Nationals Baseball

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Max Scherzer - When will it end? Will it end?

Max Scherzer is a singular talent. This isn't just about pitching skill. When he came in I doubted Max's ability to stay healthy given his work load. But now, four years into his deal, which I think was my limit in how many full years Max would get to, he's thrown more innings than anyone and appears perfectly fine.

It's not just that he's thrown more innings than anyone. He's blown them away. Since 2013 Max has thrown 1313 innings. Second best is Corey Kluber at 1238 innings. Third is Verlander at 1205 innings. Max has thrown 100+ inning more than the third most durable pitcher in baseball in the past 6 years - about a half season more of pitching. It only takes until number 15 to get to over 200 innings in the lead, meaning Max has given his teams a full season more (or more) than the vast majority of pitchers in this league.

But nothing lasts forever. At some point Max will get hurt. For Nats fans the question is will it happen in the next three years?

Well the honest answer is - we don't know! Everyone is different! But we can sort of guess by looking at pitchers with similar careers to this point and see what happened to them.  To the similarity scores! (similar through 33 via b-ref) 

Roy Oswalt?  He's the comparison I liked for Max. But Roy broke at age 33. Max has not. And in case you are wondering about age finagling. Max is about as "old" as a player can get for assigning an age to a year. He turns the next age a few weeks after the deadline. So he's not squeaking by 33 here. It's long gone.

Johan Santana? Broke at 32.

Jon Lester?  Contemporary of Max chugging along fine at 34.

Roy Halladay? Broke at 35.

Tim Hudson? Missed massive time at 33 but came right back and was fine until arguably age got him at 37 or 39 depending.

Jered Weaver? Broke at 32.

Jim Bunning? HOF senator (not HOF Senator, or maybe it is - not a DC ballplayer is what I'm trying to say here. An actual US senator).  Off track at 36

John Smotlz? Missed a whole year at 33, then came back as a dominant reliever, then back as a starter until 41!  Really not comparable because of the reliever thing though

Verlander? Something went off around 31/32 but has since pulled it together and is doing fine at 35.

Zack Greinke? More Strasburg than Strasburg, he's missed time here and there but mostly still fine at 34.

and for funsies

Nolan Ryan? Rarely a great pitcher was still Nolan Ryan through 44/45.

OK so that tells us nothing much.  If we ignore Ryan as a pure freak and Smoltz as a guy whose arm was saved some wear and tear by moving to the pen for several years we get a peak of 37ish but with three contemporaries still pitching right now at least a little older than Max. One thing you notice right away from these guys is that for the guys right before Max's generation, Oswalt, Santana, Halladay, Hudson. Two were done by 33. Hudson missed massive time at 33. Halladay was done at 35.  Meanwhile out of Scherzer, Verlander, Greinke,Weaver, and Lester, who maybe debuted a half-decade later you see only one of the guys crashing out before 34. You have to wonder if there may be something about the pitch count revolution that's having an effect here. Maybe not an overall effect on the league - but allowing guys with strong durable arms to stay strong and durable longer.  Just a thought.

Anyway, is Max going to make it 3 more years? I don't know. If I wanted to be sure I guess I would make Max a closer next year, then move him back.  I wouldn't like him, or anybody really, going deep into their late 30s.  That's just extremely atypical. But with three contemporaries heading into age 35/36, why not Max? Right now I think it's no worse than a coin flip. Given that take, you'd probably give him a year and a half (basically until he turns 37) but that's just guessing.

He's already given the Nats everything he could (in the regular season). Let's hope he stays healthy and gets a chance to take away those parenthesis.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Grandal or bust?

Rizzo made a comment yesterday that he wanted a frontline catcher - a guy to catch 120 games.  I went ahead and took a shot and tried to find guys who played that much.  But it turns out catching 120 games is pretty rare. Only 4 guys managed the feat in 2018. So I gave a little leeway. 230 games played the past two seasons with at least 90% at catcher. That would put a minimum of something like 105 games. At least in the ballpark of being able to start 120 reliably.

