Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Quickie

With a disappointing regular season we usually tackle the off season right away but that's in part because we've been looking that way for months. The end of the season is not the shockingly abrupt end that a playoff year creates, but rather the culmination of months of trades and minor league call-ups and arizona fall league roster questions. It lends itself to the final "concluding paragraph" that is the October 6th "Season in Review" column. Not that you can't tackle the post-season right away if you do fall in the playoffs, but I know I haven't given it much thought.
I do know that it mostly boils down to two questions, and the necessary follow-ups :

Do you resign LaRoche?
If not do you move Morse to first and sign an OF, or keep Morse in the OF and sign a 1B?

Do you resign EJax?
If not do you sign another starter?

My early guesses would be Yes and they try to trade Morse, and no and no, but like I said, it's early and I haven't looked much at what's out there. The rest of the necessary moves are bench and middle relief related, which is important, but not the most interesting thing to speculate out on in the middle of October.

While I fritter around exploring some ideas that I have, quantifying the Nats offensive injury luck in comparison to the league, talking about the supreme waste of time and money Wang was, let's try something that requires next to no effort on my part, a mailbag. I doubt this will work, especially given the fact that readership is bound to plummet, but what the hell, right? If I try it now and get 2 questions, then I know not to try it again for at least another year. We all know we can just fall-back on stealing the questions to Ladson.

Rather than fill up the comments section, if anyone's got any questions, go ahead and email me at the gmail address : natsoftheroundtable and I'll reply to them in a column say... Friday.


Todd Boss said...

I think the team has to be pragmatic when it comes to LaRoche; the worst thing you can do is lock into an aging player for big money. LaRoche just had a career year at age 32; if you sign him for 3 or 4 years, is he going to be worth the money at the end of that contract? Probably not. Meanwhile they've got another slugger in Morse who is cheaper and can play 1B, AND they've got a guy in Tyler Moore who hit homers on a pace for 30+ with a full season of ABs. Why not keep Morse in LF, put Moore at 1B, and use the cost-savings from not paying LaRoche 12-14M/season on an upper end starter in the FA market(someone like, say Sanchez or Greinke).

OR, you keep LaRoche and package Morse in trade (along with an infielder and/or a RH reliever) and acquire your 5th starter that way. I'll bet we can find a very good starter in return for 2-3 starters.

What is unknown is what our payroll will be 'allowed" to migrate to. If we assume we're staying constant at the 90M mark, then you'd have to think we're letting one of Jackson or LaRoche walk.

Harper said...

TB - I would guess they aren't sure they can count on Moore (after a torrid May he was kind of Danny Espinosa at first, and a lot of Espinosa's worth is that he's at 2nd) so naming him the starter is out. I do think a deal is on the way but Morse himself doesn't get a top shelf starter... I think payroll will go up.

Froggy said...

I think agree with the fiscal reasoning of TB, as Morse could be a better value salary wise, and the HR production could be about the same between him and LaRoche at 25-35 a year (if they were both healthy). I hope they don't trade either one and sign LaRoche to a one year and see what happens if he and Morse both stay healthy (and see what is available at the AB). As much as I love the Beast, we could benefit defensively as there were some balls that a speedier outfielder would have gotten to that Morse didn't.

Knowing Rizzo, I see Moore or Morse and Espi with a Garcia as part of a package for a nice #2.

Ejax, has simply got to go. Like you said way back when about him (when I should have listened) he is a career 3.75 to 4.00 guy who wins and loses 50% of his games.

But if Rizzo isn't all woof, then we keep the 'chemistry' that justified shutting down Strasburg and payroll goes up.

Anonymous said...

If you can resign LaRoche for 2 years and less than 22 million, great. Otherwise I would keep Morse and look for another outfielder or 1st baseman. LaRoche usually doesn't have two good seasons in a row and his WAR has never been that great outside of this season. Can't see LaRoche going for a deal that is less than 2 years.

I appreciate Jackson from the innings he can suck up (and I know most people think that is vastly over rated), but I think we can do as well with free agency (Shaun Marcum?).

At some point you have to look at how can you improve the team, and I think you pointed out the two places that have that highest potential.

michael k said...

