Nationals Baseball: Do the Nats see what I see?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do the Nats see what I see?

So we've reached the end of the positional review and what did we learn? Just like going into 2013 the issues are at the fringes. With the exception of maybe platooning LaRoche, it's all bench, bullpen and back of the rotation. Does it seem like the Nats agree?

Pen : The talk right now is all LHRP.  Javier Lopez is the hot guy right now, the team and Lopez expressing mutual interest. Boone Logan has also been named. I'd be fine with Logan. I'd hate Lopez. Allow me to explain.

In the relief discussion a few commenters mentioned that the LHRP is not only just "getting out lefties" but taking advantage of batters with really bad split numbers. If Ryan Howard hits .300 vs RHP and .100 with no power vs LHP then it would be silly to NOT bring in a lefty to face him. I can't disagree. My issue comes with the idea of the LOOGY though. Having a guy in your pen that only exists for the situation above, who cannot get out righties, is limiting. He can't really be used in trash time. He can't really be used to give you an inning. If the pen gets stretched during a couple of days, he's not really any help.

Enter Javy Lopez :
2013 RHB v Javy : .296 / .361 / .444
2012 RHB v Javy : .417 / .500 / .479

Yikes. That's a one-trick pony right there.

It's not that you can't carry a guy like that. You can. But you better be super confident in the rest of your pen because this is a two batters over 3 nights kind of guy. Are you that confident that Storen has cleared up his issues? That Soriano isn't on the way down? I'm not and thus would prefer someone that isn't as limited

An intriguing suggestion has been floated around that Sammy Solis, minor league SP prospect, could spend some time in the pen as a lefty specialist a la what the Cardinals might do.  I'm thinking that's just tossed out there for negotiating with real targets. Sammy's LHB stats against last year was .284 / .333 / .432. In single A. That's not someone you want in your major league pen.

Bench : There will be a replacement for Tracy and Hairston will be back. Assuming the Tracy replacement is good then the Nats are already in better shape than they entered 2013. A new back-up catcher has at least been discussed. Given Ramos' injury history I think this is critical and Jhonatan Solano isn't going to cut it. Lombo and Moore will also be back. The question of course is why the hell Moore is back. Yes he hit .344 / .375 / .459 after coming back but like usual it was a hot start into a cold nothing, .250 / .308 / .417 over the last 15 games. The history with Moore is that his hot streaks are very hot but they are not sustainable and over the long haul he just can't compete at the major league level at the plate. Given that he contributes in no other way, and the plan of using Moore utterly failed last year, it's baffling to me why Moore would be back. I'll guess we'll have to see how much truth there is to this assumption

Starting Pitching : This bothers me more because I really get the vibe that the Nats are looking at not adding anyone to this staff. They probably will add somone, but going into 2014 thinking Roark and Jordan and Detwiler, etc. etc. is going to cut it... I just don't see how a team that has WS aspirations would believe that was a good strategy.

Their has been talk of Price (YES!) or Scherzer (OK!) or others but really those sound more like "If there's a favorable deal out there of course we do it" which isn't how a team should think during its window. With the WC situation changed the way it has, it's no longer enough to sneak in and let luck carry you to a title. You need that window wide open, even if it's briefly rather than open a crack for a long time.

Of course, again, all conjecture. I like that the Nats are looking to make changes where they are necessary in the pen and the bench. I don't like how in SP (which is more important) they seem pretty amibvalent.


Trade Span? Nope. Just Scott "Sherry Lewis" Boras speaking through John "LambChop" Heyman trying to drum up interest or apparent interest in Ellsbury. Nats deny this rumor straight up. I don't see it being true at all.

Tanner Roark & Taylor Jordan are not Tommy Milone & Brad Peacock.


Carl said...

The Javier Lopez numbers remind me of our old friend Ray King. As much as we made fun of him, he actually was pretty good against left-handed batters. Unfortunately he was spectacularly awful against right-handed batters, and for whatever reason the team could not or would not use him as a true LOOGY.

Harper said...

Carl - Managers love LOOGYs until they want them to not be LOOGYs which is like once a couple of weeks. "This guy makes lefties bat .100! Surely he can get one righty out!" -> "Dammit! Why can't he get one righty out!"

cass said...

Carl brings up an important point - a true LOOGY becomes a huge problem if the manager doesn't actually use them as a LOOGY. I have memories of this happening in the past. Hopefully Matt Williams will be good at managing a pen, but we don't know that yet.

I also am happy that James Wagner did some investigation into Espinosa's rotator cuff this morning. It's not totally conclusive, but it's better than anything reported before.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this front office is very secretive. Hard to know what they're going to do until they do it. Deals come out of the blue.