That got me only 6 names. Because one wasn't Realmuto I did a little more digging and I had him at 90.5% but I guess baseball ref is doing something different because he pops up at 89% but not 90%.  So I dropped the requirement to 85%. That got me 8 guys.  That's gotta be the limit of guys you could reasonably expect to catch 120 games

Who are these guys? Well first let's take out two guys who aren't going anywhere.

Yadier Molina is one. He is going to retire a Cardinal unless something crazy happens. Wilson Contreras is one. The Cubs are contending and not dealing a starting catcher.

We are down to 6

Yasmani Grandal. He's the prize. He can hit.  He's a .240 bat with 20+ HR power and nice amount of patience. He might be the best framer in baseball. People were a little turned off by his post-season performance but that was atypical. He's a good fielder. The only real knock on the guy is that he'll be 30 next year and will probably get a contract that takes him into his decline years. Still, he's going to get a lot of money in free agency

JT Realmuto. We know all about him. He was thought of as possibly the best hitter of all available catchers before last year, then set himself apart performing really well in a dead line-up. He hits for power and good average which covers for middling patience. Defensively he's great at the usual stuff but not much of a framer. Still arguably the best catcher in baseball right now. The Marlins are asking the world for him.

Mike Zunino. He's also a guy with 20+ power who's a pretty good fielder. Solid framer with a rocket arm. But there are a couple problems. First problem is he's nothing else at the plate. After a surprisingly good 2017 he went back to hitting around .200 and he's not patient. Second problem is he's not a FA and he just got traded to the Rays. On one hand, maybe the Rays are looking to flip him. On the other he's exactly the cheap player they want now... and will flip later. He's probably not available. Like Realmuto though he's under control for two more years.  Also like Realmuto, 28 next year.  Very much a poor man's Realmuto.

Jon Lucroy. The best catcher in baseball just back in 2016 age has taken a quick toll on Jon. His power went last year and pitchers realized they could come right after him this year taking a bite out of his patience. His defense still looks good but his framing stats have also declined. You wouldn't think a guy would be done at 33 but he's a FA who will get one-year flier contract and nothing more.

Martin Maldanado.  Never heard of the guy? Not surprising. He's was an uninspiring back-up for the Brewers before getting a full-time job with the Angels in 2017.  Last year the Astros picked him up as a back-up. You couldn't ask for a better fielder. Very good framer who threw out a league high 49% of runners last year.  But a nothing with the bat and never will be anything. Still that defense should earn him a 2 yr deal in FA.

Tucker Barnhart. Sneaks in at 85% He's kind of the traditional defensive stalwart catcher, meaning he blocks everything but can't frame at all. His arm is good and when that broke right (led league in CS% in 2017) he found himself with a gold glove. He's a little better than Maldanado at the plate and younger but also not a FA.  He's under Reds control through 2021.

If the Nats want to get immediately better at catcher the choices are clear. You sign Grandal or you trade for Realmuto.  If the Nats simply want a body back there they can rely on being back there - they have some choices. I suggested a platoony type situation but Rizzo seems to want consistency. That means you are probably looking at someone on this list.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Offseason Position Discussion : Relief Pitching

Last year discussion revisited

The Nats set up a three-headed monster with Doolittle, Madson, and Kintzler - all acquired in-season 2017, sticking around for 2018.  It was probably the best pen the Nats had going into a season, but I was also wary that it felt like a pen that was lacking that dominant closer and was relying on at least one too few good arms. Either they had to find that capper or add another couple arms or else I was worried that the way it was set up it was still one injury from being a problem again.

