Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - A range of problems

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Quickie - A range of problems

Hey everyone! Welcome back from the holidays! And welcome back to... well I guess Redskins news for most of you.  But for those looking for some baseball talk, Boz put out his usual off season "gotta wear shades" column. Nothing really wrong with it as he's right. Getting Fister was awesome for the Nats and Blevins and McClouth make the team better. But it wouldn't be written opinion if I couldn't find some fault in it.

As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I don't take kindly to teams saying "they can't afford" to do anything. For the vast majority of teams, yes, yes they can afford to do it. It's that the owners choose not to. Which is fine - their team, their choice, but let's call it what it is. The Nats are saying money is an issues in two different areas.

First they are saying they are out of the Tanaka bidding. This doesn't bother me as much because the outlay of money is quite large and the implication from Rizzo is that the large amount of money that would be spent here will be spent to sign some current young Nats to long term deals. If you aren't going to be luxury tax payers (and it is onerous) it would be hard to do all three, given the money already promised to Werth, Zimm, and Gio and other contracts (Stras, Bryce) coming up.

The second one though is a big penny-wise pound foolish to me. Boz writes :
But Rizzo had a tight budget for a lefty reliever and backup catcher. The Nats couldn’t — or wouldn’t — go for more than a one-year deal.  

Really? Of the names he mentioned some of the deals are very small. Molina signed a 2 year deal... for 2.5 million total. Matt Thornton signed a 2 year, 7 million dollar deal. No offense but 3.5 million? 1.25 million? This has to be considered throw away money for a team going all out to challenge for a playoff spot. If you don't think these guys make your team better that's fine, but if you didn't want to go 2 years 3 million for Molina because "what if I'm stuck with him for 1.5 million in 2015!" then you shouldn't be owning a major league team.

The second thing that causes a tiny bit of worry is the whole "Doug Fister will be great just like Zimmermann is great because of the range of our infielders" thing. That could be true. It also could be that the Nats are relying on something that will get worse over the next few years. Zimmerman's range was a horrendous -10.2 last year. Even if you think it was because he was hurt and he was better at the end of the year, he hasn't had good range since 2010. Adam LaRoche had a poor year in the field last year, and for someone getting old and never a great fielder that portends another subpar season. Anthony Rendon, while theoretically a plus a second base, is still a bit of a question mark. He was a very good fielder but one who based on scouting reports relied on quick action more than pure range. That's perfect for thirds but not quite as good for 2nd base. Add in the fact that his ankles are made of chicken bones and I worry about him as well. Finally, while range has never been an issue for Desmond, he continues to have issues with errors.

Add it all together and you had an infield D that was fairly average last year. It has potential to be worse if Rendon's good year was a mirage and LaRoche continues to slide (I expect Zimm to bounce back a little bit) I'm not saying DOOOM! or anything like that. This won't make ZNN or Fister or anyone else bad pitchers, but if you are counting on great infield D to make them superior pitchers... well I wouldn't count on that.


Carl said...

I remember comments this past season that Zimmerman was often much more shallow at third than in years past, likely to try to help his crappy throwing. That no doubt cut down on his range. Hard to believe he won a gold glove not all that long ago.

Harper said...

I know but Zimmerman 2006-2009 was just a superior 3rd baseman. Rendon and Desmond have fair to good range. Zimm in those years tripled them in that stat.

Wally said...

I couldn't agree more on the money spent on back up catcher and another bench bat. I can't imagine that Rizzo is actually saying that bit about Molina, since he paid top dollar for a moderate back up in Suzuki. My guess is that he doesn't think the bulk of them are any good. But almost anyone other than Nieves is better than the Onion, imo. I have to ignore the LH in the bullpen stuff, for now, because I just can't figure out that market. I mean, I wouldn't touch Logan's contract, even if it is market. Thornton's was fine, but it looks like he is at the end of the road, too. So I am not sure what to make of all of it.

But I really think that they need to upgrade from TMo, and I don't care if it is another RH or a LH. I think a Baker type would be fine, but I do not think TMo should get another 200 PAs. If money is holding back that upgrade, that would be disappointing.

Donald said...

I expect the infield D to be a bit better than last year. Zim should improve with better health, and I have to believe that Rendon will be at least slightly improved with more time to get used to the position, given his age. Desi is still in his prime, so he should be the same. LaRoche may be slightly worse, but it's the least important of the four spots and on the days he sits, an infield of Zim, Espinosa, Desmond and Rendon would beat anything that included Tyler Moore.

If you believe that last year was a case of everything going wrong, the way 2012 was about everything going right, then you have to like the Nats position going into this season. If you think 2013 showed the Nats true colors, just adding Fister and McLough probably isn't enough to get over the top. In this regard, I'm an optimist.

Anonymous said...

Even with a negative trend, the corner infielders have a long way to go before they approach Cabrera and Fielder in terms of awful defense. It is likely that any team in baseball would be an improvement over those two (defensively).

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!

DezoPenguin said...

I can't help but agree with the first Anon, because he/she has it right: any discussion of "Fister benefiting from the Nationals' infield defense" has to be in comparison to the Tigers, who were starting legendarily bad players at first and third both. The Nats' infield isn't some magical place where ground balls go to die and never find the gaps, but it is at least average and could be better if the breaks go right and Rendon continues to improve at his new position while he's still young (and if Williams employs some creative shifts, which might help, too).

Otherwise, I agree with Harper and Wally. The two-year-contract comment by Rizzo is ridiculous, but the quality of the players available isn't very good either. As far as LH relievers go, he seems to have acquired an adequate one at a reasonable price, and moreover one who's not a true LOOGY to be abused by platoon shifts. Slotting Blevins in with Soriano/Clippard/Storen/Stammen looks like a reasonable top five guys, and whomever is left over in the Det/Jordan/Roark/Karns fifth-starter derby can at least produce an adequate long man/spot starter.

But yes, please, by all that is holy we need someone that is not Tyler Moore. He can't field, hits only one side, and is the team's primary backup at its biggest "on paper" position of weakness. We also need a backup plan for Espinosa at utility infielder; he has the glove but there are too many other questions, and there should be a Plan B in place (and no, I don't mean "Espi can't handle being a backup, so we'll start him and have Rendon be the backup," which I still think Rizzo has in the back of his mind*).

*Mind you, if Espi got his 2011 bat back, that would actually be a good plan, but there's no evidence that will ever happen.

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