Nationals Baseball: One more big contract

Thursday, February 05, 2015

One more big contract

Scherzer's contract changed things for the Nats. They were modest spenders last year. Some want to point out "Hey Top 10" and it's true, but any sort of ranking outside of 1st or last when you are dealing with such small numbers can be disingenuous.

The Nats were 9th last year but with a payroll of 134 million they were no closer to 7th (Giants 154) than 11th (D-backs 112). There were the BIG spenders, the next level, then the Nats group with the Rangers and Blue Jays. The Nats were in it and not trying to be cheap, but they weren't what I'd call all-in.  Part of that was the fact they didn't have to be to be a great team - but still real 2B and a full bench would have been nice.

Max's contract changes the Nats position and moves them into that 2nd group at closing in on 160 million.  Is that important? Depends. As teams age they often need to spend money to remain as competitive as they once were. It's hard to reload with young talent that can produce right away. That is part of what you are seeing and for a team like the Nats, with a lot of talent hitting those FA years, it's what you'd like to see if you don't want a drop in competitiveness. But at the same time spending more money isn't a guarantee of success just an increase in your odds for it.  They could have been fine without Scherzer. They might make the playoffs in the future, depends on that talent. So maybe it's not important. The problem is you generally find out the answer to the second interpretation of the question at a point where doing anything about it is more difficult.

Ok, so why did I title this "one more big contract"? It's about next season. You see the Nats were going to have a big payroll this year, assuming no trade-offs, so the move from 140 to 160 is good to see but it's a temporary situation. Expecting to lose ZNN, Desi, Span, Fister, etc will save the team 50 million dollars next year. If they simply fill the gaps with the usual mix of young players and low level FAs they'll find themselves no better than back where they were before, probably even lower than that. This year, this commitment, will be an aberration, a quirk of timing, and the commitment to having the best team possible will be a one-year fever dream.They'll be a team trying to win but trying to win while not spending too much.

But one more big contract can change that. One more chunk of money to ZNN or Desi, or Stras or someone and it's hard to see them not being big spenders through 2017. Not the biggest, but you don't have to be the biggest, just big, and not even for every year, just most. (and part of that has to do with competition)

We're almost there with the owners that I think are best for a team. The Werth deal showed they weren't going to be CHEEEP. The Zimm deal showed that they weren't going to be cheap. The Scherzer deal shows they can commit money for one stab at excellence. One more big deal and you'll have an ownership that has to be seen as willing to spend for continued excellence.


cass said...

My idea for how to manage 2016:

Extend Strasburg. Extend Zimmermann. Let Fister go. Promote Giolito.

Temp solution for MI until Turner is ready. (Or extend Desi which I'd prefer but JZ and Stras are surer bets.)

Bjd1207 said...

@cass - Eh almost with you. But I want Desi over JZ after seeing the talent at the top of our system.

Extend Stras, Extend Des, Promote Giolito

Wally said...

I don't think even LAD or NYY have three SPs making over $20m under long term deals. Not sure its a smart way to allocate payroll.

I think two premier SPs is a sign of a committed ownership group. But I question whether they can get Stras to extend, and I don't think they see JZ holding his 2014 level of performance (or said differently, worth Lester money). I'd love to see Stras extended, but I just don't think it happens.

Better off extending Rendon or Harper (in addition to the minor extension that Ramos should get, since the fall off to Lobo-cop is pretty far).

Anonymous said...

A rotation of Scherzer, Stras, Gio, Cole, Roark w/Giolito as 6th would still be highly competitive for 2016, assuming the goal is to resign Stras and not JZ. They gotta sign one of them though.

JWLumley said...

Personally, I'd re - sign Fister and here's why: Fister is good. But what's more than that he's consistent. Sure, he seems to always outperform his peripherals, but he'll probably be cheap because of that (relatively speaking). Then the Nats will have a rotation of Scherzer, Strasburg, Fister, Gonzalez and Roark/Giolito in 16, with Fedde or Lopez joining the rotation in 17. Fister will also probably command a shorter deal which means flexibility and more leeway to re-sign Bryce and Rendon. But the biggest thing for Fister as compared to NN and Stras is no TJ. Not to mention he's a very athletic guy so I'd expect him to age better than most. Is let Desi walk because it'll cost too much to keep him and I think he's anything, but a sure bet.

KO said...

I'd resign Stras and Desi if it's two of the big three. Stras is still very young and hasn't hit a peak at all and has been surprisingly consistent considering public opinion, but he's also able to lead the rotation unlike Fister. Then you sign Desi since there isn't really a minor leaguer ready to take his spot anytime soon. Turner is a couple years out, Difo could play there but is still very young, and even those two aren't that highly regarded amongst prospect so it's still hit or miss. Also, if Desi has another year like this past year where he has the power but the BA isn't there, his price could drop to a reasonable amount. Regardless, resiging Desi will be cheaper than Znn, and worst comes to worse, he moves over to 2b and will never be worse than Espy.

Zimmerman11 said...

Trade Stras. Kills me, but it's probably the best move post Scherzer.

sirc said...

Why is it certain that Desmond costs less than Znn?

I'd probably wait for Shields to sign and offer a similar deal to Fister, if for no other reason than I believe both Znn and Stras want to go through the free agency process and I'm not sure that Fister does.

A bird in hand and all that.

KO said...

Desi will be cheaper just because teams are willing to pay for pitching now. I'd imagine Desi would get a deal around what Tulo got last year, maybe a bit higher or lower depending on this year, but around $20m/yr. Znn will probably get something closer to Lester money, $25+m/yr.

sirc said...

@KO said: "Desi will be cheaper just because teams are willing to pay for pitching now."

A guy like Ian hasn't been on the free agent market recently. Guys like Ian don't reach free agency at 30 anymore.

I think that next offseason Desmond will sign for at least the same or possibly higher average than ZNN. I'm basing this on what Sandoval(19 mill per) and Ramirez (22 per) got this season, and the fact that Ian is a shortstop. 25 per season is likely, but only if he goes to free agency.

In fact, I would bet real cash money that Ian gets 25 per at least. He has no competition and almost every uber rich team has a serious need at his position. ZNN has a huge amount of competition next year and there are always pitchers who linger into February because their market never develops, or they end up taking less in order to avoid that fate.

Plus Ian is a position player. Despite what the Nats spent on Scherzer, most of baseball still views signing pitchers to large contracts that go through their mid 30s as foolish. That perception isn't the same with everyday players.

If Ian can be had for 6/100-125 mill then half the teams in baseball will be lining up. But that won't be the number. It'll be 7/175 or more. Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Mets, Cubs, Phillies. Nats?

He's a shortstop with power and almost no injury history who is entering free agency at age 30. 7/175 might be conservative.

blovy8 said...

I dunno, Jose Reyes was the last big free agent SS I can think of, and he was coming off a monster year and was only 28. It depends on how early a guy establishes himself, Desmond took a long time in the minors. Reyes only got 6/106 with another option year which likely won't have to happen. Even though he was certainly less durable to that point, I'd argue he was a younger, better player than Desmond at the end of 2011. I don't think you're looking at more than five years to sign Desi, annd it's quite possible that people will look at Hanley's deal as a comparison even though you'd never want him playing SS again.

sirc said...

We are going to find out.