Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield

Last year discussion revisited

It was a pretty cut and dried plan. Bryce because he's Bryce. Eaton because that was the plan and he would presumably be healthy. MAT because he played well enough in 2017 to deserve it. Robles, most likely, would be the back up plan if any of these didn't work out. (and would hopefully be pushing MAT by July regardless)

But the whole thing fell apart pretty quickly.  Eaton got injured on April 8th. Robles on April 9th. MAT hit poorly in April and worse in May. Stevenson and Sierra, the early replacements, were terrible at the plate. Things were going bad fast. Then Juan Soto came up and put up a ROY type year and possibly the best year ever for a 19 year old. I'm not saying it saved the season, because... well it didn't. The Nats still missed the playoffs. But it gave them a shot at sticking in it this year and an answer for the future.

Why didn't a ROY type surprise have enough impact to put this team over the top? Well Bryce, who started out great, fell hard and put up an off May, where he just hit for power, and a terrible June, where he hit for nothing. Eaton would come back around that time and also struggle mightily. Other bad, non-outfield things were happening. This is when the Nats would dig themselves a hole. Bryce would right himself after winning the HR Derby, and Eaton would be Eaton in the 2nd half but Soto would be mortal in August and by the time they all got going at the same time the Nats had give up on the season.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Nats had the best OF in baseball in the 2nd half so it wasn't a problem or a failure for the season. However, it wasn't around to carry the team like it could when the team needed it.

Presumed Plan : We'll go into all the choices but this is the presumed plan - which to me appears to be the Nats let Bryce walk and Eaton, Soto and Robles/MAT take over in the OF.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Bryce is going to cost a lot of money and the Nats OF situation looks pretty good without him. Soto showed MVP talent last year (and is super cheap). Robles is a highly regarded prospect and ready (and is super cheap). Eaton has been exactly what the Nats expected, if not for as many games as the Nats expected (and is at a reasonable cost). MAT is still a premier fielder (and maybe slightly overpaid - but still cheap). Bryce might cost 2 1/2 times what they cost combined by himself. Yes, Bryce would make the team better but the OF is set and GOOD! without him. That money could be used to fix catcher, fix the back of the rotation, fill-up the pen, and/or make 2B better. Or that money could be set aside to sign Rendon who is a FA next year.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Are you going to listen to me this year? Because you didn't last year when I tried to say OF could be an issue. Which ok, above I said it wasn't, and it wasn't but only because Soto shocked us all and put up MVP numbers.  He comes in and is ok, above average? The OF is a problem for the season.

The Nats are going in with a 2nd year player who could see a fall in performance, two players who were injured as much as they've were healthy in 2018, and a 4th OF has proven that he's not an everyday major league hitter. Looking here and seeing an MVP, a ROY, and a possible All-Star is seeing the outfield at peak possibility for these players. It's as likely as a scenario that sees them at their reasonable non-injured nadir. Soto putting up solid numbers while mangling D, Eaton an average everyday OF, and Robles hitting slightly below average with solid D. I'm not going to linger on that - I just want to be a realist. We have to consider the middle ground and use that to figure out how Bryce might fit in. The middle ground is Soto is fringy All-Star caliber, Eaton is his usual self - both these guys kind of meh on D and Robles hits a little above average while covering for both of them in CF. 

That's a good outfield! But Bryce's expectation would do no worse than match Soto here, and he's a better bet than Robles, a better bet than Eaton. He's also 27 next year and put up one of the great seasons of all-time while healthy. Do you really want to trade that away, when he's got 4-5 seasons where he's probably capable physically of duplicating that feat? Letting HOF talent walk rarely works out in your favor.

My take : There are two other plans here.
1) Sign Bryce, Trade Eaton
2) Sign Bryce, Trade Robles.

Both plans are based on the idea that if you sign Bryce the outfield is too crowded and someone needs to go. It's not even necessarily just a numbers game. You have 4 starting caliber players and some would consider it a waste to not turn one into help elsewhere.

