Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Bear Claws

Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday Quickie - Bear Claws

The end of the regular season ends the year for 20 teams, with 6 more to follow in close succession. But the off-season doesn't truly begin until the World Series is over. There are only a certain subset of players available now. Players outrighted during the regular season who could have refused it but decided not to. (Tommy Milone!) Or guys they have tried to outright now to clear some 40 man space where the player refused. You'll see the occasional waiver claim related to these outrightings but generally these are players lucky to be any teams last man on bench/in bullpen. (Hey Danny Santana, I heard of you!)

Sometime in early November the normal contracts end and free agents become free agents. They'll be an option decision day a couple days later. And then a qualifying offer day. Maybe there's a trade or two in there to free up space again for a guy they couldn't agree with but that's it. Then - about a week into November the flood gates open.

Which makes it all the more surprising the Nats already made a move that would not be considered minor.  The Nats traded for Kyle Barraclough. The Marlins want International Bonus Pool money and the Nats were willing to deal it.  Is Barraclough good? well...

In 2016 Kyle was really very good. Outside of a tendency to be wild (5.4 BB/9) he did everything else well.  He was unhittable (5.6 H/9), struck out a ton of guys (14 K/9!) and didn't didn't give up homers (1 homer in 72 innings). That last one is important because it really is his M.O. Over 149 minor league innings Kyle gave up just two homers and in his first nearly 100 major league inning he matched that. This is a combination that works and you could let Kyle walk himself into trouble knowing full well he was going to get out of it. 2017 though brought more hits, fewer Ks, and more homers and the near dominant reliever became just a good arm in the pen. In 2018 he reigned in the hits a bit, but the Ks were down again and the homers were up. Last year, homers were a problem. He gave up 8 in just 55 innings.

That's worrying having a guys best feature disappear over two years. It's not necessarily a fluke, either. His HR/FB rate is pretty normal (16.3%) and his FB% isn't high.  His fastball speed is diminishing rapidly (95.6 in 2016, 93.6 last year). His slider used to be super effective, but it is no longer so he's trying to rely more on a change up with decidedly mixed results. With neither the fastball or the slider giving him an out, Kyle needs to grow into a pitcher.

This all sounds bad. What's good? He costs about 2 million. He's 29 in late May next year. He's probably better than a bunch of guys the Nats trotted out the mound last year. 

The question is what are the Nats expecting here with Barraclough. Is he a bullpen filler with a flier on maybe being something better? Then Kyle is perfect. He shouldn't have an age-related steep decline next year. He's been healthy his whole career. Get him to keep those balls in the park and he's Wander Suero or Justin Miller with an ability to step in and be the "Get a K or a BB here" guy.  Is he expected to be a late inning guy? Then that's too much to expect given his 2018 and his career trajectory.

The Nats still need late inning arms but Kyle makes a good edition to the "rest of the bunch" and people seem to like his last name.  Pair him with Koda Glover out there. Get Evan Gattis to quit baseball and sign him as the bullpen coach. Call the bullpen the Bear Den and we're set.

In other news :

The MLB Trade Rumors arbitration guesses are out and I think Rendon's is a little light but it's all just guessing anyway. It'll be something close to these if you want to throw some numbers back into the "how much money will the Nats have to spend" arguments. I think we were relatively close so nothing much changes about that.


G Cracka X said...

Nice pickup for the Nats. They got Benoit last year for about half the salary, and he didn't pitch once.

Bear Claw adds depth to the 'pen with some upside, and little lost if he continues to fade.

blovy8 said...

Don't forget that they have had Aaron Barrett rehabbing with them recently, sporting the unimaginative baseball nickname too.

Maybe they could put a big vending machine full of anthromorphic teddy bears with one of those giant claw things near where the playground is, behind the right field corner.

SM said...

Vending machines, yes. Not full of teddy bears, but full of bear claw pastries.

blovy8 said...

No way, not with all the nut allergies kids have now.

Harper said...

Rest of Park : Nut-Free Zone
Right Field Corner : Too Many Nuts Zone.

ssln said...

The Rizzo way is to bring 32 cheap relievers to spring training and then hope that a couple can throw a strike. No news here, move on to something more interesting.
The real question is whether Rizzo will be named Executive of the Year. The story is unfolding.