Nationals Baseball: Starting Targets

Friday, July 14, 2017

Starting Targets

5.27.
5.01.
These are the ERAs for Tanner Roark and Joe Ross respectively.

4.57.
That was the ERA for Gio Gonzalez last year when we fretted over whether it was a good idea to start him in the playoffs.

The point should be obvious. If we were worried about Gio last year, we need to worry about Ross and Roark this time.  Ross is an obvious problem, with his on and off injuries and inconsistency over the past 2 years. But squint and maybe you can see an acceptable season for Roark so far. The problem is that good season was based on an unlucky start.  For June and July Roark has earned his terrible season. You can bet on Roark turning it around (and also with Gio continuing to pitch well) or the Nats can go out and get an answer. This may be the year to get an answer.

The foundation guys 
Michael Fullmer & Marcus Stroman - It's not that often that top of the rotation guys of these ages (24 & 26 respectively) are available, but the Tigers understand their rebuilding process may take a long time and the Blue Jays would be in the same position if they sell. Stroman's stats aren't as impressive as Fullmer's but Stroman has been doing it longer which reduces the chances he's just a flash in the pan (like the don't strike any one out Fullmer). Stroman has already begun the arbitration process, so he both costs more (3.4M vs 550K for Fullmer), and is under control for less time (2021 vs 2023) But Stroman would still be a great get. Fullmer just has the potential to be a phenomenal one. Either one can be looked at as a solid #2 type for the remaining time under control.

Of course given all that, the deals have to be amazing and it is likely what was offered for Quintana wasn't enough for Fullmer. The Nats would have a hard time offering more unless Robles and Soto both go. The other option would be to eat some contracts. I'm sure the Fullmer deal would be more acceptable if a Verlander or Upton or ZNN were attached. Again, not the Nats way. It's not necessarily the fact the Nats couldn't make a deal like this but getting one of these guys makes fixing the pen harder as you have lopped off the top of your minor leagues and have to be concerned about cutting deeper.

Long term rotation fixes
Gerrit Cole & Sonny Gray & Dan Straily - you have three distinct pitchers here. Gray is an ace type who suffered an injury in 2016 that brought him all the way back down. However, he is apparently recovering and should be good the remainder of this year. Cole is a guy with the best pedigree but has regressed over the past two years and in 2017 is nothing more than an average arm. He's a year younger than Gray but both are under control for the next two seasons and cost under 4 million currently. Dan Straily was a guy with potential who has bounced around several places trying to get healthy and figure things out. It appears that this year he has done it. He's a year older than Gray, but under control for one more season and super cheap 550K.

Straily seems the ideal target for the Nats, but being on the Marlins complicates things. They aren't rebuilding per se and they need pitching so why would they trade this piece? Selling high and getting a great return would probably do it, but I think he's worth more to the Marlins than anyone else. Cole isn't a set piece and the Pirates are not exactly sure where they are, both for this year and the next couple. That means Gray will get the focus as he's doing the best this year and will have the highest price.  While these are the standard Rizzo targets I'm not sure the Nats can get these players and unless part of a larger deal (Gray/Doolittle, Cole/Watson) the price still may be too high and might have an adverse effect on the bullpen fixes. Of course the Nats have never been a team to shy away from getting the best player available and hoping everything else works out. So don't rule this out

Long term rotation somethings that cost a lot of money
Johnny Cueto & Jeff Samardzjia & Justin Verlander - I'll put these out there because they are available but I don't see any way the Nats end up with one of these guys. They are all 20+M dollar arms with contracts through 2020 (Verlander) 2021 (Samardzjia) and 2022 (Cueto). None have shown the current performance or stable performance you'd want to even consider bringing in an arm like this. For the Nats to even consider a guy like this it would have to be packaged with something young, cheap, in control, and great (and there aren't many of those) or the selling team would have to eat a ton of money.  I don't think SF is there yet. Detroit might do that I guess so if anyone is coming to the Nats I'd bet on Verlander but that's not a bet any one should make.

