Nationals Baseball: Moe Rumors - this time with more Heyward

Friday, December 11, 2015

Moe Rumors - this time with more Heyward

Payroll Check

We are all interested in what the payroll will be for the Nats in 2016. While no one thinks we're going back to the days where we could dream of one day being the 25th highest payroll, there are real questions of whether the Nats are committed to being a Top 5 ish payroll (like in 2015) or was that a one-year aberration brought on by age and Boras? Let say for the sake of argument they knew early on McLouth was not going to have his option picked up. What else have they done since then budget wise?

Declined Janssen's option : saves 5.5 M  (rolling payroll effect :  down 5.5 M)
Non-tendered Craig Stammen : saves around 2.5 M ( down 8M)
Signed Oliver Perez : costs 3.5 M  ( down 4.5 M)
Signed Yusmiero Petit : costs 2.5 M ( down 2 M)
Trade Yunel Escobar for Trevor Gott : saves 6.5 M* (down 8.5 M)
Sign Shawn Kelley : costs ~5M (down 3.5 M)

*cash was exchanged but the exact number is unknown.

So as of right now the Nats are in the neighborhood of 3.5 M less than what was assumed was possibly their payroll on October. That seems about right with Baseball-reference estimating the payroll at 130.5 M without the new signings and factoring in the addition of Papelbon late in the year? 

At this point we can't really say anything. They have maintained a stable payroll. There is an assumption that they will be able to lose Papelbon (-11M) and Storen (~9M). If this is the case then they would be able to add around 20 M in salary and maintain their current level of around 140. That's important because

The Nats have interest in Jason Heyward

Heyward is the Mike Leake of the offensive free agents in that he is young (turns 27 next August) and relatively injury free. He is more impactful than Leake though being an offensive player who doesn't do anything poorly. He's a plus defensively, good on the basepaths, can hit for decent average, has a good eye, and can hit for a little power. He's sort of Jason Werth but trading some pop for some defense. The Nats would likely play him in CF which bring the D into question a little (he's played corner OF most of his career) but it's doubtful that he wouldn't be worth his contract for the next several years even with a slight dip in defensive production.

Of course the issue would be whether you could get him for the next several years, or does that contract have to go 7, 8, 9 years or even a full decade. Given the current contract climate something no worse than 8 years with an opt out after 3 is probably the floor. Assuming Heyward remains healthy he'll likely make that worth it regardless of whether the option comes into play. However the opt out presents a bit of an issue for the Nats. If they want to do more than just add Heyward (and the payroll isn't going up) then they would normally scale the salary so that the big payday starts kicking in after some other payroll (Werth) is freed up. But there isn't a chance Heyward is going to play for 2 years at below market without the guaranteed promise of more money down the line, and not just money he could choose to get (at presumably the cost of other money).  No, if the Nats want Heyward they'll have to pay now.

The other issue a Heyward deal setups up is a 2018 and 2019 with 35-40 million already committed to two players (Max and Zimm). If you add 20+ million for Heyward you are committing around 60 million to 3 players before considering Bryce Harper. We've noted he could get 40 M a year. Can the Nats function as a franchise in 2019 with 100 million commited to four players? At least one of who (Zimm) is likely to be a non-factor?

The Nats signed Shawn Kelley

The Nats brought in Shawn Kelley on a three year deal last night. It's an oddly long deal in my opion for a guy who had been average in relief up until June of last year. But if you believe what you saw from June on it is worth it. In those 40 games he put up an ERA of 1.19, with an opponents batting line of .191 / 241 / .221.  The BABIP was not crazy low (.273). He had an 11 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. That's some dynamite pitching.

He was particularly unhittable by right-handed bats. Nothing seems out of whack fancy stat wise but when you look at them as if he just got lucky, is there anything to expalin it? One thing might be a huge increase on first pitch strikes in 2015. Could he simply be attacking the zone better early? Another is a big increase in GB%. But his zone profile doesn't suggest a huge change to pitching at the bottom of the zone? A combination? Or maybe it was his his first year in a new league pitching primarily in a pitchers park to help mitigate HR issues?

