Nationals Baseball: No O'. No Zo. So?

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

No O'. No Zo. So?

The Nats are not going to get Darren O'Day. People have been kind of underselling O'Day. Yes his FIP merely suggests a good, not great relief pitcher, but at some point you have to shift over from reliance on "This is what he should do" to buying into "This is what he is doing repeatedly". I think four years is enough time to do that. Hitters can hit O'Day, at least enough so he shouldn't be dominant, but have real trouble hitting him hard (sidearmers always give guys fits) so he is. Is the contract out of line? Maybe a bit, but if you are going to pay closers a ton, paying set-up men who can also serve as firemen for tough spots in earlier innings makes a lot of sense.

Yes, these one-inning guys are the easiest to develop internally but as we saw last year, that's not the same as saying it's easy to develop them internally. Just compared to "good guy who can throw 6 innings" or "good guy that can field and hit around average at 2nd", "good guy who can get 3 outs" is a lower hurdle. You need to have 2, 3, 4 of these guys on your roster to start the season. That's baseball today. If you don't have them you have to go get them. I don't have any problems thinking that O' Day will be at least good through at least 3 years of the contract so I think it's a shame the Nats missed out on him. The apparent cause was they didn't want to go 4 years. I'm not sure I find that all that reasonable, you pay the value the market sets or you get something lesser, but it's their prerogative. 

The Nats are not going to get Zobrist. Zobrist for four years is a definite gamble. He is already old (35 in May) so you'll be paying for years where history tells us decline will happen. He definitely will not be as good at the end of this contract than at the beginning. The only question is how fast and how hard. Players can continue to be effective full time players into their late 30s (just to point one out - Raul Ibanez) but it's not the usual situation. So most likely this is an abbreviated long term signing. In that I mean when you sign someone like Scherzer to a 7 year deal - you hope to get a couple years at prime to start, with diminishing results until the last couple where you'd be happy with anything not terrible. Zobrist's deal dismisses with the years of diminishing results. You hope to get a couple years as he is now and you accept the fact the last couple might give you nothing. It's a gamble totally based on the idea that he will make a difference in the next couple of years, but in sports 3 years is forever. Worrying about the back end of a deal only makes sense if there are several other back-ends already on hand to worry about AND your team won't spend money.

And that may actually be where the Nats are. Werth is often brought up here, but Werth's deal is over in 2 years. If you are having problems with Zobrist and Werth at the same time then something went terribly wrong. But the Nats do have Zimms contract, he can't stay healthy, and there is Scherzer's deal, which should be fine for at least a couple years but relying on a 30yo+ pitcher to be healthy three years down the road is a bad bet. Do the Nats need another dead weight contract potentially? Especially when they'll hopefully be trying to throw money at Bryce Harper to get him to stay. It's debatable. Really it does come down to Bryce. If you expect him to stay, or at least you expect to make a fair (re: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) offer to him, then Zobrist for four years is a bit iffy. If you don't expect him to stay, well then you have 3 years with the kid and you better make them count.

Zobrist himself is diminishing. He has great positional flexibility (which does NOT MAKE HIM A UTILITY GUY) but prefers to play 2nd. Last years stats say he had a bad year there. Even if that is just the annual variability of defensive statistics coming into play it is likely he is getting worse there and is better suited for corner outfield. Yet he wants 2nd and will likely play 2nd, at least in 2016. Offensively, he's been remarkably consistent and I wouldn't go against the idea that he'll be above average for the next two years. Now will he be healthy? That I can't answer but last year was his first year with injures this decade. That's worrisome for an old man in his mid 30s (trust me). Still he did play 126 games and if you can pencil him in for 140 for 2 years, above average offense and defense at 2nd that doesn't kill you? That's great for a team competing for it all. That's why I wanted Zobrist. I think the Nats are still in it and I'm not bullish about the future post 2016 right now. It has potential but is hazy. 2016 isn't hazy. The Nats should be good. Go after it.

