Nationals Baseball: Mike Morse ^= big trading chip, Lombardozzi ^= Espinosa

Monday, December 03, 2012

Mike Morse ^= big trading chip, Lombardozzi ^= Espinosa

As the Winter Meetings heat up there is talk of trading Mike Morse and Danny Espinosa to TB for James Shields.  While reading through some posts and comments I see two running themes that are just not true.

 #1 - Mike Morse is worth more than...

Of all the things that a team would want in a deal, Mike Morse is mainly one thing. Cheap. At 5 million dollars a year he's worth taking a flier one because if he's healthy the numbers he can put up at the plate will make him worth more than that. But here's the things you don't get :
  • Health - Mike Morse has missed 60 games twice in the past 3 years. 
  • Value away from the plate - Morse was terrible in the outfield, and not good at first. He is also is not a good baserunner. 
  • Youth - Mike turns 31 before next season starts
  • A long deal that's cheap - Mike will be a Free Agent after next season. 
You know all that.  You are thinking a team would deal for Morse for pretty much one reason. He hits ball good. A team dealing for Morse gets a big bat for the middle of their line-up that they don't have to commit a long-term deal to.  But can you even count on that? 

In 2011 Mike Morse was a BEAST. He hit .300 with 36 doubles and 31 home runs, but his walk number (36) kept him from being an elite offensive player.  In 2010 - if you expand it to 575 at bats he had in 2011 - he would have hit .291 with 29 homers but only 24 doubles (hence the large drop in SLG), with around 43 walks. Not quite as good as 2011 but pretty decent.  Last year, though, expand it out and he hits .289 with 23 doubles and 24 homers, and a miserable 21 walks. That may not seem like a big deal but the drop in average and the lack of walks means Mike is making like 20 more outs. That matters a good deal. It turns him from an guy knocking on the door of the house with the elite offensive players in the majors, to a guy sitting down the road in the condo with the bats that are just ok.

With 2011 Morse you can swallow the fact he gives you nothing else but a line of T-shirts.  With 2012 Morse you can't.  Oh he still has value. It is .290 with 24 homers. But overall he's maybe just barely worth 5 million to your team. Now if you can stick him at DH everyday that helps a good deal, but that still limits his worth because it limits your flexibility.

In the end Morse is an ok trading chip, but he's the type that might get you a good bullpen arm not the type that is the anchor player in a deal for a good starter.

#2 - It's ok to trade Espinosa because Lombardozzi is ready to step in.

For reasons you can obviously figure out people see this    
Danny : .247  189 Ks
Steve :  .273  73 Ks (stats expanded based on equal at bats)

But they ignore this
Danny : .155 isoSLG (37 2B, 17 HR), 20 SB, 4.1 range, 7.1 UZR
Steve :  .081 isoSLG (24 2B, 5 HR),  7 SB, 1.1 range, 1.6 UZR

What does this all mean?   Well let's look at one number first

Danny : .315 OBP
Steve : .317 OBP

What this means is that Danny and Steve make about the same number of outs (assuming you like them to repeat last year's performances). So what do they do when they aren't making outs? Danny hits for power.  Steve hits singles.  Danny is a good baserunner.  Steve is ok.  Danny is a great fielder.  Steve is ok.

A baseball player's job is not just to put bat on ball. It's to get XBH and drive in runs. It's to run the bases well and score runs. It's to field well. In every other aspect of baseball outside of simply making contact, Danny Espinosa is a superior player to Steve Lombardozzi. In overall value, Danny Espinosa is a much better player than Steve Lombardozzi.  You will make your team noticeably worse by playing Steve Lombardozzi instead of Danny Espinosa.

You CAN trade Danny and rely on Steve, if you want. You have to look at all deals in the sense of what you are giving up and what you are getting back, and maybe you can get back something that makes up for losing Danny.  But you WILL be losing something going from Espinosa to Lombardozzi.  Lombo can hold 2nd down well enough that he won't hurt the team like just starting any old schlub at 2nd might, but that's about it.


DezoPenguin said...

...And the Rays just signed James Loney to play 1B. Which means that they figure either that Maddon is a miracle worker, or that offense at first base just isn't a priority for them, which rules out them even wanting Morse.

Though really, if we're going to have pipe dreams about Rays trades, I'd rather throw in Rendon or someone and dream about getting Price. ^_^

blovy8 said...

Plus, Danny can play short REALLY well. That a lot of value to give up.

How about Morse to the Orioles for Matusz and comiing closer to the Nats' numbers in the bargained MASN arrangement?

A loogy and the money to re-up our young guys.

Will said...

I think there is a big drop off from Espinosa to Lombardozzi defensively. Espinosa is a superior defensive player to Lobmo is every way. Also Espinosa gives you a lot of flexibility in that he can play SS. Huge bonus as it saves roster spots.

Espinosa has atrocious plate discipline and hurts the team badly with his strikeouts. He needs to improve there, obviously.

Morse is expendable if they sign LaRoche. Even if they don't, I have a hard time seeing him as a replacement-level substitute defensively at 1st.

