Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Quickie

There isn't much to talk about today news wise. Why post then? Good question. I suppose it's to keep the comment threads fresh. New week, start anew.

I suppose the biggest news not covered is that the Nats reached contracts with all their arbitration eligible players. The Nats seemingly HATE arbitration. While that may be overblown it doesn't help the Nats management that the first guy to take them to arbitration (John Lannan) was summarily demoted and the second guy (Jerry Blevins) was given the boot in favor of Matt denDekker and a depleted pen. (No on said the Nats were sensible about it). Luckily no worries for this year and everyone has signed their fair contracts offered.

With those in place the payroll is more in focus, the Nats currently sitting at 145 million. Basically the halfway point between those hoping the Nats would keep it up near 160 and those fearing the Nats would drop it down to 130. Of course the off-season isn't over yet. The Nats have been rumored partners in trade or as a team interested in an FA OF. This makes sense if they are willing to give up on MAT, shifting Revere to be a fantastic 4th OF. Papelbon (11M) is still on the roster out of necessity, as is the the hinted guy they would potentially trade to replace, Wilson Ramos. Remember, we've talked about it a couple times but the catcher situation sets the Nats up having to go into next off-season looking for a catcher in FA or trade. The Nats don't usually play the game that way so a trade for a catcher still might be in the cards.

What do I think? (and since I nailed the Storen deal timing I must have some super powers) I think the Nats are pretty much done. I think they sit on everyone and try to get a rehabbing pitcher (Lincecum, Josh Johnson) for peanuts to stick in AAA for depth and potential. That's pretty much it. I don't think they bother for an OF now. The free agents are going to be too expensive or will lack game-changing ability. I can't see the Nats spending a bunch, even just for a year, to get slightly better. Trades won't happen unless a team doesn't ask for much in return. The Nats are very much like a fan when it comes to their prospects (I think it's a combo of Lerner loving the long-term cheap investment aspect and Rizzo over-trusting his own judgments). Deals have to be pretty damn good for them to give up a minor leaguer that they even remotely care about. Other teams are more reasonable (though these numbers are dwindling) and will end up with the Cargos of the world. I don't think they deal Papelbon because teams are only going to pay 80 cents on the dollar for him and Rizzo wants a fair trade based on talent.

But we'll see. As I keep saying - plenty of time left. Things happen.

Side note here on Ian Desmond. Yes, he made the wrong decision not taking the Nats extension. But that's a total hindsight thing. At the time he was poised to make a lot more and it took a season where he was batting .214 / .261 with 11 homers a week into August to kill that. There was nothing telling anyone he'd suddenly become the worst offensive SS in the league for 75% of 2015. If there was, forget the extension, the Nats would have probably traded him rather than have him drag the team down. No one saw it coming, but it came and here we are.

Where does he end up now? Tampa is an interesting place. If he was willing to take less money he could find himself situated very close to where he lives full-time (Sarasota) something that has to have great appeal. And the only guy standing in his way is the "He's really good!... I mean he's a great bargain!... I mean he's at value, that's something!" sabrmetric favorite Brad Miller.  Other teams may want him at a different position. Detroit in the OF. Houston at 3rd. 

How did Ian end up in this bad spot? Just in general who had a SS situations in 2015 that even 2015 Desmond might have improved? 

Padres - signed Alexi Ramirez because I assume they don't care about winning.
Baltimore - locked into JJ Hardy unfortunately for them
White Sox - waiting on Tim Anderson, probably for 2017, don't want a long term FA blocking him
Brewers - tanking with a new GM
Dodgers - Corey Seager taking over
Rangers - locked into Elvis Andrus worse than Baltimore is locked into Hardy
Pirates - ummm oddly secure sticking with Jordy Mercer for some reason. Good luck with that
Reds - tanking
Cubs - traded erratic Castro, Russell taking over.
Indians - Lindor taking over
Mariners - Ketel Marte taking over
Angels - traded for Andrelton Simmons
Mets - signed Asdrubal
Phillies - tanking

and a couple other trade/FA created issues
Rays - fine in 2015 but let Asdrubal walk, see above
Rockies - fine in 2015 but traded Tulo, have Reyes now but he could be in legal trouble
Braves - fine in 2015 but traded Simmons, tanking

At this point it becomes more of a coin flip whether Ian, staying as he was - bad hitting with power, decent D, would be helpful. These unnamed teams signing him would be really expecting that he would get better.

