Nationals Baseball: Terrible execution but they stuck the landing

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Terrible execution but they stuck the landing

I'm the parent of a toddler. As any parent can tell you feeding time can be difficult. You only want them to eat right for their own good but all the pleading and prodding in the world can go nowhere if the child's mood isn't right. Other times though, you have almost the opposite problem. You'll tell them over and over to eat their broccoli and suddenly they'll shove three pieces in their mouth. You want to stop them and tell them we don't eat that way, that they could choke. Then again they are eating broccoli. Three pieces! So maybe you just shut up.

This is kind of how I feel about the Nats deal. I've been saying for a while that the Nats are going to have to spend more money. At the level of winning the Nats are at you start spending more for each subsequent win. A lot of times it's not even for better results necessarily but a smaller chance at bad results. Since the Nats needed bullpen help I noted that they would have to spend the money necessary for a Burnett. If they were a "real contender" they'd have to pony up a few million for a veteran middle reliever who's only real advantage over the cheap young arm is the higher certainty he won't blow up. You watch Burnett leave, Howell sign, and you keep saying, you are going to have to do something like that. It's just what healthy competitive teams do. Then the Nats go ahead and shove three pieces of broccoli in their mouths by signing Soriano.  

It's not a bad deal. A bad deal makes a team worse now or effects their chances at being good later. This deal doesn't make the team worse now, it makes them better. At only 2 years it shouldn't effect any long term planning either.  So I have a hard time calling it a bad deal.

It's not a smart deal, though. They are way overpaying for what Soriano brings to the table. After seeing the Nats make deal after deal that were at fair market value or actually underpaid for talent, its a bit of a shock. But it's what we were saying they'd have to do anyway, overpay for veteran talent to make the Nats better. It's just bigger and splashier than we would have expected.

Is this unfair to Storen (assuming Soriano will close)? I think so. Sure he blew that last game but it was one game.  If you are using that as proof the Nats need a "veteran" closer you've spent the last 40 years asleep in a cave like Rumplestilksin Rip Van Winkle.  But whatever.  So it's unfair. Sometimes things happen that aren't fair. Buck up, Drew.  It's a job.

In the end how does one react to the right thing being done in a stupid silly way? The Nats way overpaid for a reliever who didn't exactly fit their needs. They brought in a guy who's not a great clubhouse guy. They lost a draft pick in the deal. But they made the team better and addressed the hole in the bullpen. So what do you do?

You shut up and hope they don't choke on it.


Will said...

The move surprised me, and I was looking for something different, but I don't mind that they added a quality reliever.

I wouldn't be surprised if Storen is packaged with Morse for some prospects. Now that the Nats have given up a 1st round pick for Soriano, I would like to think that Rizzo would try and restock the system with quality depth.

Soriano is very effective against LH batters.

Clippard seemed to wear down in the closer's role by August and Storen was solid but somewhat inconsistent (I'm not considering the last game, I'm looking at his entire 2012). I am now concerned with Storen's durability.

I am not a big stat guy, but I think Storen's .8 WAR in 2012 backs up what I saw. Soriano by contrast had a 2.6 WAR. I anticipate that Soriano will be more effective in the weaker-hitting NL.

Harper said...

I would expect a trade as well but then they would still need another arm in the pen.

WAR is playing time based - scale it and I think Storen is at like 1.7 or so. Soriano is definitely better but again he's 34 next year and Storen is 25 so you'd expect Rafeal to be coming down and Drew to be peaking.

Erich said...

In regards to the peaking/failing based on age, has that necessarily been the case for relief pitchers?

I'm just throwing this out here without any support, but there are many examples of "past the prime" relief pitchers still performing at a high level. Can we at least say that this is a position that doesn't follow the same trend seen in position players and SPs?

Harper said...

