Nationals Baseball: Happy December - Nothing is happening

Friday, December 01, 2017

Happy December - Nothing is happening

Last year at this time RA Dickey, Bartolo Colon, Charlie Morton, Andrew Cashner, Josh Reddick, John Jay, and Yoenis Cespedes had been signed and another dozen lesser luminaries had been traded or picked up as well.

This year, until yesterday, the biggest name officially signed might have been Rubby De La Rosa.*

It could just be a slow time, pushed by Ohtani. Usually the Winter meetings speed things along. After a couple of  minor things in the first few days of December, during the meetings last year you saw Steve Pearce, Rich Hill, Carlos, Beltran, Mark Melancon, Mitch Moreland, Matt Holliday, and Joaquin Benoit signed. More importantly you saw the trades for  Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Wade Davis, and yes, Adam Eaton go down.

So while things have been slow before we worry about it being a trend we have to at least until... the 14th. Man they are a little later this year. Ok, well the 14th it is.

So what do we talk about until then?  That's up to you. I'll gladly fill these blog posts with talk about the Hallmark movies I'm watching or breaking down Christmas songs or perhaps list my favorite things that you may yourself want (or want to buy for others) for Christmas. Or you could just throw questions at me. That's ok too.

We'll fill these spaces with something every other day or so, don't you worry.

For today I'll revist the "former guys" post just because that interests me.

Tyler Watson (for Kintzler) - nothing beyond what I said at the time.  Some promise looks hittable in A-ball but young.

McKenzie Mills (for Howie) -  Another post column trade. Phillies bumped him up to High A and he was knocked around a bit in 3 games. However control looked good still. In 2016 he showed he can be hard to hit. In 2017 he showed he can control himself. But doing both at a higher level is another thing. He'll have a couple High-A years to try. 

Jesus Luzardo - A's moved him up to low A from rookie to end the year and he looked just as good there. The IP is still small but all you can ask of any prospect is they do well and make you want to see more at a higher level and that's what he's done.

Sheldon Neuse - Ended up hitting really well in High A to end the year. So well they moved him up again to AA and he hit there too (though without the brief power surge seen in High A). They sent him the the Arizona Fall League and he hit there too, named an AFL "Fall Star".  At this point Sheldon is a half-season of AA performance from being a real PROSPECT.

Jeffrey Rosa (for Enny) -  On the flip side you have Rosa who couldn't hack it in rookie ball for the Rays. His first half of 2018 is about showing the Rays there is some reason to keep him before the draftees come in. It doesn't look good.

Dane Dunning - Found a wall in High-A. A mix of good, mediocre, and bad performances. Still there's enough there with the Ks and the performances not being consistently bad that it's hard to believe he's topped out. He may not be a major leaguer but I don't see him as a low minor wash out either. Not sure if the Sox will push him the AA just to do it or leave in High A another year.

Lucas Giolito - Moved to the majors at the end of the year and had really good results. However the fancy stats suggest that it was mostly smoke and mirrors. He didn't strike anyone out, and had a  too low BABIP.  I watched a lot of Giolito at the end of the year though and I saw a guy that had learned how to pitch who wasn't rattled by situation. I think he can be hard to hit, keep the ball in the park, and not walk too many. I do think there was luck involved here with the level of success, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't at least a reliable back-end starter in 2018 (as a 23 yo remember) putting up an ERA ~4.00. And if he can dial things back-up again without losing control... well that's the million (+ 100 of millions) dollar question, isn't it? Trend says no though
Reynaldo Lopez  - Also moved the majors with less successful results but similar pitching to Giolito. The other guy pitched like the other guy. He's still got a year or two before you anoint him AAA talent and he's shown in the minors some tendency to need some time but I don't see anything really getting better. Still again - he's just found it before once.

Max Schrock  (for Rep) - People noted, probably rightfully, that I got over excited about Max's performance. Hitting for high average in AA even at a young age isn't all that special. It probably means he can make the majors, but it doesn't make him a PROSPECT. A lot of career bench guys fit that role. He's still raking singles all over the place (like a .350 average in Aug/Sept) with no pop (4 XBH) so he'll probably get a bump up to AAA to see what he does there. Does the power come with age? Can he learn patience? Can he turn a .330+ average in the minors to .300+ in the majors? At least one of these answers will have to be answered yes for this to be a big loss for the Nats.

