Nationals Baseball: What the arbitration awards mean

Monday, January 16, 2017

What the arbitration awards mean

The Nats settled with everyone avoiding the possible "who can we dump this recalcitrant malcontent for" reaction from the team. That's good because the Nats needed all these players in one way or another. But beyond the fact they signed the actual awards are of interest because of what that means for the payroll.

The Nats expected payroll for 2017, that we were playing with, was set in part with the arbitration awards estimated by mlbtraderumors. They aren't perfect of course but they do a reasonable job. Where did things end up this year?

Lobaton : Est 1.6 M,  Got 1.57 M
Norris : Est 4.0 M,  Got 4.2 M
Roark : Est 6.1 M,  Got 4.32 M
Rendon : Est 6.4 M,  Got 5.8 M

Bryce : Est 9.3 M, Got 13.62 M

If you look at Lobaton, Norris and Rendon - those are pretty close. Rendon is the furthest off - around 10% but he might have been sold on taking a little less since the Nats arguably gave him a little more than they needed last year (2.8 when expectation was 2.5 again). This is all rough though so I consider it close enough.  In total for the three the estimate was 12 million and the Nats put up just over 11 and a half.

The hardest call for these types estimates is often the first call because you aren't working off a normal previous year salary as a base. That's where the Nats were with Roark. He was coming off a year making 500K+. So maybe he got underpaid, maybe he didn't. But any assumed saving they got for getting Roark under the estimate was blown out for Bryce. That's a big difference and the end result is that the money spent in arbitration looks like this :

Total Est 27.4 M,  Spent 29.51 M


That's 2 million more than expected. For an average team that shouldn't matter much but there's a palpable sense that the Nats have a 145-150 million payroll expectation for the 2017 season and right now they are right at that 150 million payroll. (assumes normal salary increases for pre-arbitration players) If the Nats were to bring back Drew and sign another arm... that's at least 5 million, probably closer to 8 if they are trying to keep these deals as one-year things. Are they Nats going to increase their payroll by 10 million over last season? I just don't believe so.

If I'm right the arbitration moves mean that the Nats are in one of two spots. They are going to either/or the last bench spot and bullpen arm - spending ~3million for one but not the other, or they are going to go cheap across the board - the Ackley / Hochevar future I imagined.

We'll see. I've was very mildly surprised last year when the Nats didn't follow-up acquiring Melancon with a dump trade of someone - meaning they added 2.5+M to their payroll.* So maybe they bite and do something similar here. That's all we're really talking about 2.5 or so more than they probably had envisioned as their ceiling.

*I'm sure though they desperately tried to get someone to take Papelbon in a way that took the payroll back down but no one wanted him for anything.

25 comments:

Chas R said...

I wonder how the MASN Mess affects the Nats budget? Do we think they would spend more if they had more TV revenues?

NotBobby said...

Chas - that is certainly the party line regarding MASN. Even if the Lerners could go higher, they would probably keep saying this and paying less than they can because they are playing the long game. They will make much more money in the long run if they can get a better cut of MASN, or scrapping MASN altogether and allowing them to make their own, rather than paying some more money now to put a slightly better product on the field.

Harper said...

what NotBobby said. They would spend more if they had more but it's not like they can't spend more now. It's generally agreed that the way they do the payroll now - set around 150 now and all the deferred money deals - is to avoid looking like they are fine with the deal in place now. Even though they probably are.

Jay said...

So does that mean as a fan I shouldn't bother watching until the MASN thing is resolved. It doesn't seem to be close to being resolved right now. The commish won't say boo to Angelos, so they're sort of in a holding pattern at the moment. Does anyone really think that holding off on spending is going to make any difference what so ever in how the MASN thing turns out. Angelos is going to litigate them to death and bury them in paperwork.

I'm a little frustrated here. Harper is here for 2 more years. He will likely leave at that point to play for either LA or NY. You don't trade for Eaton and give up the prospects they gave up in that deal to do nothing else. Otherwise, it takes a suspect deal and makes it horrible. Did anyone read about Jansen's comments that before his wedding it "looked like I was headed to Washington". LA added a year to their offer and the rest is history. It seems like the Nats still haven't recovered from that unexpected move. I still say that if they do nothing else then the Eaton move was horrible.