The no-good-reason names that are out there
James Shields and Edinson Volquez - They aren't cheap (10M, 9M) they aren't young (35, 33) they aren't good now and haven't been good recently. Maybe you grab one to fill out a rotation, but these guys are also under contract for next year too. Sometimes that's a plus, but not here. Pass. Pass hard, pass fast, bump off the road while passing.

The rentals 
Alex Cobb & Marco Estrada & Jeremy Hellickson & Scott Feldman & Derek Holland & R.A. Dickey - lots of variation here where you can pick and choose the rental you like the best. Want a guy you might be interested in signing long term? Alex Cobb is your man. Tampa will always sell a FA to be even if they are in contention. Cobb is under 30 and not expensive and if right, he's good. Is he right? That K/9 is low but other things look good. Want just a guy to give you decent innings at the back of the rotation? R.A. Dickey or Scott Feldman should do the trick. Both are having fine years and have been good enough recently that you can feel pretty confident in their performance. Neither are terribly expensive though Dickey (7.3M) is much more expensive than Feldman (2.3M). Just looking for a cheap fill-in to keep your young arms in the minors and your terrible arms wherever it is terrible arms go? Derek Holland is your below average 1.5M dollar man. Want an expensive gamble? Marco Estrada (14.5M) has the recent success that might convince you a change of pace will get him back going. Want an expensive gamble but more risk? Jeremy Hellickson parlayed one good year into a 17.M dollar deal and is currently just filling time in Philly.

Cobb will cost the most because of his value overall and to the team. Everyone else should be available fairly reasonably. If the Nats were just looking for an arm to throw innings to make sure they don't blow the NL East I can see them picking up one of these guys. But I don't think the Nats are in that position. I think they know they can win the NL East with what they have so why bother picking up one of these guys? Still the right deal can make the Nats better for little cost. Personally I'm most interested in R.A. Dickey. That change of pace from the Max/Stras duo would be big, assuming he's not terrible that day.

I think in the end the Nats will kick the tires on Gray and if they can somehow get him and not forfeit the bullpen fixes, they'll do it. Otherwise maybe they bring in one of those fill-in arms acknowledging that it would be better than Cole/Voth/pitching machine they got going now after Ross. There's no real clear favorite among the rentals though. All have plusses and minus and none are guaranteed to be used in the playoffs.

38 comments:

Nats Fan in Brazil said...

Stroman + Osuna for Robles and Fedde, yes or now?

Josh Higham said...

NFiB, I think that + needs to stand for at least one more top flight prospect. Either one of those guys would cost a fair amount, and both could be part of a rebuilt team in Toronto down the road.

Harper said...

NFiB - The Quintana deal shows that Robles + Fedde alone may not even get you Stroman. (cheaper, better year, younger, same control). So YES YES YES for Nats. NO NO NO from Blue Jays.

More fair deal... probably Robles for Osuna straight up. Normally that's a no for a reliever but Nats are in a bind and he's a great solution...

G Cracka X said...

As a Nats fan, I would say no to Robles for Osuna. Its hard to put a value on multiple years of a reliever due to the variability. Of course, from that perspective, Robles is even more variable, but until he stops projecting as the Nats' future CF, I would keep 'em unless someone offered a great package. Maybe that is the endowment effect, I don't know. I don't have a great way of measuring the true value of prospects.

Harper said...

GCX - there's no good answer here I don't think. You are putting up the value of something very variable (prospect not yet in AA) in both performance and timing against the value of something that's as much psychological as physical. ("Closer" during time Nats are in contention) The pure stats probably say hold off. You're never going to get more from a relief arm than even a fair few year OF. But circumstances are what they are

Miles Treacy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miles Treacy said...

Any thoughts on a 3 team deal with another club where Nats can maybe grab a Gray/Doolittle and package with another club for that team to receive Alonso?

Miles Treacy said...