Good idea on the mailbag, Harper, but I don't have any questions. Only opinions ;)

As far as I see it, the Nationals should pursue three things, in no particular order. 1) Resign Adam LaRoche, 2) Pursue a big OF player, 3) Pursue a quality starter. I don't think they're really in a position to trade for one of those things - I'm not familiar with any top pitching or IF prospects besides Rendon (who should be off-limits) and OF prospects should be off-limits unless #2 is achieved. So all three of those things will probably cost the Nats some cash.

If you can do #1 but not #2, then you keep Morse in left next year. I wouldn't settle for a middling OF player, because Morse is probably better anyway. If you can do #2 but not #1, then move Morse to first. If you can do both #1 and #2, then look to trade Morse. At this point I like LaRoche better - Morse's big swing and declined OBP is worrysome IMO. #3 is a bit separate - adding a starting pitcher only affects the roster construction of pitchers.

As for whether they have the money to do all three - probably not. I expect the payroll to go down because of no Edwin Jackson (GOD NO), no Wang, and probably no Lannan (I like him but I don't want 2 lefties at the bottom of the rotation and Detwiler's just better). That's 20M free. Factor in arbitration raises, raises in the contracts of Werth and Gio, and Suzuki being the most expensive backup catcher in the majors, and you probably still have about 6M extra to play with. I agree that the payroll will go up (TB - it's way lower than 90M now I think), so you can probably do two of the three things I mentioned above without sacrificing the future.

I agree Moore isn't the answer at first. I wouldn't want to trade Espy yet - give him another year - and hopefully by then Rendon will be in the mix. He was 5th in fWAR for 2nd basemen this year, and if he can cut down on strikeouts, he'll be even better.

michael k said...

BTW, when I said "6M extra", that's including the money LaRoche made this year. Otherwise it's 14M extra.

Matt said...

I think LaRoche is back. If you think '12 was the expectation for Morse (as far as rates, not counting) goes, then LaRoche hits better and fields better. Unless the years get unreasonable, I think the choice is clear. Moore at first is a no-go -- he has 170 MLB ABs, which is really too small a sample to say anything useful. The team should be good next year and, again, IMO, should be willing to pay La Roche the money to make sure that 1st base doesn't turn into a big black hole of suck if it turns out that it took 190 MLB ABs for major league pitchers to find the hole in Moore's swing. Not saying it will happen, but it could, and the Nats would be stupid to take the risk unless LaRoche commands $$$$.

Espinosa isn't going anywhere -- he didn't hurt the team, and there's nothing better available on the market. There's no one in the minors to fill in.

I think people are undervaluing Jackson pretty badly. I agree he's not the most exciting thing ever, but he puts in the innings, usually gives the team a chance to win, and remember we're talking about a #5 here. There's a reason someone is going to offer him more $s than the Nats this winter. As for the anon who suggested Marcum, the problem there is that you take a 50% shot that he's broken for the season by the all-star break (OK, that's hyperbole, but you get my point). I'd guess they fill the extra spot with some combination of Garcia/Perry/possibly Lannan.

Anonymous said...

Morse is gone before LaRoche, I believe, but only in a trade for a every day outfielder from the AL. Even if LaRoche regresses back to career norms, he's still they guy the Nats need at 1B, purely from the defensive standpoint. Watch Rendon in the AFL, he could actually be the first guy traded.


Froggy said...

Great idea with the mailbag Harper, so don't get the wrong idea as I blow it off with this question...

...what are your thoughts on the merits or risks of pursuing a Josh Hamilton via FA?

K.C. said...

"they try to trade Morse"

This will not happen.

Harper said...

Froggy - I don't know if what you say about EJax means "he's got to go" If you like Detwiler you are basically saying a 3.8 .500 pitcher is your #5. That's great. Now, it's not needed for 10 million...

Anon - 11 mill a year sounds about right.. Like you said not sure you'd get him for only 2. Haven't looked at it but my guesses are (1) trade for young pitcher under control (2) sign elite pitcher before you get to the Marcums of the world.

mk - I agree the payroll should go up AND with the contracts coming free there will be $ on the table. I think LaRoche coming back will be about years not $$$. Will the Nats push to a 3rd? I don't see it. So that leaves big OF and quality starter. Both are gonna be tough and I don't think there is a definite "go get him" guy out there like Fielder was last year.

