Nationals Baseball: Where we are so far

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Where we are so far

The Nats lost out on Sale. This is not that unexpected. I twice almost said something like "Why aren't the Red Sox doing something? They need pitching and can afford to lose a couple prospects." but didn't. What a fool Past Harper was! Turns out the Red Sox were putting something together that featured what might be the consensus #1 prospect going into next year in Yoan Moncada.

The initial reaction was very much "The White Sox would want Moncada instead of Robles AND Giolito??!?!" This of course completely ignores the second part of the deal for the Red Sox, Michael Kopech who made as many pre-season Top 100 lists as Nats favorite Reynaldo Lopez. He's a legit prospect, not just a name added. So Moncada+ vs Robles, Giolito+ might draw question marks but Moncada, Kopech+ vs Robles, Giolio+ shouldn't.

And yet it still does with some of you doesn't it? You think "That's like two Top 20 guys at worst, Two Top 10 guys at best. Kopech isn't climbing THAT much" but you ignore a basic truth about rankings. The further you get from the middle the more distorted things tend to get. It's not hard picking the best and worst, it's hard distinguishing one middle from another. If you are ranking 100 things it's very likely that the difference between 1 and 2 and 99 and 100 are much greater than the difference between 49-50-51. Now the back end doesn't actually come into play when we're talking about minor league rankings since we're pulling 100 out of thousands. But the top part is there.

Think about minor league rankings the same way you think about the draft. The #1 guy almost everyone agrees on. The #2 and #3 are pretty clear, etc. etc. By the time you even get to #10 though fuzziness reigns. Your 10 might be someone else's 7 and another person's 19. And much like a draft I'd bet a lot of money that expected future performance drops off quickly when talking about these lists. This is all just a long winded way of saying if you have Moncada at 1 and Giolito at 5 and Robles at 15 you are likely saying you like Moncada A LOT more than Giolito who you like A LOT more than Robles. If Kopech was at like 50 in this scenario I'd bet his expectation would be a lot closer to Robles than Robles' expectation would be to Moncada's. And that's the reason the White Sox take the deal.

Now Barry noted this morning that Lopez might have also been thrown in. To me that does give the Nats the edge.. assuming there's still that "+" there. We've never heard of others though. And if you are going Moncada, Kopech+ vs Robles, Giolito, Lopez well I can see sticking with deal #1. Is that too much for the Nats to deal for Sale? Honestly probably not. If you get Sale you are assuming then your rotation is set for three seasons. Scherzer, Strasburg, Sale, Ross, Roark. None would have to go anywhere before Sale and Roark would be up for FA after 2019. What happens to Lopez and Giolito in the mean time there? Probably just get dealt for someone else. Yeah I know - they'd be great depth! But at some point being depth just serves to hurt their trade value, getting older and not getting any experience. Better to trade sooner rather than later. And if you are thinking "well Lopez moves to the pen!", congrats, you've likely decimated his value and put him in a new position where he may not succeed. I'm sure it would happen that way, him being shifted to relief, but you can't assume he'd just click become a dominant reliever. It doesn't work that way.

The other deal the Nats lost out on was for Melancon. He got a lot of money 4/62 from the Giants. It's too much money. The Nats don't ever spend too much money. That is great but it can also be a problem. We've noted before how it's super easy to go from terrible to bad, easy to go from bad to below average, hard to go from average to good, and very hard to go from good to great. All these changes may effect your teams success in the same way but the costs rise as you move up the scale. To gain a win at the bottom of the scale might be throwing in a decent minor leaguer contract player in place of one that should be out of the game. To gain a win at the top of the scale means bringing in the best at his position. This works individually but can also work at a team level as well. The Nats are looking to move to good to great. One place they could improve over pre-trade deadline Nats is at the closer position. They don't have control of every part of the market. The closer position is at a premium right now. So to improve here the Nats have to pay a lot.

I'm not saying they should have done the deal. I honestly am not sure they should have. I don't think I would have. But I do think that the reality of going from good to great as a team is that you are going to be looking at bringing in very good talent somewhere and it's likely in FA that talent will be overpriced. If you can't bring yourself to make that kind of deal then you limit yourself to waiting for a steal that may not come about, trying to make a trade that you may not be able to pull off, or hoping for a break-out that probably won't come. The surest method of improvement is throwing money at a good player. Don't committ to that and you are left with less sure ways of improvement and hence less sure improvement.

