Nationals Baseball: Tuesday Quickie

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Quickie

Of course I love the Lobaton deal - I said I'd do it just for Karns. Even if those other two don't end up being anything other than organizational players the deal is still good. Why?
It addresses a need... - the Nats have a potentially very good catcher, but one who has a rich history of injury.  They've been rotating in two minor leaguers as back-up neither of whom look ready to hit at the major league level. Understanding that they brought in a number of veterans and the favorite to win the job was 33 year old who has had one decent offensive season since 2008.  The Nats needed a better option.

...by dealing from a strength - with Detwiler, Jordan, Roark, and Karns the Nats had a glut of guys who were decent shots at making the back of a major league rotation. With Cole and Giolito, the Nats have two up and comers they like to be at least mid-rotation guys sooner rather than later. The Nats could deal one of those first four and still have depth enough to cover the expected one questionable rotation spot.

It keeps Rizzo from dealing in season.  I've discussed this before but Rizzo seems loathe to make mid-season corrections to keep the team on course. You can actually argue that isn't a bad thing (doing so means you are usually giving up more than you are getting back and the return is often uncertain to produce dividends in the short time remaining in the season) but it's certainly not a good thing for the immediate task in front of the Nats. Win in 2014. The more "disaster prep" he does, the less likely he is going to need to do "damage control" and the better I feel.

What's left to do? Not having another LH bat on the bench is the thing most likely to come back and haunt the Nats, given that its not unlikely one of their OF will miss a chunk of time this season, pulling their first option into the starting line-up.  Work could (should) be done here, but I get a real sense the time for preseaon "moves" is done with the Nationals. Perhaps a mid-season deal like the one that brought Hairston in will happen if it really is an issue. A better MI back-up would also be nice but close to 30 teams would probably say the same thing. Giving Espinosa another shot is as good as anything out there and a deal would be pricy.

Say hello to your 2014 Nats. If you can wish three things for them, wish health, health, and health, because if they have health the rest should take care of itself.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Matt Skole could be our lefty bat off the bench come midseason, no?

I'm still a little upset with the deal because we didn't kick the tires on Yanier Bello. He is a huge question mark( I get it), but when asked would I rather have Nate Karns and Yanier Bello or just Lobaton, (plus the prospects)...then I guess I side with Lobaton from a less risk point of view.

Clip&Store said...

I find it weird that we can so easily see these needs, yet the profession GM of the team can't (or at least won't address them when they really shouldn't be THAT difficult to fix).

Thoughts on Ubaldo to the O's and, I forget if you addressed it earlier, but would you have liked to see the nats make a bigger push for Burnett, thus creating depth and the ability to move Det to the pen as a probably very good lefty arm?

Chaz R said...

They really are a talent rich team. If they can keep their cool and stay healthy, this could be an outstanding year. If Bryce, Werth, and Ramos can play +/- 130 games, I think that will be the key.

Harper said...

Anon - ok sure! Or Zach Walters! Or... wow there really isn't a lot of choices in the Nats system is there?

You nailed it, if you want to lessen risk of backing up Ramos you can't go with Bello. If Ramos was a bit more dependable...

C&S - well the (sort-of) problem is that everyone is addressing similar problems making the cost to address them out-of-line with the production returned. How much are you willing to "waste" to get what you need - accepting you might need to pay more later as well. It's a judgement call when you don't have people willing to 100% go all-in.

Ubaldo to the O's? They had to do something - they aren't good enough to compete with the Sox/Rays/Yanks. Outside of Machado the team isn't young so improvement just through age is unlikely. Still 4th though I think they put themselves back into a "well if thing go right" scenario they were in last year.

Chaz R - Outside of ridiculous bad luck, There should be no excuse for a healthy Nats to miss the playoffs. Division? Not sure but playoffs yes. Of course I say that and then watch Werth and Gio mysteriously collapse...

Anonymous said...

Totally unrelated question:

Has anyone explained ALR's "weight-loss" issue last year?

He has always struck me as an unlikely power hitter - do you think ALR has a better season if he goes into it expecting to hit 15 instead of 25 hrs, and adjusts his approach accordingly?

Harper said...

Anon - not totally the prevailing theory is a change in ADD meds, combined with an off-season diet change and an in-season bout with the flu

http://www.masnsports.com/nationals_pastime/2013/10/laroche-on-weight-loss-struggles-and-confidence-he-can-regain-top-form.html

Nah - he got to 25 a bunch and 33 a year ago, even if that was a fluke that doesn't make him a 15 HR guy. His average and OBP aren't pluses. Getting slower so doubles are harder to come by. He should do what he does and expect something in the low 20s.

John C. said...

I find it weird that we can so easily see these needs, yet the profession GM of the team can't (or at least won't address them when they really shouldn't be THAT difficult to fix).

Yeah, weird huh? Of course it's possible that the fans' collective wisdom is way out in front of the front office. Sometimes the best and the brightest can tie themselves into knots. Alternatively, perhaps:

(a) fans are identifying problems that really aren't;

(b) fans are mistaken about how serious the identified problems are;

(c) fans are mistaken about how difficult the problems are to fix, considering all factors;

and/or

(d) fans are confusing a lack of visible discussions with a lack of effort.

Kirk Weaver said...

