Nationals Baseball: Z-minus 1 day

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Z-minus 1 day

Zimmerman says no contract talks past Friday.  We're all acting like this is a big deal, but it isn't.  Zimmerman has 2 years left on his deal.  He'd like an extension now, but by all accounts is not holding it against the Nats if they don't sign him.  He's only said he'll test free agency if he doesn't have a deal in place by the start of NEXT year. So all this amounts to is a big gamble for both sides, not a do or die situation.

When Ryan is healthy his combination of defense & offense makes him one of the top players in the league. He was 7th in WAR in 2009, 6th in 2010.  Over those two years you could argue that only Albert Pujols and Evan Longoria were more valuable players. Don't gloss over that.  He was arguably the third best overall player in baseball over a two year stretch.  3rd best!  Third!

Problem is Ryan isn't always healthy. Since 2007 he's only had one full season, missing minor time in 2010 and major time in 2008 and last year. He may still be a great player but if he can only play 60% of the season, he deserves 60% of the pay, right?  Injuries tend to haunt players. Not only can that same area get injured, but once they get an injury sometimes a player tends to compensate in ways that make other injuries more likely.  All the while they are aging and the body just can't heal like it used to.*  The player might become a less productive hitter.  It might all pile up so they just can't play full season anymore. At the same time the Nats are most likely looking at an extension that takes Ryan into his mid 30s.  His body isn't that old. He could easily give the Nats 5 great full years before he hits 35.  Is he Scott Rolen or is he Eric Chavez?

By not working out a deal with Ryan the Nats are taking a risk.  If he puts up a season like 2009 or 2010 then the Nats will have to compensate him as one of the best players in the league, because for 3 out of the last 4 years he would have been just that.   We're talking 6 years at 20 million per as the starting point. I'd be shocked if he didn't get more than 150 million.  However if he gets injured again, or somehow doesn't play up to the same level he had in the past then the Nats can negotiate that down a lot. What was 7 years, 160 mill might now be 5 years, 70 mill.

What makes this gamble is what Ryan is asking for right now.  My guess is that it's gotta be close to Tulo's 6/120.  Assuming that, I'd say the gamble of not signing him is probably worth it.  The only way you pay a lot more is if he is healthy and great. If he's healthy but more average he probably gets about the same.  If he has minor injuries (say around 130 games played)  but plays great he probably gets the same. Anything else (minor+average, major+great, etc. ) and he gets a a lot less. It's a bet that's in the Nats favor. 

So I don't expect a signing before Friday.  Since its not a bad gamble for the Nats to wait, they are probably trying to get a minor discount right now (think 6/108) and might actually stick to that.  Ryan will then have a chance to literally make them pay. I think most players would be fine with that.

*I hate the "Nick Johnson" comparisons.  Nick had a ball bounce up and hit him in the face.  He broke his leg in a collision with another player.  He may have been injury prone but really his career was derailed by bad luck, more than a frail body


Hoo said...

Boswell has been all over this lately. He says Zim is giving the Nats an injury discount but Lerner is balking after the Werth debacle...especially with Rendon at 3rd.

The front office is also telling Boz that there's a good chance Zim is traded this summer if no deal is reached. In part, b/c I'd guess they don't think Lerner will do another $150M deal next year. so get value on trade market when you can.

Given all this, I'd still be stunned if they trade Zim. Zim isn't just the face of the franchise, but he's the local boy made good who went to one of the local colleges.

Harper said...

I think you could call 6/120 (Tulo's deal) actually an injury discount because if he wasn't injured he deserves more. I'd love to hear the actual numbers but god knows that'll never happen.

I don't think they'll deal Zim, mainly because I think Rendon isn't going to be the immediate impact player that everyone thinks he will be. Look at the first couple of college bats picked each year. There usually make the majors and play well but the ones that can make an impact in 2-3 years are slim.

Anonymous said...

Harper, what do you think of Boz' argument that signing Zimmerman sends a positive message to the young Nats?

And, do you think in some ways Rendon's presence makes it MORE feasible to sign Zimmerman now? Even if Zim doesn't play to the level of the contract after 2 years, there's a decent chance that you'll have a viable & cheap in-house option who can fill in. And maybe Rendon could do more, by allowing an older, (perhaps) injury-prone Zimmerman to shift to 1st.

Harper said...

Anon - I think it has some merit, but only in the sense that negotiations start out with either trust or distrust. That can have some effect but really the right or wrong offer (re: $$$) is all that matters

So you're saying that if they DIDN'T have Rendon, they'd be less likely to sign Zimm because he'd have to play third and that could get him injured more easily? That seems like a stretch. He wouldn't have to play third really if they were really worried about it. And you'd actually probably be more ok with an injured declining Zim at third than first since the typical 3rd baseman is less offensively inclined.

Angels12 said...

The Werth deal would make anyone a little squeamish about signing another big contract that's for sure. That being said, the Nats don't want to see this go the way of Pujols and the Cardinals.......Pujols felt so unappreciated and dissed that he couldn't wait to get out of there. The Nats will have a wiindow of just a few months after this season ends to pull the trigger either way.

