Nationals Baseball: Trade Gio?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trade Gio?

Last night Gio hit the 180 innings needed to vest for next year, meaning the Nats will have Gio at a nice affordable salary for the 2018 season before FA hits him. I was never really worried about it. If Gio was pitching well enough and was healthy enough for you want it to vest, he would hit 180 innings. If he wasn't, he wouldn't either by chance or by choice.  Only a month long injury in the midst of a fabulous season could spoil things.*

So the Nats have Gio lined up for next year at an affordable price. The question raised now (here's my Twitter inspiration) is whether it is best to trade Gio in the off-season. Yes, it's not a question for today but for November, but it's not a crazy thought. As is raised in the tweet, Gio's probably not going to be this good next year (there's some luck here as we've discussed). He's got a very favorable contract for a short-term deal. He's a LH starter which is always valued. The Nats are unlikely to sign him past next season given his age and other pressing contract concerns. The Nats could get something pretty decent back for him.

But the problems with dealing him are evident. Gio is a healthy guy who has only once in 6 years missed more than a couple of games. While he hasn't always been good, he's really never been bad, and that combination of innings and a floor of decency is very valuable. Yes, it's something you can get back talent for, but it's also something hard to replace.

The Nats will have a bang up 1-2 in Max and Stras but Strasburg's next season of 30+ starts will be his first since 2014. Roark will likely make a decent enough 3-4, if not more, but that still leaves a couple of rotation spots to fill. In house, none of AJ Cole, Jacob Turner, or Erick Fedde should fill you with confidence on being able to pitch a whole decent season in 2018.  Joe Ross, good for a moment when healthy, has had shoulder issues and is coming back from TJ surgery mid next year.

Through FA, assuming the Nats don't want a big contract, they can gamble on the likes of Edwin Jackson, guys who they can pick up for a million or two at the end of the FA cycle, but there's a reason those guys are available. Anything significantly better would likely cost around the same as Gio. They might be able to split the middle and get a Marco Estrada type or a little worse for under 10 million but is it worth saving a few million a year?

Of course the other side of the coin is available to them, going big after a Darvish (who hasn't looked good recently), or Arrieta (who has gotten back on track). But it's hard to see them putting all that money into the rotation when Stras and Max are going to start to count 60+ mill against the cap for a few years. Shohei Otani, a 22 year old from Japan who's a two-way star, is going to be paid this year but the Nats are not in position to be big players in the international signings this year. They spent big last year which limits how much they can spend this year by MLB rules, and knowing that they've already started dealing some of the pool money in trades.

I suppose trades are an option but I'm not seeing anyone in the 2018-19 class that's some combination of young, cheap, and likely to be available. Instead you'd have to go out a year further for a Jake Odorizzi or Gerrit Cole and now you are talking heftier price tags. Not that it can't be done but it'll cost the Nats something.  Honestly if they were to trade Gio I'd think this would be the route they take to fix it.

In the end, I don't see a trade for Gio happening. He is just too hard to replace for that cost, even if you assume regression to a 2015/2016 level. I will give it an off chance however, if only because I think the Nats could weather his loss and still win the NL East, but that's about as real as I think this gets. Now, if they deal for a Gerrit Cole first? Then the situation changes, but it'll have to be a deal first situation, much like it was this season where Gio was going to be gone if Chris Sale was added to the team.  

*Or an injury now! Don't get injured Gio!


Anonymous said...

Little Bryce update- according to Rizzo he has begun taking soft swings in the cage and hitting soft toss. i think there is good chance he back for at least the last 4 game series against the pirates to get at least 10-15 at bats

KW said...

Arrieta tweaked his hamstring in his last start, an interesting development considering who the Cubs' first-round opponent likely will be.

The Ross injury, the Cole peak at AAAA status, and the as-yet incomplete grade on Fedde all contribute to make a Gio trade not too likely. I understand the concept, particularly with Gio at peak value; I just think it would be hard for the Nats to fill the rotation slot with equal or better performance, and with 2018 the likely last ride with Bryce and Murph, they're not going to want a diminished rotation.

On the flip side of the equation, should there be discussion of extending Gio? That's also tricky, considering his age and all the innings he has on his arm.

PotomacFan said...

No way the Nats trade Gio. At $12 million, he's an incredible bargain. He's probably worth $18 million or more (and multiple years) on the open market. And it will cost $10 million or more (and possibly a multi-year commitment) to replace him with someone not as good and certainly not as durable.

@KW raises the more interesting question of whether the Nats extend him. I don't see it, but I wouldn't rule it out. Gio is clearly comfortable here, and comfort is important to him.

