Nationals Baseball: Trade Soriano?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trade Soriano?

No they really shouldn't. Oh they can kick the tires on some deals, see if anyone is offering up a "next-year" top prospect for Rafeal. You know, just to see. If the Cardinals were like "Sure you can have Oscar Taveras." you do it. But barring that there is no reason to sell Soriano.

The Nats are in a funny spot. For many baseball analysts you are either a buyer or a seller. Buyers are teams with a good shot of making the playoffs (or really now with the play-in game, with a good shot of winning a division). Sellers are everyone else. For them everyone else should purge themselves of any 30+ year old veteran near the end of a contract for whatever organizational filler they can get. It's the way to win.

Except it's not. Well, not explicitly.  Look through the rosters of the teams that are winners right now and you'll see that these teams are by far mixes of draft picks and free agent signings. The "prospects" they have gotten back in deals when they were out of the playoff mix are few and far between. Part of the reason is that there just aren't enough of these type of deals done to matter to your team. How many veterans can you sell off a year? 2 or 3? Usually for low-level stuff in return. And that stuff has in general gotten worse over the years as teams realize the value (and in some respects over-value) their young talent and refuse to part with the best of it.

So you don't usually directly win by trading off veterans for young players.  For every John Smoltz there are a dozen Kyle Drabeks. How do you win then by doing it? Well there are two indirect ways. One is based on a terrible flawed theory that I hate and want to punch everyone whenever I see someone hinting at it. The other one helps a little.

The helps a little one is getting bad. You trade your veteran players. This makes you a worse team. You win fewer games. You get higher draft picks. The end. It's a cycle that matters but only if you can get so much worse that the draft picks you get are more than just a couple spots away, or if you are so bad that you might get one of the top slots. The Nats were masters of this.  In 2008 they were fighting for the worst spot. They dealt away Rauch and Ayala and when they couldn't get anyone to bite, they outright cut Felipe Lopez and Paul LoDuca. They finished the season on a 15-31 slide (6-17 at the very end) which got them Strasburg. In '09 they traded Hanrahan, Beimiel, Nick Johnson, and Ronnie Belliard among other pieces and crashed so hard (12-31) that even a 7 game win streak to end the year couldn't get them out of last.  Hello Bryce Harper.

Of course you can see both of these mattered because it was the difference in getting a generational talent or not. Now the Nats would be fighting between what? A 20th pick and a 16th pick? At that point I'm not sure getting worse really matters. It can't hurt, I guess.

The other way, the one that angers my blood, is what I like to call the "money bucket" theory. In this theory, there is only so much that is going to be spent on baseball. Money spent on veteran players is money that can't be used to sign better free agents next year, help resign your own guys, do work and sign guys internationally, and use on player development. It's better to get value on your dollar when you win so you have as much money as possible to do everything else. THIS IS NONSENSE. BASEBALL OWNERS ARE SUPER RICH AND COULD THROW AS MUCH MONEY AT THE TEAM AS THEY WANT. THERE IS NO MONEY BUCKET THAT ONCE IT IS EMPTY THERE IS NO MORE MONEY FOR BASEBALL.

If you go along with this line of thinking you are complicit in your ownership being cheap bastards. You, therefore, are also a bastard.

Anyway, I've rambled off topic a bit. The Nats are not going to get much better by selling veterans off. The return won't likely be good. The amount they would get worse (especially dealing a closer) would be minimal. Their owner seems committed right now to spending money to win. Most importantly the Nats aren't a rebuilding team. They are a team built for now that is hopefully having an off-year. Next year they want to, expect to, win.

The Nats have a good pen. Not a great one. We don't know if Storen is going to come back. I've expressed great admiration for Clippard but he has been used heavily and is getting up there in age (well,  in baseball age).  Abad and Krol are is a both rookies. Stammen is ok. Mattheus got injured. The Nats need a Soriano type to anchor this pen.  Do I wish they had one that was cheaper and not an ass? Yes. But they have what they have and he is at the very least a good reliever in hand right now.

If the Nats weren't ready to win then I'd say trade Soriano anyway. Who cares if a bad team has a bad pen?  But the Nats have a core that they believe can win. Ramos, Desmond, Zimm, Werth, Bryce, Strasburg, Gio, ZNN, Clipp. They have young guys they think can help right away Krol, Rendon. They have a window set up right now until about 2016-7. At that point Werth is too old, Zimm is probably too old, and they can't keep everyone else signed. They want to try in 2014 & 2015, not trade away talent with the hopes of finding something that works in the meantime all for the chance at maybe being slightly better in 2016 than they would be anyway.

Unless Soriano can return something that helps as much as Soriano would next year it makes no sense to trade him. That is assuming you think this Nats core is still good enough to win a division in the next couple years. I do. 


Clip&Store said...