I guess any team looking for a lefty 1B bat wouldn't be willing to jump into a deal to make the Nats better though....

dc rl said...

Gray's a good idea, cause I have a hard time seeing Rizzo giving up one of the "untouchable" prospects (Robles, Soto, Fedde, Kieboom) for "just" relief pitching, but he might be more willing to trade one or even two of those guys in exchange for a controllable SP like Gray plus Doolittle (or ideally, for Doolittle AND Madson). How much would we have to give up for a package of Gray, Doolittle and Madson? I'd assume it would start with one of the untouchable hitting prospects, plus Fedde (who's easiest to part with if we get Gray), and maybe a few other minor pieces (e.g., Ward, Marmalejos, a lower level pitcher).

KW said...

Robles and Fedde look like fairly direct comps to the two main guys the Cubbies gave up for Quintana . . . whose 2017 stats look a lot like Gio's in 2016. That set a high market price.

A couple of names to add to the wish list, both of whom would cost a "Robles-plus" package: Sean Manaea and J. A. Happ. To get by the Dodgers, the Nats need another lefty. I'm really not sure why there's so much scuttlebutt about the currently mediocre Gray and not about Manaea.

The only Giant starter I would want is the MadBum . . . and that ain't happenin'.

Harper said...

KW - you can get Happ for less that Robles plus. 34, big $, only one year control. Gray gets the talk because Manaea is further away from FA. It's a guy Beane usually keeps because young, cost-controlled, good pitching is exactly what you want to have.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: I think the closest comp in terms of what the Jays would want for Osuna from recent history is what the Phillies got from the Astros for Ken Giles. That's a VERY similar situation.

Robles for Osuna is a trade where one of the two parties is probably going to win the trade BIG. So it's very risky. In an odd way, I might be more willing to do Robles, Soto, and Fedde/kieboom for Osuna + Stroman. Because even though there's a scenario where that blows up in your face (stroman gets hurt and between Soto and Robles you end up with one star and one solid starter), it basically guarantees you are drastically improving your baseball team in the next few years. Robles for Osuna frankly mames me queasier.

KW said...

Yeah, you're right about the price on Happ. But he's worth considering. If they trade for a starter, it really needs to be a lefty. And I'd much rather pay a higher price for Manaea than for Gray.

BxJaycobb said...

KW: Quintana is not Gio, or even close--either in quality or contract (which is insane in terms of low cost and long control.) Everybody in baseball knows he is substantially better than his current stat line. The guy has been a legitimate ace in the AL for like 4 years in a row. 21 WAR since 2012. There are like 3 other pitchers in baseball who can say that. And it's like 3 (or 4?) CHEAP years. It would be more comparable to trading say...Jacob deGrom. I actually thought the Cubs traded away SLIGHTLY less than I would have expected given Quintanas contract and quality.

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of a gray/doolittle deal for robles/soto fedde and a lower level prospect with upside. Plus Ross is getting his elbow looked at which means we will probably be in the market for a starter.

Jay said...

Joe Ross to the DL. MRI arthrogram on his elbow pending results tomorrow. Fedde may be pitching this year. They say Turner is on turn and could pitch, but I'm not sure I see that for the rest of the year. Ross just can't stay healthy.

I'd trade big for Britton. I don't think Angelos would ever sign off on it, but someone like that would make a huge difference. I heard this weekend that Jansen was going to sign with the Nats and his wife asked him to stay in LA. Sounds like the Nats may have been a lot closer to a big time closer than I realized. Dodgers are supposedly asking about Britton as well. Everyone is starting to make some moves. We'll see what happens in the next two weeks.

PotomacFan said...

Nats could get a starter and one reliever, and move Roark or Ross to the bullpen. Now that Ross is on the DL, that limits the Nats options. But for the playoffs, a good 4th starter could replace Roark.

KW said...

I'm just saying how Quintana is pitching NOW, this year. And yes, I like his contract. I favored the Nats trying to trade for him over Sale in the offseason. The Cubs are thinking the same thing I'm thinking for the Nats: you need a second lefty starter to beat the Dodgers.