I am ready for some baseball!! I just wish the Nats would improve the broadcast booth. We are minor league compared to teams like the O`s. I turn the radio on instead of listening to F.P. and "See..You..Later" Carpenter. No chemistry between them and they are simply not enjoyable to listen to every day of the year.Please..make a move!

cass said...

Kirk:

Nats have a great team in the broadcasting booth. They just happen to handle the radio side of things.

Donald said...

@John C. -- I totally agree with option d. It's probable that Rizzo was talking with other GMs for months about a backup catcher. If he goes out in the press in November and says it's one of our biggest holes, it bids up his own price. He has to say that he's comfortable with what we have from a bargaining standpoint.

Now last year, with no lefty in the pen, I'm not sure what the issue was since everyone knew that was a need. I think with Rizzo, there's an analytical mindset that prices out any option and if the ask is higher than his price he says no, even if he really needs that piece. My guess was that he tried and failed to find a lefty at a price he wanted. I don't think if he were on the flip side he'd ever have traded Ramos for Capps for instance. I think that's what Harper is observing with Rizzo not making in-season deals as the buyer, because that's when you are most likely to get screwed. But sometimes, you need to lose the trade to win the war.

Wally said...

Switching gears, I like the Jimenez signing for the O's. I haven't heard exactly how much is deferred, but it has the feel of a 4/$40m deal in present dollars, which is a good contract. Jimenez has produced over 3 fWAR in five of the last six years. This whole narrative about how erratic he is doesn't really jive with the new fancy stats. He had one miserable year, in 2012. Otherwise, he has been equal or better to our own JZimm.

If they add Morales, then you can dream on playoffs for that team. Maybe not as a favorite, but certainly a realistic chance. And a farm system that looks to have a bunch of promising guys, so the future looks ok. And when all is said and done, can we really ask for more than that as a fan?

You know, it isn't fashionable to complement the O's these days, and I am certainly glad not to have Angelos as the owner of the team that I follow, since he really does seem like a D-bag. But I give Dan Duquette a lot of credit (some to McPhail, too). After that whole mess of hiring a GM, and with all this crazy stuff over the physicals (which somehow I also put on the owner), he has done a pretty good job. Most pundits will quickly say (in the abstract) that free agent contracts are the worse way to add value to your team. But what happens when a team actually shows a lot of restraint? They get hammered by fans. But look at it this way: if you forget for a minute that NYY can spend whatever it wants each offseason to add talent, and just look at the talent in both organizations top to bottom, which is better? If you were a new owner starting a team in Portland, and Bud said that you could take either one, minors and majors, you take BAL in a heartbeat, right?

John C. said...

Sometimes losing the trade loses you the war, too. For example, trading Cliff Lee, Grady and Brandon Phillips for Bartolo Colon. The Expos went "all-in," crapped out and well and truly hosed the franchise. Sometimes NOT making the trade is the right thing to do, even if it gets criticized.

Donald said...

@John C-I agree. It's a tough balance. When you are in win now mode, if you are one piece away, there's a strong incentive to do whatever it takes, which Rizzo tends to resist. Of course if you are going to take a bad deal to win now it better work. And in the Nats case, would the season really hinge on a backup catcher even if Ramos does get hurt? If everything else goes right, the team can certainly carry one marginal player. It's when multiple things are going wrong that people look back and question.

One thing I'm curious about is who was behind the Soriano signing and did it have any influence on not signing someone like Burnett this year? If you are going to make a bad deal to win now, better it just be cash you are giving up if the owners have deep pockets. I've always assumed the Lerners pushed to get Soriano, but maybe Rizzo asked for extra money to win now. Since they didn't win, obviously, maybe he couldn't convince them to try again this year with one of the FA pitchers.

Matt said...

I tend to take a different view of why GMs sometimes fail to acquire pieces that everyone knows they need. I don't have a window into front offices, but I am an economist (and we tend to assume we know what's going on even when we don't).

Anyway, the market for trades, free agents, etc., isn't some competitive market where you pick a commodity and a quantity and then have to pay some market price (contrary to the beliefs of Fangraphs opinion writers, but I digress). Instead, in a market with a small number of actors like MLB, things come down to bargaining. And we all know this, really -- GMs get on the phone/text with each other/agents, make proposals and counter-proposals, etc.

Some of this, I'm sure comes down to poker-playing, etc. But, in lots of bargaining, it can be optimal to have some kind of (undisclosed) bargaining floor below which you won't accept offers. E.g. some auctions are designed with sealed bids, where there also is some (undisclosed) minimum below which the seller won't make a sale at all.

Having a minimum is optimal -- now buyers need to not just to outbid each other, but also to hope to outbid the uncertain minimum. If the minimum isn't too high, the amount the seller gains in higher prices outweighs the cost of a few unconsumated sales.

Back to baseball, my guess is that GMs who tend toward the analogue of higher "minimums" make fewer deals, but get more surplus out of the ones they do make (see: Rizzo). Other GMs might have lower "minimums" and make more deals.

I'd guess that in baseball this is compounded by getting a reputation (e.g. trading with Friedman or hiring a Boras client). Establishing that you're the kind of guy who will just say no when the deal you like isn't there is going to get people to bid higher when they're only bidding against themselves.

Now what the optimal strategy is for each context beats me.

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