Nationals Baseball: Here I sit

Monday, January 12, 2015

Here I sit

expecting deals sub rosa, wanted Zobrist, stuck with Espinosa.

My bathroom walls are a bit more baseball focused. "For a good time call your cable operator and upgrade your package to include the MLB network"

Zobrist got dealt over the weekend to the A's and despite the "Hey! The Nats deal with the A's a lot!" line of hopefulness, it's doubtful that they are looking to move Zobrist. They signed Billy Butler for a reason. They are looking to win short term. This means the Nats are likely going with Danny Espinosa at 2nd base.

All I can say is - don't despair. There's no reason to right now, certainly not for 2015.  The team won 96 games last year. You can easily imagine Ramos, Rendon, Bryce, and Zimm all having more productive seasons. The starting staff, top to bottom best in the majors, is all back.  It's going to take more than a slightly below average overall 2B to derail this train.

What is concerning is what this means for 2016 and beyond. Let's review again because I'm not sure the elephant in the room is having the impact it should :

FA after 2015 : Clippard, Span, Zimmermann, Fister, Desmond (Thorton and Blevins too - so better develop a lefty arm)

FA after 2016 : Strasburg, Storen, Ramos (and the useful Stammen)

Getting better in 2015 is a nice goal. Getting better is always a nice goal. But the main issue facing the Nats this offseason isn't 2B or getting one more bullpen arm, it's the above list. If they don't sign some of these guys they are guaranteeing a drop in performance for the next couple of years. How big a drop depends on how many of these guys walk. I'm not the type that likes to crush someone today and praise them tomorrow so I'd rather wait and see and take the whole offseason into account.

If it turns out they let 2015 sit because they were focused (and able) to get the guys they needed re-signed? That's fine! It's not an "A" offseason, there isn't any reason they couldn't focus on both the future and next year, but it's one I'll live with.

If it turns out they let 2015 sit because they were focused on getting the payroll down and no one is signed, that's not fine and I'll be raging against all sorts of machines. 


Chaz R said...

Yep, that was depressing. It really would've been perfect to get Zobrist. I think we would all prefer Rizzo to to strengthen 2B in the next 78 days, but he could very well do it after Opening Day. He might just see how things go with Danny, and if it's terrible then make a deal.

Now, you are totally right about 2016 and beyond... that could be some big trouble.

Uncle Teddy said...

Guys, we do have a payroll ceiling. Just try not to bump your head on it.

Jay said...

There is a big difference between a payroll ceiling and signing no one. So far the Lerners have signed Zimmerman and Gio to an extension. They have signed Werth and Soriano as free agents. Any other major moves I'm forgetting (an honest question, bc I don't remember any others)? It's starting look more and more like the plan - ie growing the farm system and build from within - is just another way of saying cheap. Signing none of your homegrown stars and letting them all walk isn't building from within.

Bjd1207 said...

As Chaz said, he's got 78 more days in this offseason, then ALL next season and next offseason for the 2016 FA's. I think we're all in agreement that since he didn't make any big-splash moves the hope is that he's instead been focused on re-signing a few of those. But it didn't have to be done last week.

I'd much rather go into this season with $36mil committed in 2017 and known entities with which to work out extensions, then be in a spot like the Dodgers and have $166mil already committed ($60mil of which is to Gonzo, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier)

KO said...

What about trading for Alcantara from the Cubs? He's under team control for a while so and the Cubs traded for LaStella earlier this offseason. Add that to the logjam at MI they have and it seems like the Nats could make this deal without losing too much

Bjd1207 said...

Also the Braves still owe Uggle $13M this season, LOLOL

sirc said...

So they're not getting Zobrist. Pittsburgh is about to have 1 too many infielders, right? And that isn't unusual. The Nats had 1 too many ML ready outfielders, so they moved one for a position of need. Most teams have this same option.

I think that it will happen.

My job as a fan is to worry about 2015. I'll worry about 2016 next year.

Chinatown Express said...

Jay: They signed LaRoche twice. That doesn't sound too praiseworthy, but his contracts did each have AAVs in the neighborhood of Gio's. So if we're going to count the latter, we should probably count the former?

More importantly, whom do you wish they'd signed? Do you wish they'd successfully landed Teixeira? Pujols? Fielder? Do you wish they'd extended Adam Dunn?

