Nationals Baseball: Calling it

Friday, June 23, 2017

Calling it

Meant to do this after the weekend series vs the Mets but I'm calling the NL East all official like. Well ahead of schedule as last year I didn't call it until August 15th. That's like 2 months from now.

It's over. Plan your Octobers* accordingly.

Of course this comes with two major caveats
1) The Nationals don't suffer a series of major injuries. I don't think one injury changes anything but if say Murphy and Scherzer go down? Ok that might matter. 
2) This is based on the rosters as they currently stand. If the Braves say trade for Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana and Lorenzo Cain and JD Martinez then maybe they can catch the Nats. Otherwise? eh.

We're a little more than a week away from the half-way point of the season and the facts are clear. The Nats, despite their issues, are one of the best teams in baseball. The other teams in the NL East will have to fight to get to .500. This is all a repeat of probably a half-dozen other posts but consider this the topper. We're done talking about the NL East.

So how is everything else going? A month from the All-Star Game** with trade deadlines looming.

The Nats offensively are still coasting off their amazing start.  May was merely average and June was a more standard "best of the rest" type of season.  The line-up has really divided into have and have nots but the haves (Bryce, Murphy, Zimm, Rendon) have been so good that the have-nots (Wieters, Turner, whoever else in in OF) are hard to notice.  It's probably something the Nats are not going to address and that's fine. However a late season injury could tip things here making very good lineup into one that can be exploited.

The starting pitching is also an issue of the greatness covering for the mediocrity and honestly covering for the other not as great but still greatness. Max is fighting to be the best pitcher in baseball and has all the spotlights on him.  Strasburg though is right there with no issues to speak of.  Then things get dicey.  Gio's had his best year in a while but the stats suggest there are some smoke and mirrors involved. Roark is struggling not to be hit.  Ross and the gaggle of others can't hold onto the 5th spot. Unlike the line-up, these holes can't be hidden in the playoffs because Max and Stras can't start every game. The Nats struggled not having a 4th starter last year and it looks like they might have a similar issue this year. I'd expect them at least trying to pick up a 4/5 cheap at the deadline.

The bullpen... well you know. Oddly the middle of the pen - Treinen/Romero/Perez have settled in June, but anyone put in pressure still folds. For the sake of the psychology of the team this will have to be addressed, but just how it will be without taking the top off a system that is just fair will be interesting to see.

This all feels like rehashing I know, but I wanted a solid start to this new part of the season. The post divisional concerns part. That's where the Nats are right now because the NL East is all but won.

*Well at least the early part


NatsVA said...

If the Nats don't go all in at the trade deadline then I have zero confidence that the Lerners ever will. This is it.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, any trade suggestions for the Nats? I know you gave some general suggestions, but is there anyone in particular you recommend they pick up for either the 4/5 spot, or the pen?

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper/NatsVA: I honestly don't think that the Nats need to go "all in." None of the relievers that are available this year will require a Robles or Soto. They may not require a Fedde. Robertson was offered for ward and Lazardo. Sure, if Chapman or Jansen or kimbrel were available, you would need to package like---I dunno--Robles or Soto kieboom and Fedde. But let's say the Nats pick up Brad Hand and Robertson. (That would give them a strong pen IMO....Robertson in 9th, with hand as 8th and glover/Albers, etc for rest of game...) I really doubt that hand and Robertson will take top off system, ESPECIALLY if the Lerners absorb a bit of money. Now if the Nats wants Herrera plus Cain? Or somebody controllable like osuna? Sure that's different. And I wouldn't object to trading big time prospects for a controllable closer like that. But making the back of the bullpen solid isn't going to require Soto or Robles.

NatsVA said...

Good analysis. The Lerners have just made me so gun shy over the past few years, especially with these stories (like the recent Svrluga piece) about their spending/trading in regards to a closer this past offseason/constant deferrals/etc, that I am trying to be cautiously optimistic.

Fries said...


I think Herrera/Cain may be the Nats best bet. Taylor and Goodwin have been pleasant surprises, but at the very least we all know MAT is no more than a 4th outfielder (maybe Goodwin has finally figured it out though). He's not a starting CF for a ballclub with WS aspirations. So while we can talk about the pitching, we can't forget about the outfield.

So looking at CF rentals, Cain or Davis in Oakland would probably be the best bet since both clubs will probably be selling. I'd love to snag Maybin, but that depends on Trout's status come ASB.

The other approach may be to look for a CF/LF flex player since Werth will soon be gone. Then the price tag goes up, but you don't have to worry about spending during the offseason so it's a tradeoff that Rizzo and Co. will have to think about. So looking at CFs that are FAs after next season, Leonys Martin becomes an interesting target, though I don't know if the Mariners will be willing to move him.

Nats don't need a SP, but relief help and a CF are musts in my book

Anonymous said...

What is the "**" footnote supposed to be?

BxJaycobb said...

Fries: I don't think CF is a must for this year. The Nats are the best offense in the NL----they will at lease end the season as an excellent offense. Obviously it would be nice to add a CF like Cain as a rental, or an OF for 2 years (mccutchen would fit but is too pricey) long as the Nats get two strong arms for the pen I think they can win the WS. I would prefer that over one arm and a CF.

sirc said...

No to Kris Davis. He can't play any outfield position let alone man CF for a contender. The Nats are better off with MAT in CF than with Kris Davis. It's possible that if Werth is more injured than the team has said that Davis might be a viable option for LF. Again, his horrendous D might make him a wash with the Goodwin/Rayburn/Heisey combo.

BxJaycobb said...

@harper: I would argue that we have reached the point where it is no longer is warranted to wonder what the heck is the deal with Bryce. He had a 222 wRC+ in April. Since then he's at 112 wRC+. Note: "since then" is 1/3 of the baseball season. It's not like normal slump length. And as somebody who watches the games almost nightly, he looks like a different player. Different from 2015. Different from April. Whatever. Im sorry to say it, but I now feel like it is equally as likely that he drifts along to a .265/.370/.480 season as it is that he roars back to MVP form and finishes with something more like .290/.420/.600. Note: I'm not asking for 2015. I'm just asking that we don't watch another 2016. Because it's a downer when Bryce isn't awesome.....(plus of course this team isn't winning a World Series with a mediocre Bryce).

Jay said...

Why was Difo in CF last night? That was a complete disaster. He looked like a guy that had no idea what he was doing. Strasburg has a rough night in large part secondary to Difo in CF. At times I really do wonder what Dusty Baker is doing.

ssln said...

The Nats don't need an outfield rental to win the WS. MAT is more than acceptable on the defensive end and Cain's offensive production isn't that much better. Rizzo will wait to see how Solis performs before dealing with the trade market. The targets are likely to be Hand from the Padres and Wilson from the Tigers. Both have reasonably priced contracts and should cost no more than a couple of Double A prospects.
Forget about a big ticket add that lasts more than this year--Robertson. The Lerners are stockpiling money for Harp. Werth off the books this year and most of it going to Harp in a 460M 10 year contract in 2019.
Is Bryce worth it--an entirely different question.

BxJaycobb said...

That was literally the single dumbest move of the year, and there have been plenty to second guess. To begin with....why are we trying so hard to get difo's bat in the lineup? He can't hit at all. That's separate from the fact that he doesn't know how to play CF. weirdest thing ever. Dusty honestly is starting to make me think Rizzo/Lerners think he's losing it. (How about pinch hitting Lind against a LHP....whom he has never been able to touch....)

Kevin Hayden said...

Wilson/Hand makes sense. I wish they'd add Sonny Gray, who will do better in the NL and will have run support too.

In the meantime, is there any word at all on Glover?