Nationals Baseball: Any moves on the horizon?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Any moves on the horizon?

The Nats head into the last 70 or so games looking like they'll stick to the same plan in which they started the season. Keep everything the same and hope it all goes according to plan. It doesn't sound like a good idea but the Nats don't really have a ton of better options.

It's the offense that has failed the team but now that everyone is finally healthy and playing together I don't see anywhere they could make a deal and substantially improve the team.  Really, who do you trade over? Span is the only real option and the possibilities here don't excite anyone.  Trade for De Aza and have a terrible fielding OF? Take a chance on Denorfia? Move Bryce over, trade for Alex Rios and hope he hits better? The only move worth making is for Stanton and the Marlins wouldn't trade him for anything less than the entire Nats farm system (if they'd even trade him in division... if they'd even trade him).  

No, the Nats made their OF move and that was trading for Hairston. He should play vs tough lefties while Span sits. Not really anything more you can do.

In the infield everyone is entrenched so unless you want to do something radical like trade for Morse and platoon him and LaRoche (not a terrible idea if Morse is being given away), again we turn to the bench. Given that the starters are all good with the bat, really the bench has to be glove-focused. There are plenty of back-up glove men available for a song out there, but why deal when you have one in the minors right now in Espinosa? Bring him back up, say bye bye to Lombo and there you go. Easy fix.

I suppose Tracy could also be replaced but there aren't many decent lefty bats out there. Ibanez? He would cost too much to park on the bench for 90% of the time. I'd say if anything bring up Steven Souza and see if he can pull a Tyler Moore 2012.

So that leaves pitching. A month ago a LH relief pitcher would have been paramount but both Abad and Krol have been good enough to no longer feel that's necessary. One of those guys, Soriano, Clippard, Stammen and/or Mattheus, Ohlendorf in long relief.  That's really enough. When you are bringing in the talented but flailing Storen as the 5th choice out of the pen, you have a good enough pen.

We're down to starting pitching. Assuming you like Detwiler enough (or want to give Haren another try given his decent last start) the Nats would only be aiming for one pitcher and it would have to be a good one to make an impact given that they are going to start probably 13 times. Garza is likely gone elsewhere so what's left for the Nats?

Phil Hughes is on the market as the Yankees have finally accepted that his homer issues make him a bad fit for that park. Love AL to NL moves but not really the difference maker. John Danks has pitched better than his ERA would indicate (1.133 WHIP), has been very good in the not distant past, and isn't old. But he's owed 14 million a year for the next 3. You'd be choosing him over ZNN or vastly upping your payroll. Kyle Lohse is more intriguing as he's pitched very well for 3 years now. Unfortunately he's 34 and under contract for two more years after this. James Shields / Ervin Santana - the Royals may listen to offers for either one and both would be worth offering.  Ervin is a FA next year though and Shields has only one year left. While that may appeal to other teams, the Nats tend to want to deal for cheap control. Jake Peavy also offers an interesting possibility if healthy.

After all that though, I don't think the Nats deal for any one of these guys. A Santana-type move would be a classic contender move (its what I would suggest.  Well actually I'd suggest going after Shields first) but the Nats have shown no inclination to make that sort of deal. Is there anything out there that they might pull off? If they had a better farm system I'd say they may try to throw it all at the White Sox for Sale, but I don't think the Nats have the chips to pull something that crazy off, not unless they want to include Rendon. So what do I think they do? Maybe surprise (disappoint) everyone and toss a few of their decent but not exciting prospects at the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Young, in team control for a while, groundball pitcher. Yes, he has a bad home/away split but the fancy stats suggest it's a little fluky and he actually pitched better away from Petco last year.

That might be the extent of it, if the Nats even go that far. I could see them easily doing nothing. That's the problem with putting a team together on paper that should dominate. If they don't get injured it's hard to find guys out there you like better than the guys you already have. You either have to break the bank on one of the best players in the game, or you gotta make a bunch of minor improvements, each one at a pretty hefty cost themselves.


