Nationals Baseball: All I want for New Year's... is that a thing?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All I want for New Year's... is that a thing?

is Zobrist. For Cole. Make it happen

The Nats optimist in that deal sees it this way: Zobrist comes in, has another all around great year (it is a contract year and he's still before the "worry years" of 35+), the Nats win about 4 more games then they would have without him putting them in line for 100+ wins and home field advantage. Cole meanwhile shows you why he was traded twice and keeps getting passed by other prospects on the Top "#" lists, floundering in the back of rotations with AAAA stuff like a Kyle Kendrick.

The Nats pessimist in that deal sees it this way: Zobrist comes in and declines because he IS 34 and maybe nets the Nats an extra win or two amounting to nothing for a team with an easy road to a division title. Meanwhile Cole blossoms into a solid middle of the rotation pitcher giving the Rays another low cost guy to keep the machine moving forward.

The most likely scenario is something in the middle but I don't care which way the pendulum swings. I want it done and I'll tell you why.  It's time to stop asking the Nats player to do something the front office won't.

Everyday they ask that you're players give it their all. Try as hard as you can on the field to win the game in front of you, then the next one, then the next. Keep it going until you are taking homestands, divisions, series and finally the whole thing. That's what they expect.

The Nats front office, though, has tried to have it both ways. They've tried to win this year while setting up the next for more of the same. It's easy to see how that translates to less than 100% effort for the seasons in front of you. Shut down Strasburg, gotta have him for the next few years.* Sign random vets for the 5th rotation spot, we don't want to be stuck with the back-end of a big contract that could hurt flexibility later. Make middling in-season trades, we don't want to lose guys with years of control. None of these in itself will derail a post-season but they all say the same thing "Your job is to try to win it all. Our job it something else."

It's often said that the sabr world doesn't believe in things like momentum and drive and clubhouse spirit, etc.. That's (mostly) false. What is believed is that these things exist but are impossible to quantify so it's hard (impossible?) to consistently build with those things in mind. That's what I think. At this point though the Nats aren't building. They're built. And the front office has a chance to show the team they are all in for 2015 too. Will that help propel the team to win it all? Maybe. I don't know. But I know it's what I want to see.

The best thing about this plan is the Nats CAN do it. They can sign ZNN and Stras (not my money!) and have a rotation, assuming Giolito shows up in 2016, Roark is at least functional and of course injury luck, that's one of the best in the NL through 2020. Cole is not Bryce Harper. He is not Lucas Giolito. He is not Anthony Rendon. He's not even Michael Taylor. The Nats don't need him to have success in the next 3-5 years.

Make the deal. Go all-in. No half-measures.

*Which I agreed with by the way. I'm not saying this is all wrong but it's wrong NOW.


Anonymous said...

eh, then we're in the same position next year with 2nd and maybe ss. If you're going to trade Cole or any *top five* prospect. Don't do it for a 1 year rental - no matter how good. Go all out. Trade Cole/Clippard/Difo for R Odor. Seriously, I know Cole isn't a lynch pen, but I would rather include him in a big trade with perhaps better players and get a controllable guy than a rental. Maybe not so easy...and maybe Cole isn't enough to get Zobrist...then what you want to throw more to get him. I avoid this deal.

Harper said...

Anon - I disagree if only because I think for Odor you are looking at a Cole/Taylor base, but I don't disagree with the sentiment. Still it's a "win later" plan more than a win in 2015 plan. 90 wins and a playoff appearance is fine... until it's all you are getting year after year.

Jay said...

I agree that I'm not completely sold on Zobrist. Why not try to pry Longoria away? Cabrera can play 2b or 3rd in TB. Get Longoria and move Rendon back to 2b. Winning!
This off season has stunk of penny pinching to me. Let's see... sign pending free agents to an extension (any of them) - nope, sign a 2b to fill a need - nope, sign a reliever to replace Soriano - nope, sign bench players to strengthen a weakness - nope. Sign cheap, easily had, washed up major leaguers to minor league deal in hopes of finding something ala Jim Bowden - yep. Are the Nats in the poor house? Are the Nats not a desirable free agent destination with a good chance of winning in the forseeable future? Anyway, this stinks of the Lerners trying to always buy low and sell high. If it keeps up I think Rizzo flees like Stan Kasten. Then the Nats are really in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Go all out. Giolito/Difo for Lindor/Cody Anderson(or Sheffield). Play Lindor at 2nd this year. Let Ian walk at the end of the year...hope that Turner is ready next year. tons of risk(the Indians have zero SP (not exactly sure where Cody ranks) in MLB top 100 prospects. So we as a package would be giving up a much better prospects - that nets them top Arm for prospects - which they desperately need and a replacement for Lindor. We would still have the 2nd base problem if we don't resign Ian the following year.

