Nationals Baseball: The question beyond the question

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The question beyond the question

The Rockies are looking to wrap up Nolan Arenando long-term. The Rockies have the money to do that and something like 5/150 isn't out of the question. (Long terms are all now relative - don't be expecting 7+ year contracts for anyone that isn't 22). Arenando has been a great player - a plus bat with very good defense at a position that's traditionally harder to fill than you'd think. While he suffers from the same home/road question that all Rockies players do, most thought falls into the "that's what happens when you play in Colorado" rather than "Home = Fake. Away = Real".  Arenando is a very good to great player going into his age 28 season and should be locked up.

Anthony Rendon has arguably been better than Nolan Arenando. Not quite the pure power hitter than Nolan is, Rendon makes up for it in other ways. Factoring in the parks, over the past two seasons, he's a better hitter for average and shown more patience, while providing superior defense. I'm not going to fight anyone that argues Arenando is better, but it is an argument. And Rendon is also up for free agency after this year. This begs the question - where is Rendon's 5/150 deal?

 Now there are some key differences between the two. Rendon is about a year older. More importantly Arenando has been a relatively healthy player (156 GP or more in each of the last four seasons) while Rendon has not.  Rendon however has been a lot healthier in recent years then to start his career where he lost huge chunks of 2012 and 2015 to injury. His 136 GP last year is not ideal, but you can work around a few missed weeks.

There's just enough that even though you may argue he's better, Rendon might actually walk away with a little less than Nolan.  5/130?  It's been quiet on this front though with the Bryce stuff making for a nice distraction. There are suggestions that the Nats have made efforts on this front, but given how little has been written about it, these are doubtful to be more than probes and bargain deals the Nats have floated to get some idea of where Rendon stands.

I think the talks will heat up once Bryce gets settled, but make no mistake, this is not an either or situation. The Nats could likely sign both, and can almost certainly fit both under the cap with Zimmerman either leaving, or returning on a deal closer to 5 million than the 18 his option stands at in 2020. It shouldn't be dependent on Bryce.

Is Rendon worth it? There are no real trends to suggest not. He's morphed into a little more of a flyball hitter which is probably better. He still hits the ball hard and to all fields. He was more aggressive last year but still made good contact swinging more, so there's more a sense that this is a conscious adjustment rather than an attempt to cover for something beginning to go wrong. He's probably peaked as a defender but he's coming off a high of "maybe best in baseball" so as long as the fall is moderate he'll be worth playing at 3B for a while and still good for nearly all of a long term contract. He's not a particularly good runner, but not a bad one either and still seems about roughly in the same shape as he was when he came in.

What it comes down to is it's a complete health gamble. When healthy you can pencil in Rendon for .300 and the high 20s in homers with excellent D. That's worth it. But unlike Bryce, who can mostly bash his way to all-star level seasons at the plate when he's not 100%, Rendon seems to suffer more, becoming more of an average bat. His defense is still strong though and an average bat who can play excellent third is not without value. It's just not 25 million dollars worth of value.

The Zimm contract may be a deterrent. He's held up decently at the plate but wev'e watched as injuries have forced him to become unable to hold down a job at 3B, and become a half-time bad fielding first baseman. His contract was actually signed off and injury filled year, but like Rendon he had been mostly healthy before that playing 142 and 157 games. It was a different time though - before the team was good, when the Nats still felt the need to keep certain players around or bring certain players in to feel like a winner to fans. There's not that impetus now, after the team has established it can keep a winner on the field.

What am I thinking? Well of course, I'm spending the money that's not mine. In the end you make this deal today. Rendon seems to have turned around early career health issues enough that while maybe he's not an iron man, he can be relied on to be out there for almost what would be considered a normal season. Given that assumption, he should hit about .300 with about mid 20s in homers and with very good defense at third he's a keeper. There is nothing other than the spectre of injury that would make you fell otherwise.

34 comments:

G Cracka X said...

Its a no-brainer: Get Rendon signed! I think they could work something reasonable out, as I get the feeling Rendon's not super eager to shop himself around in free agency

Harper said...