Taylor Hearn (other part of Melancon deal) -He got hurt and JUST got back healthy enough in time to throw some at season's end so nothing new to report here. Read last year.

You miss Giolito the most here. You can totally see where he'd fit in with the Nats in 2018 and beyond. But since he hasn't shown himself to be a top of the rotation guy yet you can't say you'd take him over Eaton. Lopez and Schrock today just look like fill-in pieces to a major league team. 5th starter/long man and bench guy.  They could end up being better but could also not even be that. The guy you'd most worry about other than Giolito is Neuse who right now looks like Schrock but with some power and some patience. The floor for him is higher though he needs more time in AA to prove it's not a one-year fluke. Luzardo looks slightly better than Dunning right now but that's all about "upside".

Ten minor leaguers dealt in deals for 8 GOOD major leaguers (well 7 good ones and 1 maybe good one in Enny). Even though some were just rentals, that's months of helpful performances to the Nationals.  You probably lost some ok major league starting pitching but that's all you can say today. Sure it could get worse but history tells you it usually goes on as planned. Really what matters is trading away a star more than anything and right now there isn't one. Giolito could click. Neuse could not slow down. Another guy could surprise or just keep coming up the ladder. But that's hard to do.

This is why you shouldn't balk too much at trading guys, especially guys that aren't like Top Prospects. Being a major leaguer is hard. Very hard. Extrememly hard. Take the guy who is doing it over the guy who may do it down the line if he doesn't get injured and keeps improving over time. 

*Yusmiero Petit's deal was finalized yesterday if you were wondering about him.


Anonymous said...

I know this is nowhere near primary scope of this blog but for the sake of filling time do you have kids or are you in any way connected to Little League baseball? If so your take on the new bat standards for the upcoming season would be interesting.

Tom Mentzer said...

Sort of a nothing question, but do you think Harper 2018 FA is putting a damper on Stanton 2017? Or is the universe of teams that may be interested and able to afford Harper different enough that it doesn't matter? If multiple teams are interested in him next year (or really any A+ player), does that radically change what they do now? I always find the mid-term strategizing sort of interesting.

Harper said...

Anon @ 7:18 - Why I make all of the bats for Little League! What luck for you!

Actually no - I'm not in any way currently (or recently) involved in Little League. I looked it up and it seems like a good idea, but I'm also the kid who, like a dummy, refused to use aluminum bats in Little League.

Tom - I think it definitely matters. There are 3 game changers in Bryce, Machado, and Kershaw potentially available to you without giving up any prospects for not that much more than what the Marlins are asking you to pick up in salary. That's not mentioning the outside chance that the Angels will let you throw your minor leagues at them for Trout after this year (which could happen if they look terrible and he doesn't seem interested in signing long-term). Plus there is also the fact Stanton recently had a subpar year, and was injured much of 2015 and 2016. And there's guys just behind these guys like Blackmon (next year), Rendon and Goldschmidt (year after that) coming up, or guys just as good like Votto who maybe you can get in trade for the same prospect haul but cost you less in money?

He's a great player but there are a lot of potential paths here. The surer you are you can travel down one of those paths the less appealing Stanton looks to you. So teams with the deepest pockets - Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, kick the tires in a completely different way here. That's why you are seeing the B-Team franchises, Cardinals, Giants, being named as most interested. They know they might be muscled out of those upcoming guys after they get winnowed down by injury and re-signs. So they are more likely to jump at the guy available today.

KW said...

Well, if Marvin Miller were still alive, he'd be screaming "collusion," and he'd be right. (Miller is on the second-chance HOF ballot this year, by the way. It's a crime he wasn't elected during his lifetime. No one had more impact on the overall shape of the game in the last 50 years than he did. Without him, Bryce might be looking to get $4M next year, or less, since there would be no free agency!)

The lack of action is very weird, though. Not even fourth-tier guys are signing, or even attracting much attention. Poor MLBTR is left with regular updates on minor-league signings, as well as on the Yankees interviewing a whole bunch of guys for manager that no other team was interested in.