But again if this is all depressing to you the Nats won 95 games last year. Improvement means solidifying that mid 90s status as best they can with an eye toward winning a playoff series by maximizing talent in key places. No improvement means be expected to win in low 90s and compete for a NL East title as likely favorites (unless the Mets do something more) while understanding the most driving force in playoffs is beyond your control. We can rail against inactivity but we shouldn't get so wrapped up in it that we act like it's all or nothing. It's alot or more than alot.

38 comments:

ClassOf87 said...

Re: "We can rail against inactivity but we shouldn't get so wrapped up in it that we act like it's all or nothing. It's alot or more than a lot."
True, except this isn't happening in a vacuum. The Giants, a team that has won three WS already, and will be one of the Nats' chief competitors at that "Good/Trying to be Great" level, just shored up their main area of weakness by taking our closer, thus making what was a strength of ours into a weakness that now needs to be shored up through some combination of money and/or farm assets. Which is why I was adamant that the Nats could not get outbid for Melancon. The Cubs, who already are better than the Nats, are about to get Wade Davis. Getting Sale would have been great and worth it for a lot of reasons, though I agree that I wouldn't have put Turner in any proposal. But SP is not an area of weakness for the Nats. Now, closer is. And CF/SS, whatever position TT doesn't play, still is.

JD said...

So if Rizzo isn't going to do one of the obvious moves, what could be a more sneaky out of the blue signature Rizzo move that he could do? I don't think there's any other SP he could get that is a clear upgrade to the current rotation.

Rob Evans said...

The Nats as currently constructed aren't going to be a threat to do anything in the playoffs. They've gotten a year older and weaker at certain positions. They need at least one impact bat and bullpen help. Preferably a closer. So far, I'm disappointed.

Bryan said...

You don't overpay for a closer. You don't. Its a recipe for doom. It hamstrings your team. The Phils overpayed lots of people for too long, but you could argue it was really the 4yr/$60M contract they gave Papelbon that hurt them the most.

I'm kinda shocked Harper didn't bring it up given his thoughts on closers and relievers generally (though he alluded to it, I guess, in his admission that he might not do that deal).

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed (although I agree, there's no way the WS don't take that deal from the RS for Sale), but I'm also not buying into the 'woe is me' narrative I have been hearing recently that runs a little like: "Nats...same as last year; they just can't seem to close the deal with (Zobrist, Heyward, Chapman, et al)."

I ain't buying that (even with Melancon's comments that one of the things he appreciated about the Giants was their willingness to spend (on him) to get better.)

Besides, last year no one thought "Hey, Nats picked up the best hitter in the league in Daniel Murphy signing," right?

blovy8 said...

If money were no object, Verlander would be a clear upgrade.

I agree with the closer as overpaid argument, depth in the back end is much more important. While it's true that a failed starter can't always turn into a good reliever, there are certain types of guys this makes sense for in terms of stuff, like Ross' fastball/slider combo seems tailor-made to close - but I don't know about the mental side of that for him. Lopez seems to have too much stuff since he has two breaking balls, but he's a smallish guy that has had the durability tag stamped on him from the beginning, and if you are set in the rotation as would seem to be the case, how are you going to get ANY value out of him? Not yanked around as a long reliever or AAA depth. Giolito, Voth and Cole are plenty enough for that. It makes sense to give him that chance, if you'd rather use the 15 million in the CF/SS upgrade. That's assuming 15 mil is even available, and not something where you have to trade Gio to do it.

I still say we have a couple of RH pitchers too many, but I guess the Pirates don't think so.

G Cracka X said...

On the one hand, it has been a bummer to miss out on some big trades. On the other hand, I'm happy that they haven't sold the farm. Agree with Anon@7:12: last year, the Nats 'missed' a lot of deals and turned out to be fine.

Bryan said...

One other point on "missing out" on stuff. This isn't in a vacuum. Its not like its a binary. Its not Nats choose to get guy/Nats don't choose. There are a bunch of other teams competing. You can't be the highest bidder every time out.

We should appreciate that the Nats are in the convo. Lots of teams aren't even in the talks. Now, that only goes so far, certainly. You can't miss out on everyone. And while I recognize the need for a starting pitcher, I'd rather have Cutch than a starting pitcher. So I guess for me the loss doesn't sting as much.

ClassOf87 said...