I think they should wrap up Bryce and Rendon and let it ride on the core they have for the next 5 years. The only reason not to do this is if you want to pull back from the Top 5ish payroll they've established over the years. They'll probably keep punting on C and RP if they do this but maybe just make that a focus of drafting for a few years then. This is for you "not all-in" people who think owners have some sort of money limit.

billyhacker said...

All in or not, Rendon seems like a player a consistent enough player, with a profile (good eye, line drive to all fields) that should deteriorate slower than a big hacking outfielder. To me, that makes the variance in outcomes, or maybe even the likely performance floor, higher, and that should mean you can project value with narrower error bars. And to me, that's what you pay a premium for projectable performance. Anything lower than 5/140 seems unreasonable and 5/150 seems like a midpoint. But that all changes if Machado signs for an aav under $30.

blovy8 said...

I would be really surprised if Arenado got an extension valued at 30m per year at this point. The free agent market for that kind of deal for a position player hasn't happened, so why wouldn't he end up like Machado? Especially if Rendon is also out there. We'd wait until March to see which one blinks. There's team leverage there that needs to be recognized after the last three off-seasons. He's no Mike Trout. The way things are likely to be for the next three years, if Rendon gets an offer at 25m per year, Boras should jump on it. If he can't see, Rendon still ought to tell him to take it.

The new MLB Rumors story is that negotiations are putting the DH in the NL, an extra player on rosters, and forcing relievers to pitch to three guys unless they're hurt. Of course, every pitcher hurts himself just by pitching, but maybe this stuff is why Rizzo hasn't signed a straight-up loogy. No way all this gets done now, but it's out there. Now if they also raise the ceiling for the CBT, maybe the first paragraphs changes, but why would MLB do that?

Isn't it just as likely that the tanking trend is merely that - following recent sucessful franchise-building methods? Is it also more about clubs making money from shared profits without even trying, rather than being afraid of losing picks and some percentage of tax?

blovy8 said...

OK. I forgot about Miguel Cabrera - but that's probably a cautionary tale.

Anonymous said...

We resigned Hellickson to MLB deal so i would assume we stash ross and fedde in AAA (or hopefully AA) so they are not on other side of the country.

Jay said...

Is it me or is the flurry of teams "meeting" with Harper seem like they are trying to drive up the price between either the Phillies or the Nats? I still think the Nats should keep him. Holding out hope.

Anonymous said...

@Jay - I think the flurry of teams meeting with Harper is due to the fact that someone is hoping to buy low. If this was going to be a bidding war, I feel like he'd have already signed, I think this is teams trying to get J.D. Martinez on the cheap.

@Anon - I think the Hellickson deal says a lot about how the club feels about Ross. I also think he could be dealt very soon. Stashing him at AAA, doesn't make a ton of sense.

Harper said...

blovy8 - I've gotten the feeling that it's a contract length thing more than an AAV thing. If the White Sox really went 7/175 for Machado you think they wouldn't go 5/150?

Cardinal Ximinez said...

with Rendon, the bigger concern with me was... would he want to resign with the Nats. as a Texas native who didn't seem to be chasing top dollar as opposed to a comfort location, i was worried he might prefer a Texas area or west coast team. i was/am VERY happy to hear that he is interested in dealing for his future with the Nats. so for me, it's a no brainer. you find the deal he wants and sign him longterm. 6yrs $145 gets it for me. maybe with a 3 or 4yr opt out worked in

Ole PBN said...

@Cardinal - of course he was going to say that. Why piss off the local fans before you hit FA? What was he honestly supposed to say? It's not like the NBA where dudes "demand" a trade when they're unhappy. Remember Harper said he wanted to spend his whole career here and was open to an extension - but look what happened? Might still come back, but didn't bite at the extension or our original offer. To no fault or ill-will towards Rendon, he will no doubt do the same, unless our offer is a ridiculous overpay (i.e. Strasburg).

blovy8 said...

Machado might not even be a good 3B by then. Why not take more money and add an opt out?

blovy8 said...