DezoPenguin said...

I think that saying you should give up watching baseball because your team's payroll is $150M in a world where the last three American League pennants were won by Kansas City, Kansas City, and Cleveland is possibly overstating it. On paper, the Nationals are roughly equal to the Giants and Dodgers and given that they play in a division where three teams are still solidly subpar, look like 90 wins is a low-end prediction. Sure, they're not the Cubs. Neither is anyone else.

As someone who's been following this team since 1979, trust me, the idea that our predicted worst-case scenario is "a winning team that just misses out on the division title because of injuries and random baseball events" does not fill me with despair, no matter how much I wish we had two or three reliable bullpen arms and a better utility infielder.

NotBobby said...

The Nats are still considered one of the best teams in MLB with the roster as it is! The only team that has a better 2017 vegan odds of winning the WS are the Cubs at 3-1, Nats are tied with Dodgers and Red Sox at 10-1. Exactly how good on paper do the Nats need to be for you to commit to watching them?

NotBobby said...

Vegas, not vegan, sorry. and that comment was for Jay...

sirc said...

The Nats did try and spend a lot of money. It happened a month ago. People act like it didn't happen. It isn't Rizzo's fault that Malancon chose SF and Jansen chose LA.

NotBobby said...

Harper - did you come up with what RP still available is your favorite at the market price?

blovy8 said...

I suspect some player's price may come down to the point where the Nats can pick them up - lots of unsigned pitching out there. The Drew of 2016 may be a mirage anyway, apart from the uncertainty regarding his vertigo. Another thriftily spent 6-8 million could really improve the roster.

Unknown said...

NotBobby....I like to think you did mean "vegan," but just confused it with "gluten free." Sorry, couldn't resist....

Unknown said...

NotBobby....I like to think you did mean "vegan," but just confused it with "gluten free." Sorry, couldn't resist....

Harper said...

Agree with everyone saying "don't get down" It can be frustrating to see the Nats leave edges undone to save a couple million but the reality is that they are still favorites to win East, still likely to make playoffs. We're grumbling about maybe not getting the whipped cream and cherry on top of a well crafted sundae

sirc - yes but that doesn't mean that the payroll would have been expanded. There was apparently a deal in place to dump Gio to the Yankees that I assume would have gone through if any big signings were made. It's just a hypothetical sure, but so is signing those guys until it happens.

Not Bobby - not yet. Wednesday

Jay said...

You guys are right. I will take the current Nats over the old 100-loss Nats obviously. However, my point is that they do need some bullpen help in my opinion. I don't trust Treinen in the 9th and I don't trust Kelley to be able to throw often enough with his injury history.

I do trust Rizzo though. I was going back through old trades. The only semi-legitimate player the Nats have given up is Robby Ray (and that is debatable). It's just a shame the Nats didn't trade Giolitto for Andrew Miller straight up at the trade deadline last year.

Also, I haven't been following the Nats since '79, but I have followed them since they came to DC. I was even an Astros fan back in the Jose Lima days bc there was a rumor the Astros were moving to northern VA if they didn't build a new stadium.

Sheriff said...

EXACTLY

Anonymous said...

"The only semi-legitimate player the Nats have given up is Robby Ray (and that is debatable)."

I trust Rizzo too. He won more than his fair share of trades, but he is not "undefeated".

- Rizzo traded Sandy Leon to Boston for cash considerations. Leon finished last seaosn batting .310. Nationals could use a catcher.

- Rizzo traded Felipe Rivero for a rental. Prior to Baker's over use, Rivero was talked about as a future closer. Rivero was under team control through 2021. Nationals reminded us this off season how strongly they believe in quality guys under team control.


entryleveljobscam said...

Good post.

Jay said...

Would that be Sandy Leon who hit .269 after the All Star break. The same guy who hit .216 in September and .100 in the playoffs. There is debate among Boston fans if Sandy Leon should even be starting for them next year. Rivero does have a lot of upside and he is controllable. His problem is consistency. He had an ERA of over 6 in September. He'd have stretches where he was dominant and stretches - like that San Diego game last year where he couldn't get anyone out. And I agree that Baker overused him last year.