I like the Rays pitching, but am not keen on weakening multiple positions (2B, SS) to add depth at an already strong one (SP).

That said, it's fun to be part of the mix in the offseason hot stove discussions.

DCNatty said...

towards WIlls point....i dont care what happens (to an extent)...i just like the fact that other teams are watching what we do. finally relevant and not the laughing stock of the league.

Donald said...

I don't think it's a question of Lombardozzi being an adequate substitute for Espinosa. I think it's a question of whether or not Rendon is. Considering how quickly they moved Bryce along, it wouldn't surprise me if Rendon made it to the majors in 2013...if they have a place for him. Zimmerman isn't particularly interested in moving off of 3b just yet and Desmond is a lock at SS. Rendon would be a clear upgrade at the plate over Espi and he might be almost as good defensively. I'd likely give Espi the edge there, but Rendon appears to be stronger in that regard than Lombo.

It'd be a big roll of the dice to start the season with Lombo, while planning on calling up Rendon after a month or two. But if Rendon could hit for higher average and more power and greater discipline than Espi, while playing strong defense, it could work out.

Todd Boss said...

Slight correction on Morse's salary; he's at $6.75M for 2013 (I think $5M is the AAV of his 2year deal). Still, he's incredibly cheap for what he "can" contribute. The question of course becomes ... will he be Michael Morse of 2011 or of 2012?

I do like the exploration of trading Espinosa to a team looking at him at Short. His offense as a plus-defense SS is great, far more than it plays as a 2nd baseman. I have no problem working with Lombardozzi there as a 2013 stopgap until we see how Rendon fares early in the year. Remember, Rendon was a 1-1 talent and if he's healthy he absolutely could be a mid June callup, sliding right into a starting 2nd baseman role. If that helps turn Espinosa into a 5th starter, then I'm all for that trade, despite Lobardozzi clearly being a step-down in terms of offense. Either way, we're talking about a 7-hole hitter.

BlueLoneWolf said...

But the question is, then, Harper, is it worth trading those two for Shields, assuming that LaRoche signs back now that Napoli went to play first for the Red Sox (biggest competitor?)

Is Morse's bat/defense vs. LaRoche's bat/defense (assuming that the 2012 LaRoche is moderately sustainable) and the difference between Lombo and Espo worth a career 3.89, 87-73m 1250 SO, 1.22 WHIP, 200-220IP, with WAR usually hovering somewhere between 1 and 5, probably closest to 2.5? It's somewhat of a tossup, and I don't want to get into 'BUT WE NEED A 5TH PITCHER' mode and blow a wad on him. I know AL->NL transitions are a bit easier, but is the stuff and the record there to make the trade worth it? Tampa's going to ask a lot...

Wally said...

Espinosa is an interesting player. Most blogs I read seem to have more than 50% of us fans down on him, either wanting Lombo to play, or maybe giving him 'one last year' to turn things around, a la Desmond pre-2012. But he is good right now, with no improvements, yet doesn't get that kind of recognition. 6th best fWAR for 2Bs in baseball last year, for instance, 4 years of control and probably doesn't get pricey until the last year. I think it is soley due to the average (I expect people would be ok with the Ks if he hit .280). He has the added roster benefit of letting us get by with a utility guy who can't play SS.

I'd like to keep him and think he looks great in the 7 hole. I love having an above average MI defense that is capable of putting up 50 HRs. BUT, if Todd is right that he has trade value as an above average D SS that hits 60 XBHs, than that should bring back an excellent return, and we ought to explore it. If you believe Espy can play SS, why would Asdrubal Cabrera be more valuable? Roughly the same player who is more expensive and under control for two less years.

Anonymous said...

John from Virginia Beach: Trade Morse for a 2B that can play now..and develop Rendan one more year... trade ESPY for left handed reliever.. and keep Lombo as a utility..he did ok there

Froggy said...

With Span, the outfield is set. I think LaRoche is seeing the handwriting on the wall and will cave to Rizzo's offer or at least a compromise to two years at say $13,mil ea. So the question becomes what to do with Morse. I think it is win win for Rizzo as either way he has someone who can play 1b. Albeit Adam is better, but...

Mythical Monkey said...

Totally agree in your assessment of Espinosa versus Lombo. Steve is a good utility man, and would be a serviceable starter, but I think Espinosa has the potential for a breakout season in 2013, ala Ian Desmond. I just don't see trading him to pick up a fifth starter, especially with so many pitchers of the free agent market.

Anonymous said...

Dan Haren is now a Nat - discuss.

Anonymous said...

I'll lead off. A quick run through the Web seems to indicate the top speed on his fastball has come down for the past 4 consecutive years.

DCNatty said...

I like Haren...asuming hes healthy. I always wanted them to go after Lohse. Haren seems to be same kind of pitcher. Max 90s fastball, just relies on location. I think i like it, just not sure cause Haren has been on the West Coast and i dont watch a lot of West Coast games, especially AL.