Matt - Morse v LaRoche in the next 3 years will be interesting. I think LaRoche was a bit overpowered, Morse a bit under this year and they are pretty much offensive equals. That would put Adam ahead (by defense) but he's also older. At some point age will get you and Adam is closer to that point.

Agree on EJax - he was a good pitcher this year and a great #5 - although I don't want him back because I think he'll be too expensive

Chaos - Rendon is an interesting piece. Certainly tradeable, certainly not needed right now, but also if you trade him your farm system has little in the way of impact bats. You need to get a young impact bat back (take a chance on Ellsbury)

Froggy - no problem answering Q's here I'll just be terser and do less thinking/research. I don't like it I think for whatever length he signs he'll break down before it's over and his K's went up a CRAZY amount. If this were an all or nothing 2013-14 team then maybe, but it shouldnt be

KC - You're probably right, but Morse is the most easily traded player with value. Only other trade options I see are Clippard (won't bring back enough) and Espy (would create a big hole that's hard to fill)

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand comments that LaRoche is an "aging first baseman" at age 32.

Isn't first base where you put old, fat guys who can hit home runs?

LaRoche can hit home runs but he's not close to either old or fat.

blovy8 said...

I don't think Jackson pitched well enough to make a qualifying offer that could get a pick. I bet some team he won't really want to pitch for will make him a multi-year offer that he'll accept. The guy's got his ring, he can chase some money.

LaRoche is a tough deal, I really think they want to keep him because he gives them lineup balance, and did a great job handling Zim's throws. His left-handed power might not be easy to replace, unless you are comfortable playing Tracy more and frankly, he's the same age, and not as good. I'm thinking they will be able to sign him for two years and an option, and if it's reasonably fair, his contract could either be moved or eaten if it does't work out. The Nats are now in the territory where they could make money. The new revenue sharing thing was going to screw them so that's fortunate anyway. Even if they don't get all they want, they should get more MASN money. This is a team that should be able to spend over 100 million easily. Why, Teddy Wins dolls alone should cover a frontline starter! I would be surprised if Rendon made his debut this year, that would be the only thing that could change their perception. Moore is nice depth to have, and it's not like Werth and Morse played are the paragons of health.

Are we all ok with Harper in center going forward and the lineup as is?

Froggy said...

blovy8 - I vote for Harper as our CF, signing LaRoche and leaving things as they are. You are right about him saving Zimmerman at first base. And to that point, I wouldn't be surprised if Zimmerman has shoulder surgery in the off-season.

blovy8 said...

I definitely think lots of doctor visits are in Zim's future. I also think that while they will not be able to stand pat, the pitching will have the most changes. That's just natural for a bullpen anyway, at least. If we don't hear about the club wanting a LH hitting leadoff hitter in November, I think we'll have a good idea that LaRoche is coming back. I don't think we'll see Josh Hamilton with a curly W on his hat next year, for instance, but guys like Peavy or Greinke would have to take an offer seriously. Is there really a more desirable spot than a 98 win team with a good offense playing in a fair park without a merciless media for a pitcher? All you have to do is be better than Jackson.

Donald said...

I think the Nats telegraphed their decision on Ejax when they said they are going to move Christian Garcia to a starting role over the winter. My thinking is that they have to fill the hole he would create. None of the recent draftees are close to being ready at the start of next season and none of the current AAA starters are all that appealing. The other option would be to try to get a front-line starter via FA, but I don't see that happening with what it would cost and how much they've invested in young arms in the farm system. My guess is they start the year with Strasburg, Gio, Zimm, Detwiler and Garcia in the rotation for 5 power arms and a R-L-R-L-R mix.

As for LaRoche, I agree that the issue is years not money. I don't think they will go to 3 years and LaRoche walks despite both side wanting to make it work. If he does leave, it gets tricky with all the moving parts. My guess is that Morse moves to 1B, they make a big push to get Bourne in CF and move Bryce to LF. When Philly out bids them on Bourne, they hope like crazy that some combination of Bernadina, Moore and Lombardozzi does the trick to round out the OF while they wait for Goodwin to progress.