Nationals Baseball: Starting Offensive Targets

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Starting Offensive Targets

There's a lot of starting pitchers out there! As a break to myself we'll go over the offensive players the Nats could go after first. The same rules apply to today as yesterday.  The big difference between relief pitchers and offensive players is that young, good, contract controlled offensive players that have already played in the majors are rarely offered up in trade outside of rentals. That's doubly true mid-season.  That means the guys available are usually either old, expensive, or both and also still cost a fair amount in prospects. It doesn't mesh well with the Nats trading philosophy.  I believe the best mid-season Rizzo offensive deal was for Kurt Suzuki.

Why is this? Because offensive players are generally more impactful and more reliable. That makes them the players you build around. Relief pitchers are not that. Having a relief problem is bad, but it is solvable through mid-season trade. That can't always be said about offensive problems*

Alex Avila & Kurt Suzuki - Hey! Suzuki! Both these guys are FAs next year and making next to nothing baseball-wise in 2017 (2M and 1.2M) Alex Avila is having his best year in a long while and is vastly intriguing because he may be a product of the "launch angle era" He's a player who has always hit the ball hard, and because of it has always had a good BABIP. But being a slow catcher anything on the ground that could be reached was sure to be an out. This year he's hitting far fewer GBs (and striking out less). Of course like any good ballplayer Avila believes that he's just hitting fewer ground balls than he ever has in his career because he's healthy.  Sound familiar? If it's real you got yourself a great C bat. Defensively he's good behind the plate but has gone down as a framer in a way that you probably buy it being real. Suzuki is also having a minor resurgence but his is less revelatory. He's hitting more flyballs and a few more left the park than usual. Since he doesn't seem to be hitting the ball harder that's probably more luck than a real change. Which means Suzuki isn't a slightly above average bat but a slightly below one which is unsurprisingly what he's been his whole career.

The Nats are committed to Wieters for another season. They have to be, that's the contract. Because of that I don't think they will make a move at catcher.  That's fine as long as Wieters stays healthy. Avila is interesting but a gamble. Suzuki probably isn't much different than Wieters. But Lobaton is a garbage back-up.  Back-ups don't play that much so in theory it doesn't matter but if Wieters goes down the Nats are in big trouble.

JD Martinez & Andrew McCutchen & Justin Upton & Melky Cabrera & Jay Bruce & Curtis Granderson & Nick Markakis  - All these guys are expensive. Let's get that out of the way. We're talking contracts over 10 million which makes it unlikely that the Nats will pick these guys up. Another strike against them is that there isn't a slick fielding CF here,* which is what the Nats need right now if they are going to bother to bring in an outfielder.Why list these guys then? Well because conceivably the Nats could use another OF next year as Werth departs. So grabbing a guy now for then... well it's a classic Rizzo think ahead move. They may like MAT enough not to do this and a Bryce, MAT, Eaton OF would be very solid defensively. Then again a very good and reliable bat might be too much to pass up.

Upton is not coming. He's a good bat and decent enough in the corner but his contract goes on forever. There's no way the Nats will pay it or the Tigers will eat enough of it.  Even though you get him next year and the Braves might eat some salary, Markakis makes little sense as he's not good defensively and only average at the plate. Bruce, Granderson, Martinez, and Cabrera are all rentals who head to FA next year. Martinez is the prize - a very good hitter who's been consistent. Bruce and Granderson are what they are - which is dependable. Cabrera is declining but still better than average. None of them, though, are even pretend CFs so picking them up means shifting Bryce. Martinez is probably the only bat you do that for but as the "best available" he will likely go for a lot to someone more desperate for help.

This leave McCutchen. He can play CF. He has bounced back offensively. He has a team option for 2018.  The Nats had flirted with getting him and not Eaton in the off-season. If If anyone fits it's Andrew. But do I see the Nats doing it? I don't know. I think if the price is right, they could be tempted. Honestly I don't think the price will be too high but I think the Nats will have expended too much toward pitching to really make an honest play here.

Zack Cozart - It makes sense for the Reds to trade Cozart. He's a FA next year having a career year at 31 out of line with his history. You are trading high on something you very likely won't keep. He's a good defender as well so even if his bat declines in the second half back to his average history you are still getting an overall positive player. Oh, and did I mention he's making relative peanuts (5M) for this package? The good news for the Nats, if they are interested, is that the demand for SSs among contenders is low.** The cost for Cozart should not be pushed up by competing bids unlike starting and relief pitching.