Never understood this notion that one position is more "valuable" than another Overpaying for any position hamstrings your team to one extent or another. It's not any more disadvantageous to overpay for a closer than it is for a 2B or C. Is Murphy more valuable because he's a 2B as opposed to being a RF? He's just valuable. Bryce is valuable at any outfield position. Having said that, I don't mind overpaying for elite level production. We overpaid for Max. But he's been worth it. And while I understand we can't win every battle, you still are impacted when you lose battles against your primary competition. And at this point, I consider the Giants, Cubs and Dodgers to be the Nats' primary competition.

John C. said...

Remember last year, when the Nats were perceived as being dysfunctional losers because they missed out on Heyward, Zobrist, O'Day, Phillips, Cespedes, etc.? The criticism rained down on the team. And yet the Nats won 95 games - only the Cubs won more - and the NL East against the favored NY Mets. Just imagine the criticism if the Nats had beaten the offers from other teams (in real value) to sign Heyward, O'Day or Phillips. IRWT, certainly more than the talking heads on sports networks.

And LOL at the idea that "[t]he Nats as currently constructed aren't going to be a threat to do anything in the playoffs." Playoffs are random. Don't think that Danny Espinosa could possibly be a catalyst for victory? Ask Buddy Biancalana, Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent. Or Bobby Richardson, MVP of the '60 World Series, who was never a good hitter (except in 1962, weirdly) and in 1960 hit a dreadful .252/.303/.298/.601. He had 16 XBH in 150 games, with just one HR - and in his autobiography he noted that the pitcher he hit the one HR off of was sent to the minors the next day! So in the WS Richardson batted .367/.387/.667/1.054, putting up five XBH (2 2bs, 2 3bs, 1 HR) in seven games. Those seven just happened to be seven games of the WS. Short series baseball.

To follow up from a team perspective, if there was one team that people wrote off before last season's playoffs started it was the Indians after losing their #2 and #3 starters on top of other injuries they had sustained. But they pushed the Cubbies to extra innings in WS Game 7. Two years ago it was the wild card Royals, widely dismissed as a fluke. And yet they ended up with the tying run at third and the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the 9th of WS Game 7.

You think you can make sense out of it, but you can't. It's useful every time someone makes the pronouncement that a team in the playoffs "can't" (or "will," for that matter) win in the playoffs. Because that person outs themselves as someone who doesn't really get baseball.

Harper said...

Class o' 87 - Value is dictated by expected cost for that type of player and that takes into account both overall and specific to the position. So having a great player at a position where the production is minimal is more valuable than having a great player at a position where production is high, even if those two players have equal overall production. However, it only goes as far as the team takes it. The value is in the money theoretically saved being put to use elsewhere. If they don't spend the money then the increased value of that player is lost (to the team on the field - it serves instead to line the pockets of the organization)


John C - But I was assured the Red Sox won the pennant yesterday.

JC said...

Talking head get paid to talk.

Look at last season. Essentially one person from ESPN had the Indians in the WS.


http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/page/seasonpreview_mlbteampredictions/mlb-team-predictions-2016-season

Whether it is trades or free agent signings there is always going to be a "winners curse" when a team gets involved in the highest profile signings. I like the approach that Rizzo takes. Set a limit and hold. If that doesnt work go find some value picks.

PotomacFan said...

Desmond is apparently getting $70 million for 5 years from the Rockies. That looks like a bad deal to me. Desmond's numbers will be inflated by playing in Denver (and not just because the ball flies further, but also because curve balls don't curve as much, and we all know how effective Desi is against the slider low and away). But I wish him well.

Fries said...

@PotomacFan

Not to mention they're sticking him at 1B, giving up a draft pick, and not really expected to compete. So many things about that signing don't make sense from the Rockies viewpoint, but good luck to Ian all the same

Rumor has it that Nats are pushing for Quintana. Again I don't see the point here since we have bigger needs to fill, but if landing Quintana means we can trade Gio for CF/SS/1B help, then it's fine by me.

sirc said...

I feel like I should send the Rockies a gift basket.

KO said...

How much of the Nationals missing out on a lot of deals is due to the front office versus due to the unsettled money from the MASN deal? Once that's settled out do you expect less back loaded deals or is that just how Rizzo operates?

Unknown said...

Earlier this afternoon I heard John Feinstein on the radio say the Nats should have thrown Turner into the Sale trade. I am now completely comfortable with them not having done so.

