So yesterday a series of what may be unfortunate events happened
Jim Bowden tweeted that the Nationals remaining post-season moves could be affected by the cost of their Spring Training complex.
Bryce Harper tweeted saying signing Weiters and Holland was more important than building a team store (in pithy millennial tweet talk). Note that both these guys are Boras clients so take that as you will.
Adam Eaton tweeted he agreed.
Chelsea Janes got on it and wrote something up where the team basically said "No." and the logic of the "No." answer seems to make the most sense.
But who knows! You wouldn't think one would affect the other but then again the Lerners are famously penurious when it comes to spending. (Those CHEEEEEEEEEP shouts didn't come from nothing. They came from a fear that the Lerners business spending would manifest in the payroll). So I can't rule it out. Especially with my standard no reporting on the subject because I'm not a reporter. I'll lean though to believing the Nats because I already thought they wouldn't spend more than a few million more. It's not about the Spring Training complex. It's about the plan they likely already had in place.
OK so a few million to spend. Where to put it? Today let's say that money is going to a reliever. Who would I like to see? Do the Nats even need it?
Let's answer the second question first. Generally a bullpen NEEDS three guys. I mean yes it needs more because of usage patterns, injuries, etc. but your average ML team can get by with three solid arms and make up the rest as you go along. Do they have that? Let's look at all the Nationals pitchers that threw... I'll say without looking 35 IP or more last year. Hey that worked out well! Huzzah for me!
Anyway gone are Papelbon (35 IP), Rivero/Melancon (49.2+29.2=79.1), Petit (62), and Belisle (46)*. That's 222 relief inning that have to be made up by someone. Jesus that's a lot more innings than I thought.
Who's back? Perez, who will be a LOOGY type I imagine, although neither his career numbers or his recent numbers suggest he's all that great in that role. If he's not a LOOGY he's likely a blah arm with bad potential. He gets hit hard, and has terrible control. If he's lucky the walks aren't terrible and he K's his way out of jams. But he's not someone to rely on.
So that leaves us with Kelley, Treinen, and Solis and ONLY these three. If these three aren't all solid then the Nats don't even have the "sneak by with" level of pen.
The good news is Kelley is good. Fancy stat review K rate great. Walk rate great. A little fluky LOB% but not crazy probably balance by a little higher than expected HR/FB. Nothing worrying in type or hardness of hits against. No, this guy passes the solid reliever test, no doubt. Of course the last time we saw him he was walking off the mound in pain grabbing his arm so how much you want to rely on him is a valid question but in the general "1 of 3" sense? I'm good.
We've been told for years that Treinen is good but haven't actually seen it in action until last year. Fancy stats have same fluky LOB% though Treinen's high HR/FB rate isn't historically off like Kelley's was. He may just be the type to give up homers. So there's less of a thought that that's balanced. His K rate isn't great. His walk rate is way too high. So how does Treinen survive? A silly high GB rate, almost 2/3rds of all balls hit off him were on the ground and ground balls are hard to hit for XBH. Looking at the type and hardness it seems like Treinen is an on/off type. When he's on - soft grounder. When he's off he'll walk guys and give up a hard hit. Last year he had more "on" outings than "off" but in 2015 the GB percentage was nearly as high (62.7%) and with a little less luck with BABIP and LOB% he was merely ok. I think it's a stretch to expect Treinen will repeat 2016. But that's not the question. The question is "is he solid"? I'll go with yes. I think he'll fall between 2016 (almost no blow-ups) and 2015 (like a blow-up every 4th time out) and will be solid enough.
What about Solis? K-rate is good. Walk rate isn't. Nothing weird for LOB% or BABIP, but a crazy low HR/FB rate (3.1%) especially for a guy that's not a GB pitcher. Expect that to change. There isn't much to go on with Solis. You can't look at minor league stats - he barely pitched anywhere long enough since being converted to a reliever. I suppose with my arm twisted I'd kind of view him like Treinen, unlikely to put up 2016 again but likely to be solid enough. One thing I do want to check first - is there a handedness thing going on here. Because your third guy can't be a LOOGY.... nope not really. He's better against lefties but faced a lot of righties too and was good enough against them.
So I guess the Nats just get in under the bar. They do have three solid arms. However looking deeper that's almost all you can say about them. Treinen and Solis are nothing more than solid. Kelley is better than that but has to be considered an injury risk. Running with these three and what's behind them is pressing your luck. (Another thing - these guys are sneaky aged. Not old, aged. The youngest is Solis who will turn 29 in August. There isn't a young guy breaking out here).
There is one more thing though. I said that this is what an average ML team could get by with. The Nats have found the absolute lowest possible acceptable bar for a major league pen for any team. But the Nats don't aspire to be "any team" or an average team. They want to be more. What's ok for a 79-83 team is likely not ok for a playoff contender. Given that I'd have to say - yes, the Nats need another reliable arm. I think it would be wise to get another very good arm to be your closer or #2 and knock Treinen and Solis back a peg. Not a shock I know but it's always worth going through the process.
OK this is long so arms tomorrow.
Finishing touch - I knew Little Jimmy O'Hara (that's how he likes to be called I hear) wrote about this a few days ago so I wanted to go back and see if we landed in the same general area. Pretty much. Kelley is legit good. Treien and Solis are fine. He balks at them being the 2nd and 3rd guys in the pen and has them as more "others". I can see that. I kind of think they baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarely qualify where they are.
*for those curious Lopez is at 44 but started a bunch, Cole at 38 and only started. Glover would be next pure reliever at 19.2. Rzep only pitched 11.2 innings for Nats.