Guess what? It was one injury from being a problem. Doolittle would be healthy and great and for a good chunk of the season someone stepped up be it Madson, Miller, Grace, or Suero. The Nats would have injuries and Rizzo would act quickly to get another arm, trading for Kelvin Herrera. Unfortunately Herrera didn't click, and the Nats really needed more, expecially as the Nats rotation pushed the pen harder than expected mid-season. All in all it actually wasn't the hole that it might have seemed like, but it also never developed into a strength. By the time the trade deadline rolled around, the Nats gave up on the season, traded away the pen guys they could and decided they'd start anew. As would be expected the Nats pen imploded and helped quash any late run the Nats might have had in them

Presumed Plan : Doolittle will close and then the Nats will assemble a motley crew around him.  They've already traded for Barraclough and signed Rosenthal and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two other cheap arms join them.  Miller, Grace and Glover are close to locks. Which leaves one spot open right now which would probably be Suero right now.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Doolittle was great. Sticking with him makes sense. Rosenthal has potential, as he was great before injury so bringing him in is a decent gamble. The rest is just the best pitchers currently rostered. No one here is dominant, or likely to be (sorry Glover), but they are all solid. I'm sure they'd rather have another lefty in here but there isn't a strong candidate that has to be in there. Tim Collins is fine, and maybe sneaks in if he re-signs.

It's not like the Nats aren't potentially spending a ton of money on the pen. Rosenthal will cost a lot if he's good. But this limits the money they can add now. If you have a limit, and it seems like the Nats do, then Rosenthal's potential cost becomes a sticking point. So I can't see another big name coming in here. Instead I see maybe an ok lefty being dealt for or signed and filling in that last arm and that being that. Any more than that and the Nats are committing more to the pen than last year and I feel like last year's performance shies them away from doing that.

Problems with Presumed Plan :  How much time do you have?  Outside of Doolittle, nothing here is great and Doolittle himself is an injury risk who missed time in 2018. Rosenthal could be great, but who knows?  The depth is limited as the next guys up are untested (Austin Adams) or so far failures (Gott, Cordero, Solis). There's no match-up abilities given the one lefty arm. There are no long men which presented an issue in 2017.  This isn't a winning pen as designed. AGAIN.

My take : Design is one thing. Reality is another. It can be a winning pen. You can see Doolittle dominate again, Rosenthal come back near his former self and the rest of the pen keeping on. But more than last year the Nats are depending on the rolls of the dice coming up in their favor. Worse still, the depth.  Injuries are nearly a given and once you get past Suero you start pushing into pitchers you may not want to see at all.  Last year the pen was better formed, performed reasonably well (before being gutted) and Nats fans still weren't happy with it. How is this better?

All this pen improves on is the money spent for performance given. Because of Rosenthal's contract the Nats aren't going to spend a bunch of money for shoddy performance. But if they get a shoddy performance what are the chances that money comes right back into the pen?

I'd like to see Andrew Miller or Justin Wilson signed. I'd like to see J-Rod committed to the bullpen as long relief +.  Push out two of these ok arms (Suero and whichever of Glover/Miller looks worse) and run with a bullpen we can be potentially excited about. Even then it's not perfect. Miller isn't MILLER right now so the Nats don't have that killer arm and Rosenthal is a big fat question mark but this is the best the Nats could do right now.

Out of the box suggestion :
I hate the opener idea but in part because I don't think it's used correctly. Sergio Romo isn't a guy that's good enough that you want to maximize his appearances.  You know who is? Max. Whatever his throw schedule is - when it makes sense use him as the opener.  Something like Max - Stras - FA - Max Opener - Roark.  I'd say do it for Stras too but I have no confidence that guy would adapt to anything outside his routine. That wrings another 30-40 innings from your best pitcher and away from the last guy in the pen.The whole point of all this bullpen shenanigans is to in theory get the best arms on the mound for the most amount of time. Let's actually try to do that

Friday, November 02, 2018

Offeseaon Position Discussion : Starting Pitching

Last year discussion revisited

We assumed it would be the usual 4 with a cheap FA in the 5th role and it was with Hellickson filling that final spot. It became clear as the season started that the Nats plan was to use Hellickson less as a traditional starter and more as a 4-5 inning pitcher and use the bullpen to soak up the rest of the innings. This made sense in a way with a very solid 1-4 and a newly filled out bullpen. Then baseball happened

The Nats would suffer injuries and Martinez would push the pen early trying to compensate and get wins. The pen would begin to suffer. The starting pitching would hold through May. Hellickson pitching insanely well and the Nats looking like starting pitching would carry them to another division title. But then Gio and Roark would have terrible Junes, Strasburg would check in for his annual one-month vacation, and Hellickson would get hurt as well.  The Nats in house options (J-Rod and Fedde) would prove inadequate and the pen was no longer there to bail them out - now overused and trying to help out Roark and Gio. At the same time the offense sputtered and the Nats dug themselves a hole they wouldn't climb out of.