Fully half the league could have used Ian. But four tanking teams and five rookies coming up this year (or next) really cut down the demand pool. Ian went from 14 potential suitors (taking out locked ins and Colorado which didn't start FA needing a SS) to 5. At that point you can be boxed out and Ian was by a couple trades (Miller, Simmons), a commitment to bad player (Mercer), and a FA on the market who would be much cheaper and not much worse (Cabrera). At that point it comes down to one team either deciding to pay you or not. The Padres didn't. (The lost draft pick here isn't helping now that "winning the prospect lotto" is a praised rebuilding strategy) Now Ian is left hoping that either Reyes can't play most of the season (and the Rockies care about winning enough to sign Ian) or the Rays are willing to give him something fair while being able to see Miller is nothing but a bench player. Or else we're looking at a one-year challenge deal somewhere, at a good deal less than his qualifying offer.


Chas R said...

Don't you think Rizzo gets a little better SP depth than that? I would doubt he would do a trade, what FA SPs are still out there?

Boy oh boy, I bet Ian is feeling the pressure right now. That's really too bad, what a long hard fall for a perennial Silver Slugger.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

"it's a damn shame". I honestly don't know who would want to give draft pick and multiple years to him. I certainly wouldn't...

Maybe you should give top ten right now analysis once in a while. I'm surprised they had Lindor #1 and the shredder really dropped the ball on McCutcheon #4 in center. I mean yeah he had a slow start (due to injury) but his numbers in the end along with his tract record should still keep him #2.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Btw I really need a new name with both these guys gone now.. It's a sad truth, but all good things must come to an end :(

Positively Half St. said...

Unless a shortstop is injured between now and the start of the season, it is kind of easy to see how Desmond could end up not being signed until after the draft, as happened to Stephen Drew a few years ago. This would cost the Nats a draft pick, and would cost Desmond a real Spring Training. This would make it all the more likely that he wouldn't have a great comeback to bring to negotiations for 2017.
I certainly feel bad for Ian, but of course I am glad now that he did not accept the Nats' offer.

Harper said...

Chaz R - I think they are itching to let AJ Cole go a month just to see if he can be counted on for depth, so any signing would be a hedge against multiple injuries, not just one. Although it would be smart the Nats are being forcibly pulled through the "contenders pay for depth" part of roster building.

C&S - Kelley & the Jerk-Face Ass Clown? Not quite the same ring.

1/2 St > 0 - that's a possibility. Waiting out say, Tulo going down for the season (50/50 right?)

Nattydread said...

It would be nice to see something done with Tyler Moore. Can't see how he adds anything to the roster.

Donald said...

Your analysis on Desmond is spot on. I think that's why he's being touted as a potential 3b, 2b or OF since the market for SS is so limited. At this point, though, no one is going to be paying $100m+ for a guy with risks to play a new position, particularly as an OF (at least as long as Cespedes and Upton are still available). At this point, it looks like he has 3 options in front of him -- take a much smaller contract that he had hoped, like 3/45 and hope to get another shot at a huge paycheck in a few years; take a 1 year challenge contract and try to rebuild his value; wait until after the draft and hope some contending team's SS gets hurt and is a little more desperate. Maybe to save face, he'll end up with a 5 year deal that's back loaded and has a mutual opt-out or something.

Do you see any team with a huge 2b or 3b need that would see Ian as a big improvement?

blovy8 said...

I think Diamondbacks mIght also get involved if the price is right - they have several middle infielders who haven't hit much and would take a chance on Ian's power playing there since they're all in for the next two years.

Anonymous said...

Ian Desmond has another option: filing a collusion grievance.

It's been much. much too long since the last one (Barry Bonds in 2008). I miss collusion grievances.

Harper said...

ND - He's a power bat and I feel Rizzo both sees the value in that and fears that if another team gets him and sticks him at first that he could be ok and he'd look bad for just cutting him. Of course "decent bats that might be ok at first" are usually easy to find so trade market is probably slim.

Donald - The other problem is Desmond has value at SS that he won't other places, since he can still field there and it's a tough position. 3b? Corner OF? He'd have to hit

Blovy nails the D-Backs as one. Owings and Ahmed can't hit and frankly Lamb is no guarantee at 3rd either. Royals have same no puch IF, though Ian is like the opposite player they go for. If Tigers give up on Castellanos at 3B, Desmond would be a nice fit bc their SS sitch never seems right and he'd be right there to fill in. Indians maybe at 3B, but I can't see them making a big contract. HOU makes most sense bc if you don't bring in someone you are banking on Valbuena's power surge not tailing off at all.

Anon - it'll be tougher for Ian though because teams can simply point and say "we offered him a deal based on last years stats" and what's he going to say? You have to pretend last year didn't happen? Give last year the weight I tell you to give it?

Anonymous said...

Have any teams offered Desmond a contract?

sirc said...

I don't understand the one year deal discussion on Desmond. Why would a team spend the draft pick and only sign him for 1 year? I understand why a team might want him for one year, and why Ian would want the 1 year deal. What I'm asking is why a team would sign him to a 1 year deal when they'd have to give up a first round draft pick to do it?