Kenny B. said...

All the rumors I've seen indicate that the Nats are pretty focused on another SP. Maybe I'm not doing a good job of reading between the lines, but I get the sense that they really do want to add a high quality SP. Plus, you have to think Rizzo wants to make up for the bad call on Haren, and will go out and get a good SP just to say "look, I can find a decent pitcher!" Just hope it's not from the bargain bin.

That said, I envision a Prince Fielder situation, in which the Nats are ultimately outbid on Price by some free-spending team that sees a window for itself. Scherzer seems more likely. I like him because he has two different colored eyes. That has to mess with batters.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Peacock and Milone had elite minor league peripherals.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

I say add Garza, slot him as arguably the best #4 in baseball, and go from there. Doesn't even cost a draft pick.

John C. said...

If the Rays want both Rendon AND Giolito as part of a David Price package, no sale. I wouldn't include either of them in a deal for Scherzer, because he's only had one dominant year fueled by an unsustainably low BABIP (40 points below his career average, 45 points below his next best season). So he's too risky for a big $$ long term commitment, and too pricey for one year; a classic "buy high" player. Pass.

Like Kenny B., I get the sense that the Nats are looking at starting pitching, and wouldn't be surprised if they ended up with Samardzija or Porcello for a mid-tier prospect or two.

I think the Nats should seriously target Dioner Navarro if he doesn't get a starting gig somewhere. Decent glove, decent bat, switch hitter. Sell him on the team's chances and that the starter has an injury history. For LOOGY, I'd be OK with Logan but would like to see them pick off O'Flaherty on a deal for a couple of years. Yes, he can't pitch until Memorial Day or later, but he's a LHRP who can get anyone out when he's on.

I'm not in the "goforitNOWNOWNOW" crowd of selling/spending everything, because too me it diminishes your chances of actually winning a WS. Push all your chips in on 2014, suffer a couple of key injuries or a weird bounce in the playoffs, and suddenly the window closes on your fingers. That's why, for example, I wouldn't send Rendon and Giolito (plus more?) for two years of David Price.

Harper said...

cass - the Espinosa article was great to see but it included a pet peeve of mine, which is treating the first part of 2011 as the cut-off rather than the injury. The 2011 cut-off makes it look like Espy was sliding in the majors. The injury cut-off (and you know, all his minor league history) shows a better picture of the type of player he was and how the injury crushed it.

Kenny B - I've seen the same rumors but I haven't sense the same "focus". I'll reread. But yeah I think they'll definitely get outbid byt someone for Price (mainly because other people have better systems)

C&S - Yep. That's what I'm trying to say. You can get something for Milone (very consistent minor league record of performance), Peacock (true prospect) and Norris (true prospect) that you can't for Roark (older & year looks fluky) and Jordan (young enough but inconsistent in minors) and ?

Garza's gonna make 15+ a year for at least 4 years. That ok with you?

It's not a strong pitching class so a 1yr special might not come up this year. Still I think the Nats wait on that

John C. - The Rendon thing makes it tough. The Nats need him so trading him away has to be for a huge return. SPs can be iffy in that way. I could care less about Giolito. He's likely not a full time SP in the majors until 2016 at best. He's a different window.

Would LOVE Porcello. Great xFIP, Reasonable contract that fits Nats window well, AL->NL. I think he could be a slam dunk.

Anonymous said...

Manny Parra on your radar. I think he would be a good left hander that could pitch to more than one batter.

Agree on little Gio - different window, if you can get something back now that is a significant upgrade do it.

Rendon for me would actually be right behind Harper on players I would look to trade - Meaning I wouldn't trade him. I think he has a bright future and no point in moving him now when it would create a hole in the line up.

One point is I'd look at adding Corey Hart to platoon with LaRoche and the odd start at RF/LF (if his knees check out).

Bench is important - and I think you're right that Moore isn't cutting it. Also it's either Lombo or Espinosa - not both. Doubt either one wants to be in AAA next season. Maybe a Moore/Lombo trade for a upgrade somewhere.

blovy8 said...

The arbitration guys like Scherzer and Price are starting to earn some real money, I think the FA pitcher deals are going to be crazy. If Garza only asks for 15 million a year in this market, I might sign him. I wouldn't like watching that llama pitch though. It doesn't matter because he's getting way more than that since he doesn't have a qualifying offer holding him back, and his competition is Santana and Jimenez with just as much baggage you don't really want.