After the disaster of June, the 2nd half would be a mixed bag Roark would recover in the 2nd half, Gio wouldn't, Strasburg would return ,and Hellickson wouldn't quite finish out the season. They did ok, but the Nats needed great to come back and they weren't great.

Oh yeah. And Max nearly won another Cy Young.

Presumed Plan :Max, Stras, Roark, a free agent/ trade for a good pitcher, someone in-house

Reasoning on Presumed Plan :With Gio gone the Nats need to fill two spots in the rotation. While they might be tempted to go with another Hellickson type, Strasburg's continual missed time and Roark off-month should give them enough pause to understand that's not a plan for a contender.  The Nats need to bring in a real pitcher. We all hope it's a Corbin/Kuechel type or someone good and young in trade but it doesn't necessarily have to be that. I could see a trade for a decent rotation filler type like Clayton Richard.  Regardless it has to be someone because you can't expect two guys to shake out from what the Nats have on hand.

Why leave a spot for someone in-house? Well they have two guys they really want to decide on. Joe Ross, who came back from TJ surgery to look perfectly adequate, and Erick Fedde, the arm they bet on when they sent Giolito, Lopez, and Dunning away. Both these guys are under Nats control for a few more years and if they can develop into even a Roark-lite that would help the Nats immensely as they try to budget pitching for the next few seasons along with everyone else.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Starting pitching is hard to get right and a big FA contract here can be trouble. If they don't go with a big FA signing though all it would take is Strasburg to get hurt for a little longer this year or Roark to pitch like... well he has over the past couple season, for the rotation to stop being a strength.  There is always the option to deal for quality but the Nationals have balked previously when it came down to giving up what's necessary to get that back.

Leaving the fifth spot for one of the in-house options to fill is also a problem if only because the Nats track record is not great. Since Stras and ZNN came up in 2010 the Nats have developed one starter - Roark. That's 8 seasons of nothing. Sure, part of that is lack of need. They could focus their efforts elsewhere with the starters they had on hand and they used a lot of high round picks as trade bait.  But you have to believe they felt someone would break out by now. Of the Top 5 round draft picks they bet on Solis became a reliever. Turnbull, Purke, Mooneyham, Voth, Cole, Johansen, Dickey, Van Orden, Rivera not Jr all haven't come through. Who's to say anything the Nats have decided to keep is suddenly going to break this trend?

One year, eventually, Max won't be MAX anymore. He is well into his 30s now.

My take :  The Nats are a pitching team and have always had top notch starting pitching. Last year was the first year in the Nats window that they've dropped below 7th in starter ERA (they were 13th). This is their identity and it's a winning formula. That's why it's hard for me to believe they won't go after a top notch pitcher. However, I don't now exactly what the Nats plan would be here. The Nats are rightly cautious on FA types and in trade these types don't come around all that often. Are they willing to sell a Robles+ for a Snell, if that deal would even be considered?

I think the Nats should do something different then I think they are going to do. I think make a trade and sign a guy and forget about the in house options. Maybe, in fact, deal them away. I'd trade for Chris Archer. He was a dependable pitcher with health before last year, an underrated quality, and his injuries last year were more fluky and less worrisome (and still only cost him 50 innings). He would only be a one-year guy but I think they could extend him with ease and at a time where you might be able to do it for a bargain price. He's also likeable which is a good replacement for Gio, who was also likeable in a sea of otherwise forgettable Nats. The Pirates are trying to reset to win in the 2020-on time frame around a set of four young pitchers, of which Archer isn't one, and what they need is that MI type the Nats could give them... if the Nats will bite the bullet and not grip tightly to their current best prosepcts Kieboom and Garcia.

