Nationals Baseball: On Zimmermann and Desmond

Friday, January 17, 2014

On Zimmermann and Desmond

Quickly on Zimmermann

This contract might make it seem less likely that he'll be in DC past 2016, but the honest truth is that it was never that likely.  He always said he wouldn't give the Nats a discount and that the deal would have to be fair. What's fair right now in a world where Clayton Kershaw got 8 billion dollars? Anibal Sanchez had a worse resume and got 5/80 last year. 6/100 as the floor?

The Nats have signed crazy deals (Jayson Werth - and yes it is still crazy.  An awesome 2/3rds of a season in year three doesn't make it suddenly a good deal) and have extended their own guys (Zimm), but they've yet to sign a pitcher long term. In five offseasons how many free agent pitchers have come to the Nats on multi-year deals? Three. Marquis (2), Soriano (3), and Maya (4 - though this is a different type of situation)

Whether he likes it in DC or not is an interesting side note but by saying the above, he's saying "pay me what I could get as a FA and I'll stay" and the Nats don't do that.

Will the eventual inevitable loss of ZNN hurt the Nats? I hate to speculate 3 years down the road but what the hell, that's what we're here for, right?  Gio and Strasburg are signed through at least 2016, (and Gio likely longer given the team-favorable back end option on his deal). So the questions are (1) What happens to Fister (2) Does anyone develop into a major league starter?  I assume they'll try to "Gio" Fister, meaning extend him a year or two past arbitration for a below market price. Assuming he's not dumb, #2 is then really going to push #1 (and any chance at re-signing ZNN). A good year from Cole/Giolito/Purke/etc would probably mean no honest attempt to re-sign Fister either and a projected 2016 that's Stras, Gio, Whoever was good in the minors, 1-yr free agent pitcher, gaggle of guys they try to pretend are honestly good but are more just shots in the dark. I don't like that right now but if that "good" minor league season from Cole et. al. was REALLY good, well then I might change my mind.

Right now the Nats are gambling. This is what Rizzo always does. He thinks he doesn't need ZNN because a good replacement will develop.  If he's right, he's saved the team millions of dollars. If he's wrong, he at least has a chance to pull ZNN or Fister back in for a continued excellent Top 3. If he's wrong and the fact he's playing them alienates both ZNN and Fister, well then the Nats will have to face a very uncertain rotation future when right now they could cement it for the remainder of the decade for the right price.

added - on Desmond

This is more worrisome because I thought there was more mutual "let's try to stay" but Desmond is probably looking at Zimm's deal as a model and the Nats are probably looking at Zimm's deal as a mistake. Since SSs are hard to come by and the Nats don't have good hitting prospects in the minors, this is a much bigger gamble. I'd still expect them to at least to try to resign Desmond but if he comes up with another very good/ great year they've lost the gamble. They'll either have to shell out much more or lose him.


Chris Needham said...

Just like the Caps, the window for success will be open for years!

Years, I tell you! Years!

Anonymous said...

Ok... dumb question: Why give a second year when you have team control anyway (especially since it doesn't look like this was some sort of "goodwill" move, if such a thing even exists)? Doesn't a $16.5M commitment (vs. just going into arbitration) hurt your negotiating position in potential trades?

Harper said...

Right now Rizzo is in the behind every Nats fan with a tube saying echo-ly "The Nats will be good forever... forever... forever"

Harper said...

Anon - maybe a little bit. If you want ZNN though you'd pay 16.5 just as likely as you'd pay say... 13.5 million (good guesses for arb awards would be 10.5 year 1 /13.5 year 2), and that gets even more likely if we're talking half a season or less of salary.

Also if you are planning to deal in the straight arb scenario you pay 10.5+6.75 million or 17.25 total. In the new contract scenarion you pay 7.5 + 8.25 million or 15.75. That's 1.5 million in savings.

Wally said...

I must be getting old(er). In the past, with a clear signal like this that these guys are gone in two years, I would get spun up. But now, I figure they have a plan. It is hard to see what it is with Desi, but I doubt Rizzo sees the Nats dropping back to an Astros type rebuild, and the team clearly seems comfortable with payroll $120-140mish, that I figure he works out a backup plan. Maybe he trades JZimm right now for one of the multiple SS prospects, and signs a FA starter? Kills two birds with one stone. Tanaka-san, anyone?

That sounds crazy even to me. But I think these two guys are gone by 2016.

Donald said...

