Nationals Baseball: See everyone in 2013

Friday, August 27, 2010

See everyone in 2013

If any Nats fans were thinking about a two-year long vacation... now would be the time. Even if everything goes as well as possible, you're still looking at 2012 as a recovery year for Strasburg so you can't even plan on that being a good year.

Nope, it's 2013 now which throws the whole slow build plan into disarray. There are really only two choices now - the splurge and the tear down. Neither are great plays.

The splurge on free agency, and I mean the going all-out, overpaying in both years and cash to make sure you get them type of splurge, would mean upping the payroll by 40 million or so. It would mean financial commitments to players until 2015 or later and worrying about the back end when that comes around. It would mean a better team next year but only IF they can pull it off and that's a big IF. It would take quite the sell for a team sitting around 100 losses for 83 straight seasons.

The tear down would be trades. It seems obvious now that they should have focused on this during the trade deadline period but that was before the locusts came and the rivers turned to blood. Now they would have to try to do this with their best trading chips ready to walk or injured. They could go the arbitration to draft pick route but you are looking at the 2011 draft meaning guys that won't be around in 2013, or 2014 for that matter. The Nats have little to offer up and that makes the tear down not really likely to succeed for 2013. How do you tell your fans, ones who've been made to wait until now to see any decent progress, ones that you've worked hard to convince that success is right around the corner, how do you tell them now "Oh we're going to try to compete in 2015"?

Things can still work out for the Nats being better next year without big moves. The injured pitching staff depth experiment could easily turn out three average starters next year ( 1 1/2 more than this year) and maybe they could find another one. The relief pitching should hold up. Desmond could make the next step and the Big 3 could become the Big 4 and that would be a huge difference, and if another bat is found - hey it's a real major league offense! But even if the team wins 75 games next year the excitement is gone. There's no electricity. It was up to Strasburg to bridge that interest gap from now until the Nationals were playoff contenders. Without him the front office doesn't just face an uphill battle, it has a 90 degree rock face to climb.


Hoo said...

All the enthusiasm about seeing Ramos, ZNN and the other progressions are gone. Not even sure I want to be a fan right now. Just soul crushing as the entire plan over the last few years has crashed like a house of cards. Stras and ZNN with Tommy John.

Rooting for Bryce Harper to become an instant success is like rooting for Deion Sanders in his heyday. blah.

Anonymous said...

I don't actually think the Stras injury changes much long term if he can come back. This may actually *gulp* help matters.

We weren't going to have a good team next year and were at best going to compete for .500 in 2012.

Right now we have the following players who could play on a major league winner:
R Zim
A Dunn
J Willingham

That's really it. You can make some arguments on bullpen arms but they are notoriously unpredictable from year to year (see. G. Majewski, S. Rivera, etc.). Feel free to argue Livo or Olsen but I don't reall see it. Zimermann needs time to get back to what he was, much less what he will be. We have some nice pieces but only those 3 would really help most competing teams.

Players who could help a winner in 2013:

R. Zim
A. Dunn (if he doesn't fall off the table)
J. Willingham (ditto)
I. Desmond (if he develops)
W. Ramos (ditto)
D. Espinosa (ditto)
J. Zim (ditto)
S. Strass (ditto)
D. Storen (ditto)
S. Solis (ditto)
R. Detwiler (ditto)
M. Morse (if he breaks out)
Y. Maya (if he turns out to be decent)

and the list goes on. These are not high probability guys but there's a chance that some of them can turn into good players. It takes time to build a team and its not like Strass was going to change the world anyways. His injury means ticket sales will be down and he's that much farther away from Arbitration and free agency.

Sam said...

Ryan Zimmerman will earn $14M in 2013 and then be a free agent. Man that contract extension sure looks like a bargain.

Hoo said...

Rizzo named the players of the future:

Ramos, Desmond, Espinosa, Zim, Harper and Bernadina...

The only thing interesting was the fact that Roger has played himself into the Nats long-term plans. I'm guessing he's an everyday starter in OF meaning that the Nats will a) only get 1 FA OF or b) say screw it and let Morgan have CF until the Nats are ready to make a run.

B/c the Nats sure aren't going anywhere next year.

Harper said...