Harper...shed some wisdom on this. I like it mainly cause they didnt have to unload Espi etc to get anyone. Now Morse is available for bullpen help. the chips seem to be falling into place to easily. makes me nervous

Froggy said...

I've always liked Haren from his days in Oakland. He is in the + win column career wise by 22 games (119-97), but other than the numbers, how is Haren any more of an improvement on Ejax?

Haren is 32 and Ejax just turned 29. Does it come down to the career 3.66 ERA? And what about the salary...didn't we end up paying more than we would have for one year with Edwin?

DezoPenguin said...

I think it all comes down to health. If last year was a health-related anomaly and he's back to being healthy, Haren is a serious upgrade on EJax in terms of quality, consistency, and innings output. The guy was a 4+ WAR pitcher in 2011, which is in the Gio/Znn range from last year. So if he did just have one injury-plagued year, there's huge upside from this move.

If, on the other hand, he's starting to genuinely break down, then that's not so much with the good. A one-year contract is a good bet so they won't end up shackled to him long-term if he *is*in his decline phase.

And it's all contingent on him passing a physical, so if there's a serious, ongoing issue let's hope that the medical staff can catch it.

In other news, Zach Duke being signed suggests that Gorzo will be moving on, since they're both basically the same guy--lefty long man/spot starter.

blovy8 said...

The Nats also don't reap the benefits of Haren being a good pitcher going forward. Next year they have to do this too. Who's their fifth starter in 2014 given the current situation? The best case scenerio is Haren being good, getting another contract and giving the Nats a pick in terms of 2014.

blovy8 said...

In other words, there isn't an option.

Anonymous said...

So we have to be ready for Morse being shopped.
-I don't see him being sent for another MLB ready arm.
-So prospect. We dont have any needs other than SP.
-The teams that could trade for Os, Rays, Seattle, Boston.
In order who we should go after:
1. Danny Hulzen (Seattle and a pipe dream-ranks #8 on the top 100 prospects)
2. Matt Barnes (Redsox #37 on the top 100 and also a pipedream unless we shipped somethin else.
3. Kevin Gausman (Os and #56...maybe, I could see this.
4. Taylo Guerrieri (Rays, #62- They have tons of pitching, so maybe if they decide to keep shields, price, hellickson for one more go)
5. Paxton (Seattle, #74-yes, especially if they miss out on some other FA targets)
6. Chris Archer (Rays #81, Hopefully yes)

DezoPenguin said...

Actually, Morse and Espi to the Red Sox for Barnes makes a ton of sense if Barnes is adequate. The Sox signed Napoli, yes, but they still have an OF hole to fill (and Gomes, whom they signed, is basically the same guy as Ross with the bat), plus Morse can also play 1B when Napoli is catching (or if they trade Salt and make Napoli the primary catcher). And shortstop is a sucking chest wound for the Sox; right now the have Iglesias lined up to play there, and while his defense is godlike, he may be the first player in recent memory to have to get lucky to top a .100 BA. Espi's a plus defender and a good hitter.

Not sure it's a good trade, because I have no clue how Morse's bat fits with Fenway nor how good Barnes really might be, but...

Anonymous said...

oh, I wouldn't trade Espi..You trade Espi/Morse you might as well ask the O's for dylan Bundy

Anonymous said...

Depends entirely on whether Haren is an old done man. The 2nd half of 2010 and for 2011 he's got a dominant set of starts and then he got hurt. On top form, he's a classic "Rizzo" pitcher, a #2 starter for any team, far better than anything Ejax (or for that matter, Gio, Znn, or Det ever threw up there). One year at 13M? Good risk. Potential steal.


Anonymous said...

Love the Haren deal. All upside with no risk (aren't we great at spending the lerner's money) and potentially the signing of the offseason.

If Laroche resigns morse should be traded for bullpen help, but espy should only be traded if rizzo gets a godfather offer. His contract is excellent and he can be traded in the future and still get great value.

Anonymous said...


DezoPenguin said...

Harper, you've hit the big time. You've been found by spammers! ^_^

(And just for the record, if the Orioles are willing to give us Dylan Bundy for Morse, Espi, and assorted flotsam and jetsam, I would do that! Dream big, I say! Heck, how about Morse, Ian, Suzuki, Bernie, and spare parts to Seattle for King Felix?)

Anonymous said...

Yea, my point was don't trade Espi unless you get a great ten SP prospect who can be ready in in 2014-15.

Morse should still be able to bring back a SP prospect in the 75-100 from a team looking to win. 30 hrs with .290 avg don't grow on trees. Obviously a AL team could play him at DH, but I don't see a huge drop off with him playing 1B and as much as we harp about it, he did play an "acceptable" LF.

Anonymous said...

Harper's insight is so valued, no one really cares that he goes away for days on end and doesnt bother to post (or even comment!) within 24 hours of the Nats adding a 4th starter to the rotation!

Froggy said...

I think Harper got 'sucked' into that spammer web site above. LoL

blovy8 said...

Anon - Paxton would be a great return for Morse, I don't think Seattle would do it, but they are chock full of pitching prospects and hurting for hitters for sure.