Years are the issue though. I do think they could get a short deal for more annual value. But if you're the Rockies, what's the right amount? They didn't want to go to 30 this year.

blovy8 said...

Also, if Donaldson does well, he's another 25-30 million type guy.

PotomacFan said...

Ross is not going anywhere. He's inexpensive and under team control. And he has a decent upside. The Nats need an SP 5 because, among other things, Ross is on a strict innings limit. Why not let Hellickson pitch the first 5, and then use Ross for the next 2 - 4 innings? In all events, Ross could be a decent long reliever and/or spot starter (when Strasburg takes his 5 week break).

DezoPenguin said...

One annoying thing with the makeup of the Nats bullpen is the lack of options. Which means that they can't make like the Brewers and put 2-3 guys on the Fresno shuttle back and forth when they get used up behind Hellickson and Sanchez. Of course, Doolittle and Rosenthal would be expected to stay up full-time, but Miller-Glover-Grace and maybe Barraclough are all of a level where they could fit better into a rolling rotation of fresh 'pen arms, but they can't because they don't have options.

Still, at least Hellickson ought to give us 5 good innings per game (he allowed 3 or fewer runs in 18 of 19 starts last year, with only one blow-up), which is more than most teams can expect from their fifth starter. Certainly it's more than I could expect from Fedde.

Ross I expect will start in the minors, knocking off the remaining rust from his injury-shortened year so he can be ready for a spot start (or batch of starts in the event of injury).

As for Rendon, were I Rizzo I'd give him 5/$125M-$150M at the drop of any hat. He's legitimately great, on a level with Bryant, Ramirez, Arenado, or a healthy Donaldson. (Heck, if the NL is really getting the DH, I'd consider going to 7 years, since the bat is likely to age better than the glove.)

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: I have to correct you, or rather push back gently. First, Rendon’s defense has been quite good, but it’s not in the same universe as Arenado, who, by defensive metrics (and the eye test if you’re asking me personally), is the best fielding 3B ever. This is not close, and it doesn’t matter what metric you use (DRS, UZR, dWAR, etc)....Defensive Runs Saved is most commonly used so.... consider. Through his career Arenado has 109 DRS. That is unheard of. Nobody besides Andrelton Simmons and early Andruw Jones amassed this many DRS this quickly. Over his time in MLB, he is the best DEFENSIVE 3B by a mile, with Machado at like 50-something DRS. Rendon has 16. (Again, the other metrics tell basically the same story...Arenado is on Pluto, Machado is second best, then there’s a big drop and group of like 4-5 guys all around Rendon level, including people like J Ramirez, Donaldson, Bergman, Turner, etc). NOTE: Chapman on A’s had an *insane* defensive year at 3B last year, Arenado-like, but we’re gonna wait for him to do it again, just in case.
Second, and more importantly for the Nats, it is entirely possible Rendon is about to become an average defender. Last year saw a noticeable and troubling dip in those same metrics. He went from reliably “plus” in range and DRS to a *negative* 2018 DRS and UZR, which he has never been. (Not below replacement level by WAR, but average at best.) Now, you can’t 100% rely on fielding metrics of course, but when they all say the same thing (he was worse than his career norm last year) I pay attention. And I did feel like he got to a couple fewer balls in the 5.5 hole last year, though could be my imagination. I will definitely take Rendon’s bat over Arenado’s, however. His Home-Away splits are actually worse than usual for a Coors guy. He may not be as bad as Away Numbers but even if you split difference, I see him more like a Ryan Zimmerman bat playing at altitude. But make no mistake: Arenado is not only a better fielder, he’s a better fielder in the way that Andrelton Simmons is a better fielder than, say, Didi Gregorious. It’s not remotely close. And the worry with Rendon going forward is he becomes an average then below average defender over a 5 year (to age 34) deal, which is VERY possible. (PS if you couldn’t tell, I think a Machado due to age but also performance is a better player than both of these two, so they shouldn’t expect as much AAV and they should expect half as many years (again, age). But this is sort of my reason for wanting to invest in Bryce over Rendon. Bryce has like 7 more prime years. Rendon may well have like 2-3 left, and be on the way downward defensively. “But Bryce is also declining defensively!” u say. Maybe. But his sprint speed on statcast is the same as his rookie year and he’s 26....hard to believe he really fell off a cliff at 26? Easier to believe Rendon is starting to decline at 29....although either way, Rendon’s value is heavily in his two way player ability and Bryces is his bat. FINAL POINT: J Ramirez is far better than any 3B in baseball as of now. Rendon truly isn’t close to Ramirez, nor is any other 3B. Nobody else is reliably a 7 WAR guy let alone 9-10. He’s an almost 40-40 guy who just posted a year better than 80% of MVP years and somehow isn’t the best player on the left side of his own infield. I would argue that SS-3B combo has a chance to be possibly the best in history, maybe better than Jeter-ARod just because Lindor is superior to Jeter (elite defender with power Jeter never had). And Ramirez is clearly capable of having ARod-level seasons if he keeps it up.

