Nationals Baseball: Rizzo's roster was imperfect but more than good enough, how will Rizzo's dealing be?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Rizzo's roster was imperfect but more than good enough, how will Rizzo's dealing be?

At this point in the injury train we have to stop blaming Rizzo for one thing and start questioning him about another.

It's time to stop blaming Rizzo for the roster construction. It's tempting to say the Nats should have players that are good enough to sub in for injured players over a long time but five injured players? Werth and Span in the OF, Zimm, Escobar and Rendon in the infield? I think it's completely fair to have one guy in the holster for each broad location, someone that can play a month or two. And the Nats had general plans in those cases (Espinosa and Taylor) that were passable. I think a team with injury risks (which the Nats arguably had at every position but shortstop) should also have a 2nd guy on the bench you don't feel bad about playing in shorter bursts. I didn't like the Nats make-up there initially (Moore? Uggla? denDekker?) but Clint Robinson has made himself decent player of this type.

In the pen - well it hasn't really cleared up. I don't like it but it's clear that a decision was made to see if Treinen, Barrett, Grace, etc. can become cheap decent long-term fill ins at the end of games, or maybe the injury returning Casey Janssen can be a steal of a pick-up and they were going to run with that basic idea. They ran through other cheap young options from the minors, picked up Carpenter as another steal attempt. You don't love it but the Thornton, Carpenter, Janssen, Rivero they've landed at is currently fine.

So maybe Rizzo could have used one more reliable bat, and definitely the team needed that 2nd dependable arm in the pen rather than going with Storen and the pen of crossed fingers. Great we can get on Rizzo about that next year if we want. But the Nats are in first and could cruise to the East division titile... as long as they don't screw it up. The "should have built a better X" time is passed. Now we come to the "Fix in trade" part of the season. And will Rizzo do anything?

What do I feel needs to be done? Get that bat needed, get that arm needed, of course. There are two goals for the next few months. One is trying to get the team into the playoffs. These moves may not be necessary to do that. Obviously the team that played last game may not make it but surely more good players will come back from injury than go away... right? Right? I still feel good about winning the division and hope you do to.

The other goal is to get the best possible team into the playoffs. To maximize your chances of winning, however small that maximization would be. It's here where I really think the Nats should get those players. The last two times in the playoffs the Nats went with the "damn the flaws, if we're good enough to get in then we're good enough to win" game plan. They didn't get out of the first round. As I've said before if they want the players to give 100% toward winning, I want to see the team give 100% to winning. Fix the flaws as best you can.

 People will say these fixes don't guarantee anything and they are right. They don't. Increasing your chance of winning a series from 35% to 40% is far from a guarantee. But dammit it's time to do this. To try as hard as you can across the board. If not now, when?

33 comments:

sirc said...

Almost any deal for Major League talent will have to come in exchange for the Nats' starting pitcher depth because it's the only depth they currently have. I feel like there is a serious gap between the guys who they are probably willing to trade (Taylor, Hill) and the guys other teams will want to aquire (Gioloto, Ross, Cole).

That means a serious gap between the return. It will probably require deciding to part with either Ross or Cole. For 3 months of Zobrist?

I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, do you have a specific trade in mind for the Nats? Who would you get and who would you be willing to give up if you had Rizzo's job for a day?

Chaz R said...

Good point, Harper. Actually, the bench has held up remarkably well this year. I haven't looked at the numbers, but I suspect it may be the best bench the Nats have ever had, even better than 2012 Goon Squad. They do still need a veteran reliable arm in the pen and veteran reliable bate off the bench. Zobrist should be available, as should Chapman. I don't think the Nat have to give up top prospects (Giolito, Ross, Cole, Turner) to get them and I don't think we can lose Taylor given the need for legit OF depth. I would consider parting with Taylor Jordan and Difo though, among others.

Jimmy said...