DezoPenguin said...

I am extremely comfortable with not trading Turner.

Honestly, I would gladly offer the same Giolito/Robles+ deal to the Sox for Quintana as was offered for Sale. Quintana's nearly as good a pitcher, three years younger, without the funky mechanics, under control for an extra year, and trending up. Truth be told, I like him better.

(If we could cap it off by flipping Joe Ross straight up to the Rockies for Blackmon, since, y'know, the Rockies just signed an extra center fielder to a five-year deal, that would cross off all our needs and wants except for the bullpen.)

ClassOf87 said...

Harper: I get the notion that a catcher who hits 20 HR is more "valuable" to a team than a RF who does so, because a lot of RFs do so. My point with Murphy was this: was he valuable because of the numbers he put up at second, or because he did so and the Nats didn't have to pay top dollar for it? If they had paid, say, $50M for three years instead of $37M, would he be less "valuable?" He's valuable because he was a great player in your lineup. He'd be valuable if he hit third and played second, or if he hit third and played SS, or if he hit third and played LF. What is the "value" of a wide receiver like DeSean Jackson, who may only catch 3-4 balls a game, but changes the entire way the defense plays because of his speed--and creates opportunities for his teammates because of that? It's whatever you think that's worth. And for a team like the Nats that can play at the high end of the payroll scale, the idea of value and overpaying for someone, to me, has a lot less resonance than it would for a team that had a more limited budget.

Hursty said...

Chapman supposedly has a $92M offer on the table! Apparently someone missed the memo about not overpaying for a closer.

ClassOf87 said...

Very, very cool with Adam Eaton.

JE34 said...

@Unknown: example No. 791623 of why John Feinstein is an idiot.

NotBobby said...

Lito, Lopez and Dunning. Wowza. Hope Eaton continues playing like he did last year. What a haul the pale hose got. Not sure how i feel about both Lito and Lopez in deal.

But that does plug our holes except for bullpen help. And maybe thin on SP depth now?

JD said...

In Rizzo we trust, but golly that's a bit of price for Eaton. But we need him more than we needed Sale.

Ole PBN said...

Totally fine parting ways with Lito, all smoke and mirrors right there. Lopez is the one I'm bummed about losing. But in all honesty, he would have been a good bullpen arm at most, or a back-of-the-rotation piece. I may be one of the few that likes this trade, Eaton is solid - plus we get 5 years of control at pennies on the dollar. Rizzo has an excellent track record on these types of deals and I'd trust us coming out on top in the trade over time as opposed to Hahn/ChiSox. Perhaps fans were expecting a bigger name in return? Not into names, but this is a splash nonetheless. Two-thumbs up.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Ole PBN...two thumbs up! Remember Harper's mantra: Don't overvalue your prospects! Seriously, 5 years of team control and a team friendly salary. Classic Rizzo move!

blovy8 said...

That is a going for it trade that still keeps the window open. If they dump Espy for someone cheap, the payroll limits might support a decent reliever.

Jay said...

I'd be ok with giving up Giolitto or Lopez. Since when did Giolitto become a bust?? Trading him and Lopez makes no sense. Best two pitching prospects for an above average CF. Why not grab Fowler instead? I say boo and it's been a bad offseason so far. Norris was a bad idea bc he is unusable behind the plate. Now we gave the farm for CF. Did Rizzo get hit in the head or something? If this included Robertson then maybe. Oh well.
Did anyone see Dusty blame the fans for Melancon? Said the Nats don't have the resources of the Giants. That is the most laughable statement of the offseason.

BxJaycobb said...

I don't think folks realize how good Eaton is. He's not just an above average CF. He's been about second best CF by WAR in baseball after Trout the last 3 years. Elite defender and very good hitter. It's the 4 years of control that make the trade definitely make sense. let's say giolito becomes as good as Strasburg has been the last few years (a stretch) and Lopez a really good bullpen arm. They still won't be much more valuable than Eaton during this 4 year window. More control, yes. But it would take a pretty good amount for this trade to be a total disaster. I.e.BOTH Lopez and giolito blossoming into great starters.

Jay said...

