Nationals Baseball: Dodgers get better, Cubs already great

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dodgers get better, Cubs already great

Yesterday the Dodgers made a deal and got Logan Forsythe.  If you aren't familiar with him it's not your fault. He's played for some terrible teams and was mostly forgettable. But in 2015, at age 28, something clicked and he became a decent batter. The difference seems to be mostly learning what pitches in the zone to attack and which to let go but anyway evaluating him isn't the point. The point is the Dodgers addressed their one glaring issue and in my mind put themselves clearly ahead of the Nationals.

Why exactly are the Dodgers a better bet than the Nationals? Well before this I thought they were pretty equal. Yes, the catcher situation for the Dodgers is better. Yes, the pen a little better too given it is anchored by Jansen. And yes their bench is better with the at least decent OF/1B back ups you would expect from a healthy Ethier and Van Slyke. But the Dodgers rotation is still a huge injury risk to the point where an injury should not be feared, but expected. The Nats have the potential of Bryce to be much better sitting out there. And while the Nats have Zimmerman dragging down the line-up at first, the Dodgers had the probably worse with certainly less hope of being better Enrique Hernandez pencilled in at second. I felt it could be argued that the latter cancelled out the former. But now that 2nd is manned by the competent Forsythe I don't feel that's the case.

The Nats already should face an uphill climb for HFA and any playoff favorite slot with the Cubs sitting out there. Their bench players; Schwarber, John Jay, Montero, La Stella, could start for some teams. Their second oldest bat will be the 27 year old Jason Heyward. Their 6th man in the pen (I see it as Grimm) is comparable to a Treinen/Solis type. That team should win 100 games again. The Nats are clearly not as good as the Cubs.

What does this mean for a 5 or 7 game series in October? Not much. The Nats were clearly better than the Giants in 2014 and Cardinals in 2012 and where did that get them? The Cubs were clearly the best last year and came innings away from losing to a solid but ailing Cleveland team. But when your fanbase is desperate for a playoff series win conceding the "pre-season" 1st and 2nd spots in your league just feels wrong.

And the thing is - the Nats can't do much about this now. They can't bring in a big bat to kick Zimm out like they should. They can't find a closer. And maybe that's for the best because those things can potentially derail the Nats "consistently good enough" plan that keeps them in the playoff hunt annually. But they can improve the bench and pen to the point where you might like those more than the Dodgers (yes even with Jansen) and for a relatively low cost and with little impact on the future put themselves back on par given the usual expected injuries for a team.

This isn't asking the Nats to trade Robles for a middle relief arm, or to sign the slightly better than what we have Weiters to a 5 year deal. It's bringing in some bench and pen guys on a couple year, couple million dollar a year contracts. To me it's a no brainer.

29 comments:

Fries said...

It's so hard to be optimistic with the glaring issues the Nats have. I just have to keep telling myself that this offense/rotation are still REALLY good

But damn I really want the Nats to trade for Dozier, slide Murph to 1st, and then let Zimm and Werth duke it out for LF during spring training. But I also know Dozier's price is wayyyyy too high. We're going to have a black hole at C, it would be nice not to also have a black hole at 1st

Anonymous said...

Fries, I think you expect too little from Norris. His year last year was as bad as Ramos's was great. I do not think it is unrealistic for him to be more in line with his past norms, which is pretty much right in line with what Ramos norms have been (excluding last year), but without the injuries and missed time we had from Ramos. Our catching situation should be average or better than middle of the pack. If it is not, we will get to see more of Severino in the second half.

As for Zim... hope and pray. He just may have another year or two of greatness in that worn down body of his.... but he may not.

If the Nats get anything at all from Werth, Zim, & Norris they could be a very good line-up. If not, we still have Turner, Eaton, HARPER, Murphy, and Rendon to carry the load. With our starting pitching, that is still good enough to win a lot of games... if the bullpen can handle closing the door.

Harper said...

They 100% won't be bad. They are almost certain to be good. They are very likely to be very good, with most alternate scenarios based on injuries. They could be great.