You are right though. Those trades may come back to look bad for the Nats. I really worry how the Eaton trade might look. Looks like the plan may have been to trade for Eaton. Use the money saved to sign Jansen. Since Jansen went back to LA it looks much different now. Again, time will tell. Yet another reason to sign Holland. If it doesn't work out, it just costs money and not prospects.

Anonymous said...

"He had an ERA of over 6 in September"

You likely mean June. Rivero blew up his ERA in June. Rivero did well in September ... for the Pirates.

Rivero's ERA in 2015 was 2.79. (Managed by Williams)
Rivero's ERA for the Nats in 2016 was 4.53. (Managed by Baker)
Rivero's ERA for the Pirates in 2016 was 3.29. (Managed by Hurdle)

Melancon's ERA for the Pirates in 2016 was 1.51. (Managed by Hurdle)
Melancon's ERA for the Nats in 2016 was 1.82. (Managed by Baker)

Some of that has to be on Baker. He tends to overuse his favorites. Two separate times in late 2016, Baker pitched Melancon five times over a six day period. And this was during a fairly easy pennant race, imagine what Dusty would do during a heated pennant race.

Jay said...

I don't disagree that Dusty tends to overuse bullpen guys. ESPN lists Rivero as giving up 8 runs in 11 1/3 innings in September for the Pirates. Thus the ERA of over 6. He did well in August with an ERA under 1. (.64 to be exact). Again, Rivero is a good bullpen arm. Someone I wish the Nats had not traded, but they pretty much had to go get Melancon bc Papelbon was done. I am not surprised that Papelbon has not signed with anyone since.

The worry about Melancon is that his velocity is slowly decreasing and he doesn't miss bats. I think that is why the Nats pushed much harder to get Jansen. However, they didn't really push that hard for Melancon. Offering $10 million less than the Giants. It's a no brainer for Melancon to sign with the Giants. I think they did push hard for Jansen. Jansen mentioned in an interview with Dodgers beat person that before his wedding on Curacao that it looked like he was headed to Washington. The Dodgers increased their offer another year and he went back to LA.

This offseason looks much different if they sign Jansen. Anyway, I am still hopeful they sign Greg Holland. Even though I have seen on several different sites that the closer role now my be Treinen's to lose.

blovy8 said...

I'm thinking there has to be some extra payroll room possible with the proper argument from Rizzo. Jansen would have cost more than Gio per season, hell, Melancon would have too. Perhaps a ton of deferred money would be involved to make it less so, but I doubt Jansen would have been as close to signing as the quote indicates if there were a lot less value up front. Is Jansen and a decent prospect or a couple of C prospects at best (coming back in a cost-cutting deal) worth the extra $$ and the necessity of getting a fifth starter better than Cole at a cut rate? Would they need to slough off even more salary to do that, and if so, from where, to get a fifth starter? There's no way you can punt that spot and have that many question marks in the rotation to go with the bullpen lottery we may be witnessing. They would also be losing the bonus value and the player they'd have from 1st round slot as well.

Jay said...

The latest from Jim Bowden (take with a grain of salt). The Nats are still interested in Wieters and Holland but they went way over budget on the spring training complex in Florida, so they may not have the money. I am not making this up. Bryce Harper responded on the tweeter that Wieters and Holland are more important than the team store. "Matt Wieters/Greg Holland>Team Store"

Also, Keith Law has the Nats farm system as 22nd in the league. Down from 15 last year.

Chas R said...

@Jay- UGH... Lerner's are one of the richest owners in MLB... screw the budget

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected about the September ERA over 6. Should be noted that the bulk of that was due to one outing against the Nats where Rivero gave up 5 runs. Minus that outing, the ERA would be 3.27.

If a reliever does not have it on a given night, and the manager leaves him in there to take one for the team, at what point do the runs go on the manager. I know the counter argument - all player's stats would be higher if we could remove their worst outing. But in terms of Rivero's consistency, his September numbers aren't as bad as they might initially look.


We seem to agree more than we disagree. Rivero was a bad trade, but a trade that had to made given the circumstances. This is why I hope the reliever situation for 2017 is sorted out prior to season start, so that Rizzo isn't forced to make another sub-optimal trade because the other GM has all the leverage.

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