DezoPenguin said...

I think you've highlighted the major situation with the Nationals this year, Harper. The entire starting lineup consists of players with an expectation of above-average performance (and better than that in the cases of Harper and, on a position-adjusted basis, Desmond). Some of those have performed to expectations (Ian, Rendon, mostly Znn after a slow start), but in other cases they have not (LaRoche, Span), or suffered injuries (Ramos, Harper, Werth).

Therefore the only way to genuinely improve the lineup is to trade for star-grade talent. Star-grade talent is generally not available at the break and our farm system is kind of weak anyway. Plus, it's usually expensive ('cause if it's not expensive, it's not getting traded). Dustin Pedroia, Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado, or Carlos Gonzalez are not walking through that door.

The bench can be shored up, yes, but as you note, those are small-scale moves, not ones that have a huge impact on the season. Hairston's already added to that, Suzuki's a perfectly adequate backup catcher. Lombo's a utility infielder and if used as one wouldn't stink up the joint all that much anyway, even though he can certainly be improved upon (if Espinosa won't get surgery, he could be an adequate late-inning defensive replacement for Rendon even if he should never be allowed near a bat if we can help it until his shoulder is right). Bernie and Tracy are underperforming expectations; like the lineup, you can expect some improvement.

The bullpen is the bullpen. Clippard has been quietly excellent all year. Soriano's basically been good. Krol has been excellent. Abad has been competent. Stammen started well but slumped lately. Ohlendorf's been adequate. Mattheus is another underperformer and Storen hasn't been right all year, but at least we've cut bait on Duke and HRod.

So yeah, the only real area where we've gotten bad performance that's readily upgradable is in SP. So if management believes any two of Jordan, Det., or Haren is going to be adequate, they're not going to make a big move. (Again, Lee, Sale, etc. are not on the way.)

More likely than not, Rizzo's going to stand pat, or close to it, and retool in the offseason (for one thing, Haren's contract will be off the books...). The parts we have to offer right now all come with their own flaws (Storen's recent shaky performance will scare away people who might otherwise bite on a "Proven Closer," LaRoche is having a down year, Epsi's hurt, the farm system is relatively weak), so they're not what would bring back the gamebreaking move we would need to go to Instant Contender status.

Donald said...

Should be an interesting homestand. The Dodgers and Pirates have been playing better than the Nats. If we can win 4 our of 7 against them, I'd take it. Then win 3 of 4 against the Mets for a 7-4 stand. Much less, particularly if the Braves do okay, and it's a tough way to start the second 'half' of the season.

Erich said...

Really agree on the trade deadline talk from Harper and DezoPenguin. Fits with the frustration of the season. There isn't really going to be a deal that makes a lot of sense. This is the team. They should do better. They might not. That's the way it is.

Harper said...

Dezo - should have just let you write the post. Unless the Rays lose their next 10 and there's a surprise move out there for Price I don't see any game changing deals. Nor can I argue with standing pat. I'd like to see a pitcher but look over the available names and it's all either "don't want" or "too expensive"

Donald - that's pretty much how I see it. 2-1 v LA, 2-2 v PIT, 3-1 v Mets. 7-4 should be the goal. Maybe pick up a couple on the Braves who start away (against mediocre competition to be sure) then have a series at home vs the Cardinals.

Chaz R said...

Completely agree with everyone. The Nats are too strong on paper for Rizzo to make any major moves. They just need to play at the level we know they can. One more SP would be great, so would some bench and 1B help, but that's more likely after this season. Man, it would be great to get Morse back!

If they don't make the playoffs, what do you think are the chances Davey will come back for another season?

Carl said...

Probably crazy talk, but: if you could somehow get Josh Hamilton from the Angels (no doubt by picking up most if not all of his contract), would you do it?

Erich said...

@ Carl:

That's crazy.

And no.

Harper said...