 Ok, but the title of this post said "So?" What is that about? Well I think it's bad the Nats didn't get O'Day and Zobrist. That's true. But this is a deep free agent class and there are always trades to be had. This offseason isn't over. It has barely begun. The Nats haven't done much... yet. But that doesn't mean they aren't going to do a lot.
  • Before 2012 the Nats dealt for Gio, signed Chad Tracy and Edwin Jackson (who would both help that year). 
  • Before 2013 the Nats dealt for Denard Span, signed Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano and Ross Ohlendorf , re-signed Adam LaRoche.
  • Before 2014 the Nats dealt for Doug Fister, Jose Lobaton, and Jerry Blevins. Signed Nate McLouth.
  • Before 2015 the Nats dealt for Joe Ross, Yunel Escobar and signed Max Scherzer and Casey Janssen.
All these things didn't work out (I removed my eyeball and duck-taped it to your forehead, McLouth) but they were all at least relatively sound moves made to improve the team. Rizzo has always managed to make me feel better about the team going into Spring Training. He hasn't been perfect, no. We all know the issues with the bench and relief. And this is a particularly hard year to bounce back from with the FA losses the Nats have. But looking at the above I'm definitely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. With all these names out there in FA, some team is going to come out a winner without breaking the bank. I'm not going to bet against Rizzo being that guy. 


Anonymous said...

Alex Gordon to RF, Bryce to CF. Make it happen.

Miles Treacy said...

Do you think Rizzo was being honest or tongue in cheek in saying no negotiations have happened? I don't really buy they haven't at least begun spinning the wheels with Boras.

I'm somewhat happy they lost out on Zobrist. The age thing really worried me. I was bummed on O'Day as I think he would have really helped out a ton.

I don't really know much on Kelley, but some people seem high on him???

blovy8 said...

Well, Kelley has a nice K rate, can get RH and LH hitters out and doesn't need a "role". That's not exactly Stammen because he probably can't really go 3 innings or get a ground ball on command, but he'd be easy to use and you may not need to give him more than two years in a deal, three would certainly beat the market at this point I think. While we'd all like Papelbum to be gone, and Rizzo would surely like to get something for Storen that's more valuable than how he'd likely perform here, I agree with Harper, that it's a good idea to have a trio of solid relievers penciled in before you can start dealing them and have to negotiate from a poor position and absolutely NEED relievers back in a deal.

History shows us Rizzo is going to trade guys and there won't be a story about it beforehand. Plus, somebody is going to get paid more than we like on this team. Those past lessons make me hope for someone younger than Zobrist.

blovy8 said...

There's an interesting rumor out now about the Nats perhaps taking a Leake. Maybe it just means Roark is going to have some deja vu, maybe it's the old can't have too much pitching axiom, maybe the mystery team will sign him, but could it also mean a blockbuster is in the works?

Anonymous said...

Leake is no better than a league average innings eater who doesn't eat that many innings. He's a perfectly serviceable back-of-the-rotation type of guy, but nothing more. I view him as a more expensive Roark with less crash potential but less upside too.

JW said...

I used to live in Florida and follow the Rays and I have been a big Zobrist fan for many years now, so bummed he won't be playing for the Nats. At the same time, 4 yrs for Zobrist is almost certainly going to be a mistake. At this point, you'd be lucky to get the equivalent of 1 full year's worth of value from that contract. Could it be more? Sure, but it's really unlikely. But to be honest, the Cubs are probably hoping more for 1 full postseason worth of value. That move is a huge "win-now" move for them.

The O'Day whiff is more of an issue because it's a whiff, not because O'Day would have been the perfect fit or anything. There will probably be other options out there that are equally good. I just agree with Harper and Blovy that the Nats needed to make some progress in rebuilding the bullpen early to make the moves they need to make re: Storen and Paps. It's the impression of standing still that is more frustrating in that scenario.

Chaz R said...

I guess the question is what do we really think the Nats believe their most pressing needs are? Clearly the bullpen is a major overhaul and the Pap-Storen situation makes it a complicated overhaul. Beyond that though, what can we really expect? The infield is good and deep with everyone returning to their regular positions. Is MAT really the starter in CF and leadoff? I would tend to expect a move in the OF. Is the current rotation beyond Max and Stras good enough? Is a move really needed there to be a playoff contender?

cass said...

Heyward hasn't signed yet...

I'm sure he's too expensive, but maybe Ted Lerner will get involved.

ProphetNAT said...