I would sign JA Happ, because (1) I'd like a lefty and (2) his age means you are going to be able to get him on a deal that could be two-years and a vesting option.  It's a riskier move, yes, because of his age, but one that has a much shorter time frame of pain if it does go wrong. And he's been relatively healthy and I value that.

Out of the box suggestion :
Oh you are going to hate this. Look, the Nats have one thing everyone wants despite the cost. Max Scherzer. Now, you don't deal Max if you are planning on winning. You deal Max if you are planning on rebuilding for the future. But that might not be the worst idea. The Nats have talent enough, in Max and Rendon, to bring back guys that can play if not, right now then debut next year. The best fit for Max would be the Yankees. They have the deepest farm system of the current contenders, the deep pockets to cover his salary but I won't push that. Just let it be known I wouldn't trade Max for anything less than near ready starter plus. But understand no option will be palatable for you. To the Astros for Forrest Whitley? Back home to the Cardinals for Alex Reyes+? To the A's for Jesus Luzardo? (Yep that's right). Then you deal Rendon for an 1B or C everyone likes. Can you stomach Rendon on the Dodgers for Kiebert Ruiz and Gavin Lux? or maybe more pitching. Dustin May?

Rebuilding, really rebuilding, is terrible because it's giving up on winning now for maaaybe winning later. But you know you have Soto and Robles here for a while and you know you have aging pitching and little in the pipeline. Are you willing to pay for more pitching in two years when expensive Max and Stras may be on the books and starting to break down in some way? If not, there's only one move.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Redux and Rosenthal

I keep forgetting that something obvious to me, who is here everyday for too many year, is not obvious to everyone, especially ones that may be just picking up a post here and there.  So as a quick reminder - the Out of Box plan is NOT to be taken seriously.

Here is my post last year on this subject of what these reviews are.

OK on to Trevor Rosenthal

For those unfamiliar with his oeuvre, Rosenthal as been a quality reliever for the Cardinals since 2012. He's a high strike out guy (12.0 K/9 for his career) who is not very hittable (7.8 H/9) and not prone to the long ball (0.5 HR/9).  His bugaboo is the walk as he is a little wild (4.0 BB/9). He had some issues in 2016, which cost him his closer role* but other wise he was an All-Star caliber arm through 2017.

What about 2018? Oh yeah - he didn't pitch.  In 2016 he had some shoulder issues and an in-hindsight completely telling flexor strain and pitched 2/3rds of a season. Feeling good with Oh in the closer role the Cardinals decided "Hey why don't we take this closer for the past 5 seasons and stretch him back into a starter!" Smart move, Lilliquist. Wait a second. That name sounds familiar. Anyway they didn't follow through with it and after toying with it a little in Spring gave up. A lat strain cost him a few games to start the season, occasional arm "soreness" would have him miss a game or two until finally the arm came tumbling down in mid August. The UCL needed replacement and TJ was done at the very end of the month. 

Rosenthal was cut by the Cardinals and remained a free agent through his recovery. He had a showcase right after the season was done and that's where we stand now.

It's hard to say exactly what Rosenthal is right now because of that injury. Whatver issues that sprang up in 2016 and 2017 could easily be the fault of the elbow injury and thus aren't telling us anything. At the same time 2015 is a long time to look back and try to draw a straight line from.  I can tell you what you want to see - a pitcher approaching 100 MPH. Rosenthal is a fast ball pitcher and if his fastball isn't elite anymore then I'm not sure he's worth a gamble. You'd also like to see a solid slider. But these are things we have to wait til Spring to see. Presumably the teams have that info.

The Nats are supposedly promising him 7M total - 6 million for next year, with incentives that can pay up to 14 million and a vesting option for 15 million if he hits targets of 50 games appeared, or 30 games finished, with a 1 million buy out.