Either way I don't see much of a downside unless you consider Kelley an injury risk. It's likely that there was some luck involved in his awesome finish of 2016 and he isn't a lights out guy you can depend on as a potential set-up or closer. In that case the Nats get a decent middle relief pitching, who can get a big K when needed but might not be able to consistently shut down innings, at a slight overpay. However, if I'm wrong then the Nats could get a very good reliever for about half-price. The downside is small compared to the upside.


Miles Treacy said...

I'm wondering based on this past weeks comments that neither Rizzo or Boras have discussed Bryce, and now the potential of $200mil offer to Heyward coming, that this is the indication that the Nationals will not pursue Harper once his (3) years are up...

My thinking is they see Heyward as a young guy for a "fraction of the cost" of what Harper will get on open market in (3) years that they can rely on for health, age, defense, and hopefully make the chances in this next (3) year window greater for postseason runs.

JE34 said...

sorry - this is off topic for the thread, but:

I think a blog merger is in order. Get on it, Harper. Make this your full time gig. Turn your back on the Yankees. Damn the torpedoes. Et cetera.

JW said...

I'm with you Miles. I was excited when I first read the Heyward news, but then my next thought was "what does that mean for re-signing Bryce?" And Harper is right. Can the Nats function with $100 mill a year allocated for four players and a max payroll in the 140s? Heyward definitely makes the team better now though. Much better.

If I were Rizzo I'd be doing whatever I could to convince Zimm to restructure his deal to be something that gives the organization more flexibility. That contract is going to be brutal.

Marya said...

Given that the Dodgers appear to have completely undermined the confidence of Kenley Jansen by pursuing Chapman so hard, ( would it make sense for Rizzo to call LA and offer a Jansen-Storen swap? (Assuming they could work out whatever minor pieces/minor leaguers need to be adjusted in order to make it work, of course).

Ideally, it would bring the Nats an A-list closer (which Storen WAS, pre-Chokey McDuff trade), and let them get rid of the current closer for a bag of fungo bats or whatever they can get to clear the clubhouse air of his stench.

Is there anyway the Dodgers go for this?

Harper said...

Miles Treacy - It fits in with the Nats "be constantly good, hope you catch a break" approach to championships. Heyward will likely elp the Nats be constantly good for 6+ years given his age and skill set. It would be a shame though to let Bryce go - he's a year away from establishing that he's irreplaceable. Historic even.

JE34 - Merge with who? Also - I like money. Maybe instead hope I win the lottery (though I don't play it so chances are slim)

Harper said...

Marya - I don't see why Dodgers would. I'd rather take my chance on an angry Janssen pitching for a FA contract than Storen getting his head back on straight. Papelbon makes more sense in the "clearing of the air" sense, also more reliable. So maybe Papelbon and a couple decent minor leaguers could do it. Maybe? But there's been nothing out there about the Dodgers wanting to move him.

DezoPenguin said...


The Dodgers would likely decline that really fast. Storen's no better than Jansen, and unlike Jansen comes with the baggage of two playoff meltdowns, the front half of his 2013 season, and his big Huffy McMeltdown last year. I mean, from the Dodgers' POV, why would they trade for a guy who *actually* had the apparent ego bomb go off that only *might* happen for Jansen. (Nor have I looked at the contracts involved.)

Frankly, that's going to be Rizzo's biggest problem in getting fair value for Storen, even more than the fact that he's pretty desperate to move him out of town. It's the weight of improvable intangibles, the narrative that Storen's a headcase who undercuts his own pitching brilliance whenever he gets his feelings hurt.

So if Rizzo is going to get more than pennies on the dollar, he needs to find a trade partner who isn't suspicious of the narrative, who looks at Storen and sees coincidental events rather than warning signs. (And, while as a fan I clearly don't have any factual perspective on Storen's psyche as a pitcher, I can say that *if* (and I do mean if) Rizzo *needs* to move Storen because Storen didn't like the Papelbon trade, then there's at least something of a problem there because a professional doesn't force his way off the team because he doesn't get star billing.)