Isn't this the exception to the "there's no such thing as a bad one year deal" rule?

Also, has it happened before? Has a team signed a player to a 1 year contract when they had to give up a first round draft pick? I remember that the Orioles did it with Nelson Cruz, but that didn't cost them a first rounder. They had used their first round pick on Jimenez already, so they only lost a second rounder which isn't so bad.

So I could see one of the teams who have already spent their first round pick on another free agent doing it. Or a team with a protected pick, I suppose. That narrows the field down considerably more, and there isn't a clear match among those teams.

Harper said...

Anon - none formally no.

sirc - Ian is easy - he may want a 1 yr deal if he's getting what he feels is below market offers (say 3 / 24) and can get a single year at better price (say 1 / 11) and feels he can bounce back and get something like 4/64 with a bounce back year.

As for the team... if your draft pick is low enough you should be fine giving it up. Honestly out of the top couple you lose any guarantee of usefulness and out of the top half you are really rolling dice. It's not like 1st round picks are good bets. In fact I'd say late 1st round ones are bad bets. It's just that 2nd and beyond are even worse.

Donald said...

Does Upton getting a big contract impact Ian's situation in any way, or change your sense of his options? It shows that while maybe slow to develop, there's still big money out there. On the other hand, it removes a possible landing spot, albeit not that likely. Does Tampa feel more pressure to add an impact bat, though you'd think Cespedes would fit that role better? Or does the fact that they play such different positions keep them completely independent?

If you are Ian, do you view Upton's contract as good, bad or indifferent?

karl kolchak said...

It may make me a bad person, but I have to say that Ian getting his rear end handed to him in free agency warms my heart during this coldest of weeks. Those comments he made back in 2013 about not anting to screw the next guy were incredibly arrogant for a guy who had only one good season under his belt at that point. He made his bed and now he has to sleep in it.

Anyone who feels bad for Ian should remember that he has already made more money than any of us will likely ever see in our lifetimes.

sirc said...


Chris said...

I wonder with the payroll being some 30 million less than last year if that will leave Rizzo some wiggle room at the trade deadline so that he can add some salary if need be.
Seems like the inability to do that really set them back last year.

Zimmerman11 said...

Anonymous at 1:30... The Nationals offered Ian a contract! He turned us down :( The last Expo, I'm sad no one is paying him.

Harper... quick... how much for the Nats to get Ian back for 1 season at this point? YOu think the 11M you put up there gets it done? Espi, Murphy, Drew, Turner... Desmond would make us better right?

Donald said...

I'm pretty sure the Nats have moved on from Desmond and won't bring him back at any price. If they are going to spend money, I think their holes are at catcher, starting pitcher depth and maybe the pen if they can unload Papelbon. Plus, I think Rizzo wants the draft pick he'd get if Desmond signs elsewhere. Now maybe if Desmond is still unsigned into the season and someone gets injured, who knows. But I think the Nats are one of the least likely options.

@karl -- It doesn't make me at all happy that Ian hasn't signed yet, since I think he really has been a model citizen and club-house guy for the Nats. He's weathered some tough times and stayed classy throughout. But I do understand your sentiment, in that while he basically said he was going to sign with whoever would pay him the most, he tried to act like that was some noble gesture. I have no problems with him following the money, but signing a lower contract to be near your family, or to be on a contender, or so you can start at your favored position, or out of loyalty to your team can all be equally noble decisions. And making one of those other decisions shouldn't be construed as screwing your fellow players coming up behind you.

Froggy said...

Although I enjoyed the fulsome detail of the post, that wasn't a very quick 'quickie' Harper!

DezoPenguin said...


Honestly, it rather bothers me that the MLBPA has basically taken the Scott Boras position that happiness=money and nothing but money, and that if a player has any other values than they're a renegade and an enemy to the creed. We're talking about people making tens of millions of dollars, and yet the idea of living where one wants to, having the family life they desire, and otherwise seeking a high quality of life according to whatever is important to them is a "betrayal."

Donald said...

@Dezo -- I totally agree though I don't feel like Desmond is some poster child for that greediness either. So I'm not reveling in his not signing. I wish him well wherever he lands.

John C. said...

Well Dezo, it's not just the MLBPA. Because salary comps are used in arbitration hearings (etc), how much one player accepts does have an impact on other salaries around the league. Like it or not. It's a hard argument to make in a hearing before a panel that "well, that comp shouldn't count because that player [is from that area/has kids in school there/wants to play for a contender/etc]." Arbitrators hate that stuff because by their very nature intangibles are difficult to value. It's the classic Star Trek "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ... or the one" argument.