When I see 4yr/31mil for O'Day and 4yr/56mil for Zobrist - I'm not that upset. It's when we lose out to other teams on players that come at a cheap price tag that makes me pull hair out. I still go back to getting McClouth (2yr/10mil) instead of Ichiro (Marlins got him 1yr/2mil). Not sure what we were thinking. And we're signing Tyler Moore for 900k? Man.

Also, I haven't heard any news on Gerardo Parra. Makes me a little worried. Whiffing on him would be a huge loss on our part.

Froggy said...

Prove me wrong Rizzo...swap Papelbon for CarGo and assume the difference in salaries.

CarGo is owed $37MM over next two seasons
Papelbon is owed $11mm next year.
Seems like 37-11 = 26 million for a two year rental of CarGo is a no brainer.

I'm sure it isn't as simple as that Harper, so what am I missing?

blovy8 said...

Man, if I'm the Rockies the last thing I need to worry about is a closer. They need starting pitchers who can compete in that park and last six innings without it taking 120 pitches. Plus that 2/37 isn't going to be looking so bad for 40HR guy after the deals that are signed this offseason. They will want a LOT and should, even though his road splits look pretty average for a corner OF. Average is probably worth 15 million a year now for a free agent.

Wonder if trading for Pittsburgh's switch-hitting 2B Walker and moving Escobar isn't a better idea. But his defense isn't great either, and he's oh for the last three postseasons. Forget I mentioned it...

blovy8 said...

PNAT, Ichiro is my favorite player of this century, but last year he hit about the emptiest .229 this side of Nook Logan. Still - he's cool enough to be worth it anyway. Keep in mind though, I'm also the guy who compared Jon Jay to McLouth...

Too much time to post today, clearly.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea but given you're earlier post about Leake possibly meaning a bigger move in the works, what about something like Ross/Pap for Cargo?

JW said...

Mets took Walker. So that's not an option.

I agree you have to wonder what the top priority is. It'd be odd if the first big move they make is to add a starting pitcher given that, while Roark and Ross won't necessarily make up for losing ZNN and Fister (well they probably equal out Fister), the rotation really isn't the biggest concern. So moving to sign Leake would have to be the groundwork for another move. Unless they just want to leave Roark in the bullpen -- but that had pretty mixed results.

I am not sold that any of the free agents other than Hayward are truly impact players on this roster. And Hayward is unlikely. So it seems like trades are going to be the best avenue for improvement.

blovy8 said...

Petit as a swingman seems reasonable except for all those homers. He could help them make Ross' 180 innings last as a guy who can spot start if they want to skip him a few times, or take multiple innings if he struggles occasionally. He sure can't hit like Stammen though.

I guess I'm a homer, but I still hope they can re-sign Stammen on an incentives deal and give him proper re-hab opportunities.

I think that Pirates-Mets deal was fair. Niese is essentially an averagish starter on team-controlled 3 for 30 deal, and they had an extra middle infielder since Harrison is better used there. It's pretty even in money for the Mets, they had little use for that guy and needed a 2B after missing out on Zobrist, but it's hilarious that they STILL had to sign Asdrubal Cabrera. They must hate infield defense.

Ryan said...

I like the Petit move, still hope they bring back Stammen. Petit, Perez and Kelley are not amazing by themselves, but they look a whole lot better than the mess from last year. This seems pretty active for Rizzo this early in the offseason.

The Mets made a pretty solid move getting Walker for Niese, but why would they then pick up Cabrera to seemingly play short?

Also, the Diamondbacks must hate the other teams in the NL East because that Shelby Miller trade might have rebuilt the Braves.

Bjd1207 said...

Don't we have another year of Stammen regardless? He's in his 3rd arb year right?

My question is what we're going to do with all the system guys we tried out in the pen last year. Just have them call compete for the remaining spots? Barrett, Treinen, Rivero, Grace, pen-Roark, etc.

So if we've got Stammen and Petit for 2016 I think that means they don't plan on using Roark as a swing-man, but instead solidifies him as a starter (here or elsewhere). Seems like we've passed on Leake so maybe Roark/Ross won't be moving and we have our 5 already

Ryan said...

Stammen was non-tendered and Barrett had Tommy John in August or September. Rivero looks good though.