Trading Eaton would be trading your player who is not for the future and costs the most money (but still cheap) to free up some money.  Thanks to two years of injuries, you probably wouldn't get much more back than a good reliever or a couple ok prospects to flip to someone else but it's the money more than anything you are concerned about, especially with the Lerners edict to stay under the tax threshold.

Trading Robles would be trading a legit prospect to get back legit help somewhere else. JT Realmuto behind the plate is most often talked about. Some sort of return that immediately fills a need with a near All-Star caliber talent at least.

What's my take given all three plans? Do none of them. Sign Bryce and keep everyone. You cannot replace the potential of Bryce and you don't give up on that. OF too crowded? Injuries happen and Zimmerman's deptarture next year frees up first base. There is room for Bryce, Soto, and Robles here in the future. Eaton is exactly the cheap player you want.

What does this mean for the 2019 plan? Well you saw me go cheap on C, forgoing Grandal for a couple vets. That's one part. You probably still sign a starter but you have to cut corners on relief. That's not ideal but I also don't kid myself. Fedde? Reliever. J-Rod? reliever. Anyone in AA or over not named Wil Crowe? Reliever. Stop playing games trying to eek out the next 5th starter. You have Ross or can sign a Hellickson. Oh and bring in a pitching coach, who ever it may be, that seems to be the best in developing relievers.

Out of the box suggestion :
BURN IT DOWN.  Bats are more affordable than arms and more reliable than arms so they make better FA signings. Trade for pitchers and sign hitters. Trade Robles for deGrom and Soto for Snell+. Maybe Eaton + Kieboom or Garcia for that headcase Bauer. Or get Raisel Iglesias for Kieboom and more. I'm not sure exactly how - just make it work. Sign Bryce, sign Brantley, sign Cutch? Maybe not Cutch. I don't know Don't try to walk the tightrope from window A to window B and fall into the 80 wins area for the next few years as this doesn't work or that guy gets injured. WIN NOW. FOR ONCE WIN NOW.


ssln said...


St. Louis Cardinals & Matt Adams.
Chicago Cubs & Daniel Murphy & Brandon Kintzler
Oakland Athletics & Shawn Kelley.
New York Yankees & A.J. Cole.
Milwaukee Brewers & Gio Gonzales.
Los Angeles Dodgers & Ryan Madson.

Each year since 1936 the Sporting News awards the baseball Executive of the Year Award. This year's winner should be Mike Rizzo because he determined who would win this year's World Series.
He did this by distributing Nationals players to the teams we hate the most and infected them with players who couldn't perform under pressure and who had no grit. There was some collateral damage as you will see but that had to be expected.
Lets we review the facts. We hate St Louis because they inflicted that agonizing game 5 loss on us. So he sent Matt Adams there and while he had a few good games he was on the bench at the end of the season. Net result, they missed the playoffs.
Next was the Cubs. We hate them because of last year. I still feel the pain. They had the best team in the NL so they got a double dose of Nationals since one wouldn't be enough to do the trick. Kintzler had 9.00 ERA and was left off the playoff roster. Murphy was in a slump at the end and was a statute a second base. Nice going Rizzo.
Shawn Kelley to the A's. that is just collateral damage. Rizzo likes Beane but once you get started you never know who will want a National. The Yankees and A.J. Cole. Everyone hates the pinstripes and Cole was an early season experiment by Rizzo to see if he could really infect a team. It worked. Cole got there and every Yankee got injured during the season. My take is that Cole infected the pinstripes with the disease that Stras has. The great thing was that no one even suspected what was going on. Then we get to the Brewers and Gio. Milwaukee seemed to know that Gio was a choke artist in the post season and so he only got to pitch an inning or two. He still gave up home runs and the purposely injured himself so he would stop embarassing himself. That left the best for last. Madson let seven inherited runners score, the most in World Series history. He cost the Dodgers the series and Rizzo had it all planned.
He infected six teams along the way and killed them all with the poison that is a part of most inability to perform under pressure. Everyone knew that Colorado Atlanta and Cleveland didn't have enough to win the Series so Rizzo preordained that the winner of the Sox-Astros series would win it all.
It is true that Rizzo won't get the award. You see he just pulled off the perfect crime and I was the only one who noticed it. Go back and see all my posting as each victim fell.
The trades were never about what players we got back or cutting salary. It was all about infecting the other contenders and Rizzo pulled it off without leaving a trace of evidence. THE PERFECT CRIME.