BxJaycobb said...

And wow I APOLOGIZE for the length of that comment I didn’t realize what was happening as I was writing it.

Jay said...

I want to keep Rendon but for the sake of argument the guys has never even made an All Star team. I'll admit that doesn't mean much now, but another reason to keep both Harper and Rendon.

DezoPenguin said...

@Bx: I won't argue your comment about Arenado's DRS, but you're inaccurate when you say that "any" fielding metric puts Arenado ahead of Rendon, let alone that it's not close. A quick glance at Fangraphs' pages for both players shows that Rendon exceeds Arenado in both UZR/150 and defensive WAR both for their career and in 2018. And for all that I agree that Ramirez is awesome on a number of levels, 2018 was the only year he's beaten out Rendon in fWAR (and it wasn't such a slam-dunk as that; Rendon put up 6.3 fWAR in 597 PA = 6.33/600 while Ramirez had 8.0 in 698 PA = 6.88/600).

Basically, my point is, there are a whole bunch of superstar 3Bs in our league. But you're making it sound like the one we've got is significantly inferior to the ones other teams have, and that's just not so. Honestly, I think that all your ripping on Rendon is more an attempt to argue that if the Nationals have the chance to spend mega-money on only one position player, it should be Bryce Harper when the only real argument there is that Bryce will likely be worth more in the last couple of years of the contract because bats age slower than gloves do.

(I have to agree that that Ramirez/Lindor infield combination is amazing, though and it's a crime that Cleveland seems happy to be a 90-win team around them.)

blovy8 said...

You can't have it both ways Bx, if Arenado is an otherworldly fielder by the metrics, then Harper's outfielding stinks, and he should be a DH before he's 30. In statcast, Harper was 13 outs below average last year, the only qualifying OF worse were Adam Jones, Rhys Hoskins and Nick Castellanos. Two of those guys should never be confused with a competent outfielder, it would be like putting Zim out there again. One is still waiting for a deal and has always been an overrated fielder. Bad.

Harper can run pretty fast to where he thinks the ball will bounce, but rarely takes a risk in catching it. The assumption has been that he is alleviating the risk of injury, but how is that going to change going forward? If the Nats told him to take it easy so he'd be able to keep playing, it remains reasonable advice wherever he plays. I suppose he could take his defense to heart and work at it, but I am unaware of any plans to do so. The only guy worse at making routine plays was converted terrible 3B Castellanos. Looking at this stuff, and how athletic he is, it would not surprise me if Harper were hiding some eyesight or inner ear issues. It doesn't make much sense.

Harper said...

BX / Dezo -
point one - maybe I undersold Arenando's D and oversold Rendon's but I'm still taking Rendon over Nolan for D, DRS be damned. That's my eye test (best fielding 3B ever? How old are you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i-4nD0oegg) The fact that he's like double the next best 3B in DRS to me doesn't speak in Nolan's dominance to me, but rather to a huge flaw in the DRS system. Part of that is innings played (it is a cumulative stat) but the idea is Arenando is twice as good as Rendon, let alone 5 times is ludicrous, imo. I mean was Matt Chapman 6 times better than Arenado last year? DRS flings so wildly from year to year (2017 Lorenzo Cain was passable. 2018 BEST CF IN GAME!) that I have a hard time trusting it outside of hugely wide groupings.

blovy8 said...