True...but there should be an asterisk in it thought, considering all the off-field issues Soriano has caused.

Which is actually a shame because at first i thought Soriano was really cool...I loved the whole Caribbean flavored walk in song, the rituals he has on the mound, etc. But it really seems like he does it all for himself which makes it hard to like him, no matter how much I want to.

Miles Treacy said...

I can't stand watching Soriano, but agree he's better than anything we'd get and is able to contribute now and next year. Looking at what guys like Downs, Crain, and K-Rod fetched you're not seeing a huge return for relief arms despite these guys having great seasons (Crain is hurt obviously but before was a shut down guy). So unfortunately we have to sit back and watch the guy that makes about half a million an inning.

Donald said...

Good post. I think the only arguments for trading Soriano would be (a) they think Clippard is a better closer and want him in that role. Soriano would never willing move to the 8th inning guy; or (b) he's causing issues in the clubhouse with morale that we aren't aware of. Despite fan concerns about his demeanor in non-save situations, I haven't heard any of the players get on him for it. Most of the morale issues raised were just that someone was brought in to move the rest down a peg in the pecking order, or (c) they can get something really special back in return. This is the argument that you made, which is valid, but unlikely.

Maybe a better question, though is trade Clippard? You might get more back for him then Soriano and how long, really, do you expect him to keep this up? That would be a big blow to this year's pen, but you'd be selling high and they don't use him in the highest leverage situations anyway. My answer would be no to this one too, but there may be more people calling Rizzo about Clippard than Soriano right now.

A Fly Moses said...

The variation that inevitably ends with me freaking out in comments are the "let's sign this guy to a 15/yr for 2 years instead of 10/yr for 3 years so that his contract will be off the books sooner" posts as if the savings in the first two years can't apply to additional spending in the third year and/or there's a salary cap (and/or the time value of money isn't a thing). It gets me every time.

Anonymous said...

Where did Ryan Mattheus come from?

A 10% chance for a useful MLB piece is what non contending teams should do for two months of a veteran that could be resigned in the off season.

Harper said...

C&S - I tried to warn you guys, I was there fore 2011 "Don't give a damn" Soriano. It isn't pretty.

MT - yep right now is "great relivers for some kid that might be a great reliever"

Donald - Nope. You need Clippard too. You would get back more I think than Soriano b/c the contract is cheaper but again need guys next year not 2-3 years down road.

AFM - I was about to say that does matter but really it's only if you are going to hit the luxury tax threshold every year and who does that (other than the Yanks and Dodger now).

I like the shorter deal more money but it's not a $ thing, it's a years invested thing. Teams can feel indebted to playing a guy their paying so keep those contract for old guys short.

Anon - I wouldn't say the Nats couldn't deal anyone, but I don't know who they have that fits the bill of "veteran FA to be that they can re-sign" Chad Tracy? Who wants him? There's no Mike Stanton on this team.

Sirc said...

Abad isn't a rookie, not that it really matters.

I think you trade vets at the deadline only if their contracts are expiring AND you have zero intention of re-signing them AND what you're getting back is better than the compensation pick. OR if they aren't producing and you have someone already in your organization you want to install in their position RIGHT AWAY.

None of those things are true with the players that the Nats might move so they should stand pat.

Except I'd trade Danny. And Lombo. And Harren. And the Shark. And Det.


cass said...


Danny, Lombo, Harren, the Shark, and Det aren't going to fetch anything in a trade. You'd basically just be releasing them.

Well, Detwiler probably would fetch a little, but nothing worth more to the Nats than Detwiler is. We kinda need 5th starters. We needed a few more going in, but thankfully Jordan and Ohlendorf seem up to the task - for now. These guys can flame out in a hurry. Ideally, you have some slightly-better than replacement level guys for the back of the rotation.

Anyway, good post, Harper. When Cameron suggested the Nats be sellers on FG, I posted a comment that basically came to the same conclusion - Soriano is the only person who could be traded and it wouldn't make sense because he wouldn't bring in enough to make it worth it. So you might as well hope for a miriacle in 2013 and prepare for 2014. Not much for the Nats to do in terms of selling.

Chaz R said...

Good posting (as usual), Harper. Completely agree. As I think I mentioned yesterday, I keep seeing articles about the Nats being buyers at the deadline... I just don't know who they think the Nats could be selling. This is largely the team the Nats organization has built for the next few years, they either perform or not. I do think Rizzo will do some work on the bench in the offseason and in the back of the rotation. I would be surprised to see Tracy and the Shark next year.

Harper said...

Sirc - whoops, originally had him in both Krol places then double checked my memory. He's just been bad. Forgot to cut him up there though.

cass - I find that fangraphs has a group think where "Multi-year dynasty built on young, cheap players" is the only goal worth having, which is at disconnect with both the fans/ownership wishes (win NOW if possible please) and the reality of a future that is very unpredictable.

