Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - No-tani

Monday, December 04, 2017

Monday Quickie - No-tani

Not that it's a surprise but the Nats are out on Ohtani. It doesn't mean much directly for the Nats. Ohtani has noted that he wants to be on a West Coast team meaning no team in the NL East will get him. However his list does suggest some problematic team. 

If he goes to the AL that's great. Meeting him in the World Series isn't something you worry about it's something you hope for.

The Dodgers or Cubs? Yeah that's no good for anyone. Even though neither of these teams seem like favorites - he said he wanted a West Coast small market team - they are still on the list. That should worry Nats fans because the hierarchy of the NL right now is clearly LA - CHC - WSN with maybe ARI knocking on the door (COL will have to prove they are moving to the next level for me) and anything the first two do to separate from WSN is worrisome. Of course some will say "Just get into the playoffs and blah blah blah"  I wonder how many NLDS losses will it take for them to stop saying that.  Probably like 100!  Nah.  It was just 100 runs of bad luck!

Anyway I digress. It's obvious Ohtani to one of them would be bad. Could Ohtanit to the Padres or Giants be bad in the short run (which is all we can really judge) too? 

The Padres is a big fat no.  Did you know that the Padres Pythag last year had them winning 59 games and they got INCREDIBLY lucky to win 71. Now - they may not have been 60 win bad but they were no better than the Giants, while also showing no particularly strong set of young players. They were the worst in the league in offense and it wasn't particularly close. One player isn't going to change that. They were bad in pitching as well. I don't see how this team competes for anything. I have to think they are more likely to deal some of their better players (like Brad Hand) in the offseason as they try again to reset.

The Giants? Well that's interesting. They did have a bad offense. Second worst in the NL and clearly worse than everyone else except the Padres. If they sign just Ohtani that's probably not enough. If they sign Ohtani AND get Stanton that would radically transform the offense. The pitching staff wasn't terrible last year and that's with only half a year of Bumgarner.  There is potential here for a big jump.  Now of course that matter less for the Nats than the NL West teams but it's another potential NLDS opponent to stand in the Nats way - assuming the Nats make the playoffs. 


notBobby said...

Couldn't agree more Harper. Look at my comment yesterday on the last post!

Dodgers would actually be a bit of a blessing bc how much better could they possibly be? Plus, maybe they don't get Bryce next year if they get Stanton or Ohtani.

I believe Ohtani's representatives stated he would prefer a team with no Japanese star yet. Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners have all had a Japanese star. San Fran may be the place...

elchupinazo said...

You have to think he's leaning harder towards AL teams, right? I mean money isn't the main factor bc if he wanted money he could have waited a bit and came over as a free agent. Not sure why he wants a small market team, maybe he figures the transition to the U.S. will already be hectic enough without the circus of being a Yankee. West coast location is obvious. But if he really thinks he can hit against MLB pitching (and I know nothing about the quality of Japanese pitching but man his numbers are good), wouldn't it make sense for him to go to an AL team where he can flash his bat every game?

He'll have to adjust to pitching more often (every 5 days vs once per week), but that's still comparatively few PAs and I have to believe that no team in their right mind would stick their 100 mph stud pitcher in the outfield on his off days just so he could hit. I still feel like teams will have to swallow a big pill to buck convention and allow him to DH, but if it's part of his demands and he looks good in Spring Training, I bet someone would do it.

So yeah, my guess is Seattle for being AL and its proximity to Japan. Maybe Anaheim if he cares about warm weather.

Josh Higham said...

@elchupinazo I agree with you on all of that except the conclusion. MLBTR suggeted Texas might go to a 6 man rotation to give Ohtani and Hamels more rest and Ohtani more ABs. That's probably why they are finalists despite not being on the coast. I'd guess Seattle and Texas are the frontrunners among the 7 finalists, from my position of no inside information.

Fries said...