Chaz - Morse back would at least be fun. If not for Morse himself for the team playing better because everyone is healthy but the fans attributing it completely to Morse's return making my head explode and that should be entertaining.

0% on Davey. He's done here. Well 1% because I hate to not hedge.

Carl - Insane. But ALL of his contract? Sure. I'd do that.

(the reality is the amount the Angels would have to eat for me to take on Hamilton would be prohibitive 90-100 million of the remaining 108)

Froggy said...

Before the end of the season you will be saying I was right, and we should have kept Morse. I was right afterall.

Seriously, other than our top 3 of the pitching staff, and Bryce, Desmond, Zimmy, Rendon, Ramos off limits, (Werth's salary makes him unwantable) but (EVERYone else fair game) why not just ask the Marlins what they want for Stanton?

Nattydread said...

They could take a flier on Manny.

Anonymous said...

You can't start a trade proposal for Harper by saying "Let's take all our best players off the table!" I mean, you can, but the Marlins won't pick up the phone.

Anonymous said...

Stanton, I mean. Goddammit, I swear I went back and corrected that, but it ended up wrong anyway.

Froggy said...

I'm talking everyone in the farm system too. We do (theoretically) have a number of good future prospects that could be discussed as trade bait. doesn't hurt to throw out some chum and see if you get some bites.

Anonymous said...

Baseball America sees the Nationals as having the 13th-best farm system in baseball. Doesn't sound like a promising base to build an all-prospect offer for one of the most valuable, team-controlled players in baseball.

I don't think any team is getting Stanton without sending some young major league talent the other way.

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

What I meant to say was, if we lose 2-3 to the Dodgers then we must fire either Davey, Rizzo or Eckstein.

Another gem lost by Soriano.


Wally said...

I wouldn't mind seeing them make a play for Peavy. He is pricey but under control next year too, but they have been throwing $11-13m at Jackson/Haren the last few years, so it should fit. And it buys them another year for the pitching prospects to develop.

There was an ESPN proposal that was headlined by Karns and I forget who else, but I wonder if Detwiler for Peavy would fly? I just don't have confidence that Det will be able to have the endurance for a starter. I see him ultimately settling into a Sean Marshall/Glen Perkins kind of role.

Zimmerman11 said...

Harper, yes, would LOVE for the Nats to get Morse back and platoon him with LaRoche and Span and to get some days off for Werth/Whoever. He won't want to come back here, though, knowing he'll never be more than a bench guy... and if he's coming back unwillingly, then he won't be the super happy fun teammate that he was in 2012. You could just see it last year, how much fun that guy was to play ball with. Of course, he has an injury history of his own (and has been on the DL since June). But, like you said, it'd be fun to see him back and potentially make people's heads explode.

You said it earlier this year. We need a superstar player on offense to put everyone in their right place in the lineup. We have a bunch of very good players, and you were supposing or hoping Harper could be that guy already, but it seems like it's asking too much (at least for now). We don't need any fancy stats to tell us the team isn't scoring enough runs, and you're right to point out that there aren't any easy upgrades out there.

Theo said...

Cole and Taylor for Norris? 'Stros have to take that.

Kenny B. said...

At this point, I say stand pat, screw this season, we'll retool in the offseason and hope players actually play to even minimal expectations.

This season continues to look more and more hopeless every game.

blovy8 said...

It's possible to get Morse back for not too much, after all, that's what they traded him for, and he's hurt again with more than half the season gone. He's been worth a whopping -.02 WAR to Seattle so far, that would REALLY help.

Peavy would be a good guy to target, his contract is pretty fair. That cuts both ways of course, but to the Nats, it isn't a lot of money.

Of course, after being swept this weekend, why bother. The Braves will have to collapse again like 2011, and it might be the Phillies who take advantage of that anyway.

Anonymous said...

Did Boz just beat you to the stick-a-fork in 'em article?

Harper said...

looks like it. I wouldn't stick a fork in the Nats but I'd definitely take their internal temp and start prepping any sides that need to be served hot.

Ima said...