The problem isn't the team as much as the bar has been raised, fair or not.

ClassOf87 said...

There is certainly merit in waiting for the price to come down on some of the remaining FAs, and we may be sitting here in a month saying how smart Rizzo and the Lerners were for keeping their powder dry. But, Jeebus, it's hard to wait all winter for more than one significant move. I'm okay with taking a flier on Holland, but if they don't get him...well, see Jeebus above.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat unrelated question - why is there no Eaton merch available yet? Seems like it could've brought in some extra money since his acquisition

JE34 said...

Help me Jeebus!

If Holland signs elsewhere, it will again feed the narrative monster about missing out on FA talent (which is only quieted by success). I'd like to see him in a Nats uniform too (b/c of potential upside, and it's not my checkbook), but I am deeply suspicious of the insistence on the 2-year-with-opt-out that's he's seeking. "My arm might fall off, so I want two years of money. But I might be awesome, so I also want to chase a bigger pile after year 1." It can be difficult for me to sympathize with bajillionaire owners, but this looks to be one of those cases.

Off topic: I'm currently reading Frederic Frommer's book, "You Gotta Have Heart" about the history of DC baseball (primarily focused on the Nats/Senators, with some discussion of the Homestead Grays as well). Very interesting and informative. I didn't realize that the Senators' WS win came on a bad hop single in the 12th inning of Game 7... after tying the game on another bad hop single in the 8th inning.

PhthePhillies said...

JE34
Damn Senators : My Grandfather and The Story of Washington's Only World Series Championship, By Mark Judge offers a thrilling account of the '24 series. One of the most exciting of all time.
The account of Johnson's performance in game 7 is especially inspiring and heroic.

Harper, I agree the Nats can be good. But I am not as confident as you that they will be. They're fragile, very fragile. One or 2 injuries or poor performances away from mediocrity. They lack depth, especially in the bullpen but also in the rotation and the bench. But I guess I am stating the obvious.

I still feel that the bullpen could be very good with a solid closer to anchor it. I wonder if offering Holland a million or two more than he's worth (whatever that may be) for one year is a reasonable approach.

Josh Higham said...

Jon Heyman tweeted yesterday, "things appear to be heating up for greg holland. final 3 teams may be: rockies, nats and a mystery team"

If I thought I had closer stuff, it would take a stupid amount of money for me to sign with Colorado. So if Holland goes there, it's pretty certain they pay more than would make sense for the Nats to pay (or offer that ridiculous one year with player option contract). If he goes to a mystery team, it's pretty certain the Nats will never get a free agent closer again. Those are the two obvious conclusions, as I see them.

Harper said...

The only way they are 2 injuries from mediocrity is if those two injuries are Scherzer and Murphy and nothing else changes from last year.

KW said...

My wish list: Drew (because I don't trust Difo as a MLB hitter, or particularly defensively at SS); Logan Morrison as a cheaper (and lower K) alternative to Brandon Moss as an upgrade on CRob for Zim/Werth replacement/platoon; Travis Wood as another bullpen LHP who could also be a 6th starter (better option there than Cole) (Wood played for Dusty in Cincy); and Holland if he's available for under $5M (that's my risk/reward line on him). Total package: ~$10-12M.

And please trade Taylor while you're at it. If he's around, Dusty will feel compelled to play him.

Paul Hewitt said...

In 2015, the injury bug year, the Nats went into the season as consensus WS favorites. I think this year's team is better. But the title of your blog, Harper, says it all: other teams are getting better (and not just in the NL Central and West). Barring injuries, and with a bounce from Zim -- whose low hitting angle should be fixable -- getting to the playoffs seems a good bet.

Opening day rosters are one thing, but in-season opportunities do open up. At the beginning of 2016, acquiring Malancon would have been more expensive than it later turned out to be. It's likely, as the season develops, that other teams will put their top relievers on the market, as Pittsburgh did. Imponderable, perhaps; but likely.

That and some of the players now flying below the radar are bound to surprise positively, as Ramos, Turner and Murphy did, or step down, like Giolito and MAT did. My candidates for a step-up are Goodwin and Cole. Inshallah.