My bet's on either the M's or the Pads. M's for the AL, Pads for the multiple personal connections to the Front Office. I'm rooting for the Padres, San Diego needs some sports happiness these days.

Keith Watts said...

Why is the East/West coast thing so obvious? It's only a couple hour difference flying LA or NY to Tokyo. Or at least that's what Google says. I personally think any flight over 3 hours is torture, and I don't know that I'd really be able to tell the difference between 11hrs55min and 14hrs30min. Last time I flew from Japan to NY I had totally lost it by hour 6.

Flapjack said...

I agree that the pending signing of some marquee players is probably putting a damper on other signings, but something else may be going on to create that damper. The period of salary inflation that until now has tracked the rise in cable TV revenues may be slowing, in part, because there are (inside baseball) projections that the revenue growth from that source is slowing. (To wit, most of the league's handwringing about pace of game probably owes to the proliferation of TV commercials.) The whole cable industry is under assault from drop-the-box alternatives like Sling.

Despite what clever journalists like Norm Chad say about Bryce's incredible worth, I just don't see it. These super sized contracts assume cable revenues keep ballooning. But teams that buy into this argument are painfully exposed to the risk that revenues might peak. In the long run, revenues can't grow faster than the incomes times the size of the fan base. For example, I took the gang to one of the Dodger games last Sept. for a total cost of $600+. Those kinds of prices really cut down attendance. On the TV side, teams are already at the limit of how many ads they can stuff into (what has become) 3.5 hours. Viewers are getting exasperated. At home I record the game on my DVR, start watching 30 minutes after start time and breeze through the barrage of commercials. The advertisers have to realize this.

So what we are seeing may be a topping out of the boom in player salaries, leading to a series of standoffs at various bargaining tables. Contributing to this is the fact that many of the big-market teams have blown their wads on players like, say, Jason Heyward. If it were up to the smaller market teams, loose talk of half-billion dollar contracts would be nothing more than pie-in-the-sky. If contracts for marquee players are "disappointing" this year, that's probably why. As a fan, incidentally, I'm all for it.

KW said...

Ohtani probably isn't going to bat enough for an NL team to make much of an offensive difference. KLaw had some scouting reports that were throwing a lot of cold water on Ohtani as a hitter anyway. Despite all the two-way talk, I really doubt we're going to see much of it, at least in the NL. Ohtani also hasn't played in the field in three years, so he's bound to be rusty.

In the AL, maybe they try him some at DH, which is what he's been doing in Japan. Really, the teams on his list he could help most would be the Angels and M's, both of which aren't too far from playoff quality with a little more pitching.

The Giants? Nah. I wouldn't fear them even with Stanton and Ohtani. The Giants are a 64-win team with 2.5 good starters, no bullpen, and an OF so bad that they tried Chris Marrerro. They're in the same division with the loaded Dodgers and the strong D-Backs and Rox. The Giants should be looking at a rebuild, but their perpetually sold-out stadium, a lot of bad/no-trade contracts, and absolutely no minor-league prospects all combine to make a tear-down unlikely. So you go for gimmicks instead. Stanton and Ohtani would be gimmicks on the Giants. They would be a nightmare on the Dodgers.

The sad part is that if Ohtani ends up on the West Coast, and even more so in a West Coast small market, most of the country is never going to see him except on a few highlights the next day, a la Trout. The West Coast/small market combo is also going to make it difficult for him to get the Harper-level of endorsements that CAA apparently envisions helping make up the contract money he's unable to get.

Josh Higham said...

KW, I don't think Ohtani has any illusions that he'll be the biggest star in the US. In fact, he probably prefers to stay under the radar here in the states. The big endorsements he's counting on will, I expect, be in Japan. I don't know anything about Ohtani as a person, obviously, but it may well be he's a similar character to Ichiro. Ichiro had virtually no endorsement deals in the US even during his prime, when he was nearly a Trout figure in the game, but he had a variety of deals in Japan, and Ichiro seems like a fine model to follow.