Harper are you serious? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_XHZbhR9qc

NotBobby said...

Agree with blovy8. Assumed the link was to Brooks Robinson and now see it wasnt...

DezoPenguin said...

Make it three of us who assumed Brooks Robinson!

sirc said...

Michael Jack Schmidt.

He is without question the greatest to ever man third. Whoever is second is an extremely distant second. There is no larger gap between the best at any position and second best at any position.

The only question with regard to Mike Schmidt is whether he is the greatest baseball player of all time. Maybe not, but no other third baseman is in that conversation.

Johnny Callison said...

Hey everybody, don't know where to post about this, so just thought I'd say that the great, great, great Frank Robinson has just passed away at age 83. My "name" may be Johnny Callison (my fave when I was 7 years old and lived an hour away from both Philly and Baltimore in northern Delaware), but I don't know if there was ever a player I respected more than Frank Robinson. He was with the O's for just six years (I think they erred in trading him to make room for Don Baylor), but his impact was huge--four pennants and two WS champs. His leadership in terms of keeping things focused on the field and loose in the clubhouse was crucial.

And then he went on to blaze the trail for African-Americans and other minorities in the dugout as the first black manager. I believe he retired a bit early to make sure he could fully focus on managing. Otherwise, he would have 3000 hits and 600 homers (just short on both). True, it was said he was sometimes too tough on younger players (he famously had Chili Davis sent down by the Giants) and too impatient with those who lacked his focus and skill, but he was there with good humor through the O's brutal 21 game skid in 1988, and he was the Nats' first manager.

Two time MVP, manager of year, number retired by three teams. And HOF, of course.

And he even did a cameo on The Cosby Show.

Goodbye, Frank. And thanks.

Johnny Callison said...

Realmuto to the Phils. Does that help them get Harper? Big upgrade for them. Starting to take them seriously. Now if they get Keuchel, Machado and/or Harper, I'll be paying attention.

NotBobby said...

[Throw my glove and start running at the mound]

blovy8 said...

Well then I screwed up the link because it was supposed to be Brooks. RIP, the better Robinson player.

Harper said...

Lot of O's fans here! Brooks might be the best fielder ever, but I love that play. (schmidt's combo makes him the best 3B ever and if he just hit for average he'd be right there for best player ever) I'm a big fan of the surprise fielder appearances on screen. Like this amazing play https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYNu_CNAH6U&feature=youtu.be&t=68

Johnny Callison said...

I think it was Harper's link that surprised a few; your link to that iconic 1970 WS play was the right one, Blovy8. Harper's link was Mike Schmidt somehow scooping up a dribbler behind the mound and getting the throw off in time. What I saw there was that Schmidt was much faster (footspeed) than many other 3Bs. I couldn't believe how fast he got to that ball. Brooks Robinson had great positioning, anticipation and quick release with accuracy and was so fluid in the field. Belanger/Robinson has to be the best long-term SS/3B combo ever.

But Schmidt was probably the best 3B as a package. Great power, OBP, speed, and D. And he kept his offense up for a long, long time. Brooks could still field late into his 30s, but had no power at all by then.

I say, let's keep them both in the HOF; I can't decide who's better on D. Meanwhile, I think Rendon is someone we should sign and the value may be a bit better than Arenado because Arenado gets a lot of press and Rendon is soooo quiet. If Bryce is a brand, what is Anthony? What's the opposite of a brand? He's not generic, but he sure is going unnoticed. I really hope we sign Rendon so he can just be himself without all that FA pressure. I don't think he will thrive in the spotlight.

NotBobby said...

https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/fielding_perc_3b_career.shtml

Rendon is 3rd! Just above Brooks. Quickly looked but didn't see Schmidt...

Anonymous said...

Ole PBN---I respectfully disagree that we overpaid for Strasburg. At the time--at least the articles I read said that he left $50 million on the table. Its only subsequently, when the bottom fell out on the FA market, that his contract may look too large.