KW said...

Constructing a team is tricky because you HAVE to build it for the long haul of the regular season. If you spend too much on luxury items with an eye toward the postseason, you often don't even get there (witness the Nats in '13 and '15 and many seasons of Harper's beloved Yankees).

Once you get to the playoffs, they're not a total crapshoot, but there's a serious crapshoot element to them. A Rajai Davis moment can change the course of history (or almost). A Daniel Murphy can hit 50% of his regular season HR total (unfortunately in '15, but not in '16). Or you can be like the Nats and go into the playoffs without your #1A starter and one of your best hitters (Ramos). It happens.

The Nats lost Ramos but added Eaton and will have Turner for a whole season. I'm not comfortable with their situation at catcher, but Wieters is no solution. Does the bullpen have "enough"? It's hard to know. Treinen, Solis, and Glover all have "closer stuff," so perhaps they and Kelley can share the role and not put too much of a burden on any one arm. We'll see.

The Nats are "good enough" to make the playoffs. If they have 2015 Bryce and 2016 Murph and Trea, in addition to Eaton and Rendon, they could do some damage. The better team on paper doesn't always win. It might be interesting to see how the Nats perform as a underdog.

And yes, while the Cubs look very strong on paper, they had miraculous rotation health last year. The back end of their rotation this year looks suspect, as does Wade Davis's arm. But if they can score eight runs a game, it might not matter, . . . at least until they get in tighter games against a good pitching staff in the playoffs.

blovy8 said...

KW, I hope you're right, those are pretty good roster suggestions. I don't believe Drew's 2016 should be expected again, but leaving the SS depth at AAA as Burriss is pretty scary - I'd much rather Difo get at-bats against veteran junk down there while getting used to all the infield positions, and be ready. That's about what Taylor deserves too, but he's at the point where he needs to make adjustments that AAA won't help him do, and he has no value except in a challenge trade situation where a different flawed prospect has worn out his welcome. Just a new set of problems, but might also be a way to get a different bullpen piece. My problem with Morrison is that doesn't move Taylor out of the OF while Moss could play some out there. Robinson at least has quality at bats with admittedly mediocre results. It's also starting to look like Lind would only need a minor-league deal with an opt-out date, so that could be Robinson competition if Moss is too expensive, which is probable.

KW said...

FWIW, Morrison came up with the Marlins as a LF and played there exclusively his first season . . . but has strayed only rarely from 1B since then. Dan Jennings should be able to give the Nats a good rundown on his capabilities. Moss strikes out way, way, way too much for me.

I share concerns that Drew can duplicate his '16 numbers. I just don't see a lot of other options among the still-available INFs who have the capability to play SS. Aybar is about the only other one I see who can hit. Difo's AA numbers were not good. There's nothing there to indicate that he can hit in the majors.

NotBobby said...

MLBTR says Holland close to signing with Rockies. Really hope they pay an arm and a leg on a one year deal for him.

Josh Higham said...

I've taken the "at least the Nats aren't overpaying for FAs" position all winter, but it's really grinding on me that apparently every team is more appealing than the Nats. I'm more and more convinced all the time that the Lerners are irrationally playing the TV dispute game at the expense of winning now, even while they don't seem to mind paying Max and Stras an outrageous amount.

Bjd1207 said...

@Josh Higham - And even teams like the Rockies who aren't especially competitive. Like...Holland was worth it to them but wouldn't be to a team in contention? There's something big we're missing

NotBobby said...

Josh - agree. I keep thinking in rizzo we trust, but it is difficult. I am starting to wonder if Rizzo is keeping his hard line on true value or if maybe Rizzo is undervaluing free agents? Time after time it seems someone else is willing to pay more. But I guess it only takes one?

Jay said...