Anonymous said...

In theory, your "sign Bryce, don't trade anybody" OF solution works. This would free the team from having to sign a lefty bat to pair with Zimmerman at 1B because Soto or Bryce could be that guy. I suspect either could play 1B ok. Just watching them, I'd try Soto over Bryce at 1B because I think Bryce is more athletic (and yes I am aware his RF fielding metrics are...not good). Instead of the $5 mil you'd pay for Matt Adams, you're effectively paying $9 million to Eaton for the same roster spot, and increasing roster flexibility dramatically. This would a) allow Robles to ease in to MLB playing time, b) cover for inevitable injuries to Zim and others, c) allow for an all-lefty OF to start against tough rightys, and d) enable the team to cast MAT off into the sun (MAT seems like a nice guy and I wish him well; he is just not a MLB caliber hitter).

Even though doing this makes a lot of sense, I don't think the team will for several reasons. Soto and Bryce are such good hitters that they need to play every day. This basically means that Robles, Zim, and Eaton need to divide two positions worth of at bats among three people. I'd say this is doable IF the team is willing to sit Zim against rightys, pretty much all the time. They've shown no willingness so far to cut Zim's PT except when he's coming back from injury (i.e., they think he's an everyday guy, still). Maybe this changes in the last year of his deal but I doubt it. The other big problem is that the OF defense suffers when Robles sits, which means that Robles needs to play most of the time. This could be a problem if he doesn't hit the way we think he is capable.

Re Soto, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a dropoff. Cody Bellinger ran a 138 WRC+ in 2017 a 120 WRC+ in 2018. He was still a good hitter, but the dropoff was significant. Soto's profile is better: he's a better hitter (145 WRC+), he's younger, he walks a lot more, strikes out less, and is less reliant on fly balls becoming homers than Bellinger. Still, we shouldn't pencil in a 145 WRC+ next year. Something in the 120s wouldn't be out of the question (though, nor would something north of 150).

Ole PBN said...

Don't like the BURN IT DOWN idea. Seems erratic and not well thought out, but I don't blame you Harper - your other ideas made sense. I could see keeping the OF together for 2019, while sacrificing the season in favor of the future. But don't be naive, we will not contend next year with that plan. But 2020 and beyond? Sure. I think it extends the "window" by having Bryce, Stras, Rendon, Robles, Soto, Turner around. Who knows how Scherzer will be? Probably okay. It's total speculation here, but I just don't see Bryce delivering a championship to DC.

G Cracka X said...

Could we really get DeGrom for Robles?? I think you have to do that deal in a heartbeat, even given the injuries that pitchers get and that Degrom will regress from his MVP form.

SM said...


Funniest comment I've ever read on this site.

Seriously, though: Are there any other potential victims out there? Is any of that poison still flowing in the Nationals' bloodstream? More importantly, who will bring this madman Rizzo to justice?

Unknown said...

Started off sane. Love to have Bryce, but we can go with Soto/Robles/Eaton for less than the cost to just sign Bryce and use that money elsewhere. It's logic that can't be denied. From a business perspective Bryce puts Butts in seats and lots of other money from just being Bryce. In other words signing Bryce might not help you win in the long run, but he'll keep you in the headlines, your seats filled and your merch sold.
Then...your ideas just got crazier the longer I read.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Move Bryce to first!