I think the west coast/east coast issue is more about time zone differences than travel time, as the flight time is awful from either coast. A 7 pm game in Seattle, for example, is a noon game in Japan, whereas a 7 pm game in NY is a 9 am game in Japan. Day games then become very difficult to watch live in his home country, where ostensibly the fans are more financially important to him. I'm making some strong assumptions about where Ohtani's money will come from and how he feels about attention from US fans, but if my assumptions are good I think a small market on the west coast makes wonderful sense.

GTA said...

@Flapjack - interesting points. Thanks for bringing some of this up, I've been noodling on this stuff for a while and needed an excuse to write some out. First, while I generally agree with you that tv/entertainment money is being captured differently than, say, 10 years ago, that money is still being spent. And baseball, with their prescient creation of MLBAM and most RSN's offering streaming services (sure would be nice, MASN), is in a significantly better position to capture revenues from non-cable customers than any other professional sport. I'm not an economist (far from it!) so I'm not really in a position to do more than speculate on how the numbers play out, but MLB's teams seem to be at least aware of the slight move away from cable and are proactively adjusting. Long story short, I'm not sure that the broadcast-related revenue drivers of MLB teams will be as mucked up as it might appear from first glance. Of course teams refuse to open their books, so we'll never get more than suggestions and carefully packaged data points.

Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that revenues are/have peaked (though I'm doubtful based on 20 years of double digit growth that we're seeing a bubble burst), I'm not so sure that fact means that player salaries have peaked. Player costs still haven't caught up to the boom in revenue in the last decade+, so even if revenue does remain static going forward there's still some space for salaries to rise (and, pragmatically, it's hard to say to a premier guy like Bryce or Machado "sure... we think you're the best player ever, but we just can't pay you as much as last year's best player ever got.").

All that being said, big market teams are big market teams. Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, etc. will always have available money to spend because of their market and fanbase (and, in the Dodgers' case, deeeeeeeep ownership pockets). Barring some sort of catastrophe, I gotta figure there will always be teams out there to spend big on stars. The Padres and Royals, for example, are never going to bid on Arod or Giancarlo, but the Yankees and Dodgers (insert rich teams here) probably always will. At least IMO. As you mentioned, the Cubs spent $200M on terrible Jason Heyward and then $60M on Zobrist, and are now apparently the favorites to hand Alex Cobb a bunch of cash and you know they're going to RESPECT Anthony Rizzo with a big offer before he hits FA after 2019.

Lastly, re: Bryce as a National for $X00M. My thought on this is that you have a chance to lock in a guy who is on pace to be an inner circle HOFer (though of course he still has to complete the little task of 15 more years of excellent baseball). If Bryce is a lifetime Nat, he's the face of your franchise for the next hundred years. I live in New York right now, and the number of Mantle and DiMaggio jerseys you see around here every day is pretty substantial, not even getting in to the ubiquitous Jeter. The Nationals/Lerners could have a guy like that. It may not make sense from a dollar per win efficiency standard, but look at it this way. Twice before, the DC baseball team left town (admittedly well before my time). That would be a lot harder if, 20 years from now, basically two straight generations of DC baseball fans grew up watching an iconic star. Bryce helps to establish, for us and the Lerner family, the Nationals in Washington as a part of baseball's culture and lore. A bust with a curly W hat sits up there with the NYs and Bs and LAs. I fully accept that this is an appeal to emotion, but given that it's #NotMyMoney, I think that making Bryce a lifetime Nat is absolutely the way to go.

P.S. Of course, when Bryce gets hurt a season from now and we own him $500M for a decade of decline, I'll be the first to complain about it. Being a fan is fun!

KW said...

Josh, you're probably right about Ohtani's direct marketing to Japan . . . which I sure hope rules out the Cubs! The Cubbies are actually in more desperate need of pitching than is generally being discussed.