I have no idea what they are doing. I agree that I worry the Lerners are playing up the we can't pay angle. Almost like they are checking in on players they have no intention of signing but can then say "oh, we couldn't afford him. help us MASN." I really worry that the game plan this offseason was overpay for Eaton (which I still think they did in a big way) and then sign Jansen. When that didn't happen they seem to have thrown their hands in the air and said oh well. Going into the year with this bullpen and bench is not a good idea. Hoping to trade for a closer mid-season is not a good idea. Who are they going to give up in trade??

Losing out on Holland to the Rockies with a vesting option (which is actually a smart way to do it for the Rockies) makes me doubt the Nats negotiating ability in general. He is a ONE year risk. If he is good then his option vests and you have him for another year. If he stinks, it's a ONE year contract. Again, this smells of the Lerner stories where they refuse to budge off of some preconceived notion of what THEY are willing to pay and ignoring what the market may bear. Harper himself has stated before that a one year contract is little to no risk since it's only for the one year.

KW said...

Don't count me among those crying about "losing" Holland. Dude only threw 88-89 at his "showcase." I only thought he might be worth the risk at a deep discount. I don't think this has anything to do with players diss'ing the Nats. It has everything to do with Rizzo being a wary shopper.

Jay said...

KW
I read 89-90, but you make a good point. If Rizzo feels he is not worth the money then that makes sense. I am still hopeful they will add to their bullpen and bench. My biggest fear is that they feel they are already good enough.

KO said...

I have to imagine that the Rox got Holland only to flip him at the deadline for a good prospect or two. Theyre not extremely competitive yet but Holland should have a lot of value at the deadline and can get them a good prospect and will only cost half a years salary.

John C. said...

And even teams like the Rockies who aren't especially competitive. Like...Holland was worth it to them but wouldn't be to a team in contention? There's something big we're missing

Perhaps that the Rockies' offseason strategy is incoherent? This is the team, remember that not only dropped a big contract on Ian Desmond to play first base (?) but also punted the #11 overall pick to do it. Crazy.

Josh Higham said...

I read that the scouts generally thought his velocity wasn't a problem. From MLBTR:

"Sherman writes that scouts came away feeling optimistic in that regard after seeing 35 pitches. Though the typically fireballing righty sat in the 89 to 90 mph range with his fastball, he’s obviously still building up arm strength."

31-year-old coming off injury is unlikely to be the same guy he was in 2014, but it doesn't seem like people in the business expect him to be throwing Bartolo-cheese for long.

Jay said...

Colorado signed him for $7 million plus a vesting option. Again, not a big risk or money outlay. I don't understand what they are doing, but I'll continue to trust Rizzo.

blovy8 said...

I guess we also have to ask how many damaged guys they should have in the pen - Glover has the hip, Kelley has his finger numbness episodes, Solis never seemed to be able to go back-to-back days without soreness. Are they really going to count on another guy with issues? Do we move on to preparing to be disappointed about not signing Romo next? He can replace Espinosa's spring training beard, at least.

Bjd1207 said...

@blovy8 - You've definitely got a point, but isn't 3 damaged guys in the pen still better than 2? If the guys we have already are damaged, that just reinforces the need for more arms in general.

And there may be reasons for the Holland signing that would bring me in line with the Nats decision, I don't know enough about it. But I'm getting more and more antsy the more arms go off the market

DezoPenguin said...

$7M guaranteed, up to $14M with incentives for Holland, they're reporting. Not sure if that just means the vesting option or something else. But wow, that's a lot of money for a guy who hasn't pitched in a year.

That said: Blanton, Belisle, and Wood are all out there. Snagging a couple of them would make things a lot more comfortable. I'm not so much worried about the quality of guys like Kelley, Treinen, or Glover, but the quantity. Someone like Wood as long man would let Cole stay stretched out in AAA as a 6th/7th starting option (the rotation is great, but depth under the top 5 is an issue), and I don't have a lot of faith in Solis, Gott, and Perez, either.

KW said...

John, I basically had the same thought about what the Rockies are doing, as in "what the heck are they doing"?

Dezo, I like all the guys you named. Belisle was sneaky good last year and probably would come back on a minor-league deal with ST invite. I hope they're also looking at Blanton and Wood. At this time of the offseason, the prices should be coming down.