fielder. He's just trying to point out that the payroll will increase a fair amount even without FA signings or extensions. It doesn't seem to me like this is info he's being fed. Just following a topic of potential interest. Also he's more reporter than blogger/columnist so he's going to give a lot fewer opinions than say me or Boz.

Anon - thanks for the kind words. I would only caution that you don't pull it all on this signing. Fielder may simply price himself out of coming here. They can still follow the Philly model through this season (trade for Upton?) and next offseason (sign Cain?)

Wally - it's a big bet but if two big star players fail - what are you going to do? You have to make these type of moves, you just hope your talent evaluation and luck works on your side.

Donald - Given all else being equal Stras + Zimm + Gio brings the Nats to the mid 80s in wins. I'd say like 86. Anything more is good news (Werth rebound, LaRoche successful injury return, young player development) outweighing the bad (young player regression, injuries, that last OF if Bryce isn't it) Fielder is worth 3-4 wins over LaRoche. So that puts them for me at 89-90. That's not quite a lock on the WC but it's very likely to get it done. Right now the Nats are a playoff contender but they need a little luck to make it happen. Fielder would make the Nats a playoff contender without good luck being necessary.

Chaos - iron is hot. if they don't sign Fielder they are betting it still will be next year.

Anonymous said...

Would the Rays take LaRoche and cash(difference in salary (8 mil vs 5 mil) for Upton?

They really need a 1sb. They don't seem happy with Upton. Would we also need to throw in a prospect?

Collin said...

I can't imagine why Prince would take a contract for five years. Presumably that'd be a year or two into a gradual (if lucky) fall-off. Signing a multi-year extension for big dollars at that point is likely out of the question. Either three years or eight years really have to be the terms... unless the market shifts somehow (Rangers don't sign Darvish for example). Three years gives the big guy time to sign one more big time deal assuming he performs at career norms (safe bet). Eight years takes all that guess work out of the way and he secures his money now.

Clearly, we all hope for an exorbitant three year deal, which would certainly qualify Rizzo's prior statement on something unusual happening for LaRoche not to be the Nat's 1B. Three years at around $80-85M? Overpaying in the short term (while still easily affordable) looks like the best bet.

Harper said...

Anon - No. Yes. Upton is just worth more than LaRoche. Better hitter, baserunner, fields a more important position well enough, younger. Plus they are probably still holding out hope that he'll meet the promise of 2007. LaRoche has no upside.

Harper said...

Collin - oh god - the Nats better jump at anything 4 years and shorter, even for the highest annual salary.