We'll see. I was a bit skeptical that the Nats would really be in the starter market . . . until Ross went on the DL. This post just got three times more relevant.

Fries said...

Gray/Doolittle has to be the move. Stroman/Osuna would be fantastic, but it's too costly I have to think.

What about a Vargas/Herrera move? I know KC may not be ready to sell, but the price won't be too high I'd have to think given Vargas's contract and Herrera's mediocre play this year. It wouldn't be a blockbuster type trade, but it may be up Rizzo's alley

G Cracka X said...

TT is 7th on Dave Cameron's Trade Value List, one spot behind Aaron Judge! He also has a higher projected 5-year WAR than Judge. Wow.

Harper said...

GCX - That's high on Turner. It was fine coming into this year but as of now - a middling injured season. You have to bet low on 2018 as a recovery year (think last year Rendon) and that cuts into overall value. Still I don't think he's outside Top 20. That first 70 games were too good and he's got all that speed value.

ssln said...

Your fifth starter is in the minor leagues at Syracuse. I guess you are all going to be surprised when he is called up.
Fix the bullpen. You are over thinking the situation.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: On Turner, I was slightly surprised too. But when I read the explanation it was fairly persuasive and I came out thinking that yeah, he is probably in the top 10-12. Essentially, he has played one full season of baseball and topped 5.0 WAR (you figure last year was a bit above his current performance level due to BABIP FB/HR, but this year a bit below, so they even out). And even this year, he was 2.0 WAR, which is insane given that he seemed to be "middling" as you say (so he generated the same value as Murphy). So you have a player that is roughly as productive as Lindor on a per season basis, with an extra year of control, and perhaps some room to grow. If you forecast that Trea Turner is a .300 AVG/.350 OBP guy who will pop 12-15 a year (maybe topping out at 20-25 in his prime if the baseball stays juiced) and steal 50-70 bags a year with solid defense at SS and 5+ years of cheap control....yeah I can see how he is ranked in top 10. But he is 100% a guy that sabermetric/analytical community is higher on than the traditional AVG/HR/RBI crowd. Personally I absolutely don't think he is in the Seager/Correa tier of young SS...nor do I think anybody would suggest that. But I do think he is in the next tier (with Lindor and Bogaerts)...and above the 3rd, Addison Russell type tier.

BxJaycobb said...

Fries: Not happening on Vargas/Herrera. The Royals aren't open for business. They're in playoff position and have declared that this is their last ride and are going for it. Unless they start the 2nd half like 0-7, not happening.

Harper said...

ssln - Edwin Jackson?

I don't think it's over thinking things. The Nats could use a starter and there is a fair amount of quality starters out there. The Nats have a history of getting the best players they think will help not necessarily the one that cover their weaknesses. It would be remiss not to look at them

That said I think we all agree
Priority 1 : Fix pen
Priority 2 : Fix pen
Priority 3 : Maybe something else - depends on current situation, values, etc.
Priority 4 : Go back and make sure you fixed the pen

Robot said...

Anyone know why Murphy isn't starting tonight?

Harper said...

Day off. Dusty said he'd rotate them in for All-Stars. So expect Bryce and Zimm to be off next couple of days

DezoPenguin said...

If the Nats are going to spend big, then I can see them calling up the Tigers and trying for a package of Fulmer, Justin Wilson, and J.D. Martinez. That gives them a left fielder (since the current news on Werth is not good, this means that Taylor and Goodwin only have to fill in CF and there's a solid chance at least one is acceptable--and/or that the rest of the lineup can carry them), a high-end starting pitcher to pair with Scherzer and Stras going forward, and one of the top level guys for the bullpen. Of course, that's the kind of deal that could cost them Robles, but since they'd be talking with only one team, Rizzo might be able to convince them to take quantity over quality.