Hoo - it's tough but I think most fans that have stuck it out this long will be back come opening day. As for that list of players - they are all Nats of the future no doubt but what kind of Nats? The only star for sure is Zim. The rest could be great or could be below average everyday players. We don't know yet. And I'd say other than Bryce none of those project to be stars, they may turn out great but the better bets are on average.

Anon - well the thing is the Nats thought they could be good (say .500) next year and I don't necessarily disagree with them (though it would take luck and/or a lot of free agent commitment). And Strasburg is a huge deal. A top of the rotation starter doesn't replace the next best pitcher but the 5th best. There's a huge gain to be had there.

I'd also argue that a winner may take a flier on Desmond being only 24 and average (take a look at the other starting SS in the NL) but you're right, there isn't enough talent here right now. I do think the Strasburg issue helps the Nats in that it'll force them to move in one direction or the other. Dithering down the middle won't bring in the fans or wins and it likely conflict with a 2013 competitive goal.

bdrube said...

"it's tough but I think most fans that have stuck it out this long will be back come opening day."

I have to take issue with you there, Harper. This team's fanbase has been rapidly dwindling since the opening of the new stadium. Attendance miminums have dropped from 22K in 2008 to 15K last year to 12K this year. I wouldn't be surprised if we some some sub-10K numbers next year.

Management first counted on the new stadium to bridge the enthusiam gap until the team could contend. Strasburg was a way to replace that first bridge. Now there's nothing but a gaping chasm. Casual fans, the annoying ones who arrive in th 3rd inning, depart after the 7th and yap on their cell phones in their seats make all the difference in attendance. Those people don't care about Desmond's development or whether Ramos and Espinosa become solid major league players.

They are all but gone for next year and without them and their added revenue I'll bet ownership will NOT splurge on free agents. And for that matter, I'm not sure how often I want to be there either.

Harper said...

bdrube 10K/12K = most fans to me. That's all I'm saying that the devoted number might dip again but not significantly, that's why it's the devoted.

The casual fans you speak of, I didn't even consider them because 99% weren't out on any Non-Strasburg day anyway. Yeah - they won't be showing up and yeah that'll hurt in all the ways you say it will.

Matt said...

Harper - I don't think it'll be as hard as you think for the Lerners to buy their way out of this one. I think the number is more like 20 mil a season, not 40. I'm no sabermetric expert, so maybe I have my numbers wrong, but here's my thinking:

Strasburg is clearly pretty good. It's hard to guess how good over a season, but I think 6 WAR is a reasonable estimate. I'm not saying he couldn't produce more - just that I doubt Nats management expects more, and 6 WAR is a very valuable player. It also lines up pretty well with your assessment of things -- 6 wins is the difference between .500 next year and the mid 70s blahs.

So, I'd guess the cost of the injury to the Nats is 6 wins next year, and say 3 in 2012 (assuming due to an innings limit he only makes half time).

Most of what I read is that free agents cost 2 mil/WAR. You're right, that probably costs a bit more for the Nats, so let's say they have to pay 3, and probably can't get away with less than a 2 yr-contract.

Part of the what makes free-agent upgrades so expensive for other teams is that you lose the WARs of the players you replace. Luckily for the Nats (in these circumstances only), there are a couple of positions which are producing at about 0 this season (I'm looking at CF and RF), so that would be the cheapest place to buy the upgrade.

So, they really only need FAs with a combined 5-6 WAR for two years - which should be possible at around 15-20 million per year for two years, not the 40 million figure you used.

Does this make sense, or do I need a remedial math class?

Harper said...

The 40 million was a general guess on how much more the Nats would need to spend to make a run at the playoffs (or at least .500). I think that was the team's mindset before Strasburg went down. I think you're pretty much right in that it would cost around 15-20 million per to replace Strasburg's expected production but they need to do more than that to hit this expectation of relevancy.

Matt said...

I do think just .500 would get the Nats a long way in terms of fanbase, even without Strasburg. D.C. culture is pretty brutal about losers and winners.

I'd buy 40 million per to get to .500 without Stras. Which is a huge indictment of the organization really - that would be a 100 million payroll (70 mil at the start of this year - 8 mil Guz + 40 mil FAs), and even after adding FAs, they would still have plenty of under-market team controlled players as well. Many teams get much more than .500 with fewer $s.

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