This is why Rizzo not signing Aoki three years ago or Kang this year urks me...Kang would have been perfect there for that price.

Anonymous said...

Orig Anon

Harper - IMO there is no point in any wins after 90. Make the playoffs is all that matters. After than each win is slightly wasted - yes home field advantage can matter(not recently). I see your point that Cole isn't as important Cog as fans make him out to be - and trading him won't hurt this year or next or three years from now..but where we disagree is what we should be seeking. Might as well go big and get a good player that we can control for a good amount of time. If Odor cost us Taylor - that opens up a new can of worms with Span's replacement. I'd say no to that - which is where the problem is..what package gets us our 2b of the future.
also -I think the drop off from Span to Taylor is going to be significant in 2016 - but CF are hard to find.

Harper said...

Jay - Why not! Cost mainly - I see Longoria as a Giolito type trade. Also I think Rendon=3B is set.

This offseason has been a bit stagnant in terms of 2015/16 news. But still too early to judge with those pending guys...

Anon #2 - BOLD. Never going to happen because I'm sure Indians see Lindor>Giolito and Nats see Giolito>Lindor but BOLD.

Orig Anon - 90 might be a little low (would have not won WC in 2, maybe 3 out of 6 dual WCs so far) but point is fair. I don't disagree completely but I'm arguing that while that in ways that you can measure more wins don't matter perhaps the commitment by the FO could effect the team in ways we can't measure. Is this subjective? Terribly so, but it's not NONSENSE. It's grasping for something important but nebulous.

Bjd1207 said...

The more I read, the more I'm convinced that he's just an absolute perfect fit. I hope Rizzo is at the negotiating table right now...

NotBobby said...

I think Zobrist would be a great fit, but I am worried about the price. Everything I read says that the Giants would be in on him and they may end up pushing the price too high.

I may be crazy, but I am not that upset with Espinosa at 2B. I know Nats are "all-in" this year, but I still think Nats would be good enough to win the division and his defense would be excellent behind some great pitchers. And if he can find his stroke again then the ceiling is tremendous for the offense.

Donald said...

While I'm fine with Cole for Zobrist, I think that 'all-in' is just code for let's make bad trades. The players know the window is closing. I don't think a symbolic trade to show their commitment is necessary.

Harper -- I know 'all-in' is subjective, but how often does it actually work in a team's favor to go all in? Is there any evidence that those deals actually help a team win? It's pretty likely that the Nats make the playoffs next year with their current lineup. So we're talking about a deal to get further in the play-offs. None of last year's playoff winners made all-in deals to get there, and they all had weaknesses that could have benefited from a deal. I don't think the Cards, Giants, Orioles or Royals were even picked as division winners at the start of last season yet they all might have been if they had made one huge deal.

Chas R said...

Zobrist would be a good fit- good on base and contact guy, still seems to have some pop, decent middle infielder, veteran presence, plus still keep Danny for back-up 2B and SS, maybe occasional platoon against lefty pitchers. I suspect the price will be too high for Rizzo. I don't think they will take just Cole + nothings; more likely Cole + Taylor or similar. That would be too much for a 1 year rental.

John C. said...

Ah, the siren call of "all in." It's dramatic! It's exciting! And, as Donald notes, it's often code for "let's make bad trades."

Penny pinching? It's hard to get angry with an organization that has one of the top payrolls in MLB despite tremendous uncertainty with the team's revenue stream due to the MASN litigation. But as fans we do anyway. I guess the lure of spending other people's money never fades.

KW said...