If they leave the OF alone (either in the belief Werth will return sooner than later or that Taylor and the Goodwin/Raburn platoon can actually keep it up), then the A's seem to be the team to call, since they're clearly out of the race now and will trade anyone if the price is right. (Something like Stroman/Osuna from the Jays would be wonderful, but the Jays' combination of positive projections, their rotation now being uninjured, and the bunched-up state of the AL WC contenders suggests that they'll wait until the edge of the deadline to see if they play themselves into or out of contention before they choose which way to make a move.)

Chas R said...

I think it is realistic to think the Nats would get another quality starter. They place high value on SP, not so much on the BP. No doubt, they know the BP is the priority fix, but I could see them getting a SP if it does not hurt their ability to enhance the pen.

There really is no SP depth. Cole has not been effective. For some reason, they have no confidence in even giving Voth a shot. Fedde is a possibility and EJ, although they seem to be also thinking of using Fedde in the pen. If EJ gets a shot and is ineffective, they will be pressed to get another SP.

Jay said...

Friday night's game was the Nats season in a nutshell. Harper plays well. Gio pitches well but likely an or inning too long (they got away with it this time). The bullpen comes in and is awful. They needed two outs. Ended up with bases loaded and Grace is yet another reliever now with a save this year. Yikes.

Another comment. Isn't Dusty using the pitchers way too long. Using Max for 120 in a game in July is just crazy. It all adds up eventually.

Fries said...

TJ for Joe...

Jay said...

I figured as much. His shoulder trouble worries more than his elbow. He can rehab and come back from TJ. If he keeps having shoulder issues then he might have a short career. I'm rooting for him to make it back and do well. Seems like a good guy.

Anagramsci said...

no more need to worry of about Ross for playoffs '17

BxJaycobb said...

@Dezo: Fulmer, Justin Wilson, and JD would cost essentially every good prospect the Nats have. Fulmer alone would require Robles, Soto, Fedde, plus (he's one of the most valuable pitching properties in baseball). I honestly don't know that the Nats have enough in the system to complete that trade. And if they did it would be literally everyone.
@jay. Yeah, I think that Ross is going to come back as a relief pitcher. At least, that's what the Nats should do if they want him to be around and pitching for the full stretch of their control of him.

mike k said...

Good call on Doolittle, Harper!

Robot said...

Bye-bye, Blake

Jay said...

I liked Luzardo a lot. Typical Nats guy though. First round talent. Had TJ. Fell to 3rd round. Only 19. Now Treinen and Luzardo and an A ball infielder were used to get some much needed BP help. Luzardo is only 19, so he is a long way from MLB. At best he ends up like Robbie Ray, and look how long it took Ray to figure it out. I'm sad to see Treinen leave, but I think his time in DC had pretty much ended. The risk of using a guy as closer that has never done it is that you run the risk of breaking him mentally. I wish him the best in Oakland.

Any thoughts on what the Nats may do next? Get a closer too? Get another starter? Edwin Jackson is pitching Tuesday. I'm ok with that. I'm hoping he finds it again. OF help?? I'd love to get Colome from TB.

KW said...

Ray may be a fair comp to Luzardo talent-wise, but he was much farther along in the system when traded, having finished a year at Potomac. Luzardo has only pitched three times as a pro, at the lowest level. I liked him a lot as a prospect as well, but he's a lottery ticket for years down the road. And besides, if he does well with the A's, the Nats can always get him back!

I don't know that the Nats are done looking for bullpen help, but they've now put themselves in a position where they don't have to overspend for a "True Closer." If one pops up at a good price, they'll be tempted, but they can now be more discerning shoppers. A fair amount of their ongoing bullpen shopping interest will also have to do with the health of Glover and Kelley.

I'd be looking for a starter, but not desperately, particularly if Roark will start pulling his weight like he did today. My preference would be for a lefty starter, specifically targeting a playoff series with the Dodgers. J. A. Happ might make some sense and shouldn't cost a Robles/Soto-level prospect.