If trading for anything outside of pitching, this is where I see the Nats going toward. You could even stick Trea back in the OF if you needed, when he came back.  All this being said the fit is not perfect. I can see them doing this but only if one of two things happen. They totally strike out getting pitching somehow or Turner is not coming back this season.  Both these things seems unlikely, so even the best starting offensive target remains a stretch for the Nats which is probably for the best.

*That's Lorenzo Cain who's team right now is not ready to give up 
**The same could be said for OFs but you can always stick a McCutchen somewhere or shift your worst fielding OF to DH in the AL.  


NotBobby said...

I would love putting a package together to get Wilson and Martinez from the Tigers. It would make Nat better and keep him from the Cards and their devil magic. With Martinez they might win the Central and give me major indigestion.

But, there are a couple problems. One is the cost, but the biggie is Werth. If Werth comes back, you do not want a Werth, Harper, Martinez OF. Werth is only palatable in OF bc Harper and Eaton/MAT are out there to make up the extra ground. Plus, i do not see Werth taking a playing time cut very well. He has a lot of pride and is a clubhouse leader. He wants to be on the field.

Maybe Werth would take it if Nats extend him and he accepts being a 4th OF/bench bat and help the young OFers? Not sure if he is that kind of guy. I think he will go to AL to play the field and DH and keep starter ABs...

The Nets offense with JDMart would be AMAZING. And the cost shouldn't be Robles (tho of course they would ask for him). Maybe Tigers like Soto and we give two more middling prospects?) But, Werth is the stumbling block here. He would need to accept what that means...

Anonymous said...

I think McCutchen actually makes a lot of sense here. McCutchen plays CF for the stretch run and slides to LF in 2017. MAT can't be the centerpiece of the deal, but I wonder if you could include him in it to lower the prospect price a bit? I don't think the Nats do this because (1) their resources are needed for the bullpen; and (2) the pirates' asking price will probably be too high to get a deal done with anybody. But if the Pirates are realistic about what 1.5 years of McCutchen at $21 million is worth, I think there is a fit.

Fries said...


I'm interested to see what will happen with Werth. He's not your classic DH bat, so finding an AL team who'd take him may be tricky. And because I don't think he'll take a 4th OF spot, I honestly wonder if he might just "retire" and wait to sign with a team when an injury happens in ST or midseason next year.

That being said, I don't think Werth is stupid enough to complain. This is likely his last chance to get another ring, and if he's smart he'll take a cut in playing time to both stay healthy down the stretch and increase his odds of getting that ring. Things were different in the Ole PBN era because he had a few years left on his contract. Not the same kind of leverage now.

All in all, though, I don't see Martinez/Wilson happening, that would be a costly trade package that I'm not sure Rizzo would bite on, especially since the Nats would be buying high on Wilson

mike k said...

Quintana to the Cubs for prospects.

I don't see the Nats getting a corner OF, unless they really don't think Werth is coming back until September or something. Werth's doing well enough this year at the plate where the increase from Werth to someone you'd get in a trade doesn't really make giving up anything in a trade worth it. And an OF of Werth-Bryce-guy is not acceptable and isn't something Rizzo would do. Now if Werth was out until September...then maybe...because you're getting more value out of the guy you're trading for and you can mix/match in the playoffs.

(I don't see the Nats mix/matching in the regular season with a corner outfielder because it's not 4 spots in's Bryce, MAT/Goodwin, and 2 spots in 1).

I agree McCutchen makes a ton of sense, but I don't see the Pirates' price decreasing from the beginning of the year since McCutchen has rebounded this year. Hopefully they'll still get no suitors and their price will decrease out of panic...but there's no guarantee the Nats and not some other team will benefit from that.

Zack Cozart seems interesting, but I don't think it happens. I do like the idea from the earlier post of the Nats just stockpiling a ton of new relievers, and think their limited trade chips should be used for that purpose.

G Cracka X said...

@mike k The Quintana trade possibly impacts the Nats postseason chances, as the Cubs may be the first round opponent

G Cracka X said...

How does everyone feel about Nunez for super utility? He could probably play anywhere except CF, and I imagine he wouldn't cost too much, especially since he is rehabbing.

NotBobby said...

I do not think Rizzo HAS to get three relievers before the trade deadline. He needs to get two or three before the playoffs, but i could see him trading for one really good RP arm, maybe two and then getting one or two more before the waiver deadline. More teams will be selling by then and everyone who isn't playing for October will be okay trading an RP. So, Rizzo goes and gets Doolittle and someone and then gets one or two more at the waiver deadline.

Fries said...