I just don't see Rizzo making a trade here. I think the Pen is perceived as fine and frankly I agree, and a bat that makes any difference at all will be to costly and only necessary for literally two weeks. Werth is projected back by Aug 1st, Rendon who knows but you assume it won't be longer than August, Zimm anytime now. These pieces are all better than any bat you can get for a reasonable price, especially in what could possibly one of the gbetter seller markets ever since nearly every team in the AL is currently within grasp of the playoffs. With the amount of people we are going to lose to free agency(especially Zimn) next year I think it would be wise to keep all the lottery tickets you can in pitching prospects as we will probably have to fill two holes in the rotation in addition to having adequate depth for injuries to stay competitive, in what will be another open NL East.

Anonymous said...

I know this idea is going to be jeered, but I would love to see us make a move for Papelbon, provided that Amaro's demands aren't off the wall (which I know is a major caveat).

He may be an annoying jerk, but even at his age the guy is still a serious badass. And frankly, I still have my doubts about trusting Storen in the biggest pressure moments.

cass said...

I'm fine with trading Cole but not Ross or Giolito. I fear that Cole is pretty worthless right now, though.

I don't think we can trade Turner or Giolito. We need them to replace Desmond and Zimmermann. For Fister, we've got Ross, Roark, and Cole and I'd really like to have both Ross and Roark due to inevitable injuries and in case one of them goes bust.

I guess we could trade Ross if we got a great return.

What would it take to get Chapman? I honestly have no idea. I'm guessing Ross or Giolito could buy us something quite nice - They're currently the #2 and #9 ranked prospects in all of baseball according to Baseball America. I imagine anyone else would get us a bag of balls. Maybe Cole would get us something sorta decent but probably not a game-changer.

It's funny how much I want to hold on to Ross because I've seen him dominate in the bigs. I know that's short sample size, but there's definitely a bias there since I can so easily see him pitching well for years for us. Honestly, I'm tempted to replace Fister with Ross right now... but I doubt we'll get much if we trade Fister. I don't trust him at all due to his velocity.

Chaz R said...

@Jimmy- I think we would all like to have those guys back at their usual performance levels, but there's no guarantee of that, and in fact there are indications they may regress and under-perform this year. At any rate, they certainly won't be back at full speed when they start playing again. Given how injury prone they are, there's also a likelihood they will get hurt again.

Nattydread said...

Rizzo can afford not to play his hand for a few weeks. The team has hit rock bottom (knock on wood) in terms of possible injuries and is still solidly in first place. Starting pitching is actually looking pretty good. Given the up-coming All Star break, we can coast for a week or two and see who we have coming back. Getting Zimmerman, Span, Werth or Rendon back in the line-up will be better than a trade --- two or three will make a huge difference.

Remember you pressed the panic button a few weeks ago? And what happened? A little pitching streak. I'm not pressing anything yet and I don't trade yet unless its a win-win trade.

Rob Evans said...

I fear the Nats are gonna stand pat with what they have and are heading for another first round exit. I hope I'm wrong.

Donald said...

Harper -- more specifics please? Are you advocating for another bench bat to replace Burriss presumably? Or a position player who you would have starting for the rest of the season? If this is just about getting another hairy-chested pinch hitter to get a handful of ABs a week, how much incremental value does that really add? If you are talking about replacing one of the current or returning starters with an upgrade, where would that be?

Anonymous said...

I agree with your premise, if the Nats could realistically increase their chances of winning a World Series by 5%. I suspect that is unrealistic, though. What if making some moves only increased the probability by 1%.

Ollie said...

Cass--I agree with everything you say here. I think you only trade Giolito, Ross, and Turner if you can get multiple years out of an everyday player who at least approaches All-Star caliber. But if you go for that, where do you slot that player in when everyone is healthy? But Cole's been ineffective in small samples, Jordan looks AAAA, and Hill [shruggy emoticon]. Maybe Difo and Reynaldo Lopez help bring back something. Fedde could as well, though he's got the injury history that devalues him.

I've said it here before and it's far-fetched, but the Reds look to suck this year (except against the Nats!) and for the next few years so a prospects for veterans deal might make sense there, and they have several players who would help this year and fit into the lineup. Get Votto and Zimmerman can be your Werth replacement in left field, Taylor in center. Get Phillips and you have more flexibility in benching Desmond for Espinosa on certain days, hopefully until he figures it out. Get Chapman and you have two co-closers to throw at people and can (hopefully) do away with the silliness of the rigid closer role and alternate using them as stoppers in playoff games.