DCNatsFan said...

If the Nats didn't have Gio signed for next year, they'd be trying to acquire someone at pretty much his quality, durability, and price point to fill the spot. Why would they even think about trying to trade him? Too many people are treating this like day-trading ("sell that asset, it's over-valued!") instead of trying to assemble a baseball team.

BxJaycobb said...

DC Nats Fan: I get your thinking and it's probably the best approach. But the reason you would do it is the following theory:
1. The Nats don't NEED to be as good as next year's roster to win the division, which will once again be mediocre, albeit better.
2. Gio's unexpected cy young contending season and bargain price allows the Nats to effectively acquire a quality arm (or two) that is controlled beyond next year, and thus stretch out their window.
3. Gio is basically a 4 ERA starter who is currently dressed in "ace" clothing due to good fortune (I subscribe this view).....if a team is willing to treat it like trading for a year of an axe rather than a year of a 4 ERA starter, the Nats very well could improve EVEN NEXT YEARS team, depending on what's offered back.
4. My view is you dangle him out there and see what is available. If no pitching depth is coming in return package (or alternatively catching depth?), then it's probably not worth it. But if you can grab like some young C prospect with upside or a couple major league ready arms who may or may not pan out, perhaps it's a smart move. If gio posts a final year with the Nats that looked like last year (ENTIRELY possible), you will wish the Nats did trade him.

Harper said...

DCNatsFan - Well in theory if you can acquire someone like you expect Gio to be like next year then trading Gio makes sense because you will spend the same amount for the same result AND you'll get back a young player. Of course that's contingent on that acquisition.

KW, PF, DC - I think we are all in agreement - it doesn't make much sense bc he's hard to replace at same level. Extension? I think they'd be willing but it would have to be team-friendly like the initial extension was. With that one they got him on covering 4 arbitration years in exchange for possibly 2 cheap FA years. There's nothing like that now with the exception of an underpaid 2018. They'd have to do something like make it a 2yr deal for like 30mill (15, 15) with an team option for a third at 15. If you're Gio you probably don't take it - but maybe he's happy and sees another 30 million as good enough to not gamble on himself in 2018

Sect 139 said...

I think it is silly to consider trading him. 2018 is still in play, why trade it away for a question mark? I think we know what we're going to get with Gio. And if we get another year of lucky Gio, even better.

Anyone looking at this with a "sell high" mentality is ignoring the very likely possibility that actual MLB GMs and staff might also be onto the notion that Gio's had somewhat of a lucky year. Someone like Gio will have much more value at the trade deadline for a team in a desperate situation. Of course we may be that team in 2018...

Ole PBN said...

I'm in the "don't trade Gio camp." This season has changed my view on him, as I'm sure it has for a lot of people critical of him. He has shown this level of dominance before (in 2012) and appears to have regained his prior form. Not that I expect a repeat performance per say, but when you've seen it before and are watching it now, its easy to see him being a productive pitcher the following year.

In another note, because bashing Werth gets some "Anonymous" posters' panties in a bunch, I loved FP's comment on Werth in the postseason tonight:

"If he's healthy, he's playing. End of story. So that will quiet the camp out there that think otherwise." -- Oh really? Just like that? We'll just completely ignore his numbers and a certain teammate's superior performance? Hmmm...

"He was born for the postseason. I mean just look at what he's done in October here." -- Yeah, I'm looking FP...Based on what? A walk-off home run 5 years ago? So I suppose Aaron Boone was born for October too (please humor yourself and take a gander at that dude's numbers.

"Ever since he's come here, he has shown time and time again that he was made for postseason baseball." -- All I see is a guy who is 13-56 (.232) in 3 postseason appearances. While his walk-off is one of my favorite baseball memories, just as Bucky Dent is some Yankee fan's favorite, I don't see much of what makes him "made for postseason baseball as a Nat."

.... Can I just say that it is silly, ridiculous, and foolish to ignore that IF Bryce is back, you'll need Taylor in CF, that it should be Kendrick in LF? The guy is hitting ALMOST 100 POINTS HIGHER than Werth. How is it that ignorable and just a simple foregone conclusion to have Werth in the lineup for October. This argument only applies if Bryce is back. If Bryce can't return, then Werth obviously plays. Count me in the "Kendrick > Werth" camp

JE34 said...

Btw... What on earth is Dusty doing, throwing an obviously spent Max past 110 pitches in the 7th inning of a meaningless game?

Anonymous said...