Alright Lerners, no more excuses. MASN money will start flowing in so go give Harper that big extension and trade for the fattest contract rental your hearts' desire

Dustin M. Smith said...

I'm with G Cracka... seems like a super utility guy like Nunez (OF/3B/SS) would make a lot of sense. Not much speed on the Nats bench at the moment (pretty sure Turner and MAT are the only guys with more than a couple stolen bases). Versatility plus late-inning baserunning is key in the postseason.

Jarrod Dyson could also fit the bill. Not as versatile but makes up for it with the WS ring, left-handed bat, and elite defense.

Cameron Maybin would be another option just for the speed. Currently 4th in majors in stolen bases (25). All three guys are upcoming free agents on non-contenders so they shouldn't cost much in prospects.


NotBobby said...

@Fries- while this is a win for Nats in MASN dispute, this is a small win. MASN dispute is still no where near finished. This decision can be appealed and even if it goes back to arbitration THAT are decision can be appealed.

Anonymous said...

Quintana trade is interesting to the Nats for a few reasons. The obvious one is that it makes the Cubs better and potentially a more challenging playoff opponent. The less obvious one is that it establishes a value for Robles. You can quibble about who you like more between him and Eloy, but both are 20 year olds raking in high-A in the top 10 on most (all?) prospect lists. Quintana (and his ridiculous contract) is more valuable than any relief pitcher on the planet.

Jay said...

Am I the only person that wants to tell the White Sox to shove it. Svrluga wrote in the Post that the White Sox may want Fedde or Soto for Robertson. For a guy that is a control guy?? His claim to fame is closing in New York??? No way imo. I'm ok with giving up a great prospect or more for a very good to great closer. I am even ok with an overpay for a very good to great closer. I am not ok with a huge overpay for a meh closer. Robertson can be a set up guy imo. I wouldn't give up anything more significant than what they offered back in the spring.

ssln said...

So let me get this straight. The Cubs get Quintana and two or three of you think that gives them the Central. He might win them a couple more games but their big problem is clutch hitting with RISP. They are not challenging the Brewers unless they get that problem solved.
Anyone look up Edwin Jackson's stats at Syracuse. Record 2-0 in four games with 17 plus innings pitched. ERA 0.00 with a whip under 1. 20 Ks and 10 walks--okay so he is wild. You got your 5th starter. You just don't know it yet or maybe the long man in the BP.

BxJaycobb said...

I don't buy that report at all. The trade that Lerner's vetoed was for Lazardo and Ward. They wouldn't go from that to Soto and Fedde. It's illogical. Unless the Nats were literally like "we are willing to pick up zero of the money through the entire contract." Or something just as absurd. The fact is Soto and Fedde isn't THAT different in value from what they got from the Cubs (Eloy is above Soto in rankings but not by much and Fedde is above the 2nd main piece). Clearly Robertson isn't going to fetch even half of what Quintana is. So I wouldn't worry. I also think Rizzo wants somebody better than Robertson. (Report that they contacted Os!)

BxJaycobb said...

The Cubs problem isn't hitting with RISP (which isn't a skill, it's luck, so has no bearing on future predictive results)'s hitting in general. I would currently handicap the Central as roughly 50-50 odds between Brewers and Cubs.

KW said...

For those who haven't bothered to look, Quintana has a 4.49 ERA. For reference, he's currently pitching about like the 2016 version of Gio. Unless he dramatically improves in the second half, he's not really much of an upgrade on the pitching mediocrity the Cubbies have shown thus far. (And I will laugh my head off if they lose the division to the Brewers and don't even make the playoffs.)

Natsochist said...

@ssln - Cubs have played far below expectations / Brewers far above, and Cubs just made themselves better. Brewers are leading the Central, but not running away with it. It's reasonable to think that Cubs are still the favorites to eventually win it. As for Jackson, I still remember the 2012 playoffs - please no to him in the Pen, although I'm okay with him as SP insurance.

@KW - He's been pitching poorly in the first half, but his peripherals are generally similar to last year. Track record, unlike Gio, is near-ace level over several years. It's possible he's declining permanently, but seems more likely that he's just had a rough first half and should rebound. More importantly for Cubs: he's cheap for next few years, which will help them as their young core gets more expensive through arbitration. That's the big reason he cost so much in prospects.

@BxJaycobb - BA just came out with their midseason prospect ratings. Eloy is #5. Soto is #95. That's a huge difference. Robles, at #8, is a much closer comp.

Natsochist said...

Harper - what would a hypothetical trade with OAK for Gray / Doolittle look like? What about if Madson joined it?