DezoPenguin said...

I agree with Harper that we need a bat, or maybe more than one. The bullpen is functional now unless we buy the "Storen = no guts in October" narrative, and I'll take "starting Matt den Dekker and Dan Uggla in the lineup" as a more serious risk than that maybe Storen has some psychological flaw that only shows up after September.

The problem with internal solutions is that they're pretty much all wishful thinking: Werth coming back from this injury a lot better than earlier this season. Zimmerman coming back from his injury. Rendon coming back from his injury. Span's back troubles not serious going forward. That's a lot of ifs and not much insurance.

Meanwhile, we've already gotten incredibly lucky that Espinosa is playing the best offense of his life, Taylor has been a functional if flawed major league fourth outfielder, and Robinson has been a genuinely useful player over the season. (Not to mention that in the lineup Harper has finally realized his potential, Ramos has somehow lasted this long without major injury, and Span and Escobar have somehow hit their best-case scenarios with the bat.)

The down side is that we don't want to give up pitching depth like Giolito or Ross and we can't afford to give up Turner at this point. People we can afford to trade, like Cole or Roark or Difo or even Fister, are having down seasons. (For another example, Strasburg has a year of control left and might have been able to bring back substantial value, but he's hurt now.)

Add that to Rizzo's established reluctance to make midseason adjustments anyway (Kurt Suzuki notwithstanding) and the seller's market with so many teams still in the race (I mean, there's actual debate over whether teams like the A's should be sellers at all!), I have a feeling that the Nats are going to end up short because there won't be anyone available at any rational price. Rizzo needs to make the phone calls, though. If he fails to shore up the lineup because every GM wants prices for their rentals straight off of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s list, well, that's just bad luck, but if he fails to do his due diligence, that's a serious problem.

John C. said...

Ah, the siren call of "all in!" Notwithstanding that teams that do go "all in" really don't seem to do any better than teams that don't (see, e.g., 2014 Oakland Athletics; 2011 Philadelphia Phillies; 2008 Milwaukee Brewers). The Giants and Royals certainly didn't make a flurry of deadline moves last year and yet ended up in the WS.

The goal is, obviously, to put the team in the best position to win the WS at some point. The question is, would giving up major potential components of the future (#2 prospect Giolito, #9 prospect Turner, #31 prospect Ross, etc.) for a short term fix move the needle enough this year to make it worthwhile? Maybe we should ask Billy Beane about picking up Lester for Addison Russell. And short term moves often fail. Remember when the Nats picked up Gomes because Davey wanted a "hairy-chested bench bat?" That's exactly the kind of player that some are advocating that the Nationals go get - an impact bat. And to be fair to Rizzo, Gomes had, and later did again, fulfill that role excellently. But with the Nationals he sucked (although he did manage a Homer Simpson walk-off HBP). It happens.

Blogs and talk radio love "all in" - it's exciting! Moves are always more fun to talk about than non-moves. That's why there was so much excitement last offseason about the Padres, Red Sox and Marlins. Look at all those moves! So much excitement, so much buzz, so many expectations. They're all in! Yeah, well, now they're the three most disappointing teams in MLB. Well done there.

So yes, kick the tires. But be cold, cold cold eyed about costs and likely impacts. Many fans assume that if no trades are made, none were discussed or the team did not try. I do not make that assumption. Rizzo ain't perfect, but not GM is - and he's earned a lot of benefit of the doubt from all but the most militant armchair GMs.

KW said...

It would be very difficult to justify the high price for Chapman, particularly for the minimal overall bump he would give the team (right now, 0.1 bWAR better than Storen). If you want a cheaper closer option, look at K-Rod. More likely, they will find a middle reliever or two somewhere. It's been mentioned before that Clippard could return, but he hasn't been the same this year.