On the actual subject of the post, Heyward would make the team objectively better, and he provides as close as a MLB player can get to certainty (though I think Harper is way underselling the quality of his defense; he's literally the best corner outfielder in MLB...though it's a fair question to ask if he'll be *as* good in CF if Dusty moves him and not Harper). I don't think signing him should be taken as a message that Harper won't be re-upped, though--although *this* year I wouldn't expect an extension--since after all you need three outfielders and Werth's contract will be coming off the books before Harper's time with the team is over, and you have to also consider inflation (and the possibility of winning the MASN judgment).

bryceroni said...

1. I really like the idea of signing heyward for 2016 at least. I definitely think the nats need another reliable outfielder and a solid L bat.

2. I think the overall defense would work itself out, Bryce in RF can let Heyward cheat towards the statue in LF.

3. I share the long term concerns about spending the BRYCE money before his FA and then he gets away. However, I am excellent at spending other people's money and bryce is the type of player that you chuck the budget out the window for.

Froggy said...

So...Heyward to the Cubs. I guess we are back to pursuing Cargo?

Anonymous said...

Well, now we have more money that probably won't be used to extend Bryce.

Anonymous said...

Alex Gordon! Make it happen Lerners.

blovy8 said...

Cargo makes some sense, so Roark with ?

I agree that timing for a likely fruitless attempt at a Harper extension can wait until after next season. Just like the Zimm/Scherzer dynamic, there's no guarantee he'll want to stay even if you have a rational offer. And given the D-Backs' example of player valuation, rational is anyone's guess! They'll be a year closer to estimating some future costs then, and it's not like Harper will ever accept a fair deal on his FA years calculated by 2015 standards - may as well see if he can pull off another great year without setbacks or major injuries.

Since they didn't beat out the Cubs for him, and are free of Escobar, don't they really need a MI other than Espy or Turner to start or as insurance on he and Turner being an acceptable keystone combo? A CF better than or at least platoon-worthy with Taylor is still out there in Gardner, rather than shifting CarGo or Harper. Trading Roark (with another small piece I suppose) to NY for Gardner and Refsnyder, gets you a declining LH stopgap OF and somewhat iffy 2B, though I suppose he can play some OF too if Espy and Turner are both starting. That would make me believe the SP pursuit was a necessary step, since they now have their swingman. But if they add Garner's 15m, they absolutely will want to trade the 8/9 options and so, a more inclusive deal would be to include Andrew Miller, but they'd need another deal or deals in place for that. I'm really dubious that most of Papelbon's salary is coming from anywhere but the Nats unless they take C.J. Wilson or something.

I guess Phillips wouldn't even cost Roark.

Jay said...

Any concern that all of these free agents are saying no to DC? They offered more for Zobrist. And Heyeard went to Chicago as well.

Also, tell John C that I was crazy to question if the Lerners were cheap. I am happy to admit that I was wrong to worry about that.

Anonymous said... is reporting that:

"...Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirmed the report, adding that Heyward will sign for less than $200 million, which is what the Washington Nationals reportedly were offering. Wittenmyer reports that the deal is less than $185 million, and believed to be for eight years."

Papelbon is costing them more than $11 million is whiffing on two free agents they offered more money to, but went to Cubs. Clubhouse makeup means something. It's past time to cut all ties to Pap...

Chaz R said...

Good grief... did you see Zuckerman just announced he's leaving CSN and packing up the Nats Insider blog!!

Harper, don't you go anywhere!!!!

Anonymous said...

This clubhouse thing can't be all Pap. If you're signing for 3+ years, I can't imagine you'll turn down up to $15M over one guy who will likely be gone by the trade deadline or sooner. My worry is that it's Harper or Werth. Or it's the Lerners' poor reputation that had just faded to the background during these last 4 years of 'success.'

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon @12:43, reputation has taken a beating somehow among a variety of players. Papelbon is just the ugliest cherry on top of this crappy sundae ;-)

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't be so quick to assume that the Nationals "higher" offers to Zobrist and Heyward were actually "better" offers. First, the Nats love deferred money. My guess is that the Heyward deal (and possibly the Zobrist deal) included a lot of it. The NPV of the Nats' offers to both could have been less than the offers that were accepted. Second, the Cubs' deal to Heyward included a bunch of opt-outs. The Nats may not be willing to do that. They tend to like cost certainty and player options upset that.