I don't see it. We offered the same 3 guys and Robles for Sale. Either Rizzo is a moron and greatly undervalued Sale and offered not much for him, or he greatly overvalued Eaton and traded a ton for him. Robles by himself doesn't make the trade for Sale. Wow. I'd have been ok with either Giolitto or Lopez plus Dunning, but both is flat horrible. Twitter keeps saying they made the trade bc the Lerners won't spend any money. Wow again. Plus, Post reporters are saying the Nats are unlikely to sign either of the two big closers bc Boras isn't their agent. As in - the Lerners don't talk to other agents, so they are unlikely to ok spending on either of the big two closers. At the risk of sound like crazy baseball fan, I say it's a horrible trade. Not as bad as Turner and Ross for Souza but not far off.

DezoPenguin said...

OMFG. I just got back from shopping to this news. I... Like BxJaycobb said, Eaton isn't just "good," he's "among the best non-Trout outfielders in baseball." The only catch is that he's a really good defensive RF and a meh-at-best defensive CF, and thank you, I will live with that and be very, very happy. Also, under contract, as noted--and it's five years, not four: 3/$18 and two club options that could make it 5/$38. We basically just traded for Victor Robles' upside (and we get to keep the real Robles into the bargain, which is not inconsiderable given that we're going to need a new LF next year and depressingly likely a new RF the year after that). He's 28 now.

Good article on Fangraphs: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/nationals-land-adam-eaton-quiet-star/

This isn't a rip-off like some of Rizzo's deals; this is value for value, and Giolito and Lopez together is not penny-ante payment. But we're getting up to 5 years, at dirt-cheap prices, of major-league control for a guy who put up 6 WAR last year.

Or in other words, Rizzo just traded basically the same price (two of our three top prospects) as the Pirates asked for McCutchen and got a better, younger player with three extra years of control who costs less money. Crap may happen (injuries, random decline, etc.), because baseball is baseball, but this is a real In Rizzo We Trust moment.

blovy8 said...

I don't really believe Eaton is 6 war player, but 5 yrs for 38.4 mil is a sweet deal unless he gets hurt, that is the basis. He's going to cost about the same as Norris next year. Unless they traded one of the set five starters, Lopez and Giolito would go into the year without a role. But yeah, it's an overpay in prospects to get a cost controlled player. I guess we have to hope Voth is ready to start 6 or 8 games in the majors, and that Fedde has no setbacks.

Bryceroni said...

This seems like a really weird win now move. 5 years of a player who doesn't reeeeealy fit properly.

I would rather have traded less for cutch and banked on a bounce back and still had some high quality cost controlled pitching.I would have rather traded less for blackmon.

ClassOf87 said...

Except the Pirates insisted on Robles for Cutch. If we could have gotten Blackmon without moving Robles and either of Giolito or Lopez,I would agree with you on Blackmon. But I have a feeling Colorado wouldn't have gone for that.

NotBobby said...

After reading a couple of articles on fangraphs i am feeling better and better about this trade. I wasn't against the trade, i just didn't think it would take all three of those guys to get him amd that i didnt think he was a true CF. What i see now is:

His bad defensive year in CF was while having a hurt shoulder. Maybe Rizzo sees that he really is a CF. OR this payroll flexibility helps with retaining Harper?

Five years of control is what i was looking for when trading guys like Lito and Lopez.

Being left-handed helps lineup construction.

Those five years are cheap!

In Rizzo We Trust

JW said...

Colorado apparently wants Stroman from Toronto for Blackmon. I think it would have taken an MLB player not prospects. Not necessarily Turner but maybe Ross. And I think shipping Giolito and Lopez indicates that the Nats either don't really believe in either of them or they really believe that Joe Ross is going to be good.

I like Eaton, better than Cutch in fact. It's still an overpay though. The only way I would move both Lopez and Giolito would have been to get back Eaton and pitching in return. That might have required additional pieces but I think both plus is too much for just one player that isn't an absolutely top shelf player. You have eliminated probably 50% of your pitching depth. That's not great news with the limited durability of some of the Nats pitchers.

I think the Nats are gonna be pretty bad come 2019 or 2020. But that's how it is sometimes. Almost a decade of being competitive is a very good thing as a fan.

Bryceroni said...

I hope given the money saved this means ownership splirges on Chapman. I don't love paying full price for a closer but there's not a lot left to spend money on. Encarnacion at first and push zim to the bench? Lol

Bryceroni said...

With a rebuild in the medium-term 5 years of Adam Eaton doesn't look so great... Just cost effextive