TwoGloves said...

@G - No way the Mets do that trade within the division. Maybe Soto AND Robles. Otherwise it ain't gonna happen, especially with the Metsies just hiring deGrom's agent as the new GM!

JE34 said...

Is there any smart-guy calculus out there that can tie together marquee names with franchise value? One wonders how the Not-Baseball-Men-But-Real-Estate-Men might consider the valuation of their franchise (if at all), were they to back the dump truck of money to Bryce's house.

One would think that the Yankees paying Jeter whatever they did had some sort of plus return in franchise value, merchandise, and so forth. Oh, and wins of course. Those things.

Anyhoo - I have to believe that tomes have been written on this topic. Who knows of some good ones?

blovy8 said...

Maybe he can't bear to negotiate with his former clients and HAS to trade them? Nah, why would the Mets hire him if he didn't have deals in his pockets?

blovy8 said...

I only hope the Lerners realize if they sign Harper, they are going to need to spend over the tax threshold to be a World Series-level team. There's no other way to do it barring two or three fleecing trades from Rizzo.

DezoPenguin said...

Resigning Bryce and keeping everybody in the OF is a non-starter. This team has too many holes to just keep Robles or Eaton on the bench full-time, not unless ownership has decided to just say "screw money and the luxury tax; we're gonna spend $225M on payroll like it's 2016 and we're the Dodgers!" And that's never going to happen.

Having established that, the options then become:

1. Don't sign Bryce.
2. Sign Bryce, trade Eaton
3. Sign Bryce, trade Robles
4. Sign Bryce, move Soto to 1B

Option 2, as noted by Harper, doesn't seem likely. It gives us the potential for a pre-teardown Marlins outfield for many years going forward, but does little to address the other glaring needs (C, SP) or secondary needs (IF, 1B, RP) the team possesses.

Option 4 might be good long-term (it completely solves the post-Zim 1B problem for 2020), but Soto needs to be in the lineup full-time, so he winds up splitting time between LF and 1B until/unless someone gets injured. It also fails to address the question of "what if Soto can't play first base?"

Option 3 is bad because it gives us Bryce Harper, Full-Time Bad Centerfielder.

Which brings us back around to Option 1. Don't sign Bryce, then use the savings to address C and SP on the free-agent market. After that, standard Rizzo-grade tinkering can get us an SP5 (resign Hellickson) and an Adams/Lind type to back up 1B.

Also, Toronto has some extra infielders; someone like a Yangervis Solarte, Brandon Drury, or Alemdys Diaz might do nicely as a backup option for Kendrick (2B)/Rendon (3B) at a level higher than Difo if we could work out a trade...

ssln said...


Let's look at your questions out of order. Last is first in this case. No one is going to bring Rizzo to justice because he is a master of his craft. No one has even figured out he committed the crime of the century. He fixed the World under everyone's nose and we are the only ones that no about. Guys were banned from baseball for doing it but Rizzo gets to keep his job and his top 5 GM in baseball rating. He is laughing at everybody even as I write this. On the other hand he has to work for the Lerners so that is the equivalent of a sentence in purgatory.
The disease that infects the Nationals runs very deep and can only be eradicated by making wholesale changes. It means out with the old and in with the new. For most of you it will be hard to comprehend the changes that will be needed to rid the Nationals of the infection that now courses through the veins of the collective team called the Nats.
Here is what must happen at a minimum. They have to let Bryce go and hope that he signs with the Philadelphia. You need to stop thinking about talent. Bryce is actually part of the problem. How many times did he strike out in clutch situations in the first half of the season. How did he wake up and find left field after the ASB. Bryce is the poster of immense talent over blue collar work ethic. Stick him with any contender and watch the team implode. You want a blueprint. See Machado with LA.
Okay, Dilfo is gone Utility guys are a dime a dozen. Trade for some no name double A pitcher even up. just remember this isn't about talent, it is about infecting other teams. MAT, I love you but you gotta take one for the team. What contender wouldn't want a fourth outfielder who can run like the wind and catch everything in sight. Another double a pitcher straight up as long as he goes to any of the NL contenders or maybe SF. I hate SF after they beat us in the playoffs so inflicting the Nats poison on them is fine, even if they aren't a contender.
That brings us to the bullpen. Trade all of them except the closer, you know the guy who looks like he is from West Virginia. Forget about what you can get back for them. offer to pay their salary for a year if any team will take them off our hands. Roberts looked like he was going to have a heart attack every time he put Madson out there. Put our bullpen guys on any other team and that team will need its mash unit just to deal with the injuries that will impact the entire pitching staff. Managers will keel over from mid season heart attacks and the teams will need a full time psychiatrist to deal with all the head cases. Baseball will be the last thing these teams think about. All the players will be thinking about is who sent the Black Plague to our clubhouse and will I survive the season.
It is all in Rizzo's hands. He basically controls the fate of all the contenders in both leagues. I can't wait to see how he spreads out the National's plague in the off season and which managers are doomed to be gone before the season is over.