Many teams in all sports confuse making lots of moves with "improvement." One plays its games in a big, empty hole in Landover. If the Nats took the field today, as the team is currently constructed, they would be the favorites in the NL and perhaps to win the Series. Ask Billy Beane what happens when you start over-tweaking the best team in the league.

KW said...

Of course if the Nats actually took the field today, they'd slide all over the place on that big sheet of ice. Happy New Year everyone!

Froggy said...

Interesting how experts extrapolate 'if the Nats keep the same team they will win the same amount of games as 2014'...meanwhile, the division teams make improvements and adjustments that will likely translate into a couple wins difference against the Nats in their favor.

Which is why Rizzo nibbling at them margins and going with the status quo is a bad plan. I'm not saying 'go all in ' per se but at least solving 2b and a lefty reliever is in order.

John C. said...

Froggy, have the other teams in the NL East really improved so far this offseason? The Braves are much worse. Even if their pitching health improves, the pitchers that were hurt last year (Medlen and Beachy) are gone, as are the pitchers that filled in the gap so ably (Santana and Harang). They've picked up a question mark in the offseason in Miller. And their offense was the problem last season, and they've compensated by shipping out two of their top bats and are talking about shipping out Gattis. Even with Heyward and Upton last year their defense was bad, and now Gattis is pencilled in as a full time outfielder? Blech.

The Phillies are (finally) tearing down to rebuild. Rollins and Byrd are gone, Hamels is slated to be next out the door. Utley, Howard and Lee are still there (with price tags and contracts that are unmoveable), but the Phillies could easily lose 100 games. They do have a couple of nice young bullpen arms, but not a lot of cause for optimism.

The Mets will get Harvey back, but in his first season back from TJ surgery he's likely to not yet be 100%. Syndegaard got whacked around in his first brush with AAA (4.60 ERA, 1.481 WHIP). They struggled to score runs last year, and are pinning their hopes on a 36yo (in March) Cuddyer, who is a crappy outfielder. While his offensive numbers were good, his OPS was .521 higher in Coors Field than it was on the road. Projecting his numbers into Citi Field will be interesting. for however long he puts them up, since he only has averaged 93 games a season over the past three seasons.

The Marlins have made a lot of moves, but right now their offense is built around a speedster (Gordon) who had one amazing half season in the majors but by the end of last season had turned back into Dee Gordon - a guy who can fly but has trouble getting on base (.314 career mark), and two sluggers in Stanton and Morse whose injury histories make Ryan Zimmerman look like Cal Ripken. Prado is a nice add, but merely replaces the production of McGeehee last year. Jose Fernandez is due back sometime during the season, but like Harvey it's anyone's guess when he will be back and what he will bring in his first season back from TJ surgery.

It's not a terrible division - they won more games than the NL West last year even with only the Nats finishing above .500. But suffice it to say that the Nationals have the fewest concerns of any team in the division by a fair margin.

Froggy said...

John C, wouldn't it be great if all we played were teams in the NL east? Granted, the Braves and the Phillies sure look horrible, but It does appear that the Marlins and Mets have made some good moves which should lead to + wins against us. Will they take the season H2H? Probably not. Regardless, there is the rest of our NL schedule that gives me the Padres and Cubs for example.

One loss more in ea series where we dominated last season and it's 2013 all over again or we end up scratching for a WC.

I think Davey Johnson used to say 'I only pay attention to what the number is in the Loss column' (or something like that).

John C. said...

Froggy, the question is how much the rest of the division has truly improved. Even with Espinosa as a second baseman the Nationals are behind only the Dodgers as projected by Fangraphs last week. ( Further, the projected gap between them and the #2 team in the NL East is six games (which is a huge difference using a central-tendency projection method). Even more than that, because the O's are projected to finish last in the AL East (, the Nationals actually play an easier projected interleague schedule than their NL East rivals.

Bottom line is that, sure, IF the Nationals do not fix second base, IF they slip a bit, and IF someone else (Marlins/Mets) overachieves, then the Nats could be in trouble and be battling for a Wild Card with other good teams. But that is true for every team, every year. All they can do is position themselves and play the games.

FWIW, I also think the lefty reliever slot is well covered for the Nats with Thornton, Blevins, Cedeno and Grace as options. To me 2b is the only remaining "to do" item for Rizzo other than inking extensions.

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