Nationals Baseball: Rizzo not stupid, says he's not done.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Rizzo not stupid, says he's not done.

Signing Werth was a bold move. It was completely necessary in the short run, potentially stupid in the long run, the kind of move Nats fans had never seen. Take a step back from the madness of the deal and all it did was replace Dunn in the lineup. Oh, ok it helped the defense but defense is... well not overrated... how about "more variable than can be planned for in a season". You sign a guy for his offense you can be pretty sure of what he's going to contribute in that first year. You sign a guy for his defense and well it depends on a lot of stuff he can't control so maybe he'll be awesome and maybe he'll just be ok in year one. Over the course of the contract it should even out, and if he's good you should get overall good defense for those multiple years combined but in one single year it's difficult to count on "win-changing" defense.

Werth will help make the Nats better than Dunn would have but not necessarily next year. The most likely scenario for next year is simply breaking even. If you didn't notice the Nats weren't exactly in a position where breaking even in talent gained/lost would put them in the playoffs. Rizzo has figured out how to make sure the Nats don't get worse. Now he's got to figure out how to make the Nats better. It seems like he's working on it, but what exactly can he do?

Assuming the Lee deal plays out like everyone thinks it will, the Nats are left with the likely combination of signing one more bat and trading for a pitcher. It's going to be difficult to do that without treading water offensively. Josh Willingham, an affordable known commodity, is likely gone in any deal. Losing him and signing a Laroche or Pena is probably a wash. The pitcher the Nats would get in return then would have to be awfully good to make a difference in their talent level next year.

I suppose instead of those retreads the Nats could sign a Beltre (like Natsfanboylooser notes in a vague, please don't read anything into it, rumor) or better yet a Crawford but is that even possible? It seems unlikely with the money committed to Werth that the cash will also be there for one of these guys, but hey, we all probably thought the Werth money wasn't there. That kind of signing would allow for the Nats to make a deal and still end up better next year at the plate.

Of course there is just signing a pitcher but you are going to have to overpay for Pavano, who has a long history of injury issues, is hitting 35 and is going to be expensive. Carl is a win in the next two years signing, nothing more. After that there is little left, and certainly no #1s...unless you count Webb, but like Carlos Pena at first, that's a gamble move that could pay off or could crap out. The Nats need a more security than that by itself going into next year.

I suppose Rizzo could wow us with a bunch of smart little trades and signings but it seems more likely that in order to be secure that the Nats will improve severely next year they either need another BIG signing, like a Lee, or Crawford, or they need to make a steal of a deal for a #1 pitcher. That is if being much better next year is the goal. If it's 2012 they are aiming for, with Strasburg returning and Bryce likely appearing, well then they can sit pat - but that seems like a waste of a year now doesn't it?

Update: Would you want the Nats to go 7 for Lee? It's a game changer - but still maybe not enough... probably gets the Nats to around .500, then it would be up to that first base signing and how the young guys develop. 2012, the Strasburg/Bryce year though becomes VERY interesting.


Hoo said...

I'm very curious about the Nats long-term plan. In 2013, Werth won't even be one of the top 3 players on the team and will still be very highly paid. This contract puts the Nats on course to be one of the highest payroll teams in baseball assuming the lock-up Zim and Harper. I'd guess Strass leaves but you're still looking at 3 position guys that will be making almost $20 million in 3 years or so.

Nats are taking the high-risk/reward approach now. I think the 2011 Nats with Werth will have higher payroll but roughly similar results to the safer keep Dunn Nats at a cheaper payroll.

cass said...


After winning a couple Cy Youngs, Strasburg will not be leaving DC. He'll be here another 10 or 15 years. Yeah, it'll cost the Lerners a lot of money, but they'll also make a lot.

DezoPenguin said...

Of all the possible scenarios where the Nats decide to drop more big bucks for a big-name talent, why does Beltre even get a whiff? Sure, he's a top-notch third baseman and a good hitter (and, if he's about to become a free agent, a great hitter), but...the Nats already have basically the best third baseman in MLB, excellent with the glove and more consistent with the bat on a year-to-year basis. At least the Werth signing dropped too much money and too many years on a good player at a position the Nats needed help at. So rather than signing Beltre and immediately asking either he or Zim to switch positions, wouldn't it make more sense to overspend (and say what you will, the one key to the Werth deal is that the Nats will have to overspend to get whom they want until they establish some legitimacy as an organization) on a Lee, Crawford (which would imply flipping Josh Willingham as the centerpiece of a deal for something else, maybe middle infield help or an adequate pitcher), maybe Paul Konerko (though if they were going to pursue him they would have just kept Dunn) or the like...