Kudos, Harper. You set up a wonderful straw man in trading Gio and then knock it down. What is even better is that Rizzo isn't even considering it unless a Kyrie Irving eas to happen in baseball. You managed to get all your readers to actually take it seriously and comment about it. Filler before the playoffs.
Good show Harper. Maybe you should consider a career as a political consultant. On a different note, I see one guy won't let the Werth thing go. I explained why he will start and FP did the same thing. Apparently, what is obvious to everyone does not suit our resident general manager.
Here is thought for our resident general manager. FP was explaining reality. He wasn't trying to convince the nonbelievers.

JE34 said...

Anon: stop being a jackass. If you don't like Harper's takes on stuff, disagree with some class.

Anonymous said...

Dusty tries to get Max win by sending him back out when unnecessary (and unwise). Dusty costs Max 5 earned runs, a loss, and possibly the cy young. Maybe worst Dusty showing all year. Even mad dog looked disgusted.

Kershaw should send flowers.

PotomacFan said...

I was yelling at the TV, and I don't ever do that. Max was done at the end of 6. The Nats scored in the bottom of the 6th -- so Max wouldn't take a loss. I'm sure Max told Dusty that he was fine -- but it was clear that he wasn't. He had a high pitch count. He didn't have his A game all night. Lots of foul balls on 2 strikes. Lots of 3 - 2 counts.

blovy8 said...

It's going to be pretty annoying to watch the next bunch of games where there are going to be unseen motives for dumb moves like "Scherzer wanted to build up his stamina" as explanations. Of course, if they play better defense, and Kinzler serves Kemp a sinker instead of a meatball, there's a possibility of a different outcome. OTOH, I haven't seen any evidence that Dusty cares about getting him two more saves now.

Bjd1207 said...

@Ole PBN - I had the exact same thoughts as you as I heard that, both because I love sticking it to FP and because of our discussions on this thread. And one thing I did uncover was that Werth went .389/.522/.667 in last years Division series. His performances before that were bad - OK, and then the walkoff of course. But it was a bit more than just that homer.

However, I'm with you 100%. Werth looked good last night so I'm still willing to give it another week or so. But this is the exact scenario I was scared of, Werth is healthy but not good. And Kendrick is better, but not on fire anymore. REALLY difficult decisions in any direction in this scenario

John C. said...

On Max in the playoffs, 11 games is not a sufficient sample size to make any definitive conclusions. Remember the adage: "just because it is all the evidence we have does not mean that it is meaningful."

As for last night's fiasco ... yeah, I would have yanked Scherzer after six yesterday. I certainly would have yanked him after the first two walks, much less the third.

That said, one of the reasons that players give more for Dusty (vs. other managers the team may have had in the past *cough* Matt Williams *cough*) may be that they feel that Dusty has their back, that if he can find a way in the context of the team to get things that they, as players, want, he will. This is where the unquantifiable comes into play; Baker isn't leading stacks of statistics, he's leading people. With personalities, agendas, and emotions. Of course those statistics matter ... but so do the people involved. Which is why, for many of us, strategy is one of the least important aspects of a baseball manager's gig. As the immortal Joe Posnanski recently noted:

"But the job is to guide a baseball team through a long season, to keep players focused on the work at hand, to minimize distractions and ease tensions and keep things consistent without letting it get monotonous. The job is to let your stars be stars without letting that offend and irritate everybody else. The job is to keep it loose but not too loose, make it fun but not so players lose focus, to make everyone feel like you trust them without making them feel like there are no consequences for failure. The job is to make young players feel old, and old players feel young, to make pinch-hitters feel important and cleanup hitters to feel like they don’t have the weight of the world on their backs, to make starters and relievers feel like they have your complete confidence without letting them blow too many games (something that has been REALLY bad in Washington this year).

And, yes, the job is to endure moops like me telling you every day that you should never have intentionally walked that guy or bunted that guy or pulled that pitcher — even though that was probably the 12th most important thing you did that day."


As Joe notes, Baker's record is not only good in terms of wins and losses; it's good in that he has regularly taken over teams that were pretty terrible and the team then became regular winners. Pos notes: "All of that suggests that Dusty Baker is either one lucky son of a gun … or he might have some ability to manage baseball teams to winning seasons."

Even though it's not what I would have done, and even though it worked out badly, I can see another side to it. And in those situations I accept that it's possible, just possible, that Dusty Baker knows more about his job, and the people that he's managing, than I do. I understand that I'm in the minority on that, and I'm OK with it.

Anonymous said...

Good comment John C.

- Dusty Questioner

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