Per MLB Trade Rumors, the Nats' 2015 payroll obligations are the fourth-highest in the majors. That will go higher for 2016 if they start extending folks. We can call the team cheap all we want, but they are spending real money.

Ollie said...

Slightly tangential, but the "richest owners in baseball" figure I see for the Lerners always seems to be in terms of total net worth, not liquid assets. Not to defend billionaire developers for not spending money for our enjoyment, but if their liquid assets are substantially smaller than the $1.5 bn or so they're worth (which would make sense, since their wealth comes from real estate) that might explain some of the salary ceiling talk.

Positively Half St. said...

I agree with Chinatown Express. It was easy to be frustrated when the team had a low payroll and were awful. Now, though, the Nats have a very competitive payroll and have won the NL East 2 of the past 3 years. The front office has put together a rotation that is good enough to go deep in the playoffs; it is not their fault they have not.

As for other moves, nobody should fault the team for trading for Gio, Fister and Roark. If you can pull off trades and draft well to replenish the system, then FAs aren't as necessary. Remember that the team put out a very competitive offer to Teixera (more than the Yankees), but they were rebuffed. We got lucky that time.

There is still time before we have to get frustrated. Other local teams have won the offseason but have failed in the actual season, many times.

Jay said...

I would have liked to see them sign a front line pitcher to show the pitchers how to be an ace. Sort of like the Braves use established stars - Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz, even Hudson, Chipper, Freeman, Billy Wagner, etc to take the younger players under their wing. Kimbrel has said many times that Wagner had a huge impact on his development. But I'll be honest that is splitting hairs. And I would count LaRoche as a good pick up.

What is concerning is that the Nats have been saying for years - we're building through the farm system. Now they have accomplished that and they aren't showing any signs of keeping their homegrown stars. That is why I worry they are cheap. Continuing to reload the team through the farm system and not keeping anyone is not the same thing as building up the farm system and keeping even key players. You mean out of Zimmermann, Desmond, Clippard, Fister, Span, Strasburg, Storen, and Stammen that none of those guys are worth signing to an extension. All of those guys are too big of a risk??

Harper said...

Chaz - might not even make a deal if he thinks it's unecessary

UT - Too late. Boo-Boo Bunny already on the noggin

Jay - you aren't forgettting anyone (and Gio's extenstion was only 1 year past arb) Maya/Marquis really last ones before that

BJD - I count 84 to the Nats OD - I'm generally of the opinion if you get into the season then you are effectively not signing anyone who will be a FA in 2016. Might not be 100% true but I think it's a "much more often than not" type of situation

That's a good position but let's be more realistic - pick up Gio option and factor in these arbs and you are around 80 mill committed.

KO - all Cubs players are interesting plays but most likely they play the season out a little - see what they really need before clearing out MI logjam

sirc - how much are you paid for that job and are they hiring?

CXP - I have a hard time calling any deal <3 yrs "major". Risk is too minimal.

the "who would have been better" is always iffy game to play. Lots of assumptions. Funny thing is at this point likely would have changed nothing except maybe they WIN a division series (LaRoche impact in regular season not enough to change standings past 4 years if replaced - so that's all the same) Of course from here on you don't want and in fact can't use Tex/Fielder and Pujols here you don't sign Zimm so he's somewhere else... I'm going off track.

Nats WERE 4th highest at start of offseason. They're no higher than 7th right now and probably will finish the offseason a tick or two below that. They aren't cheap, but they aren't pushing payroll either.

Harper said...

Ollie - sure but my opinion is if you aren't in it to win it, don't be in it.

1/2ST > 0 - Well I am preaching patience. They spent some money. They got good. The current situation demands potentially more money to keep level of winning. Let's see what they do. At least they deserve until the season start.

Jay - The strange thing is that when "build through farm" doesn't work or works only ok, you can keep doing it. But when it works really well then you are faced with a decision, pay more $ to keep team together or REBUILD through farm. Good problem to have but still a problem.

Wally said...

I think a backup corner OF/1B is as big a need as a 2b. Zim, Harper, Werth and Span are all projected to play between 130-140 games, Zim and Werth may be optimisitic, and I don't think Werth's was updated since his injury. So that means 500-600 PAs are set to go to McLouth or TMo, which could offer much worse performance than Espy, since neither offer the D (or BSR, in TMo's case).