What does this all mean
1) The Nats have a pretty good bead that Rosenthal is healthy and decent. 7 million is a lot to spend on a pitcher that's just a lottery ticket
2) The Nats have already spent their big money on relief pitching. Since his salary can get up to 14 million the payroll has to be budgetted that way. So if you are expecting another shiny new relief arm, I'd forget it
3) The Nats are setting up salary expectations quickly which bodes well for a big contract coming. Though that could be Bryce, a starter, or something totally unexpected.

Assuming the Nats are right and Rosenthal is good to go - this is a great signing. But I can't give a real opinion until I see him at least a few times in the Spring. Right now it's a black box.

*He led the majors in saves in 2014-15

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield

Last year discussion revisited

It was a pretty cut and dried plan. Bryce because he's Bryce. Eaton because that was the plan and he would presumably be healthy. MAT because he played well enough in 2017 to deserve it. Robles, most likely, would be the back up plan if any of these didn't work out. (and would hopefully be pushing MAT by July regardless)

But the whole thing fell apart pretty quickly.  Eaton got injured on April 8th. Robles on April 9th. MAT hit poorly in April and worse in May. Stevenson and Sierra, the early replacements, were terrible at the plate. Things were going bad fast. Then Juan Soto came up and put up a ROY type year and possibly the best year ever for a 19 year old. I'm not saying it saved the season, because... well it didn't. The Nats still missed the playoffs. But it gave them a shot at sticking in it this year and an answer for the future.

Why didn't a ROY type surprise have enough impact to put this team over the top? Well Bryce, who started out great, fell hard and put up an off May, where he just hit for power, and a terrible June, where he hit for nothing. Eaton would come back around that time and also struggle mightily. Other bad, non-outfield things were happening. This is when the Nats would dig themselves a hole. Bryce would right himself after winning the HR Derby, and Eaton would be Eaton in the 2nd half but Soto would be mortal in August and by the time they all got going at the same time the Nats had give up on the season.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Nats had the best OF in baseball in the 2nd half so it wasn't a problem or a failure for the season. However, it wasn't around to carry the team like it could when the team needed it.

Presumed Plan : We'll go into all the choices but this is the presumed plan - which to me appears to be the Nats let Bryce walk and Eaton, Soto and Robles/MAT take over in the OF.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Bryce is going to cost a lot of money and the Nats OF situation looks pretty good without him. Soto showed MVP talent last year (and is super cheap). Robles is a highly regarded prospect and ready (and is super cheap). Eaton has been exactly what the Nats expected, if not for as many games as the Nats expected (and is at a reasonable cost). MAT is still a premier fielder (and maybe slightly overpaid - but still cheap). Bryce might cost 2 1/2 times what they cost combined by himself. Yes, Bryce would make the team better but the OF is set and GOOD! without him. That money could be used to fix catcher, fix the back of the rotation, fill-up the pen, and/or make 2B better. Or that money could be set aside to sign Rendon who is a FA next year.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Are you going to listen to me this year? Because you didn't last year when I tried to say OF could be an issue. Which ok, above I said it wasn't, and it wasn't but only because Soto shocked us all and put up MVP numbers.  He comes in and is ok, above average? The OF is a problem for the season.

The Nats are going in with a 2nd year player who could see a fall in performance, two players who were injured as much as they've were healthy in 2018, and a 4th OF has proven that he's not an everyday major league hitter. Looking here and seeing an MVP, a ROY, and a possible All-Star is seeing the outfield at peak possibility for these players. It's as likely as a scenario that sees them at their reasonable non-injured nadir. Soto putting up solid numbers while mangling D, Eaton an average everyday OF, and Robles hitting slightly below average with solid D. I'm not going to linger on that - I just want to be a realist. We have to consider the middle ground and use that to figure out how Bryce might fit in. The middle ground is Soto is fringy All-Star caliber, Eaton is his usual self - both these guys kind of meh on D and Robles hits a little above average while covering for both of them in CF. 

That's a good outfield! But Bryce's expectation would do no worse than match Soto here, and he's a better bet than Robles, a better bet than Eaton. He's also 27 next year and put up one of the great seasons of all-time while healthy. Do you really want to trade that away, when he's got 4-5 seasons where he's probably capable physically of duplicating that feat? Letting HOF talent walk rarely works out in your favor.