Ah, well, wild rumors are half the fun of the winter meetings!

Section 220 said...

I think you're dead on about Lee plus Werth plus a first baseman maybe getting the Nats to .500. Then, we cross our fingers and hope that Strasburg 2.0 and Bryce are enough to push us into contention. It would be an interesting play. Typically, most fans (or at least, me!) think of building with prospects and then signing a big couple of free agents to push the team over the top. Really, you could run the other way with that - sign the big free agents to push to 80-85 wins, then bring on the prospects. Yes, there's some risk in the prospects not panning out, but I think it's a calculated, acceptable risk.

Put another way, imagine that we were actually in 2011, and Strasburg 2.0 looked to be all the way back, and Harper had just torn up the minors, and we were all thinking, "hey, we could win 80-85 games next year!" Well, wouldn't signing a Lee and a Werth look like a good move then, expense be damned, because it could be just the ticket to push to the magic 90 win region? If you buy that, then, you know, why not do it now?

Bryan said...

Section 220 - going about it in reverse is very risky:

if you have prospects tearing it up at least some should be able to play in the majors. The vets OTOH are a nearly sure bet, so there is little gamble.

But if you have the sure-bet vets but need to rely on the prospects to tear it up, well, that's a much less sure proposition.

Do I think Harper & SS will be good/great. Sure. But I don't know that.

OTOH, if we wait till SS and Harper ARE tearing it up, adding proven players is very little risk and a great reward.

As is, we could get Lee & Werth and have nothing else.

Harper said...

Hoo - It'll probably be 5 seasons from now (the 2015 year) before that position payment plan you expect to see happens, at least the way I see it. If they just stop at Werth you're right on the results for 2011 - the hope is they don't stop there.

cass - even early on in the evaluation of Strasburg we heard things like he's a West Coast kid that wants to go back there. Could he be convinced to stay here? sure. Is it a long way in the future? Yep. But that's the verrrry early thinking.

Dezo - Well right not the Beltre rumors are really just rumors. Could be floated out there by Beltre's agents, or based off of a mild interest by the Nats at how much Beltre is going for. One reason it could turn into something more - Beltre looks likely to go cheap. Gather cheap talent, then worrying about where they go, isn't a terrible strategy.

Sec 220 / Bryan - do you want to win, or do you want to win it all? that's the question. Bringing in the free agents first is a worse bet on getting yourself a great team as Bryan explains. But in general you'll win more games each year. If you wait to bring them in, you should be able to match up the best FA years with your youth's best years but you have no idea of when that'll be. Do you want year after year of .500 ball with a 20% of things coming together every 3-4 years or do you want year after year of 65-70 win ball with a 50% chance of things coming together every 3-4 years. Something like that. Nats have tried way #2, don't mind a little foray into way #1.

cass said...


Yeah, I know the kid loves San Diego, and it's possible he'll ink a deal with a SoCal team. But he's also a team-first, old-fashioned, spotlight-fearing kind of guy. I can see him wanting to stay with one team, and based on his comments this year, it seems like the Nationals are already getting into his blood. He wants "payback" against the Phillies and he said the team didn't want Harper if Harper didn't want to sign.

Who knows, really, but I'm more hopeful on Strasburg than Harper. Would love the two to join Zimmerman as the team's perennial All-Star nucleus for a decade.

But, eh, I'm a shameless Strasburg fanboy. I'm probably the Nats320 of Strasburg fanboys. Except without all the photos...

Harper said...

Here an (honest) question - can you name a free agent pitcher that hasn't chased the FA money after his first big contract ended? I've been trying but all I see is 28-30 year olds leaving their original teams.

Well ok, I guess Pettite and Halladay stuck around for one more shorter extension, and Buerhle and Verlander have set themselves up for about the same - but the Sabathias/Lees/Santanas are far more common.