Froggy said...

Offer Bryce a one year $30mm,(he won't take it) and then go after Kershaw.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

Now that Van Wagenen is the Met's GM, for deGrom, isn't that kind of like your coworker marrying your mom and is now your dad?

Anonymous said...

Trade Soto for DeGrom? That is insanity writ large. Unless Soto was swinging wildly with his eyes closed and was lucky the entire year, he is a generational talent and an everyday player. he is Harper with discipline. He is a problem solved, no fixing required. DeGrom is a hard throwing righty in danger of ripping something everytime he throws. Great talent, but he is not proven to be Scherzer durable yet.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo all ready on the move, signing Trevor Rosenthal...

Jay said...

Nats are signing Trevor Rosenthal. I like that move imo. I think there is no way the Nats sign Harper. They have made abundantly clear that they have no interest. Unfortunately, I think Harper ends up in Philly (maybe Machado as well or one of the free agent starters). It should be a very interesting offseason. I like the two bullpen moves so far. Personally, I think they should sign Harper and Rendon. However, I think they don't sign either. So far the only Nats of significance that the Lerners have kept are Zimm (who is sort of awful now despite what Boswell might write) and Strasburg (who wanted to stay). We'll see how things go from here.

blovy8 said...

Rumor has it as 7 mil with incentives that could bring it up to 14. That's not cheap.

Ole PBN said...

I like the Rosenthal signing as well. Relievers are fungible and I'm never in favor of spending a fortune for one unless he's named Chapman, Kimbrel or Jansen. Moves like this improve the group from the bottom up. Also surprised he's only 28. Seems like he's been frustrating me as a Nats fan while with the Cards for years.

G Cracka X said...

Rosenthal pitched against Nats in that pivotal Cards-Nats 2012 Game 5......but we can move on from that now that he's a Nat!

It's not a cheap contract, but I think the bullpen has a chance to be pretty good this year. Maybe add a LOOGY and call it an offseason for the 'pen??

DezoPenguin said...

I like the Rosenthal signing independent of the money, because he's been a pretty good reliever throughout his career and we need good relievers. (In other revelatory news, water is wet.) I'm not sure that I like $7M as the price, which seems rather high for a guy who didn't pitch last year.

Still needed (in rough order of urgency):

2B/IF (if Kendrick is fully healthy this could move down some slots)
backup 1B
RP3-4 (I don't have confidence in Barraclough coming off his heavy slump, Glover coming off his injuries, or Miller/Suero coming off their past careers to be RP3)
SP6 (I don't see us winning the division with Fedde as the first guy up)

The Pirates declined Josh Harrison's option. He might be a good pickup to split time at 2B with Kendrick or act as a backup if Kendrick/Rendon go down.