Big bats: Justin Upton will be in the playoffs. The only question is with which team. He's going somewhere. Is he worth the half-season rental price he'd command? Who else? Adam Lind is in the last year of his contract and likely will go somewhere. Will Venable could be an affordable OF stopgap. Younger, controllable LH bats like Michael Brantley and Mitch Moreland would come at a much steeper price. Brandon Moss might be available but hasn't been having much of a year. It would be hard to pry Todd Frazier from the Reds, but they might think about parting with Jay Bruce. I'd at least inquire about Carlos Gomez, who only has one more year on his contract. And of course Zobrist has been discussed ad nauseum. That's my quick skimming of the hitters on the noncontenders. I'm not really lobbying for any of them, just surveying the landscape.

Jay said...

The only person I would debate getting is Kimbrel. He's under contract through 2018. Chapman is only under contract through next year. I wouldn't trade much for a 1 year and 3 months of Chapman. Also, I think I am in the minority in that I am perfectly ok going into the post season with Storen as the closer. I do think a set up man would be helpful - Tyler Clippard. I don't think they get a bat, bc the hope is that everyone gets healthy and there would be nowhere for said bat to then play.

cass said...

I'm fine with Storen, but Storen/Chapman would give us more depth at the back of the pen. Not saying Chapman is worth it and you may upset both players by making the move - Chapman has been pretty insistent on being a closer, as far as I've heard, and Storen after being replaced by Soriano.

Someone like Clippard makes more sense to be and should be cheap enough. But a Storen & Chapman tandem is worth thinking about when we're dreaming of rings. Shouldn't be impossible.

Also would be funny to have both the right- & left-handed Stephen Strasburg on the same team. Haven't heard Chapman called that in a long time, but that was what most people knew him as five or six years ago.

DezoPenguin said...

Here's a thought for an additional player to at least ask about: Brock Holt. The Red Sox desperately need pitching, which we have, and Holt's spent two seasons (albeit tiring late last year) doing his best imitation of a young Zobrist. He doesn't offer the huge bat of an Upton or Gomez, but his versatility means that there's always going to be *somewhere* on the field where he could be useful. The Sox's recent winning streak might make them reluctant to deal, but if they think Pedroia's going to come back healthy they've already got the "too many players for too few positions" problem. Maybe agree to take Napoli off their hands as incentive, since basically he's Tyler Moore anyway (only older, lots more expensive, and was actually good at baseball the two previous years)--platoon him with Robinson at 1B and see if something clicks.

The Blue Jays might be willing to swap Danny Valencia for some bullpen help, too, and his career need to be a strict platoon guy (though not this year, for some reason) should keep the price tag down. Though I'm not sure I trust Williams to actually hold to a platoon, so that kind of idea isn't likely to fly.

And Justin Turner from the Dodgers might be a workable IF option; they need pitching and have guys like Guerrero and Olivera and Seager to step in behind him.

Bjd1207 said...

I think we're all wildly undervaluing the impact of a shutdown reliever in the post season. It's how the Royals did so well last year with mediocre offense (and admittedly above average defense)

With our starters, minimizing the bridge to a Storen/Chapman or Storen/Kimbrel back of the bullpen would be unbelievable. While of course you can't count on anything, I'd feel infinitely more confident going into a series with that then Carpenter/Storen or Thornton/Storen or Barrett/Storen or Jannsen/Storen which is what it's been this season

Wally said...

I think the bat needs to primarily be a 1B. It seems reasonable to think Span and/or Werth will be back by August, as well as Rendon, which with Harper, Taylor, Escobar, Espy and Desi is enough to provide pop there. It's Zim that is the real question, and the nature of his injury doesn't make it reasonable to assume he comes back and returns to his old self this year (maybe at all, but there is time to figure that out later on). I just keep thinking Allen Craig.

So I think KW maybe has it right. Adam Lind looks like a good fit; maybe they throw in Will Smith and we build the package around Cole plus some other lesser prospects? Cole hasn't looked good but he is still a top 100 SP prospect which is a position of need for them. Maybe Jordan has to go also.

Mattyice said...

Harper, this summer during your posts highlighting the nats strengths and weaknesses at each position, your out-of-the-box suggestion for cf mentioned a gioloto for Carlos Gomez trade that seemed like a win-win to many...what are your thoughts on that trade now? A Harper, Gomez, Rendon heart of the order might prevent our bats from going silent in October. According to this grantland article, cargo should be available - http://grantland.com/the-triangle/mlb-the-30-brewers-braves-rangers-astros-rebuilding/

JE34 said...