I'm not really a believer in Porcello. I know he improved his peripherals like swinging strike rate, batting average against, etc, but it still didn't lead to much better results. His pattern is like a reverse Lannan - maybe this is kind of luck this guy gets regardless of ditching his cutter for his curveball. If he makes the estimated arbitration figure of 7.7 million, are you okay with trading anything of value for below average output, and then the guy gets a raise? A C- prospect for him at best. He's still seems to be lousy with guys on base, still can't seem to get lefties out, so he's got work to do to be even average. Last November it would have been a better gamble because the depth wasn't there in the rotation, and sure, you could believe he might benefit from the Nats defense, but I don't know that you can blame everything on Cabrera at third for what his troubles, because he actually did give up fewer hits. Five straight major league seasons of below-average - I think it's too late to really care. Isn't Taylor Jordan a younger, cheaper, cost-controlled version of that talent level?

It's a similar unexciting situation with Samardzija, but he's cheaper, has the big shiny fastball that people still seem to hit fairly often. He's older though, I grant you. I can't imagine why the Cubs couldn't sign him to an extension anyway.

I'd rather back up the truck for the Tanaka, sign him for four or five years, and pay less against the cap. Every pitcher is a gamble, why not try to pay for quality and keep your high-ceiling prospects?

blovy8 said...

I agree that keeping Moore around probably won't help the bench since he's not suited for it, but I have a hard time finding a trading partner for him unless he's a guy the Tigers or Cubs take. Maybe the Marlins.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Blovy here. Go after Tanaka with a truckload of cash...or trade Little Gio/Goodwin/Moore/etc for a player like Jarrod Parker, Cingrani, Archer, Cashner like level. Overpay now for a good cheap number 2 level pitcher that next year might pitch like a number 3..but will extend our window longer than price or scherzer. If you're going to trade the farm - do it for major league talent that is young, good and cheap. Not old, expensive, great but losing a step.

Pass on the expensive free agents and the trade targets with two years.

Anonymous said...

How 'bout they sign someone like Tim Hudson? That way they could stash Taylor Jordan in AAA until Detwiler lands on the DL again.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, the Nats released Mauro Gomez this afternoon to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, so perhaps something is shaking.

The last person added to the 40-man, Steve Souza, is T-Mo's worst nightmare, a guy with a high OBP, speed, and actual defensive ability. Let's hope he gets a long look in the spring.

Speaking of OBP, I fail to get what Scott Hairston has, besides the secret D-back handshake. His 2013 OBP: .237. Career OBP: .298. He has struck out almost five times more often than he has walked. The only place that looks good seems to be on the Nats' bench, alongside these 2013 OBPs: Lombo (.278), T-Mo (.260), Tracy (.243), Shark (.247 as a Nat), and Espy (.193). I'm sorry, but those are not major-league numbers, particularly for a contender. They've GOT to have a wholesale upgrade here. I know Lombo's a folk hero, but he's not going to get any better.

Bullpen: I HATE LOOGYs! Of course I also curse my parents for not forcing me to throw left-handed.

Back of the rotation: for the price of Garza for one year (not to mention four), you could probably get Colon AND Halladay on one-year deals. It would probably take two-year deals for Hudson or Arroyo. I don't see much difference between any of these guys and the "cream" of the poor free agent starter class, other than that the latter will cost a lot more in money and years.

Selling the farm for Price or Scherzer isn't worth it. More likely, Rizzo is looking for a trade for a mid-rotation guy. Dare we hope for the next Gio?

blovy8 said...

You may not have to worry about Lopez since some of these guys are going to get multi-year contracts, and that seemed to be a sticking point last year. Rizzo floating Solis as a possibility makes me wonder why he isn't thinking of Purke in that way too, with a lousy health history and crappy mechanics. He's got a major league contract, so they may as well try to get something out of him.

John C. said...

Right now MLB and Nippon baseball negotiations over the posting arrangement have fallen apart for now, which means Tanaka may not be coming this year.

Mauro Gomez being cut probably indicates nothing more than acknowledging that he's going to Japan. That spot is being held for Solis anyway (who closed his AFL season by pitching Mesa into the AFL championship game). Tyler Robertson will be jettisoned in favor of Aaron Barrett. I doubt anyone else gets protected from the Rule 5 draft.

John C. said...

blovy8, I wouldn't give up on Purke just yet. Even Keith Law (who has been quite caustic about him) has come around a bit after the AFL, saying that he has a chance for "3 league average pitches" which, combined with being left handed, makes him at least a #5 starter (hello, John Lannan). That's a useful player.

John C. said...

On the "Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark are not Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock" comment, I basically agree BUT

I think Taylor Jordan may ultimately be the best of the four. His post-surgery (2013) minor league peripherals are just fine, thanks. I don't expect any of them to become TOR guys, so to be "best" Jordan doesn't have to be great, just solid.

blovy8 said...

Making the Purke a major league reliever isn't giving up on him.

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