So although it's certainly possible Zobrist and Heyward both rejected better offers from the Nats in favor of worse offers from the Cubs, it's not necessarily true. In Heyward's case, I'd bet on the Cubs' offer being objectively better.

Finally, the Nats can't seem to close the deal except with Boras. Is that sort of like not being able to close the deal except with a prostitute? Sorry, I know this is a family blog...

Anonymous said...

Nats dodged a bullet on Heyward. He's good, but the most insanely overpriced guy in the game.

Donald said...

So the Nats look like they are serious about adding a quality left-handed bat. Who's left that they could get? The Cards have to be getting pretty nervous watching the Cubs offseason. They might end up over-paying for someone like Gordon so I'm not sure the Nats want to get into that kind of bidding war.

G Cracka X said...

No O'Day, Zobrist, or Heyward. What's next for the Nats?

John C. said...

So, accepting the idea that the Nats offered more money for Zobrist. So did the Giants. Papelbon doesn't pitch for the Giants and Werth doesn't play for them. It's a team with a winning record (3 of last 6 WS titles!). And yet Zobrist went to Chicago.

Even discounting proposed structure, # of years (we don't know what the AAV of the Nats's offer was) and the opt-out clauses the Cubs gave, and assuming the Nats offer was slightly more than the Cubs. According to reports, so was the Cardinals' offer. Papelbon doesn't pitch for them, either. And yet Heyward went to Chicago.

Maybe these deals don't say much about the Nationals at all!

And apology accepted, Jay. Now, if we can just get them to spend it smarter (you know, the way we would spend their money) all will be well!

Anonymous said...

What would it take to get Reddick from the A's? How about Reddick plus Vogt (who would supplant Ramos)? Reddick is in his last year before free agency and would be a lot cheaper on his own than Vogt who isn't a free agent until 2020. Nats could send a pitcher and sign Leake or Kazmir. Maybe involve Gio/AJ Cole just for kicks and giggles.

DezoPenguin said...

If Rizzo still wants to add an outfielder, Cespedes and Upton look like the likeliest possibilities (Gordon's age and recent injury make me wary--we don't need more question marks). Either, however, would necessitate moving Harper to CF (Cespedes may have been a Gold Glover in LF--something backed up by the advanced defensive stats--but we all saw his attempts to play CF in the postseason). Still, both offer what the Nationals should be looking for in any position player they add:

1) Stability: The Nationals' lineup is made up of question marks due to injuries and age (both ends of the spectrum on that). There are too many players who are simply unpredictable.

2) Flexibility: Related to #1, because the Nats don't know which uncertainties will work out for the better and which won't, players that can play multiple positions well can help cover for that (this is why having both Robinson and Moore, both of whom can only play 1B and LF, and those not well, is not good roster construction).

3) Competence: One must remember that the upside of all those question marks for the Nats is quite high. Guys like Werth, Rendon (and Roark on the pitching staff) were stars just two years ago. Taylor basically played Heyward-class defense last year, so if he adds even a functional bat to that he could end up being Kevin Pillar, at least, and that was a four-win player. Turner's a highly-regarded prospect and could be a star in the making. Signing the Asdrubal Cabreras of the world doesn't actually help improve the team.

I'd like to see a bench along the lines of:

OF5 (den Dekker?)
Robinson OR Moore
Utility IF
Backup C

If we can acquire a new 2B, Espinosa makes a very good UIF. (Alternatively, if Rizzo and Baker believe Difo is ready, we can start with a Difo/Turner middle infield and Espi as the backup; if Difo or Turner are *not* ready, though, they should start in the minors, not as the UIF with the Nats.) A new starting OF makes Taylor into a good OF4. Lobaton has been subpar even as a backup for two years and this is an area where improvement could be sought (though not necessarily found). The only way Robinson and Moore should be on the team together is if Zim breaks and they're the 1B platoon.

Then, of course, we have the bullpen. Assuming that Rivero, Kelley, Perez, Gott, and Petit are fixed in place, we still need a closer (unless it's Rivero's job or we're keeping one of the Headcase Twins). Likewise, there's still the question of what's going to happen with Storen and/or Papelbon.

Looottttaaa work still to be done these next three months...

Clip&Store said...

Michael Taylor is not even close to Heyward on d....