As for the Lerners are cheap theory, I just don't see it as credible any more. They have spent well as their team neared contention, and they have tried with Desi and JZ. It seems fairly well agreed that big FA contracts are (usually) bad investments. JZ and Desi are essentially FAs now.

Admittedly, they went cheap with JZ, but they aren't the only ones (see Red Sox, Boston), but that market also has exploded. And there are legit concerns to offering Desi what he is likely to get in this market, at least to me.

I'd be content if they are looking towards Rendon, Harper, maybe Ramos right now. Those kinds of deals are usually the good ones.

blovy8 said...

Yeah, there is some luck here too, Rizzo wanted Buehrle pretty badly, had his price set, but luckily was outbid by the Marlins. I wanted them to keep Sean Burnett, but he didn't wnt to give him two years and he broke down almost immediately with the Angels. I think we were all a lot more down on Desmond than he ever was, and he's still probably got a price in mind for him. Like I said a while back, after Desmond's 2014 offensive numbers trending down some more, the 7/107 extension offer doesn't look like an insult any more. We can argue that they should overpay for free agents to get them, but should they also overpay to keep them?

Nick said...

We still have to find infield depth somewhere. If anyone in the IF goes down this team is in trouble.

Zimmerman11 said...

Wow... Desmond for Zobrist and Escobar w/ Mets sending prospects to complete the deal? Huh...

Can't say Rizzo isn't trying to improve the club.

Anonymous said...

In Rizzo we'll have to trust.

I'm wondering if the most dominant teams aren't at a disadvantage going into the playoffs. Sure, gliding in with a 17 game lead beats scrapping for the last wildcard spot. But the surviving scrappers may have a mental edge. Might Rizzo have concluded that a little late-season adversity is beneficial?

DaveB said...

Wow Harper, you seem pretty dour on the chances for a deal considering still more than 2 mos till OD.
I view this offseason as a lot like last year. Rizzo had one major need (backup C), but was happy to wait for the market to come to him, and got one he liked on 2/13.
With the Cuban FAs still on the horizon (Olivera, and maybe Fernandez) there will still be some shuffling of 2B. Also, when we went into the offseason everyone said that the teams with excess MI were the Cubs, Red Sox, AZ, maybe Rangers (if Profar's shoulder is healthy), and maybe Seattle. All those excesses except AZ still exist. My best guess is still that Rizzo has 1-2 targets that have a current asking price that is too high ... he's hoping that the price will come down, but we don't know yet if he will go up if needed.
Also, he's shown that he's willing to trade one or more of the near term FA's if the price is right. After the final FAs sort out, someone might get more desperate to fill a hole and make an offer that is too good to pass up.
As you said, don't despair ... not only on the season overall, but also on our hopes for a 2B upgrade.

Zimmerman11 said...

I see the Nats' payroll as not in the top 10... how do we have the 4th highest payroll obligations? That's total of all years on all the current contracts? Does anyone believe the Nats' payroll in a given season will ever be close to top four???

John C. said...

Nationals' payroll is already top 10 - heck, they were #7 in 2014 ( - #6 if you use Baseball Reference's figures (

It's a LONG way to top 4, though. Then again, spending money doesn't guarantee success. Those top teams include three teams that didn't make the playoffs at all (NYY, Philadelphia, Boston) and two teams that were (like the Nationals) bounced in the first round of the playoffs (LAD, Detroit).

Zimmerman11 said...

was looking at a 2013 link i guess...

no. 12.

Anonymous said...

John C. - Exactly so. Mortgaging your future with long-term contracts to superstars in their decline years gets you where the Phillies and Yanks are today. Rizzo may also be calculating that the recent period of salary escalation is running its course under the current CBA. After all, only so many markets can support super-sized payrolls with hefty "luxury tax" penalties. Finally, it's worth noting that Espy took the majority of at-bats for the 2012 and 2014 Nats. "All-in" sounds good, but in this case, it's not a necessity. Few teams have the luxury of using their off seasons to focus almost exclusively on their futures, which is where the Nats are today.

Donald said...

Just curious if you saw Schoenfield's article on SweetSpot that talks about team depth. They mention the Nats as not having so much. Thoughts?

Zimmerman11 said...

BJD... it WOULD be hard to beat having Uggla hit 25 HRs for us this season while ATL pays him 13M.