Erich - I don't know of any study of the top of my head. My guess is that its particularly hard to pin down with relief pitchers since a lot of these guys start as starters and there is some favoritism to having a veteran arm do the closing. I'd probably guess that given a normal career arc they'd still peak around where everyone else does - that's more a function of body aging, but they'd probably be able to maintain their high performance longer, since wear and tear factors into that and relief pitchers have minimal (in comparison to a starter or everyday player).

Again though - I can't say anything for sure. I'll see if I can't find anything

blovy8 said...

I don't disagree with the move per se, since, as always, it's not my money, and as you say, the team is better now. But it does affect the future a bit, in that they are really letting the farm go to weeds if they remain this topheavy for too long. They lose that 1st pick and the bonus money that includes, so they're going to be a bunch of low ceiling, signable guys coming in the draft that aren't going to make the top ten or fifteen down there look any better. They could almost use a 2 top 50 guys for 1 top 10 deal with Rendon since he's blocked for the next two years at third, unless they shift him to 2nd or something. That would mean you don't believe Espinosa's going to ever adjust, which would make this year will have the feel of Desmond's 2012. But I don't think they have the same hitting circumstances. Danny needs to find more contact, when that's never really been his game. Desmond only had to forget about changing into the leadoff hitter he wasn't, and develop the power his natural swing and frame might project. Don't get me wrong, I think Danny will remain worthwhile because he's so great defensively, but as an impact bat that's more than average, he probably needs to show it for more than a month at a time pretty soon.

blovy8 said...

I think if they need a bullpen arm, a mop-up guy isn't that hard to find. Cole Kimball is still kicking around, for instance. They could end the starting experiment with Garcia too. That still seems a bit fishy with his history, anyway.

Harper said...

Erich - that was quick. From what I've found around relief pitchers (probably) do age like everyone else but pitchers have always been more... iconoclastic than hitters. One impt thing to look at is velocity. If the velocity is still there they aren't in trouble. Soriano looks to be at the very very start of his decline so I'd expect a good season.

Nattydread said...

Here's my questions:

How did Kilgore call this one?

Did he have a discussion with a Nats back-room guy? Does he read Rizzo's mind? Did he chat up Boras? Or did Rizzo/Lerner read his post and say "What a great idea!"?

Donald said...

Great post! I'm a little worried about the chemistry in the bullpen since they seemed like such a cohesive, close unit last year, but I think they'll make it work. Storen in particular seems very level-headed and didn't complain in the least when he came back in a set-up role last year. That's if he stays.

I still think this is a precursor to a package deal with Morse but I have no idea for whom and who else might be included. Until that settles out, it may be too soon to really analyze this. But if this is it, then I totally agree with your analysis.

Anonymous said...

Rip Van Winkle was the sleepy one, not Rumpelstiltskin. Rumpelstiltskin just made straw into gold and tried to steal babies.

Anonymous said...

Harper, I have to say I really love this move. Its only for two years and the left handers on the market were horrible, plus it takes the pressure off Storen. Now if we trade Clip or Storen, I dont understand the move, because in the playoffs you need bullpen depth. But the bottomline is we lost three guys and we added the best guy on the market. Plus I love how the contract had deferred payments.

JWLumley said...

Wow, this is perhaps the best analogy of what the Nats did that I've read so far. They needed bullpen help and Soriano makes them better than any of the LOOGY's they could have signed. Does he make them 1 win better maybe, maybe not, relievers are creatures of strange dark magic that wildly fluctuates from year to year, which is why it's not typically a good idea to spend a lot of money on them.

Besides, with Davey's A and B bullpens, Storen will still probably "save" 20 games next year. The guy who should be pissed is LaRoche.

Froggy said...

A Broccoli / baseball analogy...I love it! So Soriano can now say: "Dígame señor Brócoli".

What a difference a year and winning 98 games makes. This time last year the Nats were 'hoping' to get a wildcard spot in 2012, and now they are NL favorites to go to the WS.

I wonder what Zack Greinke is thinking right now.

Strasburger said...

Baseball-wise is all im interested in, which is why I'm upset; Storen is more worthwhile, in my opinion, to develop. He has proven he can closer (saving more than 90 percent of games for a team that was giving him almost no help offensively or defensively) a couple seasons ago.