I think they are more likely to keep Desmond than Znn. Desmond is a leader and they don't have anyone in the minors who could replace him. Maybe if they could trade Znn for a great SS prospect as Wally suggests it would be different but who knows. Detroit only got Lombardozzi for Fister after all.

What are the terms for Desmond? It does seem like back-loading Znn's salary saves the Nats money if they trade him.

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm hopeful or delusional that the two year extensions were just what they had already worked out for those years during extension talks and wanted to beat the arb hearing clock...that they're continuing to work on deals with both and Znn and Des will be in DC for a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time. Zn is a nice face of the franchise, but Desi is the last Expo! Git R Dun, Rizzo!!!

NG said...

Perhaps I'm too much of an optimist, but while it's technically true that the Nats are "yet to sign a pitcher long term" I think you're forgetting something important: Zimmermann is the Nats first really good pitcher.

The fact that the Nats didn't sign Mike Bacsik or Jason Simontacchi to long-term extensions is not really evidence that they won't sign Zimmermann to an extension.

Anonymous said...

Gio is signed for three more years with two options beyond that, so I'd call five more years "long term."

I'd advise not reading too much into the Desi and Zmnn two-year deals. They were up against the arbitration deadline, and these were pretty much agreeable, good-faith deals. They don't preclude longer-term contracts before or during the spring.

Beyond the arbitration years, the subsequent seasons for Desi and JZmnn would start at their age-30 seasons. There are a number of starters at that age who are on the market right now who can't get arrested. Nobody trusts those arms to still be going strong for five years. It's a very risky investment. Ideally, the Nats would like to wait a year and see the 2014 development of guys like Jordan, Roark, Solis, Cole, and Giolitto before committing to JZmnn for five more. But his folks are trying to press the issue this offseason.

The larger point is that the Nats do have other pitching options. They don't up the middle, unless Walters makes miraculous progress on defense this year. I will be very surprised if they don't get a Desi deal done, sooner or later.

John C. said...

I am astonished that everyone has assumed that both Zimmermann and Desmond are gone after 2015. It could happen, sure. But by all accounts negotiations continue. And even if they don't reach a deal this year, every year there are players that sign extensions one year before free agency. And there have been occasions when players have received a qualifying offer and re-signed with their team. It happens. A lot of things happen in two years.

Let's enjoy some baseball first :)

Zimmerman11 said...

John Lannan signs with the Mets... he's a Nats slayer... so there's -4 WAR right there!!! Gonna have to make it up somewhere else, or give eyebrows bragging rights when we fail to make the playoffs. This does worry me. We don't need the Mets trying to make themselves better, LOL.

Zimmerman11 said...

Plus, it's a shame that the Nats' window for success is coinciding with a Cardinals team on the verge of dynasty status and an LAD team with a billion dollar TV deal. Imagine if they get Tanaka too?

John C. said...

Zim11, yours is not a cheerful fandom, is it? There is never a time when the rest of the league just gets out of the way. The opposition just makes the ultimate triumph more glorious. If it comes, of course. Like the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Nationals get no guarantees.

Zimmerman11 said...

John C... fair enough. You do want the championship (if/when it comes) to be "glorious".

I would put the long suffering moniker on my fandom having been with the team basically since its start in Montreal, so no... not cheerful. Not yet!

blovy8 said...

The payroll estimate for 2015 by Baseball Reference is 158 million, then you add about 12 million for benefits, callups, and such and they'll be at 170 million if nothing changes. The club will clearly need some guys like Giolito, Solis, Goodwin, Taylor, Skole, etc. to develop into useful players or at least tradeable pieces to fill in for the free agents to be. The system is middle of the pack in prospects and maybe has only one impact guy, who happens to be Zimmermann's possible replacement. In a way, Zimmermann is giving Rizzo some cover by saying he's not giving out a discount, so they'll be an excuse in 2016. Or 2015 if they trade him.

The stalled cable negotiation is becoming a bigger deal for the Nats for as long as it takes because they're probably in the bottom 10 at this point, with a club like Houston getting 50 million more than them a year, it won't be getting better soon if the status quo is kept. Given the way people watch these games, the local cable guys may not paying out by the time they can get out from under it. No revenue sharing money because of their market size, and butting up against the luxury tax if they keep everyone. The idea that the Nats will maintain a top 10 payroll for an extended period probably is wishful thinking the way the system stacks against them right now. I think the window has already shrunk, Chris, it's just not a fun thing to tell fans directly.

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