Lee said...

If we are going to consider the Werth deal as having anything negative to do with Zim then we have to consider the possibility that Werth bounces back.

Suddenly it's not such a waste of money on Werth. Zim is a much more familiar and consistent commodity. If Werth is killing it and Zim is too, Zim could benefit beyond what is currently being considered if Zim alone has a good year and Werth is ho-hum.

Steven said...

I loved Nick Johnson more than anyone, but his injury history went way back to his minor league days with the Yankees. He got hurt swinging bats, crossing home plate... he was frail and a slow healer.

If it requires a no-trade clause, don't sign Zimmerman. He's likely of more value as a trade chip anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ok, first of all Werth has played exactly ONE year under his contract, a year in which he virtually had no protection in the lineup because 1) Zim was out half the year and then took another month once he came back to get up to speed as a hitter and 2) the league spent 3/4s of the year not believing that Morse was for real and thus opted to pitch to him as opposed to pitching to Werth. Why dont we wait and see if the Werth deal really is as bad a deal as the Lerner's seem to think it is. Aside from that, assuming it does turn out to be a bad deal, does the Lerner's idiotic management style go something like this ..."we made a huge mistake with Werth, so because of that, we are going to compound our error by lowballing Zimmerman and losing him to free agency"????? These morons (Lerners) will find a way to f*ck this up, I have no doubt of that....their tightwad pennywise pound foolish style drove Kasten away, a man who is only one of the most respected front office men in baseball, we now know that they nixed a deal to send Adam Dunn to Tampa for Matt Moore...oooooooooooooops! and now we have the Zimmerman debacle, where a real face of the franchise star gets punished because these idiots overpaid for Werth. I mean you cant make this sh*t up if you tried, these bozos cant get out of their own way. On the one hand they overpay by a HUGE amount for the 4 slotted draft picks from last year, players who have DONE nothing in the majors as of yet, and may all turn out to be busts, and yet they dont come to the table and pay a clutch, Gold Glove, first rate character guy like Zim what he is worth....Im telling you, these morons will find a way to ruin everything Rizzo has accomplished in the last two years, mark my words.

michael k said...

anon -

After Boswell wrote that ridiculous pile of trash in December (you know what I'm talking about), I refuse to take anything he writes seriously. It's not that I can't take criticism of my beloved Nats, it's that he came off as a crying fanboy bitching about how the team hasn't signed every top free agent by Christmas. Seriously, I know Yankee fans that aren't that bad.

But that just means I don't take his opinions seriously. He's still a reporter, right? He's still "in the know."

Oh wait, just two days after that article was published Rizzo traded for Gio Gonzalez. Now Boswell was all like "ah, see? Rizzo gets it!" in an article written just three days after the first. Obviously, Boswell had no idea what was going on, or the other article would have never been written. Now we're supposed to believe him that there was a deal in place for one of the best pitching prospects in baseball two years ago, but Mr. Stingy McStingypants couldn't pull the trigger. Why is this the first I'm hearing of this historic near miss? Why aren't the other reporters - you know, the ones that actually do know what's going on, that don't write the editorial equivalent of Lou at the Bronx corner Deli complaining why Pujols isn't itching to DH for the Yankees - reporting on this? Oh, I have an idea! Because it never happened.

point of the rant: let's not assume the lerners are cheap/stupid/don't trust their baseball guys/etc. just because Mr. Boswell thinks that way. Personally, I've seen zero indication that the Lerners are either cheap (payroll increased every year since they took over with no signs of stopping) or that they refuse to take risky trades (Nats are probably one of the most trade-happy teams in the mlb right now). :)

Harper said...

Angels12 - I can understand being gunshy but that's the price of being comeptetive. As for Pujols... I don't think it'll get to that. I think the two sides will know at the end of the year if it's going to happen or not. I don't see a dragged-out signing.

Lee - So Werth having a bounce back year could help Zimm as much as how bad that contract looks could hurt? I'd like it to be that way if only because I don't think one deal should influence the next for team's serious about contending.

Steven - I said he was frail. I see Nick's career less about a guy who's injury prone-ness chipped away from his value and more about a guy who had a couple bad breaks in his prime that took away from what should have been a nice little (albiet mostly 130-140 game a year) career.

I think you'll get your wish on Zimm... until October.

Anon - words marked and hopefully completely wrong. I will say if the Werth deal does turn out terribly (it almost can't turn out good over the length of it - but Werth being very good at the right time could soften judgement considerably) and the Lerners become gunshy Rizzo will have himself to blame for backing the wrong horse with the monster deal.

mk - You're sort of wrong about the payroll. When the Lerner's took over payroll was SLASHED from 63 million down to 37. They only reached 63 million again last year. Also they've only gone up with the league. They've maintained a pretty steady 72-74% of the median payroll the last 3 years. So let's not praise them for this

As for Boswell - yeah he could be wrong. That Dunn / Moore trade makes no sense (and why would the money-minded Lerner's ixnay that deal?) and no one believes it was there. But there's been enough smoke from the Nats from various sources that something is smoldering there.