I don't like this deal, if the assumption is he will be our starting closer. Storen is younger, throws harder, and frankly has more stuff.

Talk about confidence issues... only thing worse for Storen than that playoff game was signing raffy to two years at TWENTY EIGHT milion dollars.

I hope Drew outplays him in the Spring and Soriano is a solid set up guy, giving a break to Ty. I hope this because i truly think Storen has a lot to offer this team in the next 4-5 years.

.... Even if Sorianos WHIP is filthy.

Strasburger said...

more and better*

Erich said...

Thanks for the response. It was more of a conjecture.

To the problems with this deal harming Storen, sure I like Storen as a guy, but this about getting to October and winning in October. I don't see how this deal harms the Nationals chances. Perhaps this harms feelings... I think winning helps that.

Now at $28 million over 2 years, does this mean there is less money for the next offseason? I'm no longer getting the vibe that the Lerners have some ceiling on payroll when the team is looking for that "one piece." And besides this sounds like a problem for the next offseason and I'm looking to see this team contend now.

BlueLoneWolf said...

Interesting to see what money and winning do to a team's building psychology. However right now the Nats are getting the rap of overpaying to pay decent to good people to come to them. I guess we still suffer from a dearth of history of organizational competence- either that or we just choose to sign Scott Boras clients, probably both.

But this move sure does make the bullpen simultaneously better and more muddy. Clip's back in setup, I suppose. That's no problem; he does it well. Storen becomes the next Matt Capps? And I guess since they're willing to spend the cash they keep platooning Morse out there unless they're blown away with a desperation offer. This is definitely a 'win now' team, but I don't like sacrificing 'win then' for 'win-now'. Can't we 'win forever', please?

Donald said...

I don't think the Soriano signing hampers their long term prospect of winning. They have a pretty solid set of players for the next few years. If they draft well, or their current prospects pan out, they could be very good for the next 4 years or so. Trying to project beyond that point is probably pointless.

BlueLoneWolf said...

Don- My comment was in regards to 'are we still at the stage that we have to overpay players to get them to come to us because our organization's history is so short and wracked with some questionable moves'? That's all.

Anyhow: MORSE. HE GONE. Discuss.

Anonymous said...

Well at least the Storen/Clippard roommate situation is a lot less awkward.

Erich said...

Morse remains a class act. He didn't fit in with this team any longer. He will be missed and I wish him the best.

Donald said...

Dealing Morse without including Clippard or Storen also answers that question about whether or not another show was going to drop. It looks like maybe the pen is set?

@Bluelonewolf -- I hope the Nats are beyond having to overpay to lure top talent. I don't think Soriano was that case. I think he, and Boras, were expecting top dollar and were holding out until it arrived. If it weren't the Nats paying that price, it might well have been the Dodgers or Rangers or whomever. Unlike with Werth, I think this contract is reasonable in that it may be more than most teams would pay, but not more than all teams would pay.

Maybe we're in a funny space where there isn't one market anymore. Now there are two -- what most teams will pay, and what top teams will pay. Soriano's contract is no worse than anything that the Dodgers inked this year. No one is accusing the Dodgers of having to overpay to lure top talent. They are just overpaying because they can. That may be where the Nats are now.

DezoPenguin said...

I'm a bit surprised at the return for Morse--that is, moving him for Cole and org depth. I really expected that after the Span trade and LaRoche and Soriano signings that Rizzo would have something bigger up his sleeve by way of a multiplayer deal. Still, if people were high on Cole before the Gio trade, then getting him back is nice, and we were a little shy on young pitching prospects.

Mostly, I just hope that the LaRoche/Werth/Span/Harper quartet stays basically healthy. If none of them misses significant time, Moore and Bernardina make for perfectly adequate occasional fill-ins. If somebody misses a couple of months, we're going to miss having Morse around. On the other hand, Morse himself has been an injury risk, so...

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