Chaz R - Tracy, Haren, Suzuki are the only true vets who they'd probably let go at season's end. And selling those... what are you getting back really? You kind of need Suzuki (decent back-up, Ramos is not the healthiest C), and you could argue you need Haren just to toss in there. (I'd deal him if I could).

I could see Bernie back. He'd be down at 5th OF though. Tough to say he's done as a useful bench player after one lousy year. Fields well, runs well, some pop

cass said...

I imagine there's also a bias that it's better to do something than nothing. Since the Nats can't improve their chance of making the postseason to any reasonable level, then they must improve their chances for future years. But maybe they just can't do either right now and all they can do is let things turn out as they will and see what can be done in the offseason.

Standing pat isn't just for teams that are in the WC race. It's also for teams that just don't have any moves that'd help the team either shortterm or longterm.

DezoPenguin said...

Your last sentence really summed up the whole point. Soriano is a skilled reliever who is under contract for 2014 in addition to this year. The Nats are a team who had the best record in baseball last year and are hovering around .500 despite a crapton of bad breaks and Dan Haren, and who are looking to be good again next year. Therefore, any trade of Soriano should not be for potential-future-improvement-prospects-maybe, it should be for players that make the team as it is today better than taking Soriano off it makes it worse. Frankly, the time to move him was about a month and a half ago, before Uehara, Jansen and Benoit made Boston, LA and Detroit realize that they didn't actually need a "proven closer," just someone who was actually good at baseball.

It also hurts, again, that the things that would improve the Nats are not the things that trading Soriano would get us. We need star-grade players to improve everywhere but the back end of the rotation. Bud Norris would actually be a good pickup for the Nats (4th-5th starter, under control for multiple seasons), but Houston doesn't want what we have to get rid of (overpriced veterans under club control for next year).

Really, the only reason to move Soriano, as Donald already pointed out, is if his presence in the clubhouse is so toxic as to actually cause a drag on the W-L record. And that doesn't seem to be the case.

Those of us who were Expos fans before the team moved do not need the "money bucket" rant, because we remember being owned by Jeffrey Loria. *wince*

Bernie's always been a good fifth outfielder. Late-inning defensive replacement, possibility of adequate performance over the short term, decent on the basepaths,not good enough to command starter money. The only mistake is thinking he should be a 1st-3rd OF (or constructing a roster where he is indeed one of top three talents).

A Fly Moses said...


Fair point on the "years invested" thing, although I'd like to imagine teams being run slightly more rationally. I guess the middle ground is the kind of deal Soriano got (2 years, but paid over 3-4).
Mostly, I've just never understood why NFL teams will cut guys w/ dead money attached, and most NBA teams will amnesty guys, but MLB teams mostly refuse to outright cut expensive/useless vets.

[End tangent.]

Anonymous said...

Soriano is an ass... trade him..move Clippard into starting role.. hope someone will take Haren and get a 7th and 8th inning man worth something

Ollie said...

"The amount they would get worse (especially dealing a closer) would be minimal. " Oh how you forget the Great Ramos Heist of 2010.

Counterpoint to this: if you swallow enough of Soriano's salary (i.e. most of it) to get a couple decent prospects in return then maybe they have enough farm depth to trade for David Price. Maybe.

SPA said...

How crazy would it be to put JZ out there? His value is as high as it'll ever be and he's gotten significantly worse in the last 1-2 months. I think if you package him with LaRoche there's the potential for a better CF option than Span, and hopefully a very strong 2B or 1B prospect, perhaps a throw-in good reliever, which we could obviously use. I think both JZ and AL have peaked, and I'm not quite convinced that this year is the anomaly and not last year, where virtually everybody had career years. Thoughts?

NatsFan up against the wall said...

This year's team looks like the 2011 team just a few names have changed. I do think last year was the anomoly. Sitting on our hands and fielding this crowd next year will most likely produce the kind of results we're seeing at this time. We have no real offense. The anomoly is when the Nats score more than 2 runs or when they put together a game consisting of more than 6 to 8 hits. Clutch hitting is non-existant. Because no one is able to consistently hit, any opposing pitcher can stand up to our offense. If three or four guys were consistently hitting and they were positioned throughout the batting order it would help spark our other guys because the pitches they'd see would be better. When no one is hitting the opposing pitchers can throw garbage all day long.
Our pitching is spotty and subpar.
Our defense is below average.
This team will struggle to reach .500 and may very well not make it. It seems the Nats mgmt has assembled more than its fair share of head cases. It'll be interesting to see who is picked to be the next manager.
As an aside, I wonder if anyone has explained to Harper that arguing with the umpires is not going to enhance his batting career.

Timmy said...

This is awesome!