BJD has it right... I expect that opposing hitters are happy when Nats starters leave games, looking forward to what the pen has to offer. Harper broke down the crummy pen performance in a previous post; success rates like those he outlined spell certain doom in the playoffs, where games are tighter and managers can more easily screw things up. A nasty closer can make teams press -- "We've gotta hurry up and do something now or else we'll be facing THAT guy in the 9th".

Anonymous said...

The Nat's can and should get (at least) one more bullpen arm, but I really question getting another bat because it would need to be a starter quality bat which will be too expensive in prospects.

One thought I had was maybe they could get an OK player on an expensive contract without giving up too much, but I'm not sure anyone really fits that... Ryan Howard anyone?

WiredHK said...

I still think the original premise of the article is correct: we need both 1 more arm and 1 more bat. I don't care to label it "going all-in" or not, that's coffee-house, Boswell stuff. But this team has real needs. The extra bullpen stuff wouldn't seem like such a need if we could feel better about our offense. We'd worry less about our offense if we didn't see the bullpen as so weak. Chicken! Egg! Chicken!! Etc

But out of all of that, with a healthy lineup in the post-season last year, our issue was still a total inability to get guys on base and home. We had two guys hit in that entire series. The two you'd expect to hit. Everyone else sucked, big time. And, with injuries this year, it only looks like that issue will be magnified again this post-season vs these old fears being laid to rest.

Go get a good bat, if you do nothing else Rizzo. We need one. And snag a decent bullpen arm if you can, too....

sirc said...

Demon Young.

sirc said...

Or Delmon Young. Either one will do.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the future it would be inexcusable to trade giolito, Ross, or turner... If we trade turner there is a Desmond sized hole at ss. If we trade Ross or giolito it gaurentees the Nat's have to sign another big money pitcher to stay at the high level of pitching that has carried them in the 2012-?? Run.

Unless they make a trade that addresses the current needs with a good player who is on the south side of 30 on a multi year contract... I'm not a GM, but that seems remarkably unlikely.

Froggy said...

As soon as Janssen came in I thought, there goes the lead. Then Roark to essentially close the game and I thought, there goes the game. And sure enough.

Roark as the closer?

Now I know you can't assume that had the Nats kept Clippard he would have been 100% perfect in all situations used, but criminy, he surely would have faired better than the disaster we have of Janssen, Barrett, Thornton, Carpenter, etc!

I mean, surely Clippard would have held better than 50% more games than these bozos have blown.

So, I think on this one example alone the premise of this blog posting has been disproven Harper.

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy - Roark wasn't the closer, the game was tied 2-2. If we get the lead beyond that there's still a bottom of the inning we have to get through which would be the closer situation.

And as for the Clippard trade you also have to remember that we'd be without Yunel Escobar if that were the case, and we'd have seen much more of Dan Uggla up to this point, with god knows what other infielders filling the gaps.

But you're right about our bullpen, need someone else before the post-season

Anonymous said...

Escobar this year is a perfect example of how hard it is for a reliever to be worth more than a position player. Yes he has been a high babip warrior who is already coming down to earth, but he has been a warm body who's bat is OK and defense is terrible and is still worth more than all but the elite relievers.

Anonymous said...

Drew Storen and the Crunch Time Crumbles

Anonymous said...

Escobar's defense is not terrible at all, moron. Warm body? He's the second best hitter on the team, we'd be up $%@# creek without him. I think we might have acquired him at just the right time, some guys peak when they are a little oldeer and figure stuff out. He also has no fear and his confidence will be huge during the playoffs.

John C. said...

Actually, Escobar's defense is pretty terrible. He doesn't make many errors, but he doesn't make a lot of plays, either. He plays incredibly shallow, and this robs him of a lot of lateral range. This shows up whether you look at his range factor (plays per game), DRS or UZR. It also pretty clearly shows up to the Mark I eyeball if you're paying attention. He's got more mobility than ALR (also widely praised defensively, despite the fact that last year he was pretty clearly a liability), although since the hamstring troubles it's only a bit more. A lot of base hits go past him on either side.