My take : There are two other plans here.
1) Sign Bryce, Trade Eaton
2) Sign Bryce, Trade Robles.

Both plans are based on the idea that if you sign Bryce the outfield is too crowded and someone needs to go. It's not even necessarily just a numbers game. You have 4 starting caliber players and some would consider it a waste to not turn one into help elsewhere.

Trading Eaton would be trading your player who is not for the future and costs the most money (but still cheap) to free up some money.  Thanks to two years of injuries, you probably wouldn't get much more back than a good reliever or a couple ok prospects to flip to someone else but it's the money more than anything you are concerned about, especially with the Lerners edict to stay under the tax threshold.

Trading Robles would be trading a legit prospect to get back legit help somewhere else. JT Realmuto behind the plate is most often talked about. Some sort of return that immediately fills a need with a near All-Star caliber talent at least.

What's my take given all three plans? Do none of them. Sign Bryce and keep everyone. You cannot replace the potential of Bryce and you don't give up on that. OF too crowded? Injuries happen and Zimmerman's deptarture next year frees up first base. There is room for Bryce, Soto, and Robles here in the future. Eaton is exactly the cheap player you want.

What does this mean for the 2019 plan? Well you saw me go cheap on C, forgoing Grandal for a couple vets. That's one part. You probably still sign a starter but you have to cut corners on relief. That's not ideal but I also don't kid myself. Fedde? Reliever. J-Rod? reliever. Anyone in AA or over not named Wil Crowe? Reliever. Stop playing games trying to eek out the next 5th starter. You have Ross or can sign a Hellickson. Oh and bring in a pitching coach, who ever it may be, that seems to be the best in developing relievers.

Out of the box suggestion :
BURN IT DOWN.  Bats are more affordable than arms and more reliable than arms so they make better FA signings. Trade for pitchers and sign hitters. Trade Robles for deGrom and Soto for Snell+. Maybe Eaton + Kieboom or Garcia for that headcase Bauer. Or get Raisel Iglesias for Kieboom and more. I'm not sure exactly how - just make it work. Sign Bryce, sign Brantley, sign Cutch? Maybe not Cutch. I don't know Don't try to walk the tightrope from window A to window B and fall into the 80 wins area for the next few years as this doesn't work or that guy gets injured. WIN NOW. FOR ONCE WIN NOW.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday Quickie - Winter of our BryceContent

WS over. Congrats Sandy Leon?

Madson was the more prominent former Nat and he failed big time. If there could be an LVP for the series, he would have won it. Part of this is his fault for sucking. Part of it is the Dodgers fault for saying "all he needs is to be rested" and then abandoning that in the series. Oh well.

So now we move into free agency and the number one thing is getting the Bryce Harper decision made and out of the way. We'll talk about it more tomorrow in the OF post-season review but this is the decision that informs everything else. Right now through 5 positions the Nats plans are pretty clear

- Get a 1st base back-up for Zimm
- Get a decent 2B to start or back-up Kendrick
- Get a catcher

You can finagle these all to be rather cheap but more likely you are looking at around 15 million in 2018 and that's with just getting a catcher. You get a good catcher and that jump up to 20 or 20+.  Bryce's savings is nearly spent and we haven't gotten to the rotation (they need a starter - a good one) and the bullpen (they need some good arms).

But a good and healthy Bryce covers a lot of problems. The 2015 Nationals' second best hitter was Yuney Escobar. Their third best hitter was Clint Robinson. And yet they still led the East half the season before the trade deadline and flirted with the playoffs. So you can bring him back and maybe roll with Severino/Kieboom/Read at catcher. Or Difo as your #1 back-up while you wait for Kieboom the Greater or Garcia to be ready.

But you have to decide. We're going to get some movement here very soon and if they wrong moves are made the Nats are going to find themselves making moves out of necessity rather than choice. These can still work out (see Murphy, Daniel) but let's not pretend that wasn't a fluke.