Are the prospective Stanton and Ohtani moves keeping things from happening? Maybe a little, but c'mon, there are only 5-7 teams in real contention for either of them. (And Lord help us all if they both end up on the Dodgers or the Cubs.) I don't know that a real contender should actually count on Ohtani for 2018 anyway. I'm not saying that he'll fail, just that there are a lot of unknowns, and banking on him being the #3 starter for a team with title hopes would be risky.

I think Stanton is a bargain compared to what Bryce is hoping to get. You could bend yourself into a pretzel trying to compare and contrast their expected projections, but the bottom line is that Stanton is only going to make 3/$74 before his opt-out and is coming off a 59-homer season while playing half his games in a sea-level canyon. I would LOVE for the Nats to trade Robles + stuff for him (speaking of trading prospects). I would rather it be Taylor/Fedde/Cole/other stuff than Robles, but you bet I'd part with Robles for three years of peak Stanton.

Look, Robles has insane value right now. He'd bring two or three years of control of an all-star level player in return. Yes, he's a nice piece for the long-term future, but there's an extremely bright future for the Nats in 2018-19 that might not still be there when Robles is hitting his stride in 2021. I'm not saying give him away. I'm glad the Nats didn't trade him for the aging Cutch. People laugh when I offer Robles for two years of Bumgarner, but I'm dead serious. If you really want to win something in October, name any other #3 starter you'd rather have in the playoffs.

KW said...

Correction: Stanton is owed 3/$77M before his opt-out. Bryce will be paid 3/$120M for the same age-level seasons of his career, maybe more.

Anonymous said...

Harper - Can you draw any conclusions from whether the Nats' pitching heavy drafting is less/more successful than a more balanced or more position focused approach? The wisdom seems to be that great position prospects have a better chance of working out than great pitching prospects and the Nats' own experience (as well as Cubs, Yankees, and others) seems to align. Is our pitching focus in the draft a mistake?

NotBobby said...

Thoughts on Boone?

Froggy said...

Harper, I used wood bats and no gloves in LL too, just like my idol Carl Yastrzemski. Hence the reason I wasn't drafted pro probably.

Anyway, speaking of stupid contracts and as to why there hasn't been much movement yet, is there a stat that depicts value to WAR or a ratio to contract monies to actual performance?

NotBobby said...

@Froggy yes there is a calculation every season as to how much a win should cost and they predict how much inflation will occur the next season. You can find it on fangraphs I think

KW said...

I think Fangraphs is now using 1 WAR = $10M. Frankly, that's a staggering number to contemplate. It's also a big part of the reason I don't think the Stanton contract is nearly as bad as people act like it is. By this metric, Stanton just had a season valued at $70M.

The Boone hiring strikes me as a massive egotistical gamble by Cashman, basically trying to prove that he doesn't need Giradi's stinkin' experience. Hiring a woefully inexperienced manager is one thing if you're the Phillies and have nothing to lose. It's quite another when you've got a good young core but also will be perennially facing a tough divisional challenge by the Bosox. If Boone's learning curve costs the Yanks three or four games, that might be the difference in the division.

NotBobby said...

Josh Higham said...

OK, Greg Holland was trash in the second half. How does he win comeback player of the year over Zimmerman?

Froggy said...

Thanks @Not Bobby and KW,
Is $10mm per WAR a projection based on total hoped performance over life of contract? In other words was Scherzer's contract of $200mm based on him delivering 20 WAR in six years or 3.3 War per year?

Froggy said...

Then Jayson Werth robbed the Lerners blind.

NotBobby said...


Yeah they generally plan on the player not being worth the calculation of a war equaled out through the contract. You generally plan on war declining through several years. You also back load contracts bc of the inflation in war knowing that 1 war will cost more each year of the contract.

G Cracka X said...

Hey Harper, how about doing a full off-season 'If I were Mike Rizzo, these are all of the off-season moves I would make' post?

notBobby said...

Man, Ohtani was always a long shot but sad to hear he will not set up a meeting with Nats.

So scared he will pick San Fran and they will also trade for Stanton...